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Wine Word of the Day: Structure

Date: Wed, May 22, 2013 Wine Tasting

Here's an article I wrote at the request of theStan the Wine Manwho has done some great work defining words, that we in wine-geek-dom use on a regular basis. You can finish reading the article on via Stan's Blog and be sure to follow his many wineadventuresviatwitter.

"The characteristic of Brunello is its longevity," Biondi Santi told Wine Spectator last year."Nature is capable of creating beautiful things—you just have to wait."

And in order for you to wait for that wine to mature, then said wine needs to have the stuffing to go the long-haul [aka longevity]. That’s something we wine-geeks call structure.

Let’s face it, not all wine is created equal and I know, I know that’s not whatyou'veheard from your friends around the wine-cooler. But stick with me, all will be explained below.

And for the average garden-variety vino-sapien out there, you probably don’t care too much about a wines structure. But let me frame it this way; a wine without good structure is like having that second cup of coffee brewed from the grounds of the first cup. Now you feel me don’t you?

Like the quote above from the Godfather of Brunello, if a wine is meant to go the long-haul which much of Brunello is, it’s going to need structure. And like any building, structure in wine is the foundation, for which every other component in the wine hangs upon.

It was just the other day; I tasted through some very elegant and interesting Italian vino which got me to thinking about a wines structure and what does that really mean anyway. Some were what I call everyday drinkers, not much too them but in the short term they were very tasty and got the job done.

Now this is where the nerd-meets-the-herd [eye-roll] it’s time to define what all this talk about structure means to you and to the wines you may or may not be consuming. [Read More]

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Travel Tuesday: Ten Tasting Room Tips

Date: Tue, May 21, 2013 Wine Tasting

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —I took the oneless traveledby, And that has made all the difference.~ Robert Frost

Wine tasting as a"vacation focus"is a growing segment in thetravelindustry. It's something I can personally attest to; seeing most of my own vacations have become wine-vacations. And even though it was nearly ten years ago and as cheesy as that sounds, it could be saidthe continued popularity of the film“Sideways(2004)” continuesinspire folks to plansimilartrips.

The month of May is typically the time of year when many folks are thinking about aquick road trip. With the upcoming long Memorial Day weekend loomingmany vineyards and wineries will open up their tasting rooms to the public and some, for the first time all year.

For example one of my favorite wineries on the Orgundian Trail isPatricia Green Cellars, which has a fantastic Open-House Memorial Day weekend. If you happen to be in the area, you should definitely make a point to stop by to taste some the best Pinot Noir in Oregon.

When you do go wine-tasting, it’s typical to beallowed to sample a handful of wines fora fee [I know shocking right?].Some are aupwards of $50 per tasting for some of the top producers in the Napa Valley like Opus One. But most tend to be in the $10 range per person and you’ll typically sample 3-4 wines.As a bonus some will let you keep thelogo-ed Riedelglass, if you like having an assorted stem-ware collection.

Many wineries offer educational tours of the facilities which are terrific for first timers who’d like to get"beyond the bottle".And please be aware that many of these opportunities need to be booked ahead of time, so please plan accordingly.

1. WINE CLUBS:So thereyou are in the wine tasting room where you will see and hear offers to become a wine club member. It's a great opportunity to stock up on wine you won't see at your local grocery store or in your favorite wine shop. But you will often pay a bit more than retail.

Another great thing about a “wine-club"is that if you live close by, you can really benefit from going to pick-up parties, concerts and various other "cool" activities many wineries having going on during the summer months.

So don’t wince the next time you hear the words,"would you like to join our wine club?"embrace the wine club and you’ll save on average20-30 %off a wine you would most likely purchase anyways.

2. Hot Days: Since were on the topic ofpurchases it's good to remember to bring a large cooler with you to keep your wine cool while it sits in the car, keep the windows cracked open a little, it can get real warm in wine country.

3. Planning:I’ve readDorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher formerOpen that bottle Columnistsat the WSJ, who I think have oddly recommended it's best to "not have a plan". Insteadthey'veencouraged folks to randomly drive through wine country and just show up to any tasting room you may find open. Uh, okay while thismay sound great in theory, in my experience it will most likely end in disappointment.

From my many trips to wine country; even a little planning will go a long way to maximizing your experience. Not only for you and those with you, but everyone else you may encounter. Managing expectations is a prime key to the

4. Maps:
Order your wine country map ahead of time [or print it out]and bring it with you on thetrip. This will allow you preview the wineries you plan to visit before yourtrip, so you are somewhat familiar withthe area and ithelps you visualize your itinerary for each day, even if you haveGPS.

It's is helpful to locate and/or group wineries with relatively close proximity. Lastly, make some dinner reservations ahead of time; this will save you a lot of frustration and make you look like a genius.The OpenTable app,is a great resource for making reservations.

