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Hard Chard

Date: Mon, May 7, 2012 Wine Tasting

Firsts are always hard and hard this one certainly was, which always makes the experience even more delicious. In this case it also makes the wine more delicious. This September we’ll be able to share this experience with you.

It was with a surprising sense of satisfaction that I picked up the first bottle off the bottling line. It was, of all things a chardonnay. I confess I have little affection for most renditions of this variety in the New World. However, winemaker Tony Rynders changed my mind and I am sure this chardonnay will change yours.

The hard part I was referring to in this wine was a backbone. A concentrated minerality and racy acidity that will hurt the teeth of those that love oaky, sweet chardonnay. That is way I decided to make it. I would never dream of making a spineless chardonnay. Cornerstone has never been about spineless wines and I have no place for them at my table.

So this September I will be extremely proud to introduce you to the 2010 Cornerstone Oregon, Willamette Valley Chardonnay. Less than two hundred cases were produced. It’s a lean, mean machine and I wish I could wait another year to release it as it certainly needs a few years in the bottle to show all has to give. I can only hope that some of you will lay some bottles away in your cellar.

How did it get here? Well, first of all there was a challenging vintage to deal with, but that’s something winegrowers in places like Oregon and Burgundy deal with seven vintages out of ten. There was a lot of mold when the fruit came in, but we hand-sorted like madmen and delivered only the clean bunches to the fermenter. Starting the fermentation in stainless steel tanks, the wine was racked into mature French Oak barrels to continue and finish fermentation. Those barrels were home to our chardonnay for the next fourteen months where it mellowed and broadened its flavors and, most of all, its complexity. Only 80% of the wine went through malolatic to preserve its perfect tightrope of acidity. In fact, nothing in the cellar was allowed to pilfer anything from the wine.

In a strange twist of conventional wisdom, our Cornerstone Oregon, Willamette Valley Chardonnay is a better oyster wine than our Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, which finds its soul mates in crab and lobster. What these two white wines have in common is they will both age beautifully. This is our goal. To let each wine express its true spirit and find the match at your table that nature intended. That nature is something you’ll find subtly expressed in all our vintages after 2008. This is just a start as we will push ourselves each vintage to ever higher expressions of vineyard, variety and vintage. I believe that the Napa Valley is a perfect place to grow sauvignon blanc and that the Willamette Valley is a perfect place to grow chardonnay. Our vision is to go where the variety loves to be, not to force the variety to love where we put down roots. After all, nothing is more important to a wine than the soil that gave life to the vines. That essence flows from the soil through the roots to be mixed with sunshine to create wine.

To understand my hesitance to make a chardonnay you have to understand my background. In the early eighties I was importing the wines of Domaine Comtes Lafon through Becky Wasserman, who I represented in the mid-west. At that time Dominque Lafon had yet to take over the estate from his father and was working for Becky. Over a two year period, on his many visits to Chicago and mine to Burgundy, I was privileged to drink a lot of great chardonnay (and a lot of other things) with Dominque. It is on this foundation my viewpoint on chardonnay is based. As a side note, just to highlight how different the wine world is today, in those days we had winemaker dinners promoting the wines of Comtes Lafon, which actually included their Le Montrachet. Times have changed, now you’re lucky and a lot poorer if you can get an allocation of Lafon. The point is, if your early reference point is Lafon Le Montrachet your future enjoyment of chardonnay may be impaired.

Certainly I am not trying to compare our Cornerstone Oregon, Willamette Valley Chardonnay to Lafon Le Montrachet, but I will say that if you love Premier Cru Chablis you will pleased by our 2010 Cornerstone Oregon, Willamette Valley Chardonnay. The reason I can say that with confidence is that I am pleased, which is something not easy to do.

I’m pleased to introduce you to something new from Cornerstone: Cornerstone Oregon, Willamette Valley Chardonnay. See you in September.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Hard Chard

Date: Mon, May 7, 2012 Wine Tasting

Firsts are always hard and hard this one certainly was, which always makes the experience even more delicious. In this case it also makes the wine more delicious. This September we’ll be able to share this experience with you.

