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What is Wine Studio?

Date: Mon, Jan 14, 2013 Wine Tasting

All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own”. ~Johann von Goethe

For everyone who follows me on twitter, first thank you and second, I'm not sure why you do, but that said your Monday nights are about to get a boost! So as you may have heard, I and the brilliant pair [Dynamic Wine-Duo] from the Protocol Wine Studio Guy and Tina, will be joining forces this year, to present each vino-sapien with an unique twitter opportunity via#WineStudio to focus-in on wine regions, wine styles and hopefully take your palates to places they've only dreamed of going before.

Instead of the typical shot-gun approach, Protocol Wine Studio and I will stay on a region for five weeks at time. The first thing coming up to bat in the rotation is going to be the mighty Rhone region of France. There's so much to see and do within this fabulous region, even a five week, one hour examination every Monday evening, will barely scratch the surface.

Of course if all this wets your appetites for more, and you find yourself like the young Oliver Twist asking, "oh Please, sir, I want some more." There will be opportunities made available for you to do just that, so stay tuned.

But it's our hope that as we discuss each region, you will perhaps seek wines out from the region before the discussion gets going, as a way to help broaden your understanding of the types and styles wine offered in this fantastic region. There will also be an opportunity available to those interested in acquiring some classical styles of wine from these regions, a sampler-pack [for purchase], designed to give the everyday vino-sapien a better grasp of the region and the wines made there.

Logistically speaking; #WineStudio will be hosted each and every Monday, by either Tina, Guy or myself. Always starting at 6PM PST and ending approximately one hour later. The official launch is going to be January 21, 2012, I look forward to seeing you all there.

The three of us will be gathering at their Protocol Wine Studio here in San Diego for the fun and informative discussions. The role of moderator will change week to week, so that way there's an unique opportunity to get many different perspectives on the same topic. A calendar will be posted here on my blog [I will make a new page] so everyone can be prepared head of time, to know what to expect from each session.

Now of course with me involved their will be a degree of irreverent commentary now and again, but the main focus will really be about not only increasing our head knowledge, which is a great thing, but at the same time giving some needed depth to our palates. And I say "ours" because as they say it's about the journey, not the destination that counts. There will be no pontificating from our Purple Wine Tower, just lots of sharing and having fun, after-all this is just a beverage.

Perhaps you're already there, you've arrived, then this conversation may not be for you and that is okay, that's why there's #sommchat a great place for those who are already mightily in the know to talk among their selves. But if you find, that like Tina, Guy and I, that you'd strike out on the voyage of discovery and you weren't sure which way to set your sail, then I'd say #winestudio is going to be the place for you. This is the place to ask questions and get serious answers, without the dismissive attitude. We don't have all the answers of course, but let's take this journey together and see where it goes. Until next remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

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Wine of the Week: 2011 Domaine Trotereau Quincy

Date: Fri, Jan 11, 2013 Wine Tasting

"Come, come, good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used; exclaim no more against it." ~ William Shakespeare

Well it has been quite some time since I've had a wine of the week, falling behind a bit, but this wine in today's spotlight really had my attention from the first whiff to the last drop. Even though I wasn't drinking that day, I just tasted. This wine really struck-me as the kind of wine I want to bring to your attention, something completely off the beaten path.

With that idea in mind comes this wine from an area in France, one of which I was completely unfamiliar with and I will confess I couldn't have pointed it out on the map either. But what I do know is that this very inexpensive bottle of wine from the small appellation of Quincy in the Loire Valley, a dry white wine will knock your socks off. You won't be able to put it down, its exciting fresh and most likely as new to the average vino-sapien as it was to me on Wednesday afternoon.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I'm not much of Sauvignon Blanc fan by any stretch of the imagination. This is why you may find it quite ironic that, I’m jumping up and down with excitement about this fantastic expression of Sauvignon Blanc, oozing with a honeyed, full-bodied texture and a just a pinch of lemon-peel oil component.

Oh you could just keep on drinking the garden-variety domestic Sauvignon Blanc or you could step outside the box for once to experience something completely new. A wine selling most places for $16 to $17, a wine I've rated 93 points, it's a wine you need to try for yourself to see what all the fuss is about. I'm on a course of wine-diversity and want to drink better. I want each of you to join me on that path to discovery; I want you my readers to drink better as well.

I'm told that the appellation of Quincy was the 2nd appellation in France to be recognized in 1936, second only to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where many of the vines are over a century old, while some have been more recently planted in the mid-eighties.

One of the more compelling reasons for adoring this wine so much is because it really didn't have many of the usual suspects in the nose or on the palate. I was immediately surprised by the nose, aromas of white-flowers, honeysuckle, white peach, sweet-quince and whiff of bell pepper which quickly fades to the background.

Then jumping into the wine itself, wow, again the mouth-feel is flamboyant, intense aromatics, honey, wet-stone, [the whisper of lemon oil] is followed by a full-bodied, exuberant, dry white wine that must be tasted to be believed. I suspect this offering has some aging potential, but why risk it when this wine is drinking ever so nicely right now.

