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.)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Tribute To Mrs. Wine Guy!

We normally think of the New Year as a time of renewal, but for The Wine Guy, this month is a significant milestone. It marks my first anniversary as a wine blogger, my fourth anniversary as a Wine Sommelier and the sixth anniversary of my first major winery exploration trip.
It even marks my first anniversary as a cancer survivor. It also marks a beginning. This month, Mrs. Wine Guy and I have begun planning our retirement together. Readers have often read my references to the fetching Mrs. Wine Guy. She has been a constant source of motivation and encouragement over the years (now numbering close to 40). It is she who first encouraged me to take a passing interest in wine and explore it more fully. It is she who has supported and encouraged me in all my most significant endeavors and has shared in the exploration of life's most enjoyable adventures.

In celebration of this time of renewal and in honor of an outstanding partner in life, as well as the exploration of wine, this week’s post is a pictorial tribute to her. She is the lady who has shared glasses of wine with me across continents and in a variety of countries and settings. Not unlike a favorite well-crafted wine, she is always a pleasure to be with.

In case you are curious. Mrs. Wine Guy’s favorite wines are:

Red: Santa Ema Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon or L.A. Cetto Nebbiolo Riserva Privada

White: Jean Luc Colombo Viognier La Violette

I think a toast to the Lady of My Life with one of those would be an appropriate way to say “thank you” for all her support and encouragement.

Here’s to Mrs. Wine Guy!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Last Winery in Los Angeles!

Regular readers know by now that I am fond of exploring wine history and am fascinated by the influence of the Italians on the development of good winemaking here in the Americas. In my blog of 1/14/10, “Two American Wine Pioneers” I talked about the Guasti Family who built the Italian Vineyard Company of Southern California into the world’s largest vineyard and winery prior to prohibition. Southern California was THE area for wine production back then and the Los Angeles River basin was home to over 100 wineries. Then came prohibition, which most wineries didn’t survive. Some turned to sacramental wine production to carry them through. The J. Fillipi Winery in Rancho Cucamonga, another example of the Italian influence, still bottles the Guasti sacramental wine. The subject of my blog today, however, is yet another great southern California Italian winemaking family, the Ribolis, and their San Antonio Winery . It is the only winery still operating today within the city limits of Los Angeles.

San Antonio Winery was one of the most successful survivors of prohibition utilizing the sacramental wine strategy. They remain dedicated to that segment of their customer base today, producing over 60,000 cases of sacramental wine per year. But they also do a whole lot more.

The winery, named for Saint Anthony, was actually founded by a native Lombardian, Santo Cambianica in the Lincoln Heights district of L.A. (northeast of downtown) in 1917. He later brought over his Italian nephew Stefano Riboli and Stefano's wife, Maddalena, to assist in the operation of the facility. Together Santo and Stefano made a conscious decision to remain in Los Angeles when the California wine industry migrated. They did, however, invest in vineyards. They were early purchasers of vineyard land in Napa County’s Rutherford appellation. They also have vineyards in such prestigious wine areas as Alexander Valley in Sonoma, the Santa Maria Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands, Arroyo Secco, Soledad and in Paso Robles. A secondary production facility (and tasting center) has since developed in the L.A. metro area in the suburban city of Ontario. In addition to the San Antonio label, they produce wines under 8 different labels. They also serve as importers for about 200 brands of wine from Italy, France, Chile, Austria and Spain. They appear to be involved in, and dedicated to all types of wine.

Two of their most popular choices with consumers reflect that diversity. One is San Antonio Cardinale American, a classic non-vintage concord grape based table wine. Another is San Antonio Hermitage, a classic aged Rhone blend of Syrah, Petit Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache. There’s a good two dozen and more choices in between, not counting the other wines they import and/or offer. All this occurs at their well appointed tasting room and retail center that operates alongside the Maddalena Cuccina restaurant at the winery’s home on Lamar street in L.A. (see photos above). It all makes for an enjoyable visit, though sometimes it can become quite crowed. It’s history, touring opportunities, tasting options, as well as the good food in Maddalena's has made San Antonio Winery a popular tourist destination. It hosts nearly 200,000 visitors a year.

