About The Author:

"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.

Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: rogerthewineguy@gmail.com.

(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bierzo, A Great Little Wine from Spain

When it comes to great bold taste and value pricing, wines from Spain have always been a source for wine aficionados. Grenacha and Tempranillo have dominated the choices for red wine drinkers, albarino for white wine fans and cava for lovers of sparkling wines. Rias Baixas and Rioja and the Douro Valley D.O.’s dominate in most American wine drinkers selections.

There are some other great Spanish D.O.s worth seeking out. Etim and Priorat and Monsant all produce some great wines. For uniqueness and value, there’s also a tiny little D.O. called Bierzo tucked away in the northeastern corner of Castille & Leon. Formerly a part of Galicia, this wine district is the honored home of the indigenous Iberian Peninsula grape, Mencia. Mencia (called Jaen in Portugal) originally was used to produce some very light, pale and fragrant red wines. Producers are now utilizing very old vines (in the 50-80 year range) to bottle some bigger wines capable of body, structure and good ageing characteristics. Mencia’s origins are still somewhat of an unsolved mystery. It was once erroneously thought to be a clone of Cabernet Franc and that confusion may have arisen because a strain of Cabernet Franc introduced to Galicia in the 1800’s was, for a short time, called Mencia.

The Wine Guy had a recent opportunity to enjoy a great representation of Mencia when he gathered with family and friends for a pre-holiday celebration at Postino’s Wine Bar on Central Avenue in Phoenix (see attached photo). Their wine merchant, Brent Karlich, makes an effort to offer some great standards as well as some good interesting wines to explore on his periodically changing wine list at both Postino locations in Phoenix. A great selection of soups, appetizer plates and salads, frequent opportunities for price discounts on wine and good table service also combine to make Postino’s a go-to place for enjoying wine and food.

Our selected wine, a 2007 Bodegas Martin Codax Cuatro Pasos Bierzo, was asterisked as one of Brent’s recommended wines and came highly recommended by our waiter as well. Cuatro Pasos is virtually all Mencia. Some vintages of this wine will occasionally be balanced with a little Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouchet). It yielded about 14% alcohol (at the upper end of the required 11 to 14% for this D.O.) and was aged for 3 months on four different kinds of French and American oak. The Wine Guy found it full of great fruit aromas. There was definite cherry on the nose but that transitioned more to blueberry, raspberry and plum on the palate. Subtle notes of coffee and moist leather were present throughout with very moderate oakiness. The fleshy tannins yielded a lingering chewiness on the finish. It was a thoroughly enjoyable wine and paired well with the Bruschetta assortment and the meat and cheese assortment plate ordered by my favorite foodie, Mrs. Wine Guy.

The background of this wine is almost as interesting as its taste. Cuatro Pasos translates from Spanish as four steps (as in footsteps). It’s label has four bear paw prints, a reference to a legend of four bear footprints once found in an 80 year old vineyard utilized as one of the four vineyards from which grapes were sourced for this Mencia cuvee. “Four Steps” also refers obliquely to the four steps in making good wine: selection of land, care of the vines, suitable climate, and carefulness in vintification. As mentioned before, the wine utilizes four different types of oak in the ageing process. The wine also utilizes grapes from four different Bierzo region vineyards. Their soil content offers low lime and high concentrations of quartz and slate providing great acid and mineral balance to this wine. The winery itself, Bodegas Martin Codox, was founded in the 1980’s by four winemakers and was named for a thirteen century Galician Troubadour whose seven musical poems are the only surviving middle age classical pieces from this region of Spain. Cuatro Paso (Four Steps) is a great name selection and it’s a great value selection in a versatile, affordable Spanish red wine. Try it for yourself!

Note to Grapevine Readers:

If you’re exploring Spanish wines, you may want to enjoy some of my earlier published blogs on this topic. They include:
“Tempranillo, The Little Early One” published on 8/17/09
“Torres: Spain’s First Family of Wine” published on 10/22/09
“A Visit to Freixenet Sala Vie” published on 12/16/09

Look for them in the blog archives or use the title to search.

For more information on either of the Postino’s locations, visit www.postinoswinecafe.com.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A New Latitude Shiraz

Back on September 30, The Wine Guy, in a blog entitled “Que Sera Syrah?”, called this ubiquitous and versatile grape, the “Grand Duke” of red wine grapes.
(Reader’s Note: any of The Wine Guy’s former blogs are accessible in the archive section to the right or by utilizing the search function on this blog site.)
I commented at length about its adaptability for wine producers worldwide. That fact was born out in a recent new Shiraz I tried, which was a gift from my son. (See photo of Mr. & Mrs. Wine Guy enjoying a glass of wine with their pride and joy)

Regular readers are aware of Mr. & Mrs. Wine Guy’s love of travel, particularly to Mexico. Some of our travel genes must have passed to our son, a resident of Atlanta, Ga. Since first visiting Thailand as part of his completion of an International M.B.A. program, he has returned 3 times. On his last visit he brought back a bottle of Buddhist Era 2550 (that’s vintage 2007 to us) Monsoon Valley Shiraz. Siam Winery, one of six established wineries in Thailand, bottles this wine. It is also the country’s largest wine exporter and a pioneer since 1999 in what is now called “New Latitude Wines.

“New Latitude Wines” (as opposed to Old World & New World wines) are those grown in regions falling between 20 degrees north latitude and 20 degrees south latitude. Among the countries producing exportable and recognizable New Latitude Wines are India, China, Brazil and, of course, Thailand. Siam Winery first became known for their wine coolers and then for their utilization of two unique grape varietals, the red Pokdum and the white Malaga Blanc. These wines were developed specifically to grow in the type of climate found in the Chao Phyra delta. This delta is home to Siam’s Winery’s famous “floating island” vineyards. They have become a unique and well-photographed tourist attraction. These indigenous grapes were also developed for characteristics that pair well with Thai cuisine. The more international and traditional wine varietals (such as the Shiraz in question) are grown in higher elevation of the Pak Chong foothills near the coastal city of Hua Hin (Siam Winery calls this their Hua Hin Hills Vineyard). Offshore ocean breezes combine with the elevation to help offer a Mediterranean-style climate here despite its 13.2-degree north latitude (compared to Bordeaux’s 44.8 degree north latitude). In addition to Shiraz, you’ll also find the French Colombard among the major red varietals grown. Siam Winery produces five other labels in addition to the popular Monsoon Valley brand and you’ll find their wines in over 700 Thai restaurants worldwide including at least 300 in the United Kingdom. That’s no surprise given the very large British ex-patriot community that exists in Thailand. Bangkok, the capital, is home to a very well established wine society that was founded by British ex-patriots and it has been instrumental in helping recognition of Thailand as a leading pioneer in “New Latitude” wines. The Wine Guy has even found Monsoon Valley wines at Thai restaurants in his home state of Arizona.

Monsoon Valley Shiraz 2007 was entered in FBAT (Food & Beverage Association of Thailand) International Wine Challenges in both 2008 and 2009. It garnered Bronze in 2008 and Silver in 2009, indicating it benefits from, and is capable of, additional bottle ageing. The wine was aged twelve months in French Burgundian oak before its initial release and scores a 13.5% alcohol content.

As I tried the wine I noted less of the cracked pepper and a little more fruit forwardness than you’ll typically find in either the Australian or French versions of this varietal. There was nice red plum and raspberry in the fruit characteristics and for spice, there was some light peppery notes laced with a nice hint of cedar. As the wine aired, a subtle coffee aroma was also present. I found it to be a uniquely pleasant presentation that confirmed my admiration for the ability of Syrah (Shiraz) to produce an amazing variety of wines to enjoy.

Monsoon Valley also produces a Podkum/Shiraz blend that is supposed to be a red wine that is particularly well suited to pairing with Thai cuisine. The Wine Guy typically prefers a Nigori Sake’ with Thai food. However, I plan to make an exception the next time I dine at a Thai restaurant with this wine on the menu. Exploration and discovery has always been one of the most wonderful aspects of having wine with food!

If you want learn more about wines from Thailand, begin with a visit to this website: www.bangkokwinesociety.com. You can also visit them on Facebook. If you undertook my suggestion in the 9/30 blog, “Que Sera Syrah”, to explore the versatility of Shiraz/Syrah, add the Monsoon Valley Shiraz to my list of suggested wines to try. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Visit to Freixenet Sala Vie

From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, it is the season for great sparkling wine and no one does more sparkling wine than Freixenet. This Spanish based company was born in 1914 following the marriage of a daughter of one of Spain’s oldest winemaking families to the son of a premiere agricultural family. The founder Pedro Ferrar Bosch and his eldest son were killed during the Spanish civil war. His widow Dolores Sala Vie took over and today leadership of the company rests in the hands of her son, Jose and grandson, Pedro. It has grown into the largest producer of sparkling wines in the world distributed in over 150 countries. Serious exporting began in 1941 with their flagship Cava Carta Navada and expanded exponentially in 1974 with their signature Cordon Negro Brut, the brand that Americans are most familiar with. The company expanded to Mexico opening the Sala Vie Winery (named for the foundress) near Ezequiel Montes in 1980. Expansion continued through the 80's with a purchase of the 3rd oldest winery in the Champagne region of France, Maison Henri Avele, in 1985 and the opening of Gloria Ferrar in Sonoma, California in 1986. Expansion and acquisitions of Spanish properties put the company in six different major regions in Spain. Since 2000, they’ve also added facilities in Conwarra, Australia; Bordeaux, France; Mendoza, Argentina and in Chile.

