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Merlot Madness under Ten Dollars: Concha Y Toro presents Xplorador Wines

Date: Thu, Aug 19, 2010 Wine Tasting

Their seems to be a resurgence of the Merlot [as a single] varietaland for that my heart is very glad, because I do love this varietal very much, but there has just been so little of it that I've been impressed with over the years,whichhas had an impact on my 200 hundred bottle wine cellar, I recently removed the tag from the shelf where I use to store my Merlot [very sad state of affairs, indeed]. I have a pretty simple filing system in my personal wine vault, I label most of the shelves by varietal and mark the bottles with prices I paid and the date of purchase and if it's a sample I bust out my big black sharpie and write sample over the UPC code and the date.

Having recently visited Washington State and having had the opportunity to taste much of the great Merlot being made there, has rekindled my interest and passion for these wines. In the coming months you will continue to hear about other wonderful examples of this great varietal.

Funny the only Merlot I have in my wine vault are the samples I've been sent from different PR companies who work on behalf of many different wineries to get the word out about their wines. I've recently been sent a number of Merlot under the $10 price point, however I found many of the wines were undrinkable, flat out plonk. Sorry no other way to really put it, other than that.

You have to know that Isample and [sometimes drink]thousands of wines from all over the world in a years time, but mostly New World wines, likely a ratio of anywhere from seventy tothirty, New to Old.I travel to wine regions, I speak with wine makers, I go to wine trade shows and attend local tastings and spit or pour outlots of wine thatwill never see the light of day on this blog[and the majority ofwhich is at myown expense]. So what I'm trying to say here, I think I've narrowed down a good majority of wine that is well made,tasteswinetastic andthe best partthey have what I believe are reasonable prices.Why you may ask, because I am crazy about vino and love to bring these stories to you my readers and hopefully you can feel better about making an buying decision [an informed decision], on your next bottle of vino and maybe you don't have to ask "what's in the box?".

So when I tell I've come across this Merlot from a relatively new label [design], brought to you by Concha y Toro in partnership with Banfi Vintners, that I am this excited about, you just may want to pay attention. Because in my [not-always] humble opinion, this Merlot that was sent to me for the review process is just wine-tastic.

The Scoop:This wine currently is not on anyone's radar [yet], nope I could not find another single review of this wine anywhere on the net, what does that mean to you? That means to you my readers that I just gave you "the scoop" on one of the best values in wine, that has come across this desk in quite a while. While I have not opened all the Xplorador series of wines which were sent to the Cuvee Corner Wine Blog, as a sample for review purposes, thisMerlothas really caught my attention the most amoung the samples I've opened and evaluated.

Goodbye Miles: Like in baseball, when the announcer says the guy touched all bases, meaninghe knocked it out of the park and so did this Merlot. So my days of me yelling [not really] like Miles did in the movies Sideways, "I'm not drinking any focking Merlot" are over. To me Merlot can be very desirable and this Merlot is all of that for me, especially when you consider the price point, how can a wine this low in price deliver so much for so very little, I don't know and I don't care! Sorry Miles, but I will be drinking somefocking Merlot!

The label you see on the picture I took aboveis new,butbrand has been around awhile, I have seen the old labels and the wines before, butnever tasted them.They could bejust fine if there's still some laying about, but it won't have my seal of approval.However, this new label and the wines in the bottle are very good and ata price point under $10, you just can't go wrong.

Full Disclosure: Yes okay, I received this wine as sample that was sent to me for the review process. They also sent me the other wines below, that I've had an opportunity to review.

Other Wines in the Portfolio: Chardonnay 87 points, Carmenere 88 points, Malbec 87 points and the Sauvignon Blanc, well I have not opened it yet. But you can see a trend here, well made wines at very reasonable prices, what more could you ask for?

Wine in Focus: The 2009 Xplorador Merlot

First Swirl: After busting this wine of out of the cellar and popping the cork, I let it sit a half hour while I cooked dinner and poured it into my decanter [Riedel, don't settle] and small portion into my glass, holding up against the screen door with sunlight streaming in, I found a very polished core of ruby and a touch of garneton therim. No really!

First Sniff: It took some time to ferret out the nose, but after the wine warmed a little it started to release a fresh mix of berries, toast and mocha. Even after the wine was gone, the nose just kept giving and giving.

First Sip: The moment you've all been waiting for, it showed excellent depth of fruit [in a word, plush], mixing dark fruits, black cherry and cassis, with a subtle smokiness. It rounded out nicely in the mid-palate tapering off to a crisp, pleasing finish.

With/With-out Food: I first evaluated this wine before dinner and also had it during dinner, I took a risk and paired it with a "Beef" Teriyaki Stir Fry and this wine shone through like a champ. It will most likely pair with just about anything in my estimation.

The Winemaker:From the Xplorador website, "Over the past 20 yearsHector “Tito” Urzua, Chief Winemaker for Xplorador, has dedicated his life to searching out the absolute best vineyard sites for his wines. Having studied vineyard practices and winemaking in some of the world’s leading countries including France, Australia and of course Chile, Tito now merges excellence of tradition with today’s fresh, fruit-forward character."

Fruit Source: The creation of Xplorador Wines starts from sourcing the fruitinthe Central Zone of Chilefrom theblocks in Villa Alegre.

Aging and ABV: Ninety percent of this wine spent four months in stainless steel and 10 percent in French Oak barrels for anotherfour months. Many of you, myself included won't believe this wine is only 13.1% abv, normally to achieve this much extraction in a fruit forward wine, you see much higher ABV's but not in this case.

My Recommendation: Okay folks, not sure how much of this wine will beavailable on the market, however because of its small price point and the fact that distribution of this wine is being sold to large retailers, I believe you can safely assume that there is a large amount of it available. That said, I'm still giving this wine my, "run don't walk recommendation"! Believe when I tell you, the folks at WS and WE, the bigwine pub's will have this featured on their top ten wines under $10 next month or as one of their wines featured in the "Buying Guide" listed as a "BEST-BUY". You saw it here first, no one else has the scoop on this winelike I do and now so do you, so whatthe bleep are you waiting for get your buns overtoyour favorite wine storeand buy a few cases.

Price and Where to Find: Okay this is perhaps the best part, because what you find on this blog is exactly what you will never find in the "big boys"Vino Publications or many other blogs for that matter. So what's that you may ask,everyone wants to knowwhere can you find the juice? This is one of the key points many forget to tell you, as you maybe reading about it on those other wine publications, so instead ofsearching for a wine you just read about,with this blogya don't have to google it, I've already done that for you and or taken the next step and called the distributor directly to get the skinny on a particulars wines status.

Nowmany of you're saying, ok so this wine is fan-freaking-tastic, so how much does it cost and where the bleep do I find it? Great questions, are you ready for this? This wine will mostly likely sell for between $7.99 and $9.99. Now I have it on very good authority, that this wine and it's companions are being sold into Bev-Mo, Cost Plus, Henry's [in East Lake]and The San Diego Wine Company. If they don't have it already, it's available through the distributor, just tell them to order it. Don't let them give ya the run-around, I did my due diligence, meaning I did my homework and this wine will be hitting store shelves soon. For you Military folks this wine will be available in the PX and or Exchanges near you. Oh by the way, please tell them that theCuvéeCorner Wine Blog sent ya, just so they know why they're getting all this business.

Cuvée Corner Wine Blog Score: Hey point seekers here's my score if your interested: This wine scored92 points on the Cuvée Corner 100 point scaleand is a top performer on the QPR side of the equation. If you are at all curious how I come up with a score, please take a look over to your right and click on the tab review process.

Other Voices: Okay just in case you need a second opinion, a certain "wine~guru" who lives right here in San Diego, has his own highly rated wine-talk-show and is a wine judge, had this to say on twitter in response to my post about Xplorador wines in general, "Xplorador isvery good for the price andat those prices they should be everybody's favorite tailgate & bbq wines".Robert Whitley of Whitley on Wine

If you have not seen this movie yet, I highly recommend it to you, cheers! Please take a look at the trailer, I just love it and I'm sure you will as well!

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Dining Out: Top Restaurant Wine Service Pet Peeves

Date: Sun, Aug 15, 2010 Wine Tasting

We've all most likely experienced this little dance [ordering a bottle of wine]with the wait staff or the Sommelier when ordering wine in a restaurant, the rituals of presenting the bottle, opening it, and the first pour and the waiting for your approval or disapproval.

Often thislittle dance between you and the service stafftend to givesome folks a bit of angst in the process.When folksdine out, it's precisely the angst-factorthey would like to avoid and isa big part of thepurposefor dining out in the first place.When most folks are dining out they're attempting to escape the everyday chore of preparing a meals at home, when folks encounterobstacles ordering a bottle of wine, well this is preciselywhy some folks would rather avoidthe ritualall together, by simplyordering wines by the glass or having cocktail instead. The point is to make the customer to feel comfortable when ordering wine in the restaurant, most customers expect to be treated like a guest in your home and not an interloper here to spoil your day.

I’ve long saidto as many folks as will listen, that manyeating establishments or other relatedbusinesses need to do more, a lot more, to make this process more friendly to the consumer if they collectively expect to capture a larger share of the market and turn more of their clients into what every restaurant or eating establishment wants, the "repeat" customer.

I recently took a poll on my Face Book page to see if wine service issues were the "HOT" button issue I imagined it to be and oh boy did I ever get comments, far more than any other topic I've brought up to date. Now you maybe saying, hey I thought this was a "wine-review" site, yes and no. You see I called it Cuvée Corner Wine Blog for a reason, my blog is a blend of all things vino, thus the topics here can vary greatly.

What you have below is alist some of the "TOP"wine service pet peeves, that we as consumers face in restaurants across the country and around the globe for that matter.Many of these I've encountered on my own and many were added as a result of the poll I took. But please if you have one of your own not addressed here, please feel free to make a comment. My apologies in advance, I have to use the "moderation method" in my comment section because of spammers, keep gumming up this page with theircrazy messages.

So below are some the answers I got to the question I posed: "I want to know your TOP TEN Wine Service pet-peeves, so please don't hold back, just let it all out here and now." Thanks to everyone that participated.

