Date: Thursday June 20, 2013
The birthplace of Western civilization, Greece is in many ways also the birthplace of our modern wine culture. Their economy may be down, but their wine production is experiencing an absolute renaissance. In fact, we’re living through the golden revival of Greek wine production (seriously!).
Join us as we explore this up-and-coming wine region. This is rare opportunity to sample a selection of Xinomavro wines that share distinctive characteristics, yet show the diversity of the Naoussa region. On hand to lead the tour will be Markus Stolz, WSET certified Greek wine expert. Stolz, a resident of Greece since 2003 has made it his mission to bring the finest examples of modern-styled Greek wines to the international market. Along with Markus, we welcome representatives from the wineries as well. Stop by on your way home from work for Greek happy hour!
Date: Thursday June 20, 2013
Woodland Hills Wine Company
22622 Ventura Blvd.
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
Cost:$15/person (reservations encouraged)
click here to reserve online
- 2007 VAENI Naoussa
- 2000 VAENI Grand Reserve
- 2007 Boutari Grande Reserve Naoussa
- 2007 Diamantakos Naoussa
- 2009 Chrisohoou Naoussa
- 2009 Kir Yianni Ramnista
Even if you’ve spent your Saturday picnicing with friends in sprawling Buttes-Chaumont park, munching periodically on Jambon de Paris and sliced Rosette de Lyon, pretty little chèvres rolled in shallots and pink pepporcorns or wrapped delicately in a grape leaf, baguette tradition, and cherry clafoutis, pâté dappled with vinegar cornichons, sticky, custardy mango, seasonal strawberries from Belgium, and blanched salad of Alsatian white and green asparagus as you sip gastronomic Bordeaux rosé and Corsican white cooled in the stream rushing by while gulping up rare heaps of pouring summer sun, you’re still going to be hungry for dinner come 10 PM.
To eat and drink in Paris: it’s almost an embarassment of riches. The light is starting to streak the sky with black pink and orange, twilight insects buzz busily hovering over slowly dampening grass, cigarettes crackle, the wine runs out – it’s time for red anyway. Decisions are always difficult when a warm giddy summer buzz renders you languid, lazy, and content. What to do? Meals in France are long and luxuriously casual: you owe it to yourself to think it through.
At Vin des Pyrenees on Rue Beautrellis in the Marais, across the street from the apartment building Jim Morrison lived and died in, you’ll find an rich southwestern specialties dished up by pretty, smiling, polyglot waitresses, their long wavy hair tied up in shabby chic head scarves. Convivial, cosmopolitan, and candlelit, this is a place where you can speak any language you like and no one will blink and eye. The cassoulet is righteous, and the Ravioles du Royan, tiny ravioli swimming in a cream broth that’s inconceivably light, stay on your mind for years to come. The perfect excuse to drink dark, tannic Madiran…
But then there’s that Saltimbocca alla Romana at Gli Angeli, a small Roman trattoria on Rue St. Gilles behind the Place des Vosges. The veal is pounded thin, and sauteed wrapped in proscuitto (Jambon San Daniele) and sage. It’s dished up next to a mound of house-made linguini and doused in white wine brown sauce. Their Fettucini in truffle cream with proscuitto is sinfully delicious and their Linguini alla Vongole can compete at the top. Happily, they serve Allegrini wines by the glass or by the bottle.
The evening’s descent into night brings with it a chill in the air – is it enough to justify the raclette at La Grolle de Montmartre? Tucked away at the foot of Sacré-Coeur within the maze of cobbled side streets, this red-walled Savoyard gem features a prix fixe of champions: 25€ gets you a raclette of your choice (reblochon is the best and most traditional) that comes with your own personal old-school raclette oven. This allows you to designate the level of melt to your liking. With it comes a plate of perfect charcuterie and boiled potatoes to pour it on, a giant bowl of green salad with dijon vinaigrette, and a carafe of brightly acidic white wine like Rousette de Savoie or Apremont to wash it down. Worth every calorie.
Suddenly a bloody hunk of beef pops into your ken – the Côte de Boeuf at Les Galopins in the Bastille. So hard to resist. At 42€ for 2 people you get pounds of gorgeous meat, plus hand cut frites, plus bearnaise sauce and mustard. With Croze-Hermitage it scratches the carvnivore itch like little else.
