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Battle the "Poor Man's Conundrum"

Date: Wed, Oct 8, 2008 Winery Blogs


Most fans of domestic white blends are familiar with Caymus' second label Conundrum, a unique propietary blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, muscat, semillon and viognier. Wildly complex and vibrant with honeysuckle, peach/apricot nectar and floral-citrus notes, the precise blend changes with each vintage. Lovers of the wine hold "Conundrum Parties", with each guest attempting to guess the exact varietal composition. A lesser known, and lower-priced option is the Chenin Blanc-Viognier from Pine Ridge. Somewhat more restrained, unlike it's crazy cousin Conundrum, featuring pear,lychee, melon and grapefruit notes. While both wines do have a citrus component, the muscat in the Conundrum can really make the train fly uncontrollably off of the tracks. It's just too much. Surprisingly, both wines come from producers of high-dollar, powerhouse Rutherford/Napa reds (Conundrum did just open it's own facility in Monterey County in 2007 to be closer to its Central Coast-sourced fruit). These whites sell for nearly a quarter of their big red brothers. My understanding is that they are something of a "loss leader" for both wineries, in order to introduce the brands to customers. Hence their prevalence on restaurant menus. Another crazy cousin white not to be missed, if you like this sort of thing, is the Evolution (formerly Evolution#9) from Sokol-Blosser in Dundee Hills/Willamette Valley. I'll spare you the gory 9(!!!)-varietal details, but this wine takes the cake for crazy complexity & "Where'd I leave my hat?"-taste-profile insanity. Look for intensely perfumed honeyed-floral aromas, a delicately spiced herbaceous character with melon, peach, green apple and grapefruit on the palate.Oh, and nutmeg (gewurtraminer, you so crazy). Honestly, though I've joyously quaffed Evolution numerous times (once while strolling the very vines from which the wine springs), I culled the preceding description from the website's flavor descriptors for the nine varietals that compose the wine. Did that just to show you how loopy these folks are. I DARE you to pair these wacky whites with your wildest culinary creations. Great "ice-breaker"/hostess gift wines. All three, real head-turners. - Buckley Wineholt
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Land of the Giant Wine

Date: Mon, Sep 29, 2008 Winery Blogs

Legend has it that shiraz originally came from ancient Persia. Sadly, present-day Iran has outlawed the production of wine. So regardless of its true origins, the much heralded grape has no home there. My first experiences with wines made from the syrah/shiraz grape were rather infamous. Nasty, tight, low-end Croze Hermitage, from France's Northern Cotes Du Rhone do not do the grape justice. In the late-90's, I sumbled upon Australia's Giant Shiraz. D'arenberg. Henry's Drive. Jim Barry. The list is seemingly endless. Spicy, robust, long-lived and full-bodied, these not-so-gentle-giants will change the way that you think about wine. Not for the faint of heart, these masculine wines pair favorably with rich, spicy lamb and game dishes. All peppery meat dishes fare well alongside these monsters, with berry-fruited +/or mint-scented sides. Keep your eyes peeled for deals on two giant shiraz, Barossa Valley's Hazyblur and Killibinbin from Langhorne Creek. These 90+ rated wines would be a worthy addition to any cellar.
Cheers, Buckley Wineholt

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Land of the Giant Wine

Date: Mon, Sep 29, 2008 Winery Blogs

Legend has it that shiraz originally came from ancient Persia. Sadly, present-day Iran has outlawed the production of wine. So regardless of its true origins, the much heralded grape has no home there. My first experiences with wines made from the syrah/shiraz grape were rather infamous. Nasty, tight, low-end Croze Hermitage, from France's Northern Cotes Du Rhone do not do the grape justice. In the late-90's, I sumbled upon Australia's Giant Shiraz. D'arenberg. Henry's Drive. Jim Barry. The list is seemingly endless. Spicy, robust, long-lived and full-bodied, these not-so-gentle-giants will change the way that you think about wine. Not for the faint of heart, these masculine wines pair favorably with rich, spicy lamb and game dishes. All peppery meat dishes fare well alongside these monsters, with berry-fruited +/or mint-scented sides. Keep your eyes peeled for deals on two giant shiraz, Barossa Valley's Hazyblur and Killibinbin from Langhorne Creek. These 90+ rated wines would be a worthy addition to any cellar.
Cheers, Buckley Wineholt

