Concannon Pinot Gris 2007 ~ $21.99 ~ 88 pts

rootsrocksintrigueSo I may be lying about this wine’s price. I bought it maybe three weeks ago, and it has been long since gone from my fridge as I’m just now getting to write the review. I’m pretty sure, though, that the wine was approximately $20, which is possibly one of the more expensive wines I’ve bought so far.

Putting the cost in stow, this is an extraordinarily good wine. I really, really enjoyed it. The nose has a fresh rose bouquet, with some honeysuckle and light fruit. The rose is not overpowering or “grandmother-like,” comparable to moth-balled furniture and 5 yr old perfume. Rather, this is the smell of freshly cut and sheared roses, resting on the florist’s table about to be wrapped and dipped in fresh water. It has almost a fresh water spring finish to it. The taste is equally as good, crisp with rich pear and a hint of grapefruit. The finish is clean, and does not give an overly tart sensation on the tongue. The wine would go well with poultry, pasta, or fruit and cheese dishes.

Surprisingly, Concannon is a winery in California that hails from Ireland. The owner’s grandfather, John Concannon, came to America from Ireland in 1883 and started making wine in Livermore Valley. For me this is a surprise, thinking that most Irishmen are not expert surveyors of wine. Yet, the stereotype, however true or untrue, does not fit this very Irish family of winemakers in California. According to the winery’s website, the Concannon name is well-known as the winery created the Cabernet Sauvignon clones 7 and 8 which assisted in planting much of Napa’s vineyards.

I must admit this is the first time I’ve heard of grape varietal clones, so I’ve been doing some research. To put it simply, cloning is taking one piece of something and creating another thing identical to it using asexual means. For humans this is quite difficult, but for plants this is fairly commonplace. Just think about it, how many times have you taken a small branch from a tree in order to start your own plant at home? Wine makers do this process all the time, but for the single purpose of extracting particular qualities or attributes of the vine. For example, one vine may be resistant to drought. This may be very helpful for a winemaker when the rain seems sparse. Other minute qualities include time of budding, time of ripening, fruit yield and fruit quality. The possibilities are probably endless, but needless to say this technique is very useful in making wine, and the Concannon family was able to utilize it well. My next post will be about cloning as this subject has fascinated me…

Also, if you haven’t visited the Center for the Homeless’ Wine Cellar Auction, be sure to take a gander and see if donating a bottle to the cause of fighting homelessness is something you’re interested in!

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Instant Wine Cellar Auction for the Center for the Homeless

I have done a fairly decent job I think in separating my work from my hobby (i.e. wine), however this is a situation where my worlds are colliding!

For all inquiring minds, I work for a non-profit organization, Center for the Homeless, in South Bend, Indiana. Without getting into too many details of my own personal work, the Center houses approximately 200 men, women and children who are indeed homeless and require assistance in becoming self-sufficient. Such a task is not easy, for the people who are homeless as well as for the people and agencies that help them. For that very reason the Center is hosting an event, the Dancing with our Stars Miracle Auction. Information on this event can be taken from our website, http://www.cfh.net.dwoslogoweb209_002

“On April 24, Michiana’s most benevolent men and women will stroll down a Hollywood-style red carpet to attend the Dancing with Our Stars Miracle Auction. Based on the hit TV show “Dancing with the Stars,” the hype for this year’s Miracle Auction is gaining momentum!

In addition to a silent and live premier auction, this exciting event will include a ballroom dancing competition with 10 of Michiana’s most prominent individuals. Each paired with a professional dancer, competing for audience votes.

In the weeks leading up to the event, supporters can also buy votes online where they can even start bidding on the extraordinary auction packages.

Charitable donations to this event will be used to support the demand for services at the Center for the Homeless.”

The relevance to this wine blog is that we are auctioning off packages which include wine. We are asking people to donate their favorite, go-to wine to this very special and integral event, as doing so will help us meet the needs of our guests more effectively. If you would like to donate your favorite bottle, please leave a comment here on my blog or visit http://www.events.org/stars.

