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Untangled Vine

An attempt to sort through all things wine. Specifically of, and about, but not limited to: Food and Wine in Toledo, Ohio. Plus the day to day musings of a Wine Distributor...

Toledo Free Press Article-January 24th, 2010-Wines and Dining

Monday, January 25, 2010

This is an article I wrote that appeared in The Toledo Free Press of over the weekend, enjoy!

Wine can be such an integral part of our dining experience, but so often, we rely on a few rules to guide us through the complicated wine selections available. How does a novice or a veteran in a comfort zone of mid-priced cabernets widen their repertoire without sounding like a novice? Believe it or not, the answer is: “ask for help”.

Navigating a wine list? Here are a few handy rules to consider:

· Are you a scotch or a Martini drinker? Too bad, they don’t do anything for food but numb your palate, switch to wine; it will make all the difference. Good beer, that’s another story.

· See names you recognize on the wine list? Skip ‘em. Those are there to make you feel comfortable. If you want great experience, ask for help, and make sure whatever you order, it’s something the wine buyer recommends and something you’ve never heard of before. This is a sure way to elevate the experience. The wine buyer is a professional and you should trust them.

· Want the most bang for your buck? Again, the wine you’ve never heard of is the winner with the smallest markup. This pricing strategy exists to help depletions on all items on a wine list. The wines you know gets the biggest markup and the ones the buyers love the most but are obscure get the smallest. Whenever possible, order wine by the bottle instead of by the glass, this will also make you dollar stretch further as glass pours are marked up higher to accommodate the potential loss of product as it fades away. Bonus, the State of Ohio now allows you to take home opened, unfinished bottles of wine, ask your server for more details.

· Stay away from wines that have a big oak presence, this also deadens your palate, instead look for wines that are higher in acidity; this will help with any protein on your plate.

Ok, but what if you’re hosting a dinner party? What to serve? How do you make your party memorable? As always, expand horizons, here are some knock category suggestions that should be available at your local retailer, and as always ask you friendly neighborhood wine merchant for suggestions within the categories.

· Albarino-Spanish white that has awesome minerality and acidity. The best have a great “orange peel” quality. ($20 retail)

· Torrontes-Increasingly popular white from Argentina, that can range from just off-dry to steely, great inexpensive choice ($11-$14 retail)

· Pinot Gris from Oregon-This is the same grape as Pinot Grigio, but stylistically, couldn’t be more different. If Pinot Grigio tastes like Lemonade, this tastes like Lemon Custard ($20 retail)

· Cotes du Rhone-One of the most diverse and assertive red wine for pairings, Based around Grenache and Syrah, can run the gamut from red to black fruit and from soft to rich. Should be around $15

· Cabernet Franc from Loire Valley-This would be Chinon or Anjou-great spicy red that works well with fish, about ½ the price of an equal quality Pinot Noir. ($15-20 retail)

· Rosso di Montalcino-This is Sangiovese from Tuscany, but unlike Chianti, this is a much more powerful version that suits steak and all sort of rich hearty dishes. This is a steal as it is declassified Brunello di Montalcino, which are some of Italy’s most sought-after and collectible wines. ($20-$25 retail)

How to sell wine and sleep at night...