Mrs. Wine Guy and I were recently able to visit Freixenet’s Sal Vie facility in the heart of Mexico's Queretaro wine country. (see photos) As expected, there were great vinos espumosos (sparkling wines) to sample. Their signature Sala Vie Semi Secco, while nicely made, was not quite to my palate. Mr. And Mrs. Wine Guy, along with our Mexican friends Silvestre and Rosaria did enjoy the Petillant Brut. This crisp and refreshing brut utilizes 70% St. Emilion (what the Mexicans prefer to call the Ugni Blanc grape). The remaining 30% is a blend comprised of Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Macabeo, one of the standard grapes in Cava. The Petillant Blanc was crisp, refreshing, well balanced and finished smoothly to a very subtle hint of nuttiness.

Of some surprise, given Freixenet’s renown as a sparkling producer, were the still wine offerings. They numbered ten in all, bottled under the brand names of Vivante for their joven (young) wines and Vina Dona Delores (again named for the foundress of Freixenet) for their crianza wines. After passing on their Rosado and their Sauvignon Blanc, we elected to take with us the very satisfying Vina Dona Delores 4 Regiones. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah included grapes grown in four different central Mexican states. They included grapes from Queretaro, Guanajuato, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes. The wine was macerated for 95 days, aged in oak barrels for 4 months and then additionally aged in the bottle. The result was a nice complex blend that began with a little of the fruit forwardness you’d expect from a Mexican wine, but broadened into some subtle hints and nuances as the wine aired and opened up. I found it to be an enjoyable blend that I feel would further benefit from some additional ageing.

We actually made two visits to this facility, once during midweek with our Mexican friends as guides. The other was a shorter weekend stop, while returning from a day trip to the magical village of Bernal. Freixenet Sala Vie, on weekends, takes advantage of their large patio area by hosting events to encourage wine sampling and education, particularly to weekend visitors from Mexico City (less than 2 hours away). A number of vendors ring the courtyard offering accessories, souvenirs, snacks and food that even included authentic Spanish paella. They also have their own wine bar, just off the plaza in nearby Tequisquiapan. If you’re planning to visit the state of Queretaro, plan to invest an hour or two at Freixenet or take one of the many wine and cheese tours offered out Tequisquiapan. You’ll have a good time!

If you can read Spanish, visit them online at www.freixenetmexico.com.mx.

Friday, December 4, 2009

More Great Italian Choices in Central Mexico

The very first blog published on Roger’s Grapevine was entitled “Great Italian Food & Wine Just South of the Border”. It dealt with my discovery, during several trips to Mexico, of the preponderance and popularity of Italian food in Mexico. That led to my discovery of many Italian connections and traditions in the Mexican wine industry. Mrs. Wine Guy & I had the opportunity to reconfirm this discovery of great Italian dining during our recent sabbatical in central Mexico.

We managed to revisit some old favorites, including Frascasti’s in Guanajuato. Frascati’s is located in the Hotel San Diego adjacent to the main Jardin (see photo of Mr. & Mrs., Wine Guy at left). We had also planned to dine out at Bella Italia in San Miguel de Allende, a restaurant I had mentioned in that first blog. Bella Italia is located just a block off the Jardin. It not only offers good Italian food and a respectable wine list, but occasional live music, as well. When we discovered our stay didn’t include the one night that week that Doc Severinson was playing, we opted to try something new. (This former Tonight show bandleader now resides in San Miguel). The restaurant also sometimes showcases two talented Latin musicians, Gil Guttierrez and Pedro Cartas who have recorded and toured with Doc. There were two more Italian restaurants in San Miguel that we did experience and add to our “places we’ll return to” list: Mare Nostrum and Antigua Trattoria Romana.

Mare Nostrum is Latin for “Our Sea”, the name commonly given by Italians to the Mediterranean. It is located on Calle Unmaran just a few blocks down from the Jardin and we literally stumbled on it while returning to our B&B after an afternoon of shopping. After visiting with hosts Brenda and Julio, we elected to return later for dinner, having already had our midday meal. That evening we began with an excellent caprese that included some very large and fresh leaves of basil. Our entrée was delicious ravioli stuffed with mushrooms and sweet potato. We accompanied our meal with a Pedro Domecq Cabernet Sauvignon from Baja Norte. As a sommelier, I was highly impressed by Julio’s nearly perfect presentation and serving of the wine, one of the best I’ve ever encountered in any wine bar or restaurant in Mexico. The quality of food, the graciousness of our hosts and the affordability (modest, even by Mexican standards) made it a delightful and enjoyable dining experience. It struck me as odd that during both our afternoon visit and evening dinner, the patronage at this neighborhood establishment seemed to be almost exclusively ex-patriot. It was only later in our journey that it dawned on me that the Latin name of the establishment may be impacting patronage by Spanish speaking locals who may not have Latin education. The Spanish word for sea is mar but the closest Spanish word to "mare" is "mareo", which implies seasickness or nausea due to motion. Just a guess on my part, but there is no denying that Mare Nostrum is well worth a meal out if you’re in San Miguel de Allende.

Antigua Trattoria Romana is located close to the art institute at the “y” formed by the intersection of Zacateros and Codos streets in San Miguel (see photo of the Wine Guy on front steps). Mrs. Wine Guy and I enjoyed a delightful lunch there enroute to the panteon (city cemetery) for Dias de la Muertos activities. This restaurant has been a San Miguel favorite since its opening in 1989 and its local owner, Fernando, has a love of Italy, especially Siena. We enjoyed sharing memories of this great Tuscan city with Fernando during our visit. Among the decor items you’ll notice inside are two large photos. One is of the owner, Fernando with an Italian restaurant owner, Luciano. The other is a photo of Luciano running ahead of the horses in Siena’s famed Palio held each year on the El Campo or town plaza. However, we'll also remember Antigua Trattoria Romana for their fresh and authentic pasta, which they make themselves. There is a respectable wine list here and Mrs. Wine Guy and I each enjoyed a glass of L.A. Cetto Zinfandel Rose’. I’ve remarked before about my impressions of this Mexican winery’s better wines and I found our choice to be very enjoyable with lunch. It was definitely not the sweeter, fruiter type of white zinfandel that you find from most California vintners but rather, a true rose’ of Zinfandel that let the wine's flavors fully express themselves. It complimented our pasta well. We hope to return here again on a future visit.

From San Miguel, we traveled on to the touristy, but charming and hospitable town of Tequisquiapan and it was there we added a third restaurant to our list of favorites: K’puchino’s Restaurante. This delightful establishment is a favorite among locals and tourists alike (most of the tourists here are from Mexico City on weekends…Tequisquiapan is not yet on most U.S. tourist’s radar but should be, especially with the expansion of the nearby Queretaro International airport). Located just off the main palazzo at #7 Independencia, it offers a very nice wine list, excellent service, live music on the weekends as well as great food. The best meal we had was actually a traditional Mexican arranchera with nopales. That dinner was accompanied by one of The Wine Guy’s favorite Mexican wines: Cetto’s Nebbiolo Riserva. What was most memorable for Mrs. Wine Guy, however, was their fabulous cappuccino. Throughout our stay, she insisted we pay a daily visit there just for the cappuccino (often accompanied by one of their tasty desserts). It will be a must visit on any future stay in Tequis.

As I stated in my first blog on Roger’s Grapevine: if you love Italian food and plan to travel to central Mexico, you’re in for some real treats and surprises. Don’t fail to dine out Italiano when you’re south of the border. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Try a hot wine for the holidays!

How time flies! We’re already a week into Advent, the traditional season for hot, mulled, spicy wines. One of my readers asked me to blog about Gluhwein, one of the most popular hot wines during this time of year. I’m glad to comply and thought I would briefly mention two other traditional hot wines appropriate for the holidays, as well.

Gluhwein (or Glow Wine) is popular in Germany, particularly Bavaria and its popularity has spread here to the U.S. Traditionally Gluhwein is made with a fruit forward red wine accented with mulling spices and served warm to hot with a cinnamon stick. There are numerable recipes on line and most will call for a cabernet sauvignon or a cab-merlot blend. For the less adventurous, many wine retailers will stock and offer some quality ready made Gluhweins from Germany. Schmitt-Sohne makes one of the most popular selling Gluhweins in the U.S. market. Many retailers will also sell the spice mix to which you can add the wine you want to utilize. A complimentary dash of liqueur or brandy is often called for in many Gluhwein recipes and you’re certainly welcome to add per your taste and preference.

