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, August 19, 2011

A Friend in Need...The Wine Guy To The Rescue!

The Wine Guy enjoying a nice
Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon in Ecuador.
A friend from Arizona recently messaged me on Facebook as follows:

"Question for ya. If I want to enjoy a glass of red wine every evening and can't drink the entire bottle (duh) what is the best way to store it? A certain type of bottle topper? And how long can it sit out? I'm trying to find a red wine that is not expensive that is similar to a chianti or sangiovese flavor that I can enjoy. Any suggestions? Either my tastebuds change from the first night to the second or the wine taste sour. I don't get it. HELP MR. WINE GUY"

Never let it be said that The Wine Guy failed to respond to a cry for help, especially from a friend....so here goes:

One solution for our stressed friend is to start buying wine in splits (half-bottles) or minis (quarter bottles often sold in small  4-pack cartons).   The minis are ideal since they contain roughly the equivalent of one glass of wine. You'll probably pay a slight premium for 4 minis over a a standard botle of the same wine but it's probably worth it to have a fresh glass every night. The challenge for my friend, however, may be in finding a suitable red wine. Commonly found in supermarkets, the offerings in these sizes tend to be softer, more fruit-forward and low cost younger wines.  Those are the kind of wines preferred by the leading consumers of single serving wines, senior citizens. A little hunting, however, might lead to some viable discoveries.    I recently saw splits of Brunello di Montalcino in two different retail establishments in Atlanta. In my friend's locale, World Market stores carry both splits and minis on a regular basis and should have at least a decent Cabernet Sauvignon. I've also seen regular stocks of South American Camenere in minis in a number of chain retailers with wine departments.  It's worth a hunt and probably some taste sampling as well.

Solution number two: boxed wine!  Boxed wine has a reputation for being cheap wine both in terms of price and quality but while that might have had some validity early on in its history, there are some quality wines being offered in the one liter sealed box that might be worth investigating. The one liter box will contain roughly 8 glasses of wine, about a week's worth for my friend's purposes. It will work because the wine is contained in the same type of collapsible airtight bags as those drink boxes we used to send with the kids in their lunch pails(maybe we still do...The Wine Guy is officially in the old, don't keep up with current kids trends anymore status). Most box wines are not exposed to aeration if they have a pop out tap type pour spout. Those with a simple open tab on top, however, won't work as well. Some wineries claim their boxed wine wine will stay fresh up to four weeks. In my humble opinion, under two is probably more realistic and certainly one is doable. However, as with the splits and minis, the problem is in finding the wine suitable to your palate. Simple whites, red blends and Spanish Sangria are the most common finds in boxed wines but a little hunting might produce some suprises. Some ex-patriot friends we had dinner with in a good Italian restaurant in Cuenca, Ecuador remarked at how good and afforable the house wine by the glass was (also available in a full and half carafe). I didn't have the heart to tell them it was a boxed wine, in fact, one that was available at their local supermarket!

O.K. Now let's get down to the real nitty-gritty.  What my friend really wants is to buy a standard bottle of a desirable wine, have a glass or so and try to keep the bottle on hand for future sipping.
Realistically, this can happen but the practical limit without investment in a lot of fancy preservation systems is  only three to four days.  Let's cover the basics so my friend knows how to stretch a favorite bottle for all the time it's worth:

Wine, particularly aged red wine, has three enemies which will attack its ability to deliver all those wonderful flavors to your palate. Those three despicable villans are heat, air and sunlight.  Shut them off after you've opened your bottle of wine and poured your first glass, and you've got a chance of preserving the aromas and flavors for later on.   This involves resealing the wine and keeping it in a cool dark place.   Simply recorking the bottle promptly and placing the bottle in your refrigerator should give you until the next evening.  (Don't worry about chilling your red wine....simply cupping your hands around a glass of red wine for about 60 seconds will bring it right back to around 65 degrees, a good drinking temperature).   If you need more than overnight, invest in a fairly affordable rubber valve stopper and manual vacumn pump to reseal your bottle and extract the air you allowed inside (remember, that air is one of your three critical enemies in terms of preserving the flavor of your wine).  The use of a vacumn pump will probably give you an extra two, possibly three days of storage time.   Your rate of success with a pump and cool storage of your wine will vary with the type and age of the particular  wine.   Also don't expect it to be 100% consistent in taste.  No matter how meticulous you are in storage, there will some aeration of the wine involved and some evolution of the taste.  Also remember that the more complex and older the wine, the more that some aeration will be essential for the most natural and best taste of the wine to develop.

Beyond what The Wine Guy has suggested here, it is possible to extend the life of an opened bottle of wine through a temperature and climate control system that also flushes the interior of the bottle with either nitrogen or one of the inert gases.  These systems are utilized professionally in wine bars that offer ongoing tastings and a large number of wines by the glass.  They are not cheap to purchase nor to maintain and even with those systems, the life expectancy on an open bottle of wine rarely extends beyond two weeks.  Most good purveyors of wine by the glass will have a set policy for recording the opening of their bottles and a time to remove it from inventory suitable for serving customers. 

In closing, my friend also asked for some affordable reccomendations for red wine.  Since Chianti and Sangiovese were specifically mentioned, I'll stay mainly with some other great Italian selections.  These would include a Montepulciano d' Albruzzo, a Bordolino, a "good" Valpolicella or a Sicilian Nero d' Avola.  A reserve Chilean Carmenere, an Argentine Bonarda, a Spanish Borgia (sometimes labeled by its chief varietal Mencia and a Greek Naoussa would round out the list of wines I would suggest seeking out and sampling.  Good representations of each one of these should be found at or under the $15 range.