5. APPOINTMENTS:Don’t be discouraged if they are byappointment only,it's not an obstacle. It’s simply a tool to manage their time more effectively and these arrangements can be done easily via email [winery staff and winemakers are some of the busiest and hardworkingfolks I know].

But on the flip side this can be some of the best times you will have tasting wine, because often times the winemaker or proprietor is the one hosting your appointment and they are very eager to give you their wrapped attention and can interact with you on a much more personal level.

Make sure you keep your appointment, call ahead to remind your host of your arrival andshow up on timeand if you have to cancel please call them at least day ahead, that is just good form.

6. The Barrel Room: Another thing to keep in mind, is that some appointmentsare located in their barrel-room. A place which is often a very cool57degrees and while great for maturing wine, it can be a little uncomfortable. So I'd take a jacket with just in case, even if it's80degrees outside.

This happened to Mrs. Cuvee and I once while atPatricia Green Cellarsin when we were still wine-tasting newbie’s. The other couple who were at the appointment were quite cold; they especially since they had only sunny-day garments, my wife and I fared a little better with our sweaters, but it was still cold.

7. ARRIVE EARLY:Another goodrule of thumb regarding tasting room visits is to get there early [the popular places will fill up fast and this will minimize your experience]. I can not stress this point enough, because as you may knowsome wineries are"super-popular" and you may not make it to the [tasting-area] bar at all.

Most tasting rooms will be open by10or11in the morning and they start closing up by5in the evening, this why I recommend only going to3to4TR’s a day, it’s no fun rushing through a tasting.

5. DRINK OR SPIT: Stay hydrated,and make sure to have a designated driver. They should most likely not be sampling any wine at all. But, if you do I recommend spitting everything, and having a large breakfast. And for everyone else remember you really only there to sample [taste] the wines and not drink them.

6. Pours: Don't feel bad if you don't like the wine, just pour it out and move onto the nextwine in their line-up. By the way, if you’re in-between pours please don’t pour the water sitting on the bar to rinse your glass or allow the tasting roomstaff to do that either. In my experience this will only dilute your next pour; ideally you only want to rinse your glass with wine or just ask for a new glass.

7. TASTING MENUS:In my experience ifI have a choice between the reserve tasting and the everyday tasting, I go all-in on the reserve. If you’re on the tasting trail with someone else, try sharing the tasting.

*Another point to remember is many times the tasting fee will be comp’d if you make a purchase.

8. SHIP ORHOLD: This will mainly be determined bywhat methodyou may have arrived at yourdestination. For exampleif you drove to wine-country, you can save yourself some money on shipping.

If you've flown to your destination, you will most likely opt to have your wine shipped home, unlessyou'veflown via Southwest or Alaska Airlines who offer a 2nd bag which can be checked for free.

If shipping home I would recommend sending it to a work address, because the shipper will need to have someone sign for your wine.

If you only plan to buy a few bottles you can easily put it in your "checked" luggage, [just watch the weight] which I have done successfully many times without anything other than my clothing protecting them from breakage. I brought nearly a case home in my luggage from Italy and not even one casualty, knock on wood.

9. WINES NOT SOLD RETAIL:One other thing to consider is to ask about the winesyou may havetasted, which are not sold outside of the tasting room. I would recommend purchasing those bottles, over a winewhich is available via your retail wine store shelf.
10. HAVE A BUDGET: This is a very good idea; because it is far too easy to go overboard. This will cause you to really be morefocused and fastidiousabout the wines you just can’t live without and save you some headaches down the road.

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Wine Tasting: Rules of the Road

Date: Tue, May 7, 2013 Wine Tasting

Some people drink from the fountain of knowledge, others just gargle. ~Robert Anthony

Rules, rules, rules they're everywhere and, just about anywhere one may look these days. But, if you're ever in doubt about what the rule is, then there's the always the good old "rule of thumb" or that old fashion notion of common sense. But as we all know, some folks just don't take the time to think about rules when it comes time to visit their favorite winery and/or wine tasting room.

So what about the "rules" for going wine-tasting? What are they? Should there be any? I think there should be and so do many other seasoned vino-sapiens. So whether you're going wine-tasting for the weekend in Napa or Sonoma or you're planning to visit a wine-festival, a portfolio tasting, or just the average garden-variety wine tasting, it's important to understand a few rules before hitting the wine-trail.

Seeing I've been to my share of tasting-rooms and wine-festivals, I thought this video would be a good idea to help the average vino-sapien understand the rules-of-engagement sort-a-speak and, more importantly the view-point from the other side of the tasting table/bar. Please remember while you're on the path to wine discovery, you're going to be wine-tasting not wine drinking.
As we all know, life is short, so remember until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

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Bordeaux Uncorked: 2009 La Croix de Beaucaillou, St-Julien

Date: Sun, May 5, 2013 Wine Tasting

"A man will be eloquent if you give him good wine." --- Ralph Waldo Emerson

After a period of great mourning; an invitation can shine like a light in a dark place. That invitation, an opportunity to sample a wine from one of very best vintages of the eighties; in fact one of the best come along since the 1970. TheChateau Ducru Beaucaillou 1982, which would be uncorked later that evening. I had no idea what a treat laid ahead, but I knew it was going to be wine-tastic evening full of firsts.