Glogg is the Nordic version of the Germanic Gluhwein. It is most popular in Sweden. While ready-made Glogg wines are difficult to find in some areas, the Glogg mix is more common at both food and beverage stores as a seasonal item. It is often combined with fruit juices and heated as a non-alcoholic drink for kids and many hostesses have discovered its value as a holiday potpourri. Putting a saucepan of Glogg mix on the stove at low to medium heat will fill your home with spicy holiday aromas in less than an hour. Again, as with Gluhwein mixes or recipes, the Glogg mixes and recipes work well fruit-forward, somewhat sweeter red wines. Residents in The Wine Guy’s home state of Arizona have turned to Kokopelli Winery’s “Sweet Lucy” as a popular wine of choice for making both Glogg and Gluhwein.

Wassail is another hot mulled holiday beverage associated with this holiday season. Its name derives from an old Middle English phrase, “waes haeil”, which meant “be healthy”. Wassail is typically served hot with mulling spices much as Glogg and Gluhwein but its base is typically mulled cider, beer or mead. Of these mead, or honey-wine, is the most popular in the U.S. A California vintner who makes a quality and often highly rated mead is Chaucer. A packet of mulling spices accompanies their 750ml bottles of mead. Added to the mead, these spices help make a perfect Wassail for your holiday toasting. The wonderful thing about Mead is its ability to be served hot with the mulling spices, at room temperature, or even chilled as an aperitif or dessert wine.

Make it a warm and cozy holiday season. Enjoy a hot wine with family and friends!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

La Redonda

Mexicans consume only about 40% of the wines produced in Mexico. The rest are exported with roughly 3/4 of that production going to U.S. markets. Most Americans have a nodding acquaintance with the principal wine-producing region of Mexico: Valle de Guadalupe near Ensenada in Baja Norte. A significant wine-growing area, however, lies in the central state of Queretaro and it is here, near Tequisquiapan where Mr. And Mrs. Wine Guy visited La Redonda, an up and coming winery.

La Redonda actually has a 35-year history of grape production, growing and producing grapes for other Mexican wineries, principally their neighbors, Freixenet of Mexico near Bernal and Hildalgo at San Juan del Rio. This is one of the southernmost vineyards in North American mainly producing Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Trebbiano but also a few other varietals including Muscat and the rare Verdonia.

As with a lot of Mexican wines, there is an Italian connection. Vittorio Bortoluz immigrated to Mexico from Italy in the 50’s, and in 1972 established his own vineyard in this high plain region (elevation here is 6,300feet) of central Mexico near the Sierra Gorda mountains. In 2006 Claudio Bortoluz Orlandi opened the doors to wine production producing two labels. The first, La Redonda, is for joven or young wines. The second label, Orlandi, represents Crianza wines, ones that are more fully aged. Under Claudio’s leadership La Redonda is attempting to promote and encourage Mexican wine consumption more than producing wines for export. They hold several annual tasting festivals to attract visitors from nearby Mexico City and have added a trattoria on the grounds and offer complimentary tasting to visitors, which is rare at Mexican wineries. In the past year, they entered into a joint venture with the Australian family producer Angove’s and are now distributing those wines as well as offering them for tasting at the winery.

We were mid week visitors and thus had the undivided attention of the tasting room attendant Sylvia (see photo) who spoke no English. Fortunately, The Wine Guy had the assistance of a fully bilingual Tequisquiapan to supplement his very poor Espanol. Mrs. Wine Guy and I were grateful to Silvestre for his assistance and fully enjoyed sharing a luncheon cheese plate and bottle of La Redonda Sauvignon Blanc with him. his wife Rosa and son Alejandro (no wine for Alejandro who otherwise enjoyed tugging on The Wine Guy’s beard during lunch).

La Redonda’s best efforts were the aforementioned Sauvignon Blanc, a crisp and smooth Sauvignon Blanc that is unique in taste. I enjoyed, as well, as their Vino Blanco semi-secco, which is a delightful and smoothly flavorful blend of Trebbiano and Verdonia. While they are a major supplier of grapes for Freixenet for their Sala Vive and Petilant wines, their own attempts at sparkling wine fell a little short of their more renowned neighbor. (I’ll visit this winery in an upcoming blog). Their best red wine effort is the Orlandi Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec blend, barrel aged for 8 months. It tastes a little fruit forward which you come to expect in most Mexican wines. I also detected a little sharpness in the oaky finish but it is a wine that was quite enjoyable for the price and shows promise. The other Orlandi sample I had in the tasting room was, frankly, a little oxidized and tough to evaluate. Being mid-week after a holiday weekend, they were very reticent to open a new bottle.

(A note of caution for travelers from The Wine Guy: wine preservation systems are seldom in use in Mexico and most facilities will keep open bottles on the shelf until consumed. If you travel and frequent wineries, restaurants and wine-bars in non-peak traffic periods, you will definitely encounter some wine by the glass that is past its time to be poured!)

With the winery’s focus on developing domestic consumers, you probably won’t see La Redonda or Orlandi distributed widely in the U.S. except in the Southwest but their wines have potential and should be worth watching for in the future. Their facility is definitely worth a visit if you’re traveling to central Mexico. Take time out to travel Queretaro’s Ruta de Vinedos enroute to the delightful village of Bernal and stop in for the hospitality at Le Redonda, “Ruizdo de los Grandes Vinos Queretaros”!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving Wines

It’s nice to be back!

The ever delightful and fetching Mrs. Wine Guy and I had a great time in Mexico. We enjoyed some great wines, visited two new wineries and I will be sharing some wine stories and experiences from that trip in upcoming blogs.

However, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer some thoughts and suggestions on pairing wine with your Thanksgiving dinner.

Traditionally turkey dinners at Thanksgiving generally call for white wine and without a doubt Chardonnay is the most popular pairing with turkey, It’s always a good choice, offering body and richness without overpowering the mild and subtle flavors of a good, moist capon. Buttery, creamy chardonnays seem to compliment turkey and also tend to pair well with the assortment and variety of side dishes that accompany a Thanksgiving feast. However, in choosing a chardonnay, be careful of overpowering your bird with too much oak.

Among my recommendations would be:
Rombauer Reserve Chardonnay, a California favorite that is full of fruit with light creamy smoothness. Santa Ema Reserve Chardonnay: this Chilean beauty is more affordable than Rombauer and offers alight touch of oak, light creaminess as well as a nice finish.
For those who prefer to avoid oak entirely, look for Razor’s Edge Un-oaked Chardonnay, a well-balanced Australia beauty that is one of my favorite unoaked chardonnays.

There are a variety of other whites that can also pair well. Chenin Blanc is often overlooked and a good choice here is Sebeka from South African. South African Chenin Blancs (they call the grape “Steen”) are uniquely crisp and fresh. For a dry white alternative that offers less tartness than Chenin Blanc, try Guigal Cotes du Rhone Blanc. This is a highly rated blend of Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne (see the Wine Guy’s previous blog on Viognier). If you have a slight sweet tooth, try a good Gerwurztraminer or better yet, go for a great jewel from California’s Mendocino County: Navarro Edelzwicker, a phenomenal Gewurtztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris blend.

For a memorable meal, seriously consider a good sparkling wine. It’s festive and fully appropriate for the occasion, not to mention it’s absolutely a wonderful pairing with moist turkey breast and stuffing! I would suggest leaning to an Extra Dry or a Blanc de Noirs as opposed to a Brut and if you can find a good sparkling Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley of France, you’ll be amazed at how well it pairs with turkey. A good value priced wine from an established French Wine-making family that has a winery in Albuquerque, New Mexico is Gruet and they make a great Blanc de Noirs.

Don’t overlook the reds. While you do have to be careful not to overpower the delicate white meat of a roasted turkey with bold flavors and tannins, it is possible to enjoy a good red wine at your Thanksgiving table.

The most popular red at Thanksgiving is Pinot Noir. Be careful to avoid some of the bolder, fuller Pinot Noirs with heavier fruit and spice notes. What you want is smoothness and a slight touch of delicacy on the finish. Domestically, Willamette Valley Vineyards and Cloudline from Oregon are two choices I’d recommend. My personal preference in Pinot Noir would be toward a dry, old-world style Pinot Noir. Two choices would be the organically grown Cono Sur Pinot Noir from Chile and from France, Faiveley Bourgogne. Both offer excellent turkey pairing possibilities.

If you’re not a Pinot Noir fan, go Monastrel, Mataro or Mourvedre (same grape…different name in different countries). It is a full-bodied grape with a smoothness that can still work with turkey. Two great choices would be Spain’s highly rated Bodegas Juan Gil Monastrel or California’s Cline Ancient Vine Mourvedre. A great sparkling red choice would be a Tuscan Brachetto. They offer a touch of raspberry fruitiness, light sweetness and a delicate sparkling finish. Try Banfi’s Rosa Regale either with your dinner or as a prelude to dessert.

Remember, it’s a feast! Don’t be afraid to try more than one wine with the meal and don’t forget dessert. Try finishing your meal with a Juracon from France or a nice Port from either Portugal or Australia.

