Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I like Wine, I Like Movies - and I Really Like Wine Movies - Watch and Learn

Good movies are seldom about just one thing. The movie Caddyshack takes place largely at a Country Club and on a golf course, but it is about much more than golf (Cinderella story...) Slap Shot is a great hockey movie, but it's about more than just the hockey.  

There are not a ton of movies made about wine, but there are some great ones that have wine as a theme, but there is much more going on in the way of characters and a solid plot line.   Besides being entertained, wine movies are a great way to learn about wine. Here are some worth looking into,

OK, I confess I have not seen this movie yet - but I just know I am going to like it... no, I know I am going to love it!  This movie has not been released in many theaters, and none in the Phoenix area (that I've seen). I will probably end up buying it on iTunes in the next couple of weeks - and will report back on how awesome it is!  Somm is a movie about four sommeliers studying for the Master Sommelier exam. This test has one of the lowest pass rates of any test in the world. The exam covers an unbelievable amount of information literally anything having to do with the entire world of wine, spirits, and cigars.  Questions on the exam could be about any wine region or sub region in the entire world, about what vintages were good and why, about tasting wine, serving wine... anything you could imagine.  It boggles my mind to think about the time I spend studying for my International Sommelier Guild Level 2 test, and that this test must be that times about a billion. Check out the trailer - if you have any interest in wine at all I think you'll like seeing the story of four guys who are absolutely obsessed with wine - and if they will be able to join the ranks of the elite to be one of only about 200 Master Sommeliers in the entire world.

If you have ready many of my posts you may have noticed quite a few mentions of Sideways. It is a fantastic movie that I can watch again and again.  It is about friendship, love, deception, insecurity, second chances - just about anything you can imagine set against the backdrop of the Central California wine country.  My wife and I have visited this area many times before and since we've seen this move. When you see the two main characters walking to dinner at the Hitching Post, we've done that quite a few times. Plus many of the wineries they visit are the actual winery tasting rooms. However "Frass Canyon" is not a real winery, but uses Fess Parkers tasting room. Sound like a cool name for a winery? Look up Frass to see if you still think so! If you haven't seen this movie please do check it out - and you may never think of Merlot in the same way again! 

Bottle Shock
This movie is another that I can watch again and again. This movie is based upon the real events of the 1976 Judgement of Paris Wine Tasting where Napa Valley red and white wines were blind tasted (the judges did not know what they were drinking). I don't want to spoil the outcome, so I won't tell you who won - but this movie is a very interesting look at Napa valley winemaking before it became the tourist mecca that it is today.  See Chris Pine before he donned his Star Fleet uniform (plus Bill Pullman from Independence Day and Alan Rickman from Galaxy Quest and Rachel Taylor from Transformers - a definite Sci-Fi theme!). See this movie and try some Chateau Montelena Chardonnay to relive a key event in California wine history.

A bit on the goofy side, but another chance to perhaps learn something about the world of wine as depicted in this mockumentary.  The satire of the different wineries and the impact of wine critics does make for an entertaining movie. Give it a try and let us know what you think.

Silence of the Lambs
OK, not a wine movie at all - but this classic line alone earns a mention. How many times have you used this quote?  Also, the worst pronunciation of Chianti I think I've ever heard!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Wine Tip of the Week - How to Quickly Chill a Bottle of Wine

If you have a bottle of wine you need to serve, but it's too warm - never fear (or should I say "chill"!).  All you need is a bucket, filled half with ice and half with cold water - enough to cover most of the bottle when submerged.   The water is crucial - without it the wine will take much longer to cool down. Adding some salt to the mix will help the wine to cool off even faster.  

Put your bottle in the bucket - and the wine temperature should drop about 10 degrees for each 10 minutes in the bucket. Works for red, white, sparkling - whatever you need (sorry doesn't work so good for boxed wine!).

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Weekly Wine Review - South American Red - 2011 Vistamar Carménère Sepia Reserva

I love wine and I love the history of wine.  Carménère is a grape you may not have heard of before - because it has a very interesting history. At one time, it was the sixth Bordeaux grape in France (along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Malbec), but now is grown primarily in South America. Originally, growers in South America mistakenly labeled the grapes as Merlot until around 1998 when it was recognized that for 150 years or so there had been a bit of an Ooops!  