Thank you so much for your support!

Glatzer Grüner Veltliner Kabinett 2006 ~ $15.99 ~ Rating: 88

grv_kab_grA new wine variety for Wine Stopper! That’s right, folks, I’m expanding my repertoire. This week I tried going for some white action and getting a Grüner Veltliner. Apparently Glatzer makes two kinds of GV, Kabinett and Dornenvogel. I got the Kabinett, which, as described by Glatzer, is An elegant classic Veltliner: peppery and spicy with lively fruit flavors.” I don’t know what makes other wines not “elegant classics,” but I think it refers to the wine’s acquired taste. The aroma of GV is quite potent, very much like the smell of cutting open an unripe fruit at its surface. It’s bitter smelling but with a fresh, flowery lacing.

Tasting the GV is an entirely different experience, with grapefruit, green pepper and spice as the primary flavors. It’s quite extraordinary, actually, in that the tartness of it melds well with the bitter-sweetness. What’s equally 350x350_grapefruit6surprising is that while one would think a wine with fruit and vegetable flavors would be light and tangy, for a white it’s fairly heavy on the tongue. Swilling the GV in a glass, the wine almost looks like cough syrup as it slowly runs down the glass back down to the pool of origin. I know that may be an unpleasant image for some of you, but you could probably relate if you tasted this as well.

As for some Glatzer history, the vineyard is in Austria. I really don’t have much time to expand into a deeper, well-thought out description of the company’s upbringing, but I do have to warn you of one thing about this wine: it’s a screw cap *gasp!* I know! Even after my little tirade about keeping the cork tradition (Screw cap or cork?) I break lines and go with the cap. So, consider yourselves warned!

Good food pairings would include poultry, fish or tangy, peppery cheese. Try it, you’ll like it 🙂

Bota Box Shiraz 2006 ~ $21.99 ~ Rating: 83

wines_shiraz_new06Don’t let the price fool you – this is a relatively inexpensive wine in that four 750 ml bottles of wine fit into this nicely compact, eco-friendly box. Distinguishing it from other box brands who try to hide the fact they’re using cardboard to house their wine, Bota Box uses a light earthy brown cover. It gives a nod to the tree huggers out there, while showing off its design and its ability to be a wine contestant. Once again I bought this wine with my now two roommates in stow, and they both raised their eyebrows a bit. I am not drinking more wine, I tried telling them, but am attempting to be more economically sound. Whatever.

I let the wine sit for a few minutes before sniffing and tasting it, because dispensing wine from a box is kind of like popping open a cork to the wine. While some air gets to the wine when not being poured, it’s pretty well sealed up. When I finally swished the wine in my glass, the color of the wine is medium red with somewhat of a haze to it. The aroma has a little petrol to it as well as some dark red fruit smells like plum and cherry. The flavor is semi-dry, with the dark fruits coming out to play, along with some pepper and licorice. For a box wine, it’s quite dynamic and enjoyable, but can dry out the palate for those seeking a “refresher.” Some meal pairings would include hamburger, pizza, salad and various Mexican dishes with a little “zing” to them.

I would actually recommend not having this wine with a “meal,” however, but with a snack instead. Mozzarella and sliced tomato would be divine with this wine, as would crackers with cream cheese and pesto. As a boxed wine, I think this can be very beneficial as it would be very good at a small party with finger foods.

Now let’s delve into a little history behind Bota – no it’s not affiliated with Botox. Bota Box is one wine among several produced by DFV Wines in Manteca, California, the same wine makers who produce Gnarly Head, Joe Blow, 337, Delicato, Twisted and Clay Station. DFV had its beginning in 1924, when Gasparé Indelicato decided after moving from Italy to start growing grapes for wine and selling his produce locally. Even during the Prohibition Indelicato’s grapes were sought after by home winemakers. Eventually, when Prohibition was repealed, Indelicato decided to make his own wine out of his grapes instead of selling them to wine makers. Soon after his wine was sought after country-wide.

So that might be misconstrued as gold. It's bronze. Just deal with it.