  • Customer Service: Not listening to the customer; making recommendations based on what the wait staff thinks they understand or is a wine they are attempting push.
  • Stemware: tiny "old world" wine glassesor justbad stemware, that would serve better as a tool for taking down muggers, but for drinking wine it's not so great. Amazing how many restaurants with $30 entrees that don't offer nice stems. Please don't only give nice stems to people who order a bottle;some folkslove to pair a glass with each course and we shouldn't have to ask for nice stems.
  • Not Wine Savvy: Servers who know nothing about wine, this one is really "bugs" c'mon you're running a business and if you expect a"return" customer then it would behoove you to train your staff to be a little wine savvy. You can get your distributors to do this for you, with little or no cost.
  • Italian restaurants: with no Italian wines on menu - just Merlot and Chardonnay. Howard Hewitt~ "yes, I've had that experience more than once" Italian restaurants with no Italian wine, just a shame.
  • Inconsistent pours: this one can really create distrust and dissatisfactionwith customers and I've personally experienced this on more than one occasion.
  • Restaurant mark up: Most folks don't mind paying retail prices, but paying three times the retail that's is beyond the pale in terms of respect to the customer of whom many know what "real prices" are, which is why so many folks love to BYOB and skip being taken over the coals with ridiculous mark-ups.
  • Pouring: more wine into theglass before asking. I could be the driver, I could want something else, or maybe I just think that last sip in the glass is the best because it really had time to aerate....none the less...don't just...sneak behind me and pour me more wine.
  • Bottle Purchase: Pouring too much wine in the glass is a serious faux pas in wine circles, "PLUS I HATE HATE HATE when purchasing a bottle, that I get this big ass pour in my glass, so much so I can't swirl and let the wine breath, just offer a decanter instead." ~Amanda Hagood
  • Champagne: served by the glass, huh? If your restaurant is doing this please stop. Just order splits, it's better for the customer and for the reputation of the restaurant.
  • Wine List: Out dated wine list and oh leave the wine list on the table, unless the table is really small.
  • Corkage Fees: Unreasonable corkage fees. More than $20 is highway robbery!
  • Proper Storage: Wine not stored properly [bringing me warm red wines]
  • Ice Buckets: No ice buckets for Champagne or having to ask for it in the first place.
  • Wine Flights: where the same wine is served in each glass, but is supposed to be different.
  • Decanting: If you decant the wine, make sure you do it table-side and leave the bottle on the table.
  • Thank You: There seems to be a lack of politeness in the service industries today, thanking the customer is paramount in delivering good customer service and cannot be overstated.
Well that's it, if you could think of anyotherWine Service Pet Peevesthat I didn't cover please feel free to leave a comment and I will get them posted as soon as possible.Check out this video from WS, who talks a few different Sommeliers about their thoughts onWine~Service, good stuff.Until next time, stay thirsty my friends, cheers!

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Macy's Culinary Council Presents: Andrea Robinson and the Tenderloin hood w/ bottle of Zin wrapped in a Bag

Date: Mon, Aug 2, 2010 Wine Tasting

I know that this title is a mouthful, but it came out of a mini conversation on Twitterwith horror writing phenomRain Gravesregarding the picture of the Zinfandelin my glass and the tenderloin on my plate. Truly nothing was in a paper bag and there were no tenderloins scurrying about in hood. Just thought it would make for a quirky little title.

That said, speaking of mouthfuls I had the great pleasure of sitting in on a Wine and Food pairing Seminar hosted by the Culinary Council, this past Saturday with none other than Andrea Robinson, formerdean of Wine Studies at the French Culinary Institute, where she graduated with honors from its professional culinary program, a master sommelier, and a chef.Sheis also one of only 16 women in the world to hold the title of Master Sommelier and the first woman to be awarded the Best Sommelier in America distinction, impressive resume for sure. That is why I was thrilled to be invited down for the food and wine pairing demonstration. The talkand live cooking demonstration was just fantastic, her presentation skills, rapportwith her audience and command of herwine and food pairing was undeniably spot on.It wasconducted ina completely disarming fashion and what I would characterize as afirst-class event all the way, filled with fun, learning andwrapped up withnice afternoon snack, paired with tasty wines and I could sense nothing but good vibes from the crowd.

I've been asked to give a talk on food and wine pairing myself and the tips and techniques I learned this day were just fantastic, inspiring and incredibly helpful and I plan on incorporating some of these concepts into my own talk. I'm not sure why she's not the Next Food Network star, be that as it may, you can still catch her older programs onYou Tubeand she will soon be launching here own series of videos.

During her talking on Wine and Food paring, she also introduced her new stemware collection - “The One” – which is a line created to take the guesswork out of choosing the proper wine glass. It comes in a set of four,eitherfour stems forRed winesfour stemsfor White wines and can be found for sale at Macy's Home Store or Andrea Wine Stemware Shop. They are selling for $49.95 andare said to be dishwasher [I recommend hand was only]safe and break resistant.

Review of the One: In reviewing the stemware here at Chez Eyer using my own informal comparison and having full knowledge of which glass was which I still came to one [pun not intended] conclusion; that it's very hard to avoid the conclusion that something real is involved with this technology, but exactly what that is indeterminable.

Clarity: First, let me preface my remarks about my results; noting that I did not overtly prefer the wine out of the "One" rather, I was able to identify which glassof wine was in the "One" stems, because the wine seemed more expressive to me. But that difference was not as appreciable as I expected it would be. While I didn’t always like what was being expressed by the "One" glass better, I did however find more aromas and diversity of flavor in the overall expression on the palate and the bouquet. I know that seems likesquishy-land talk, but truly I was unable to have that "aha" moment.

Compared to What: This is a phrase I ask many folks, especially after someone has extolled their praise or condemnationfor a particular product or service. Because if there's really nothing tomake a comparison against, then what's the point, you're just performing an exercise in futility. That said, I put some Reidel Stemwareup against the "One" and put both sets of stemware through their paces.

Conclusion: More importantly what you have with the "One" is stemware which can be used for a large variety of red or white wines without having to purchase expensive separate pieces and this point should not be missed. If you purchase thistype of glass youdon't have the need for many types of stems any longer.Think of it this way if you purchase a number of them [the One] and when you have guests over everyone can drink from a similar glass. Because if you are like me and already have many different types of stems and let's sayI have more than a few guests overmyhome,I'm oftenforced into givingthem a variety of stems andit does seem little awkward, but with this concept in stemware your life can be so much easier.

Full Disclosure: Hello FTC and anyone else interested, yes I received a set of the "ONE" stemware as a SAMPLE and in part because of my involvement in the WBC or Bust wine blog contest as the prelude to the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla, Walla Washington.

If you're just starting out on your own wine loving life-style, youhave the opportunity to acquirestems that are all of the same profile [meaning same size and shape],making itmuch easier to stow them in your cupboards and without the difficulty of trying to remember which glass goes with what. With the "One" there's only thing you need to remember is this, the big glass for red wines or the small glass for white wines, as a result your guests will most likely think of you as a little more prepared.

I would definitely recommend these glasses to you to provide you with somestemware sanityand they also make a great gift for the wine lover who perhaps seems to have everything. I liken my conclusions to what Morpheus told Neo in the Matrix: "You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe and if you take the red pill -- you stay in Wonderland." the choice is yours of course.

The Pairings:

Edamame Pestowas paired with St Supery Sauvignon Blancwhich exhibited grapefruit zest, floral, green lime and tropical fruits which are typical of California style of Sauvignon Blanc. The pairing of these two items complimented each other flavorprofiles nicely. The Edamame Pesto, I thought could have used a little more something [but hey what do I know], as it was a bit monolithic, maybe a little more cilantro, not sure but I did enjoy both those flavor profiles together. The St Supery Sauv. Blanc was very good and I scored it 88 points and can be purchased most places for $16.99 to $18.99 and be found at your local Bev-Moor favorite grocery outlet and really good with a little chill on the bottle.

Prosciutto-Sage Crusted Pork Tenderloinwas paired with Ravenswood Old Vine Zin adensely packednose which exhibited rich black raspberry notes, accompanied by the scents of freshly made summer fruit jam, creating a nice mouth feel. This wine can be purchased again from your local Bev-Mofrom $9.99 to $14.99 and most likely can be found at many local grocery outlets as well Iscored this wine 87 points.
This pairing was pulled off wonderfully, the half cup of sherry andsage called for in the recipe really tied to these two elements together. I heartily recommend this pairing and it of course doesn't have to be with this Zinfandel, but I believe any "old-vine" zin would work with this combination. Old vines are typically vineyardswhich are typically30 years orolderand you will find more concentrated juice being derived from these vines.

Chocolate and Chorizo Toastthis recipes is easy and was suggested as the dessert but could easily be
converted to the role of appetizer in the blink of an eye. This item was also paired with the Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel and I thought it was a good pairing and enjoy the interactions of the sweet characteristics of the Zin, the chocolate and zesty notes from the Chorizo. You do need to have one of those long thin baguettes and is really just regarded as the blank slate for the yummy goodness that can be piled on top. Regarding the pairing, I believe if you had a few ounces of after-dinner Tawny Port, that it could be equally winetasticorpossibly aeven be a better pairing, either way I did totally enjoy it.

Remember wine and food pairing is an adventure, but if you would like a basic outline or guide here's a link
to the Basic Principles of Successful Food-Wine Pairing, click here.

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Wine Cellars and Wine Storage: Tips to making it your own!

Date: Wed, Jul 28, 2010 Wine Tasting

Hello, hello to all the wine lovers and wine collectors of the world! If you are as passionate about wine collecting as I am, you have surely run into the problem of how and where to store all these precious gems. Where are your fabulously famous bottles stored? In a hall closet, in the basement, don’t tell me… under the bed?!

Arrgh, Wine, Wine Everywhere: I know many of you have dreamed of owning your own customized wine cellar or wine storage area, a place where you could add some personal touches and caters to your particular specification for keeping and storing your wine collection. And thank goodness, there's actually a wide variety of options readily available to people who aspire to construct their very own customized wine cellar and lack the do-it-yourself skills and desires.

With all the well accounted for options available out there for wine storage,wouldn't you like yourownwine cellar to surely be a placewhich reflectsyour good taste, and your personal style as well? After all, you put so much personal preference intobuilding yourwine collection why shouldn’tthe place you store your vinoreveal it? With that said, below I've put together a couple thoughts on how you can approach building the cellar of your dreams or just something to get by on until then. I've also included a video presentation below featuring Joe Roberts , known to many as the1 Wine Dude, who takes his out of control collection [including samples]and with the help ofGrotto Cellars makes it into a workable cellar space.

An Easy Solution: Modular wine racking arrangements are the simple remedy to designing and building your wine racks from scratch and still achieving a completely customized look and feel. Modular wine racking is available in various, sizes, grains and finishes. In general, the least costly of those made from pine. Many folks [purchasers] of modular wine racking systems looking for a more personal feel tend to prefer finer woods species like mahogany or premium redwood offered by Grotto Cellars.