But first-up would be the outstanding2009 La Croix de Beaucaillou, St-Julien, a wonderfully approachable Bordeaux, that has enough structure [don't miss this point] to go the long haul in your cellar, but the way this wine is drinking at the very moment, why wait. And that is the point of this wine, made in a style that will appeal to the California "palate" fleshy, fun and flush with flavor. Personally I'd buy a half dozen and, drink one each over the next six years to see how they mature.

Reportedly; a blend of 75%CabernetSauvignon and 25% Merlot [pH 3.69] and rested in 60% new oak for what I’m guessing was some 12 months. This wine is a seamless beauty, very generous black and red fruit, subtle licorice, cedar, rich earth, which comes nicely wrapped in supple, well honed tannins. Now take a gander at the color in that glass, via the image below, gorgeous right?

Just nosing the wine alone is amazing, a plume of rich Cabernet perfume runs to greet you right away, welcoming the first sip.A boat-load of head-turning aromas; cherry fruit intertwined with hints of wood smoke, sweet-vanilla and fresh earth. I scored this wine 93 points and highly recommend it to you.

In light of the fact, that it does not have a first-growth chateau, it’s sometimesan unfairly overlooked region. But that lack of claim to first-growth fame can make for some tasty bargains.

Reportedly, the owner Bruno Borie in speaking with Stephen Tanzer of International Wine Cellar fame said that "starting with our 2005 vintage, that the La Croix de Beaucaillou would become a wine of terroir." Now he [Mr. Tanzer] scored this wine 87-90 points, but he also said "this looks to be the best Croix ever" which seems to contradict the low score.

"So rather than only including grapes from Ducru's youngest or less favorably situated vines [fruit that now goes into private labels], "the Croix is made only with the grapes of certain specific parcels.” ~ Stephen Tanzer

As you can see my low-light image of the bottle did not turn-out as well as I hoped it would, but this amazing wine was none-the-less a shining star of flavor and finesse, after some near 30 years in the bottle.

You’ll find Saint-Julien, sandwiched in-between the more famous appellations ofPauillacandMargaux, but also nicely balanced.Many vino-sapiens know Saint-Julienas one of the smaller but still importantappellationof theHaut-Medoc an area found in south-westBordeaux. Sad to say, but the importers of this great wine Woltner and Co.appear to have gone out of business.

Hovering over the glass a moment; beautifully aged aromas escape slowly from the glass, filling the air just above with a sweet cedar box and forest floor aromas. Bumping up against the wall of the glass plum colors give away to garnet and brick colors and, sediment lies lazily in the glass.

Meanwhile after the first slurp; spice box, more cedar, and dark licorice, dried dark plum and other red fruits entice you. What at time of bottling must have been a full-bodied, solidly structured wine has beautifully matured over the decades. Becoming a wine which easily shares it pure with sweet tannins. An amazing and unforgettable experience to say the least about a wine I’m scoring 94 points.

I will leave you with the words of Mr. Leonard Cohen who said; "Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash." Until next time folks remember life is so short, sip long and prosper cheers!

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Blast from the Past: 1963 Cockburn's Vintage Port

Date: Thu, May 2, 2013 Wine Tasting

“Talents are best nurtured in solitude. Character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.” - Von Goethe

It's not often you can jump into a time machine of sorts and go back to the year you were born, but I had the good fortune to do just that last Sunday.

One of the funny things about vino-sapiens and just people in general is the fact that most folk’s historical context starts the day they were born.But with a quick look-back into the history books, you'll see that here in states 1963 was atumultuous year to say the least.

Many may recall it was JFK, who inspired his country to find its way to the moon and, who also tragically lost his life just two years after making that announcement. It was also the year when many folks heard MLK give his "I've a Dream" speech to hundreds of thousands of American's gathered at the national mall.

Musically speaking; the Beatles were taking the UK by storm, while the Stones sang songs many fansprobablywould not recognize today. And the very first celebrity chef appears on TV,French ChefwithJulia Childdebuts via an educational-television program.

The iconic cold-war era "red-phone" isestablished between DC and Moscow and it's also happens to be the year I was born.It was during these times, that Cockburn'swas alsopleased as punch to announce their decision to declare 1963 as a Vintage year.

The Symington family who recently acquired Cockburn’s has now taken ownership of this once great port empire. They are well aware of what many had called “The golden age of Cockburn’s”. It was during this golden-age which produced many legendary wines, [ports] like 1896, 1908, 1927 and the1963which I recently sampled.