I hope I was of assistance to my friend and hope my readers benefited from this response as well.
Take time soon to enjoy a glass of good wine.  Sainte!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Little Spot Of Wine In Cuenca, Ecuador

Mr. & Mrs. Wine Guy
The fetching Mrs. Wine Guy and I recently returned from a two month stay in Ecuador.  Ecuador is a beautiful, diverse and delightful country.  It, however, is sometimes a challenge to find a proper venue to enjoy a nice glass of wine.  Fortunately, The Wine Guy is persistant in his persuit and we now have a few regular venues in both Quito and Cuenca that we will enjoy upon our return.   (Ecuador is now our chosen target for retirement living....Grapevine readers wanting to learn more about that venture in our life may want to visit www.togetherontheroadoflife.blogspot.com).

One relaxing venue for us was the Brujas (Witches) Cafe and Bar located along the Rio Tomebamba just adjacent to the historico centro in Ecuador's third largest city, Cuenca.  The high bluff known as the El Barranco insulates the noise of the bustling centro, allowing the rippling water of Rio Tomebamba to provide a backgound of soothing sound in a very scenic setting.  A platform alongside the pathway that accesses the Brujas overlooks the gurling waters and greenbelt and provides a wonderfully staged venue to enjoy appetizers and a glass of wine. We did so on a perfectly beautiful Ecuadorian afternoon and were delighted that we had somewhat impusively decided to try this spot.

It didn't hurt at all that the by the glass or carafe house wine is a little better than the typical Ecuadorian norm.  The house wine here is Concha y Toro and they uniquely will let you choose the varietal.  (Sometimes your house wine choices are simply blanco (white) or tinto (red).  I've often gotten a simple perplexed shrug when I've inquired of a waiter as to whether the house vino tinto is a cabernet, merlot or carmenere  (typically, in Ecuador, it is probably 1 of these 3). I guess it depends on the inventory or perhaps what is open and viable in the back?

In any case, the service and accommodation at Brujas was a step above that.  The fetching Mrs. Wine Guy and I shared appetizer plates of cheese quesadillas and cooked mushrooms along with glasses of Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon.  Perched under shady umbrellas to help protect us from the high UV count (Cuenca's elevation above 8,000 ft makes for intense sunshine) and with a refreshing breeze wafting across the cool waters, we enjoyed a leisurely sojurn and a delightful afternoon.   This will become a regular spot in Cuenca for us to enjoy wine as it's meant to be enjoyed.

We hope you have the opportunity some day to enjoy a glass along the Rio Tomebamba, as well.  Salute!

Update note:   this blog was originally published in August of 2011.  Unfortunately, the Brujas location along the Tomebamba closed in 2012.   While there are other spots to enjoy a glass of wine, we will miss the opportunity to sit in this riverside setting, sipping and watching the world go by!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cabernet Franc

Regular readers of Roger's Grapevine will be well aware of The Wine Guy's strong preference for Italian wines and cuisine. They might not be as aware of my longtime affection for Cabernet Franc. This sassy, country bumpkin of the cabernet family, to me, offers a special raw, in your face, delight in wine drinking. In most places its role is as a blending grape and usually in a very minor capacity. However small its contribution, such is my love for its subtle but distinct flavorings that I usually seize upon its presence. The more it is utilized, the more I will return to discover what has become for me, a favorite varietal.
It's not often that you find Cabernet Franc as a single varietal or as the dominant informing grape. Part of the reason for that may be the simple fact that it's a challenge for the winemaker not to let some of the sass and rough edges of this grape overtake and dominate the bottle. But when it's done well, that same sassiness and roughness can provide a subtle accent of flavor that makes a Cabernet Franc wine a treasure to enjoy and savor. One might compare it to a blend of spices used as a rub on a superbly aged and tender steak.
The spices can easily overpoer the steak if not properly applied or if the steak is not properly prepared. However, when everything is done properly, there's nothing quite like the flavorful, almost orgasmic sensation that occurs on your palate when you take that first bite.

That's how I feel about the much abused Cabernet Franc. For the many, many examples I found that were a little harsh and overdone, the ones that I've found that have been done well were worth the search for their unique enjoyment. When done right, this is one of the best wines to pair with beef.

One of my recent discoveries was made during my two month sojourn in Ecuador. It was a 70% Cabernet Franc/30% Carmenere blend from Chile. The producer, Vina San Raphael, is located in the diverse Valle de Maule of Chile and is a fairly recent player, having begun wine production in 1998. They are more well know here in Ecuador for their box wines and secondly, for their olive and olive oil production. Among their bottle brands is Oveja Negra (Black Sheep) which includes a couple of unique white blends as well my acclaimed discovery of their hand harvested, estate bottled, reserved, Cabernet Franc/Carmenere blend. This wine offers bright red and black current flavors accented by a mineral nose, a hint of cocoa, spice accents that include clove, cinnamon and white pepper all rolling into an almost leathery, chewy finish. It is a delightful wine for the dyed in the wool Cabernet Franc fan.

Cabernet Franc is not for everyone, but it may be for you. Do some sampling and exploration and be patient. The really good unique wine you've been searching for may be sitting out there waiting for you with a good share of well produced Cabernet Franc in the bottle. Enjoy!