Why Modular: The beauty of using a modular wine cellar is it takes the guess work out of the design. The wall configurations are contrived by someone else, a wine storage expert, and they tend to mix and match individual bottle cubicles with bulk wine storage. And because many companies make kit racks that have a similar look and feel, the racks you may already have can be easily combined with several varieties adding to its personality and customized feel.

Beyond that there are numerous wine rack companies that go a step further and offer crown molding, trims and radius curved corners to really complete the look of a wine storage area. Recent designs that I have stumbled across even include built-in stemware storage and table top systems within the racking scheme. By adding this feature it creates character and ambiance, as well as adding to the functionality of the space.

Bang for the Buck: The most cost-effective kind of wine storage is the dozen-bin, or bulk racking system. This type of racking can accommodate a dozen or more wine bottles in one compartment. This can be extremely useful for wine fanatics who buy their favorite wines in bulk. But the main drawback of this type of storage is the bottles stack directly on top of one another restricting air flow and possibly damaging the integrity of a wine label.

The second most efficient way to store your wine in bulk is through the employment of case racking. Case racking is a unique and efficient way to store wine bottles in their original packaging. This preserves the look of the bottles, and creates an easy way to locate each variety.

Entry Ways: If you have the luxury of turning an entire room into a wine cellar, you can’t forget the most visually important aspect of your wine storage area will be the entry door. Wine cellar doors come in numerous looks and finishes, with glass inserts, and wrought iron options the possibilities are endless. Be creative, this will be first thing your guests will experience when entering your cellar and you want it to be a preface of what lies inside.

Wine Shops:Maybe your a wine shop owner reading this and you're wondering what's available to you? Good question, check outthe Grotto’s Commercial racking line which is designed to provide maximum storage and brand exposure in minimal spaces. Some features include top shelf displays, double isle storage, horizontal shelf displays and toe kick to ensure no bottles touch the ground andare available in four different types of wood to blend with a variety of decors.

Where are they: There are many ways that you can contactone of ourfriendly design consultants in your area to help you choose the perfect products for your wine cellar.We are located in Laguna Design Center, 23811 Aliso Creek Road, Suite #105Laguna Niguel, CA 92677 or give'm a call at 1 (877) 5-GROTTO or catch them online at Grotto Cellars

Guest Contributor and Author: Christy Bonner can currently be found in the offices of Grotto Custom Wine Cellars sorting through wood wine rack samples and feel free to visit their page on You Tube. She is married with two kids, lives in Southern California and can be found on many warmevenings sipping her favorite Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio.

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The Red Mountain, Hedges Family Estate Barrel Room Smack-down

Date: Tue, Jul 27, 2010 Wine Tasting

Ahh yes who doesn't like a good old fashioned Smack-Down, [are they really old fashion?]. Anyway, I forone love the idea or the premise of seeing different wines go head to head, like some steroid induced freaks in tights, talking trash and hurtling themselves toward each other and throwing chairs [sorry I'm no fan of WWF] and no I'mnotinsinuating the wines were juicing. This isn't major league baseball you know and Barry Bonds trainer was no where in sight.

Part of the fun of being a wine-blogger is theopportunity tosniff,swirl and slurppp through avoluminous amount of different vinoeach and everymonthand the added bonus,you get toparticipate in events with the producers and rub elbows with the decision makers [wine-makers], no longer a spectator or even a garden variety consumer.Igetto watch the unfolding of the wine-biz from behind the scenes and take a look under the hood,sometimes even theso-called "romantic" world of vino things candevelop intoproverbial“fisticuffs” [figuratively speaking]bruised knuckles [bruised egos more like it] smack-down.

In Red Mountain wines I found what some have called “enlightened traditionalism:” or the ability to marry the best of the old and new while producing wines true to their origins, but stay tuned and see for yourself, the fight is on!

Throwing Down the Gauntlet: In"smack-downs" and life there's an art form which canbe reallyinformative and it doesn’t always involve snarky language or trash talking. No my friends, sometimes the best smack-downare the ones that take each and every part of what is argued against [for example some folks believe only old world wine styles are best]the backdrop of a head to head, a Mano a Mano showdown pitting enlightened traditionalists in a war between traditionalists and modernists.If you want my two cents, you'll find itbetween the two, this where you find the ideal balance.

I really wasn't expecting anything like this and neither were many of the other bloggers [of whom some I could hear grumbling about this set-up]. To me what this "smack-down" didwas takethe debateout of the realm of conjecture,and let the wines speak for themselves.Many folkshave pre-conceivedideas about what New World and OldWorldwines represent, but in this smack-down I think many quickly found out, "what itis or isn't"backed up with the facts in the glass [via a little tasting contest].

Rules: What are the rules of any good smack down? This is a good question,as I had no-idea and had to do some research myself to come up with the rules. First mustline upthe target which is what Hedges did, by havinga differentRed Mountainwine in a direct face off with another well know wine, whichwere of a similar weight class. With the target set, time for shot number two, know yourproductand in this case know your wine to greatlyincrease thechance for success.Time for the killshot, show you know something about the other wine’s home turf or the terrior, vineyards, winemakeretc and you may just end-up selling a few cases of vino, instead of a just a few tastings.So yep, all in all it was a smack-down, one as good as you would see on the WWF oron a typical episode of Jerry Springer,but it was a lot more fun and the only trash talking was done by a few unhappy campers.

The Setting: Okay to be honest Hedges didn't refer to it as any kind of Smack-Down, that was just how I viewed it,so as Iwalked into their barrel room I saw itwas filledwith red carpets, bigred wines,Wine Bloggers andthe ambiance of a candle lit room and the combatants[open wine bottles]were ready for the face off. As we entered through the heavy towering doors ofHedges Family Estate Chateau and moseyed into theirbarrel room[arena] on theRed Mountain AVA,in eastern Washington, located just east of the Yakima Valley AVA, and just north of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA and is thesmallest of Washington's AVA's.This part of the trip was for me wasthe "icing on the cake" I've had some familiarity with their winery before and had written a review of their 2007 Three Vineyards, but never had a full appreciation for all the wonderful wine being made and their Three Vineyards as wonderful as it is, is just the tip of the iceberg.

This tour was part of the optional post Wine Bloggers Conference agenda and as I'm sure you are familiar with the saying, "saving the best for the last" well this trip to Red Mountain certainly summed up for me exactly what that familiar phrase engenders.

Round One: In the first match in one corner we had the 2008 Descendants Liegeois Dupont "Cuveé Marcel Dupont" this powerful lip-staining Syrah from Red Mountain weighing in at 14.2% ABVversus the Kaesler Stonehorse Shiraz 2008 an assemblage of six different sites of inky darkness weighing in at 15% ABV and both in the $20 - $30 price range.

Winner: While I like both wines, I picked the Hedges, even though their individual score cards were very close, Hedges gave that final kick to win the match.

Round Two: In the second match up we have the 2006 René Rostaing who's the closest thing to a true cult star that Côte-Rôtie has yet produced, this wine is very difficult to obtain and sell for $70and up most places, weighing in at a mere 13.5% ABV. While in the other corner we havethe 100% Red Mountain 2006 Goedhart Family Bel' Villa Syrahan elusive and somewhat exclusive wine with a very small production. Selling for $50 or more.

Winner: Since I found both wines were so evenly matched on their respective score cards, it was just too difficult to call, and the match ended in a draw. Both wines wererich, velvety, deep wines with subtle smoky, bacon fat, floweringaromaticslapping over an opulent base of roasted blackberry and plum fruits.

Third Round: In one corner we had the 2007 Obolisco Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountainweighing in at 14.1% ABV and amazing Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (with a bit of Merlot and Malbec) selling for just over $60 and sold out at the winery. In the other corner, the2007 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, from Napa Valley, selling in the neighborhood of $60 described as"Ripe and fleshy, dressed to impress and freshly bathed in the lime-light of a 92 points Wine Spectator and weighing in at 14.8% ABV.

Winner: Checking over the score card, hmmm both wines appear to be mostly sold out and are unavailable, minus points for that, but in the flavor profile category Oblosico Estate got the nod. Both wines were equally matched in weight, color and complexity with lingering finishes and similar price points. This one is tough to call, but if you want to drink a great Napa Cab, there are many on the market, but for it's uniqueness alone the Oblosico Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is the winner on points.

Round Four: Pitted the 2007 andtheir 2006 Hedges Family Estate, Red Mountain, Three Vineyards, a monster of finesse and layers of flavor, weighing in at a mere 13.6% ABV and selling in the neighborhood of $15 - $25 a lot of wine for the small price. The competitor was the 2006 Chateau Talbot, St-Julien, a savoury and even considered a little juicy in character, weighing in at a flat 13% ABV and selling between $40 and $50, a formidable foe with a rich heritage of distinction, but with limited availability.

The Winner: But alas the poor 2006 Chateau Talbot was no match for the Hedges 2006 Three Vineyards as itlured it in with the old "Rope-a-dope". Sorry Chateau Talbot fansbut reading scorecard was even necessary, this decision was madeby knock out! The Hedges 3 Vineyards 2006 clearly dominated the entire match, with its great price, clearly layered and nuanced flavor profile, it said Bordeaux even more loudly than its opponent. I left the Chateau [arena] with six bottles of this wine in tow. I could not pass up such a great deal and I would recommend you give their 2007 a swirl as the winery is near the end of the 2006 with only a few cases remaining.

Decision: Well that was a great match up and the in my [not always so humble] opinion Red Mountains wines really won the day and showed the wine-blogging world that, "it's not always the size of the dog in a fight, it's the size of fight in the dog." Well done Red Mountain and congratulations, you really turned some heads this day, as I know many others were very impressed by your wine-making efforts there, in making great juice for reasonable prices and not letting points monster get in your way.

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Summer Breezes, California Zinfandel and the backyard BBQ season

Date: Mon, Jul 19, 2010 Wine Tasting

Well how's every ones summer going thus far? I know for many of you it'shot, hot, hot which is not the most comfortable of situations to be in and maybe you're notembracing thesummer thus far, but for many it's "grilling season"and to me and manyother wine lovers, thatmeans one thing will be coming out of the cellarand being uncorked in more plentiful numbers than anything else, what's that you may ask, Zinfandel. Some of you will thinking uh-no,Rosé is my go-to wine of choice during the warm summer months and I agree it does have its place as well but, it can't stand up to charred delights the way a goodZin can.

What you have when you open a bottle of Zin is powerful dark fruit flavors, distinctive spice, pepper and cinnamon notes, swirling around hard to define floral undertones, all culminating in an effort to balance the high alcohol, resulting in the what many will call the perfect BBQ wine. I've described Zin this way to friends willingto listen to meblather on,as the ultimate party wine, because it requires no decanting or coaxing it from its shell. Zinfandel just jumps up out of the bottle and into your glass, ready to impresseventhe mostfinicky of palates, cooling, sweet fruitflavors and good acidity combine to create the classic complement to whatever charred and smokey item you may cook up this summer.