Monday, April 06, 2009

6 years ago, I was a Sommelier at a really good Restaurant in Santa Barbara. My view every day was of the beach, I watched the sunset over the Santa Barbara bay every night. I had autonomy of a 500 bottle list, and loved my job. I never really liked salespeople, even though I dealt with them on a daily basis. I always felt that a necessary evil of the wine business was that occasionally, people needed to sell wine that they didn't like. If my opinion and knowledge were my source of credibility, how could I ever maintain that being obliged to sell wine insincerely. This was easy to say as a Sommelier, and easier to do. I was approached many times to try my hand at selling, and I always said "no thank you".
One day, The Henry Wine Group came a knockin. I quickly said no, but for some reason, I tossed and turned over my decision. I came back and accepted this time. I decided that if I were to ever make the leap, this is the situation for me. I was very comfortable with my job, and didn't feel like I was challenged anymore. This decision changed my life.
Henry was the perfect company for me because for 2 reasons: a) Best Portfolio in California, huge with great imports b) very professional organization. They taught me how to sell and be honest and upfront. No dealing, everything above the table. They taught me about the value of being knowledgeable about wine. It is these lessons that have a will carry me through my entire career.
Once you decide what type of salesperson to be, the rest is easy. I decided to be myself, with opinion (but not opinionated, you don't need to be an expert at everything), and curious (always learning). This gives me consistency. It also serves me well as the choices I've made and opinions I've given were always for the noble pursuits of servicing or educating my customers. If my restaurants can't use the information I give them to sell more wine and improve their wine program (both are equally important), then I have failed.
I could easily sell wine with animals on the label all day long, but then, who have I benefited? In this business, you always have 3 customers in each transaction: Your account, Your supplier, and the company that signs your check. If you don't represent the right wineries, someone else may suffer, usually, this is your customer as you shill mediocre crap with your supplier or employers best interest. I had to find a way to appease all 3. The only real way to appease all 3 was to only represent producers I believe in. So now I have assembled a portfolio. It's not finished yet, but it's starting to look like something. And this is exciting. It's all producers I believe in. There are commonalities to all of them, but that probably just reflects my personal opinions. Now I can walk into any restaurant or Retail store, represent these 13+ producers and hold my head high because I'm proud of these wines. That's how I sleep at night.

Another BIrth

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Looking forward to the next great project in my world, I have launched another blog in anticipation of starting a new company. You can find my new blog here. And you can find the new company website here. Both are in their infancy. I hope to get the new company, Ampelography, fully launched in the next couple of months. You can also find Ampelography on Facebook, Twitter & Tumblr. There will be lots of great content on both sites. This is a company that works inside the wine industry. We will have little consumer contact, but don't let the industry jargon take away any interest. The site and blog both promise to be something special. My brother, Brad, has put many hours into the awesome video on the company page Make sure you watch it. For those of you that aren't wine geeks, ampelography refers to the botanical study of the grapevine. I picked this name because it implies a science and a study to growing grapes, which in my opinion is the most important factor in the quality of the wine. I am very proud of many of the ideas involved in the birth of ampelography, and it has truly been an inspiring collaborative process so far. For you UntagledVine Fans, I will continue to write wine knowledge articles and post them here. The Ampelography Blog will be wine business and entrepeneur specific. Hope you enjoy both, or at least 1!


Vineyards vs Offices fighting for your wine dollar

Friday, February 27, 2009

Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Wheaties, Oreos. These are all brands that evoke a response, and each and every American knows what they taste like. The powers that be at each of these companies have gone to great pains to ensure homogeneity for each of these products. Consistency is so important that “new” Coke is a cautionary tale about how if “it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. There are executives in the wine industry that believe that Americans also want homogeneity in wine. A few weeks ago, I was sitting in one of my accounts, chatting with a manager for a competitor that represents large brands (notice the term brands instead of winery, I’ll get into that in a second), and he boldly proclaimed that in these difficult times, Americans will stop buying interesting boutique wines, and go back to the brands they know and trust. This prognostication has been rattling around in my head ever since. I was so taken aback at his ignorant assertion that I didn’t immediately know how to respond, but here is my retort (I hope he’s reading this).
Brands are marketing. Wine brands are created in marketing offices in concrete jungles, created by middle management in cubicles. They are never created in a vineyard or in a winery. The name is created, the label is designed and then the wine is ordered to fit a price point, and a style. Trucks drive up to a facility looking eerily like the human farms in the matrix. The same spigot unfurls maybe a dozen different wines, all to fill different holes in the demographics. They do not represent free standing, brick and mortar wineries, but vast, non-descript vineyards in the central valley of California that no one ever visits for pleasure. They purchase juice on an open market for the best price. They strive for that homogeneity of the aforementioned brands. This was all brought to the forefront with the Blackstone label. Consistent, inoffensive merlot that hits the right price point but looks like it could be a more expensive wine symbolizing a bargain. Blackstone isn’t bad, but it, and hundreds of labels just like it, represents a miscalculation of stuffed shirts everywhere.
Yes, they sell tons of wine. They sell it by opposing what makes people progress from drinking wine to loving wine. The simple profound rule that applies to all great wine and that makes the quest for the next bottle a romantic and undying quest. Every bottle, should be, and is, a different wine every day of it’s existence. Every bottle within a case is different from each other. Wine is by design, surprising. In the hands of the great vineyards and great winemakers, the resulting product is dependable only in it’s quality, never the same wine twice. I’m being a little overly dramatic. The differences in each bottles may be so slight, it is imperceptible. Nonetheless, this is one of the qualities of wine that is unique. No recipes followed. The vineyard gives you what it gives you. To deny that variation is like making every musician play the same instrument and the same song.
These middle management types have tried very hard to make each of us believe that soylent green is good. Even the great historic names have in the last 20 years sold much more wine in the name of cheap consistent wine that betrays what they used to be about. In the coming years, you will see more cute labels with critters, double entendres and racy graphics. You will see ads in all of the publications. Never trust a winery that advertises. Take a second to look at the back label to see where the wine was produced and bottled. Look for wines from a place, a winery, made by hand by people. Ask your retailer or restaurant about the winery. In these tough economic times, can you really afford to give 20% of your wine dollar to middle management that doesn’t have your best wine drinking experience and evolution in mind?