They believe that by identifying that "style" from their hey-days, one which had brought them tremendous success in the past, that the family can [hopefully] recapture that essence for the future. I'd say that is a good bet, if they can pull it off. Their newest "declared" vintage is 2011, but I don't think I'll be around in 50 years to taste whether or not they havesucceeded.

The wine held up beautifully over the years and, the cork came out without a hitch. In the glass you can clearly see, the ruby color starting to fade and, starts picking up more garnet and brick edge colors. It was decanted for about an hour or so before dipping into what can only described as sheer delight. If you would like to grab a bottle of this for yourself, please stop byBird Rock Fine Winefor your own amazing birth-year experience.This is my first time sipping of wine with this much bottle age and wow what a special treat it was, big-time thanks to Ken for the invite.

Splashing down from the decanter to my glass, grabbing more air, the fruit gained a bit more plum-like character, while at the same time dialing up a bit more complex dried fruit characteristics. Bang-bang right out of the gate this port is nicely integrated, showing cherry, dark-plum, baking-spice, subtle choc-truffle, great depth and hints of fig on the nose and palate and perhapssurprisinglyso, a nice verve of acid to carry the still abundant fruit. It was nothing but sheer drinking pleasure and paired ever so nicely withpecorinocheese. Until next folks please remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

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Wine of the Week: 2007 Poggio Basso Chianti Classico Riserva

Date: Wed, Apr 17, 2013 Wine Tasting

“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.” – Arnold Bennett

Many times in the course of selling wine to the public I find that the average vino-sapien is quite opposed to change. They want the same "Wine-Experience" over and over and when I do offer an alternative like the wine you see in the picture above, they run away shrieking in horror.

All because they just can't not imagine taking wine-risk and they run willy-nilly back to the comfort of the same formulaic brand that they are use to. That to me is one of the saddest things I hear coming from the lips of folks who I know dig wine like I do, but they're just too scared to venture through the door of discovery, hell they won't even dip a toe in the pool. For crying-out-loud people it's just a bottle of wine, not a life-time altering event.

I popped the cork on this rustic beauty just last night a delicious classic style of Chianti Classico; which went [paired] amazingly well with a gorgeous classic Margherita Pizza Mrs. Cuvee and I dined upon last night.
The wine was the perfect accompaniment, just playing some nice base tones in the background and at the same time enhancing the experience. The wine sells most places for a SRP of $20 and I gave it a score of 90 points making it a QPR star.

It’s sad, but most folks have almost knee jerk reaction to Chianti, they think of the wicker basket bottles, but don't let that false perception stop you because those same wines have evolved far past that point. If anyone will just take the time to investigate, they'll find many very good producers who I know if given the chance, will help change many minds and hearts about these very tasty, yet truly authentic Tuscan wines.

The Poggio Basso is a well executed wine with has "classic" written all over it, 100% Sangiovese goodness from the first splash in my glass to the very last drop. A stinky nose, whichmade me thinkrich dry earth, cracked, sun-beaten leather and fruit all came together at some point. After the first splash, polished tannins, dried fruits reminding me of dark plums dark red-cherries and, yes you could taste the pit.

A small factoid about
Italy’s most planted grape known as Sangiovese. It’s a small [smaller the better] dark-berried grape and, one that has really become synonymous with the majority of the red wines from the Tuscanyregion. But of course not everyone plants the same clone of Sangiovese, so that said never forget clonesmatter.

Weighing in at just 13% abv and nicely textured, it made for the perfect food pairing wine. While we chose pizza, I could imagine seeing this wine pair nicely with large variety Italian recipes. Until next folks remember sip long and prosper cheers!

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Travel Tuesday: The Frugal Wine Taster

Date: Tue, Apr 16, 2013 Wine Tasting

”The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. ~ Benjamin Franklin

The voyage of discovery is a fun experience in and of itself, but add to fact, the discovery of finding great new wines makes the trip all the merrier. But for many the cost of wine-discovery can add up quite quickly, so many opt to just stay home and drink the same wines they have always enjoyed.

But what if I told, there was a way to get some complimentary wine-tastings in a great location known and loved by many, called Sonoma County. Would you hoot, would you holler or perhaps just load up the wine-wagon with friends and family and make your way out to wine-country for the weekend?

I'm thinking that you in fact would find a-way to free-up sometime on that busy work-free weekend. So here's the good-news; Visa Signature and Sonoma County Vintners offer cardholders the following year-round benefits at over 60 select Sonoma wineries:*
  • Two unique complimentary tastings per cardholder
  • Savings on wine purchased same day in Tasting Room and non-wine purchases
  • Savings on Reserve tastings and special wine-and-food pairings.
  • Complimentary tasting details and benefits vary by winery and you may wish to call ahead to confirm winery benefits.
So if you happen to have a Visa Signature Card* then you are luck; as any cardholder is going to be able to get a sip of the good life for free. Yep you heard me right "free", however see their website for complete details [because restrictions do apply].
To make this great offer, even easier there's a printable map which directs you to all the participating wineries. With over 60 included on the list; I'm pretty sure you'll find one that floats your boat. After quickly perusing the list; I see many of my favorites like Rodney Strong, Roth, Rued, Seghesio and Twomey Cellars to name a few.