Just the other day I posted the "live" version "summer breezes" on my FB page as I was reminiscing [cause that's what you do when approaching the half century mark] aboutmy days as a youth growing up here in San Diego, hearing"Summer Breezes" playing on the radio in seventy two, whilst on my way to the beach.It's asong which to me succinctly says summer is here, it's time for beach-side, backyard barbeque's, and longer sun-lit days filled with sand, surf, sun and most of all fun.Here are a few lyrics from the song, which speaks so much eloquently than my own words could possible convey and please watch the video to be fully transported to the past.

"Sweet days of summer, the jasmine's in bloom, July is dressed up and playing her tune, When I come home from a hard days work, And you're waiting there, not a care in the world, See the smile a-waiting in the kitchen, Food cooking and the plates for two, Feel the arms that reach out to hold me, In the evening when the day is through, Summer breeze makes me feel fine, Blowing through the jasmine in my mind".....Seals and Croft 1972

But for me, its not jasmine blowing through my mind, its a wine-tastic Zin I just encountered still swirling about my palate, reminding me of summers quintessential [love using that word] quaffer and that's why today I want to introduce to everyone my thoughts on a wine which you may have previously encountered where you shop. As it can be found just about everywhere you look and that is the Ravens Wood Vintners blend ablend in more ways than one as you will see when I break it down for you below.

First Swirl: Once I uncorked the bottle and poured myself a glass and tilting it down to examine the color, I found it to have typical, zesty red berry colored core and lightly colored cranberry rim.

First Sniff: After giving it a few good swirls in my glass and sticking my fat half Irish nose against the rim, I found a not too impressive array of cherry, cranberry, tar, and fruity floral scents. Meaning it didn't jump out at me, right away, I had to give more thought about what I was smelling.

First Sip: Okay maybe my first slurp, no really I just sipped it at first to get a general feel for this wine. I would say it lacks a tight focus, but offers wild berry and blackberry fruit that's supported by tangy acidity, firm tannins, with a undefined finish.

Aging and ABV: This wine was aged 12 months in 100% French oak, with 25% of those barrels beingnew. The ABV is 13.5%.

Composition: A blend of 77% Zinfandel, 18% Petite Sirah and 5% Carignane, with the fruit sourced from 3 different areas inLodi, Amador and Mendocino.

Price and where to Purchase: This wine is selling for the SRP of $9.99 and on sale some places for $7.99 depending on where and when you shop. It can be found just about anywhere wine is sold, but typically at a grocery outlet near you, with massive availability.

Cuvée Corner Wine Blog Score: Hey point seekers here's my score if your interested: This wine scored87 points on the Cuvée Corner 100 point scale.

Full Disclosure: Hello FTC and everyone else, yes this bottle was sent for reviewto the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog, by Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma.

About Ravenswood: One of the more interesting aspects of whoRavenswood is exemplified is their a rally cry which states, "No Wimpy Wines" and has defined them as a winery for decades, in fact formore than three decades, according to their website, " it has been the mission of Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma, California to embrace the bold and avoid the bland." I've had a chance to visit this winery myself about 5 years ago and I was very excited then about what I tasted, brought back home and look forward to giving some of their other wines a swirl once more. [It has been far too long].

Other Voices: I've looked around the web and many other wine bloggers like myself have given this wine good marks overall, but I was not able to find anyone from a major print publication who had reviewed the wine.

With/Without Food: Okay as is so often the question, oh my what to pair? Well as I've gone over in this review, this wine or this type of wine and that being Zinfandel is your go-to wine which will pair with whatever is you fave charred food of choice may be to create a seemingly endless variety of grilled dishes.

My Recommendation: Okay first of all let me say, even my dog liked this wine. He normally only likes white wines, but when he tasted this wine he lapped it up. Now that you have the endorsement of this little Mini-Poo here's what I think, this is a readily drinkable little quaffer that will delight most BBQ crowds and would be great for impromptu entertaining. It's easy on the wallet and just fantastic valuefor the money. You can find this wine any where and really any time you could need it, but do yourself a favor, buy a case, to compliment your next backyard cookout! Until next time stay thirsty my friends, cheers!

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I like my wine to be Dirty, yet Sexy: San Diego Twitter Taste Live

Date: Sun, Jul 11, 2010 Wine Tasting

Well the first ever San Diego Twitter TasteLive, has come and gone, it was fantastic. This was the first time I actually met some of the folks behind their respective twitter icons and all were as genuine, knowledgeable and gracious as their "tweets" indicated, despite the understandable misgivings of meeting folks you've only known online. Just real everyday folks with a genuine passion for sharing their love of great vino.
It was a great event and we are already planing the next one and in the words of Beau's Barrel Room it's going to be epic. We opened a little over 15 bottles, ranging from Sauvignon Blanc to Grenache and beyond. It was quite the eclectic collection.

There was 6 different wine blogs represented in this group, with widely different approaches to reviewing wine and the vino lifestyle.Here'sline-upof bloggers who participated: Wine Harlots, Beau's Barrel Room, Brain Wines, Wine for Blondes, and myself and a big shout out to La Jolla Momwho knows her way around a wine bottle.

Thanks to the folks at Santastiwho provided their fizzy palate cleansing beverage for us to sample and as they are fond of reminding us, "we at Santastiknow that a clean palate is vital to a full sensory experience" and to that point I say mission accomplished and well done to team Santasti. This was my second time using their product and used it in cleansing my palate and my glass. Please check out the link above to find where you can get this product for yourselves.

Rioja: We had a lovely line-up of wines to sip and sample, many of which I had never tried before, I brought the lovely Marqués de Riscal 2004 Reserva and we did indeed decant it, but didn't really open it till near the end of the tasting, so it was one of the last wines we examined. Which means for it to show this well after all our palates were exposed to, is quite impressive. I found it to have a fading medium-cerise core. vague cherry-vanilla, earthy tobacco and dried raspberry aromas on the nose, with subtle baking spices, a nice cedar box and herbs adding to its overall complexity, there was also an underpinning of suave red fruit, playing a fleeting vanilla from its contact with oak. I think it was Keith of Brain Wines who dubbed a it, "a dirty sexy wine with anEn-Fuego type brashness" and Beau of Beau's Barrel Room concurred and was surprised at the brimming quality of each quaff, slurp and sip. I was as well quite amazed considering how little it cost and having found it at Trader Joe'sfor only $14.99 which is a great price and makes this bottle a QPR champ.
Cabernet Sauvignon: Keith from Brain Wines provided two exciting samples, which were both a pleasure to sample. This wine comes from the Stags Leap area of Napa Valley and if you are familiar with the area you have some idea already just how wonderful these wines were to experience first hand.

These 100% Cabernet Sauvignons are produced by Malk Family Vineyards, we sampled their 2006 and the 2007 and both are currently available as of the moment, selling for $65 each. Both were well built, good structure, layered and multi-faceted wines worthy of your undivided attention and just screamed Napa Valley Cab, [does anyone do it better?] They both exhibited sleek, rich layers of mocha scented oak, currant and coffee notes bouncing around the long and complex finish, drinking great now but both exhibited aging potential for years to come. If had to choose, I would give the 07 the nod over the 06, and this was the conclusion of a number of us, but clearly not all. Some of the others didn't want todubone better than the other.Both wines were deftly balanced, butI thought the 06 was just a bit chunkier, the 07 was money!

Pinot Noir: The Wine Harlot brought two Pinot Noirs, which were really great examples of California Pinot. One from Sierra-Madre-Pinot-Noir-2007from the western edge of the Santa Maria Valley, in northern Santa Barbara County and selling from $39 to $44 depending on where you shop. Light in body and appearance, burst of crushed berries and earthnote aromas, melding nicely withsoft and silky mouth feel and nice underpinning of freshly crushed berries and dried herbs, I would hold onto this another year before opening, to give it a chance to come into its own. The other Pinot Noir we sampled was theFoppiano "Estate" Russian River Pinot Noir 2008wonderful aromas of raspberry jam with an added suggestion of sweet spices; nutmeg and clove and a mouth feelwhich evoked a sense ofcherry cobbler, a touch of leather andwrapping itself around some mellow toasty oakin the long and fruity finish with trailing remnants ofwhite pepper. This wine sells for an amazing price $23 most places and represents what I think is a screaming deal in Pinot Noir from the RRV, an uncommon luxury at near a paupers price, well done. Folks if I were you I would buy a case of the Foppiano, considering it myself.

Reviews: Now I'm not going to cover all the wines we drank or sampledthat day, just some of the highlights as I saw it and I'm sure if you look on eachone of ourrespectivesites you will get a few different view points of views and take aways, these notes I've shared here are just from my perspective, recalled from my Vincellar note book. I won't be reviewing the Torres Celeste Crianza in this post, but instead review it on its own.I think it deserves a whole page.

Grenache: Okay last but certainly not least, we reviewed two different Grenaches which Katie the La Jolla Mom wasnice enough to bring along with the wonderful home-made Chocolate Chip cookies [thanks they were so good]. She brought alongHerman Storyand I confess [and I'm embarrassed to say] to never having heard of him or his wines before, I am a huge fan of Grenache and love, love Paso Robles with their incredible wine scene going on there. Now speaking of Herman Story Winesand the beautiful expression of their grenache [although it needsdecanting] in the glass expressesan inky dark core, on the nose ofdecadent plummy fruit and hint of well worn saddle leather. It can come off very tight if poured directly from the bottle [please decant first]. Once decanted I'm sure there it will reveal, what Ionly suspect could be its true character, what's that you ask?A New World style Grenache showing off ripe cherry, blackberry, tar and smoke with subtle floral framed around the mocha notes, it would do well if it had a place in your cellar and not be open for another year or two. Oh btw in case you need extra persuasion some guy named Robert Parker really liked it, gave it 93 points and the wine sells for $36, great price for a big wine.

The other Grenache was from Core Wineryis a family run winery located in Santa Maria Ca. Our primary vineyard is the Alta Mesa vineyard, located in Eastern Santa Barbara county and they are selling this wine for about $20 through the wineries website, most likly it will sell between $14.99 to $16.99 in a retail shops, btw just found it at the San Diego Wine Companyfor $14.95, if they still have it in stock [geez can I pick prices or can I pick prices]. The whole group was curious about this wine, while some thought it to be very un-Grenache like, with the appearance and flavor profile of a over extracted Pinot Noir, while looking up it later at home, I found that this style of Grenache is not A-typical at all, instead this style is thee most common [according to the Wine Lovers Companion]. It was a bit hot and the RS [residual sugar] seemed to be a little high side, but again consulting my copy of the Wine Lovers Companion [3rd edition] high RS and ABV are part of the equation when it comes to Grenache, wines which tend to be sweet, fruity and low in tannins.