The fetching Mrs. Wine Guy and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit (and lunch) there. We hope to enjoy a return visit the next time we’re in the area. A tip from the Wine Guy if you plan to visit as well: the tasting selections available in the tasting room will vary. If some of the wines aren’t being poured, they may be available by the glass in Maddalena’s if you plan on eating there.

My favorite of the red wine selections was the aforementioned San Antonio Heritage which I thought was much superior to the also prestigious San Antonio Cask 520, A Bordeaux style blend aged in both French and American oak.

One of the better choices in the whites is the Maddalena Pinot Grigio, produced on the premises with juice sourced from Monterey. This crisp white with green apple overtones got a Double Gold and best of class at the California State Fair.

When you're at San Antonio Winery, don’t forget a visit to the trophy case. It's worth taking time to absorb some of the great historical significance of this unique winery, the last one standing in the City of Angels. It’s a fun visit and a slightly different kind of winery experience. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Try a Rose'

It’s summer and by all accounts, it’s going to be a hot one across the country. (It’s always a hot one in The Wine Guy’s Arizona home….we think we’ve cooled off when the daily high gets below 105!)
Summer is a time when many wine drinkers switch to rose’.

Rose’ refers to wines which are not fully red but have enough of a color tinge to them to make them clearly not a white either. The color in a rose’ can range from a very pale orange to nearly purple dependent on the grapes utilized and how the rose is produced.

There are three principal methods of producing rose’:


Here simply blending red and white varietals creates the effect. It is a practice now less accepted by most, but not all, major producers. It is most commonly utilized in the production of some sparkling rose’ wines.

Saignee (or “bleeding the vat”):

Here the rose’ is produced by removing some of the pink juice from the must in the early stages of maceration. This early juice is then fermented into a rose wine. It is believed this practice may have been developed by some wine makers principally to enrich and enhance the color and concentration of the later red wine. Regardless of intent, it also results in the production of some good rose’ wine.

Limited Contact:

This method focuses on the intentional limitation of skin contact time in maceration in order to produce a lighter color and tannin content in wine produced from red grapes. This is the preferred method for producing most fine dry roses and the most common rose’ method utilized.

Overall, rose’s are noted for their lightness and crispness and are generally simpler than their heavier-weight counterparts made from the same grapes. This has led to their popularity as summer wines. They are generally very affordable, as well. However, you can find rose’s in nearly all price ranges, including some knockout sparkling rose’s from the Champagne region of France that hit the market at $500 per bottle or more.

One of America’s old favorites is Lancer’s Rose from Portugal (it dates back to 1944). Many boomers will attest to Lancer’s as having been one of their first wines. It is produced with red grapes that are totally separated from their skins. Fresh red grape juice and yeast is later added and additional fermentation takes place. A final round of adding grape juice occurs just before bottling to adjust sweetness.

One of America’s current favorites, White Zinfandel, is actually a relative newcomer to the world of rose’s and occurred by accident in the 70’s at a winery in California. In the process of creating a rose’ of Zinfandel, the fermentation of the wine became “stuck” due to the yeast dying off before all the sugar was fermented into alcohol. The resultant wine was bottled anyway and the rest, as they say, is history. The term “blush” came into popularity a short time later when a Mill Creek Vineyards winemaker created a Cabernet Sauvignon that was pink in color and slightly sweet. Not wanting to call the wine “white Cabernet Sauvignon, the winery took seriously a joking suggestion from wine writer Jerry Mead and called the wine a “Blush” for its blushing pink color.