Seems like a pretty good deal for the wandering wino and great way to kick-off what might otherwise be just a dull weekend. So your get your empty glass over to Sonoma and give those wines a swirl.

The weather is perfect right now and again it's a great time to hang in Sonoma County. While you're there, I would recommend having lunch or dinner at the The Girl and the Fig a fun gastronomical experience not to be missed. So until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

Wine Enthusiast 4-Pc. Fusion Infinity Pinot Noir Wine Glass Set

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Get in the Gap: 2011 Bruliam Gap's Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir

Date: Mon, Apr 15, 2013 Wine Tasting

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” - Winston Churchill

I'm fortunate to work at one of San Diego's very best and newestwine shops, located what I like to say is a stones throw away from the beach in the Bird Rock area of La Jolla, the shop is called Bird Rock Fine Wine.If you've not been there and you consider yourself akeen vino-sapien, than you owe it to yourself to stop by for visit.

I say fortunate becasue I've been able to give up writing about or have the need to accept samples for my blog. I get to taste so many different wines week to week, thatI honestly have enough material for hundreds of reviews. To be quite honest it's greatly liberating to say the least; I write about the wines that come into the shop [or the wines I buy] as I see fit, without a need to worry about agendas.

But as quickly as that was said, in the course of #WineStudio and/or #WineChat activities wine samples will be accepted via Protocol Wine Studio for the purpose of exploring the wines provided by guests appearing in either of thosevenues. I hope folks will continue to join us via twitter on either of those nights for our fun, fasinating and to me very informative conversations.

Now about the wine in today's spotlight from a producer I've long admired and one I think everyone in the wine-community should know about and support via wine purchases. They're a relatively new producer known as Bruliam Wines, where indeed as their motto indicates "Wine is Elemential" an idea tasted in each new release. You may also be surprised to find out that 100% of their profits goes to charity, if you'd like to know more than I'd encourage to find out more here.

Having spoken with many winemakers this year and last up and down the west coast, I've come away with one conclusion that 2011 is going to be tough vintage for many producers. If you recall here in San Diego, 2011 was the year we reallydid not have a summer, it was cloudy and gray all for nearly the entire year.As 2011 starts to makeits way to the shelves of your favorite wine store, means paying closer attention to the critics to find the gems is good advice.

Which is why I wanted to highlight this bottle for you, because this folks is one of the gems from 2011 thatshould score for your own cellar. The Gap’s Crown, a Sonoma Coast vineyard which also supplies Pinot Noir to top producers like Kosta Browne and others.

Infact winemaker Michael Browne[of Kosta Browne] stated thatthe fruit from this vineyard [Gap's Crown] siteis "the backbone" of theirSonoma Coast Pinot Noir. A vineyard easily located in the "Petaluma Gap"of Sonoma County; which in fact was reported tohavesold earlier this year foran aveage of100K an acre, an incredible threshold to have reached in so short of time.

So even in tough vintages like 2011, it's still entirely possible to make fantastic wines, but with an entirely different expression than you may be use to in the warmer years. A different expression is you have in this Bruliam 2011 Gap's Crown Pinot Noir, an elegant, but at the same time powerful expression of Pinot Noir.I'm giving this wine 93 points, it's an outstanding representation of the quality this vineyard has to offer.

Lovely floral aromas stream easily from the glass, this is a richly textured wine, beaming with bright red-berry fruit, a hint of tea leaves and well rounded tannins. It's a wine I'd lay down for bit, as you wittle away some the 09's you may have socked away already.

Kerith Overstreet [winemaker], did a masterful job in this effort and, it was great seeing her again at Bird Rock Fine Wine the other day. Presently there are two of her other wines on the shelves, one is amazing Rock Pile Zin, and from what I hear, that is the last of the lot to be found anywhere.

If you live in San Diego and you'd like to taste some of wines dicussed in this article, than you my friends are luck. They're having a Spring Release party, so if you're interested there's still time to register for the event.

The price of wine will depend how many cases of it's purchased and/or deals that may have been struck, but remember no matter the price you pay, 100% of the proceeds go to charity. Until next time folks remember sip long and prosper cheers!

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Burgundy Uncorked

Date: Sun, Apr 14, 2013 Wine Tasting

Burgundy makes you think of silly things, Bordeaux makes you talk of them and Champagne makes you do them. ~ Jean-AnthelmeBrillat-Savarin

When I purchased these wines the other day [the one you see pictured above and the one just below] Ken, the store owner asked me if I had an addictive personality. I hastily replied "no not really, but why do you ask" he said "because once you put two feet inside the door of Burgundy, it's hard to find your way back" a word to the wise, perhaps.