Someone who goes by the handleUltraMarathoner rated this wine 92 points and had this to say about this wonderful wine, "A fantastic Grenache and could be myQPR of the year so far. Pop and pour. After an hour the wine became something completely different. The texture added weight and has a smooth, round feel. Nose has crushed rocks and floral\lavender tones . Deep red raspberry flavors with an orange-liqueur and red/dark fruit. Mouth watering acidity and firm, but ripe tannins that shorten a what could be a longer finish. Well balanced. Complexity well beyond the price point. I'm getting more of these." I couldn't agree more with the majority of thesetasting notes or the score, my palate was nearly blown by the time we reached this very last bottle, that said I still highly recommend it to you. If this wine still had this much to say after I had tasted so many different wines, that's is quite impressive.

For our next event, it will be something far more focused and we will follow some general guide lines to make this a more authentic event. I've been talking it over with Beau and I think we have the makings of a new bigger and better event, which will pit Red Mountain Syrah vs Paso Robles Syrah in a face to face [blind tasting] smack-down of epic proportions. It should be winetastic and of course stay tuned here for the blow by blow results. Until next time stay thirsty my friends and cheers!

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5 things I learned about the Washington State Wine Scene during WBC 10

Date: Tue, Jul 6, 2010 Wine Tasting

Well the Walla, Walla winebloggers conference has come and gone, Iwas sad to see it go, butvery appreciative of thisopportunity toget reacquainted withWashington State Wine scene as I like to call it [don't think anyone else is calling it that].It wasfantastic tomeetmany of theother bloggers who've I've only known through Face Book or Twitter, [as there was over 300 folks it was hard to meet everyone] it was great to make those connections in person and get achance totalk a little shop live. TheWashington Wine Commission in conjunction with the Open Wine Consortium, Producers andZephyr Wine Adventuresput on a fantastically well organized conference. The number of different wines we were able to encounter over the three day periodwas just incredible [a virtualtsunami] of red and white wines, even bubbly made anappearanceandthe fantastic folks behind the labelwere equally winetastic.

Just speaking from my perspective, my sense of theof the overall satisfactionfrom other wine bloggersis that,the conference was a huge hit with all attendees, it would seem that no one can stop talking about the wonderful Washington Wine Scene [of course therewere andstill area few dissenters].Taking a look aroundand across the netand you can still see it's stilla huge trend [with plenty of buzz]on Twitter and many of my FB friends arestill talking about theirexperiences. As for me, my overall impression was very good and I have a lot to write about in the coming months and I would say further that the, [please feel free to quote me], "Washington wine is a force to be reckoned with" and the bloggers [myself included] are going to get that message out, not just in the few weeks afterward, but continuing on like aripple on the proverbial pond once a few [huh, what? I mean a fewasteroids striking the surface] causing waves to crash onbeach andfloodcoastal communitiesstones a thrown into the still surface, sorry thatpap I just typed outsounded a bit too reflective.

That said, I thought I would just share a few"leftovers" [as some are fond of calling this blog] with you about the Washington State Wine Scene, that I didn't know before? Apparently there's is plenty, as I discovered for myself in more ways then one, through our variousexcursions and speed tastings. As I travel from wine destination to wine destination, meeting producers, winemakers, vineyard workers, wine bloggers, PR professional and others behind the label, I continue on my quest to learn all I can about this wondrous love affair with the Vitis Viniferaor the "wine-bearing" grape.Think about this statement the next time you pour yourself a greatglass of vino,"In waterone sees one's own face; but in wine, one beholds the heart of another"....an old French proverb.

The first thing I learned that they [producers in WA] make some fantastic Merlot in Washington State, single variety Merlot and or Merlot dominated blendswhichare not flabbyor soft,wines that actually has some very nice structure and nuanced flavors. I will admit this openly, I'm not a big "Merlot Fan" just look at my many reviews and you will be hard pressed to find even one or take a look in my 200 bottle wine vault, there's noMerlot. It's not that I dislike the grape andI won'thaveMerlot-Meltdownlike Miles expressed to the character Jack in the movie "Sideways" regarding his hatred for the grape [or as some suggest his loathing of having loved and not being loved in return].

No, no nothing like that, I just have not come across a lot of Merlotswhich have impressed me enough to say, um I wanna buy thator not enough to want to recommend it someone in a review. Typically I love Merlot when it is blended, and not the lead grape. So yep that makes me a "Left-Bank" kinda guy and speaking of blending and I hope I get this quote correct, in Washington State, "they [producers] don't add Merlot to a blend with Cabernet Sauvignon to soften the Cab, no instead they add Cabernet Sauvignon to the Merlot to tame its massive structure." as I was sampling Merlot after Merlot, I said to myself, "wow that statement is right on" and has me leaning to the right in the context of Washington Wines.Check out this trailer belowfor the movie Merlove, which features manyproducers from Washington state.

Thesecond thing I learned is Walla, Walla Washingtonis a great place to to go for a wine tasting adventure.If you're like me and there's a chance that some of you are, then this one of those great wine destinations that you will want to make plans to stay there for a least a week and explore everything they have to offer. This was my first time in this particulararea and I must say I was really impressed with atmosphere in Walla, Walla. Fantastic people,charming accommodations [many great B&B's],inviting little restaurants, and many downtown tasting rooms, I really got a great vibe being in their downtown late at nite, strolling through their city. Walla, Walla reminds of downtown Paso Robles quite a bit, with the very welcoming atmosphere and down to earth feel,I am sure you will be just delighted by the experience as I have been. This pictureto your leftis the oneI took inside the B&B I stayed my first night in Walla, Walla and to me exemplified everything you will experience when you stay here, Stone Creek Manor. or anywhere else in town as there a number of B&B's in Walla, Walla.

Third I learned, the wines I encounteredcould becharacterized as a Bordeaux blend, I found thisis a very common thread during my tastings and you'llmost likely find the same at manyWashington State Wineries. Ipersonally was thrilled with manyBordeaux inspired blends I foundbeing poured at the conference and during our forays into thevino landscape that is Washington Wine. It was not just the red blends either, there were a good number of white-Bordeaux being poured as well. Now of course one of the better, if not best thee known producer in the state is Bob Betz of [Betz Family Winery], known to many as Washington’sfavorite boutique winemakers and a very familiar figure invino circles for creating Bordeaux inspired blends. It was also my great privilege to meet him and his daughter during the Willows Lodge hosted, "Woodinville Grand Tasting".In the line-up therewas also some other favorites of mine at this tasting,DiStefano Winery, Sparkman Winery, Baer Winery, Northwest Totem Cellars and Des Voigne Cellars who stunned me with their Meina Flor, a Rhone inspiredRousanne and Viognier blend, excellent!

If you'renew tothe world of vino, youmay very be scratching your head thinking, "what’s a Bordeaux Blend?" Okay here's the typical text book answer, it’s a blended red wine that contains two or more of the varietalswhich are authorized for use in the red wines of France's Bordeaux region which is divided left and right. Typically you'll find these varieties in the blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere. A typical Bordeaux blend will have Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot as the primary grape (up to 85%), with other grapes making up the remainder. On the lesser knownside of the ledger, if you are talking about "White-Bordeaux" then of course you speaking of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadellecomposing the most typical blends.

Ah the perfect segway to my fourth thing I recently learned about the Washington State Wine Scene, is the fact thatSémillon is a widely planted grape variety in this North West Wine Region. In factWashington Wineries areknown fortheir Semillon, and while this wine is most often enjoyed young or blended with its companion Sauvignon Blanc, WashingtonSémillons are known to age beautifully into rich, honeyed, nutty wines.In their youth they offer a broad spectrum of flavors, ranging from crisp citrus to melon and fig, and fresh pears to vanilla. A winetypically lower in acidity than Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon is luscious, yet light and the two blend marvelously together.Semillon beinglower acidity makes it's more susceptible to botrytis [or Noble Rot], resulting in a fair number of late-harvest bottlings, which make for a nice after dinner quaff with some paired cheeses in place of dessert. My favorite was is the one pictured to the left here, Chaleur Estate Blanc from Delille Cellars, it was fantastico!

The fifth and final thing was something I learned so much more about, than I had previously known or experienced and what isthat you may ask? Well it's the AVA called Red Mountain,itfreaking rocks and is one of the smallest in thestate.The Red MountainAVA has becomethe epicenter ofWashington StatesBordeaux blends, thus raising the caliber of Washington wines to a whole new level.

It all started with Tom and Anne-Marie Hedges of Hedges Family Estate, who took a chance buying acreage on this obscure little hill and produced their first vintage in 1987.See my review of2007 Three Vineyards Get Over Hedges Red Mountain Three Vineyards which I wrote before my trip and whichI recently re-tastedin their barrel room, alongside the 2006, which I gave the edge to over the 07, perhaps its still a bit too young, but since they hada few cases of the 2006left, I grabbed [paid for with cold hard plastic] 6 bottles of the 2006 and will be here shortly via Fed Ex [btw, the Chateau Talbot in that pix above, didn't hold a candle to their Three Vineyards]. The Hedges Family Estate Chateaugave us a first class head to head match up of some of their wines versussomeother heavy hitters [eye opening experience]and wow I was blown away by their entire operation and want to thank them for literally rolling out the red carpet for me and many other lucky bloggers who got to be there on thisoptional part ofconference. Thinking back to my time I spent with the folks at Hedgesand hearing the passion about their vision expressedby Chris Hedges,you can’t help but reflect on how rapidly the region has grown from those humble beginnings to become a behemoth of quality well made and yet very diverse wines, cheers to Red Mountain!

I must say I was very happy to visit this region for the second time, as I've been through the Woodinville Winery loop before and this second time through I refreshed my palate and understanding of the great things going on in WoodinVille, Walla, Walla and Red Mountain, the opportunity to visit great places like Cave B on the Columbia Gorge, Col Solare on Red Mountain and see the Wallla, Walla Wine Scene first hand was just a fantastic trip and one I would highly recommend as a way to expand your palate and your mind in relation to finding and consuming world class new world wine. I have much more to say on this subject so please stay tuned, until next time cheers everyone!

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Walla,Walla or Bust! The Day has arrived and we're on the way!

