Monday, May 14, 2018

Strange World of Wine - What is Fining?

Wine is just grape juice fermented with some yeast right?  Yes! At least something I consume is vegan (pauses blogging long enough to take one more bite of luscious cheeseburger). Hold on - not so fast.  In fact many if not most wines are not at all vegan.   Most of the winemaking process is animal free - but a crucial step to give you a beautiful glass of crystal clear wine is called fining.  This is where the animal products are used, and the reason I'll need to add some kale to my diet if I want to truly get my vegan on.

Fining is the process where a substance (the fining agent) is added to the wine in order to trap and remove suspended particles left in the wine from the winemaking process.  Fining not only leads to clearer looking wine, but can have beneficial impacts to the color, taste, and aroma of the wine.  It can also be used to lower the tannin level and even remove some unpleasant aromas (such as rotten egg or onion) that may have developed in the wine (ewwwww!!!).

My first up close look at the process of fining came during a tour of the Muga winery in Haro, Spain. Muga is a global brand, but still uses one of the oldest fining agents in the wine world - egg whites.  Muga is a major wine producer, selling wines all across the world.  They use a combination of traditional methods and high technology, and their process of finding definitely falls into the traditional category.

In the winery, they have this gadget -basically two half steel tubes angled in opposite directions. The top tube has a number of holes along its bottom. To capture egg whites for fining, eggs are cracked into the highest part of the top tube.  As the egg slides down the tube, the whites fall into the holes and drips down to the tube below, which then ultimate slides down into the bowl on the left.  The yolk then continues down and falls into the bowl on the right.  Low tech, but very effective!  With their philosophy of wasting nothing, the egg yolks are used to make candy which they sell in their gift shop.  Rich, but super delish! 

So even though Muga produces a lot of wine, this contraption is sufficient for them to gather egg whites for fining since each egg can clarify a little over 6 gallons (23 liters) of wine.  Check out the bottom of this post for a video showing more about the fining process at Muga.

Historically, other animal based products have been used for fining, including bone marrow, mild protein, gelatin (including some made from the swim bladders of fish), and fiber from crustacean shells.  True, these sound like strange ingredients for wine, but keep in mind they are not really ingredients, but tools to help make a clearer and better tasting wine.  You will run across some wines that are truly vegan, as there are carbon and clay based fining agents as well.  Why not experiment a little and try a "regular" wine and a similar vegan wine and see if you can tell any difference from the different fining agents used?

Muga Winery Fining Process

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Strange World of Wine - Movia Lunar 8, Orange Wine or Greenish Gray Wine?

In my strange world of wine series, I'm going to explore some of the more unusual aspects of wine, wine making, and whatever other wine related gems I come across.  This first post is about a wine I had at a recent wine pairing dinner that gave me the idea for this series. 

The wine was a 2008 Movia Lunar. This wine is from Slovenia and made with 100% Rebula, a white wine grape which is also found in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeast Italy, only there it is called Ribolla. This was my first wine from Slovenia, and first from this grape - which was very cool but definitely didn't fall into the "strange" category.

Then the wine was poured. My mind was already reviewing some common descriptors of white wine color... would it be a lighter straw color, a bolder lemon color, or even a darker golden color?  Would the wine be crystal clear, or would it be cloudy from a bit of sediment? 

Well, all the choices of descriptors I was contemplating were wrong, wrong, and really really wrong! Out of the bottle poured a clouded, greenish gray substance unlike anything I've ever seen poured into a wine glass.

Both my wife and I had looks of shock and amazement on our faces, but our server's expression didn't change, so we understood this was what the wine was supposed to look like! So we bravely swirled, sniffed and took a sip.  Very much characteristics of a white wine, some stone fruit, honey and spice aromas.  I admit to being a bit afraid of what this sludge would taste like, but it turned out to be very crisp, and had a hint of yeast from the sediment, but not that different than wines that have been aged on their "lees" or dead yeast cells from fermentation.  What an amazing and STRANGE surprise... and thus this series of posts was born.

