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.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Good Time to Explore Cabernet Sauvignon

Despite being retired, The Wine Guy continues to work part-time in wine retail.  Doing so keeps me connected with the wine consuming public and with the trade as well.  The better distributors who supply the retail trade will regularly host wine tastings for key wine selling personnel to acquaint them with products.  Recently, I had the opportunity to taste and sample a broad selection of wines being featured for the holiday season by one of my employer’s better suppliers:  Republic National Distributing Company.   (Event photo at left is The Wine Guy with Terry Faunce, Accounts Manager for RNDC/Arizona)

While enjoying a couple of very good cabernet sauvignons at that tasting, I was struck by how seldom I’ve blogged about this great grape on Roger’s grapevine.  Cabernet Sauvignon is of course, one of most ubiquitous varietals in the wine world.  While Merlot has recently surpassed it in total worldwide plantings and while Syrah is grown in a greater number of wine producing areas, Cabernet Sauvignon remains the king of red grape varietals.     It is the most utilized singular red varietal and finds favor in a great number of the world’s most recognized and popular red blends.

Cabernet Sauvignon’s thick skin makes it adaptable to a number of growing conditions, provides ample and bold tannins that are conducive to good aging and flavor development.  On the vine, it is somewhat resistant to rot and frost.  It buds and ripens somewhat later than its frequent blending partners, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  It gives rise to a great variety of fruit flavors that can vary with the terroir in which it is grown and also change in expression with the degree of ripening employed by the vintner.  It responds well to wood aging, primarily with oak, but also responds favorably to the chestnut and redwood aging that is practiced with it by some Portuguese and Italian producers.  Fruit flavors from a good cabernet sauvignon cover a wide range from cranberry to raspberry, from blueberry to dark cherry to black current.  The wine from this grape can evoke herbal elements that range from green pepper to mint and eucalyptus and even tobacco.  In varying cabernets you find hints of coffee, cedar, leather, vanilla mocha, and much, much more.  No wonder it has become a favorite of winemakers and wine sippers alike.   It is a versatile and flexible varietal that can be the source for great wines to fit almost any type of wine preference.

Here are few recent Wine Guy samplings that are recommended as cabernet sauvignons that you might want to sample:

Alder Ridge Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon:  
From one of the newer AVA’s in the U.S. northeast (established 2005) that is rapidly developing a reputation for great reds.  This is a rich expressive wine with notes of black cherry and cedar and a lingering finish.  The winemaker added small amounts of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc to create a lot of nuances that you will thoroughly enjoy if you properly decant this wine.

Rutherford Ranch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon:
This organic producer is located along Napa’s famed Silverado trail, the home of some fabulous California Cabernets.  Initial notes of boysenberry and cranberry meld and blend into a toasty smooth caramel finish.  This is the wine in our glasses in the featured photo at the left.

Chateau St. Michele Indian Wells Cabernet Sauvignon:
Another great northeastern treasure, this comes from the Columbia Valley’s Wahale Slope area.  It benefits from some complimentary blending which includes Syrah, Malbec and Merlot. Look for some great dark fruit flavors with hints of vanilla and a caressing finish.

Santa Ema Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Cabernet Sauvignon:
This is a consistently good Chilean wine.  It offers blueberry, coffee and mocha.  It was described by a California wine merchant as having the smoothness of Barry White performing in a sequin suit and that smoothness makes it a favorite of the fetching Mrs. Wine Guy.

There are always great Cabernets to explore.   And recently, there has been a higher frequency of finding great cabs that rank in the high 80’s to low 90’s for under $25 (all the wines cited above fell in that category recently).   Thanks Terry, for helping to remind me that good cabernets are worth seeking out!  I hope each of you readers takes the opportunity to enjoy a cabernet sauvignon soon.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Wine Guy samples a 40-year old Vintage Port!

Behind nearly every bottle of wine, there is a story. It may include the story of the producer, the wine-maker or even how and why that particular wine came to be made.  Sometimes the saga of a select bottle becomes a great story unto itself and such is the case of the bottle of 1970 J.W. Burmester Vintage Oporto you see pictured at the left.  When sharing a particular wine with special guests or friends, there’s often nearly as much enjoyment in sharing the story behind the wine as there is in the tasting of the wine itself.  Allow me to share the special story of this bottle with you and you’ll discover how The Wine Guy came to enjoy a 40-year old bottle of port from the third oldest wine appellation in the world.