In fact I wondered silently if the wine I tasted was Sauv-Blanc at all. How could a wine raised in stainless steel and enamel tanks and had its fermentation kicked off with indigenous yeast have this much body and substance to it and yet not have the typical lean flavors which drive me away like a pack of ravenous hyenas . I just kept looking at the bottle, snapping the picture you see above and tasted it twice just to confirm my impressions and flummoxed with my own delight. But there it's, try it for yourself soon, I look forward to hearing thoughts and impressions. Until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

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Travel Tuesday: Paso Robles Uncorked

Date: Thu, Jan 10, 2013 Wine Tasting

“Traveling; first it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller” ~ Ibn Battuta

Many folks are starting to think about their early spring vacations and or weekend get-away plans. And who can blame you, especially if you plan to be in California next weekend. So if your plans happen to involve visiting wine country, may I suggest to a trip to one of my favorite wine destinations in California, Paso Robles.

A great little town, just north of Santa Barbara County, easily located right off highway 101. If you plan to leave from San Diego, may I suggest an early AM Sunday launch time, if not then take the I-5 and cross over on the 46W, it may take a bit longer, but you'll thank me later.

Mrs. Cuvee and I go to Paso Robles pretty frequently, not as much as we would like to, but we were fortunate enough to visit twice last year. We had such a good time, discovered some new favorites and became reacquainted with others. We found a few new places to eat and also found a great spot to grab some sack time after a long day on the wine trail.

I've recently been asked by a couple of my friends, torecommend the what Ilike tocall hot-spots for wine-ing and dining. But, if you're a fan of sweet and simple [as 90% of the country seems to be] wines, then this list will not be for you. So look away before it's too late.
So I've compiled a list of the places I like to go and want to share that list with you today.

Per Cazo: Just call ahead to let them know you'd like to visit. Their Petite Sirah is flat out amazing, a real high-light. A sit-down tasting is just the thing and the pairing with the cheese is excellent.

Tablas Creek [Rhone Zone] So many favorites it's hard to name just one.

Justin: The Savant and Justification [100% First-Run Cabernet Franc] are among my favorites each year.

Alta Colina: Their Syrah really takes flight, oh-my.

Bodegas Paso Robles [downtown tasting room] Some very good Spanish wines, I highly recommend giving a swirl, don't doubt this tip.

Lone Madrone: Their Tannat is among my favorite wines being offered, along with their outstanding 2006 Bolla, a 100% Nebbiolo. Tablas Creek and LM share the same winemaker.

Calcareous: Driving up [the long and winding road] to the tasting room, leaves little doubt about where winery got its name. Again the views from this winery are quite stunning and you'll love Syrah and Grenache.

Herman Story: Tasting room on the east side of tracks in town. You’ll will easily get into the nuts and bolts of why their Grenache is so fantastic and other Rhone-Zone favorites not to be missed.

Jada: Another Rhone-Zone stop that will not disappoint. Ask for the "Passing By" it's sensational juice.

DAOU: The view from the tasting room is quite stunning and the wines ranging from Zinfandel to Cabernet Sauvignon are all quite good. You may even meet Daniel, theirwinemaker who's often found in the tasting room entertaining guests. All of their wines are 100% free-run.

Sextant Wines: Is just to the south in SLO, but worth the drive, so worth it. If you visit their Edna Valley tasting-room, you simply must do the cheese and wine pairing, you won't regret it. There are so many great wine choices here; it’s hard to pick just one.

Turley: If you like Zinfandel, then a trip to Zinfandel Lane is the place to be. Many of the 2008's are tasting fantastic at the moment. You have to be a member to purchase wines outside the tasting room. So if you go, prepare to take as many with you as possible.
L'Aventure Winery Stephen does an amazing job, please don't miss an opportunity for a visit, you'll be tempted to take cases of his wine home. But your wallet may have a hard time accepting that idea.

Kenneth Volk Vineyards: Which shares a tasting room with Lone Madrone, a two for one bonus. Again another stop not to be missed.

Linne Calodo Cellars: A winery known for producing seven to ten blends per year; some are heavy in Zinfandel, while others rest in a more traditional Rhone blending style. Visits are by appointment only, but worth the effort.

Denner Vineyards [Make an appointment] the owner Ron Denner is a great, the wines produced there, are in many cases stellar! Rhone-Zone and some very nice Cabernet Sauvignon as well, like the Mother of all Exiles.

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines The tasting room is located in what resembles an old school house. I know this is huge brand, if you are already a fan, a visit will only further cement that sentiment. One of the few east-side wineries I recommend.

RN Estate: Please don't miss an opportunity to visit Roger and the beautiful RN Estate [the view is amazing], call-ahead or email for the sit-down tasting. You can expect to find alluring Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir and unique Paso blends, just waiting to tempt your taste-buds.

Pithy Little Wine Company It's a fun tasting experience and they have a GSM [Elephant in the Room] which is out of this world-good.
Now if you want to go to Opolo [okay] their Summit Zinfandel is very big, super aggressive [high abv] but blackberry jam tasty. If you happen to visit on a Saturday they often [not always] have a barbeque just out-side the wide tasting room entry way, with many tasty treats that in my opinion pair ever so nicely with the wines being offered to sample.

