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Cabernet Sauvignon - Sophenia Reserve

Date: Wed, Jun 9, 2010

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Que Sirah Syrah Shiraz

Date: Wed, Jun 9, 2010


These three sound-alike grapes are capable of making wines that range from soft and so fruity they are almost sweet, to wines so big and tannic they should not be approached by the faint of heart. One made famous in the Rhone region of France and by California’s Rhone Rangers, the other perhaps a native son of California. One so popular that everybody wants to call their Syrah a Shiraz, and one almost an unknown.

Syrah (seer•rah) is a dark-skinned grape grown throughout the world that is capable of producing powerful red wines. Syrah is relatively new to California, but is becoming more and more popular both as a varietal and as a blending variety. It is best known in France, especially in the northern Rhone, for such wines as Hermitage, Cornas and Côte-Rôtie. Syrah is also found in the southern Rhone, in famous blends such Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Côtes du Rhône.

There is considerable legend as to the origin of Syrah and how it found its way to France. One version has Syrah originating in Persia, near the city of Shiraz, and being brought to France by a knight in the crusades, Gaspard de Stérimberg. While this is a romantically appealing story, there is precious little if any evidence that it is true. What DNA investigation has been done suggests that the grape may have originated in the northern Rhone, rather than having been brought there. However there is no evidence that is conclusive as to the grape’s origin.

Shiraz (sha•rahz) is simply another name for Syrah. Syrah is called Syrah in Europe, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Uruguay and the United States, but is known as Shiraz in Australia. The earliest documented references to Syrah in Australia use the spelling "Scyras", so there is speculation that Shiraz is an Australian pronunciation of this spelling. It’s also possible that wanting to differentiate their wines from the rest of the world’s Syrah, Australians chose the legend-based name of Shiraz. In any event Shiraz is a major player in the Australian wine industry. Australian Shiraz has become so popular throughout the world that some producers in the United States and elsewhere are renaming their Syrah, Shiraz.

Young Syrah is tannic and deep in color with strong tar, spice and pepper characteristics. However, Syrah is a long-lived wine and as it ages takes on characteristics of sweet blackberries, blackcurrants, and plum and a bit of smokiness.

Sirah, actually Petite Sirah (petite seer•rah) is something else altogether. Petite Sirah, a 19th century cross between Syrah and a variety called Peloursin, was originally known as Durif. With such an unglamorous name, it would not be surprising to find that the name Petite Sirah, so called because the grape is small, was intentionally chosen to be easily confused with the better known and much more popular Syrah.

Petite Sirah produces dark, inky wines. Relatively acidic, firm in texture and mouth feel. Petite Sirah shows flavors of blue and black fruits, plums, and especially blueberries. Compared with Syrah, Petite Sirah is noticeably darker and more purplish in the glass, rounder, brighter and fuller in the mouth. Like Syrah, Petite Sirah is tannic, giving it long life and aging ability.

So, que sera sera sirah syrah shiraz.


Cellar Notes

I personally like both Syrah and Petite Sirah. They both are capable of producing very interesting wines, with good structure, mouthfeel and fruit. And while both contain copious amounts of tannin, it’s not the same experience as with a young Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, I’ve characterized the Petite Sirah below as soft. Keep in mind however that softness is relative.

Petite Sirah - August Briggs Winery
Shiraz - Yangarra Estate Vineyard

A note about vintage – If you are unable to locate a vintage shown in Cellar Notes, with some significant exceptions, you may find the next vintage year very similar. Modern viticulture and production methods have reduced, although not eliminated, dramatic year-to-year variation.

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Bill seeks to sidestep ruling allowing direct wine shipments

Date: Sat, Jun 5, 2010


A brewing Capitol Hill fight pits California winemakers against beer wholesalers and others who are hoping to outflank a landmark Supreme Court decision.

One hundred and seven lawmakers, nearly one-fourth of the House of Representatives, support legislation that would make it easier for states to hinder direct shipments of alcohol. The bill effectively takes the fizz out of a 2005 Supreme Court decision that said some bans on direct shipments violated the Constitution. The bill's supporters say they want to bolster state alcohol enforcement powers.

"With (the bill), Congress is taking an important step toward ending the erosion of the states' ability to regulate alcohol," the president of the National Beer Wholesalers Association, Craig Purser, declared when the bill was introduced earlier this year.