Or you can hit the streets in your ‘hood and wander into the first little place that catches your eye. Luckily for travelers, it’s hard to have a bad meal in Paris. Click the links for more food visuals…
It’s 7:30 PM on an overcast Thursday in the Paris’ 11th arrondissement. You’ve been walking the grey streets of the Right Bank all day, ducking in and out of galleries and boutiques in the Marais, snacking on Nutella banana crepes and tall fizzy bottles of Badoit, taking in the architecture and monuments of a city which is a museum unto itself. Dinner plans aren’t until 10 (which jibes with the 10:30 PM sunset in summer,) and just when you make up your mind to take your book to the dazzlingly green Buttes-Chaumont park and throw down in the grass for the long, slow build toward evening, the sky opens. Torrents of fat, cold drops slam down as you fumble for your umbrella and desperately look around for rescue. Luckily, shelter is never far from sight in Paris. Relieved, you alight on the covered terrace of a capacious brasserie at Metro Oberkampf (see pic).
Rain and labile weather are charming to those travelers accustomed to Paris and these downpours always provide a bit of excitement and a chance at an unforseen break, to watch people, write an email, or notes in a journal, and have an apéro. Now – you must task yourself with the wine list, which at Parisian cafés is neither long nor complex, but bears a bit of explanation all the same.
The whole point of brasserie or café wine is to drink something inexpensive and local. For reds you’re generally looking at a list of about five selections. Up to three of those could easily be cru Beaujolais: chilled Brouilly or Cotes de Brouilly, St. Amour, and normally a Morgon, always the most recent vintage. Take the Brouilly if you like a lighter Gamay quaffer, and the St. Amour or Morgon if your palate commands darker fruit and heavier mineral character. The other star ‘rouge’ of the café list is red from the Loire; carafes of Chinon or Bourgueil (both made of Cabernet Franc) abound as they are inexpensive, refreshing, and pair with most all typical brasserie fare, from Salade de Chevre to Steak Frites. If your palate prefers a briary black cherry, eucalyptus, and light leathery/animal flavors, take the red Loire, and make sure to ask for it “au frais.”
As for whites, you’re always looking at a Muscadet, which is a bracingly DRY white wine from around Nantes on the Atlantic Coast in the Loire. Not to be confused with Muscat, which can be vinified either sweet or dry, Muscadet is vinified from the Melon de Borgogne grape and profides ideal accompaniment to oysters, other ‘fruits de mer,’ as well as potato chips, which are always a good apéro snack. You’ll also see Tariquet, a winery in the South West of France (Cotes de Gascogne) that makes 11 different wines, both white and rosé, of blends of various local grapes (Ugni Blanc aka Trebbiano, Colombard, Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng, Sauvignon, Grenache, etc.) Tariquet whites are always refreshing, round, and fruity, and sell for about 2€80 the glass (can’t beat that). Finally you’ll see Vinho Verde, Portugal’s answer to the call for a light-bodied summer quaffer. Bottled with just a little carbonation, Vinho Verde taps out at about 10% alcohol and is easy to guzzle without catching too much of a buzz.
If beer is your thing, there is always the tryptic: Kronenbourg ’1664′, a French lager, Stella, a Belgian lager, and Leffe. If your choice is between Leffe Blonde and Leffe Brune, decide simply if you prefer Hogaarden or Newcastle, and the choice will make itself. You may get lucky and find German selections like Franziskaner or Ayinger, but it’s a bit more rare. There are also lighter beer drinks like Panachés and Monacos which are made combining beer with lemonade (Panaché) or lager with lemonade and grenadine (Monaco). These can be are a refreshing and slightly sweet alternative to beer or wine.
Want to drink like a Parisian without the cost of airfare? Try these:
And feel free to get in touch if you want to talk more about French wines of everyday – email@example.com
My GF and I recently attended the 6th annual Calabasas-Malibu Food and Wine Festival. Arriving a bit early, we decided to hit up Justin, one of our favorite Paso Robles winery’s. There we tasted the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, light straw in color. On the palate was bright citrus flavor with peach and green apple balanced out with nice bright grapefruit. Next, the 2010 Cabernet in its sexy new packaging. Deep ruby in color with a rich dense cherry, blackberry & a bit of spice. It drinks great right out of the bottle. And finally, the highly touted ’09 Isosceles. Darker in color and richer in flavor with a great alluring mix of spice box, lush currants, cherry and a nice hint of vanilla laced with mint. Let me tell you, these wines never disappoint.