Dining Options:

The Paso Robles Inn: Is a great place to grab a steak for dinner or to have that evening night-cap. Bonus: If you bring a bottle of Paso Robles Wine with you to dinner they waive corkage and the best spot in town for a quick hardy breakfast.

Cow Girl Cafe: Great for Breakfast and very large portions.

Artisan: Wow fine-dining to be had here, a great place to eat, they have a little bit of everything, with a reasonable corkage fee.

Bistro Laurent and Wine Shop: Wow, if you bring a bottle of wine in, they will pair a dinner around that wine. Great French style and flavors at its best.

Il Cortile Ristorante: One of the very best Italian dining experiences, outside of Italy. Order a bottle of the Grechetto Bianco with your appetizers.

Thomas Hill Organics: Farm to table at its best. But please be advised [IMO] the portions are small and they don't offer bread. If you want my advice order some appetizers.

Villa Creek: Has bit of everything and food is freaking amazing.

Now if you're looking for some low-key dining options, there are also many to be easily found in and around the down-town [aka, the park] square, along with great local bars to help quench your thirst.

Where to stay:
For me I like to stay at the Paso Robles Inn and I always choose the spa rooms. Everything downtown is within easy walking distance from the Inn, the pricing is reasonable. Do be aware that the natural spring Spa-Waters do have an uncomfortable smell, but once you put in the bath-aroma they offer, it's pretty fantastic. And as a bonus free wi-fi is offered.

If you do choose to stay there, ask for the rooms with the balcony over the big conference room. These rooms offer more privacy, more square feet, comfy beds, etc. If you want to use the spa, it takes at least 30 min for the tub to fill-up. And don't bother with the instructions, they seem to be a bit out of date.

Now if you want a more upscale experience [there are many to choose from], Per Cazo has a lovely bed and breakfast, nice and quiet. The rooms are well appointed and logistically it's much closer for visiting wineries. They're located about 15-20 min outside of town.

I hope you find these recommendations helpful, please let me know how they turn out for you. Until next time, here's to travel and exploration, sip long and prosper cheers!

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What's the Score?

Date: Tue, Jan 8, 2013 Wine Tasting

Life is too short not to make the best and the most of everything that comes your way everyday. - Sasha Azevedo

So you want to know the score huh? Most folks want do want to know the score, especially when it comes to their favorite team, but we as vino-sapiens like to know the score on lots of things besides wine. We rate or score every thing from cars to coffee, so should it be any surprise to find scores attached to wine. But for some when it comes to scoring wine; some folks begin to get a little squeamish and will loudly voice their opinions about how 'unfair' it's. The say, "well one man's perfectly ripe green apple, is another man's tart and bitter experience'.

Of course there's one thing we can all agree with; when it comes to 'scoring' something like wine it's partially subjective and to many it's imprecise at best. While I may find some agreement with that statement and with a few of the "points" haters positions, I don't find any of their arguments compelling enough to not use the 100 point scale. But I have altered some of its meanings and changed a few of the definitions to make it a bit more fun.

After all we’re talking about a 'sensory' experiences and not everyone has the same experiences that we do. Even Mrs. Cuvee and I can differ on some wines to my surprise, because mostly we are aligned. But still there are those outliers which defy my understanding and hers. But that said, let us take chocolate for example everyone [nearly] loves and appreciates it, some have no interest in it at all, but those folks are what we call the exception. You can't make a set of rules for the exceptions, you simply must discount their interpretation.

So when you take the odd exceptions out of the scoring equation, you'll find that the points really start to make sense and that they become a good barometer. The scoring system in place [the 100 point scale], used by the major publications works for everyday folks who don't taste hundreds of wines each and every year. The best advice about the whole point’s scheme [yes, it's a scheme oh-my] is to find someone who closely matches their own preferences in wine, [yes, mentioned before] especially when in doubt about a certain producer or region of unfamiliarity.

For example; I was in Oregon last year for the Wine Bloggers Conference, I went to what I've dubbed as a "Blending Camp" at R. Stuart and Co. When it came time to make a team to for what would be the final blend of Pinot Noir, we chose teammates that we knew had a similar palate to our own. Having done that, we came to a quick and ready blend [by comparison], which I thought was superior to the other tables. The name of our teams wine was, “Reverence” a fantastic Oregon Pinot Noir.

Now, if you have ever wondered how I come up the scores for the wines that I review, well then you are in luck. Because today, I'm going to spill the beans, as it were. Perhaps you may have been wondering what a certain score means. If you've ever had either of those questions, but some how never made your way over to my "about the review process" page, I've decided to put it out here, front and center. That way, there's no question about what the points mean and what they will mean to you, if you happen to be silly enough to follow my recommendations.

The score: Yes, I use the 100 point scale, if this makes you unhappy or you disagree with that method, well that’s unfortunate. Sorry to say, there will be no smiley faces, stars, cartoon wine glasses, or A,B, C grades, nope just cold hard numbers [ouch]. The score of wine will break down this way; I give every wine a base point score of 50 points and then I add the following:
Color: Up to 5 points

Aroma: Up to 10 points

Flavor: Up to 10 points

Texture: Up to 10 points

Overall: Up to 10 points

Finally I also use QPR [the quality, price, ratio] score of up to 5 points.