Hopefully, these tips were helpful. Enjoy your feast and may you and yours be blessed with an abundance of things to be thankful for on this special occasion.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Wine Guy Takes A Break

For the past three months or so, The Wine Guy has remained fairly committed to posting a blog on this site at the rate of once a week. As regular readers know, I recently retired and it’s time to take advantage of that spare time for a break. I plan to visit one of my favorite spots: Central Mexico. (see photo of The Wine Guy in Chapala last spring)

The fetching Mrs. Wine Guy and I will be returning to two of our favorite cities: San Miguel Allende and Guanajuato. We will also be visiting, for the first time, the communities of Queretaro Santiago, Bernal and Tequisquiapan in the State of Queretaro. I’m excited because Queretaro is becoming a renown wine-producing region. It’s rumored there are some local wineries producing some very good white wines. Freixenet also chose the area to headquarter their Mexican operations. It should provide some great material for upcoming blogs.

I will return to the blogspot in time to post on Roger’s Grapevine some timely tips for your Thanksgiving wine selection, Rest assured, I’ll will also regale you with some stories about wines and wine production in Queretaro. Look for the next posting by Mid-November.

In the interim, take time to drop me a line and let me know if you’re enjoying the content on Roger’s Grapevine. I’ll always welcome your input, your suggestions for topics, as well as any questions you may have about enjoying wine.

You can always reach me via the comment option on the blog or by email:

Simply write rogerthewineguy@gmail.com

Vaya con Dios y hasta la proxima!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Viognier: The alternative to Chardonnay

Viognier (vee-oh-NAY’) is a very old grape whose origins are somewhat obscure. It is generally thought that the Romans brought the grape to the Rhone valley of France and they may have been exposed to it by the Greeks. Even the derivation of its name has multiple and uncertain backgrounds. The Wine Guy tends to favor the speculation that the name comes from the Roman pronunciation of Via Gehennaae (“road to hell”) which may allude to the difficulty in growing and properly ripening this white varietal.

Regardless, Viognier produces a highly aromatic, very versatile wine capable of many manifestations that range from citrus and mineral in content to highly floral and fruity. It is capable of cripsness and can also be subtly oily and creamy. Not unlike the more ubiquitous Chardonnay, it can respond well to malo-latic fermentation and to some ageing on oak, producing a variety of styles. Its aromatic expressions are usually very floral and fruity, almost always with notes of apricot and orange jasmine. However, its characteristic aromatics often flatten out with prolonged bottle ageing, so it is best to consume this wine when young. Even at that, you can sometimes find excellent Condrieu comprised of 100% Viognier that has aged well. It can range in body styles and is capable of fairly high alcohol content for a white wine, typically ranging above 12.5%.

Unlike Chardonnay, Viognier has great co-pigmentation capabilities. It blends well with red wine, stabilizing the coloring without creating a rose’ style. Its characteristic low acidity often produces a smoothing finish when blended with spicier red wines such as Syrah. In the Rhone valley, winemakers will often blend Viognier with other white varietals (typically Rousanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc) to produce crisp, smooth and palate-pleasing wines.

Viognier was virtually exclusive to the Rhone Valley well into the early 20th century and very nearly became extinct after World War I. As late as the 1980’s there was thought to be less than 100 acres of this grape world wide in recognized commercial production. It has now found more favor and is regularly grown in Australia, the United States, Canada, South Africa and even Japan. Its best expressions appear to be from the Rhone Valley in France, Eden Valley in Australia, Edna Valley in California and the Rappahannock Valley in Virginia.

Viognier is a great food-pairing white wine. Its capabilities with a variety of cheeses are not to be underestimated. It can be a great compliment to Asian fare and it is a very viable alternative to Chardonnay as a great multi-purpose white wine.

The Wine Guy can easily recommend two examples of good values in Viognier he has enjoyed in the past: Yalumba’s Eden Valley Organic Viognier and Guigal’s Cotes du Rhone Blanc.

If you enjoy great white wine, explore the possibilities that await you with a good Viognier.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Torres: Spain's First Family of Wine

Torres is Spain’s first family of wine. The family wine making tradition dates back to the 17th century in the Penedes. In 1869 Jamie Torres returned to Spain after establishing himself in the oil and shipping industry and founded the house of Torres, building a winery near Barcelona utilizing grapes from the vineyards of his brother Miguel. Today the 5th generation of the Torres family has become involved in the company that dominates Spanish wine production and has become international in scope. In 1979 Torres opened a winery in Curico, Chile. In the 80’s Marimar Torres began growing grapes and established a winery in The Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, California. The 90’s saw the expansion into distribution with Torres companies supplying both the family… and other fine wines through family distribution companies in China, Sweden and the Netherlands. The company recently became involved in a joint venture distributorship in India that features an alcohol free wine line labeled Natura. Torres wines are now exported to over 130 countries throughout the world.

Not content to just making and distributing fine wine, Miguel A. Torres, the family head and President of Torres has been in the forefront of energy and green conservation issues in the wine industry and was a founder of Primius Familiae Vine (The First Families of Wines) a special society of world-wide wine making families devoted to promoting best practices, social responsibility and ethical standards in the international wine trade. Given their activities plus the fact they made very good wines with a great quality to price ratio resulted in Wine Enthusiast Magazine naming them the Best European Winery in 2006.

Torres best known wines worldwide are the Sangre de Toro line (Blood of the Bull). Moderately priced and of good quality, they are sometimes prized as much for their trademark bulls that hang on a ribbon dangled from the neck foil. The line consists of:

Sangre de Toro Red: A smooth tannin, dark-fruited wine that results from a blend of Garnacha and Carinena done in a very Spanish tradition.

Sangre de Toro White: A crisp, smooth white wine with fruit aromas followed by tastes of apple, pineapple and light spice. The dominant grape is Parellada, an indigenous Spanish wine. It is also one of the Spanish whites found in sparkling Cava.

Sangre de Toro Rose: a cherry colored rose with floral aromas and light fruitiness. This is a rose version of Sangre de Toro Red with the same Granacha-Carinena blend. It is achieved by keeping the skin contact to less than twenty-four hours.

Sangre de Toro Tempranillo: Meaty tannins, smoky aromas, a touch of spice ripe blackberry and strawberry fruit flavors dominate this Catalonian Tempranillo (Torres makes Tempranillo in several different regions of Spain and each is distinct.)

Torres makes a number of other wines. Among the Wine Guy’s favorites are the Torres Coronas and Gran Coronas which blend Tempranillo with up to 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. They also have a 100% Ribera del Douro Tempranillo called Celeste. Celeste is only oaked for 6 months giving both the fruit and the unique terroir of the region more of a chance to stand out. If you discover the wine, buy it now as it is being discontinued in favor of a higher priced label from the region.

All the wines above are from the Torres in Spain, but there are a number of good wines from the Chilean estate. The Miramar Torres winery in Sonoma also produces a very smooth Russian River Chardonnay. Mr. and Mrs. Wine Guy were fortunate enough to tour that estate back in 2004 and can be seen in the accompanying photo (yes, I’ve dropped a few pounds since then!), enjoying said chardonnay in the winery tasting room. Hopefully, we’ll be able to visit the Barcelona home of Bodegas Torres in the future.

For your part, seek out and enjoy a good wine from one of the world’s premiere wine-producing families.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Brunello di Montalcino: A Wine to Celebrate!

The Wine Guy recently passed a milestone. It’s called retirement. Although I’ll still blog, will work a couple of days a week and volunteer a couple more, I’m considered a retiree, drawing a partial pension as well as social security. To celebrate the advent of this auspicious occasion, the fetching Mrs. Wine Guy and I retreated to a cabin at the Briarpatch Inn in Sedona’s Oak Creek Canyon (the photo at left shows The Wine Guy with Wooley, a permanent resident at the Inn). Over the years, it’s been one of our favorite get-away spots, well suited for this kind of celebration. It seemed appropriate, as well, to have a special wine on hand for the occasion, so accompanying us was a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino, The Wine Guy’s favorite wine.

Brunello translates from Italian as the nice, dark one. That’s a fitting description for this magnificent wine made solely from one grape varietal, Sangiovese Grosso. While it’s suspected that production of Brunello may date as far back as the early 14th century, the first recorded mentions of such wine were scattered the 1800’s. This included a mention that a Brunello was the prize-winning wine at an 1865 agricultural fair in Montalcino. In 1888 Ferruccio Biondi-Santi released the first of the modern style Brunello, featuring long aging and low yield production. At the end of World War II, Biondi-Santi was the only government recognized commercial producer of Brunello wines. The winery, at that time, had only 4 declared vintages of Brunello: 1888, 1891, 1925, & 1945. In 1999, Wine Spectator chose the 1955 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Reserva as one of the top twelve wines of the 20th Century.

By the 1960’s, there were 11 producers and Brunello di Montalcino became an Italian D.O.C. in 1968. In 1980, Brunello di Montalcino became Italy’s first D.O.C.G. it’s highest appellation status. Currently there are approximately 200 producers of Brunello di Montalcino producing in excess of 300,000 cases a year. One out of every three bottles of Brunello di Montalcino produced is destined to be consumed in the United States. It has becomes a popular premium choice among American wine aficionados.

Black fruit chocolate, leather and licorice are among the dominant flavors in this complex wine and there is almost always a lingering aroma of earth and violets even after the glass is empty. Brunello di Montalcino, by law, is not released until 5 years after harvest and is capable of incredible aging. (An 1891 Biondi Santi tasted in a special vertical tasting in 1994 was given a perfect rating by a renown Master of Wine..that's 103 years after harvest!).

