Friday, December 23, 2016

The Gray Report: Trump winery needs Mexican farmworkers: Hot takes and realistic takes

The Gray Report: Trump winery needs Mexican farmworkers: Hot takes and realistic takesAt the Bloggers Convention in Lodi, many growers talked about the problem of skilled labor to tend to their vineyards. At harvest time it is crunch time to pick fruit that is at its optimum. Our Latino labor partners do so much for our economy and for the most part for lower wages. Restaurants, hotels, agriculture would suffer in so many ways. Most Americans look down their noses at the work and compensation. The Donald has not real clue.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Benefits of Friends with Cellars

                              Benefits of Friends with Wine Cellars

There is a huge benefit to knowing people who have followed and cellared wine for a number of years.  The first rule is that people with older cellars have in their possession many fine bottles and also some that have met their maker.  A few of my friends who have handsome cellars are in the 50+ years old bracket. Their collection of wines start anywhere from the 1960's (or earlier) to vintages from the past few years.  People who establish a cellar quite often have been in the wine trade and obtained their wines when they fell in love with a certain property or Chateau.  When these friends gather they share those wines which they are most fond. More often than not the discussion becomes a bit of a history lesson for all parties.

               The Palate Changes With Time

As a younger collector my first desire was California Cabernet and french Bordeaux.  In the late sixties and early seventies it was possible to buy top quality wines for a modest amount of money. The level of interest was not at today's level.  Wineries poured all of their wines and there was no tasting fee.  There also were very few picnic grounds and top tier restaurants to visit.  Sutter Home to name one winery made more than a dozen wines. French Sauternes were plentiful and quite reasonable.  Older vintages were often available in notable vintages.  Burgundies were plentiful as the a run of good vintages combined with a strong American dollar made it easy to purchase high quality wine for not much more than upper level domestic Napa Cabernet.  Put all these factors together and it was a perfect time to be a consumer.  The Heublein Auctions also powered more interest into fine wine.

                                    The Paris Tasting and White Zinfandel.


Two major changes to California and the national wine scene came with the Judgement of Paris and the advent of White Zinfandel.  American wine culture gained instant recognition with the results of the Paris tasting and the race was on to compete with the best wines of France.  Cabernet and Chardonnay became every day words and were a form of wine wisdom from people with limited experience.  This was to the benefit of society as more and more people began to switch from beer and hard liquor to wine. What once was a beverage of the well to do now became wine for the masses.  Solid well made wine was available for reasonable prices. In the past 40+ years vineyard acreage and wineries have exploded all over California.


Sutter Home started the White Zinfandel model and never looked back. The wild growth of this popular wine gained millions of new wine drinkers.  In the process Sutter Home cut down the number of wines produced and focused on growing its brand and started to acquire other wineries which needed capital to improve.  Today they are the American success story.  A family business which it still is has grown into a multi million dollar business which has branches all over the United States and in foreign markets also.

                                           Consuming Older Vintages With Friends
                               
Some of the pictures above show wines that were shared over dinners and special events with friends. The joy of wine is in the ability to share with others and experience not only the wine but conversation of what the wine represents in the course of history.  People with cellars are open to sharing bottles when they believe that the people at table have an interest and some level of appreciation of what is being served.  I have enjoyed a number of wines which I could never acquire but were poured with the knowledge that the wine was a treat on many levels. Vintage on a bottle is often used to celebrate: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and many other forms of celebration. My suggestion is to share wine and develop a core of like friends.  Over the years you will learn from each other and widen your horizon with respect to wines from all over the world. There is always a good wine on the market at a price that meets your needs. Start a tasting group and watch your world open up.  Remember wine is all about people and friendship.

                               











The Benefits of Friends with Cellars

                              Benefits of Friends with Wine Cellars

There is a huge benefit to knowing people who have followed and cellared wine for a number of years.  The first rule is that people with older cellars have in their possession many fine bottles and also some that have met their maker.  A few of my friends who have handsome cellars are in the 50+ years old bracket. Their collection of wines start anywhere from the 1960's (or earlier) to vintages from the past few years.  People who establish a cellar quite often have been in the wine trade and obtained their wines when they fell in love with a certain property or Chateau.  When these friends gather they share those wines which they are most fond. More often than not the discussion becomes a bit of a history lesson for all parties.

               The Palate Changes With Time 

As a younger collector my first desire was California Cabernet and french Bordeaux.  In the late sixties and early seventies it was possible to buy top quality wines for a modest amount of money. The level of interest was not at today's level.  Wineries poured all of their wines and there was no tasting fee.  There also were very few picnic grounds and top tier restaurants to visit.  Sutter Home to name one winery made more than a dozen wines. French Sauternes were plentiful and quite reasonable.  Older vintages were often available in notable vintages.  Burgundies were plentiful as the a run of good vintages combined with a strong American dollar made it easy to purchase high quality wine for not much more than upper level domestic Napa Cabernet.  Put all these factors together and it was a perfect time to be a consumer.  The Heublein Auctions also powered more interest into fine wine.