What the scores mean:

95-100 Epic: Will you marry me? Let's run off to Vegas together!

90-94 Wine-tastic Juice: Wanna meet my folks?

85-89 Very Good: Hey, can I call you tomorrow?

80-84 Okay: Oops, looks like I lost your number.

75-79 Marginal: Um what was your name again? [will not be reviewed]

50-74 Dreadful: Um, why was this bottled? Not even recommended for Vinegar. [will not be reviewed] After all life is too short to review bad wine.

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Oregon Uncorked: Matello Wines

Date: Fri, Jan 4, 2013 Wine Tasting

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

While some wine-writers only sit in front of their computer screens giving their opinions about the wines sent to them from PR agencies, still others venture out to see the place where the wines are made, speak with the wine-makers, taste the wine out of barrel and trod upon the soil where the vines grow. Travel gives writers unimaginable perspective, one simply unattainable by simply reading a book, the back label or a mere web-page. Fortunately for me, I had the opportunity to do just that last year, travel, quite a bit and in more locales than I thought imaginable. I hope to do more of the same this year.

In fact I went to Oregon twice last year, to get a closer survey of the wine-scene, one which is ever changing, but in some ways it's staying the same. I'm hoping to head out to Oregon again this year, I've an invitation for the harvest on the table and I can barely contain my excitement over the prospect, so I look forward to making my way back to Oregon once more in the near future.

Now about the winery in today's spotlight Matello Wines. I was given the heads up by a good friend, his name is Frank Morgan, all around nice guy, and fellow wine-blogger of Drink What You Like fame. He said, "Bill, if you're going to Oregon [lucky-dog] then you need to check Matello Wines and speak with Marcus Goodfellow. So because I trust Frank, I make the appointment and I was so glad I did. Wow, I was very impressed by the overall quality of the wines presented that day and I'm sure you will find something that you just can't be without yourself.

Marcus, opened at least 7 different bottles of wine that afternoon and each one of them had an enjoyable quality, I really wanted to take one of each home, but Mrs. Cuvee was there to make sure I showed some restraint [buzz-kill]. And besides I had limited return space in my checked-luggage, even with the addition. We got to taste the Vio, Riesling, a White Pinot, a four different Pinot Noir's. The Riesling, made is a dry style was very good, pear, apple, wet-stone and well balanced.

But their 2010 Duex Vert Vineyard, Viognier really wowed me, I'm always a sucker for this varietal, but find it's rarely done right. But this wine had me at the nose and it really delivered on the first quaff, boasting of ample structure and natural acidity. This wine had some very sexy aromatics, fresh peaches and a pop of white flowers. The first slurp was, wow a pitched-tent of near summer-ripe nectarines, citrus and white peach flavors which combine for a suave blend of richness and energy, coupled with great length. I scored this wine 91 points, it's really out-standing example of cool climate Viognier.
I know my friend Frank is partial to the Durant Vineyards and I can see why, but my palate told me that the Whistling Ridge was the place I needed to be and took two of those bad boys home. The 2010 Whistling Ridge Pinot Noir

This wine offers generous upfront fruit, right along its exceptional structure. Factors that will easily make this wine a keeper for my collection, but it’s sufficiently balanced in its youthful exuberance that it could be enjoyed immediately. The wine is fruit forward, but without being over-opulent. It hits your mid-palate and digs a well of elegant, and yet persistent flavors, baking spices, rich earth, red-fruits, cola.
The tannins are nicely integrated and the finish long and lasting. I scored this wine 93 points, this wine is a prime example of what Oregon Pinot can deliver in the right hands. Selling for just under $40 is an amazing deal. Not sure he has even released this wine yet, but stay tuned folks, because once he does, this wine will sell quickly, don’t miss out! Okay folks like I said, if you don't know about this producer, in my opinion you should, if you've not sampled his wines yet, I'd beat a path to his door quick, make an appointment if possible or just wait until he releases the wines I mentioned, you won't be disappointed. Until next time, slurp long and prosper cheers!

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Oregon Uncorked: Ken Wright 2008 Savoya Pinot Noir

Date: Thu, Jan 3, 2013 Wine Tasting

“I like stepping into the future, therefore, I look for doorknobs.”~ Unknown

As many of you know I spent four fantastic days last December exploring Oregon Wine Country. Most of those travels took me really no further than an hour to hour an half depending on traffic away from downtown Portland. It would seem that our trip occurred during the very last of the fall weather, as it began to snow at Youngberg Hill the very next day after we left.

While many folks will normally associate Oregon with ‘rain’ and boy did we see plenty of it while we were there; but in reality it only qualified as drizzle for most part. Oregon is about far more than rainy damp weather, there's a whole other-side just waiting to be explored. But it did seem like we brought some of that cold wet-weather back with us [Mrs. Cuvee and I] to San Diego, needed yes, but unexpected none-the-less. In fact the rainy wet-stuff here just cleared away, leaving us with crisp, clear blue-skies [I know you’re jealous].