My selection for our intimate retirement dinner in Oak Creek Canyon was a Talenti Vigna del Parelaio Brunello di Montalcino Reserva 1999. We had actually purchased this wine in Montalcino during a Tuscan vacation (see photo of Mr. & Mrs. Wine Guy at a Tuscan winery in 2004) and had been holding it in our cellar for a special occasion. We decanted for about two hours prior to dinner and we nursed our wine into a pleasant enjoyable evening before the open fireplace afterwards. It was, in short, a superb choice. Sip after sip yielded a smooth, flavorful wine with a long, lingering, almost palate caressing finish. It was, indeed, a special wine and made the evening a special and memorable event.

Sangiovese Grosso is a finicky grape, as difficult to properly grow as the most stubborn Pinot Noir. Additionally a low-yield, full maturation growth is needed to make a good Brunello di Montalcino. The DOCG requires that the wine be aged at least two years on oak and one in bottle and it must await a total of five years from harvest before release. All this adds to the higher cost of the wine but its rewards are often worth the price. It is, in my opinion, one of the better values in premium wines.

Currently the 2004 vintage is on the market and the trade reviews point to this being an exceptional banner year for Brunello di Montalcino. The Wine Guy recommends you splurge and buy not one, but two bottles. Enjoy one now and cellar the other. It will come in handy a few years down the road when you want to make a special occasion truly memorable with a special wine. It worked for me and I hope you have the opportunity to have it work for you!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wine for Halloween: What a Treat!

Halloween has become one of those fun party holidays. From costumes to decorations, Halloween parties make great themed events and what’s more appropriate than to choose wines for your party with label names appropriate for the occasion.

Some wine shop standards that are available year around certainly qualify as Halloween wines. They include:

Spellbound Wines: A number of varietals are available from this central California winery whose name and full moon logo make it suitable for a Halloween theme. Best offerings would include their Cabernet Sauvignon and their Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel.

Pinot Evil: Available in a Corsican Pinot Noir or a Romanian Pinot Gris, this value priced line has appeal for a Halloween label and would do in a pinch.

7 Deadly Zins: Michael-David’s California Zinfandel fits the bill as not only a popular wine but also one suitable for a Halloween theme.

Owen Roe’s Sinister Hand: A really nice Rhone style blend from a good Oregon winemaker.

Evil Cabernet Sauvignon: The label for this one is inverted and reversed but this regularly available south Australian wine would be a good choice for your guests.

Bogle Phantom: This central California winemaker is better known for its single varietals but his blend of Petite Sirah, Old Vine Zinfandel and old vine Mourvedre is a knockout!

Casillero del Diablo: This label from Conch y Toro vineyards in Chile translates to “Cellar of the Devil” a name that was developed in an attempt to reduce employee pilferage from the winery’s cellars. Choose their Merlot or Carmenere for your guest’s enjoyment.

There are, of course, numerous wines bottled specifically for Halloween, some widely available and some specialized. A few that you might look for are:

Zombie Zinfandel: a California Zinfandel developed for Cost Plus World Market by Chateau Diana in Sonoma County.

Moselland’s Black Cat & Orange Cat Riesling: Their Rieslings are available year around but the special decorative bottles come out for the Halloween season and add a special touch to the party décor. One caution in buying, the Black Cat and Orange Cat bottles are 500ml instead of the normal 750ml so buy a few extra!

Pozin Zinfandel: You may have to hunt to find this one from California but the coffin packing may make it worth your effort. Besides, the winemaker claims that his wine is “to die for”.

Vampire Wines: This granddaddy of Halloween wines was begun by a Las Vegas attorney in the 80’s. It was first available as only a Syrah sourced in Algeria, but moved to Transylvania after the fall of the Iron Curtain and now has a vineyard home in the Paso Robles section of California. A number of varietals are available under the Vampire label but the Cabernet Sauvignon is their best effort. They do a Zinfandel and a Syrah under their Dracula label. They now also produce vodka, a cola and have a Belgium produced blonde tripel ale called “Witches Brew” (not to be confused with the Midwest produced Halloween wine of the same name).
Being from Arizona, The Wine Guy loves to share the fact that Phoenix native, former rock star and Halloween buff, Alice Cooper bought the very first 550 cases of Vampire Wine back in 1988

Half the fun of Halloween is in the preparation. Enjoy your search for the right costume and the right wine and have a “Spooktacular” time.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Que sera, Syrah?

Whether you call it Syrah or Shiraz, this dark, thick-skinned grape is one of the most versatile and prolific wine grapes. The grape is generally referred to as Syrah in Old World countries and Shiraz in the New World but both terms are common among U.S. producers. While it was once thought to of Mideast origin (the usage of the term Shiraz refers to the village of the same name where the grape is still cultivated), it has been determined that origins were in southern France where it remains a principal grape in some great wines.

Syrah generally produces bold dark-red wines that are rich, chewy and sometimes spicy in nature. It is highly reflective of the terroir which makes it capable of producing a wide diversity of flavors and nuances. It blends well with a number of red as well as white varietals and that increases the opportunities to enjoy the bounties of this black beauty. By itself, the grape makes wonderful bold reds with a residual chewiness. It is a go-to wine for pairing with game and with lamb dishes. While the principal producers of Syrah (Shiraz) are France and Australia, the grape is found throughout the wine growing regions of the world with significant usage in California and in Spain. If Cabernet Sauvignon, the most widely utilized varietal, can be called the King of red wine grapes, then Syrah easily deserves recognition as the Grand Duke.

Syrah rivals the great Italian Sangiovese in the number and variety of fine wines that can be produced from the grape. A great deal of its diversity comes from its expression of terroir but even more comes from its capability to be blended with a large number of other varietals. Adding Viognier, the white varietal most often blended with Syrah, introduces some apricot tones and will soften the characteristic cracked pepper spiciness into a smooth clean finish. The use of Viognier in Syrah can be frequently found in French wines and is also becoming more common for some Australia Shiraz producers led by Yalumba. In Spain can be found some great Syrah-Grenacha combinations. The French, of course, do their own style of blending Syrah and Grenache in a number of great Rhone wines. Some of the silkiest Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre (GSM) combinations come from California but also find good expression from French and Australian producers. Combining Shiraz (Syrah) with Cabernet Sauvignon is a great combination for grilled meats and few do it better than the Australians.

One of the more interesting Syrah combinations recently enjoyed by The Wine Guy was Jade Mountain’s highly acclaimed Mt Veeder Syrah. This Californian beauty blends in light touches of Grenache and Teroldago. Teroldago is an obscure Italian varietal that sent me scrambling to my reference library. It is, oddly enough, an ancestral relative (call it a great-uncle) of Syrah but exhibits characteristics that have more in common with Zinfandel and Primativo. As this wine opened up, the smooth fruitiness of the underlying blending grapes became more recognizable and made this a unique and enjoyable Syrah.

There are endless examples of good Syrah expressions you can enjoy but here are a few recommendations from The Wine Guy of some value-priced Syrah-based wines you might want to hunt for at your favorite retailer:

Penfold’s Koonunga Hills Shiraz-Cabernet:
A consistently good value-priced example of the power of combining these two varietals.

Yalumba “Y” Series Shiraz-Viognier:
This wine classically illustrates the effects of blending Viognier on the Shiraz finish.

Almira Los Dos:
A great expression of old vine grapes from Spain combing Grenacha and Syrah.

Rosenblum Hillside Vineyards Syrah:
Renown for his Zinfandels the Californian veterinarian/winemaker scores big with this Syrah.

Cline Cashmere:
The name aptly describes the palate feel of this California GSM.

Meffree LaChasse Du Pape:
An affordable, yet well made expression from Southern France.

Layer Cake Cotes du Rhone and Layer Cake Barossa Valley Shiraz:
These negociants from California traveled to two different regions and brought back some great examples to explore, each with their own good characteristics.

The ubiquitous Syrah or Shiraz offers a great diversity of wines to sample. No matter what your taste preference, you’re sure to find something you enjoy. Have fun in your exploration!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Restaurant Wine Pricing Part II - BYOB

In the last blog, The Wine Guy discussed restaurant wine pricing. Before I move on to other subjects, I would remiss if I did not devote some space to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) restaurant dining. While most consider BYOB as a way to counter restaurant wine pricing, it’s more suitably applicable to the confident diner who wants to enjoy his favorite wine selection and welcomes the assurance of pairing his choice of wine with the meal.
Although it’s always been around, BYOB dining is generally believed to have taken popular hold in the 60’s and 70’s. There is a lot of debate over whether the practice originated in the US or overseas but it can be found in most locales today. Chicago has a guide that lists over 250 such facilities with little or no corkage fees. BYOB is popular in many eastern seaboard cities (New Jersey has a special BYOB license) and its popularity extends to Australia and New Zealand where some claim the boom in BYOB restaurant dining began in the 60’s.

BYOB can a thoroughly enjoyable wine dining experience for both you and your favorite BYOB restaurant but it IS important that you develop some understanding of the common sense “rules of the road” in BYOB dining.

Let’s discuss first, BYOB as it applies to restaurants that have a wine list and sell wine as part of their dining service. Some of these do and some do NOT permit BYOB beverage service. Most will charge a “corkage fee” in connection with the opportunity to be served your own wine. Here are some suggestions and recommendations when considering this type of restaurant.