His question did give me some pause, but I assured him that, "no-no I'm just an explorer on the vine-covered trail" and that this excursion would be no different than any of many others I've taken before. But his admonition got me thinking, are those possibly famous last words [gulp] in light of having been awe-struck by both bottles in very different ways. I'm already considering replenishing those two bottles.

The 2009 Les Longeroies seen above is the third wine from Marsannay, whichI've experienced in just the last few weeks. This bottlewhile not expensive, a mere $27 was no slouch in the delicious category. A wine boasting of the rich, ripe fruit [but not flabby] many of wines of this vintage experienced, a wonderfully terroir-driven wine, that while very exuberant in style, it had a nice counter balance of acidity driving the wine home. I scored this wine 90 points, it's highly recommended.

The color of the surprised me a bit, thinking it would look lighter, but in the glass it looked like a ripe summer plum. Mrs. Cuvee and I paired this beauty with a freshly baked Shepard's Pie, our ticket to tasty town.
As you can see from the map above both wines are from nearly both ends of the Burgundian spectrum Marsannay in the north and Chassagne-Montrachet in the south. In the southern end of Burgundy is where you [surprisingly to some] find the majority of the white-Burgundy coming from and in the north is where most of the red-Burgundy is found. It does seem a bit counter intuitive, but nonetheless that is the case.

As many of already know Chassagne-Montrachet is in the Côte de Beaune and, is famous for its great white-wines [Chardonnay]. The most famous of these is of course Montrachet, known to many as the king of white wines, seeing these wines can fetch some lofty prices.

While 60% of the production is white-wines, that leaves a good percentage red-wines [Pinot Noir] produced here that cannot compete with their northern neighbors. But while they may not be able to compete, these wines are no slouch, especially in great vintages like 2009 and 2010. Of course, that fact will greatly benefit the average vino-sapien looking for reasonably priced Burgundy.

To find a Chassagne-Montrachet rouge is pretty rare in the first place and the price was pretty uncommon as well [under $25]. Seeing most of the white wines bearing this appellation name typically sell for prices much more than what I paid for the bottle you see pictured below.

This [2010 Chassagne-Montrachet] wine was very light in color, more like a light cranberry/strawberry. The nose jumped from the glass right away, fresh summer strawberries, raspberry puree, rich-earth, dried-florals and even a whiff of rhubarb. I didn't want to take my nose away even to grab my first slurp, but I resisted, dove right in and wow everything I experience in the nose exploded across my palate like a broad-side from a pirate-ship of old.

This wine danced to the tune of sweet cherry-pie and threw in some crushed stone just for good measure. I was completely taken by this wines power and strength, but I was done in by its finesse. Wow, what a thrill ride where the price of admission, has you saying like a six-year at Disney-Land "can I do that again, can I huh, please". My score for this wine is 92 points.

I didn't have to spend to much coin either, both wines make for quite the amazing tasting adventure, one I would highly recommend you taking soon yourself. Mrs. Cuvee was out of town, so yes I took one for the team and finished the bottle. I paired this wine with baked-salmon, a freshly chopped spinach salad and a mushroom risotto.

Until next time folks remember to slurp long and prosper cheers!

Full Disclosure: Neither of the wines above was given to me as a sample, both were paid for via my own funds.

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Travel Tuesday: The Ten Top Reasons to Visit Bordeaux

Date: Tue, Apr 9, 2013 Wine Tasting

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

A timely travel article written by guest contributor; Pascale Bernasse, president of French Wine Explorers and, a great source for planning authentic wine and culinary experiences in France. You can also follow them via twitter @FrWineExplorers

The Bordeaux region famously well known for its fine wine, it also offers so much more. The summer travel season is nearly upon us, so we'd like to give you our top ten reasons to plan a tour to Bordeaux and find out why this region is so much more than just grapes to glass.

1. Try the wine: Bordeaux produces many types of wine, from dry whites to dessert whites, reds, rosés, and even effervescent wines (crémant). Some of the most prestigious estates of the world are located in Bordeaux. The region does not only produce grand crus or expensive wines; in fact, those wines account for only 2% of the overall production of the region! So there are many opportunities to discover a few new favorites to add to your cellar.

2. Visit the city of Bordeaux:The city of less than 300,000 people is easy to navigate and is one of our favorite cities in France. The historic center boasts 18th century architecture and rivals Paris for the most historical monuments in France. A Unesco World Heritage Site with over 340 historic monuments, a city center that is modern and clean, and plenty of great restaurants and shopping make Bordeaux attractive for all.

3. Visit St. Emilion: The picturesque village of St. Emilion is located on the Right Bank of the Garonne. Merlot is king on the Right Bank with the appellation of Saint Emilion and its satellites, Pomerol and Lalande-de-Pomerol. Saint Emilion has some of Bordeaux’s oldest vineyards, producing well-structured wines with great character from a judicious blending of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes. And you can discover the lovely medieval village of Saint Emilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its monuments, many shops and galleries (including some of the region’s best wine shops).