A charming and gracious co-worker named Donna came to me one day and announced that in preparation for a visit from family from New Zealand, she had discovered this unopened bottle of wine amongst her “stash” of tucked away family treasures.  She wanted to know a little bit about the wine and whether or not, it would still be good to serve.

First the wine itself: 
In 1730 German immigrants Henry Burmester and John Nash founded Burmester & Nash in   London to import popular port wine from Portugal.  By 1750, their success led to a move to become producers in Via Nova de Gaia on the south shore of the Douro River near its mouth and in close proximity to the city of Porto, which gave its name to the third oldest wine appellation in the world.  This was also the site of the ancient Roman Empire city of Cale.  By the 18th century another Burmester immigrated to Portugal from Germany to assume the presidency of the company which was renamed J.W. Burmester in 1880. Throughout the rest of the century, the company earned numerous accolades for its port products including recognition at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.  Toward the end of the millennia, the firm was acquired by a banking/investment consortium and continues operation today as part of the Sogivinus Group.

Vintage Port is declared in select years and many Portuguese producers only declare vintages a few times a decade.  It is required that the vintage must be aged at least 2 ½ years in barrels and it often takes a decade or more of aging in bottles to achieve what is considered proper drinking age.  Foot treading in traditional stone vessels called lagares produces typical Portuguese Vintage Port.  Fermentation is halted by fortifying with distilled grape spirits called aguardente, which adds alcohol while retaining some residual sugar content thus giving port its sweet, yet full body taste.  Much of the complex character of vintage ports comes from the slow decomposition of grape solids during the years of bottle ageing. As a result, settling, careful decanting and even filtering needs to take place in order to enjoy the wine.  In the case of our bottle in question, we’re talking 37 years from its bottling date of 1973.

The story behind this particular bottle:

My friend, Donna is a New Zealand native, lived in Australia and now resides in Arizona.  She believes the wine in question was given to her in Australia in the early to mid 70’s to commemorate the birth of one of her children.  Not knowing the conditions under which the bottle was transported or stored, I advised her the wine would either be superbly aged or terribly broken down.  In other words, she either had a very, very good port or a very, very bad one.  Opening and sampling would be the ultimate way to discover which she had.  In either case, sharing with visiting family from down under sounded like the perfect opportunity for just such a discovery.  She was kind enough to invite my attendance at the planned opening of the bottle. Unfortunately my schedule didn’t permit me to seize that opportunity.  Donna, however, did save a portion and presented it to me the next day as a thank-you for my efforts in researching her wine (As I told you, she IS a charming and gracious lady in the truest sense!)

The ever-fetching Mrs. Wine Guy and I lit a fire that very evening and proceeded to decant, filter and savor the remainder of Donna’s family treasure.   While just slightly past its prime, it was, indeed, a superb, complex and rich wine with all the wonderful aromas and flavors you would expect to find in a good, well-aged vintage port!  It made for a most enjoyable evening by the fire. I hope Donna and her family enjoyed the taste and the saga of this particular bottle of wine as much as The Wine Guy did.  It created a great wine memory and we will be forever grateful for her thoughtfulness in sharing.  I hope, as well, that you, as a reader, enjoyed the story of this particular bottle of wine.

As I said at the outset of this tale, nearly every bottle of wine has a story behind it. In selecting your next bottle to share with family or friends, ask your merchant to share that story so you can share it with your company.  Remember, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a rare or unique wine to create a memory you’ll cherish for a long time.  Sharing a good story over a glass of good wine with good company will always increase your enjoyment of wine

Have a great experience of your own soon…. enjoy some wine!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Wine Guy is Back!

    My apologies for such a long absence.   I should have posted an advisory but I never thought my absence from this site would extend so long.  In preparation for our upcoming retirements, the ever charming Mrs. Wine Guy and I decided to list our home of the past decade for sale. It showed well and sold much faster than we had anticipated.  Finding storage for our decades of accumulation of personal property, as well as relocating to a downsized residence was complicated by the approach of the holidays.  Needless to say, time flies by when you're having fun!

    Topping off everything else was the discovery that the DSL lines at our new domestic digs had reached capacity and a delay was incurred in getting re hooked to the internet.  (Attempting to do a wine blog utilizing free wifi at Dunkin Donuts turned out to be impractical as well as totally uninspiring, despite the great coffee and donuts!)

    In any case, I'm back on line and hopefully haven't lost too many of you.  I hope to be back on schedule and have some stories to share including the saga of how a 40- year old vintage port made its way to my table during the hectic transition.

  Look for the beginnings of these postings in a few days and please help me spread the word that regular postings on The Grapevine will commence shortly.

Thank you for your patience and readership.