Wine: 2011 Vistamar Carménère Sepia Reserva
Region: Mapio Valley, Chile
Grape Varieties: Carménère
Obtained from: Purchased at Total Wine & More
Price: $10.00
Wino4Life Category: Everyday Wine
Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Synthetic cork - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Clear, dark purple with a water white rim.
Aroma: Very nice nose of raspberries, dark chocolate, and coffee along with something herbal, perhaps even a bit of mint.
Taste: Medium bodied, very nice fruit flavor, nicely acidic with a nice long finish.  

The Grade: I give this one an A. An outstanding wine for $10 - if you like Merlot, give this one a try!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Special Guest Blogger Today! Wino4Life Wife Talks Wine and Purses

Hello all, Wino4life Wife here! Wino4life Jim suggested I post today, as I shared with him my analogy that always seems to get my non wino girlfriends into trying out different types of wine. 

While catching up with a friend recently, of course the subject of my love for wine came up, she couldn't understand how I could drink something that she thought tastes like medicine. The only wine she enjoyed was sweet, like white zinfandel - so what white zinfandel would I recommend.  Apparently my gasp was audible - and my snobbery could not be retracted!  There was some good natured name calling and laughing, but I asked her one simple question  - did you buy your purse/handbag at Walmart?  Now the snobbery tables were turned - it was her turn to gasp, after which she rattled off the designer, collection and year of her prized purse.  

Now, there is nothing wrong with a purse from Walmart, they are functional, inexpensive, and perfectly appropriate for whatever you need it for!  There is also nothing wrong with a Louis Vuitton either! (You really don't want me to start describing why I love Louis Vuitton here) However, I'm not going to ever take a Louis to the beach! 

Same goes for wine.  There is the everyday, suits your need, cost is appropriate for you, and you alone - and you feel good with your purchase (alcohol content irrelevant) wine.  There is also the special occasion, evening out category, the kind you may only do once a year, and it's stored and protected until you need it!  Let alone the other categories and reasons we need a purse or wine!

Even the descriptors of purses can be compared to wine;  Designer, Collection and Year is pretty close to Winery, Varietal and Vintage!  Coincidence?  I think not!

Wine is as personal as a purse - drink what you want, as long as you like it, you should not care what anyone else thinks (except if it's white zin!!!)  Yes, I used to drink white zin years ago too, but times change! To provide her with a recommendation to her tastes, I suggested a Charles & Charles Rose by Charles Smith Winery.  Looks like white zin, NOT white zin.  For another suggestion - sticking with her sweet tastes, I recommended a Kung Fu Girl Riesling, also by Charles Smith winery.  Kung Fu Girl is actually only slightly sweet, but the big fruity tastes can work to satisfy someone looking for a sweet wine. 

Full disclosure, I do not own a Louis Vuitton, nor have I been compensated by Louis for this post (I would be happy to receive any samples to try though!!!).  The various times I get close to purchase a Vuitton, Parnasséa or Signature, I get a few bottles of one of my all time favorite splurge wines - Alto Moncayo's  Aquilon, instead.  Priorities!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Weekly Wine Review - Washington State Rosé - 2012 Charles & Charles Rosé

Summertime arrived with a vengeance in the Phoenix area this year.  When the thermometer is topping 110 degrees, sometimes you need  a nice chilled Rosé to help beat the heat. Even if your summertime temp isn't this high, you might enjoy a nice pink wine for a change of pace. Don't worry - a good Rosé does not have to be an infamous White Zin, so don't be afraid!  This week's wine is from Charles Smith winery, makers of great value wines like Boom Boom Syrah, Velvet Devil Merlot, and Kung Fu Riesling.

Wine: 2012 Charles & Charles Rosé
Region: Columbia Valley, Washington State
Grape Varieties: Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Grenache
Obtained from: Purchased at Total Wine & More
Price: $13.00
Wino4Life Category: Everyday Wine
Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Screw Top - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Very light pink in color with a water white rim.
Aroma: A nice clean aroma with cherry and raspberries, and a hint of minerals.
Taste: Fresh, clean and absolutely delicious.  The taste is pretty simple, but nicely acidic and refreshing.

The Grade: I give this one an A+.  If you are looking for a simple, refreshing wine then run - don't walk to get some of this one. Some Rosé can become bitter if served too cold, but this one can be served quite cold and is still delicious. For the price, this is a great summer wine.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ten Must Have Wine Products? No - but Ten Very COOL to Have Wine Products!