It was with a surprising sense of satisfaction that I picked up the first bottle off the bottling line. It was, of all things a chardonnay. I confess I have little affection for most renditions of this variety in the New World. However, winemaker Tony Rynders changed my mind and I am sure this chardonnay will change yours.

The hard part I was referring to in this wine was a backbone. A concentrated minerality and racy acidity that will hurt the teeth of those that love oaky, sweet chardonnay. That is way I decided to make it. I would never dream of making a spineless chardonnay. Cornerstone has never been about spineless wines and I have no place for them at my table.

So this September I will be extremely proud to introduce you to the 2010 Cornerstone Oregon, Willamette Valley Chardonnay. Less than two hundred cases were produced. It’s a lean, mean machine and I wish I could wait another year to release it as it certainly needs a few years in the bottle to show all has to give. I can only hope that some of you will lay some bottles away in your cellar.

How did it get here? Well, first of all there was a challenging vintage to deal with, but that’s something winegrowers in places like Oregon and Burgundy deal with seven vintages out of ten. There was a lot of mold when the fruit came in, but we hand-sorted like madmen and delivered only the clean bunches to the fermenter. Starting the fermentation in stainless steel tanks, the wine was racked into mature French Oak barrels to continue and finish fermentation. Those barrels were home to our chardonnay for the next fourteen months where it mellowed and broadened its flavors and, most of all, its complexity. Only 80% of the wine went through malolatic to preserve its perfect tightrope of acidity. In fact, nothing in the cellar was allowed to pilfer anything from the wine.

In a strange twist of conventional wisdom, our Cornerstone Oregon, Willamette Valley Chardonnay is a better oyster wine than our Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, which finds its soul mates in crab and lobster. What these two white wines have in common is they will both age beautifully. This is our goal. To let each wine express its true spirit and find the match at your table that nature intended. That nature is something you’ll find subtly expressed in all our vintages after 2008. This is just a start as we will push ourselves each vintage to ever higher expressions of vineyard, variety and vintage. I believe that the Napa Valley is a perfect place to grow sauvignon blanc and that the Willamette Valley is a perfect place to grow chardonnay. Our vision is to go where the variety loves to be, not to force the variety to love where we put down roots. After all, nothing is more important to a wine than the soil that gave life to the vines. That essence flows from the soil through the roots to be mixed with sunshine to create wine.

To understand my hesitance to make a chardonnay you have to understand my background. In the early eighties I was importing the wines of Domaine Comtes Lafon through Becky Wasserman, who I represented in the mid-west. At that time Dominque Lafon had yet to take over the estate from his father and was working for Becky. Over a two year period, on his many visits to Chicago and mine to Burgundy, I was privileged to drink a lot of great chardonnay (and a lot of other things) with Dominque. It is on this foundation my viewpoint on chardonnay is based. As a side note, just to highlight how different the wine world is today, in those days we had winemaker dinners promoting the wines of Comtes Lafon, which actually included their Le Montrachet. Times have changed, now you’re lucky and a lot poorer if you can get an allocation of Lafon. The point is, if your early reference point is Lafon Le Montrachet your future enjoyment of chardonnay may be impaired.

Certainly I am not trying to compare our Cornerstone Oregon, Willamette Valley Chardonnay to Lafon Le Montrachet, but I will say that if you love Premier Cru Chablis you will pleased by our 2010 Cornerstone Oregon, Willamette Valley Chardonnay. The reason I can say that with confidence is that I am pleased, which is something not easy to do.

I’m pleased to introduce you to something new from Cornerstone: Cornerstone Oregon, Willamette Valley Chardonnay. See you in September.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Light on Your Feet

Date: Mon, Mar 12, 2012 Wine Tasting

He was on his annual “tannin death march” slogging through the two hundred barrel samples of the grand tasting of Premiere Napa Valley, the annual trade auction and Napa Valley extravaganza. Wine writer and publisher of Vinography Alder Yarrow attacks such events with a singular focus methodically working his way through each and every sample in the room. He is a better man than I.

