Saturday, July 28, 2012

Del Carlo a real Sonoma Experience

Just returned from a visit to Del Carlo Winery in Dry Creek.  This six hundred  case winery is an opportunity to visit and taste what is the heart and soul of Dry Creek.  Ray and Lori Teldeschi are the owners of this 50 acre property which grows Cabernet, Old Vine Zin  (80/100 years old) Syrah, Petite Syrah and Dolcetto.  They produce their wines from about 10% of their vineyard production and sell the remainer to other premium producers. Duxoup Winery uses their fruit and houses their barrel storeage and bottling facility.  Their Old Vine Zin comes from a 2 acre plot of vines which are almost 100 years old. They most often bottle age their wines for two years and release them about 4/5 years after the vintage.

What is special about Del Carlo? They offer personal tours of their property and will also taste customers for a nominal fee. This is not the traditional Napa Valley show me your credit card and let's see what we can do for you..   Lori and Ray operate a successful vineyard management company and take care of a number of quality estates. They prune, drop clusters, thin canopy, contract buyers and make sure the vineyards   produce the highest  quality fruit possible.

Ray is the son of Mike Teldeschi, who was the original source of Zinfandel for the legendary Joe Swan. Ray was raised on this land upon his birth in 1948. Looking at his hands you know he is not a gentleman farmer. He and Lori are involved daily in the growth and production of the vineyards they  manage.  Swan's grapes for his Zins from the late '60's to very early 70's were sourced from this vineyard.  As I looked at the rolling hills and landscape of this vineyard you can see vines which have been grafted from old  root stock to healthy pest resistant vines.  The 2012 vintage at this time looks to be plentiful.  As with any farming mother  nature will determine  what the ultimate product will be in the months of October and November.

I tasted the 2007 Old Vine Zinfandel (15.5%) and it was well balance and quite young. This is real old vine fruit !!! There is much to still come from this wine as a few more years will show.  Their 2008 Cabernet (14%) was also on the young side with strong Cabernet aromas and very balanced tannins.  It too needs a few more years of bottle age. Both of the wines are not over oaked and as a result they drink well now and will mature with  bottle age.  One of the benefits of being small is their price point is very reasonable. The Zin is $32 and the Cab is $30. When you look at the cost of most wines in this category you will see that these represent good value.

What do you get if you visit Cel Carlo?  Phone in advance and if they can they can set up a vineyard ride in their vintate 1950 Chevy truck  with a tasting of their current release wines.  This is one tour when you will actually go with the owner/winemaker  and not some PR person.

In summary Del Carlo Winery is a hidden gem in the Sonoma wine experience.  Their truck  accomodates  about 12/14 people.  Contact  4939 Dry Creek Road Healdsburg, Ca. 95448.   707-433-1036.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wines Til Sold Out WTSO

I have seen many internet sites  which advertise and attempt to sell wine from many sources.  As you on the internet have seen there are emails from: wineries, retail stores, auction houses, grocery outlets, discount stores, magazines and other print media.   I will admit there are some that are better than others: Ridge with their releases and videos, Wine Spectator with their informational videos from producers around the world and other sites which try to lure with with big name producers and SALE WINES.

I have been following WTSO which originates from New Jersey. I also found out that their shipping does not come from New Jersey entirely.  When they agree to take a lot of wine it is shipped from the  storeage facility or winery They will offer short term deals on a specific wines  at what they advertise as a steep discount.

 What makes this site attractive is they post wines from around the world and they fall into a particular regiment.  No sale of wine will exceed $100 and they are sold without tax and include free shipping.  All wines are sold as either 2,3 or 4 bottle purchases. This makes it easy to sell a case of wine with only three, four or six people buying.  They have a huge customer data  base and appear to sell all their wines in short order.

The customer must have some knowledge of the producer and year in order to make an informed purchase.   You are also buying the wine without tasting it.  I have been told that customers who have had corked or spoiled wine have had their wines  credited to their account. This is a major customer advantage.  Wineries or wholesalers who sell on WTSO must show that the customer is getting a true discount from the original retail price. I always either check out the website of the winery or, to see what the current retail value is..

WTSO is a front runner in the world of internet wine sales.  Like me if you wait long enough there will be a wine which makes you want to buy.  You decide if it is within your needs as a wine and in your pocket book.   Good hunting.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How Old are Old Vines?