4. Sip and Spa: Indulge in a vino-therapy spa set to renew and relax. Vino-therapy is a beauty therapy process where the residue of wine making (the pips and pulp) is rubbed into the skin. The pulp is said to have excellent exfoliating qualities and help reduce the problems associated with ageing.

5. Try the whites: If you say Bordeaux to most folks right away they think of red wines, aging in barrels sitting in great Chateaus. But don’t forget about Sauvignon Blanc, it is the primary grape variety for the dry white wines of Bordeaux. Sauvignon Blanc is also sensitive to noble rot, so it marries well with Semillon in the great sweet wines of Sauternes. It produces wines which are crisp, clean and medium-bodied.

6. Go to school: There is no better way to discover the culinary delights of Bordeaux than a hands-on cooking class. Different options are available, from a 2 hour class at the Pressoir d'Argent with a Michelin starred chef, to a full week of discovering the markets, vendors and creations that are unique to the area, such as canneles, a sweet brioche style pastry, or the entrecote a la bordelaise, grilled steak topped with a reduction of red wine sauce.

7. A different perspective: Imagine cycling amongst picturesque routes dotted with vines, stopping along the way to take a break from biking and unwind while savoring your new wine discoveries. The area is relatively easy to ride which is practical for the weekend rider and tours lasting 2 hours to a week are available.

8. Go to market: Something for every taste; try the Capucins, where restaurateurs and caterers shop with the locals in the heart of Bordeaux (T-Sun 6a-1p). And in Libourne near St. Emilion; holds a great open-air market of fresh produce on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sunday. This market (and the indoor market featuring specialty goods) has all the charm of the outdoor farmers' markets found in Provence.

9. Life’s a beach: The Dune of Pyla, the largest sand dune in Europe, is located about 40 miles from Bordeaux, in the Arcachon area. Climb the top of the dune and revel in the amazing views of the area. The Dune of Pyla is also famous for paragliding and the multicolored sails floating in the sky are worth the detour.

10. Eat like the natives: Bordeaux has many wonderful Michelin starred restaurants, such as Cordeillan Bages in Pauillac, Hostellerie de Plaisance in St. Emilion, Le Chapon Fin in Bordeaux, and low country favorites such as La Tupina in Bordeaux and Le St. Julien in St. Julien. Beef, lamb, duck, foie gras and seafood are local specialties and are perfect with the wines of the region.

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Wine of the Week: 2009 Jean Noel Gagnard: "L' Estimee"

Date: Mon, Apr 8, 2013 Wine Tasting

"In vino veritas," or "There's Truth in Wine,” is referring to the often confessional loquacity of the intoxicated. ~ Pliny the Elder
Well the plain truth is this, at the moment I don't have a drop of vino flowing through my system. But that will change very shortly as it's nearly time to jump into the #winestudio to taste a gem from Croatia. Now that said a word about this wine of the week, wow! No really that was my first impression, a wine with serious substance.

Soon as you pop the cork it's ready to come out and meet you, shake your hand, wearing a beret, poodle by its side, blowing dust off the bottle, saying "Welcome to Burgundy". All of that without the long plane fight or the need to have your passport stamped.

Can uncorking a wine really say all of that? Perhaps not, but I'd really like to think it's so in some odd esoteric fashion or manner. Meanwhile back at the review, this wine really is quite tasty. I was all about-it, soon as I got a splash of it in my mouth, this wine has a core of terrific energy.

Beautiful aromas easily escaping from the glass, revealing a very pretty nose, with notes of freshly farmed earth, red rose petals and ripe red Washington state cherries. On the palate ripe cherry, plum and a rich earthy quality, nice weight, structure; plays a compelling note from the first slurp to the last drop.

This great wine comes to you from the amazing Chassagne-Montrachet region in Burgundy. It is a village in the
Cote de Beaune sub-region of Burgundy which has its own communal appellation, which was established in 1937.

In my opinion, a remarkable amount of wine for the price, a fine example of plush red Burgundy I'm scoring 90 points and highly recommending that you give it a swirl for yourself.

If you'd like to know a little more background about the driving-force behind Domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard (Chassagne-Montrachet) label than meet Jean-Noël’s daughter, Caroline Lestimé who has taken over day-to-day running of the domaine since 1989, you can read her full story at here via the Burgundy Report. They did a great in-depth review of Caroline, the winery and the many other wines it produces. You now also follow her on twitter, @LebonVinBlanc.
If you are thinking that you'd like to score this wine for yourself, feel free to reach out to the folks at the Protocol Wine Studio. or even any other tasty selections from Domaine Jean-Noel Gagnard. They would be glad to assist you in finding out how to get a few bottles for your own cellar. So until next time folks remember to sip long and prosper cheer!