Alder arrived at our table to taste our barrel sample of 2010 Cornerstone Cellars, The Premiere Cornerstone about halfway through his grind. Taking a sip, he smiled, looked up and said, “light on its feet.” My heart almost lept out of my chest. He got it. He understood the wine.

Now understanding a wine may not seem like a big deal to you, but if you have ever stood in a room pouring wine to tasters whose palates have been hammered into submission by tasting dozens of wines before yours, you know what I mean. All to often tasters arrive at your table with the looks of a punch-drunk fighter their teeth and lips wine-bloodied by roundhouse punches from a room full of bloated heavyweights. In big tastings the Mike Tyson’s of the world get more attention than the Sugar Ray’s. The heavyweights are always the champs in these tasting marathons and wines with quick moves, balance and finesse are lost to palates pounded into submission by knockout punches of tannin and alcohol.

The wines of Cornerstone Cellars are crafted to be light on their feet. This does not mean light as in thin, but light as is deft and nimble; powerful wines that are under control and in balance. Wines that you can taste every nuance of from the first sniff to the long, lingering aftertaste. Make no mistake, our goal is still to knock you out, we just don’t want to knock you into oblivion. A knock out punch from Tyson or Sugar Ray will still put you on the deck.

Not far behind the “light on its feet” comment from Alder Yarrow came some equally encouraging and rewarding notes from other wine writers. Joe Roberts at 1WineDude said of our the 2010 Premiere Cornerstone, “a mid-palate to die for.” Meanwhile Fred Swan at NorCalWine noted the, “very long finish.”

To recap, three palates I respect (read no axe to grind) noted that the wine was, “light on its feet”, “a mid-palate to die for” and a “very long finish. In other words a complete wine from start to finish. “Completeness” is a concept to often ignored in a system that honors the first sip more than the last.

I think this is perhaps the essence of winemaking, that expression of your personal vision of completeness. For some, if not most, it is an expression of economic completeness, that is making a wine that sells and gets good reviews. For others, certainly the minority, to be complete means to make a personal expression even if it’s a harder sell, or, in the case of Premiere Napa Valley, not getting the mega-bids. On the other hand, wines made from commercial inspirations are always at the mercy of the critics, while those whose foundation is built on passion will find a loyal base of consumers that share their vision of what makes a wine meaningful.

Our Premiere Cornerstone lot at Premiere Napa Valley is the prototype for that vintage’s The Cornerstone, which is the expression of what our vision tells us is the pinnacle of Napa Valley winemaking. A sip of the Premiere Cornerstone is indeed a preview of what to expect in The Cornerstone itself. Our inaugural vintage of The Cornerstone, the 2009, will be released this September.

We could not be more proud of the how we have evolved the wines at Cornerstone Cellars into wines that offer a complete experience. There could be no better representation of this than our 2010 Premiere Cornerstone. It’s wine with a beginning, a middle and a long lingering ending: a complete wine. It will knock you out.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Light on Your Feet

Date: Mon, Mar 12, 2012 Wine Tasting

He was on his annual “tannin death march” slogging through the two hundred barrel samples of the grand tasting of Premiere Napa Valley, the annual trade auction and Napa Valley extravaganza. Wine writer and publisher of Vinography Alder Yarrow attacks such events with a singular focus methodically working his way through each and every sample in the room. He is a better man than I.

Alder arrived at our table to taste our barrel sample of 2010 Cornerstone Cellars, The Premiere Cornerstone about halfway through his grind. Taking a sip, he smiled, looked up and said, “light on its feet.” My heart almost lept out of my chest. He got it. He understood the wine.