After doing some research I discovered that the wine is made as an "orange" wine, which means although it is a white wine, it is made more like a red by having the wine ferment with the skins of the grapes (typically for white wine, the grapes are pressed immediately and only the juice is fermented).  For those not comfortable with the greenish grey cloudy glass of wine, before opening the wine bottle just needs to be rested for a few days to a week in an upright position so the sediment settles to the bottom.  Then, carefully open the bottle without disturbing the sediment, and pour into a decanter until you start to see sediment in the neck of the bottle - then stop.  Some accounts I've read say you may have to leave a quarter or more of the bottle behind in order to pour a clear wine.

I highly recommend you seek out this wine to try something truly wine is kind of unique, Slovenian wine is kind of unique for some... the tasting experience... truly unique.  Also, try the wine both ways, decant off some clear wine but make sure to at least try the wine with all of its components.  Once you get past the look of it... you won't be sorry!

Here is a video from the winery talking about the wine and how to properly decant. He is opening another vintage of Lunar that is made from Chardonnay, but the same decanting approach will work for any versions of the Lunar:

Stay tuned for more from the Strange World of Wine!  Have any ideas or suggestions for topics?  Please share them in the comments below.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Weekly Wine Review - Paso Robles Red Blend - 2014 ONX Level 22

I have been a big fan of ONX wines in Paso Robles since I first tried them.  Their wine blends don't worry too much about sticking to the classic blends, they just take their grapes and put them into intriguing and delicious combinations.  This Level 22 wine was one I have not tried, and it does actually utilize grapes that you would find in a Southern Rhone blend.  Still taking an intriguing approach, Level 22 highlights Petite Sirah as the main grape where in Southern Rhone wines, Grenache typically takes the starring role.

Wine: 2014 ONX Level 22

Region: Paso Robles, California
Grape Varieties: Petite Sirah, Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache

Obtained from: Purchased at winery
Price: $54

Wino4Life Category: Weekend Wine

Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural cork - no defects or issues.

Appearance: Beautiful dark purple.
Aroma: Stewed fruit, cranberry, mushroom, and cola
Taste: Big and fruity, smooth tannins, nicely balanced and a nice amount of acidity.

The Grade: I give this one an A. For my palate, ONX continues to deliver fantastic blends. Without the constraints of tradition, all their wines show such great blending skill. Over $50 is a lot to invest in a bottle of wine, but when you get delicious quality, the investment is worth it!  Cheers!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Weekly Wine Review - French White - 2009 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile

Typically, my more expensive "splurge" wine purchases are red wine and more red wine.  A lot of my cooking also skews toward red wine pairing (red meat!), and my wife and I consume considerably more red wine than white or rosé.  When it comes to purchasing white wine, I am very value conscious. I want a good quality wine, but am not looking to spend more than $25 a bottle and in most cases closer to $15.  At a recent tasting at our wine storage facility (living in Arizona, and having had our air conditioner go out in July will make one look for wine storage facilities!), we tried this special cuvée Trimbach Riesling and it tasted very nicely.  So nice in fact that even though it carried a splurge wine level price tag I picked up a bottle to pair with the right dish that needed that extra special white wine.  The dish turned out to be a meal kit from for Miso Glazed Scallops with a Soba Noodle Salad.  The sweetness of scallops, the umami of the miso, the herbal/vegetal taste of the edamame in the salad needed a complex wine, so I turned to this 8 year old Alsatian to see if it had the right stuff.

Wine: 2009 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile

Region: Alsace, France
Grape Varieties: Riesling

Obtained from: Purchased at Vinum 55
Price: $68
Wino4Life Category: Splurge Wine

Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural cork - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Clear, light yellow.
Aroma: Peach, apple, honey and a nice amount of the aged Riesling petrol aroma that intensified as the wine warmed in the glass.  This may sound strange if you've never experienced it, but it is my very favorite part of older Rieslings.

Taste: Super dry like you should expect with an Alsace wine, but a fruitiness that gives you the sensation of sweetness.  A nice bit of minerality as part of a very pleasant, long finish. How about the pairing you ask? A home run in my semi-humble opinion.  The scallops were great quality and I managed to get a nice dark sear on them.  The miso glaze made them savory and slightly sweet at the same time, and the crispness and fruitiness of the wine went along nicely. Good food and good wine, but the two together was even better - my definition of a perfect pairing!