Second if you ask most vino-sapiens what Oregon is well known for, they would most ultimately say Pinot Noir. What you may not know is that Oregon also has a vast, growing foodie-culture, there’s a food revolution sprouting up everywhere, collectively putting them on the gastronomical globe. A fact to which I could easily attest to, coming home a few pounds heavier, than when I left.

If bourbon or beer is your thing, you’re in luck because there are numerous distilleries and breweries [really too many to count] located in the environs of downtown Portland, situated just minutes away from their well organized airport.

But for the vino-sapiens in the audience, Oregon is known for its rich wine-making tradition. But what many folks may not realize is that no-one really started making wine until the 19th century, when cherries, apples and pears were the mainstay. Then keeping with Oregon’s pioneering spirit in the early 20th century, the modern wine-making industry we know today, sprang to life around the grape we all know and love, Pinot Noir.

One of the places I didn’t get to visit the last time I was in Oregon; is Ken Wright Cellars in downtown Carlton. Their tasting room is located in an old train-depot; the winery itself is located about a block away. Mr. Wright previously only offered visits by appointment only and purchasing of his wine was done through a futures program.

And now if you’d like to purchase any of his current release outside of the 2010 KWC PN Willamette Valley, it will have to be done by the six-pack. And no it can’t be a mixed half-case either; you’ll need to show some commitment to your favorite wine in the tasting or go home empty handed. Now you can find single bottles of Ken Wright Cellars PN in a few retail stores, but you may not find the one you recently sampled.You can also easily find his wines online at the Oregon Wine Merchants, where they can be purchased in singles, mix and match, coupled with a reasonable shipping charge.

But unfortunately you can’t taste them first; you’ll just have to take your chances. I tasted through four of his Pinot’s and ended up favoring the 2008 Savoya Yamhill-Carlton AVA, which is now sold out. I alsotasted the 2008 Carter, Canary Hill and the 2009 Guadalupe, which were good, but not $60 a bottlegood in my estimation. Be sure to sample their relatively new Tyrus Evan label [seen above], there's a 2007 Ciel Du Cheval Claret [$35], not to be missed.

The 08 Savoya offered up power, grace and elegance. A substantial wine, red cherry and baking spice dominate, while dried herbs and forest floor flavors play in the background. Fine grained tannins are well integrated and wrap this wine up in a pretty bow, suitable for gift giving or for spoiling yourself. This wine sold for $65 in the tasting room and new vintages can be found online for $48. I scored the wine I ended up taking home, 93 points, it’s pretty amazing juice really. Until next time folks, continue to sip long and prosper cheers!

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Wine Critic or Wine Writer?

Date: Wed, Jan 2, 2013 Wine Tasting

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance...it is the illusion of knowledge" ~Stephen Hawkins

Well, well welcome to the brave new world of 2013, I hope everyone had a brilliant holiday season and are now ready to face the New Year. With all the new hopes, dreams and aspirations, whatever they may be and where ever they may take you, I wish you all a prosperous New Year.

Opening my twitter account today; really for first time since the beginning of the New Year, I came upon a conversation via #sommchat [which you should read]with the well-known NYT Wine Critic Eric Asimov. I missed the opportunity to interact in the conversation, but was still able to take a look at how it unfolded.

Here's one of the more interesting exchanges I saw today, Megmaker asked via Twitter, "Do you prefer to be called a "wine writer" or a "wine critic and why? Mr. Asimov's reply, "Honestly don't care. Way too much energy spent on that question. Critic has specific NYT meaning, so am proud of title"

Wine Critic or Wine Writer hmm, it’s a good question, but to be honest not one I think about too often. I just don't take myself all too serious and neither should you. I write from my heart, I use my instincts and couple those insights with my experience, to give what I think are solid, fact based recommendations. The only real caveat hereis; you need to have a similar palate to my own. I tend to follow reviewers advicewho I've tasted with before, compared notes and found we tend to like similar styles of wine. That said, if you read this blog, you would do well to do the same.

There was another comment in that same thread which stated [not sure who it was attributable to] "Writer" connotes a more open mind and palate, which I believe is essential to conveying passion". A statement to which finds me nodding in complete agreement. Take a look at my new logo for example, the one on my twitter profile [and biz-cards], you'll see it says 'wine-writer'. After all I do write and it's about wine, what else should the title be? I think it is sufficient, after all this is just a hobby.

But in reading this blog, you will come to one immediate conclusion; I'm NOT a classically trained writer by any stretch of the imagination. So for the purist out there, this blog is NOT for you. But if you want the scoop, on what I think are some the best wines available today, please stay tuned, you'll be glad you did. Has my blog become more readable than it was it 2008, well I'll let my stats do the talking for me, you can find them just to theright and below ifyou're truly interested.
Here was another question ask by Megmaker, "Please say more about your view of wine tasting notes, and how best to achieve "context-sensitive" wine writing" and Eric Asimov's answer, "Hard to account for context in notes. I think general stylistic characteristics are better than overly precise".

Again, here I find myself in agreement with Mr. Asimov's point regarding wine writing in general. I think some folks try way too hard to impress others with their wine-knowledge [aka, geekiness] and end up coming off as the garden variety snob. Honestly folks, who even thinks of things like "context-sensitive" wine writing? I had to chuckle a bit to myself seeing that and winced a bit reading it, breathing an "oh-brother" out loud.