Next we stopped by Gladstone’s booth, said hi to Tony the GM, gulped some AMAZING yellow gazpacho with watermelon and then a refreshing seafood ceviche that rocked. (Next time you’re in the area stop in and say hi to Tony, he’s a great guy). Feeling the heat, we headed to the Patron booth to grab a fresh ice cold margarita and a chilled shot. Taking some time to enjoy our drinks we wandered around taking in the fun-filled atmosphere and came across a booth called Wild About Trial. There we meet Allison, the creator of this ground breaking app who was down to earth and super friendly. (if you want the most recent and up to date trial cases, this app is a must). With so many booths to see, we decided to hit it hard and fast. Off to the beer booth we go! Stella Artois for me and Hoegaarden for the GF. Next, we made moves to Tony’s New York Pizza, Normandie Bakery, Mastro’s Steakhouse, and about 10 others. On the move, we grabbed some water, and some delicious Hard Cider from Crispin. They had about 5 available to taste but my favorite was the Honey Crisp Reserve. This pale fizzy cider was crisp, refreshing and smooth with nice hints of honey that wasn’t overpowering or too sweet, just what the Dr. ordered.
Looking around I realized that we hadn’t yet had any of the bubbly, so like bloodhounds we were off, zigging and zagging through the crowd we came across Moreno BHLV a CA sparkling wine whose label is studded with Swarovski Crystals. This fresh, out of the ice bucket Brut Silver was refreshing and a nice change of pace. Nearing the end of the day, it was time to grab a goody bag, fill it up and head out. Making several stops we filled my GF’s bag and said goodbye to a few friends and were off. This was our first time attending this event and will be back next year guaranteed.
Last month my GF and I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby, and while there we decided to hit-up Maker’s Mark for a little Bourbon tasting. Located in Loretto just about an 1hr 20min outside of Louisville, Makers Mark has been producing some of the world’s finest Bourbons since 1954, when original owner T. William Samuel Sr., purchased the distillery known as “Burk’s Distillery”. Although the first bottle of Maker’s wasn’t released until 1958, the vision of amazing hand crafted Bourbon & hand dipped bottles was already apparent, and is now trademarked. Touring the grounds a few days prior to the Derby, we were amazed at the rich history this place held. On the property we walked through one of Kentucky’s few remaining covered bridges that are still in use today as well as one of the oldest liquor sales buildings in the United States. As we took our tour and sipped some of Maker’s signature pre-blended (dipped in green wax) Mint Julep, we were taken into the mash house and saw how the mash was fermented in open top tanks, prior to being piped into the still were it is distilled, refined and sent to barrel. Getting the opportunity to see this grueling process first hand was mind blowing. From the extremely large warehouses where thousands of Bourbon barrels age, to seeing the bottling line were each and every bottle is hand dipped, which is just amazing considering the volume of production. Once the tour was done, it was time to get down to business and taste some Bourbon, after all that’s why we made the trip! First up was the Mint Julep to cool us down as the humidity and heat was taking its toll. The Julep has a great mouth feel, not too hot (from alcohol) but well balanced with the amazing mint taste which didn’t over power the rich Bourbon. Next was the original, brilliant amber/caramel in color (although none added as its illegal in Kentucky) spicy vanilla, buttery, with a subtle nuance of maple, and corn. Now the Maker’s 46 which is the original finished product that has 10 staves of seasoned & cooked New French Oak added into the center of the barrel. The barrel is then recapped and aged an additional 3 months. This is a bit darker and richer, carrying some of the same flavors but a bit dryer with more fine oak that gives off nice butterscotchy flavors and richer spices. These fine, hand crafted Bourbons are amazing. The standard to which they are held is to the highest, just check out the LEGAL requirements, to be considered Bourbon. With our tasting coming to an end, we were delighted to have the chance to dip our own bottles. As they say, all Bourbon is Whisky but not all Whisky is Bourbon. Saying our good buys, it was time to hit the road, grab some lunch and get back to Louisville in preparation for a riverboat dinner on the Ohio!
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about dry rosé? For most, it’s the Cotes de Provence, illustrious south-of-France motherland of pale pink juice for summer. I too venerate the gorgeous landscape, fields of sunflowers and artichokes, gravelly hillsides, seaside towns, bouillabaisse, and guzzlable wines. But while we do have Provence to thank for leading the charge on dry rosé, it is by no means the alpha and the omega. Rosé is produced all over the world now, from Seattle to Sagaponack to Stellenbosch, and stylistically they are as varied as the lands from which they inspire.
There are two common ways to produce rosé: skin contact, and saignée.With the first method, black-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period of time, typically one to three days.The must is then pressed, and the skins are discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation (as with red wine making). The skins contain tannin and other compounds, thereby giving the juice structure. The longer that the skins are left in contact with the juice, the deeper the color and richer the texture of the rosé.