Since that time, domestic rose’s from the U.S. have tended to be softer, fruitier and sweeter, especially those referred to as a “white” red varietal or as a “blush”. European rose’s, on the other hand, have a greater tendency to fuller in flavor characteristics and drier. If you’re approaching rose’s for the first time it may serve you well to consider what style of red or white you most frequently enjoy. If you tend to the sweeter whites such as riesling, gew├╝rztraminer or moscato, or the lighter softer, un-oaked reds, then a white zinfandel, white merlot, many of the blush wines and/or a rose’ of pinot noir would probably be a good starting point for your exploration. If you enjoy heavier weight, oaked whites or full-bodied reds, I’d suggest looking towards the drier, more traditional rose’s such as those produced in Southern France, Spain and one of my favorite sources for dry rose’s: South Africa.

Here are a few recommendations from The Wine Guy to consider as you explore the world of rose’ wine:

Sutter Home White Zinfandel or Sutter Home White Merlot:
Two sweeter-style rose’s that come from the people who first created White Zinfandel by accident. (White Merlot is made the same way as White Zinfandel and first became popular in the 90’s). If you enjoy fruity, sweeter wines, this is your rose’ of choice. Just be prepared to shrug off snide comments from wine-snobs who will accuse you of drinking alcoholic kool-aid.

Francis Coppola Sofia California Rose’:
This rose’ of Pinot Noir offers mostly strawberry and cherry flavors with a hint of raspberries and rose petals on the nose. It has uniquely been offered in cans which boaters in my home state of Arizona (and elsewhere) love. Rose of Pinot Noir is a great intermediate bridge between the fruity and sweet California blushes and the drier, fuller old-world rose’s.

(Note from The Wine Guy: A favorite Pinot Noir Rose comes from the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara and is made by winemaker David Carr but unfortunately less than 100 cases at a time. Try it and pick up some if you ever visit his winery on the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail).

Tapena Rose:
This Castilian producer offers a nice Spanish rose’ that blends Grenacha and Monastrell with a light touch of Shiraz. Look for cherry and strawberry laced with light citrus acidity followed by a soft smooth, somewhat mineral finish.

Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Rose’:
Better known for their white Vinho Verde wines, this Portuguese producer makes an effervescent, low alcohol (about 10%) rose with bright berry fruit flavors. The wine is made from three Portuguese red varietals: Azal Tinto, Barracao and Vinhao.

Falset-Marca Etim Roset Monsant:
Grenacha and Syrah from the Priorat region of Spain form the basis for this rose. It offers strawberry and raspberry with a hint of peach that lingers on the nice finish. A very well balanced wine.

Les Deux Rives Corbieres Rose:
The French love their rose’ and they produce some of the best dry rose made. This one hails from the Languedoc-Roussillon and combines the varietals of Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah. Look for raspberry and strawberry flavors and a light tanginess with the finish.

Chateau Campuget Costieres de Nimes Rose’:
Syrah and Grenache are the basis for this wine. The producer’s family has a 370-year history of winemaking in France’s Rhone valley. Look for some cherry and currant notes with the typical raspberry found in most roses. You’ll enjoy this wine’s long fruity finish.

Mulderbosch Stellenbosch Rose’:
Out of one of South Africa’s premier regions comes this Rose’ of Cabernet Sauvignon. Look for berry flavors accented by a hint of pomegranate and light spice followed by a nice long and lingering finish.

Juno Cape Maidens Pinotage Rose’:
South Africa’s signature grape, Pinotage, forms the basis for this rose’. Plum and cherry fruit flavors abound and some find a hint of banana. There are more tannins than in the typical rose but they are soft and smooth. This is a unique and well-made dry rose from the Paarl region of South Africa.

These are just a few examples. Rose’ wines offer a wealth of possibilities for your enjoyment. Go ahead and explore them for yourself. Just remember, a good rose’ is enjoyable anytime, not just in summer!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Italian IGT's Are Worth Exploring

Italy is the world’s largest wine producing country and is the number one supplier of wine imports to the U.S. (Italian wines count for about 1/3rd of all U.S. wine imports). It is the home of The Wine Guy’s favorite wines and you’ll almost always find about a dozen different Italian selections in my wine stocks. The range of Italian wines I keep on hand will range anywhere from a highly rated Brunello di Montalcino (always at least one of those!) to an everyday affordable Pinot Grigio. The selections always include a fair number of IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) wines.