C'mon folks let us all just get over ourselves, write about what you are passionate about [whether it's wine or Frisbees] and keep writing to improve howyou communicate about that passion. And like Mr.Asimov tweeted today; "Write, write, write! If you want to be a writer, that's what you must do, regardless of pay". And to that I say a hearty amen brother! I know my writing in November and December has been far less productive than normal, but look for it to return in the coming months.

For me personally, I'm more of a spectator. I seldom get my hands dirty [little grape picking], on my journey of wine discovery, oh perhaps the splash back from the spit bucket and the occasional sporting of the glaring purple grin now and then. But there's no actual sweat on my brow, as I bang on the keyboard. So whether you think me a wine writer, critic or just the garden variety run of the mill opinionated vino-sapien, my only goal is the help you drink better and for a whole lot less when possible.

With that said, there are going to be some changes this year regarding my wine-blog. Number one, I will no longer accept samples for review; I'm done with that scene [If a wine was submitted for review last year, there's still a review pending]. Number two, I will no longer accept advertising of any kind, I'm done with that scene as well. And number three, look to see some [not saying how many] tweet-up events that will not be sponsored by anyone, but perhaps hosted by a San Diego group who will remain nameless for the moment.

My blog will be one of the very few which will be completely 'independent' and that my fellow vino-sapiens is really something to think about, as we move forward. So until next time remember life is too short to drink bad wine and too short to drink wines with no real sense of place. Just say to no to "Cheap, Homogenized, Lifeless Commodities" found on the bottom shelvesof places like your local wally-world. Instead say yes, to exploring and keeping an open-mind, open heart and above all an open-palate, there's a world of wine waiting for you to explore, so get busy and as alwaysrememberto slurp long and prosper cheers!

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Happy Holidays Everyone!

Date: Mon, Dec 24, 2012 Wine Tasting

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead to where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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The Most Wine-derful Time of the Year!

Date: Thu, Dec 20, 2012 Wine Tasting

Jazz is like wine. When it is new, it is only for the experts, but when it gets older, everybody wants it. -Steve Lacy

*The info-graphic above is provided courtesy of Beringer Vineyards

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Burgundy Uncorked: Joseph Drouhin 2009 Morey-Saint-Denis

Date: Wed, Dec 19, 2012 Wine Tasting

"Imperfection is beauty. Madness is genius and it is better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring." - Marilyn Monroe

Good morning everyone, I trust most of you're readyfor the up and coming holiday known to manyas Christmas; I wanted to take this opportunity to wish each of you and yours, avery Merriest of Christmas and a prosperous New Year ahead.

Funny I went all the way to Oregon to discover this little gem from Burgundy, but as I've come to find out, there are many wonderful things to be found in unexpected places.

If you're thinking about putting a toe in pool of Burgundian wines, may I suggest this bottle [pictured above] would be agood place to start. The price of admission is $40 to $50 depending on where you shop, but well worth it. I scored the wine 90 points and highly recommend you giving it a swirl.

At Joseph Drouhin you will find unique balance, one where tradition and modern techniques blend together and comes together to create wines which truly characterizesmodern winemaking.Whether it's theirvineyard management via their on site nursery, the100% hand harvesting, open fermenters, and the judicious use of 100% French Oak, one thing you easily take away from their wines is that sense of place, something so often missing in domestically produced juice.

For those of you looking to get your hands on wineswhich are Organically Certified, you'll be happy to know that starting with the 2009 vintage and moving forwardhas recentlybeen awarded "organic certification" [an expensive and laborious process]for all grapes grown within its vineyards.

As it would happen, the wine is this review spot-light is a 2009 and a fantastic representation of interestly different style of quality in regards to Pinot Noir than you may be use to, but stick with me and you will see this wine makes a great starting point for dipping your toe in the proverbial Burgundian pool [well at least I think so].

There's nothing fancy here, justhonest-to-goodness Pinot Pleasure. Is this wine going to set your hair on fire? Uh, most likely not, but what it will do is allure you with its suave sophistication and beckon you to more fully explore this region [if you have not done so already]. The perfect wine to open and enjoy with your holiday feast; whether it be duck or even a Christmas Goose [oh-my], this wine is a foodies friend.

By the way; this just may be a bit of bragging on their part, but does appear to be quite accurate, that the village of Morey is located between Gevrey-Chambertin and Chambolle-Musigny. Here comes the bragging part, "there are five Grand Crus and twelve Premier Crus in this relatively small appellation".

I'd recommend a bit of decanting before diving-in, but what you'll find on the nose is dried-cherries, raspberriesand sweet-leather. The palate shows great structure and weight, but like many of the 2009's it is very approachable, with easilyplucked low-hanging fruit, balance nicely with rich earth. The finish is long, lasting. This wine is in my estimation the"complete-package" onethat will have you wanting more, so be smart order more than just one. Until next time folks remember to sip long and prosper, cheers!

