Reading and Sharing About Wine — Almost As Much Fun As Tasting

One of my favorite pastimes is tasting wine. It is a pleasure to sip and discover what is in the glass. That is the obvious first choice as a path to exploring new wines. I also savor reading about wines as a second path. In my recent reading, I found a couple wines that I wanted to share with you. These both have large enough productions that you may be able to find them at retailers in your area. I found these in the Wine Spectator sneak preview buying guide. Again, it’s not completely about the rating; yet, with a good one, it makes it worth trying,

First, here’s a Chardonnay to be on the look-out for. Chardonnay represents about 20% of the wine sales by varietal, and this wine looks to be a great choice for everyday drinking:

Columbia Crest Chardonnay – Columbia Valley Grand Estates 2012 -$12
“Silky and seductive with pear and spicy grapefruit flavors on a taut, polished frame, lingering with intensity and brightness on the glowing finish. Impressive for the price.
Drink now. 160,000 cases made. –H.S.”

With the holiday season just around the corner, parties, celebrations and family time will predominate; and this second wine may be just what’s needed. It’s always good to have some sparkling wine on hand to toast the season:

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige — Napa Valley – $22
“Packs a lot of complexity for the price, offering aromas of apple, fresh ginger and rubber. The flavors are crisp and layered with notes of raspberry and spice. Drink now. 173,000 cased made. –H.S.” 

Here’s a comment about this wine from Mumm’s website: “If you asked winemaker Ludovic Dervin to name the quintessential Napa Valley Sparkling wine, his answer would inevitably be Brut Prestige. Our signature cuvée, this versatile wine is sourced from more than 50 prime Napa Valley vineyards to create an infinitely elegant, gorgeously balanced wine. Delicate golden peach color, tantalizing hints of melon, spice and toasty vanilla, with a crisp lingering finish. This sparkling wine has won more medals at major wine competitions than any other wine in its class.”

This sparkling wine could fit the bill for many occasions as we head into the holiday season, when it’s time to celebrate or simply add some effervescence to your day!


Go with “Pride”

This past Sunday, we enjoyed a ride up the mountain to tour and taste at Pride Mountain Vineyards. This famous winery is located atop Spring Mountain and provides glorious views of Mount St. Helena and the Mayacamas Range. The expanse of vines provides picture perfect scenery for the photographer in you. Many times I have visited and never tire of the beauty of the setting.

While I am doing my best to explore the 500 wineries in Napa County and almost 450 in Sonoma County (yes, that is a lot), there is one winery I always seem to come back to — and that is Pride Mountain Vineyards. It is the winery I have the longest history with and always enjoy visiting. The people are gracious, the views are lovely and the wine – oh, yes, the wine is quite pleasurable to drink.

The tour at Pride starts in the tasting room with their white wine. They produce Chardonnay, as well as Viognier; and both are well-crafted and delicious. You will get an overview of the winery and the plantings, gaining an appreciation for the history of the property. The tour continues into the caves with stops along the way for different wines and greater detail about the process. Each time I have visited, the guides are informative and friendly.

This is a property that makes many different varietals from their estate. They have been known for their Merlot, which has been touted as one of the best made. Pride makes one of the best Cab Francs, along with Syrah, Sangiovese, and Cabernet. I have bought and enjoyed them all over the years.

A visit to Pride is worth the time. It is also one of the best values for a visit. The cave tour and tasting is only $20. The wines are well-crafted and well-priced. I know that I sound a bit like a commercial, and I may be. It is a favorite among the valley for this writer.


A Great Value out of Washington State

I wanted to do a quick post to tell you about a wine that I can readily recommend based on past purchases and drinking enjoyment. It’s the Baer Star from 2011, which comes from Columbia Valley, Washington. This winery has a history of having its wines make Wine Spectator’s Top 100 List.

Trust me, I do not go by scores alone, since there are many times I feel very differently about wines that are highly rated by Robert Parker or Wine Spectator. I really appreciate, though, that I can feel relatively confident that a wine with a good score is a good direction to venture in and explore for myself.

The production of the Baer Star is not a huge one, so allocations across the country may be limited. But it’s worth asking about or looking for at your local retailer.