Now understanding a wine may not seem like a big deal to you, but if you have ever stood in a room pouring wine to tasters whose palates have been hammered into submission by tasting dozens of wines before yours, you know what I mean. All to often tasters arrive at your table with the looks of a punch-drunk fighter their teeth and lips wine-bloodied by roundhouse punches from a room full of bloated heavyweights. In big tastings the Mike Tyson’s of the world get more attention than the Sugar Ray’s. The heavyweights are always the champs in these tasting marathons and wines with quick moves, balance and finesse are lost to palates pounded into submission by knockout punches of tannin and alcohol.

The wines of Cornerstone Cellars are crafted to be light on their feet. This does not mean light as in thin, but light as is deft and nimble; powerful wines that are under control and in balance. Wines that you can taste every nuance of from the first sniff to the long, lingering aftertaste. Make no mistake, our goal is still to knock you out, we just don’t want to knock you into oblivion. A knock out punch from Tyson or Sugar Ray will still put you on the deck.

Not far behind the “light on its feet” comment from Alder Yarrow came some equally encouraging and rewarding notes from other wine writers. Joe Roberts at 1WineDude said of our the 2010 Premiere Cornerstone, “a mid-palate to die for.” Meanwhile Fred Swan at NorCalWine noted the, “very long finish.”

To recap, three palates I respect (read no axe to grind) noted that the wine was, “light on its feet”, “a mid-palate to die for” and a “very long finish. In other words a complete wine from start to finish. “Completeness” is a concept to often ignored in a system that honors the first sip more than the last.

I think this is perhaps the essence of winemaking, that expression of your personal vision of completeness. For some, if not most, it is an expression of economic completeness, that is making a wine that sells and gets good reviews. For others, certainly the minority, to be complete means to make a personal expression even if it’s a harder sell, or, in the case of Premiere Napa Valley, not getting the mega-bids. On the other hand, wines made from commercial inspirations are always at the mercy of the critics, while those whose foundation is built on passion will find a loyal base of consumers that share their vision of what makes a wine meaningful.

Our Premiere Cornerstone lot at Premiere Napa Valley is the prototype for that vintage’s The Cornerstone, which is the expression of what our vision tells us is the pinnacle of Napa Valley winemaking. A sip of the Premiere Cornerstone is indeed a preview of what to expect in The Cornerstone itself. Our inaugural vintage of The Cornerstone, the 2009, will be released this September.

We could not be more proud of the how we have evolved the wines at Cornerstone Cellars into wines that offer a complete experience. There could be no better representation of this than our 2010 Premiere Cornerstone. It’s wine with a beginning, a middle and a long lingering ending: a complete wine. It will knock you out.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Cornerstone Oregon in Enobytes!

Date: Tue, Feb 7, 2012 Wine Tasting

2009 Cornerstone Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Posted on 06 February 2012.

Craig Camp may no longer reside in the Willamette Valley but his presence undoubtedly still exists in the wines he is making with Tony Rynders, formerly of Domaine Serene for the California winery Cornerstone. This 2009 Pinot Noir is another great example of how the vintage has been way underrated. With just a little over two short years from harvest, this wine has settled into a smooth well-produced package that exemplifies the vintage. 2009 may have not received the accolades the 2008’s did but in time these wines just may surpass the opulence the much ballyhooed previous vintage has already obtained. This Willamette Valley wine expresses aromas of raspberry and blueberry with a hint of fresh ground cinnamon stick. On the palate, flavors of dark berry and hazelnut are offered up with a vibrant acidity that is balanced by well-integrated tannins. The finish is plush, pleasant and long enough to make this a memorable wine to savor alongside a braised lamb shank elegantly prepared for an intimate Valentines dinner. If your retailer or favorite restaurant does not offer this wine, get it online. I would get it soon because this one will not be around for long.

Rating: Excellent (91) | $50 | 13.9% ABV

Pictured above the 2011 Cornerstone Oregon Harvest

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Cornerstone Oregon in Enobytes!