Rosé can also be produced as a by-product of red wine fermentation using a technique known as Saignée, or bleeding. When a winemaker wishes to impart more tannin and color to his red wine, some of the pink juice from the must is be removed at an early stage. The red wine remaining in the vats is intensified as a result of the bleeding; the volume of the must is reduced, and thus more concentrated. The pink juice that’s removed is the Saignée that’s fermented separately to produce rosé.
Some of my favorite south of France selections this year are the MIP which is gossamer pink in color. Made of Cinsault with Syrah and Grenache, it’s medium bodied with plenty red fruit, orange zest and clean acidity. Another light-colored quaffer is the Grimaud Golfe de St. Tropez, which is Grenache with Cinsault & Carignan. Bright and herbal, this wine smacks of freshness, and has a pretty label.
As for Pink Sancerre, the Reverdy Terre de Maimbray (100% Pinot Noir) is delicate, with raspberry and cherry on the nose leading to a mouthful of chalky minerals on the palate. Over in the Pfalz in Germany, Von Buhl is also doing nice rosé of Pinot Noir. Pale salmon in color, is lightly effervescent on the palate with plenty of vim and vigor. If spritz tickles your fancy, try the watermelon-colored Ameztoi Basque Txakolina rosé made of indigenous Basque grapes Hondarribi Beltza & Hondarribi Zuri. It’s attractive color conceals an equally appealing bitterness on the finish that makes it super food friendly. The Chidaine Touraine is the oddball of the group – orangy in color, it’s made of Pinot and Loire indigenous grape Grolleau and has good grip.
But sometimes you want something with a little more muscle. If you need something to match the ribs, burgers, or tuna steaks on the grill but don’t want to bring a red and think a white is too flimsy, Mulderbosch rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa is a sure thing. It’s dark red hue is sexy like a rosato cerasuolo, and it’s rich with pomegranite and eucalyptus on the palate and lavender on the nose. Another rosé of heft is Le Roc Fronton Saignée, which is made of peppery Negrette. It’s good with BBQ and pizza. The wines are inexpensive, which is always a good thing for afternoon parties, since chances are you’re going to need more that one or two bottles.
The Cotes to Provence will always be the spiritual home of rosé, as well as a powerhouse in production (80% of their output is the pink stuff), and you can generally count on it for a satisfying glass if you’re out at a restaurant or cafe and you need something to sate your thirst. But if you’re feeling adventurous, or if you love the diversity of rose as I do, try something different. I guarantee it will delight.
If your an avid beer drinker like I am then you’ve probably heard of The Blue Dog Beer Tavern in Sherman Oaks, CA. But just in case you haven’t let me tell you, it is a must for all beer enthusiasts and foodies alike serving up some of the best burgers, wings, fries, mac & cheese, & salads around (not into burgers, try the veggie patty). Last week I rounded up my GF and a friend from out of town and headed there to grab a frosty beer and some grub. Now I’ve been here several times before and knew what I was getting into, so we grabbed a town car and headed out. When we arrived it was apparent to my GF and buddy why they call this place Blue Dog. The walls of this converted house-turned-tavern are covered with photos of people’s dogs. Now I use the term walls loosely as there are no real walls in this place just Studs were you can see through to every room.
To start, I ordered an Old Speckled Hen. Old Speckled Hen is an English pub Ale that has a rich malty and fruity aroma that translates to a mouth-watering palate. The full body of this beer lingers on and on and finishes with hints of caramel and a slight bitterness that is refreshing. For my GF, a Affligem Blonde which is very light straw in color and has tiny bubbles that dance on the palate, showing subtle hints of bitterness that don’t overpower the rich flowery hops. If I had ordered this, it would have been calling for my bacon mac & cheese. Now, my buddy ordered a Pale Ale I had not seen before, Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale ,in the 16oz. can. This Pale Ale is America’s first hand-canned craft beer. It has ample hops that give way to a smooth balanced malt, not overwhelming but you certainly get the hoppy perfume from the moment it hits your glass all the way through its powerful finish.