The Grade: I give this one an A+. Sometimes you come across a wine that makes you reevaluate how you think about white wine versus reds. This wine is one of those that may even lead me to cook more dishes that need a complex, quality white as a partner.  Well... maybe a few more anyway! Cheers!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Wino4Life Product Review: Avina Wine Accessories Rhino Corkscrew

**DISCLAIMER** The corkscrew reviewed in this post was provided to me free of charge by Avina Wine Accessories.

The fine folks at Avina Wine Accessories gave me the opportunity to select one of their products to review for I browsed their online store, and one item from their line of corkscrews immediately stood out to me.  I do appreciate a classic looking corkscrew, but even more I appreciate something with a different look - so I opted for the Rhino Corkscrew and Bottle Opener.  It has an almost Craftman tool aesthetic to it that I really like. I feel more manly already!
The Rhino!

From my Wine Lover's Toolkit post, you'll see that a good corkscrew is the first item on my list.  There are lots of wine related gizmos and gadgets out there, some crucially important while others are just cool to include in your toolkit (no shame in stocking up on the cool ones... I have plenty!)  A really good corkscrew is definitely one of those crucial items.  You must be able to efficiently and effectively release the wonder-filled contents of those cork sealed bottles of wine.  You could very happily subsist on only screw top bottles or boxed wines - but chances are you will eventually come across a cork that stands between you and your swirl and sip of delicious wine. Be prepared people!!!

Before we get to the Rhino, let me first address what you should be looking for in your go-to corkscrew.  Although there are other types available, for now I'll stick to just the "waiter's helper" or "wine key" version.  

Here is my current go-to corkscrew from Le Creuset, which gets a workout several times a week in our house (and occasionally accompanies us on wine country vacations!).  Like this one, your corkscrew should have a curved blade to cut the foil from the wine bottle.  I prefer a good serrated edge so you don't ever have to worry about sharpening.  Next up is the arm of the corkscrew that you place on the lip of the bottle to give leverage for opening (for you wine trivia buffs, this is called the "fulcrum").  You want to find a corkscrew with a two part, hinged fulcrum as it makes opening the bottle much easier than a one piece fulcrum, and will save you from breaking many corks. The screw component or "worm" should have a sharp pointed tip, and spirals around vs. looking like a drill bit. You want to grab hold of the cork, not drill a hole in it. Last up is a feature that is not mandatory, but it is convenient to also have a bottle opener for those times you opt for a non-wine beverage. OK, so now that we know what we want in a corkscrew, let's see what the Rhino has to offer. Here's a look at the boxed product:

Along with the corkscrew, there is a special bonus of a bottle cap for your leftover wine.  This item will not get much use in our household, as leftover wine is a rarity.  To store extra wine for any length of time, it is best to remove the excess air in the bottle by pumping it out or replacing it with argon gas, but for an easy to use quick way to keep some extra wine for a short time, the cap is a nice bonus.  This cap has a locking lever and appears to provide an excellent seal on a bottle.

Now for the corkscrew itself. It feels hefty in the hand - very sturdy.  It is a bit heavier than my Le Creuset.  Everything on the corkscrew looks and feels like quality. Opening it up to take a closer look, I very much like the design just like when I first saw it on the Avina website.  It has a hinged fulcrum, sharp tip on the worm, and a substantial serrated blade for cutting the foil.

OK, now we know the Rhino has all the features we're looking, it's time for the main event. Let's put it to the most important test and open up a bottle of wine. The first thing I notice is the serrated blade. It has a more distinct curve to it than I've ever seen on a corkscrew, and it is a hefty little blade.  Definitely the best foil cutter I've ever used. 

The worm has a groove that runs all the way down to the tip, which could be to provide a better grip on the cork - nice touch.  The corkscrew was easy to use, and the best part is at the end we had an open bottle of Martian Vineyards Grenache to enjoy on a Sunday evening.