                                    The Paris Tasting and White Zinfandel.


Two major changes to California and the national wine scene came with the Judgement of Paris and the advent of White Zinfandel.  American wine culture gained instant recognition with the results of the Paris tasting and the race was on to compete with the best wines of France.  Cabernet and Chardonnay became every day words and were a form of wine wisdom from people with limited experience.  This was to the benefit of society as more and more people began to switch from beer and hard liquor to wine. What once was a beverage of the well to do now became wine for the masses.  Solid well made wine was available for reasonable prices. In the past 40+ years vineyard acreage and wineries have exploded all over California.


Sutter Home started the White Zinfandel model and never looked back. The wild growth of this popular wine gained millions of new wine drinkers.  In the process Sutter Home cut down the number of wines produced and focused on growing its brand and started to acquire other wineries which needed capital to improve.  Today they are the American success story.  A family business which it still is has grown into a multi million dollar business which has branches all over the United States and in foreign markets also.

                                           Consuming Older Vintages With Friends
                               
Some of the pictures above show wines that were shared over dinners and special events with friends. The joy of wine is in the ability to share with others and experience not only the wine but conversation of what the wine represents in the course of history.  People with cellars are open to sharing bottles when they believe that the people at table have an interest and some level of appreciation of what is being served.  I have enjoyed a number of wines which I could never acquire but were poured with the knowledge that the wine was a treat on many levels. Vintage on a bottle is often used to celebrate: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and many other forms of celebration. My suggestion is to share wine and develop a core of like friends.  Over the years you will learn from each other and widen your horizon with respect to wines from all over the world. There is always a good wine on the market at a price that meets your needs. Start a tasting group and watch your world open up.  Remember wine is all about people and friendship.

                                 











Saturday, September 3, 2016

LODI: GREAT WINES AND GREAT PEOPLE

 

                                                  TASTING AT MOHR-FRY  RANCH

   I recently attended the 2016 Wine Bloggers Convention in Lodi.  The reception and tasting of a wide range of wines grown and produced in the appellation proved to be both informative and eye opening.  Let me say that Lodi even though a large sector of vineyards are quite old there is a lot of contemporary movement in varietals and vineyard management.  The Lodi growers are unified in their mission of grape growing using natural techniques and responsible farming. Located only a two hour drive from much of the Bay Area you are swept away into an agricultural area full of multiple forms of fruit being grown by a wide variety of people from many cultures.  They combine to bring people grapes, fruit vegetables and other farmed produce to Farmers Markets and wineries throughout all of California.

                                                    LODI RULES
The Lodi Vintners Association are dedicated to farming grapes and other produce in an effort to respect the land and use natural techniques for healthy growing including predators for invasive pests which affect growing and quality. Lodi Rules are some of the most rigorous in the wine industry. This bodes well for the fruit and environment.   The vast majority of fruit produced in the area is grapes which were planted prior to prohibition.  Since that time owners have changed the varietals grown  to reflect the wants and needs of consumers.  During Prohibition large quantities of grapes were shipping via rail cars to home wine makers throughout the United States.  Instructions were simple do not add water or sugar to the base product.  Fermentation started from the natural yeast on the skins.  Today the  major buyers for large portions of the grapes grown are Gallo and Constellation.  There are also major buyers for Zinfandel, Cabernet, Petite Syrah and other varietals from name producers through out the state.  The reason is quite simple, Lodi fruit is of high quality and almost always ripe and its sells for much less than fruit from well known sites in Napa, Sonoma and Southern California to name a few.

                                                  PIONEERS OF VARIETALS
One of the biggest surprises to me was the number of wineries that are producing interesting and high quality wines from varieties not normally seen in California.  The quality of white varietals caught me off guard. One example is Acquiesce winery. They make their mark producing Stainless Steel Rhone varieties that are flat out great.  Owner and wine maker Sue Tipton has always been fond of white Chateauneuf-du-Pape. She was able to procure vines of Grenache Blanc, Rousanne, Marsanne, Viognier and Picpoul to name a few.  These wines are fresh and vibrant with wonder aromatics and clean flavors that have acidity to make them a pleasure to consume. They also bottle all of their wines in Saverglass which gives the impression of the wines of Provence.  Another winegrower and producer is Markus Bokisch who hails from Spain.  He runs a very successful vineyard management company and as such has access to many top line varietals that are grown to represent the flavors that can come from growing in the Lodi appellation. A list of the Bokisch varietals that he makes and bottles are: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano,Monastrell, Albarino, Verdejo,Veldelho, and Grancha Blanca.   They are all a refreshing change of pace and flavor from the major red and white wines produced and sold in most wine shops.  His production range for any one wine is no more than a few hundred cases.  What is even more impressive is the fact that the majority of his wines retail for $25 or less !!  As a vineyard manager he has crossed paths with many big name wineries and wine makers.  Markus is well thought of not only in the Lodi community but throughout the larger wine growing fraternity.