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Just another Marsannay Monday

Date: Mon, Apr 1, 2013 Wine Tasting

"What's in a name, that which we call a rose? By any other name would smell as sweet" ~ Shakespeare

It will be a bummer to have left the Burgundy region, five weeks hardly seems long enough to even begin to scratch the surface but it has been a fun trip via Wine Studio.

But of course stay tuned as Wine Studio jumps into a five-week jaunt through the wines and vineyards of the Croatia wine scene, with the many nearly unpronounceable names. It's a very good thing that I won't have any funny failed attempts at pronunciation, thankfully and, may I even say mercifully I only have to type the names of these interesting wines.

But before we jump into the next segment of Wine-Studio, I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the great wines we've have experienced on this great journey through what was touted as "fringe" Burgundy. The wine you see in the picture above is from Marsannay and if you click the link I've provided you can get a fantastic 180 glimpse of this amazing region.

The Marsannay Rose from Bruno Clair, which you see above, is a serious wine. But it does not take itself too serious when it comes to fun summer-time sipping. This wine shows plenty of intensity and generosity on the palate, it will wow you great depth and balance. Baskets of mouth-watering, ripe summer strawberries, rich with minerality, earthiness, await the thirsty vino-sapien with each sip, slurp and maybe even the eventual gulp.

Clair is best known for his tantalizing red-wines among Burg-hounds, but the truth be known, even his whites and the featured Marsannay rose are equally deserving the attention of even the garden variety vino-sapien.

So put down those common everyday mass produced screw-capped domestic rosé wines and step-up to wine with real soul and substance; while at the same time knowing it won't break the bank either.

If you're interested in acquiring this wine for yourself and I highly recommend that you do, than please contact the team at Protocol Wine Studio and they'll be glad to assist you. Until the next time, please remember sip long and prosper cheers!

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Wine of the Week: 2008 Poliziano Rosso di Montepulciano

Date: Fri, Mar 29, 2013 Wine Tasting

Wine cheers the sad, revives the old, inspires the young, and makes weariness forget his toil. --Lord Byron

I was both inspired and revived a bit after a long day in the salt-mines after uncorking this great Italian beauty the other night. And you'll be as well if you follow my lead. This wine is both generous and, amazing approachable right out of the chute. No real fuss or muss needed, but I'd recommend decanting for an hour to unlock this wines full potential.

It's a gorgeous blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot; a wine which easily and I'll say effortlessly pair with many types of cuisine. This wine comes locked, cocked and ready to rock, a wine with real soul, substance and great texture. The tannins are well integrated, like the drummer from your favorite band, it rocks!

Gobs of freshly picked red cherries, dark plums and, rich earth which sails gracefully across across your palate, leaving you with a long finish. This wines sell for a SRP of $28 and can still be found in good supply if you know where to look and, my score on this wine is 91 points. Fortunately for those interested I do, so if you want to score a few bottles, please let me know.

Full Disclosure: This wine was NOT a sample, it was purchased with my own cold hard cash via the sweat of my brow. I receive zero incentives if you happen to purchase this wine, I only bring this wine to your attention in the interest of drinking better and, in the hope of broadening your own vinous horizons. So until next time remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

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Wine Chat: The Next Chapter

Date: Mon, Mar 25, 2013 Wine Tasting

“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts” – Arnold Bennett

As many of you may know already the reins of #WineChat are changing hands. I was approached by Marie Payton [Life of Vines] via email, a couple of weeks ago and asked if I was perhaps interested in the opportunity to fill-her-shoes. I wanted to take some time to think it over but, I'll be honest I was quite interested in the opportunity and so here we are.

But before I say anything else, I wanted to say to Marie and her co-host Mr. Dave Reynolds you created something amazing in developing #WineChat making it a force for good in the wine community and, for that I say thank-you!

Seeing the need to have some assistance with the effort, I reached out to Protocol Wine Studio's dynamic duo, Eric Guy and Tina Morey. This is a team many of you know already, from our Monday evening #WineStudio events, the free online curriculum-based wine education & tasting program and, that will not change.

So as a way of introducing the new #WineChat team, this Wednesday 03/27/2013] it will be an introductory evening, getting to know the new team and, to learn more about continuing the conversation. Many folks ask me, hey Bill what is in it for you or they may wonder about my motivations moving forward?

As for me, my answer is simple; my mission is to provide vino-sapiens every where with current, objective, easily digested content and hopefully even entertainment about the wonderful world of wine and to provide a place for continued discovery and exploration.

So if any of you have questions and/or concerns about big changes possibly coming to #WineChat I can say feel rest assured there are no change big format changes in the wind. Will we endeavor to improve upon what has been built thus far and hopefully continue to build upon the great relationships that have been built over the last couple of years.

So if you're interested in what lies ahead for #WineChat, stay tuned and please join us this Wednesday evening as Tina, Eric and I along with all of you discuss its future. Until next time folks slurp long and prosper cheers!

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