Just to give the Rhino it's full workout, let's also crack open a beer.  As with most corkscrews, the fulcrum has a bottle opener groove, but I opted for the Rhino horn end and voila!

Overall the Rhino is a very impressive product.  If you are in the market for a good corkscrew I would definitely suggest the Rhino and also suggest checking out the Avina website to see what else they have to offer.  I'm going to keep on using the Rhino, and I'll get back to you with an update after we've popped a few more corks (and the occasional beer).

If you are interested in purchasing a Rhino, or another Avina product, you can use the discount code AVINA15A which will give you 15% off any order. All you have to do is purchase from their website ( or and use the promotional code during the checkout process. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Weekly Wine Review - Central California Red - 2014 Dragonette Pinot Noir, John Sebastian Vineyard

When in doubt, ask a local. Great advice in general, but you might not think about it when visiting a winery.  You may think it would be like asking your local cars salesman who offers good cars in the area...but you'd be wrong!  On a recent trip to Santa Barbara wine country with some great wino friends, we asked at several wineries we visited for suggestions - and more than one recommended Dragonette. Let's see if they knew what they were talking about!

Wine: 2014 Dragonette Pinot Noir, John Sebastian Vineyard

Region: Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County California
Grape Varieties: Pinot Noir

Obtained from: Purchased at winery
Price: $57
Wino4Life Category: Weekend Wine+ (A bit over the $50 weekend limit, but close enough!)

Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural cork - no defects or issues.

Appearance: Dark red, translucent.
Aroma: Red fruit, earth, spices.
Taste: Good acidity, spices really come through in the taste. Nicely balanced with a nice earthy finish.

The Grade: I give this one a B+. A bit spend-y nearing the $60 mark, but overall a really nice wine. Looks like the locals knew what they were talking about!  Try some Dragonette if you get a chance!  Cheers!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Weekly Wine Review - Spanish Red - 2014 Tentenublo Rioja Xerico

This week I read with great sadness about the late frosts in Europe that may have ravaged the 2017 crops in France and Spain.  In an ode to the hardworking growers throughout Europe facing this challenge, I wanted to open a bottle of Rioja. Many, many thanks to all those growers who face the challenges of nature on a regular basis, even when there is a risk of losing an entire year's grapes.

Wine: 2014 Tentenublo Rioja Xerico

Region: Rioja, Spain
Grape Varieties: Tempranillo with a bit of Viura

Obtained from: Purchased at Total Wine & More

Price: $30
Wino4Life Category: Weekend Wine

Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural cork - no defects or issues.

Appearance: Great dark purple.
Aroma: Restrained, some black fruit and a hint of oak.
Taste: Also fairly restrained, well balanced with a good amount of acidity.

The Grade: I give this one a B-.  More of an old world version of Rioja with less fruit, and while it was a good wine, I would expect more at the $30 price point.  The acidity level would make a great companion to food, especially some aged Manchego cheese.  Join me in wishing the best for the growers in Europe after the tragic late frost.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Weekly Wine Review - California Red - 2013 Linne Calodo Outsider

Breaking up is hard to do. My wine refrigerators at home are full. I've rented space in a temperature controlled wine storage facility. Still, I have joined far too many wine clubs. Initially I cancelled a few that were not too painful, but eventually there were some painful choices.  One of those was Linne Calodo from Paso Robles.  Really nice wines, interesting blends, but wines that need some time to age.  Sadly, I cancelled my membership, but I would highly recommend visiting, trying, and buying their wines.  As a consolation, I decided to taste their Zinfandel based blend - Outsider.
Wine: 2013 Linne Calodo Outsider

Region: Paso Robles, California
Grape Varieties: Zinfandel 78%, Syrah 20%, Mourvedre 2%