Think you have every wine gadget you need... think again! I would not classify these products as must have, but sometimes it's fun to get a gadget just because it's cool... or funny... or bizarre!  I'm sure Inspector Gadget had a least a few of these things in his arsenal.

Just follow the links to see more about these crazy products.

1.  In our fast paced world - you need to be ready to be on the go at any time.

2. Men have carried flasks for hundreds of years - finally something for the ladies!

3. I have seen different versions of this product for years - but have never tried one.  These things use magnets to improve the flavor of wine. The magnet is supposed to soften tannins in red wine... sounds like a future Wino4life product review!

4.  I could have hours of fun with this thing - just makes me laugh!

5. This is one that would actually be pretty cool to have. Serving your wine (Reds, Whites, Sparkling, Rosé) at the correct temperature range is very important!

6. Last year Grandma sent me a hand knitted sweater... this year I think she's trying to tell me something.

7. These are hilarious!  Hey, this wine takes like Shi........raz! 😜

8. Art suitable for framing and proudly displaying.

9. A new take on a classic - swirl that Solo!

10. Really??? Did we really need this thing???  Does it come in white?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Weekly Wine Review - Napa Valley Red Blend - 2009 Dancing Hares Vineyard Mad Hatter

Dancing Hares vineyard makes an awesome, big, bold Cabernet Sauvignon led Bordeaux blend (aged in 90% new French Oak). Awesome yes - but at $125 a bottle, only for those really special occasions. Dancing Hares also makes a Merlot predominated Bordeaux blend (aged in 60% new French Oak) for half that price... is it half as good? Let's find out!

Wine: 2009 Dancing Hares Vineyard Mad Hatter
Region: Napa Valley, California
Grape Varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot
Obtained from: Purchased from Winery
Price: $62.00
Wino4Life Category: Splurge Wine
Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Deep, dark red with water white rim - the colors of youth!
Aroma: Blackberries, dark chocolate, and something a bit herbal - overall nicely aromatic.
Taste: Wonderful fruit, a nice amount of tannins, and a bit of mineral on the finish.

The Grade: I give this one a A.  While not inexpensive, this wine is a nice price point to try the quality of Dancing Hares Vineyard. Grill up a steak and sprinkle some blue cheese on top and enjoy! If you like and have a special occasion coming up - try their flagship Dancing Hares wine - it is delectable!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wine Country Vacation - Bootcamp for Your Palate.

Every State in the USA make some type of wine. It may be from pineapples instead of grapes, but they all make something. A trip to your nearest wine country, or a trek to the well known spots in California (if you're not lucky enough to be a neighbor of Napa or Sonoma) Oregon, or Washington State can be a great way to learn a lot about wine, and a way to try a lot of different types of wine to expand your wine repertoire.

Pace Yourself & Have a DD
A rookie mistake on a wine tasting vacation in wine country is to go for quantity over quality. Once you visited your fifth or six winery of the day, your palate is going to get overwhelmed, and the intoxication level will be at a point where any more wine tasting will just be adding to tomorrow's hangover. On days reserved for wine tasting I like to start with a couple stops prior to lunch, followed by a leisurely meal, and then three more stops during the course of the afternoon. You can tackle another five or six the next day if you like, but pace yourself so you can enjoy and evaluate the wines you taste. Also, please make sure to always have a fully abstaining designated driver, because even if you spit out all you taste, you will get impacted by the alcohol. As a fun option, consider a wine tour where you leave the driving to others. We had one of our funnest wine country experiences when we toured Alexander Valley in the Sonoma area through a private tour.

Favorite Spots and Wineries in California. 
There is no lack of recommendations out there for wineries and areas to visit, but I wanted to share a few of my faves from those I've been lucky enough to visit.

If you decide to hit wine country in California, I wanted to share some of my favorite areas and wineries for you to consider.