The bill's opponents say it would benefit booze distributors at the expense of wineries and consumers. "It really threatens the progress that's been made on direct shipping of wine," U.S. Rep. George Radanovich, R-Calif., said Friday. "It puts into jeopardy all of the work we've done." Himself a former winemaker, Radanovich co-chairs the 250-member Congressional Wine Caucus. The caucus supports direct shipping and will play a big role in what happens next.

Realistically, the legislation to complicate direct shipments has little to no chance in the remaining months of this Congress. Its chief author, Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., is a lame duck. Its opponents include key lieutenants of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who often champions her home state's wine industry. Two months after Delahunt quietly introduced his bill, a Senate version is nowhere in sight.

Politically, though, the bill signals a resurgence in the long-running struggle that pits different elements of the alcohol business against one another. "We have to be diligent anytime a bill like this takes shape," Radanovich said. "We have to be sure we can block it." Direct shipments cut out the distributors and middlemen, allowing wineries to sell straight to customers who may have visited in person or browsed via the Internet. Modest-sized wineries, in particular, have considered direct shipping a retail boon.

"It's definitely helped; there's no question about it," Patrick Campbell, the owner of Laurel Glen Winery in California's Sonoma County, said Friday. "The fact that you can ship direct to some markets creates an opening, and that scares the hell out of the distributors."

Urged on by the politically muscular liquor distributors, many states enacted laws that either prohibited direct shipping or severely restricted it. After a protracted legal campaign, the Supreme Court in the case called Granholm v. Heald struck down laws that banned out-of-state direct shipments while permitting those from in-state wineries. The court concluded that the state laws violated the Constitution's Commerce Clause, which prohibits states from erecting barriers against one another. Driven in part by subsequent legal or legislative action, 38 states now permit some form of direct shipping.

Enter the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act. As introduced April 15, the legislation significantly raises the legal hurdles for a successful challenge to a state's direct wine-shipment restriction. The bill declares that a state's alcohol control law "shall be upheld" unless the challengers can prove, essentially, that the law serves no purpose.

The challengers, for instance, would have to show that the alcohol control law has "no effect" on stopping underage drinking or the establishment of an "orderly" alcohol market. The state laws would have the "strong presumption of validity" under the bill.

"This legislation is urgently needed to help states defend against lawsuits that are motivated by economic gain ... and are not in the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of the public," Nida Samona, the chairwoman of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, told a House panel recently.

Author: Michael Doyle
Web Site: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/
Source: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2010/06/04/1165461/bill-seeks-to-sidestep-ruling.html

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Cabernet Sauvignon - Stags' Leap Winery

Date: Thu, Jun 3, 2010

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Syrah - Qupe Cellars

Date: Mon, May 31, 2010

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Pinot Noir - La Crema

Date: Mon, May 31, 2010

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The Concept of Balance in Wine

Date: Fri, May 28, 2010


This is a concept that on the surface seems very simple, but that turns out to be quite challenging. It is important to have some familiarity with what balance entails if you are to become a good wine taster.

Balance in wine refers to the interaction and harmony between two or more of the wine's constituents. By far the most straightforward balance is that between sugar and acidity. Not all wines, of course, have residual sugar, though all have some acidity. Sugar-acid balance is thus limited to wines which have an interplay between these two elements.

There is no accurate formula for calculating the perfect acid-sugar balance in a wine, despite the fact that there are some people who advance that very notion. In its simplest sense, a wine which has a good acid-sugar balance tastes neither too sweet nor too acidic: the sugar exists in the right quantity for the acid, and vice versa.

By extension, a wine which is out of balance has either too much acid or too much sugar. There are plenty of off-dry-to-sweet white wines on the market which are more or less out of balance. A wine with too little sugar for its acid will taste harsh, sharp and acidic; the evolution of flavors in the mouth will be interrupted by the sensation of acidity. A wine with too much sugar will taste cloying, sugary and flabby, and will not refresh the palate.

Some wines have too much sugar and acid. They are often the result of a winemaker trying to balance a high acid with additions of sugar. These wines don't work, because the other elements if the wine, especially 'extract', don't match the sugar and acid. Experienced tasters often describe such wines as having a 'sweet-tart' character.