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Wine of the Week: 2010 Tikal Patriota

Date: Tue, Dec 18, 2012 Wine Tasting

“Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They’re hallmarks of a pretentious ass.” – David Ogilvy
That's good advice and part of the reason why you'll never see me using words like that to describe the great wines I find, wines that give the consumer [vino-sapiens like me]a real bang for the buck like the one above.
Now about this fantastic wine from Mendoza, a wine which I really enjoyed so much more than the 2009 vintage. But that said, this 2010 which you will find in good abundance [but dilly-dally]at places like Costco here in San Diego, selling for just under $17 is a terrific value. I scored this wine 90 points, this is that Tuesday wine you've been looking for, so get after it.
It's a delightful blend of Malbec and and 40% Bonarda. Right now you may be thinking uh, what the bleep is Bonarda, one thing for sure it's not a grape found in the common every day vernacular of the garden-variety vino-sapien. It's an Italian grape, that found a home in Argentina. If you like to read more about it, just click here.
This wine has a lot to offer, but is best uncorked the day before and left in the pantry overnight with the cork out [trust-me]. You find that this wine has some chalk [picture a couple old-school erasers being beaten together], it has some pretty hardy tannins and it does an earthy and black licoricething, while at the same time slapping you along side the head with crates of ripe blueberry and blackberry pie character, full bodied and a lively finish.

So you want to do some pairing huh, okay I can make a recommendation in that department as well. You could go for things like barbecue ribs, elk-burger and fries or if you've come home late from work like I did the other day, still toting half a sandwich you didn't finish at lunch, then folks youare in luck, because that [turkey/bacon half sandwich] pairing rocked [full disclosure the sandwich picturedabove is just a prop].I also grabbed some of my famous left over chili, just enough for a small bowl and healthy handful of salt and pepper chips. So as you can see from this description, this wine is an easy wine pairing champ, the sky is the limit nearly. Until next folks remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

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Travel Tuesday: Youngberg Hill, Oregon

Date: Mon, Dec 17, 2012 Wine Tasting

We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal and then leap in the dark to our success. - Henry David Thoreau
Wayne and Nicolette took a leap of faithwhen they purchasedYoungberg Hill in 2003, overhauling the entire estate including vineyard management, winemaking, tasting room, and hospitality area.What they havediscovered iswonderful success with theirfantastic Wine Country Inn [Bed and Breakfast] and goregous wedding venue which is attached to areal working winery,which isproducing some mighty fine Pinot Noir, just a short drive outside of the town of McMinnville in Oregon.

As many of you know I spent the better part of a long weekend visiting with the great folks at Youngberg Hill and other wonderful producers who call the Oregon Wine Country home. Mrs. Cuvee and I were guests of Youngberg Hill and stayed in one the Inn's fantastic eight rooms. The views from the 2nd floor roomsare quite stunning [see picture below]. Each morning you awake with nearly a full panoramic view of the vineyards, the road leading up to the house and on a clear day you see for miles and miles. Be sure to say hi to their very friendly [out-door] cat Truffle.

In tasting a good many of their Pinot Noir offerings, I encountered two very different styles, from two very distinctive terroirs. This comes from an estate vineyard, farmed organically [Salmon Safe Certified] and biodynamically, and legally in conversion tobiodynamic certification. On the wines hailing from the Natasha’s Block which consists of 6.6 estate acres with a southeast facing; I found the nose brimming with notes of rich earth, oak, cut-black tea and not fully ripe cherry. Finely integrated acidity makes way for tastes of dark cherry and plums, which are easily enveloped in oak and savory herbs, pushing fruit to the background. The earthy tannins are followed by a smooth, yet relaxing finish.
Regarding the wines form their Jordan block, it’s a completely different experience. I would dare to say that if you have a California Pinot Noir palate, one which tends to favor wines with a broader, more approachable mouth-feel, than the Jordan Block wines are for you. The Jordan Block sits on 4 fog-kissed estate acres facing South East at a steeper slope than the Natasha and is described as a more Burgundian in style.
Frankly, I was all about the Jordan block, when I first sampled the 2008 Jordan, which sells for $40, my first thoughts was, alright here we go, this is what I’m talking about. Then the next wine really got my attention, it was the 2008 Jordan Block Barrel Select, which oddly is not on their website, but it sells for $65.I scored this wine 93 points.

And let there be no doubt, this wine is worth every penny, you could cellar for many years, but why would you when it’s drinking ever so nicely right now. I scored two of these wines for myself to take home. For those who are curious about the clones here you go; 60% Pommard and 40% Wadenswil on American Root Stock.
The 2008 Barrel Select has the rich and charming fruit and a plethora of bright cherry and cranberry [not tart] concentration; it was truly what I was expecting from this site, but not from this vintage. You’ll find more red fruited character over the darker fruits; the wine has a succulent texture and lovely finish. Honestly what's not to like?

After purchasing the wine the morning before my departure, from the assistant wine-maker [Jess] and chef, he remarked about my apparent love of oak. Ha, I guess that fits, I love the judicious use of oak; and firmly believe the abuse of oak by some, should not lead to an automatic knee-jerk reaction of extremely limited oak interaction or even toast levels. Honestly folks, deep down we all know it's about balance, too much of anything, tends not to be a good thing; whether it's in the the vineyard or the crush-pad, balance is everything.