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1977 Graham's Vintage Port Millenium

Date: Thu, Sep 4, 2008 Winery Blogs

Last August, I received the gift from a friend who mistakenly thought I was born in 1977. Of course, I didn't say anything because the gift was really outstanding.... 2 magnums of 1977 Graham's Vintage Port in pristine condition. I thought about putting them into my collection but hey, temptation got the best of me. I have an affinity to colheitas however after reading about 1977, I must say this person did well indeed in terms of gift giving. In no way do I expect gifts as it sometimes makes me feel uncomfortable but..... The 1977 Graham's is outstanding. Its still a bit young, but definitely complex, jammy, with a floral bouquet on the nose which really surprised me. On the palate its got structure and definitely displays hints of ripe plum, dark berries, anise, and some earth tones that really made this port finish well, however I think it could use a couple more years of cellaring so I vacuumed it up and put it back into safe keeping. Its really unlike any other port I've had with the exception of the 2003 Taylor Fladgate which I do not intend to open for another 20 years. If its on the shelf, and you have some extra bones in the pocket, snag it quickly!

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2005 Robert Craig Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon

Date: Thu, Aug 28, 2008 Winery Blogs

Some tasting notes on Robert Craig's 05 that has yet to be released... A focused nose of deep blackberry and cassis, laced with white chocolate, a touch of anise, smoky cedar and tobacco. Flavors: Mouthfilling mountain fruit and cassis predominate, underlain with mocha, bay leaf and licorice. Finish: The full palette of Mt Veeder flavors carries through on a long finish, bringing forth more dark fruit, supple tannins and notes of tobacco and vanilla. General: A powerful, balanced and complex wine with well-integrated, ripe tannins. Decanting recommended. It will hopefully be released early next year. (yes the pic has the wrong vintage)... Wines.com Tasting Team

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2006 Groom Barossa Valley Shiraz - Magnificent!

Date: Wed, Aug 20, 2008 Winery Blogs

David Groom is the former wine maker from Pensfold Grange, Australia's darling vintage that is highly sought after. David Groom has been involved in some very high end wine consulting, wine making gigs, including one that is currently underway in San Francisco. From what I understand he's taking the old Presidio property and converting it into the Foggy Bridge winery, which will no doubt be a success. Today we received a sample of the 2006 Groom Barossa Valley Shiraz from his property in Barossa Valley, Australia. This wine is hands down the best Australian Shiraz I have sampled in 8 years. Its got great texture with silky tannins that will no doubt dissipate with some cellaring. It has nice fruit (the right amount of fruit forward) and hints of anise, peppers, blackberries and most important a dash of vanilla. I believe that David Groom has the ability to transform grapes into art. Recommended for anyone looking to make an impression at a rack of lamb or osso bucco dinner. Recommended buy on this one as it will improve substantially with about 5 years in the cellar.

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2004 Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto

Date: Wed, Aug 20, 2008 Winery Blogs

Yesterday we sampled the 2004 Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto. The Guidalberto is the sister wine to Sassacaia, the mother of all Super Tuscan wines. Guidalberto is a blend of 45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Sangiovese. Like its big sister, Guidalberto is produced from hand selected grapes, meticulously sorted and blended together to produce this immediately drinkable masterpiece. Most Super Tuscans are just like my good Italian friends, a little sparky upon immediate introduction, but passionate and a pleasure to be around. This wine is unusual because unlike others, this wine opens up with soft tannins, an outstanding bouquet, and a very clean and lasting finish. Basically most Super Tuscans that are young, need some aging, but this one is a cut above the rest. This is a great wine that will cellar well over the next 3-7 years and should be part of any collector's portfolio. The best news is that this is not out of reach like most Bordeaux classified growths, its available for about $65 per bottle at most locations. Enjoy with Friends!

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Rosé Champagne ... A brief biography!