Here’s what Wine Spectator said about this wine:

Wine Spectator 92 Points
BAER Star Columbia Valley 2011 • $29 This lithe red is sleek, seductive and medium-weight, brimming with exotic spice nuances to its flavors of black cherry and plum, which sidle into the long and expressive finish. Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Best from 2015 through 2019. 502 cases mad.

Oh, by the way, I found the 2012 Tres Picos Garnacha, which I discussed here. It should be making its way into your local stores. This should also be a great value wine. Robert Parker called this out as the best value wine of 2012.


Napa: Press On!

I am a native Californian and have grown up with earthquakes. I learned how to seek shelter under a table or stand in the doorway, because doorways are the last to fall. I am sure this sounds strange to many of my friends across the states. We have learned, as natives of the state, to take it in stride – no different than folks who live in areas of other natural disasters. Even so, it is a tragedy to see cracks in roadways, fallen bricks, and damage to homes and businesses as a measure of the magnitude of force that exists in nature.

Many people were injured this past Sunday when the 6.1 earthquake hit in American Canyon, which is the city just south of the city of Napa. I am sure that all saw the pictures of fallen buildings, damaged facades of old structures, and some fires as a result of gas leaks. The pictures of broken bottles and fallen barrels filled the TV screens. What we are fortunate for is that, for all the energy that was unleashed with the movement of earth, there were no fatalities. I know that is not the only measure of the extent of damage from an event, yet it is very lucky. Sympathies are extended to those who were hurt, and we all know that if the quake had hit in the daytime, the loss of life and the number of injured would have been much greater. That it did take place in the middle of the night is a blessing. Still many people have been injured and suffered. The loss of a home is a horrible experience. Again, sympathies to each for your loss and the challenges you must bear on the road back.

Many of the buildings that were hardest hit were historic and vintage structures. One of my favorite tasting rooms in downtown Napa, the Vintner’s Collective, suffered extensive damage. The brick facade came down, yet the sign in front of the building says “We’re down but not out!” That is the tone and tenor of the valley. People are helping each other where and when it is needed. It is a small valley, and people know each other and are there to lend a hand.

Many wineries experienced little to no damage from Sunday’s quake. I have read that even wine storage facilities in American Canyon, where the epicenter was, have no damage and lost no wine. The impact is variable. Remember that the valley is 30 miles long and the earthquake struck at the southernmost end. I have received many emails from wineries – some in the Stags Leap District and some further up valley — that are fine. They’re shaken, but fine. They are open for business, and that is important to know. There is a holiday weekend coming up, and the Napa Valley is open for business. You are welcome to come and enjoy the long Labor Day weekend in the valley!



Time to Check the Temperature at Home

The ideal temperature for wine storage has always been touted as between 55 and 57 degrees. This is the best temperature for reds to age gracefully over the long term. Well, now we have a scientific study to document what happens when we keep wine in warmer temperatures, such as would be normal for a home. Now scientists have done a study showing that wine stored in a typical home can age four times as fast as wine kept under ideal conditions.

The experiment was conducted with 400 bottles of Sangiovese. 200 of the bottles were stored in the ideal conditions, while the other 200 were kept at temperatures typical of the home environment.

The experiment was conducted by Fondazione Edmund Mach in San Michele all’Adige (Itally), which is a prestigious institution that has delivered a range of education, training and technology transfer programs in the fields of agriculture, food processing and sustainable development.

Lead researcher Fulvio Mattivi said, “We discovered that a relatively small difference in the temperature speeds up several chemical reactions associated with wine aging and even promotes new reactions that are not observed at lower temperatures. After six months under domestic conditions, the wine in the bottle was approximately as old as a bottle from the same producer and lot stored for two years under cellar conditions. The house-stored wine was aging approximately four times faster.”

So, what does this mean for the individual who does not have a wine refrigerator? While many folks who love wine may not always have the “ideal” temperature, there are ways to preserve that special bottle for the right time. Keep your wine in a dark place, with a constant cool temperature. A central closet that is dark may provide the best option if you don’t have a wine cellar or wine refrigerator.

Another option is to drink the wine sooner to account for the faster aging process. This could be good news, and it is wise to be informed. With home temperature accelerating the chemical reactions that take place, the advice is not to wait too long on that special bottle. You would not want to miss its prime time for your drinking pleasure.