As a case in point, the photograph above is of the current IGT wines that were in my on-hand stock as I wrote this blog. The Indicazione Geografica Tipica classification for Italian wines was introduced in 1992 as a supplement to the established D.O.C. (Denomiazone di Origine Controllata) and D.O.C.G. (Denomiazone di Originine Controllata e Garantita) classifications. Prior to that time, non DOC or DOCG wines from Italy were Vino Da Tavola, a generic description given to wines made without any controls or quality requirements other than the simple fact that they are produced in Italy. The DOC and DOCG classifications were begun in the 60’s and were patterned after the French appellation system. Wines in those classifications must be made in specified government defined zones and in accordance to particular regulations (inclusive of varietals permitted) that strive to preserve each individual region’s wine characteristics.

The impetus for creating the IGT classification principally came from quality producers who were utilizing foreign grape varietals to broaden the export appeal of their local wines. The region most associated with that effort was Tuscany, where the utilization of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot as blended additions to Sangiovese wines gave rise to the consumer-marketing term “Super-Tuscans”.
It should be noted, however, that some DOC,s in Italy (the Sant Antimo DOC, for one) DO permit international varietals but have very specific restrictions on what can be utilized, on permitted yields and specific controls on production and bottling). It is more accurate to characterize IGT wines as wines that reflect the character of an Italian wine region but for various reasons , do not fully meet the stricter requirements of the D.O.C. or D.O.C.G.s in the that region. Wines included in an IGT wine must be from an approved list (currently more than 3 dozen international varietals are on the list in addition to the varietals already approved for established DOC or DOCG). IGT wine labels may contain the name of the region, grape varieties and vintage year. In a couple of area’s toward Italy’s northern border regions, the terms Vin de Pays and Landwein (corresponding to the regional wine terms utilized in France and Germany) are permitted to be substituted for the IGT designation.

The original intent of the IGT classification was to create a higher quality classification that would segregate these wines from the often common and lesser desirability of the vast number of vino de tavola wines produced in Italy. However, there are now so many that the classification covers wines that range from being barely marketable to classically-rated and collectible wines. Much as with our U.S. wines, the classification itself does not insure a satisfactory nor satisfying purchase. Here, you will either have to rely upon reliable recommendations from trusted sources or your own due diligence and exploration. Don’t let that deter you, however, from trying wines with the IGT designation. There are numerous excellent, even superb wines to be found and many are excellent bargains.

Here’s a recap of the ones pictured above in The Wine Guy’s current inventory:

Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Veronese IGT:

Allegrini’s use of Sangiovese instead of Molinara in the region’s traditional blend of Corvina, Rodinella and Molinara as well as his 70/30 blending of conventionally fermented grapes with “late harvested grapes for refermentation “Ripassa” style makes this an IGT wine but doesn’t halt its critical accolades which include having been named to Wine Spectators Annual Top 100 list five times in the past eleven years. It’s ability to pair wonderfully with food and to develop a plethora of nuances, as well as its under $25 affordability has made it among The Wine Guy’s top ten favorite Italian wines for a long time (see “An Old Friend Comes To Dinner” in the blog archives, 8/4/09).

Selvagrossa Muschen Marche IGT:

Relative newcomers Alberto and Alesandro Taddei began their Selvagrossa vineyards and winery in 2002 on an estate inherited from their grandfather and it was the grandfather’s nickname for Alberto, Muschen (“Little Fly”), that gave the name to this blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Nice fruit flavors with soft round tannins that come stainless steel aging are highlights of this wine that pair beautiful with almost any red pasta sauce.