Try the good acid.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Have you ever tasted a white wine that made your mouth water and your lips pucker, maybe even making your eyes water? Surprise you? Did that seem wrong? What about a red wine that did the same? If so, it’s time to stop being freaked out by it and start embracing it! Every wine geek goes ga-ga for just these types of wine. Surprisingly, it’s not just to have wine street cred, like say, being a fan of David Lynch (I can’t seem to find any redeeming qualities in his freak-show films). These wines have a very important place in the world, particularly when it comes to food and wine pairings.

Acidity, for our purposes, exists in 3 forms in wine. Citric acid, you should know, oranges, grapefruits, lemons, all have citric acid. The second, we don’t think of as acidity, Tannins, which are the grip you get from big red wines like Cabernet. It can come from the fruit, where it gives a sensation of velvet, or oak where it is bitter like a Popsicle stick, or a combination of the 2. Tannins or Tannic acid exist mostly in red wines and are technically an acid, but when experts refer to acids, this is not usually included. The third acid is Tartaric, which is like irony in that it is difficult to describe, but I know it when I see it. It is prevalent in most white wines that have a mineral quality, and is best described as having a certain spiciness or liveliness. It may even seem spritzy without actually have any effervescence. You will find this in wines form the Loire Valley, France or most significantly from good German Rieslings. In fact, they are so abundant in German Rieslings that they often crystallize either in the bottom of the bottle or on the bottom of the cork. They will look like salt crystals and many people mistake these for a flaw in the wine, when in fact it’s just the opposite, it’s a sign of high quality and a well structured and developed wine.

Wines with high acidity are a function of 3 factors. First, is the variety of grape. Sauvignon Blanc & Riesling are inherently more acidic than Chardonnay. Second is climate. Generally speaking the cooler the climate is, the higher the acidity is. Third, is the mineral content of the soil. The 2nd and 3rd rules can trump the first. I have often had California (or Ohio) Rieslings with no acidity and I’ve also had Chablis (Chardonnay from Burgundy) that would clean dentures. Whenever a rare and difficult to duplicate set of factors contribute to a wine’s character, the result is usually something very special. Rarity aside, what place do these wines have? Americans are not accustomed to anything with acidity aside from Tomato Sauce and Lemonheads. As one of my favorite German producers likes to say, “Americans are weaned on Coca Cola and Ketchup, it takes practice to appreciate acidity in wines”. This is true, we don’t usually expect that rush of acidity, which surprises our palates, and our palates don’t like surprises. But these wines wake up our appetites, they make us salivate, which prepares us to eat. It will also pair beautifully with many foods. High Acid goes great with high fat. Want to make a butter or cream sauce less rich? High acid white is the way to go. They are also great for pairing with soft young cheeses, especially goat cheese. Great Whites with High Acid to look for include Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc form Loire, and one of my all time favs), Rueda (Spain), Pouilly Fume, Loire Chenin Blancs, Mosel and Rheingau Rieslings (The acids act as a counterpunch to the sweetness of these wines), Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc from Alsace, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (a little too stylized for me but a crowd pleaser), and of course Chablis.