Old Vine wines are marketed in many countries with the concept that old vines produce less fruit per vine and more intense flavors.  The ultimate question is what makes up a true and honest old vine?  I have talked with wineries which feel 30 years  and older is an old vine since they often replace lower producing parcels at the 30 year cycle.  The other end of this is vineyards which have been planted and are older than 60+ years.   Beyond this level are vineyards planted prior to and around the 1900's. This does not include vineyards which have been budded with bud wood from very old vines and given a marketing name.  

Industry wide there is no clear definition of what "Old Vine" means.  There are way to many bottlings of wine labeled old vine than there are vineyards able to produce that amount of wine.  I would suggest that old vine is fruit from vines older than 65 years.  Looking at these vineyards be they in Calfornia, Australia, Argentina or parts of Europe they  show a unique shape and are not the trellised vines you typically see in contemporary vineyards today.  These vines have avoided the plight of vine pests which kill the root systems or the leaf structure.  

The best way to find honest old vine fruit is vineyard designation and case production. There are many old vine vineyards sold by: Martini, Rosenblum, Ravenswood, Catena Zapata, Starry Night, Carol Shelton and others. 

A California bottling of old vine Zinfandel which produces 20,000 cases is probably not old vine in the true sense of the word. How could a wine like this sell for less than $10??  Is the blend one tenth  old vine suggesting that it can use the name like a vintage solera sherry?  This is a marketing tool that is being used and the consumer appears to be taking the bait. 
By definition you can not over crop an old vine, it does it on its own. 

How do you find true old vine wines?  I have always tried to find a vineyard designated wine and look to see if they reveal their vine age.  Sonoma has a wealth of old vine Zinfandel vineyards and they are highly sought after.  As a consumer you should be prepared to spend in the $30+ range for real old vine wines.  I personally believe that there is a difference in the depth of flavor and richness of the fruit.  Perhaps getting a group of friends together and tasting a range of wines with the Old Vine  label and see for yourself if it is what they advertise.  

Castilla-La Manche Keep an Open Mind

I recently attended a tasting of wines from the Castilla-La Mancha region of Spain. The tasting started with a flight of 9 wines two of which I had never tasted before.  The moderator for the tasting was Karen MacNeil a well know author and commentator of wines.  She did a fine job of providing a preview of La-Manche with respect to:  topography, climate, soils, vines, enological trends as well as  what to expect from the wines in the glasses.  Spain as a country is the third largest producer of wine in Europe with 1,240,000 acres of grapes, only France and Italy surpass it in production. With such a large amount of land under production tonnage  is low due to poor soils and older vines.

I learned that there are 52 different varieties of vines grown in the LaMancha region of Spain 26 each red and white.  The La-Manche region is the second highest  in Europe next to Switzerland. It should be understood that Spanish wines like many other countries are best understood when consumed with food. They tend not to be fruit driven wines with any residual sugar in the glass.  This was obvious when the wines were paired with typical Spanish foods: paella, serrano ham, manchego cheese, empanadas, tortas etc.  These wines compliment the food but do not dominate the flavors.  All I tasted had solid acidity and smooth texture when blended with the dishes.

I tasted the following wine varietals which I had never had before Reds: Bobal, Graciano, Agria and Whites: Airen, Macabeo, Albillo and Jaen.  The red wines as a group tended to veer toward being very dry and lightly tannic. There is still a standard of aging noble reds in barrel for years and then holding them in bottle for release 4/6 years after the vintage.  Wines aged a long time in neutal oak tend to not have distinctive aromas or for that matter flavors which set them appart.  I did find the Rose wines to be exceptional and distinctive in all aspects.  Summer time with a cool bottle of Spanish Rose is a perfect match for any light meal and satisfies the palate when mixed with fresh summer dishes.   The white wines also had a lot of mineral aromas  and flavors due to the high altitude of the vineyards.

Things to look for when buying Spanish wines.  They are some of the best deals with respect to dollar value and wine quality most fall into the $8-$25 bracket with most at the lower end. There are many co-operatives which produce large volumes of very well crafted wine and they are not to be missed because of their  price to quality ratio.  Pair your Spanish wines with foods and your experience will be much improved.  Search out wines from La-Manche and you will open a new door in your wine experience.  My favorite wines were Roses and then the wide range of  reds many using  such Rhone grapes as: Monastrell, Syrah and Grenache. The whites are at their best quite young and fresh.

Seek out the wines of Spain for a wonderful experience.  Slip a bottle into a dinner with friends and get their opinion when they mix and match the wine with food.  I think you will find it very rewarding.