Obtained from: Purchased at Winery
Price: $60
Wino4Life Category: Splurge Wine

Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural cork - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Clear, dark purple.
Aroma: Wow! Dark and red fruit, pepper, cola, and Mmmmm...licorice!
Taste: Big fruit, great balance. Lots of smooth tannins.
The Grade: I give this one a solid A.  Enough tannins to age for 10 years or more, but give it a decant for a few hours and it will be great. So good! Ugh! I miss you already.  Can we still be friends??? Luckily I have a few bottles of Linne Calodo in my stash to enjoy and reminisce. Cheers!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Weekly Wine Review - Napa Red - 2011 Cade Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

We have been experimenting with some of the food services that send you fresh ingredients and recipes on a weekly basis - like Blue Apron, Home Chef, and Home Fresh.  I have been very impressed by the quality of the ingredients and the variety of recipes.  On the downside from a wine paring perspective, there is very seldom steak in those boxes that arrive each week.  When a New York strip with balsamic glaze did show up recently, it was time for some Napa cab! Yes!

Wine: 2011 Cade Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

Region: Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, California
Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon

Obtained from: Purchased at winery
Price: $80
Wino4Life Category: Splurge Wine
Aeration before tasting: Decanted for 4 hours.

Cork Condition: Natural cork - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Clear, purple in color.
Aroma: Lots of fruit, some herbal notes, and darker coffee or smoky elements as well.

Taste: Great tannins to hold up to a steak, nice acidity, well balanced.  

The Grade: I give this one an A. Enough tannins to age a few more years, but after decanting was definitely ready to drink.  Very Napa in style, no complaints here. I would put this up against many more expensive Napa Cabs and I think it would hold up quite well.  I wonder how it would be taste with a Kale salad?  I hope another steak shows up before I have to find out! Cheers!!!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Weekly Wine Review - French White Burgundy - 2008 Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine

To say the least, the name of this wine is a mouthful and a half, but don't be intimidated - it's just a really (really) long name. The appellation of Macon-Villages will tell you this a white burgundy wine, and that tells you that this is 100% Chardonnay.   Whew - now that we know what we have in the bottle - let's give it a try!                                                                                                                                        

Wine: 2008 Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine

Region: Burgundy, France
Grape Varieties: Chardonnay

Obtained from: Purchased at Last Bottle
Price: $15
Wino4Life Category: Everyday Wine

Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural cork - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Clear, light straw color.
Aroma: Somewhat surprising for a Burgundy - some tropical fruit aromas, and wet rock minerality.
Taste: Very nice level of acidity, creamy mouthfeel, mineral comes through on the taste as well.

The Grade: I give this one a B+.  A nice creamy mouthfeel without being too big and buttery.  Very interesting with mineral, tropical fruit, creaminess - all leading to a very long, pleasant finish. A very nice wine for a very nice price. Not the most glamorous pairing, but I think this would be a great one for a big bowl of popcorn. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Wine Tip of the Week - To Open or Not to Open (that Gift Wine)?

One of your very thoughtful gifts has arrived at your house with a bottle of wine as a gift.  These are good friends to have!  A gracious "Thank You!" is a given,... but then what? Does an uncomfortable feeling come over you as you try to figure out - do I open this now?
The definitive answer is...maybe. Well, you say - that's no help!

OK then, here's the scoop:

  • If you asked someone to bring a wine for the dinner - then you should open it. Either before, during or after the meal, wherever you believe the wine will best pair.
  • If they ask you to open it.  A really good wino friend would not put you in this spot, and it can be difficult if you've have carefully planned the wines for the evening. But you can always open one more bottle, and point it out to your other guests as a treat provided by the bearer of the gift.
  • But... if the wine is truly a gift, then treat it like one. Say thanks, ask a question or two about it, then put it away to enjoy later. If the gift was a box of chocolates, you would not be expected to tear into them right away or if the gift was a set of beautiful Moroccan spices you would not be expected to douse your dinner with them. Much the same for a true gift of wine - for you to enjoy when and where (and with who) you choose.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Be Adventurous and Try New Wines - Nine Things I'm Glad I Tried

In a world full of countless choices when it come to wine, sometimes it's easy to just sit back and enjoy the comfort of your favorites over and over. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that approach to your wine selection (after all they are called favorites for a reason) it does rob you of the excitement of searching for and discovering great new things. Over the years my favorite wines have changed regularly as my tastes have changed, and as I've tried new wines. In some cases I think my tastes have evolved as I've learned more about wine, and tried more wine - but also some favorites have been de-throned by new favorites.  With trying new wines you may find something that you find delicious, or you many find something that is just cool or interesting - something with which to impress your wino (or wannabe wino) friends.  