Acid driven reds are a whole different ballgame. Most reds with acidity (think of the sour of cherries, or berries), can be manipulated to be less acidic and more fruity. The more acid, typically, the longer you can age these wines. Reds with acidity of note? How about Red Burgundy (which is Pinot Noir), Riojas, Barolos and Barabarescos, Beaujolais, and many of the best Syrahs, Grenaches, Tempranillos, Sangioveses and Pinot Noirs around the world. Whereas acidity in white wine often tastes like citrus. The acidity in reds can run the gamut with a huge diversity of fruit flavors. Most of the truly collectible reds are acid driven, but very few are viewed as everyday wines by Americans. We tend to like our reds fruity and straightforward. As we develop our palates, we begin to appreciate acidity even more, and in fact tend to gravitate towards wines with these characteristics.

Wine Critics: Friends or deceptive, evil greedy manipulators riding a currency of insecurity?

Friday, January 09, 2009

Since wine is such a complicated concept for most, and consumers have a difficult time deciding what they like (as strange as that may sound), wine publications have gotten fat and rich off the insecurities of many. Now, many elitists will tell you that all wine critics are bad for the industry. While many consumers only feel fulfilled once they find as many top 100 Wine Spectator wines as possible. I’m here to consider both sides, and tell you who you can believe and trust, and what you should do with most wine publications.

The first and last caveat for anyone that reads wine reviews is to understand your own palate, and understand that what you like will always be in a state of flux. This applies for you and for the critics. There are a multitude of foods that it took me a while to acquire a taste for. I never used to like pickles, blue cheese, mussels, beer (mmm… beer), coffee, good olives, diet soda, but I love them now. I also remember thinking that I could exist solely on Hershey’s bars, fun dip and grape soda. Now that make’s me cringe. See, my palate has changed, and so has yours. I also remember my first encounter with “rated” wines and thinking it should speak to me, but it didn’t. Did this mean my palate doesn’t get it? I felt like those “magic eye” posters you saw in the malls 10 or 15 years ago, never got those either. In hindsight, I now realize that I just wasn’t into wine when I first tried to equate ratings to my personal enjoyment. A novice drinking a $100 bottle of wine won’t instantly see the light. These wines don’t exist to impress people that don’t regularly drink wine. This amplifies a problem with assigning a numeric score to something that is so arbitrary that it depends on yours and the critic’s palate, style preference, etc. I may feel a wine is worth 90 points, but that doesn’t mean anyone I know that will agree. There is no absolute litmus test of quality. It is advisable to try to expand your palate as often as possible. You will acquire a taste for better and better wines, and will ultimately draw more satisfaction from wines. That said, if you like it, it is good. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

So what is the point of all of these wine magazines and the ratings? The 2 most popular publications Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast are largely lifestyle publications. They do include Wine Ratings each issue, and they each have dedicated teams devoted to rating wine. The other big publication is The Wine Advocate (also known as Robert M. Parker). Parker is probably the most powerful man in the wine industry. Parker’s publication is subscription only, expensive, and features no ads or pictures. Because of this, it is considered the most credible of the 3. In my (perhaps naïve & optimistic) heart, I believe all of these publications to be honest and open about their ratings. Some Conspiracy Theorists believe that Wine Spectator gives preferred ratings to wineries that buy ad space. This is a common sentiment, but one that I have no reason to believe nor evidence to support. All of these publications rate on a 100 point scale. Anything over 90 points is deemed an exceptional wine. In most cases, the same people review all wines from a given region for strong points of reference. I believe that every single person that reviews wine for a living for these 3 publications has a better palate and more experience than I do. That still doesn’t mean that I always agree with what they say. The ratings surely exist to sell magazines, but they also exist for a purer purpose, to guide consumers through an unrealistic amount of choices. No matter how sophisticated your palate becomes, there will never be a critic or publication you agree with 100%. If you are into wine, read these magazines, enjoy them and listen to what they say because they are the experts, but don’t be afraid to disagree. It’s important to stay true to what you like while developing your palate.