Antinori Tormaresca Neprica Puglia Russo IGT:

From the world’s sixth largest but one of its most overlooked wine regions comes this bold and beautiful blend of Negramaro, Primitivo and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Antinori family has been producing wine for 26 generations. You usually find this proud example of their efforts priced under $15.

Tenimente Angelini Tutto Bene Toscana Russo IGT:

Tutto Bene translates as either “Everything is Good” or “”All is Well” from the Italian and that comes pretty close to describing this under $10 bargain. You’re likely to find some unfiltered sediment in this Merlot, Caniolo and Sangiovese blend and it’s not a strong candidate for developing in the cellar but it’s an affordable, fair, everyday Russo that you can easily enjoy with your favorite pizza. The Angelini’s also bottle a Tutto Bene Toscana Bianco IGT which blends Chardonnay, Trebbiano and Vermentino.

Banfi CentineToscana IGT:

A conventional “Super-Tuscan” from Montalcino blending Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and then aging the blend in oak barrels for six months. A great wine for your next grill-out that’s affordably priced under $15. Mrs. Wine and I were fortunate enough to first enjoy this wine several years in our visit to Castello Banfi.

These are just a few of the hundreds of IGT wines from Italy awaiting your inspection and approval. Let me know if you would like to see more featured on Roger’s Grapevine or feel free to add a comment with some of your recommended favorites. Enjoy your search.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

An Anniversary for Roger's Grapevine

Roger's Grapevine is one year old today. In honor of the occasion, The Wine Guy is re-posting the very first blog I published. (It appears to missing from the archives so, hopefully, I'm not being overly redundant in doing so).

Over the past year year, readership has ebbed and flowed, but I've enjoyed the attempt to pass along my thoughts and reflections and have learned a lot in the process. I hope you, as a reader, have found something relevant and enjoyable among my random selection of musings. If so, drop me a line (rogerthewineguy@gmail.com) and let me know. It will help me to do a better job as I continue to move forward with this blog. Remember, any of your comments, your questions and your topic suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for stopping by and I hope your visit(s) has (have) been worthwhile. It's time to go pop a cork in celebration and get ready for the next posting. Thanks again for your readership!


Great Ialian Food & Wine Just South of The Border:

My wife and I have traveled repeatedly to Mexico, mostly to the central highlands, but we also enjoy the Guadalupe Valley in Baja Norte. I'm always pleased at the quality of Italian food I find in restaurants south of the border and, more importantly, at the quality of Italian varietals I find from Mexican winemakers.

L.A. Cetto is one label probably well known to cruise ship passengers that dock at Ensenada as well as anyone who looked for Mexican wines on either side of the frontera (border region). While they produce some inexpensive fruity reds and whites, it pays to dig a little deeper. This Mexican winery produces one of the best Nebbiolos I 've ever had outside of Italy! ( I was also fairly pleased with their Don Luis Seleccion Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon.) Another Guadalupe Valley producer, Chateau Domecq, does a quite suitable Cabernet Sauvignon-Nebbiolo blend. Among the other Mexican vintners whose Italian varietals you may want to seek out are Monte Xanic, Casa Madero (America's oldest continuous winemaker) and Freixenet-Mexico. Dig into the history of most Mexican wineries and you'll discover an Italian connection, either in founding ownership or in the winemakers who put them on the map (As an exception, Freixienet, of course, is a branch of Spain's largest cava producer).

The old adage about good wine follows good food appears to be alive and well in old Mexico, as well. With little exception, all the reputable Italian restaurants we tried in Mexico were ventures well worth taking and that's no small compliment from The Wine Guy who gained ten pounds cruising through Tuscany in his Smart Car rental! If you plan to travel through central Mexico, here's a few recommendations: El Nahal in Tlaquepaque, L'Invito and Bella Italia in San Miguel and the restaurant at the Hotel San Diego in Guanajuato(Mr & Mrs Wine Guy pictured at same). If you love Italian wine and food as I do, don't despair if your travel plans take you south of the border. It appears our Mexican neighbors revere Italian cuisine as much as we do!