1. Always call ahead and ask the restaurant to explain their BYOB policy: Remember, allowing BYOB is a service. The purpose of your call is not to debate the restaurant’s policy… you’re gathering information to simply determine, as a consumer. if this is a reasonable service you want to avail yourself of.
2. Determine the corkage fee, if any. Corkage fees will vary greatly. Recognize that a high corkage fee is sometimes the restaurant’s way of discouraging BYOB without having to entirely prohibit it. A corkage fee is generally considered reasonable if it does not exceed the lowest priced standard wine on the restaurant’s list.
3. Be sure to determine if there are limitations. Some restaurants with lists will only allow BYOB if it is a wine they do not provide. Here, you may inquire about policy exceptions if it makes sense. As an example, a special anniversary may require, for sentimental reasons, a particular vintage of a wine that’s carried by the restaurant but not in the vintage required. Explain the reasons for your request and ask politely. Most good restaurateurs will try to accommodate you.
4. If your waiter provides wine service for your BYOB wine, be sure to always include the cost of that wine when calculating his tip.

Some restaurants do not sell wine but allow BYOB service. Many of the same protocols as discussed above apply but there are also some special considerations.

1. These restaurants may or may not charge a corkage fee. As with the facilities discussed
above, it is suggested you acquaint yourself with the restaurant’s policies prior to arriving
with bottle in hand.
2. It is generally customary in these types of BYOB facilities to offer your waiter and host a
complimentary “taste” of your BYOB wine, if permitted by law and by the restaurant. This is particularly true in restaurants that are strictly BYOB and do not charge any corkage fee. As with facilities above, always include the wine cost in calculating your service tip.

An important and special precaution when doing BYOB restaurant dining: It is incumbent upon you, as the diner, to be sure that your BYOB consumption on premise is in compliance with your state and local liquor ordinances. As an example, it was mentioned above that New Jersey has special BYOB liquor licensing. The New Jersey law allows consumers to bring in and be served liquor bought off premise in these facilities. Some enterprising owners have printed “wine lists” showing prices from a nearby package store that is then phoned and delivered to your table. Not only does the owner violate state law by engaging in this practice but so do YOU.

The one serious disadvantage of BYOB dining is that responsibility and liability for on-premise alcohol consumption shifts almost entirely to YOU. When you chose to BYOB, the Wine Guy urges you to be conversant, not only in your wine selection, but in the applicable laws and regulations covering on-premise alcohol consumption and in the transportation of alcoholic beverages. Do your homework and be safe.

BYOB dining for the wine enthusiast is fun and delightful. It allows for the enjoyment of your very favorite wines, the ones you enjoy at home. Properly done, It also opens the door to greater camaraderie and fellowship in dining. Additionally, you may discover that many BYOB restaurants focus on the food and atmosphere and can be great dining experiences in their own right.

If you live in or visit Arizona, The Wine Guy happily recommends one of his favorite BYOB facilities: Giusseppe’s Italian Restaurant in Scottsdale. Strictly BYOB, this restaurant has no corkage fee and requires you open your own. It’s a modest, family style bistro with limited seating but offers good service and, more importantly, some great pasta dishes. They do a better job with cheesecake than their tiramisu but other than that, nearly everything on the menu is delicioso. Come early, the kitchen closes at 8:30pm but the food is good, the service is good and the owner appreciates and enjoys wine. It’s a delightful place to dine with your favorite Chianti, Montepulciano or Ripassa.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Restaurant Wine Pricing Part 1

Since I joined the wine business I’ve been asked about or commented to about the price of wine in restaurants constantly. Today, the Wine Guy offers some short background on the cost of wine on-premise (at your favorite wine-bar or restaurant) and some tips on how to know if those higher prices are somewhat fair or just simply “too” high.

Let’s begin by qualifying the subject of this blog to restaurants whose lists are largely confined to wines normally available to the consumer at retail (including both everyday and fine wines). Restaurants who offer very rare and uncommon wines are unique and have endured exceptional effort and expense in developing those special offerings to their diners. At least part of the reason you’re there should be the opportunity to taste rare and eclectic wines. DO recognize that the cost for having those wines available will be borne by ALL the wines on their list. If you choose to have wine at one of these establishments, forget the cost and go for the good stuff…it’s why you’re there!

Back to conventional dining with wines you would normally buy for yourself. Yes, you ARE paying more for your selection than you would at your favorite wine emporium. Here’s a short summary of the most significant reasons why:
1. The restaurant’s wholesale and inventory costs are significantly higher:
Because of volume and turnover, retailers often qualify for volume, quantity and promotional discounts that restaurants cannot often advantage. In many instances, a single case may represent an inventory investment of six months or longer for the restaurateur but only a month or less for the retailer. This also translates to higher expense in terms of inventory cash investment and higher product maintenance cost due to longer storage.
2. Licensing costs & liability are higher:
While licensing does vary by state, most states are similar to Arizona (The Wine Guy’s home) with higher fees for on-premise than off-premise licensing. The retailer has select employees who have wine knowledge and have met state alcohol awareness training while the restaurant may have endured that expense for all who are involved in handling your wine. Additionally, the cost of liability insurance is ALWAYS significantly higher for an establishment where alcohol is poured and consumed on site than for one where the consumer purchases for later consumption.
3. There is a higher cost of sales in a restaurant:
In terms of glassware, utensils and even labor, the restaurant has significantly higher cost in delivering the product to you than does the retailer. Virtually none of the retailer’s transactions involve serving accessories that have to be cleaned and maintained. Up to 80% or more of his transactions involve no significant customer-staff interaction beyond paying of the tab. The restaurant, however, endures these kind of extra expenses in virtually everyone of his transactions involving wine.
O.K., we’ve established that a higher cost can be expected. When is that higher price too much? Below are some general guidelines The Wine Guy uses in evaluating restaurant wine pricing. Note that when I mention average retail bottle prices, I DON’T refer to the cost of discounted wine, cost after volume discounts nor sales promotion items. This would the average normal retail price at your typical wine merchant. This retail can vary up to thirty percent in the typical marketplace so we’re looking for an overall market representation of what the typical consumer pays everyday to take his bottle home.

Wines by the glass:
Well-run restaurants that serve wines by the glass will average just a little over three glasses served per bottle. Yes, a bottle contains more, but, operationally, some allowance needs to made for shrinkage due to operations and loss of freshness. A good restaurateur needs to recover his wholesale bottle cost in the first glass poured if he hopes to realize a reasonable profit. Your cost for the wine-by-the-glass you order should fall somewhere between 70% and 90% of the average retail cost per bottle in the market where the restaurant is located. Any more should make you start to feel a pinch in your pocketbook. The by-the-glass cost would be considered extremely high if it exceeds the average retail bottle price.
When buying wine-by-the-glass, The Wine Guy usually only orders the most frequently sold varietals. This means Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and, with caution, Pinot Noir in general restaurants. I’ll consider another varietal if it ties into the restaurant’s specialty, A Chianti or Sangiovese in an Italian or a Naoussa in a Greek restaurant would be classic examples. This rule offers some assurance of volume turnover and freshness. Remember: you pay a premium for wine by the glass…if two or more in your party drink the same wine or if one of you intends to have a minimum of two glasses, your best buy is by the bottle!

Wines by the bottle:
1.5x to 2.5 x Average Retail:
Affordable values come from restaurants that offer wine by the bottle at one and a half to two and a half times the average retail market price. These are good values and offer you a fair opportunity to pair your favorite wine with your favorite meal. The Wine Guy cautions that you should avoid unknown labels, particularly house wines, in most value restaurants. Stick with labels and varietals that you are familiar with or ones that have been recommended by a source you have confidence in.
2.5x to 3x Average Retail:
This is pricier but still can be a reasonable range for restaurant wine. However, at this point, The Wine Guy is beginning to look for something beyond just average restaurant wine service. I want to see some variety and opportunity in the wine selection, some knowledge of the wines from my wait staff and some very good fundamentals in presenting and serving of the wine.
3x to 3.5x Average Retail:
Your wine selection has begun to overshadow your entrée selection so there should definitely be “something extra” going on if you are to consider these wines as reasonably priced. Wine selection and wine service should be much more formal at this point. The Wine Guy will also look for a wine list that offers descriptions, pairing suggestions as well as a selection of better quality wines. During prime dining hours, I would expect a knowledgeable wine steward or sommelier to be available if my waiter was not thoroughly versed in the wine list.
3.5x Average Retail and above:
At this point and higher, there really needs to be something very exceptional in terms of offering and service that simply isn’t available at other restaurants. If not, The Wine Guy opts for iced tea or water with dinner, followed by a promise to Mrs. Wine Guy to uncork one of our favorite cellar selections to enjoy on the patio when we get home. Hopefully, the food was awesome, or there’s an opportunity to BYOB the next time with a reasonable corkage, otherwise a return trip is highly unlikely.

