During the first week of April, I had the great honor and privilege of returning to Bordeaux as a jury member for the 2019 edition of the Millesima Blog Awards. Once there, we had the opportunity to greet the award winners and share a truly special evening together at Chateau Cos d’Estournel – more on that in my next post.
My visit coincided with en primeur, the much-anticipated annual event where Bordeaux producers offer a preview of the most recent, and largely unfinished vintage – in this case 2018. Journalists, merchants, and critics descent upon Bordeaux each year to assess the quality of the vintage. You can learn more about en primeur here.
After attending and experiencing en primeur during last year’s 2017 preview I was looking forward to see how the latest vintage would measure up. After three days of extensive tastings from Saint-Julien to Saint-Emilion, I’m excited to share my impressions. In my next post, I look forward to taking you behind the scenes at two prominent Bordeaux producers.
The 2018 Vintage – Powerful Yet Playful
2018 didn’t begin as a terribly promising growing year, with six months of very damp weather creating mildew problems while isolated hail storms resulted in losses for some producers. But mother nature warmed up beginning in July, and Bordeaux enjoyed three months of unusually warm, dry weather that resulted very ripe, concentrated fruit. Due to the heat, soils eventually struggled for water, resulting in small berries with thick skins and lower yields of roughly 25% for many producers.
The result: 2018 Bordeaux is proving to be quite promising with generous, ripe fruit, intense concentration and fine tannin quality. It’s both powerful and playful, age-worthy and approachable in its youth, with very consistent quality.
A recent article published by The Telegraph caught my attention when they bashed California rosé, swiftly and unapologetically admonishing the entire category in one fell swoop. The article advises readers to “steer clear of over-confected Californians”, while recommending examples from nearly every other prominent wine-producing region throughout the world, including France, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, and Italy to name a handful.
Some might argue that California deserves this reputation, and I’ll concede that there is a valid point to be made there. When winemakers figured out that they could bottle, ferment and sell the juice that they were bleeding from their fermentation tanks (to concentrate their red wines) and sell it as rosé (as opposed to discarding it), this process of rosé production (called the saignée method) quickly became popular because it provided a quick infusion of capital for cash-strapped wineries.
Crane Family Vineyards | A Tradition of Family Winemaking in Napa
The view from Crane Family Vineyards, overlooking Don Raffaele Vineyard
There simply aren’t enough Napa Valley producers you can visit where you’ll be greeted by the proprietor themselves, at their home, to discover their unique story and the wines produced as a result of their own hands-on efforts. But that was just the case when I visited Crane Family Vineyards on a crisp, sunny late summer morning.
Proprietor Tom Chiarella was quick to greet me and welcome me to his cozy, rather idyllic front patio which overlooks much of the 7 acre Don Raffaele Estate Vineyard surrounding his home, as well as commanding views of Browns Valley. It was here in 1990, on this beautiful property nestled in the foothills of Mount Veeder, that Tom’s parents Peter and Frances decided to build their home in one of the most beautiful places in America.
Fall for Merlot this October | Merlot Month is Here!
Did you know that October is International Merlot Month? Woo hoo! That’s right, not only does Autumn bring with it brisk weather and the stunning fall foliage, but a reason to celebrate this polarizing, often misunderstood varietal. I can’t get enough of these wine holidays!
But what if you dislike Merlot? Do memories of limpid, poorly made Merlot’s linger in your memory with the indefatigability of a coarse finish? If so, then you’re probably thinking that entire month of Merlot is entirely too long and wholly unnecessary, especially when other varietals must suffice with merely a day of festivities. But I would argue that this noble varietal deserves an entire month of attention, as it has been unfairly punished…
How you might ask? By what I call the ‘Sideways Effect’. Released in 2004, Sideways took us along for the ride while the unsuccessful writer and depressive middle-aged lead character played by Paul Giamatti joins his best friend for a weekend of wine tasting and fraternizing throughout scenic Santa Barbara wine country. Garnering serious accolades including an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, it went on to gross over $100 Million at the box office. You could say it was a hit, and it undeniably left an impression.