I can't tell you exactly what to try - because I have no idea what you've tried or haven't tried, but I can tell you about some of the things I'm glad I tried. Many times these were types of wines where I had read or heard negative wine snob comments.  Instead of taking these negative comments as my default opinion, if something I read or heard piqued my interest, I would go ahead and give it a try.  Not all experiments will be a success, but in my case quite a few were!

1. Pinotage. Pinotage is South Africa's signature red grape, which is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. In the past I had read how some examples of this wine when not handled properly by the winemaker can develop aromas of paint fumes or nail polish.  

I first tried Pinotage as part of my International Sommelier Guild classes when we studied South Africa. The wine we tried was not nearly as horrible as I feared, and it actually had a distinctive aroma of ...Band-Aids.  That's right - the smell of a freshly opened old school plastic Band Aid brand.  Ever since I tried - it has forever been the "Band Aid" wine in my mind, and every one I've tried has been a good value, and typically have some very interesting aromas.  My favorite wine - no way, but very interesting, and a conversation piece to serve to friends and let them try and name that aroma!

...Cuz Band Aid Stuck on Me!

2. Good Spanish Sherry - Dry and Sweet. When many people hear "Sherry" they think of some cheap, sickly sweet gunk their grandmothers drink, or an even worse concoction sold as "Cooking Sherry."  On a cruise we took some years ago that included stops in Spain, one spot we hit was Jerez de la Frontera, where we toured the Tio Pepe winery and learned all about GOOD Sherry (or Jerez in Spanish).  Sherries are all fortified wines which means additional alcohol is added to the wine, but the process to make them is very unique.  Part of the process of certain style of Sherry relies on formation of a "flor" or a film of yeast on the surface of the liquid that allows the incredible flavors and aromas to develop underneath.
A View of the "Flor" of a Barrel of Sherry

Sherry is also made with a Solera blending process involving mixing different vintages through a series of levels of barrels, where no barrels are ever fully emptied, just filled in from barrels above.
Solera Process

Sherry comes in dry styles including light and delicate Fino and Manzanilla, slight darker Amontillado, and darker richer Oloroso. Sherry made from Pedro Ximénez grapes is typically made from sun dried grapes into a delicious, super sweet dessert wine (definitely not gramma's Cream Sherry!)

The flavors can be strong, and may take some getting used to as they are unique - but I have grown more fond of Sherry each time I have it.

A Traditional Way to Pour Sherry from a Cup Dipped in a Barrel

3. Rosé. Way back when - probably in the late 80's, I admit I joined in the White Zinfandel craze for a short time.  I'm not sure how it became so popular, but Sutter Home probably sold like a billion bottles of the stuff.  White Zin is typically semi-sweet, and not made to be anything special.  As I tried more wine, I found that there are many many things much more delicious and interesting than White Zin. However - there are also tons of Rosé wine that is nothing like White Zinfandel, and should not be foregone because of any wine snobbery against wines like White Zinfandel.  Most countries that make wine will make some type of Rosé, but California, Washington State, and France are home to some of my favs. 

Don't be afraid to drink pink!

4. Chardonnay and Merlot.  Another wine that became the go to for a ton of people was Chardonnay.  In some wine circles, the acronym "ABC" stands for "Anything But Chardonnay" as wine snob shunned the grapes popularity.  Chardonnays can be made in a big oak aged style, which is not my favorite, but can also be quite delicate and even made unoaked.  Try Chablis or other white Burgundy from France for a different take on the grape. Looking for an ultimate wine pairing for Chardonnay? Try raw oysters and Chablis.