Chardonnay-The Little White Lie

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Chardonnay, everyone knows it, everyone has an opinion of it. In fact, it’s the most divisive of all wines. It is so ubiquitous that hordes of people have decided they don’t like white wine after only being exposed to Chardonnay. Yet, it is without question, the world’s greatest white wine, or at least, it can be.

To understand Chardonnay, you first need to consider its roots (no pun intended). Chardonnay is White Burgundy, and White Burgundy is Chardonnay. With a few exceptions, this was the only place in the world Chardonnay was found until the last half of the 20th century. Burgundy, as it turns out is ideal for Chardonnay and its sister red grape, Pinot Noir. These 2 varieties like it very cold with a very long growing season. Burgundy is at 47°, the same as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The winters in Europe aren’t as harsh as they are here, but this should give you some idea of how long and cool the days are during growing season. As a result, chardonnay in Burgundy ripens with tons of acidity. As is commonplace, the acids in the wines are usually tamed by the introduction of oak and a secondary fermentation process called Malo-lactic Fermentation (or ml). M.L. turns malic acid (tastes like green apples) into lactic acid (main flavor in movie theater popcorn butter), this helps to develop the flavors and add complexity to these wines. The oak helps to round out the often harsh texture and further develop the wines. The result is a white wine with incredible balance, mouth cleansing acidity, a sensation of weightiness and a rich, luxurious texture. You say that doesn’t sound like the Chardonnay you’ve come to loathe (or love, depending on your tastes)? Well, that’s probably true, because the California version rarely resembles this.

The reason anyone knows the grape Chardonnay is because of 2 very different California Producers. Chardonnay wasn’t grown with any prominence outside of Burgundy (up until that point, only farmers referred to the grape name) until the famous Paris tasting of 1976, when Chateau Montelena of Napa Valley, bested all of the white burgundy producers one afternoon in Paris. The winemaker at the time, Mike Grgich, made a very small amount of Chardonnay with an extremely long and slow fermentation (developed the acids) and used only French oak. With this method he was able to emulate the Burgundian model, and fooled the judges into picking his wine as superior. In hindsight, many experts believe that this wouldn’t happen if repeated, but nonetheless, California Chardonnay was now on the map. The second contributor to today’s chardonnay was a little winery called Kendall Jackson. What winemaker Jed Steele did in “KJ’s” first vintage in 1982 revolutionized the world of wine. The first wine was to have been a blend of cool climate chardonnay from 6 different vineyards aged in small American oak barrels (American oak delivers flavors like vanilla and butterscotch, but can be overwhelming). Only one problem, during fermentation one of the batches stuck, which is to say that not all of the sugars were converted into alcohol. This is a winemaking mistake, and is now correctable, but for some reason, they decided to blend the unnaturally sweet batch in with the other batches to create what has now become the house style, and barely perceptibly sweet chardonnay with little resemblance to its French counterpart. The entire production sold out in 2 weeks. As it turns out, American consumers love chardonnay with a little sugar. This was a little known secret until 1991 when Steele wrote a tell-all book about his years at KJ, and his happy mistake. KJ sued him, but now, California wineries had the recipe to KJ’s early success and many followed suit, and follow suit today. In addition to the highly unorthodox winemaking style, wineries in California planted the grape everywhere. The predominant California style has turned into a wine that is oaky and buttery, with sweet fruit flavors. Now, it can handle most climates, and this is one of the attractions for producing Chardonnay. Some wineries are making chardonnay the way they do in burgundy, and are using Burgundy as the guide. And others are using no oak and no ML to result in a completely different style altogether.

Today you can find Chardonnay in every wine growing country in the world, in every climate. If you don’t think you like Chardonnay (or white wine for that matter), you may be leaving opportunity on the table, and there are many different styles out there that hardly resemble one another. Keep trying new styles, one day you will find one you like. And if you’re lucky, like me, the greatest wine you will ever taste will be a Chardonnay, for me it was a 1991 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne.

Pacific Northwest Wines

Friday, August 29, 2008

On a nearly daily basis, I am asked, what my favorite wine is. This is an impossible question to answer. Without being condescending, I am always grasping for the most diplomatic way to explain that there’s no real answer. My tastes changes every day, it really depends on what my mood, the weather, or my current interest. All of that said, I am finding myself smitten by a particular region at this moment. The Pacific Northwest.

