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.)

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.

Slainte!

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 d├ęcor. 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.