Date: Tue, Feb 7, 2012 Wine Tasting

2009 Cornerstone Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Posted on 06 February 2012.

Craig Camp may no longer reside in the Willamette Valley but his presence undoubtedly still exists in the wines he is making with Tony Rynders, formerly of Domaine Serene for the California winery Cornerstone. This 2009 Pinot Noir is another great example of how the vintage has been way underrated. With just a little over two short years from harvest, this wine has settled into a smooth well-produced package that exemplifies the vintage. 2009 may have not received the accolades the 2008’s did but in time these wines just may surpass the opulence the much ballyhooed previous vintage has already obtained. This Willamette Valley wine expresses aromas of raspberry and blueberry with a hint of fresh ground cinnamon stick. On the palate, flavors of dark berry and hazelnut are offered up with a vibrant acidity that is balanced by well-integrated tannins. The finish is plush, pleasant and long enough to make this a memorable wine to savor alongside a braised lamb shank elegantly prepared for an intimate Valentines dinner. If your retailer or favorite restaurant does not offer this wine, get it online. I would get it soon because this one will not be around for long.

Rating: Excellent (91) | $50 | 13.9% ABV

Pictured above the 2011 Cornerstone Oregon Harvest

Read Full Wine Blog Post

5000 Wines a Year

Date: Mon, Feb 6, 2012 Wine Tasting

I saw a comment recently from a wine writer noting that they tasted over five thousand wines a year. I could only think how sad. Was this some sort of punishment? Did someone commit a crime? What a pity to turn such a pleasure into such a grind.

Another comment on a forum noted that the writer first scored the wine 88 points , but that it had mellowed into a 89 point wine after about thirty minutes. It improved by a point? I could only think how sad it is to force flavors and aromatics into one point increments. Again pleasure becomes a grind.

While I was attending a wine faults seminar by the University of California at Davis the professor passed off the answer to a question as obvious when someone asked the equally obvious question. “Professor I’ve noticed that the sample with the VA was very strong at first, but now that I’ve gone back to it several times and it gets harder and harder to pick up,” said one of the winemakers in the seminar. The professor almost off-handedly commented that was just how your nose worked. It could take twenty minutes or so before it reset itself.

So, as the Ph.D. from Davis noted, if you get a nose-full from a a wine loaded with VA or Brett or a long line of wine faults you will be severely disabled aroma-wise for a signifiant period of time. Then there is simple palate fatigue on top of that.

What does this mean? It means that the people that taste five thousand wines a year or those that nudge a wine by a point after a half hour are just kidding themselves. It can’t be done, we’re humans not machines. Your senses lose the ability to accurately judge wines even after just a dozen or so. The idea of defining the difference between 88 and 89 points as a relative quality value is simply a joke. Mother Nature did not give us the tools required.

This, of course, extends to all the major wine publications and wine competitions. What they claim to be doing can’t be done. Fact and end of story.

In addition to the fact that they’re totally inaccurate as an indicator of quality, marathon tastings and pointy nit-picking just take the joy and pleasure out of wine. They are also a slap in the face to the intellectual side of wine appreciation.

One thing I appreciate about wine bloggers over the traditional wine press is that instead of pounding through dozens of bottles and pumping out points, most take a more thoughtful approach. Wine blogs are full of tales of wines at the table, which is the only place you can really get to know a wine. Wine writing about the experience of the true pleasures of wine tells you more than any point ranking or gold medal ever can or will. There are so many good wine blogs out there these days that they cover more than enough wine to fill anyone’s needs. What you won’t find in the blogs are reviews of Screaming Eagle or Lafite, but let’s face it, if you’re buying those wines you don’t really care about reviews anyway.

My mind keeps drifting back to the person tasting more than five thousand wines a year. It sounds so terrible to me. I’m more than happy tasting a few hundred or so a year. It also means I get to enjoy wines that I really love more than once. I think it often takes a few bottles, consumed over a period of time with different foods, before you really know a wine.

I doubt there are actually five thousand wines in the world that I want to try. Someone else will have to take that punishment for me. No thanks.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

5000 Wines a Year

Date: Mon, Feb 6, 2012 Wine Tasting

I saw a comment recently from a wine writer noting that they tasted over five thousand wines a year. I could only think how sad. Was this some sort of punishment? Did someone commit a crime? What a pity to turn such a pleasure into such a grind.