Central California. I am a big fan of Sideways the movie, but even before the movie I was a big fan of Central California Wine Country. If you are looking for a wine experience just a few hours drive from LA, give it a try. Do not expect a clone of glamorous Napa Valley, as the towns here are small, and there are many more motels than hotels in the area. We tend to stay at the Marriott in Buellton, CA which is just a short drive from the quaint town of Solvang, CA. The Marriott is walking distance from the Hitching Post II (for those who've seen Sideways, this is the place where Maya works). Some of the best grilled steaks I've ever had, and they even make their own wine. Lots of great wineries in the area, but don't miss these:

  • Buttonwood. A working farm that makes spectacular and affordable wines. Great Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Qupe & Verdad.  In one tasting room you can sample some great wines from Qupe, especially their Syrah, along with wines from their Verdad line of wines where they are experimenting with traditional Spanish grapes. We bought a bottle of their Tempranillo and enjoyed it with dinner before seeing Book of Mormon at the Pantages in Hollywood, CA - it was really excellent.
  • Foxen. A nice selection of wine including single vineyard wines, and a casual laid-back attitude.  We visit here every chance we get.
  • Lompoc Wine Ghetto. This is actually a collection of tasting room in a more industrial location. I have not been here yet, but have heard great things and plan to visit on our next journey to the area.  With a lot of tasting rooms in one area it makes for easy access to try several wineries.

Sonoma. Sonoma is a bit more laid back than Napa, but home to fantastic wineries. If you are looking for more of a "small town" experience, then Sonoma is a great destination. It is super close to Napa, so consider staying in the Sonoma area (I recommend Healdsburg, CA) and take a day to drive to Napa wine country (near St. Helena or Yountville). Many, many good spots to visit - here are just a few:

  • Seghisio. This winery was the first we visited during our very first trip to Sonoma oh so many years ago. They make award winning Zinfandel and wine from Italian varieties like Sangiovese (the same grape as Chianti).  Some wines I like to try just because they sound cool - and Seghesio's Venom (from their Rattlesnake Hill vineyard) is one of those. At $50+, this will be a splurge wine, but it's on my list!
  • Hop Kiln.  This winery is a fun one to visit - it used to be a brewery. You may have seen their less expensive wines like Old Patch Red in your local wine shop, but their non-mass marketed wines are fun to try. They have also started a premium "HK" line of wines that I have yet to try, but these are also on my list!
  • Korbel. Korbel is a mass producer of sparkling wines, but they offer a great tour which shows you the process to make a good sparkling wine (the same method used in Champagne, France). Also there is a sparkling red wine (Korbel Rouge) available only at the winery. At less than $15 it is worth a try and makes a great Thanksgiving Dinner wine.

Napa Valley. Not much has to be said about Napa. Home to some of the most expensive wines in the USA ($750 for a bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon anyone???). Lots of great wineries, with stellar Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay (not all super expensive), and great tours. If you get the chance, take the Opus One tour - it shows the labor intensive process they use to make their wine, and gives you some idea why their wines are so expensive.  I recommend staying in Calistoga or Yountville, as St. Helena is a constant traffic jam. Try some of these destinations, you will not be disappointed!
Darioush Winery

  • Darioush. A beautiful winery with outstanding wines. They make my favorite Syrah (they call it Shiraz, as the family that owns the winery is Persian, and "Shiraz" is actually a city in Iran). Their Cabernet Sauvignon is also excellent. For a special occasion consider one of their wine tasting dinners.
  • Goosecross. Great wines only available through the winery. They also make great gifts including chocolate covered wine bottles...I KNOW - RIGHT!!!
  • V. Sattui. I have never seen a bigger selection of grape varieties than at this winery - and they are all only available at the winery. A great chance to taste a lot of different wines, and they also have a great cheese shop.
  • Chateau Potelle.  I really enjoy every Chateau Potelle wine I've ever had.  Great Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and even dessert wines. Most recently I was able to try their Petite Sirah (no relation to Syrah - a whole different grapey animal!) - outstanding fruit bomb! Their new labels and marketing accentuate their "VGS" designation of their wines. Legend has it this means "Very Good Shit" - and if it doesn't it should!
Chocolate Dipped Wine Bottle - Goosecross

I also need to steer you away from one wine spot in CA that I've visited, but was very disappointed - Temecula (near San Diego). I have not been there for about seven years, so obviously things may have changed, but for your vacation dollar I will point you to spots where the wine is famous on its own based on quality and diversity - and you just don't hear much about Temecula wine outside of their marketing efforts. If you've had a good experience in Temecula, let us know - maybe I just didn't visit the right spots.

Please share your favorite wine country destinations with us, or let me know if you have any questions or want any other recommendations. You can leave a comment or drop me an email.