Bota Box’s Shiraz 2006 won a bronze in San Francisco’s annual wine competition: http://www.winejudging.com/medal_winners_2009/430.htm

The 2005 seemed to be more likeable, but the 2006 vintage is nothing to sneeze at. Actually, be sure you don’t because that’s kind of gross. In the end, I’m ranking this a solid 83 points out of 100.

Cork or Screw Cap?

cork_p1160013You’re at your significant other’s place for dinner. The mood is set. The candles lit. The food from the kitchen smells divine, and you know this will be a spectacular dinner. Your date comes around the corner with a bottle of wine, and your excitement upswings. *scratch scratch squeaky* You look confused. The wine is pouring into the class – what happened to the corkscrew, the ever so popular air tight pop the cork makes when forced from its bottle. You frown as you see the screw cap lying on the table.

Now don’t pretend – you so would turn your nose up to a screw cap wine at a romantic dinner. There’s just something more romantic, sensual, personal about a cork. It’s earthy in a way that screw caps can’t even compare. And yalumba_screwcap_bw-717848yet, the debate is raging on in the wine world whether screw caps or corks should be the sealer of choice for winemakers.

Those in favor of screw caps bring up the disappointing reality of cork taint – when a wine is noticeably spoiled due to an infection of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA). The culprit of this infection has been attributed to the cork, however it could be anything from the barrel, to how a wine is stored, to the transportation of the wine. A faulty cork, however, could easily lead to TCA in the wine. Noticing it is not necessarily hard as the wine will smell like mold and taste like the socks of a football player. I had this happen to me once when I bought a bottle of wine from a small winemaker in Pennsylvania. I opened it and thought the mold monster attacked.

In any event, the presence of cork taint, which is a huge liability to winemakers as it ruins the wine and gives a bad reputation, has turned many winemakers to the screw cap or alternative stopping methods (try jumping in front of a car, that’ll stop you…I have a sick sense of humor). The screw cap dramatically reduces the presence of TCA, is easier to open as it does not require a cork screw, and makes for easy closing and reopening. Indeed, these are strong arguments. Some proponents of the screw cap also argue that by turning to the screw cap, winemakers are being more environmentally friendly by not using natural resources. Indeed, on the surface the screw cap seems “green.”

Not so, say environmentalists! Those concerned with our natural resources (shouldn’t that be everybody?) say that while cork harvesting affects our natural resources, the process usually does not destroy trees but simply harvests their bark. In about ten years, the cork bark would be ready to be harvested once again. If the cork industry plummets due to wine cork replacements, the land used by cork trees would be used for other means, potentially destroying those lands and the biological landscape therein. Indeed, currently the cork forests allow for “cattle grazing, game hunting and mushroom harvesting,” which would be taken away if the land were to be used for another type of farming. This is a HUGE argument which the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other agencies are using for legislation to restrict the use of wine stoppers to only cork. Interestingly enough, Spain passed a law in 2006 stating all winemakers must use cork for their wine stoppers. While this measure was, I’m sure, as political as it was to benefit environmental agencies, it was, in my opinion, a step in the right direction. Here’s a map that shows how many areas have cork “forests” that are, arguably, a big part of our earth’s ecology:

cork_map_large

I am by no means totally against the screw cap for wine bottles. I think it’s a cool innovation that is suitable for wines that should be drunk within a year of harvest. But, I think cork needs to be regularized. Perhaps winemakers should be required to have 75% of their wines using cork stoppers? There could be a compromise that would allow the use of the screw cap without devastating the cork industry.

The honest to God difference between the taste of a screw cap and cork wine is in the physics and chemistry of how wine reacts to oxygen and air components. When sealed with a cap, a wine is completely shut off from air. Doing this limits its aging because it just sits there without interaction. Dynamic wines usually become so overtime due to a miniscule amount of air introduced to the wine through the porous yet compact cork stopper. The cork lets the wine breath, even minimally so, resulting in enhanced flavors that become pronounced over time. Now, we all know that most of the time when you buy a bottle of wine from the store you drink it within a day or so. So, the time it takes for the oxygen to affect the wine is minimal and a fairly mute subject. However, if the wine is sitting on the shelf in the store for quite a while, that wine is actually aging. Just because you don’t store it in your cellar when you buy it doesn’t mean the wine doesn’t age.