About my experiences at the Inn, wow is the operative word. This fantastic place is quiet and cozy, perfect for those seeking to get away from it all. Once you arrive, you may find yourselfgreeted my mouth-watering glasses of Pinot Noir, you arrive to a comfy, well appointed room, with no TV. The shower warms up real fast, the Wi-Fi works amazingly well and you just 15 minutes from McMinnville, which has many tasty spots to eat. Whether you want a pub-like experience [McMenamins]or you want to dial it up a notch or two [Thistle] there’s something for everyone.

When it comes time for breakfast [9:00am], it’s just the right amount to get your day started and their custom roast coffee will you happily and fully caffeinated. The Inn you will find in located right in the thick of it all, makes a great jumping off point or as I like to call it base of operations for scouring the country-side for Pinot Noir to take back home.

By the way; if you end up like I did [and it’s not hard to do] with two full cases of wine, you can either have them shipped home $45 for basic ground or if you play it smart and chose to fly Southwest, where you can check those cases for little extra out of pocket. I purchased two case boxes in town [$24], but in truth they only hold nine bottles. If you want it to fit 12, it has to be the standard Bordeaux bottle to fit correctly and you will not find any Pinot Noir in that style of bottle.

If you’d like to stay with them, the off-season is a great time to do so, in fact it's snowing there at the moment.In the off-season the winemakers have much more time to speak with you, as well as the tasting room staff, as there are few other folks up during the very rainy time of year. Okay folks, I know it has been quite a while since my last post, but I hope you enjoyed today’s article and will give the wines from Youngberg Hill a swirl for yourself, until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

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Napa Valley Uncorked: 2008 Franciscan Magnificat Meritage

Date: Wed, Dec 5, 2012 Wine Tasting

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on! ~ Henry Ellis

This the first review written entirely via my iPhone, using the Blogger app I just down-loaded. So we shall see how it goes. In the spotlight for my wine of interest this time is the Franciscan 2008 Magnificat.

This wine was a sample sent for the review process. It has a SRP of $50, itsells at most places for just under $30, but the rumor of this wine selling under $20 is misleading at best. I scored this wine 90 points and can recommend it to you highly. Suave and sophisticated are the keywords here.

A Bordeaux [aka Meritage] style blend consisting of 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot and finally a few drops of Petit Verdot and Malbec. A wine aged for 20 months in 2nd use French oak barrels. This wine has boatloads of finesse and flavor, a hour in the decanter is recommended for maximum enjoyment.

The nose is crazy inviting, it just lures you in like a big-mouth bass on a spinner. Notes of dried herbs, vanilla, ripe plum and licorice are just a preview of the coming attractions. On the palate this wine is not shy about toasted oak and espresso but there is plenty of vibrant acidity to keep it all on balance. Sweet plum and fig join the chorus, with a few wise cracks from other dark fruits. The tannins are well integrated and nearly seamless and the finish while a bit dry sails on and on.

This wine is drinking very nicely now and will continue to do so over the next few years. I found it to bea very polished wine, with layers to it, only to be uncovered by decanting. Until next time folks remember sip long and prosper cheers!

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Wine of the Week: 2008 Trione Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Date: Wed, Dec 5, 2012 Wine Tasting

Life is too short not to make the best and the most of everything that comes your way everyday. -Sasha Azevedo

Life is also too short too drink bad wine, a point to which even the garden-variety vino-sapien would agree with. It's on this point, one of the reasons why I implore everyone I know and every reader who stops by this blog to catch up with the wines that make their way to my glass; to please stop going to the same well over and over [explore] and just say 'no' to mass produced chemistry set wines, commonly known as plonk.

Now that I've got my opening rant out of the way, it's time to put a wine in the spotlight that is a fantastic value, pound for pound, this Pinot Noir from the RRV is one I'm highly recommending that you run out grab a few. This was not a sample but a wine I procured recently from my local neighborhood Costco for just under $14. If you'd like you can read more of the details about this tasty example of what the RRV can offer in Pinot here.

It will need to be decanted, [one hour] it's a bit shy and reticent about showing its ample goods, but once it's has time to relax and get to know you, then look out. Folks, this wine is just sitting in these stores, barely moving, but in my opinion it's quite a bargain for the thirsty vino-sapien. So please put down that bottle ofLa CremaPN [$19]this time and step up to a real-wine which really says, "you cantaste where I am from" besides if you do you'll save a few bucks to boot.

Peeking back at the few notesI scribbled out afterpopping the cork just a few nights ago, I found the texture and mouth-feel of this wine quite impressive. It was rich and velvety and infused with typical Pinot Noir fruit flavors coming through each and every long slurp, but restrained finish told me this is no cocktail wine.

Once you pop the cork, nice bright clear crimson-red core; a fragrant bouquet slaps your nose with gently spicy berries and wet earth, these aromas easily make their way over to your palate. I scored this wine88 solidpoints, it pairs ever so nicely with manypoultry dishes, the sky is the limit. A wonderful Tuesday-night wine, you won't mind popping the cork and enjoying all evening. It will contiune to evolve and come alive, so until next time folks remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

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