Why is The Pacific Northwest so great? It’s not just Sasquatch and Redwoods. There’s something exciting about the wines they are producing, and the spirit in which they are producing them. I’ve fallen in love with not just the quality and style, but also the ethos.

But what makes the wine so uniquely great? It’s a combination of many things, but 2 factors are critical, Culture and Geography. First let’s examine The Pacific Northwest as a Wine Growing Region. The area I am really referring to begins about 60 miles south of Portland (Willamette Valley), and extends north along the Cascades through the Columbia Valley which ends right between Spokane and Seattle. Geographically, it lies to the East of the “Cascade Rain Shadow” which makes the region much warmer and drier than the rain soaked Puget Sound region. Situated as far north as it is, means longer days, and more hours of sunlight during growing season. Low humidity also contributes to dramatic differences between day and night temperatures. All of this means that the grapes grow very well in this area. The cooler Willamette Valley in Oregon is phenomenal for Burgundian Varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and especially Pinot Noir. The Columbia Valley, which follows the course of the Columbia river (begins in the cascades and hits the Pacific near the Oregon/Washington Border) is a gigantic Appellation made up of Yakima Valley on the western edge, Walla Walla Valley on the western Edge, and hosts Rattlesnake Hill and Horse Heaven Hills as microclimates in the middle of the area. Since this part of Washington lies behind the highest peaks of the Cascades, the climate is more like high dessert, and the average temperature is higher, the rainfall is lower, ideal for Bordeaux and Rhone Varietals. Cabernet is King in Washington, but the best Merlots in the new world are found here, and the insiders know that Syrah is very exciting is this neighborhood.

The Wine Culture of The Pacific Northwest benefits from something called the “Algonquin Round Table Effect”. Which is to say that the people that are making the wine are comprised of a) Locals, outsiders and disaffected wine insiders from around the globe (often dissenters from California) b) People of disparate backgrounds in different industries all inspiring each other. The original Algonquin Round table was comprised of writers, actors, and critics. The new version is comprised of brewers, farmers, chefs & vintners. The outsider approach and the relative newness of the region have allowed this group to reinvent the entire “foodie” culture from the ground up. Cute animal labels don’t fly here. Most wines have a true sense of place. Many are organically grown, and most are sustainably farmed. There is a true frontier spirit in this region, a neighbor helping neighbor approach. While their viticultural history only dates back 30 years, its relative youth give the producers perspective. You won’t find castle replicas or sprawling Italian villas with $20 tasting fees. The Pacific Northwest isn’t about tourism or what plays in Peoria, it’s about making great wines.

The style of the region is it’s own, while very reminiscent of a diversity of great regions. If California, and most of the new world, are about sweet fruit and oak flavors with varying degrees of tannins, and France, and most of the old world, are about earth flavors, and high acidity, Pacific Northwest is about a balance. The balance between fruit and earth, between tannins and velvet is rare. The wines have the ability to lean either way very naturally. The amazing thing, that I keep coming back to, is the tendency for each wine to accurately show it’s varietal character. Something that is often rare in the new world. This surely comes from the soul of the region, to be able to craft something special because the circumstances leading up to this wine are so special. One of the extraordinary abilities of wine is it’s ability to reflect the place from where it came and the people that made it. Wines from the Pacific Northwest are my favorite at this moment, but I suspect that based on their recent greatness, they aren’t done reaching new heights.

Holiday Wines

Saturday, December 29, 2007

No excuses, no comments, just an article that the Toledo Free Press ran last week...

Holidays: that 6 week stretch of consumerism and indulging. Wine plays such a natural part of that celebrating, gathering and feasting, that it’s probably wise to have some perspective on how to spend your already stretched dollar.