OK, I’ve rambled on long enough. My opinion is fairly clear on this issue. Since the wine cork stopper comprises about 70% of the cork market, I think it’s important to continue using cork as the primary stopper substance.

Update: 2006 Tormaresca Neprica on Wine Library TV!

That’s right ladies and germs, Mr. Vaynerchuck himself reviewed a wine I reviewed not too long ago. While he didn’t mention anything about tasting “toilet,” I’m quite surprised at how alike our reviews were! Well, I pointed out the pepper and the rust, but we both noticed how “earthy” this wine is. I think I might just go out and get another bottle!

http://tv.winelibrary.com/2009/01/19/a-wine-from-puglia-made-with-negroamaro-episode-610/

Wine Tasting Activities

Party

What’s better than tasting wine by your lonesome? Tasting wine with a group of people just as keen of the fermented grape as you are! Holding a wine party is a great way of bringing people together, networking, or just hanging out with your closest friends. If you’re one of those all-controlling Martha Stewart types (dives to the ground as a black-suited man with a quite nicely embroidered “M” on his vest fires a lemon-ball gun), you may like to be the all-knowing host/hostess, perhaps introducing each wine before the tasting commences. This could be a bit…I dunno, pompous? It could be fun depending on the group. If you were the queen and having a wine party, the queen being the hostess would be appropriate I guess.cgan1196l

But, I think a more group-oriented party would be more fun, and here’s why. For starters, if everyone brought a bottle or two of wine, the diversity in tastes and palates would be amazing. And, if you’re the hosting house and still insist on providing the food, the diversity would be such that, more than likely, there would not be any horrible food-wine pairings. Secondly, when people chip in and bring the main attraction of the party (i.e. wine), the cost on you the host is significantly less. Given our current economy, that’s always a plus. Sure you want to host, but you don’t want to break the bank while doing it. So, creative and cost-friendly – what’s not to like?

Gaming

world-of-warcraft-aNo matter your game of choice, a glass or two of wine always makes gaming a more enjoyable experience. Whether you are a Texas Hold ‘Em aficionado or a World of Warcraft badass pwning all those n00bs, wine will help you relax and enjoy the better things in life (200 DPS btches!).

Now, whether your buddies will mock you for sipping your favorite Cab while they’re chugging down good ol’ PBR or Yuengling is another issue entirely. But, how about Scrabble? Rumi? Checkers? Chess? All great under the influence of wine. And, since gaming usually requires at least two players, you can compare tasting notes while bludgeoning the other in the face with your kickass knight of doom – no one can escape the L!!!

Writing

While coffee is usually my beverage of choice while writing and blogging, wine would definitely be a welcome alternative. Indeed, I wrote my best work in college a little under the influence. Of course then I didn’t drink wine but usually a shot of something and the words just flowed like honey from the comb. Now, having a half glass of Pinot Grig or Shiraz would be quite nice while working on a paper or blog. Watch out for errors, though, since even though the words may come quickly they may not be structured or splled the best! (heh, I made a funny).

Movie Night

If only the movie theater would sell wine. I enjoy a good Diet Coke with my movie as much as the next guy, but wine just adds something to the movie experience. Now, having a deep, dark Merlot while watching Saw 3 may not be the best idea in the world. Mmmm, irony goodness. Wine with popcorn, though? Heck to the double yes! Don’t even get me started on snack pairings with wine…

Foodoysters1

This is kind of a no-brainer, but more often than not people enjoy wine while eating something. Cheese, dinner, snacks, etc. In fact, most bottles of wine come with appropriate pairings on the back to better enjoy the wine enclosed. I, for one, would like to see exotic food pairings listed, though. How would you feel about a wine that read, “Good with ostrich, bull testicles and fruit bat.” Now THAT would be a wine!!