I have received quite a few e-mails for Kosher wine recommendations lately, so I will make an effort to include a few more Kosher wine reviews when possible. Taking into consideration the surging popularity of Moscato wine at the moment, I thought it might make sense to try out an affordable Kosher Moscato wine option. Meeting both requirements is the Sara Bee Moscato, economically priced at just under $6 in the Trader Joe’s Wine Section.
At 5.5% ABV, I fully expect that the Sara Bee Moscato will fall on the sweeter side of the spectrum (during fermentation, yeasts convert alcohol to sugar, so a higher alcohol rating translates to lower sugar levels). While sweet wines aren’t exactly my cup of tea, my goal is to help readers determine if this is indeed a Moscato Kosher wine bargain or one to avoid altogether.
WTSO Wine | Best Online Wine Deals Gets Even Better!
Photo Credit: WTSO
Loyal readers of The Fermented Fruit know just how much I enjoy drinking well for less. It’s the reason I began blogging nearly three years ago – to share my passion for great wines and to show you that you too could drink well on a budget. No other retailer has helped me to succeed in that mission more than Wines Til Sold Out (WTSO).
In fact, I’m such a fan that I have an entire section of my site that’s dedicated to compelling wine deals I’ve enjoyed thanks to WTSO. Since becoming a member on October 17, 2011 I’ve purchased everything from Napa Chardonnay to 100 Point Super Tuscan’s from WTSO.
Dining out is almost always expensive when you consider the margins restaurant need to cover high overhead costs, and that’s before even considering tax and tip. But what about for us wine lovers? That’s where it can get prohibitively expensive, since the average restaurant charges between 2 – 4 times a wines retail price on their wine list.
Luckily, there’s a little thing called CORKAGE that every wine lover absolutely needs to know about – and most restaurants aren’t going to tell you about.
While the definition of corkage is the charge exacted by a restaurant for every bottle of wine served that was not actually purchased on the premises – what it really means to you is a tremendous cost savings when you want to enjoy a nice bottle of wine with dinner.
Simply put, utilizing corkage allows you to bring your own wine from home to enjoy at a restaurant and is an incredible way to enjoy wine and drink well for less! Follow these tips and you’ll know exactly what to expect and look like a pro while you’re at it!
Call Ahead – Know Before You Go | Utilizing the Corkage Fee
Wren Hop Vineyards | Crafting Pinot for Cab Lovers
Google “Wren Hop” and amongst the results is Google’s own description as a ‘Place of Worship’. So you might understand my confusion after looking for directions to a winery that was the top recommendation of Nora Mahan, a well-connected travel concierge for American Express’ destination club Inspirato.
While Wren Hop Vineyards might not be a place of worship in the traditional sense, you might not find this to be such a gross mischaracterization after you visit and taste through their portfolio. To be frank… I’d be surprised if you didn’t find yourself worshiping their Pinot Noirs.
The Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava has become a perennial favorite amongst those looking for a nice bargain bubbly. Is it’s success due to the clean and elegant label? Or possibly because the catchy name sounds an awful lot like the awfully expensive Cristal Champagne?
Or is it fittingly because the Jaume Serra Cristalino is simple a great sparkling wine for the money? I spotted the Cristalino Brut while browsing my local Trader Joe’s Wine Section and decided to answer those questions for myself. I mean it can’t be all that bad if Wine & Spirits Magazine has rather impressively named the Jaume Serra Cristalino the ‘Value Brand of the Year’ for three consecutive years!
Strawberries and Champagne | Not Always The Perfect Pair?
With Valentine’s Day already just a few weeks away (wasn’t it just New Year’s?) you’ll need to be getting into a romantic frame of mind very soon if you haven’t already. I myself am trying to get prepared and just ordered some tasty looking chocolates for my significant other.
I’m also looking forward to selecting a good bottle of bubbly, most likely one of these great sparklers. What I won’t doing however, is the clichéd yet quintessential Valentine’s Day pairing of Strawberries and Champagne!