Date: Fri, Jun 25, 2010 Wine Tasting

Hey folks sitting here at the airport and with a few hours in between flights I thought I would blab alittle about the WBC 10 [Wine Bloggers Conference] as it's being referred to in the twittershpere and on FB. The Cuvee Corner Wine Blog is but one of over 300 wine bloggers who are about to descend upon the wonderful little town of Walla, Walla Washington, which sits in the warmer south east part of the state. Many folks associate a trip to Washington state as rainy and over cast adventure, but the part of the state I will be visiting is forecast to clear blue skies and sunny warm temps in the eighties.

Okay so maybe you are wondering okay, you have a wine blog and that's a great hobby, but flying off to a conference about wine blogging, what is that all about anyway? Good question, it's something I gave some thought about the first time I went last year to the event in Napa/Sonoma, which was fantastic. We get together talk about how the our genre is unfolding, how to improve, make it profitable and have more fun doing it. We get together and learn, network and make new friendswith other like minded professionals and amateurs alike.

That, said I've had the opportunity so far to taste some great wine here in the state of Washington and I wanted to tell you about some of the great finds, that I've come across. I don't expect everyone to agree with me, we all have a different take on what's great and what's not so great. Since my time to depart to the conference is drawing near I just wanted to highlight this one winery in particular, they are called Baer Wineryplease give them a swirl you won't be dissappointed!
These are the two wines I sampled the Arctos and Ursa and found them both complex and compelling!

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A hidden "gem" in Temecula Wine Country: Briar Rose Winery

Date: Tue, Jun 15, 2010 Wine Tasting

As a San Diego county resident and unofficially self-proclaimed cork-dorkI've been to Temecula's wine country many times and until recently I was unaware of one of Temecula's hidden gems [I guess I really didn't do my homework].So with my GPSfirmly ensconced on my dash board, I set off to findBriar Rose,yes I took the typical exits from the I-15 and started inland, only tofound myself no where near anything that resembledthe typical geography associated with a trip to wine country, instead I was insuburbia, headingdown what nearly appeared to be a dead end street lined with some very well appointed homes.As I traveled on I started up this hill and started to see signs that I was indeed heading to wine country. In fact I would call it an oasis in a sea of sameness [theirwine style is definitely old-world]and as I crested the hill, there it was Briar Rose atop this hill overlooking Temecula.

But how did I hear about this wonderful little winery in Temecula, well I was contacted by a friend ofBriar Rose Winery to come out sip their selection, see the winery and meet the wonderful folks who make the aptly named Briar Rosea flower among the thorns. They had asked other bloggers [whom I won't mention] but these so-called "other" wine bloggers dismissed this opportunity. I guess I was a 2ndor3rd choice, but when the red carpet was rolled as I arrived, I thought hmmm maybe they were expecting someone else, but no the Cuvee Corner Wine Blog's humble correspondent [well technically the only one] was asked to write a review of Briar Rose Winery. I was so glad, I had the opportunity and everyone was extremely gracious, friendly and welcoming [yep all three]to me, it's has been about two months since I've been there [I'm sure they were wondering when I would write it]and my notes, photographs and videosare vivid reminders of the of the sights, sounds and taste of the wonderful wine[s] being made there.

Where is it: Now if you happen to be new to the area or you from San Diego or LA and you are an avid or just the occasional cork-dork like me and you are wonderingwhere Temecula Wine country is located, well you can find itin southwestern Riverside County, you maybe surprised to find that Temecula is California'smost prominent American Viticultural Area [AVA] south of Los Angeles and north from San Diego and about hour and half trip from those cities. Now for the adventurous wine lover or even the casual observer, it's an ideal destination for a short day trip from Los Angeles, Orange County, Palm Springs or San Diego. (Click here fordirections/map to Briar Rose winery, as well as, all of theTemecula wineries).

About Briar Rose Winery:According to their owner, was foundedthe grounds of a former Disney set designer's home and has adisneyesque feel as their mantra on the labels say "Taste theEnchantment". Their winery is modeled after Snow White's cottage, which you can see from looking at the faux thatched roofs and architecture. Briar Roseproduces mostly estate-grown wines,with a boutiqueproduction level of about 2,400 cases per year give or take. According to their website, their winerycame tofruition as a result of the owner's Les and Dorian Linkogle's lifelong dreamto build a dynamic winery dedicated to producing excellent wines and to lay claim as one Temecula's first wineries. If youwould like or needmore factoids or other interesting trivia about Briar Rosepleaseclick here.

Reservation Only: There are many wineries that require a reservation and this is one of them, so please don't just show up and expect to taste wine, without making the appointment first.Just a word of advice, if you wantguarantee you have a great experience you'll need to make a reservation and preferably visit the winery in a small group because the winery's tasting room is small, or you mayendupin the barrel room [which fine too, but a little dark for evaluating wine properly], show up at the time of your reservation, and prepare for a different Temecula wine experience than you maybe familiar with. Appointment Hours: Monday - Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Here are the wines I tasted the day of my own appointment:

2009 Estate Viognier: A nice bottle of a complex floral wine, dry, crisp, honey suckle and rose aromas with peach and melon flavors. SRP: $19.00 Standard Tasting.

2009 Fume Rosé: A wine that hastens and welcomes the advent of summer and is nicely different then a majority of rosés you may already be familiar with, comes offbright, clean, and zesty. A Sauvignon Blanc aged and seasoned in barrels recently containing Cabernet Sauvignon. SRP: $24.00 Standard Tasting.

03,04 and 07 Cabernet Sauvignon: If you're someone who likes 100% old world stlye wines than these wines will make you very happy. Each wine displayed rich varietal character these grapes can achieve and were characterised by aromas of dried violets on the palate each wine displayed flavors of chocolate, ripe jammy berries, oak, pepper and earth. For my money, the 2004 was showing the best right now and the 2007[Private Collection]was very good as well but would benefit from futher aging. SRP: $38 [on special for $18], $58, $105. The 03 and 04 Standard Tasting and the 07 is on the Premium Tasting.

2004 Petit Verdot: This wine also was from the Private Collection andis part of the Premium Tasting lineup. As a single varietal wine it is very uncommon as Petit Verdot wine grapes requires a long growing season to reach maturity, and to even become a wine of substance and quality. Petit Verdot wine grapes are typically just a blending grape and one ofthe least grown in Bordeaux. The French translation for PV is 'little green one", it was an interesting wine and this Petit Verdot from estate fruit is a powerful yet suave wine with dusty tannins. Awonderful old world stlye of wine. SRP: 105.00 Premium Tasting

2005 Temecula One: Another wine from the Premium Tasting list and is a blend of 40% Sangiovese, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot a wine with "Super Tuscan" stylingandaretypically red wines of very high quality. This wine is medium-bodied, juicy, loaded with wild berry and dark cherry fruit, and balanced withdusty tannins. Premium Tasting SRP: $115

2007 "Katrina" Estate Zinfandel: This wine boasts of a "Old world" origin and is 100% Zin, which was aged 16 months in French/American oak, now when I think of old world in this context they have me thinking of Primitivo. Although, recent research reported byWine Prosthat in Croatia and at the University of California at Davis, using "DNA profiling, has proved Zinfandel is a clone of the Croatian variety Crljenak" [so easy to say as well], so glad they cleared that up. That said, this wine hasdeep violet reflectionsin the core and is complemented bya unique, intense bouquet, spicy aromas, isfull bodied and conveys a velvety warmth on the palate. SRP $92 Premium Tasting

2009 Talking Frog - Hefe-N-Vine Lager: This is a really fun little number, and was the last thing I tried before taking a tour of the grounds. It's 100% wine with Hefeweizen beer characteristics thrown into the mixture. It's just delightful and frothy, and has a nice head on it shoulders depending on you pour it. A delicate touch of sweetness and the right amount of crispness to balance it out. They call it a dessert wine, umm not sure I wouldgive it that designation, but it's great to pair with anythingthat's is somewhat spicy, it wouldmake the perfect compliment.Funny thing about it, is after drinking it you realize why they call it Talking Frog [burpage action] is what follows afterward. Wink-wink! SRP $18:00 Standard Tasting

Full Disclosure:As an invited guest of Briar Rose, my tasting fees were waived and I left with a sample of their 2004 Petite Verdot.

Pricing and where to Purchase: Okay the pricing on wines on the Premium Tasting list do seem to be a bit excessive when compared to similar wines from regions that have more gravitas, while the wines from the Standard List are well within what I would call normal tasting room prices and offer the consumer a fair price for the value given. As far as places you are able to purchase these wines, there are one of two ways that can happen, either through the tasting room or you can purchase from their website and have them direct ship it to you.

My Recommendations: This is one of the "hidden gems" of the Temecula Valley wine scene and one not to be missed. So make an appointment and check it out for yourself,you won't be disappointed by the caliber of their wine. Their staff is friendly, gracious, and it's a great place to just sit back relax and sip on some winetastic vino. I really liked the 2004 Cabernet and thought it was best of what I tasted that day overall and would recommend getting a few bottle of "Talking Frog" and it's at a price point which encourages a case purchase.

Other Voices: Michael N. of Temeculahad this to say, "This is a winery for aspiring and experienced connoisseurs or people that can tell good wine from great wine." and several Internationaland National Wine Competitions Judges have awarded Briar Rose Winery 51 wine awards between 2007 and 2009 in local, national, and international wine competitions.

Okay I learned something new about finding aromas in the glass, check out the video and please tell me what you think, I know it's a bit noisey in the background, so you have to listen carefully. [I've never heard this any where else, but there seemed to be something to it]

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Cigars, Cognac and Belle De Brillet, Poire Williams Au Cognac

Date: Sat, Jun 5, 2010 Wine Tasting

Let's faceit, when it comes to wine and wine-making, the French stand alone. No other country has the breadth ofhistory orcan beatFrance in terms of its qualityor its sheer volume ofdiversity. While many of its regions like, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne are the most obvious and well known, for producing rare and highlysought-after wines, nearly as expensive as gold. If you just stop to take a look around thewine-strewn landscapethere are just as many obscurities and values to be had from little known appellations throughout the country and this is what I will being sharing with you today in this review of Belle De Brillet, Poire Williams Au Cognac.

Today, cognacis shedding its snobby smoking-jacket[think Captain Nemo] image as a country-club spirit and tossing aside the idea that it's only a rich man's drink and oddly finding itself mentioned in rap songs and being mixed in a new wave of innovative cocktails by mixologists coast to coast. Although this particular Cognac I'm reviewing today is a little different the the average Cognac you may have encountered, one it comes in a pair shaped bottle and two it is infused with about 20lbs [on average] of Poire Williams pears per 750ml bottle. Although this is predominantly a "wine-review" blog, since cognac is made from vitis vinifera type grapes and although classified as a spirit, I have made the decision to review this wonderful Cognac and if you try it for yourself you will no doubt agree the Belle De Brillet is fantastico. I have had the chance to sample other cognacs and I was not too impressed, I guess I have a bit of a "sweet-tooth" when it comes to cognac.