Another comment on a forum noted that the writer first scored the wine 88 points , but that it had mellowed into a 89 point wine after about thirty minutes. It improved by a point? I could only think how sad it is to force flavors and aromatics into one point increments. Again pleasure becomes a grind.

While I was attending a wine faults seminar by the University of California at Davis the professor passed off the answer to a question as obvious when someone asked the equally obvious question. “Professor I’ve noticed that the sample with the VA was very strong at first, but now that I’ve gone back to it several times and it gets harder and harder to pick up,” said one of the winemakers in the seminar. The professor almost off-handedly commented that was just how your nose worked. It could take twenty minutes or so before it reset itself.

So, as the Ph.D. from Davis noted, if you get a nose-full from a a wine loaded with VA or Brett or a long line of wine faults you will be severely disabled aroma-wise for a signifiant period of time. Then there is simple palate fatigue on top of that.

What does this mean? It means that the people that taste five thousand wines a year or those that nudge a wine by a point after a half hour are just kidding themselves. It can’t be done, we’re humans not machines. Your senses lose the ability to accurately judge wines even after just a dozen or so. The idea of defining the difference between 88 and 89 points as a relative quality value is simply a joke. Mother Nature did not give us the tools required.

This, of course, extends to all the major wine publications and wine competitions. What they claim to be doing can’t be done. Fact and end of story.

In addition to the fact that they’re totally inaccurate as an indicator of quality, marathon tastings and pointy nit-picking just take the joy and pleasure out of wine. They are also a slap in the face to the intellectual side of wine appreciation.

One thing I appreciate about wine bloggers over the traditional wine press is that instead of pounding through dozens of bottles and pumping out points, most take a more thoughtful approach. Wine blogs are full of tales of wines at the table, which is the only place you can really get to know a wine. Wine writing about the experience of the true pleasures of wine tells you more than any point ranking or gold medal ever can or will. There are so many good wine blogs out there these days that they cover more than enough wine to fill anyone’s needs. What you won’t find in the blogs are reviews of Screaming Eagle or Lafite, but let’s face it, if you’re buying those wines you don’t really care about reviews anyway.

My mind keeps drifting back to the person tasting more than five thousand wines a year. It sounds so terrible to me. I’m more than happy tasting a few hundred or so a year. It also means I get to enjoy wines that I really love more than once. I think it often takes a few bottles, consumed over a period of time with different foods, before you really know a wine.

I doubt there are actually five thousand wines in the world that I want to try. Someone else will have to take that punishment for me. No thanks.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

ArrivederLa

Date: Wed, Jan 18, 2012 Wine Tasting

It was a serene experience. Peaceful and focused. We waited and he arrived seeming almost bemused by our presence. For us he was already a deity, which was a title he did not seek for himself, nor one he needed.

It was a cold spring morning and we could just see our breath as our eyes swept over the gentile beauty of Valpolicella. The air around us was hazy with the smoke of burning vine cuttings and the blossoms were just breaking on the trees. Just then his daughter appeared and led us down into his cellar. After a short wait he arrived surveying the group with a casual curiosity.

Over the next hour and a half he talked softly and smiled gently. For him it was enough to let his wines do all the talking. He was not looking for the deference with we treated him, but it fit him well. As always in such a group some did not understand what they were tasting, but he took no offense at their lightness any more than he did at those who where too ernest in their worship.

We tasted through the entire gallery of his creations. Their greatness requires no comment here

When we left I was the last to go. “Ringrazie, arrivederLa,” I said. I stood a good foot taller than the great man, who then reached up and patted my cheek and said, “bravo.”

We live in a “ciao” world, but to say “ciao” to such greatness just seemed wrong.