Good wine and good wine service in restaurants comes at a higher cost but doesn’t always have to be overly expensive. With a little effort, you’ll find great restaurants offering great wine with great food at fair prices. Remember to vote “with your pocketbook” for those that do and don’t hestitate to vote against those that don’t by denying your business. I hope you found The Wine Guy’s restaurant pricing guidelines helpful in that quest.

On my next blog, Restaurant Wine Part 2 covers BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) and some do’s & don’ts to enjoying this particular and highly fun form of dining out with wine.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Santa Ema Great Wines From Chile

Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon are still the mainstays of American wine consumption and there are innumerable quality producers of each of these varietals but it’s always a special treat to find a single winery that excels in the production of all three. Such is the case with Santa Ema Winery from Chile.

The Wine Guy has been a fan of the Santa Ema Reserve Merlot for a number of years and now also regularly recommends their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Reserve Chardonnay.

Santa Ema Reserve Chardonnay:
This is a great mid-range Chardonnay, falling between the often lighter, citrusy fare of the southern hemisphere, the mineral crispiness of some European chards and the heavy-oak or heavily buttered fare from California. Aged three months on oak and four months in the bottle before release, Santa Ema Reserve Chardonnay offers mature fruit, great balance and some vanilla, soft toast and light honey notes on the finish. It has all the value-priced ingredients for a great sipping as well as a great food pairing white wine.

Santa Ema Reserve Merlot:
A medium to full bodied merlot with great aromatics that beg you to reach for your decanter. Look for notes of currant, plum and prune with a light touch of cocoa and charcoal balanced with soft textured tannins. Un-grafted vines, quality fruit and ten months aging on oak contribute to this wine being one of the most consistently enjoyable Merlots available at an affordable price!

Santa Ema Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon:
It keeps getting better each year, recently earning a 90-point rating in Wine Spectator! Look for definitive black fruit, roasted coffee as well as light accents of fig and tobacco leading to a long finish. Aged for ten months on oak and an additional six months in the bottle, this could become one of your favorite everyday cabernets!

Wine Guy Footnote:

Regular readers of Roger’s Grapevine are familiar with my proclivity to Italian wines and Italian cuisine. While I’ve been a fan of Santa Ema for some time, it was only in preparing for this blog that I discovered the Italian background of the winery. Here’s the story:

Back in 1917, a son of an Italian winemaker, Pedro Pavonne Voglino, emigrated from the Italian Piedmont to Chile. Eighteen years later, he harvested his first grapes and became a regular supplier to wineries in the area. He went on to establish his own winery with his son Felix. It became Santa Ema in 1955. Two other sons joined the business and today, the Pavonne family continues to manage a winery that is now renown for its cutting edge technology balanced with adherence to strict winegrowing standards. Santa Ema wines are now exported to over thirty countries.

Perhaps it’s being fortunate enough to have visited Italy with Mrs. Wine Guy or having one of my first wine jobs with an Italian wholesaler that has prejudiced me. However I prefer to think it’s because the Italians show some of the greatest diversity in winemaking coupled with respectful adherence to winegrowing and winemaking traditions. They also seem to be able to add creativity and exploration without sacrificing their passion, love and dedication to those traditions. From the Seghesio family in Sonoma, California to the Cetto family in Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico to the Pavonne family in Chile and countless others, there always seems to be a cutting edge Italian presence and positive influence in New World winemaking. Bless those Italians for their passion and dedication to good wine.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Wine Shoe: "Because it Fits"

This week, The Wine Guy had planned to blog about restaurant wine but that’s being deferred to an upcoming week so I can share some new friends I’ve met in the wine trade.

Last week, Mrs. Wine Guy and I traveled to Atlanta for a visit with our son who has resided for a number of years in the Castleberry Hill area of Atlanta (just southwest of downtown within a stone’s throw of CNN and, more importantly, the Elliott Street Deli and Pub). He had previously told us about a new wine shop opening in the neighborhood and mentioned he wanted to introduce us on our next visit. We had scarcely arrived before we headed out the door of his loft for the 3-block walk to the Wine Shoe, 339 Nelson Street SW, in the Castleberry Point building. (Also, conveniently on the way to the aforementioned Elliott Street Deli where an awesomely named sandwich, “The Dirty Bird”, awaited my ravenous intentions).

We found a small, delightfully appointed wine shop and tasting room (see photo). It offered a small (about 150 sku’s) but noble and well-rounded selection of wines. Mrs. Wine Guy and I selected a Sangiovese-Bonarda blend from Argentina while my son and his girl friend enjoyed a domestic Pinot Noir. Prior to the emptying of the first glass, it became apparent that the future success of the Wine Shoe would come not just from its “boutique” atmosphere and selection but also from the enthusiasm and passion of its proprietors, Nora and Shannon Wiley. These transplanted Kansans allowed their enthusiasm and love of wine lead them to opening the Wine Shoe in their adopted Castleberry Hill neighborhood. Why call it “Wine Shoe”? Well, as the Wileys say in their slogan: “Because it fits” and so do they. With regular tastings, special events, and a willingness to talk to anyone about enjoying wine, and even welcoming nearby residents to bring in their dogs, they offer a unique kind of shop that does indeed fit into the urban neighborhood lifestyle. They even hosted a “Paws for Wine” event for dog owners (These people never tire of word play!)

Suffice it to say, considerable time was spent that evening sharing wine stories and thoughts on selling wine. Nora and Shannon, upon hearing Mrs. Wine Guy and I were on our own the next day while our son tended to business, invited us to join them at a trade show. The event was hosted by one of their suppliers, Grapefields Fine Wine Distributors. We spent a delightful day tasting some new wines, revisiting some old favorites, comparing taste impressions with the Wileys and making a few recommendations. We even spent some time with Mike Hill, the Grapefields rep for Wine Shoe. Mike is enthusiastic about his client and can be found at the Wine Shoe on a somewhat regular basis hosting tasting events for patrons.

Future visits to Atlanta will almost certainly include a return visit to the Wine Shoe. I certain I’ll always find some familiar but also something new each time I visit. I encourage you to do the same if you get the opportunity. One word of caution, there’s a third Wiley on the premises, a dog named Baron who will entice you into a never-ending game of ‘fetch the ball”. If you’re up for fun and wine and in no hurry, drop in the Wine Shoe….because it fits!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tempranillo: "the early little one"

Tempranillo is as much a signature grape for the Spanish as Malbec is for the Argentineans, Sangiovese for the Italians and Riesling for the Germans. It is cultivated throughout the Iberian peninsula and is sometimes called Aragonez. It is known as Tinta Roriz in Portugal. Tempranillo finds its best expression, however in the Spanish regions of Rioja, Priorat, Ribera del Duero and Montsant. The fact that three of these regions (Rioja, Ribera del Duero & Montsant) became Spain’s first to earn DOCa designation (Spain’s highest appellation status) underscores the importance of Tempranillo as Spain’s premiere red wine grape.

Tempranillo translates as “early little one” from Spanish and it is, indeed, an early ripening varietal. This thick-skinned black grape grows best at higher elevations. It requires coolness in order to produce flavor elegance and acidity but requires heat for color and sugar production. That generates some challenges in both growing and winemaking. Tempranillo typically requires some blending to help achieve a good balance. The grapes most often called on to accomplish this are trusted Spanish stand-bys: Grenache, Graciano and Mazuelo. The extra efforts required by Tempranillo are rewarded by smooth, mellow and refined wines with earthy bouquets of toasted leather, coffee and tobacco, deep red fruit flavors and lingering finishes that often have a hint of ocean spray. Done right, this grape produces rich wines capable of being consumed and enjoyed young but also capable of aging into enjoyable wine for more than a decade.

For the red wine lover, these characteristics offer some thoroughly enjoyable taste opportunities.

It’s helpful to understand the Spanish age classification when choosing which type of Tempranillo to enjoy:

“Crianza” refers to wines that require aging for one year in oak barrels.

“Reserva” designates wines meeting the required minimum of two years of aging, one of which must be on oak.

“Gran Reserva” designates wines meeting minimum requirements of at least two years aging on oak and three years aging in the bottle.

The Wine Guy recommends Marques Caceres Rioja Crianza and Faustino I Rioja Gran Reserva as standards to begin your exploration of Tempranillo. These have been the two best sellers in the U.S. market. After those, there are literally scores of excellent wines to choose from but two additional suggestions would be a Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva and a Monticello Rioja Gran Reserva, the 1998 vintage in particular.

Spanish wines are largely very affordable and quality has been on a definite upswing in recent years so go explore and discover the wonderful versatility of a good Tempranillo.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

“In Vino Veritas” - Great Wine Quotes

In Vino Veritas (In wine is truth). This is, without a doubt, the world’s best known wine quote.
It is generally attributed to Pliny The Elder, a Roman. While he may have coined the Latin version, the same expression in Greek has been attributed from an earlier time to the philosopher Plato as well as the Greek poet Alcaeus. Regardless of origin, The Wine Guy concedes it should on anyone’s top ten wine quotes list including mine.