Date: Tue, Aug 12, 2008 Winery Blogs

Someone asked me yesterday in a brief phone call about Rosé Champagne. Before we go into the production level discussion, its first important to state that all grapes are white on the inside, its the red skin that gives red wine it color. The skins in white wines or champagnes are removed so a Blancs de Noir is basically the white of the Pinot Noir grapes. Producers looking to make Rosé, include the skins of the grapes in the tanks or barrells for around 3-5 days, and then bleed the systems to flush out larger particles of skin or tannins, leaving a small amount of skin causing the wine to appear pinkish. Rosé Wines are produced with Rhone grapes like Syrah, Grenache and Carignan and develop well in hotter regions such as Provence, the Languedoc and Australia. In France, Rosé has now exceeded white wines in sales. In the United States many farmers who did well with the 2005 crop decided to increase the production of Rosé wines and champagnes instead of dumping crop. While historically its not my favorite, I recently attended a wine tasting by the Moet Hennessy. These guys produce the best champagnes in my opinion (my b-day is coming up...hint) and their portfolio includes the top three sellers: Veuve Clicquot ($50), Dom Perignon ($110) and Moet ($45). FYI, the best value in Rosé Champagne is produced by Moet. Its supple, perfectly dry with a hint of residual fruit sugars. Another fantastic champagne is the Moet Nectar Imperial.

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Prosecco for the Party

Date: Wed, Aug 6, 2008 Winery Blogs


Whenever I start a new job, I like to celebrate. Who doesn't ? When you walk in on the first day, your emotions are a turbulent mix of fearlessness and trepidation. You honestly don't know what to fear, if anything. But oh, that night, the libations they do flow. My choice of celebratory libation, you ask ? Prosecco. Hailing from the Veneto region of northeastern Italy, Prosecco is a crisp sparkling wine that lends itself well to wild celebration. Soft, slightly off-dry and perfect for frothing-at the-mouth, I just think that Prosecco is perfect to liven up the party. Sure, big fat French Champagnes scream, " Congratulations ! " when you pop the cork. Prosecco is a little more on the down-low, softly, yet confidently whispering," Enjoy, but don't get a big head, hubris isn't very becoming.". My ultimate Prosecco is Carpene Malvolti, but the more widely available Bisol is a great second choice. The drier the better.


Cheers, Buckley Wineholt, Wines.com
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Chateauneuf du Pape - A brief history...

Date: Wed, Jul 23, 2008 Winery Blogs


Hello Friends, people keep asking me "What the heck is Châteauneuf-du-Pape?", so let me give you a brief history... Chateauneuf du Pape translates as "New Castle of the Pope" and the name does in fact have a direct meaning with Middle Age Christianity in Europe. In 1308, a former arch bishop from Bordeaux called Clemente was crowned Pope and decided to relocate the papacy to the city of Avignon in France. He bacame known as Clemente V and his subsequent successors "Avignon Popes" were said to be lovers of Burgundy wines, bless their souls, and they did much to promote these wines during the seventy-year + duration in Avignon. First known as "Vins du Pape" which translates to "Wines of the Pope" it became later known as Chateauneuf du Pape which carries the unique symbol of the castle in the town less than kilometers from the banks of the Rhone River. Now which are my favorite Chateauneuf du Papes? Chateau La Nerthe (its the least pricey and always incredible), Beaucastel is always the top leader but a little more expensive, and there are a few that are always pretty good and moderately priced like Roger Sabon's Les Olivers Chateauneuf du Pape which retails around $40 or so. Anyways, Chateauneuf du Pape is one of those wines that is immediately drinkable, however it is recommended to age between 4 and 6 years to acheive its pinnacle in taste. Its my favorite wine in case you are looking for my upcoming birthday present (hint, hint).

Cheers - Alex Andrawes Wines.com and PersonalWine.com CEO
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Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs...