Ringrazie e ArrivederLa Signore Quintarelli

Pictured above is that tasting with Signore Quintarelli in the spring of 2000

Read Full Wine Blog Post

ArrivederLa

Date: Wed, Jan 18, 2012 Wine Tasting

It was a serene experience. Peaceful and focused. We waited and he arrived seeming almost bemused by our presence. For us he was already a deity, which was a title he did not seek for himself, nor one he needed.

It was a cold spring morning and we could just see our breath as our eyes swept over the gentile beauty of Valpolicella. The air around us was hazy with the smoke of burning vine cuttings and the blossoms were just breaking on the trees. Just then his daughter appeared and led us down into his cellar. After a short wait he arrived surveying the group with a casual curiosity.

Over the next hour and a half he talked softly and smiled gently. For him it was enough to let his wines do all the talking. He was not looking for the deference with we treated him, but it fit him well. As always in such a group some did not understand what they were tasting, but he took no offense at their lightness any more than he did at those who where too ernest in their worship.

We tasted through the entire gallery of his creations. Their greatness requires no comment here

When we left I was the last to go. “Ringrazie, arrivederLa,” I said. I stood a good foot taller than the great man, who then reached up and patted my cheek and said, “bravo.”

We live in a “ciao” world, but to say “ciao” to such greatness just seemed wrong.

Ringrazie e ArrivederLa Signore Quintarelli

Pictured above is that tasting with Signore Quintarelli in the spring of 2000

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Wine and Food

Date: Wed, Nov 23, 2011 Wine Tasting

Thanksgiving brings up the usual stream of articles recommending wines for Thanksgiving. This exercise has obviously gone too far as writers now reach for extreme examples just to be “different” rather than sticking with something that actually makes sense. Amarone? Grenache? Possibly, but why in the world would you go so far out? The matches for the traditional American Thanksgiving dinner are simple: lighter reds and fuller whites. Common sense and a little knowledge is all that’s needed. Pinot noir or gamay (Beaujolais) and chardonnay or riesling if you like a little sweetness with the potentially dry bird. With the literally thousands of variations of these varieties there seems little need other than personal taste or a bored writer to practice this new extreme matching reality show.Also, not every menu demands complexity in wine. Mounds of turkey, sweet potatoes and stuffing requires refreshing beverages, not equally ponderous ones. Cool, fruity and zesty are more pleasurable than a wine as ponderous as the meal.
Perhaps all this extreme matchmaking is due to the fact that wine writers taste most of the wines they review without food. This is a very strange thing if you think about it. After all, wine really has no other purpose than to be part of a meal. Critics give wines points based on how they taste against other wines, not how they taste with dinner. This fact alone tells you how pointless points are when it comes choosing what wine to buy.
In all honesty I don’t drink wine without food: with the notable exception of sparkling wines. I just don’t get it. The first sip of wine always has me thinking about what bite of food is going to follow. The idea of a chardonnay or cabernet as a cocktail is beyond me. When I’m getting ready to cook I’m doing one of two things: either I’m looking for something to go with a particular wine or deciding what wine to have with the menu I’ve selected. The concepts of cooking, eating and wine are so tightly intertwined in me that I cannot separate their experience in my mind. I can’t even imagine why you would want to.
A beautiful veal chop thus led me to a bottle of 2009 Tendril, Tightrope, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, the newrelease from my friend, winemaker Tony Rynders. Tony is making two Tendril pinots: “White Label”, a blend of his vineyard sites and Tightrope, a special barrel selection. The veal chop got the Milanese treatment and the wine was perfect with the dish and it was perfect with the wine. A very nice arrangement. The only breadcrumbs at hand were panko so the chop was even crunchier than usual. I’d do that again. The Tightrope’s tart acidity in the proverbial velvet glove was just the right foil to the breaded and fried chop. Being the foil is the wine’s job.
Only sixty cases of 2009 Tendril Tightrope were produced and you can only buy it from the winery at www. tendrilwines.com. The $64 price tag is a bargain for a wine of this depth It will be worth putting away for a few years to let it grow up. However, for Thanksgiving I’m recommending the more subtle 2009 Tendril White Label Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. It’s more forward and fruity than the Tightrope and certainly such an American meal deserves an American wine. However, with less than 400 cases produced not many tables will be lucky enough to be graced with a bottle this Thanksgiving.
Matching food and wine is about the combination of personal taste and common sense. There’s no reason to go to extremes: unless you have to write an annual Thanksgiving wine matching article that is.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Wine and Food