Today's Cognac Regionconsists of six cru appellations, which when tallied up equal about 185,000 acres and must be produced in the regions distinctive, chalky limestone soils. Grapes are still traditionally harvested in October and under-go two distinct distillation, the first being calledbrouillis [slightly cloudy liquid] and during the 2nd distillation a master distiller separates alcohol vapors, where a clear spirit emerges. Now this is where an important distinction lies this process I've described must be completed by the end of March or it will be labeled a brandy [a poor mans cognac], because while all cognac is brandy, not all brandy is cognac. Today's top Crus in order of quality are Grand Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois Bon Bois and Bois Ordinares and as with table wine each region is designated on each bottle's label.

After the 2nd distillation is complete the white wine which the French call eau de vie or the water of life, the cognac is transferred to oak casks made of 100 year old Sap and Heartwood trees, where it will stay for 2 years. This old wood is what transforms this clear liquid into the beautiful golden yellow color we know today, of course if it's allowed to more time to age its color is more amber than gold. After this time in barrel, the master blender will determine the blend and bottle a consumer ready cognac of with a minimum ABV of 40%, but since Poire Williams Au Cognac is not a pure varietal version of Cognac it's allowed to not this ABV requirement. [Unlike table wine,Cognac does not age in the bottle]

About Blending: Each Cognac blend will comprise 100 or more different lots of eau de vie [water of life].

First Swirl: In the glass it goes, but just a couple ounces this a something to savor; beautiful golden amber colored core and a light yellow rim and a viscous body.

First Sniff: Okay folks this is the very best part, if someone could put this smell into an aerosol can I would buy it by the case. Wonderful aromas of pear, smoke and the oak ageingimbues aromas such as vanilla, fruits and flowers,toast with a definite nose of alcoholic vapors, which can be alarming to newcomers. Long after this delightful libation has left the glass, the aromas linger on and on.

First Sip: Wow the very first time I had this was at the Wine Vault and Bistro here in San Diego who gave me a complimentary sample glass. It was mouth-filling and rich, but also delicate and fresh. I was totally blown away by how smooth it was, coating my palate with lushhighly refined notes of yumminess.I was expecting it to be somewhat "hot" like the nose, but nope just what I wouldcall "refined elegance". I definitely got the notes of ripe pears, caramel and Creme Brulee.

Composition: The grapes used to make Cognac are not your everyday household names, nope it's the Ugni Blanc [most widely planted], Folle Banche and Colombard and about twenty pounds of Poire Williams pears for blending.

Harvest & Ageing: The Brillet distillery is a "Bouilleur de Cru" distillery reserved exclusively for the production from Brillet's own vineyards. December to March sees the delicate traditional operation of Distillation Charentaise (2 times) in the Traditional Charentais Pot Still made from pure copper in a ritual unchanged since the17th century. The Brillet cellars assure the slow metamorphosis of the Pure Eau de Vie de Cognac but not without the heavy tribute in evaporation called "La past des Agnes". In order to guarantee the best original quality of the two Premiers Grand Crus of Cognac, the Brillet congacs are produced, aged in oak barrels and bottled separately "unblended".

Price and Where to Buy: I found it at theWine Vault and Bistrohere in San Diego, but there a number of places online where you can purchase this very tasty libation. It's selling anywhere between $40 and $50 and just as reminder many wine stores will not carry this simply because they don't have the license necessary to sell spirits, so know before you go. Even ifyour favorite retailer has it stock,it's not an item that will have a lot of depth in their inventory.

My Recommendation: This is a fantastic libation to have around the house at all times, since it's something you will be sipping over a period of months and not days. It makes for a great after dinner drink to sit back and enjoy with friends and some cigars or just to sip on its own. Makes a wonderfulany-time drinkand can easily be stored in the pantry without worrying about spoilage.

Cuvée Corner Wine Blog Score: Hey point seekers here's my score if your interested: This wine scored 95 points on theCuvéeCorner 100 point scale, and is a rock solid well made product, that will not disappoint.

Winemaker'sNotes: This, one of France's classic and great liqueurs, is the original blend of Brillet Cognac and the essence of Pears Williams (Poires Williams). The perfectly matured pears, carefully selected, were picked at their peak of ripeness, macerated, then blended with Fine Brillet Cognac.

Pairing Cognac and Cigars: This is one of my favorite pairings and of course notin thetraditional sense, thinking about the word pairing [matching food and wine]. That said, Cigars and Cognac are as old a combination as Napoleon and Josephine. Which begs the question; which cigar and which Cognac? According to Cigar Aficionado, "A light panetela would be as inappropriate with 30-year-old XO Cognac as a Muscadet is with a saddle of venison." well said and I would have to say I completely agree with the sentiment, thus choosing correctly is paramount to maximize your experience.
Max Cointreau, chairman of Cognac Pierre Frapin had this comment on the subject of pairing cigars and Cognac, "There are a range of Cognacs for cigars, such as a lighter VSOP with milder cigars, butany Grande Champagne Cognac can be good with a cigar". Similarly, master blender Jean-Marc Olivier recommends Courvoisier Napoleon as an excellent choice for all cigars. I would have to say, I agree more with Mr. Olivier more than Mr. Frapin and I definitely think the Poire William Au Cognac will make a "spot-on" companion to a majority of cigars, but my favorite is the Monte Cristo.

Other Voices: Well it appears the folks over at Wine Enthusiast really liked this cognac as well and scored it 96-100 points depending on which year they opened a bottle of this delightful elixir.

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Dining Out: 6 Tips on "How to Speak With a Sommelier"

Date: Tue, May 18, 2010 Wine Tasting

Having worked as a sommelier in the fine dining world for quite some time, I learned a lot from my customers. I learned common preferences and common qualms, how to recognize if someone is intimidated by the wine list, and how to deal with rather cranky tables. I learned that wine is an integral part of enjoying a meal, and that the happiest customers walk out not only having had great-tasting food and wine, but having had service that made the evening go so much more smoothly. I’d like to share some of my experience with you, to help you get the most of your money’s (and time’s) worth when eating out.

A quick note: sommelier is pronounced “sum-all-YAY” (I especially like the yay!). Not all restaurants have a designated sommelier; if not, you can simply apply the following tips with your server.

1. Be polite: This tip seems like a no-brainer, but it’s most definitely worth the top spot. You would be surprised at how many people are rude to restaurant servers – resulting in bad, or at the very least, sub-par service. Rude customers make servers reluctant to return to the table, to check on satisfaction, or to quickly attend to complaints.

On the other hand, a friendly, polite table will naturally encourage the server to not only give great service, but to go above and beyond. I always wanted to do something special for genuinely nice customers, whether they ordered the least or most expensive bottle on the wine list. By engaging in warm conversation, or simply smiling back at your server, you will often get special treatment – a glass of wine on the house, perhaps, or a specialty cocktail with dessert. Good manners go a long way in the restaurant business.

2. Ask for suggestions: No matter your price point, asking your sommelier for his or her suggestions can be a great value. A wine list is a sommelier’s baby – he or she will most likely have chosen with care some, if not all, of the wines available. The sommelier is incredibly familiar with the list, and though the restaurant must offer a wide range of styles and prices (that is, if the wine list is good), there will be a few gems that you may not recognize on your own. Think of ordering wine in restaurants as a great opportunity to explore – the mark-up is high, so don’t order a bottle that you could normally buy in your neighborhood shop for half the price. Ask for something special, and you will very likely be rewarded.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for a decanter: Decanting isn’t just for older, fine wines. Many wines, especially young,tannic reds, are helped by an hour or two of fresh air. Exposure to oxygen essentially speeds up the aging process, mellowing out harsh tannins and developing flavors. Technically, you may not need your wine decanted – that is, slowly pouring the wine into another container, to separate any accumulated solids from the liquid. You simply need to let the wine aerate for some time to enjoy it best while you’re eating out.

If the restaurant is more casual, and there are no decanters decanters available, ask your sommelier to open the wine and pour it into your wine glasses. Simply uncorking the wine and letting it sit in the bottle will not ensure proper aeration. Wine glasses (the bigger, the better) provide a greater air-to-surface area ratio. Let your wine open up while you enjoy cocktails or your first course.

4. Recommendations versus orders: Asking your sommelier for recommendations is a great way to try new wines; however, as said time and time again, taste is extremely subjective taste is extremely subjective. Even if your sommelier recommends something in line with your preferences (say, suggesting an Australian Shiraz to those who like full-bodied, fruit-forward wines), there is no guarantee that you will indeed like the wine. If you don’t like it, say it. A good sommelier will take the bottle away, recommend something different, or have you order something else – and absolutely not charge you for the wine you didn’t like (and didn’t drink).

When ordering on your own, though, you should be responsible for your choice. If you didn’t like that Australian Shiraz, and the wine was in fine condition, chalk it up to a learning experience. Ask if you can take the bottle home – laws vary from state to state, but if you can, bring the bottle with you, stick it in your refrigerator, and cook with it the next night.

5. Let your sommelier know if the wine is flawed: If you think something is off with your wine, let the sommelier know! While he or she may not be able to wave a wand over the wine to fix it, the sommelier can whisk the offending bottle away. Good service dictates that the sommelier should ask you if you 1) want to try another bottle of the same wine, or 2) ask if you would like to choose a different wine. I know people who are reluctant to send food or wine back, not wanting to be an annoyance. But the sommelier and the restaurant are extremely interested in keeping you happy (and keeping you spending money), so please, please, please – understand you deserve to enjoy the best possible experience while eating out.

6. Bring your own bottle: (and be happy to share) BYO (that is, Bring Your Own) restaurants provide the opportunity to enjoy good food, in a comfortable place, without requiring you to spend money on highly marked-up wines or be limited by the restaurant’s wine menu. Bringing your own wine to a restaurant means you have an extra level of freedom, to some degree, when dining out. However, bringing your own bottle (or bottles) also entails a certain degree of etiquette. It is not necessary, by any means, to offer your sommelier or server a taste of the wines you have brought, but it is certainly a nice gesture. An offer shows respect not only for your sommelier, but more importantly, for the wine you have chosen for the night. I always appreciated my customers asking me if I would like a taste of their wine – and isn’t enjoying wine with people what it’s all about?