Date: Fri, Jul 18, 2008 Winery Blogs


Today our CEO Alex came back from an event with two fabulous bottles of pinot noir. One of them was Castle Rock's Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir. You should have seen the looks on everyone’s faces when he gingerly asked us if we wanted to have a glass or two to make the day go by. Needless to say it was a no-brainer.
Upon first opening the bottle and pouring it into our glasses there was an immediate fruit explosion. The color of the wine was what a red wine should be. You could tell it wasn’t watered down and that it would have excellent body. We all agreed that it had an appealing plum, cherry, and spice aroma. I was pleased to find that it was not extremely “oaky” or “woody” like many pinot noir’s are tending to be these days.
Do you guys have any favorite pinot noir’s or any other types of wines for that matter out of Oregon? I feel like I haven’t really touched on that region in awhile, and after having this glass of wine today I feel bad, like a negligent grandmother, and now I need to spoil it. So please, spoil Oregon. Make it feel like the favorite grandchild. Put it on a pedestal and tell me about your favorite wines from Oregon. It’s almost the weekend… : )
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Wine Storage II....On the Go!

Date: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 Winery Blogs

In lieu of the tips we gave a few days back on wine storage, I wanted to share with you this very interesting endeavor by a couple in Paso Robles. Part of the appeal of traveling through Northern California’s Wine Country is the ability to transport yourself into a world where you can try wine that is normally inaccessible by most people in “big city,” USA. Also, a trip to wine country means coming home with bottles that were special to you on your trip which makes sharing with friends extra special. The issue with buying vintage wine and wine that should be stored while on vacation… where are you going to store it?
Safe Haven offers wine country travelers a place to store wines for an extended period of time so that way they can choose to drink the wine whenever they so choose, or have it shipped to their house safely once they return from vacation. I love the concept of Safe Haven, and see this place being quite successful for a number of reasons. For one, I can see many wineries teaming up with Safe Haven to accommodate their customers in order to get their name out. Also, the base price of Safe Haven is rather affordable to begin with.Next time you are on a trip through the wine country, perhaps you should look up Safe Haven to safely store your favorite find.

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Wine Storage 101

Date: Fri, Jul 11, 2008 Winery Blogs

For the wine freak, like myself, I have wines that I need to store for 6 months to over a year. If you consume the wine you buy within one month, you can store it in room temperature or up to the mid 70's. For long term storage, you'll need something more robust. There are a handful of factors that will kill wine including light, prolonged exposure to heat, humidity (or lack thereof), and of course the wine and cork themselves.

For long term storage, you will want to keep your wine stored between 55 and 62 degrees Fahrenheit, with a relative humidity of 60-70 percent to protect the corks. Dehydrated cork can let oxygen enter into the wine accelerating its maturity and rendering it bad after a very short time. This is most evident in bottles with low neck levels or even on the cork when you find that its been saturated thru the entire cork.

If you are building a storage closet, use insulation and be sure that you are using a proper AC unit, not a window unit. Vinotemp and Breezaire make relatively affordable units that you can put into your cellar. Be sure to lay the bottles sideways as thats the most optimal way to store wine and use racks if you have them available. Don't stain the wood as varnish carries toxins that can seep into the wines over time. If you're building racks, use spanish cedar, oak or pine.

Its a lot of work, and can take a whole weekend, but will be worth your time and investment! Have a great weekend! - Alex Andrawes, CEO Personal Wine and Wines.com.

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Wine at the County Fair? Sure, why not!

Date: Wed, Jul 9, 2008 Winery Blogs


Ahh the county fair. A time for cotton candy, sodas, rides that have barely passed safety inspections, and miniature animals. But a time for walking around with a glass of wine? Not really what I remember from my childhood.
However, this year at the New York state fair they are allowing participants of the fair to walk around with 10 ounce cups of wine. Quite interesting if you ask me. At many of the county and state fairs I have been to beer has always been allowed in certain areas of the fair, but you never really saw people walking around with it.
So here comes the big question…why? According the article that I found, Senator John DeFrancisco hopes that by allowing people to drink the wine wherever they please, it will “encourage more of the fair-goers to sample New York’s wine varieties.”
I like the idea, and I hope it works. I am all about getting people to try new wines. So good for you New York, and I hope it works! Way to be the wine guinea pig for us all...
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