                                                  VISIT LODI FOR A FUN EXPERIENCE
I have been involved in the wine trade for a few decades and always had a perception that Lodi was a non-destination venue.  This Wine Bloggers Conference has opened my eyes.  If you are tired of the Napa meet and greet and show me your credit card then Lodi will be a refreshing change. Pace of life is slower and the quality of wine produced is high.  The downtown sector is alive with many good quality restaurants and shops.  You can also venture out of downtown to one of the many local hispanic restaurants that serve real home made food with regional specialties.  Lodi is close enough so that you can make a day of it. You get another perspective of wine and a chance to meet up with some outstanding vintners.   There also are plenty of other locally grown items that you can access while in Lodi.  

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Gambero Rosso Tasting

Gambero Rosso Tasting 30th Anniversary
I recently attended the 30th anniversary tasting of the Gambero Rosso which is Italy's major wine review and publication. Each wine that was presented was awarded between one and three Bicchieri (glasses)  Earning one is a sign of quality within the region and varietal that is produced. Getting three is the highest level of praise and reward in Italy.  Every region of the country was represented and all of the wines were at the least excellent. Since there were more than 130 properties pouring I took the road of least resistance and chose 25 estates that either had a type of wine I was interested in or a producer I knew by name or reputation. Even using this criteria it was very complex in that there were many styles of wine making as well as levels of extract.  The following are some of my high lights and I hope they can provide you with a small road map of wines to taste in the coming year. 
                                  PIEDMONT
Vietti-  an important estate of 87 acres and making some of the most impressive Barolo and Barbera.  Their portfolio of single vineyard wines is most impressive and they are found at retail in many places in the Bay Area and in fine dining restaurants as well. 
Bel Colle-  a smaller estate which makes a outstanding single vineyard Barolo: Monvigliero '09 and Symposia '11, well worth looking for.
                                    TUSCANY
Perhaps the most well known area of Italy.  The Sangiovese based wines here are stunning.  There are several different clones used in different parts of Tuscany which accounts for the difference in flavors you encounter from each part of Tuscany.
LAMOLE de LAMOLE-  Chianti from Reserva to Grand Selection they are top quality.
BRANCAIA-  a top quality producer of various grades of Chianti and IGT wines. Imported by Gallo this is a star in their line of imported wines. Well worth looking for at retail.
BADIA A  COLTIBUONO- Chianti producer of the highest quality. They seem to appear at many trade tastings and are members of Slow Wines another Italian trade association.  Well distributed and worth the money for the quality they provide. 
POLIZIANO- Vino Noble de Montepulciano.  This estate makes high end and entry level VN.  Classic structure and aromas make this a leader from the area.
BOSCARELLI- Vino Noble is another estate (35 acres) which is at the top of the list of quality.  From entry level to single vineyard and IGT they all are exceptional.  Prices range from $30-$60. 
CANNLICCHIO DE SOPRA- Brunello at the top of the hill in price and quality. Worth the money to experience.
MASTROJANNI-  Brunello single vineyard (Loreto) as well as traditional bottles are excellent.  
                                          VENETO
MASI-  producers of some of the most outstanding wine in Italy. Their Amarone della Valpolicella -Campolongo de Torbe '09 is amazing wine.  They have a huge lead in quality in the region. They also bottle some very rare and unique white wine which is also a treat to the senses. Always search out their Amarone.
                                          LOMBARDY
A region rich in sparkling wine. Franciacorta is home to many of the top growers and producers of fine aged Italian sparkling wine. Below are the names of stellar producers.  Prices are on the high end but you will enjoy stellar complexity and flavors.
LA MARCHESINE- complexity with fruit and acidity 
CA' DEL BOSCO -  highest quality and fine Reserve wines
BELLA VISTA-  '08 Reserva a winner
FERRARI-  '09 Reserva is stunning
                                         SICILY
DONNA FUGATA- produce the finest dessert wine of the island. Ben Rhye is their tray dried Zibbo (Muscat) that is so fresh and deep you must taste it to believe it. Their whole line of wines are very very good. 
BAGLIO DE PIANETTO- makes red and white wine from fruit unique to the island. They have earned their spurs and are stars in the quality end of Sicilian wines.

 I know there are many more to ponder over but these selections represent true quality with scores that were not bought. Italy provides wine drinkers quality wines and prices that more than compete with the domestic market. Treat yourself with a bottle from Italy with a meal you will not be disappointed.