Hosting a party? Great move! Pigs in the blanket? Check. Crudite? Check Turducken? Check. The baseline festive beverage of choice should be wine. This way everyone can have a great time in moderation. How do you shop for your party? How many wines do you offer? Unless you are a real wine geek, I suggest you keep it simple, Go with a dry white, a couple of dry Reds, and maybe an off-dry wine (please no White Zinfandel). You can get some great party wines for around $10-$12/ bottle, and most local wine shops offer case discounts that will save you 10%. Don’t attempt this on your own; seek professional experience assembling the lineup. The best advice I can give is to place trust your wine merchant. Their career is built upon trying to find you the best wine for the money. They carry brand names because they have to, but if you want to see their face light up, utter the following phrase “I trust you”, and you will be rewarded. Don’t be afraid to discuss your budget. Some general guidelines though, should you decide to go it alone: When choosing a white, keep the acid in moderation. I love a great Sauvignon Blanc, but high acid whites need food, and sometimes these gatherings are more about conversation than sitting down and eating. Chardonnay is always safe (avoid oaky- California versions), but you can wow your guests with a nice Oregon Pinot Gris, White Rhone Blend, or South African Chenin Blanc. For reds, think 2 different style choices. First, something with deep rich fruit and a nice spiciness, like Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Shiraz all of which are great crowd pleasers. Then choose something that has a little more structure like Cabernet and Merlot. Pinot Noir may not be your best choice here simply because it’s nearly impossible to find a decent bottle under $20. You can widen the net to include something imported, because the less you’ve heard of a region, the better the bargain.

Ok. Your party is over and now you want to buy something special for your friends and associates. How do you select something that will be appreciated, remembered and ultimately consumed? Set your budget; know something about their wine preferences, then try to find them something that is a discovery. Often a gifted wine that is gifted is the “gifters” favorite wine, because they want everyone to love it as much as they do.But remember, just because you like it doesn’t mean everyone else will like it, everyone has different palates. Let’s say your friend loves Napa Cabs. Well, you could try to find a Napa Cab they haven’t had, but if they’re astute, they may have beaten you to the punch. The best strategy is to take a style or region, and find a twist. Syrah is a great alternative to Cabernet, and very few people have explored this varietal as deeply as Cabernet, and they have great versions in Napa. Plus, with Syrah, you can get twice as much wine for the money. Or you can take that Cabernet and look for bottlings form other countries; Australia has some great examples of this grape. If you get them something new to them, that will make it memorable. This is a great example of how to use your local wine merchant, with their vast knowledge of all things wine, they will help guide you to find the perfect gift bottle.

Finally, you’ve taken care of wine for others and now it’s time to personally enjoy the holidays with wine for you and yours. What goes with holiday fare? Everything. This isn’t really true, at least not from a culinary standpoint, but at some point, it’s important to just drink great wine without putting any importance on it. Great wine goes best with great times, friends and family. Open something old or new, just make sure you have a great time and happy holidays!

a few things happening...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

It seems like I am always writing about how busy I just finished being, and then I fail to post for a few months. In new hopes that this cycle has ended, here is what has been up…

a) First order of business let me introduce Abigail Jane to the wine blogosphere. May 29th, 5lbs 11oz. She’s awesome! She’s been a very big part of my preoccupation. I think I have pictures of everyone I know holding her…

b) Our pacific Northwest Event in Cleveland. We hosted Michael Adelsheim, Adelsheim Vineyard, Peter Rosback, Sineann, Poppie Mantone, Syncline, Susan Neel, McCrea, Craig Camp, Anne Amie. It was a huge success, and as great of an event as we could have envisioned. It made a bold qualitative statement to host such a great event. Very well attended by both the trade and consumers

c) We now have 2 salespeople in Toledo. That means that I now have some help, it also means I needed to spend a lot of time training our new guy. His name is Evan, and he is local musician who know as much about beer as I think I know about wine, but he has a great wine palate and endless enthusiasm. The only thing that makes me nervous is he is very forgiving of late 1970’s Rolling Stones. We are both big fans of both Queen & The Replacements, so I’m not that worried.

d) Maumee Valley Food and Wine Festival-I haven’t been spending as much time on this as I’d like, but it’s starting to take on a life of it’s own. My brother and his team designed that very cool logo. October 6th, 2007, should be an incredible event. C’mo Toledo, don’t disappoint me, you haven’t yet. I’m staking everything on my theory that you all want something better…


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