The balance between astringency (tannins) and acidity in red wines is of paramount importance. French enologist Emile Peynaud, in his book The Taste of Wine, makes the following points:

* the less tannic a wine is, the more acidity it can support
* the higher a red wine is in tannins, the lower should be its acidity
* the combination of high acid and high tannins make for the hardest and most astringent wines

Another important balance is that between alcohol on the one hand, and acidity and astringency on the other. This is obviously most relevant to red wines. Too little alcohol will cause the acidity and astringency to dominate, making the wine harsh and thin. Too little acid and astringency will cause a wine to taste overly soft, heavy and flabby, with the spirity quality of the alcohol playing too much of a role. Back to Emile Peynaud:

* a wine tolerates acidity better when its alcohol content is higher
* a considerable amount of tannin is more acceptable if acidity is low and alcohol is high

These concepts find very useful application during the barrel-aging of red wines. It is often found that a young Pinot, for example, tastes vaguely out of balance with regard to alcohol, acid and tannins. Small additions of acid to a laboratory sample seem to improve the wine. But what it really needs is more time in barrel, to pick up some tannins from the oak. After eight months or so the low acid becomes not only acceptable but desirable.

In some wines, notably those from Alsace, there is an interplay between small amounts of sweetness and bitterness. Remove the sugar, and the bitterness becomes too apparent; remove the bitterness, and the sweetness (exacerbated by low acid and high alcohol) will play too much of a role in the finish. Alsatian wines in some ways redefine the concept of balance.

Flavor intensity, sometimes referred to as extract, exists in balance with sweetness. Good late harvest wines, as well as sweet fortified wines, have an enormous amount of extract to give the wine interest. This is how such wines can be almost syrupy sweet while still managing to finish dry - a seemingly contradictory situation. These wines also have lots of astringency to aid in this effect. Australian wine tasters refer to the flavor intensity which balances sweet wines as 'lusciousness'.

Other aspects of wines which exist in balance are oak vs. fruit and age vs. youth. As you can imagine these are almost entirely in the realm of subjective response; some tasters love very oaky wines, while others would call the same wines horribly unbalanced. Whole nations can exhibit a preference for one character over another - in Great Britain, for example, there has traditionally been a strong leaning toward wines with extreme bottle age. To these drinkers a wine showing any fruit flavors is one which needs more cellaring.

The temperature at which a wine is served can have a dramatic effect on the balance of its various elements. Low temperatures make tannins seem much more apparent - try chilling a full-bodied red wine down sometime to demonstrate this to yourself. Most people find that wine tastes less acidic at a low temperature. Sweet wines taste sweeter at higher temperatures, and by extension slightly sweet wines, served cold, will generally be perceived as dry. High temperatures tend to make the alcohol in wine more apparent. This can be a problem with red wines drunk in the summertime - the alcohol, being very volatile, will spoil both the nose and the palate of the wine.
Author: Peter Bell
Web Site: www.nysaes.cornell.edu/
Source: Article Source

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Wine and Food Week - June 14 - 20

Date: Fri, May 28, 2010

June 14 through 20 should be heaven for wine and food lovers, when more than 10,000 will toast the areas largest annual epicurean extravaganza, the sixth annual Wine and Food Week . This event brings together renowned chefs and more than 500 wines at 40 exciting events held in venues at The Woodlands and throughout the Houston area. Live chef demonstrations, hands-on classes, a wine auction , music, entertainment, shopping, wine education seminars and casual -and fine-wine dining experiences fill this week of food and wine.

The three largest events are the H-E-B Wine Walk @ Market Street, a taste and stroll experience in a European-style center featuring wine and light bites at more than 40 retail stores; Sips, Suds & Sliders, a new Texas-size celebration featuring live music, specialty beers, Texas wines and a gourmet slider competition; and the ultimate wine evening , the Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting & Texas Monthly Chef Showcase where guests sample delectable cuisine and hundreds of wines as chefs representing more than 50 restaurants compete for Wine & Food Week's Chef of Chefs Award .

One of the most casual and most enjoyable events is the H-E-B Wine Walk held at the Market Street in The Woodlands on June 17 from 5:30 to 8:30. Take a leisurely stroll, enjoy Market Street’s old world charm and boutique shopping, and sample food and wine from multiple venues positioned throughout the venue. In addition to more than 150 wines, this year’s Wine Walk will include more than 30 specialty beers. Tickets for the H-E-B Wine Walk are $50 in advance and, if available, $55 at the event.