Got Oysters? Try Chablis

Also, in the red wine world the  movie Sideways singlehandedly increased the sales of Pinot Noir and lowered the sales of Merlot. While the impacts were not earth shattering, they were definitely noticeable in the wine world.  Pinot is awesome no doubt about it, but Merlot is also a great wine when you are looking for something a little less huge and tannic than a Cabernet Sauvignon.  Also, Merlots can produce some great value wines from places like South America.  In interviews after the movie, the director said there was no malice toward Merlot - it just made a great line for the movie.

Miles Says That Would be A Big Negative on the Whole Merlot Thing!

5. Orange Wine. When I first heard this term I figured I would try this right after Pineapple or Elderberry wine - which could be never. However, Orange wine has nothing to do with the fruit, and everything to do with a different way to make white wine. The term Orange wine refers to a white wine made more like a red wine, where the juice is left in contact with the grape's skins. Deeper color and deeper flavors are the result - and I like it!

Orange Wine, but not.. you know "Orange" Wine

The first one of these I tried was at a dinner at Grant Achatz's Next Restaurant in Chicago - and I absolutely loved it.  I really need to check out my wine store and find some other versions of this to try.

6. French WIne.  Remember the days of Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast when France was on the shit list for not going along with the invasion of Iraq?  Well couple that with very hard to understand wine labels and a reputation for some of the snootiest people in the world - and who would want to try French wine? During the call for a boycott of French wine, some estimate it cost the French wine industry over $100 Million. 

My exposure to French wine came mostly at my International Sommelier Guild (ISG) classes - and some I liked and some not so much.  French wines are typically very "old world" in style, that is made with fruit that is not as big and ripe and oaky as much of the "new world" wine.   They can be different, but from the place where winemaking started to some degree, there is much to be missed if you bypass the world of French Wine. To this day, one of my most memorable wines was at my ISG class when we were studying Rhone wines. We tried a Crozes Hermitage which is a Syrah based wine from the northern Rhone valley.  Syrah can develop some smokey attributes - but this particular bottle was unmistakably filled with the aroma of raw bacon. This was one of the moments when I realized I was starting to get the hang of the whole aroma identification thing.  To me, a good French Rhone Syrah will always be called the "bacon wine."
Mmmm... Bacon

7. Screw Top Wines. Another subject of much wine snobbery is the screw top wine.  However as more and more wineries move to the easy opening caps that eliminate the danger of cork taint in the wine - it's getting harder and harder to ignore the trend. For me, some of my go-to favorites are among the screw top crowd including Charles Smith Kung Fu Riesling, Charles and Charles Rosé, and Shoofly Syrah. 

You Can Unscrew Without Getting Screwed!

8. Wine Club with a Waiting List. Sometimes the best things are worth waiting for - even for years or more. When you hear about a wine you want to try, have some at a friends house or restaurant, but it turns out to be a wine available only through a wine club with a waiting list - don't give up. I was on a waiting list for Kosta Browne and Kanzler Pinot Noir for around two years, but now my patience has paid off with a few wonderful bottles of each to enjoy every year. Another winery, Carlisle is one that I have been very excited to try for a long time. I literally found out two weeks ago that my number has come up - and my shipment will arrive in December!  Wine clubs can be a great way to get wine at a discount, and in some cases are the only way to get anything from some limited production wineries.

The UPS Man is Like my Santa Claus!

9. Wines from Up and Coming Wine Regions. One of my latest interests are wines made from Mencia grapes in Bierzo, Spain.  It is not a new wine region, but some great winemakers have become interested in the area - and now it is producing some really good wine. The great thing about trying wines from up and coming regions is that you don't have to pay the premium for a big name region, or be subjected to the law of supply and demand as bottles of wine from popular areas are bought up by those following the latest trend. It's easy - find out what people will be drinking in the next year or two - and drink it first! How do you find out about new regions... read, read, read! Wine Spectator, Wine and Spirits, wine blogs, articles - whatever you can find. If you find yourself reading several write-ups of the same area, it may be worth looking into.
Donde Está Bierzo? (Number 6)

Please join me in the on-going fight to stay out of a wine rut - set yourself a goal to try something new at least once a month - and let us know about your wine revelations from being an adventurous wino!