Date: Wed, Nov 23, 2011 Wine Tasting

Thanksgiving brings up the usual stream of articles recommending wines for Thanksgiving. This exercise has obviously gone too far as writers now reach for extreme examples just to be “different” rather than sticking with something that actually makes sense. Amarone? Grenache? Possibly, but why in the world would you go so far out? The matches for the traditional American Thanksgiving dinner are simple: lighter reds and fuller whites. Common sense and a little knowledge is all that’s needed. Pinot noir or gamay (Beaujolais) and chardonnay or riesling if you like a little sweetness with the potentially dry bird. With the literally thousands of variations of these varieties there seems little need other than personal taste or a bored writer to practice this new extreme matching reality show.Also, not every menu demands complexity in wine. Mounds of turkey, sweet potatoes and stuffing requires refreshing beverages, not equally ponderous ones. Cool, fruity and zesty are more pleasurable than a wine as ponderous as the meal.
Perhaps all this extreme matchmaking is due to the fact that wine writers taste most of the wines they review without food. This is a very strange thing if you think about it. After all, wine really has no other purpose than to be part of a meal. Critics give wines points based on how they taste against other wines, not how they taste with dinner. This fact alone tells you how pointless points are when it comes choosing what wine to buy.
In all honesty I don’t drink wine without food: with the notable exception of sparkling wines. I just don’t get it. The first sip of wine always has me thinking about what bite of food is going to follow. The idea of a chardonnay or cabernet as a cocktail is beyond me. When I’m getting ready to cook I’m doing one of two things: either I’m looking for something to go with a particular wine or deciding what wine to have with the menu I’ve selected. The concepts of cooking, eating and wine are so tightly intertwined in me that I cannot separate their experience in my mind. I can’t even imagine why you would want to.
A beautiful veal chop thus led me to a bottle of 2009 Tendril, Tightrope, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, the newrelease from my friend, winemaker Tony Rynders. Tony is making two Tendril pinots: “White Label”, a blend of his vineyard sites and Tightrope, a special barrel selection. The veal chop got the Milanese treatment and the wine was perfect with the dish and it was perfect with the wine. A very nice arrangement. The only breadcrumbs at hand were panko so the chop was even crunchier than usual. I’d do that again. The Tightrope’s tart acidity in the proverbial velvet glove was just the right foil to the breaded and fried chop. Being the foil is the wine’s job.
Only sixty cases of 2009 Tendril Tightrope were produced and you can only buy it from the winery at www. tendrilwines.com. The $64 price tag is a bargain for a wine of this depth It will be worth putting away for a few years to let it grow up. However, for Thanksgiving I’m recommending the more subtle 2009 Tendril White Label Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. It’s more forward and fruity than the Tightrope and certainly such an American meal deserves an American wine. However, with less than 400 cases produced not many tables will be lucky enough to be graced with a bottle this Thanksgiving.
Matching food and wine is about the combination of personal taste and common sense. There’s no reason to go to extremes: unless you have to write an annual Thanksgiving wine matching article that is.

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Cornerstone Oregon Harvest 2011

Date: Sun, Oct 30, 2011 Wine Tasting

Dawn Harvest for Cornerstone Oregon in the Yamhill Carlton AVA. For more Oregon harvest photos vist the gallery here: http://bit.ly/toyBXW

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Cornerstone Oregon Harvest 2011

Date: Sun, Oct 30, 2011 Wine Tasting

Dawn Harvest for Cornerstone Oregon in the Yamhill Carlton AVA. For more Oregon harvest photos vist the gallery here: http://bit.ly/toyBXW

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