Most of the 40 events are held in The Woodlands, with other wine and food experiences held at venues throughout Houston. Wine & Food Week events and auctions benefit the culinary arts program at Houston Community College Systems Foundation, the Signature Series Literacy efforts of The John Cooper School, Swing for a Cure, and The Center for the Performing Arts at The Woodlands Pavilion.. For ticket information and a complete schedule of events, visit www.wineandfoodweek.com or call 713.557.5732.

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White Blend - Jade Mountain

Date: Tue, May 25, 2010

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Wine Know

Date: Tue, May 25, 2010


Unfortunately there are a great number of myths about wine, many which have achieved near fact status, simply because of how often they are repeated. These persistent misconceptions create frustration and confusion for wine drinkers, novice and enthusiast alike. So let’s delve into the murky world of wine fact verses wine fiction.

Sulfites are bad for you. Sulfites are a natural preservative that occur naturally on grapes and therefore in wine. A small percentage of people are allergic to Sulfites and have an asthma-like reaction to them. Contrary to what we tell ourselves after over indulging, Sulfites are not known to cause headaches.

Screw caps are only used on cheap wine. Not anymore. Because of widespread problems with cork taint, a fungi related condition that turns good wines to bad, we are seeing a variety of non-cork closures, including screw caps, being used throughout the wine industry. So, you can’t judge a wine by its closure.

Europe makes the best wine in the world. Until the emergence of the New World wine producing countries like the United States, Australia, Chile, etc., the best wines did come from the Old World (Europe). Now however, excellent wines are produced all over the world and Europe no longer can claim dominance. Ask a European and you may get a different answer.

Wine critics are objective. It’s impossible to be objective about taste. Each person’s is unique and it’s the only taste they have to work with is yours. If you want to look to a critic for wine advice, then you will have to find one whose taste you agree with. It’s like movie critics. You have to know the critic’s taste before you can count on their reviews.

Only experts understand wine. This is a myth spread by people who are impressed by their own expertise. There are a good many people who know more about wine than you or I, but we are the only ones who are expert in the wines we like. The only thing you really need to know about wine is what you like and where to buy it. Everything else is interesting, but ancillary.

Zinfandel is a sweet, pinkish wine. Noooo! Zinfandel is a red-wine grape that can produce dark, dramatic, big red wines. Red Zinfandel’s go with beef, lamb, game, spicy hot cuisines and pizza. "White" Zinfandel is the result of a winery’s mistake. However that mistake has come to be one of the largest selling wine styles in the U.S.

Wine labeled "Reserve" is the best. “Reserve” is supposed to mean the wine has received special treatment from the wine maker, however the term is unregulated in many countries, including the U.S. Therefore you can’t depend on it being anything other than marketing hype.

Old wine is better than young wine. With a few significant exceptions, wines do not benefit from prolonged aging. A few very special wines benefit greatly from age, but most wines just fade and, as a friend of mine says, taste tired. Most white wines should be drunk within a two or three years, most reds within 10.

A wine’s "legs" indicate quality. Legs or tears as they are also know, are an indication of alcohol content, and have nothing to do with quality. The higher the alcohol content, the more prominent the legs.

Always serve white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat. This is sometimes true, but most of the time is not. What matters most when pairing wine with meat or fish is how it is prepared. While a Chardonnay might go nicely with grilled chicken or veal, it will rendered tasteless by chicken or veal smothered in a Marsala, marinara or cacciatore sauce. These hearty sauces require a red wine, like Chianti, to stand up to them. It’s the preparation, not the color of the meat or fish that’s important.


Cellar Notes

Here are a couple of blended reds that are very nice. The Nine Points Meritage is soft enough for even a white-wine drinker to love. And that’s no myth.

Clayhouse Adobe Red Blend
Nine Points Meritage Red Blend

A note about vintage – If you are unable to locate a vintage shown in Cellar Notes, with some significant exceptions, you may find the next vintage year very similar. Modern viticulture and production methods have reduced, although not eliminated, dramatic year-to-year variation.

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Shiraz - Yangarra

Date: Mon, May 24, 2010

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Monterey Pinot Noir - Carmel Road

Date: Mon, May 24, 2010

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Chianti Classico Riserva - Banfi

Date: Sat, May 22, 2010

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Adobe Red Blend - Clayhouse

Date: Sat, May 22, 2010

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