I love wine and vacations, so spending leisure time in a beautiful wine region is the best of all worlds for me! If you're an aspiring wino - I think you'll have a great time as well.

Intrigued? Here's some ideas on other must see/must do things in California Wine Country:
50 Things to do in Wine Country Before you Die.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Weekly Wine Review - Sauvignon Blanc - 2011 Tora Bay

I am a big fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  Ripe, acidic, aromatic, all the things I like in white wine.  Most of the wine you will see likely come from the Malbourough wine region as about 80% of the country's Sauvignon Blanc is planted there. I came across this wine from a smaller region, very close to Malbourough but on the North Island of New Zealand instead, and wanted to try something a bit new.

Wine: 2011 Tora Bay Sauvignon Blanc
Region: Martinborough
Grape Varieties: Sauvignon Blanc
Obtained from: Purchased at Total Wine & More
Price: $14.00
Wino4Life Category: Everyday Wine
Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Screw Top.
Appearance: Wine is clear, light yellow in color with a water white rim.
Aroma: Nicely aromatic. Standard Sauvignon Blanc green grass with lime and gooseberry. (I have never seen a fresh gooseberry, but did find some gooseberry jam at a local gourmet store - along the same lines as a green grape raisin, but more of a "fresh" aroma).
Taste: Lots of flavor to go along with the aromas. Nicely acidic and citrus flavored with a long long citrus finish.  
The Grade: I give this one an A-.  Very delicious, acidic, and refreshing. The citrus on the finish (a bit of lemon/lime mix) is a tiny bit overpowering - but really nice for the price.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Weird Wine News - 10 Stories That Make You Go Hmmm....

Happy Fourth of July to all!!!

Some of these stories are new, some are old - but all help illustrate that the world of wine is just as weird and wonderful as the rest of our kooky world! 

Just click the links to read these amazing stories. I hope you enjoy!

1. When I first started to develop my ability to identify aromas in wines, I recall trying a Wild Hog Pinot Noir and detecting something that I believed was the aroma of fresh dill.  At the time I thought there was no way that a great Sonoma Pinot Noir smelled like a pickle, but as I read other tasting notes at the time there were some who agreed!!! Getting, and staying skilled at detecting and identifying aromas will be a lifelong pursuit for me - but I may contact my Farmer's Insurance guy to see what a $10 policy would cost me!!!


2. While not really about wine, there is a wine blurb in this story. Here is a tease that may send you to read the article: ""We don’t accept the hardened criminals any more, the murderers or rapists," says Capt Samir Benykrelef, "so this makes our job easier."

The French Foreign Legion - the last option for those desperate to escape the UK

3. Here is one place where I would definitely not want to be replaced by a machine!!!

Electronic tongue has taste for sparkling wine

4. Literally $28 for a spoonful of wine??? Not a 100 year old wine either - but a 2000 Royal Tokaji Essencia. Tokaji is a very special dessert wine, but I prefer mine as a regular pour in a real glass!


5. This is a newer story within the last couple of weeks.  Strange to me that I have not seen any sort of reply to this accusation. Counterfeiting of wine definitely occurs, and in one case a jury awarded $12 million in punitive damages for the sale of fake wine.


6. I am comforted to know that when it is time to live in space, they will have figured out how to ferment wine and beer! I look forward to my first sip of anti-gravity Gewürztraminer!

Space Spiders and Wine: Weird Science Launching on Private Space Capsule

7. I wonder if wine will catch on at hockey games? Power Play Pinot? Penalty Shot Chardonnay? 


8. I know this is late for this year - but this article will help next year's Easter candy shopping for sure. And... why didn't they have the Carrot Cake M&Ms (see #7 in the article) in my 'hood???

9. Replace by a machine or a dog... my self worth is going to need a glass of wine by the time I'm done writing this post!


10. I have found the theme for my next wine-related get together!  From the article: "Participants essentially drank as much wine as possible, stopping at intervals to insult each other. "  Or... maybe I'll just wait until the family meal next Thanksgiving!


Know of any other weird and whacky stories - share them with us in the comments section!  Thanks! 

Monday, July 1, 2013

19 Prescott Arizona Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters killed in Yarnell fire

Instead of a wine post today I instead wanted to express my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of these brave firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice to heroically protect others.