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, 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.