That, of course, is my topic for this week…The Wine Guy’s Top Ten Favorite Wine Quotes. The remainder of my list follows:

The first two reflect the importance of wine as part of life:

“ I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.”
-Line spoken by actor W.C. Fields

“…. behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes, to be changed into wine: a constant proof God loves us and loves to see us happy.”
-American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin

A couple of renowned authors offered their simple, yet descriptive, definition of wine and both made my list:

“Wine is the most civilized thing in the world.”
-American author Ernest Hemmingway

“Wine is bottled poetry.”
-Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson

Speaking of poetry, among the thousands of poems written about wine, here are two that made my list:

“The Spirit of Wine
Sang in my glass, and I listened
With love to his odorous music,
His flushed and magnificent song.”
-British poet William Ernest Henly

“Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you and sigh.”
-Irish poet William Butler Yeats

The Wine Guy is a firm believer that wine greatly contributes to the enjoyment of food, thus the inclusion of the following quote from a famous French cooking author:

“Wine makes a symphony of a good meal.”
-Fernande Garvin

For a wine aficionado, the next quote appropriately equates wine with the romance of life:

“We are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine.”
-Uruguayan journalist & author Eduardo Galeano

Last, but certainly not least on the list, is a quote that succinctly summarizes the importance of wine for all of us dedicated vinophiles:

“Wine, Madam, is God’s next best gift to man.”
-American author & essayist Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Bierce was a rather eclectic figure who disappeared from the American scene in 1913 when he traveled to Mexico, ostensibly to join Pancho Villa’s revolution. His quote is a great way to end the list. I hope you enjoyed it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Palazzo Della Torre: An old friend comes to dinner.

On a somewhat regular basis, Mrs. Wine Guy and I treat ourselves to a decent grilled steak, usually paired with a nice bottle of one of our favorite wines. This past week, the steak was accompanied with some mushroom risotto so The Wine Guy chose to decant an Allegrini Veronese IGT Palazzo Della Torre 2005. I have several on hand, but chose the current vintage,thus reserving the older ones for a more special occasion. (I should carefully qualify, however, that sharing dinner and a glass of wine with Mrs. Wine Guy is always considered an occasion unto itself!). It proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable dinner and reminded me why this particular wine remains one of my all-time favorites, regardless of vintage.

The Palazzo Della Torre is a wonderfully crafted blend of Corvina, Rodinella and Sangiovese. 70% of the grapes are vintified at harvest while 30% are held until December, then added to the wine Ripasso style for re-fermentation. Aging for fifteen months on oak follows. Ruby-red in color, this wine typical emits currant, blackberry and licorice aromas. It offers nuances of dried fruits including raisins and dates. The finish is softly subtle but long and lingering. It has almost a caressing quality on your palate. The complex aromas continue to develop in your glass even after considerable decanting. It also has the wonderful ability to bring a different nuance in taste with each different dish you pair with it. These refreshing qualities make it a wine you continue to explore and enjoy every time you approach it.

For all the complexity and nuances, it is also wonderfully consistent in its basic structure, quality and balance. It has been consistently scored in the high 80’s to low 90’s by just about every rating publication you could name. Additionally, this wine has been listed in Wine Spectator’s Annual Top 100 list five times that I know of in the past nine years. It’s an impressive track record that is well deserved.

Let me skip all the normal wine-jargon and get right to the point. Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre is “one lip-smacking good wine” and is capable of making any occasion a special one when you open a bottle. The Wine Guy recommends you chill it slightly (about 60-62 f) and air for a good three-quarters to one hour, then enjoy!

Try it for yourself and you’ll discover why it is one of The Wine Guy’s all-time favorites.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Brief Look At Sake

Sake’ (pronounced sah-kay) is not a wine and, in fact, has more in common with beer than wine. Number one, it’s grain based. It also comes from a double fermentation process. The first fermentation converts the starch in the rice paste into sugar; the second converts the sugar into alcohol. These processes do NOT, however, produce the carbonation found in beer, so Sake’ isn’t a beer either. Most American’s first experience with Sake’ comes from the warmed or heated styles commonly found in Japanese restaurants. These more common, everyday types of sake usually contain significant additions of distilled grain alcohol. They constitute about 80% of the produced sake’ in the world. The best sake’ is tokutei meishoshu constituting the premium categories and accounts for about 20% of world production. Ginjo, sake is made with a good portion of the rice hull ground away and constitutes less than 10% of world production. Ginjo, particularly junmai gingo, (with no added alcohol) offers the best opportunity for exploration by the typical wine drinker.

Sake’ is a unique beverage with nuance, complexity and versatility that’s suitable for food pairing and as an enjoyable aperitif. For the sake (no pun intended) of enjoyment, however, treat it as though it were a wine. You’ll find it to be lighter than most white wines, more delicate in flavor and subtler in fragrance and aroma. It is always best served lightly chilled and occasionally at room temperature. As always, The Wine Guy suggests you let your own palate be your guide. Flavor profiles range from dry to sweet, from fresh to full-bodied and from light and soft to fruity.

For those with sensitivity to sulfites and gluten, sake’ is a blessing and most are kosher, as well.

Here are a few tips and suggestions if you decide to explore Sake’:

1. Look for sake-meter (or nihonshu-do) numbers on the back label or on fact sheets when choosing a sake’. These numbers will relate the relative dryness or sweetness. Zero is generally considered a neutral number or midpoint. Positive numbers indicate relative dryness: the higher the number, the dryer the sake’. Negative number indicate relative sweetness, the greater the negative number, the sweeter the sake’. Do bear in mind that acidity and alcohol content may also affect the perception of sweetness on your palate
2. Try a Nigori. Nigori or unfiltered sake’ has leftover rice residue that softens the feel on the palate, intensifies some of the aroma, and adds a little sweetness. Nigori also pairs well with spicier food. (The Wine Guy almost always chooses a Nigori to have with his favorite Thai dishes.)
3. Taste, taste and taste some more! Just as with wine, enjoy as many tasting opportunities as you can to educate yourself and explore your own palate preferences.
4. Talk to knowledgeable retailers. They are a wealth of information and have a vested interest in helping you to choose the types of sake’ that you will most enjoy.

John Gauntner, an American expert who spends most of his time in Japan, does a wonderful job of providing educational material on sake’. Visit his website: www.sake-world.com.

Here are a few quick recommendations from The Wine Guy as good introductions to your sake’ exploration:

Hatkutsuru Sayuri:
A delightfully aromatic, sweet (-11) Nigori with a smooth finish.
Rihaku Dreamy Clouds:
A nearly neutral (+3) Nigori that is leaner and brighter than most of its class with a light, fruity nuttiness.

Nama: (A Nama or draft sake’ is one that skips one or both of the pasteurization steps that occur in the processing and of sake’. For some, this results in enhanced flavorings)
Sho Chiku Bai Organic Nama:
A lightly dry (+5) Nama with smooth softness on the palate, subtle aromas and light flavor nuances.

Junmai Ginjo:
Rihaku Wandering Poet:
A well balanced sake’ (+3) with light fruit aromas and a clean, crisp light acidity and lightly lingering finish. It has the ability to be a great palate cleanser and refresher.

Go ahead…explore and enjoy some sake’.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Alicante Bouschet: Getting the bootleggers grape right!

Alicante Bouschet, created from a cross with Grenache and Petite Bouschet, is the only red flesh grape in the vitis vinifera family. It is a grape that produces high yields. When made into wine, its red flesh contributes to the production of a deep rich red color.

Both these factors contributed to it being cultivated highly in California during prohibition. California vineyards would sell the grapes and enclose warnings that these grapes could produce alcohol if not handled properly. The warnings would elaborate in detail the horrible steps that could result in alcohol (avoid crushing the grapes as this could result in the release of fermentable juices, etc.) At the same time, bootleggers loved Alicante Bouschet for its deep color because it could be watered down and still appear to be good red wine. After prohibition, acreage under cultivation fell dramatically and it returned to infrequent use as a blending grape to add color.

Alicante Bouschet has been utilized for a long time as a blending grape in Europe, particularly in France where it originated. It has generated some good single varietal wines, particularly in Portugal. Italy and Spain are additional countries where it has had long and sustained, though not prominent, usage.

New life and interest was breathed into this grape last year when Francis Ford Coppola added a magenta label to his diamond series and released his Alicante Bouschet. Coppola’s effort belied the grape’s reputation in this country of being incapable of producing a good wine. Coppola Alicante Bouschet is rich, complex with red and black fruit notes (including a touch of cranberry) and a light spiciness leading to a long lingering finish. It was, and is, a welcome addition to the Coppola portfolio. By sourcing some old vines (in the neighborhood of 85 years) caring attention to horticulture and winemaking the folks at Coppola have paid tribute to a unique grape with unique flavors, not to mention a unique story.

It may well be a tribute to Francis Ford Coppola’s grandfather as well. It is known that Agostino made his own wine from Alicante Bouschet and that Francis’s interest in wine dates back to childhood memories of helping his grandfather bottle the family wine.

Good wines with unique flavors that have great stories offer great opportunities to explore and broaden your wine horizons. If you haven’t yet tried it, sample the Coppola Alicante Bouschet. For the best enjoyment, The Wine Guy recommends you chill this wine lightly and decant for forty minutes or longer.

This is a unique wine, worthy of sharing with wine friends as you also share its storied background.

Learn more about Alicante Boushet on the Foodista site by clicking below:
Alicante Bouschet Grapes on Foodista