Bringing your own wine still entitles you to proper wine service: chilling to achieve the right temperature, decanting or aerating, and good wine glasses. (A quick note: your restaurant may not have 10 different types of specialty wine glasses, but they should at least have clear glass stemware, large enough so that you can enjoy all the wine’s aromas.)

This great article was written by guest contributor, Jolan Turkingtonthe Director of Communications for a wine-making franchise called Vintner's Circle, she is a certified Sommelier and regular contributor to the The Unreserved.

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Smoking Hot and Full Bodied : The Flechas De Los Andes 2007 Malbec

Date: Sun, May 16, 2010 Wine Tasting

Hey San Diego wine fans here is another screaming deal, but this time I present you with a "take no prisoners" wine of huge proportions and it will cost you so very little. This wine is big, up in your face good. Once you pour it from the bottle the aromas immediately grab your attention, looking at the color and the taste bud tickling tasting, youimmediately realize what a great deal you got in purchasing this wine. If you only had bought one at the time, like I did and after consuming its absolute wonderfulness, you will like me run not walk to quietly pick up a case or more of this fantastic wine. This wine made me think of a song entitled the "Fire Within" from the Costa Del Sol Spanish Guitar Collection [which by the way is great music to play while writing].

If you are a big fan of Malbec like I am than you are most likely aware there is whatWine Spectator is calling "Malbec Madness" going on in the wine market place and folks are "Going-Gaga" over the fantastic flavor profile of this wine and at the price points they are selling for, is it any wonder that Malbecs from Argentina are theQPR champs and folks are lining-up [not literally, but you get the picture] around the block to get their hands on a great bottle. In fact in a recent article from WS, entitled Malbec Madenss,Mr. James Molesworth had this to say after reviewing over 600 Argentinean wines since last December 2008, and more than 50% of them Malbec or Malbec based blends, Wines Spectator’s lead taster on wines of Argentina, proclaims that "all the foundations are in place’ for Argentina’s success in the US wine market" this from their November issue of last year and to which I say in acavalier tone, "ya-think" ?

The Partnership: The owners of this Argentinean estate [Bodega Flechas de Los Andes]are Laurent Dassault, owner of [Grand Cru] Chateau Dassault in St. Emilion, and Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, with folks like this involved in this project, I was not really surprised at the caliber of this wine, but what did catch me off guard was the tiny price.

The Winery: Bodega Flechas de Los Andes is located at the foot of the Andes cordillera, to the south of Mendoza with a Duillet designed winery offering you a wine that is the a pure, top of the range Argentinean Malbec.

Treatment: The wine spent 14 months in 33% new French oak, 33% second fill French oak, and 34% in stainless steel.

The Terroir: The grapes for this wine are sourced from wonderful alluvial soils, which are prized in the world of viticulture, because it often produces grapes with a higher concentration of flavors.

First Swirl: After uncorking the bottle and only using the Centellino Areadivinoto decant the wine, I found tilting the glass to the side it had a gorgeous opaque garnet colored core and fleeing to cerise rim. Some folks are going over-board[warning: Will Robinson, please decant] on the decant recommendation on this wine, yes this is a big wine for a little price and I do agree further decanting would be helpful, but honestly right out of the gate it's a palate pleaser, make no mistake.

First Sniff: Giving it a good swirl, my senses are immediately enveloped in this robust Malbec, as it unleashes notes of blackberries, red currants, and blueberry which gets the taste buds watering.

First Taste: An excellent velvety body and a balanced structure finishing with sweet tannins. It will age elegantly but who can resist drinking this now, I dare say I couldn't as I'm relishing each and every sip.

Pairing Suggestions: These tips are brought to you by,Malbec Onlywho thinks you should "be sure you pair it with asado de tira (short ribs with the bone), flank steak, New York steak, or a rich piece of lamb." Which I wouldn't disagree with, but I had it with someyummy pre-made hamburger pattyfrom Trader Joe's, onions, peppers andSwiss cheese, home made crispy friesand this wine went freak'g fantastically with my chosen pairing.

The Big Brother: What a lot of other wine reviewers don't tell you is that this wine has a "big-brother" the Gran Corte 2006 Flechas de los Andes from Baron Edmund de Rothschild estate in Mendoza.This is what they are callingtheir flagship wine; a blend that includes 57% Malbec, 35% Syrah, and 8% Merlot. This winehas already received wonderful adulation from the print critics, with average scores topping 94 points and the best part folks, another tiny price, selling for $35 to which I say wow! So much wine, for such a little price or as some criticslike to point out another hedonistic wine for the Californian palate. I say so be it, bring it on!

Where to Purchase: You can pick up this beauty at your local San Diego Costco, wherethey are selling it for a mere $14.99 each. I seen other places online selling it for similar prices and also as high as $24.99.

Cuvée Corner Wine Blog Score: Hey point seekers here's my score if your interested: This wine scored 95 points on the Cuvee Corner 100 point scale, because the price point on this wine and the caliber of it's quality makes the QPR off the charts.

Other Voices: Okay so maybe your thinking, "I need another opinion" well here ya go this wine received 92 Parker Points and hehad this to say thisvery good juice: "The Flechas de Los Andes’ 2007 Gran Malbec was opaque,deeply purple-colored, it reveals a brooding bouquet of cedar, espresso, violets, and black cherry. Medium- to full-bodied, on the palate it borders on opulence, with layers of succulent fruit, a smooth texture, spicy flavors, and a lengthy finish. It admirably combines power and elegance and perhapsover delivers in a very big way."

My Recommendation: Ummm, what the heck are you waiting for? Get your happy little self down to Costco or where everyou can find it and stock up. Like I said, this is a run don't walk recommendation, so you better hot foot it down to your local wine store and grab a case before they are all gone. The summer grilling season is upon us and you don't won't miss out on this fantastic deal.

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A new day in Chianti, Brancaia Chianti Classico 2006

Date: Wed, May 12, 2010 Wine Tasting

Hey San Diego wine shopping fans, are you looking for a great Chianti Classico? One made in a modern style, sure to please even the most sophisticated palate while not emptying the pockets, if you answered yes to both questions great, read on because this time my review will revolve around another great wineand this time my palate travels to the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany in Italy.

Chianti Classico is one of my favorite places in the world and Iactually had the pleasure [and some pain] oftraveling to this great and historic wine makingregion. This is the second wine I've reviewed from Brancaia and if you not familiar with that review, I would recommend taking a look there first before you continue reading here, it's entitled "Putting the "Super" in Super Tuscan".It gives a lot more background on Brancaia than I will be accomplishing in this review today.

I know here I go again dipping into the pool of unadulterated honesty for which I'm sure I'll draw fire froma fewcirclesfor thisclaim, but here it goes; I believetruthfully thatwines [which can be quite dry and tannic in their youth] from theChianti regioncan be both exciting and frustrating at the same time, because there are as many duds, as there are wines of wonder and amazement.Even among the[Denominazione di Orogine Controllata e Garantita] DOCGwhich designates aproducer of Chianti Classico, where you should find the familiar Black Chicken on the neck of the bottle. According toJancis Robinson, who notes that "Chianti is sometimes called the "Bordeaux of Italy",as the flexibility in the blending recipe for Chianti accounts for some of the variability in styles among Chiantis." That said, when I find a great producer of Chianti, I get very excited and it's from this wellspring of excitement that I tell you it's a "new-day" inChianti Classico andit's with great pleasure Ipresent to you once more, Brancaia.

You may be asking why did I entitle this review a new day in Chianti? That's a good question,thepremise of this "new-day" This pushing of the envelope,may be seen by some as "nuvo" or un-traditional andwhile this may be true, it should not obscure the fact that Brancaia is producing some [nope I didn't appreciatethem all]truly fantastic wines,whichare true to theconceptofterroirand in my mindmany of their winesare a good example of what the region is capable of producing in the right hands.

To me this is what Brancaia certainly represents, asa new wave of producers in Chianti are thinking outside the traditional parametersinChianti Classico, byintroducing Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to their Sangiovese dominated blends and the use of French Oak barrels [some Tuscan winemakers consider anyone using French oak to be a non-traditionalist].
First Swirl: After uncorking the bottle, [sorry Stelvin fansChianti Classico only uses cork] and if you ask them about screw caps they just look at you like you must be from "outer-space". In the glass this winehas adeep colored garnetcore, followed by a cerise colored rim, evidencedby thevivid color lurking in my glass.

First Sniff: Giving the wine a fewgood swirls, its aromatics open to reveal a super-elegant expression of fresh berries, and tobacco.

First Sip: The mouth feel reveals asumptuous expression of darkfruits, medium in weight, with a nice offsetbetween the fruit and herbal characteristics whichmakes the wine very appealing today, while its sufficient tannic clout is enough to suggest allowingit toage for a few years to come.

Composition: 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot

Full Disclosure: So if you're wondering how I was able to get my hands on a bottle, well the fine folks at the Hess Collectionwho are the importers of this fine wine sent a sample to me. But my first encounter with Brancaia was in Italy and this is where I fell in love with their wines.

Price and where to purchase: Okay San Diego wine fans grabbing some of this wine is going to be a little tougher than I thought, as itis not sitting on any shelf just waiting for you to come and get it. If you really want this wine [Ihighly recommend it], the [sole] distributor Young’s Market [but without a liquor license you can't buy it] hasplenty in stock but the majority of wine stores in San Diego would require you to purchase it by the case to keep the price in the reasonable range and by that I mean selling anywhere between $32.99 and $39.99,for specific prices please speak to your respective wine retailer. I spoke with the San Diego Wine Companyand with Vintage Wines Limited of San Diegowho both said they would order it for you, but you would need to speak with them regarding the arrangements of acquiring this wine.

My Recommendation: Because of the situation this wine is in,it may mean splitting a case with a friend or a few friends, who love a Chianti Classico like you do or maybe you could talk your favorite wine store into acquiring a few cases as a wise move to accommodate their customers. Whatever you do, I want to highly recommend this modern style of Chianti Classico to you, please give it a swirl and let me know your thoughts, I don't believe you will be disappointed, cheers.

Cuvée Corner Wine Blog Score: Hey point seekers here's my score if your interested: This wine scored 92 points on the Cuvee Corner 100 point scale and the QPR is very good. Another very well made wine worthy of a place in your cellar or at your dinner table.

Other Voices: In case you need another opinion about awine that I've found most tasty,I give youMr. James Suckling from WS [Wine Spectator]had this to say about the 2006 Brancaia Chianti Classico, "Shows plenty of crushed blackberry and cherry, with hints of flowers. Full-bodied, with a solid core of fruit and silky tannins that turn to vanilla and raspberry on the finish." and recommendsto drink [good idea] now through 2014 and gave thiswine a score of 91pts.

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