While toasting and looking over the menu, my attention was immediately drawn to The Fire Starter, an amazing burger topped with deep-fried jalapenos, crispy onion strings and a slice of Pepper Jack Cheese, served with a mouthwatering side of BACON Mac & Cheese!! (That sealed the deal for me). As for my GF and buddy it was The Athens Salad and the Black ‘N Blue Burger. Now don’t fool yourself, this salad was no joke, baby spinach (a ton of it), black olives, crumbled Feta, cucumbers, red onion, & tomatoes topped with chicken. The Black ’N Blue was topped with blue cheese, applewood smoked bacon and BBQ sauce (I might also point out that they grind all of the meat in house). We all got down to business on the mouth watering burgers & salad. As my mouth began to heat up it was time for another round. Taking a look over the Beer Menu I noticed a Canned IPA that I had not tried, Point the Way IPA from Golden Road Brewing Co. Now I’m always skeptical about a canned beer but this flag ship IPA of Golden Road, lower in alcohol than your average IPA still gave all the HOP flavors I have come to expect in a good old American Craft Brew. I call this the little IPA that could as it really surprised me. Sitting around, taking in the lively atmosphere and throwing back a few more we all decided that our thirst was sufficiently quenched and that our bellies were full. What a wonderful place to hang with good friends! The long and short of it is, if you find yourself in Sherman Oaks hungry & thirsty this is the place to be, nice helpful staff, great food, & a awesome beer selection. I don’t always drink beer but when I do i drink a lot of it…stay thirsty my friends!!
If you covet the zingy, electric minerality of Sancerre, and the lime-pungent funk of Smaragd Gruner, but want to keep the price per bottle below $20, do yourself a solid and check out Slovenian whites. They’re salty, offbeat little numbers that satisfy a craving for quaffing like little else.
I ordered my first glass of Slovenian white out of sheer curiosity at Hearth, Riesling Chairman Paul Greico’s New York City flagship, in 2008. It was an unpronounceable white, which I’d clearly never heard of. Intrigued, I tasted, thought, then tasted again. Exotic pink grapefruit and classy, restrained saline minerals on the finish lingered in my mind. I finished my glass and promptly another before we even sat down to table.
Fast forward a couple years: Blue Danube, a small import outfit out of Palo Alto specializing in central European selections is making headway; Slovenian autochthonic varietals are appearing on the lists of the cognoscenti: Anfora and Terroir in New York, Bar Covell , Lou, and Gjelina in LA. Skin macerated whites (see my earlier post on Orange Wine), a practice widely elaborated in Friuli, Primorja (Brda, Vipava,) and the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia, are gaining appeal in somm and consumer circles alike. Slowly but surely, this tiny country nestled into an Alpine enclave between Italy (Friuli) Hungary, Austria, and Croatia, which has quietly produced wine for 2 millennia, is establishing itself on the radar of savvy wine drinkers.
Part of the allure is that Slovenian producers are widely iterating organic and biodynamic viticulture, and that small production wine opens the door for use of natural practices. Batic Winery (in the odd-shaped bottle) was founded in 1592; their belief in making wine with minimal interference long precedes the current ‘natural wine’ fashion trend. Fermenting with indigenous yeasts and without temperature control echo the customs of their predecessors, and also make for incredibly unique bottlings. Kabaj Winery, the culmination of a Brda viticultural family and a French oenologist, applies all organic treatments in the vineyards and ferments without added yeast. In the inland appellation of Podravje, Kogl is crafting fresh, bright whites of madcap combinations (their flagship Magna Dominica is Yellow Muscat, Auxerrois, and Riesling, vinified dry) that buzz with firm acidity and minerality.
These wines offer an enlightening alternative to the same old standby whites in your fridge. They also pair well with difficult-to-match cuisines like Thai, Malaysian, and Indian.
Here are a few of my current favorites:
2010 Kogl Mea Culpa Pinot Gris – Spritzy and fresh, medium-bodied with lime and white pepper. Guzzlable.
2009 Kogl Magna Dominica Albus – Yellow Muscat, Riesling, Auxerrois. Aromatic white flowers on the nose with pear and mirabelle on the palate. Long finish.
2009 Kabaj Rebula Goriska Brda – 100% Rebula (Ribolla Gialla) Clove, cinnamon and lemon peel on the nose lead to deep macerated orange on the palate. Lots of grip – funky spicy.
2008 Batic Pinela Vipavska Dolina – 100% Pinela. Autolytic apricot on the nose leads to glyceriny Golden Delicious Apple on the palate. Pleasantly oxidative, with a full mineral finish.
Give them a whirl as the weather heats up. And let us know what you think. Thanks!
Yesterday’s Dry Wine Tour hosted annually by Rudi Wiest Selections pulled a quite a crowd. And thank goodness, because the 35 dry German wines reds and whites we tasted ranged from superb to absolute knock outs, rife with the power, intensity, and the sleek minerality that only cool climate wines can amalgamate.
Dry Wine Tour (for whom LA was their 7th stop in 10 days) featured the wines of 7 different houses, and represented the gamut of regional styles, from elegant Rheingau, to exotic Pfalz, Mediterranean Baden, and fresh, fruity Franken. Palpable passion exhibited in the words and gestures of these German wine makers shone through any language barriers. It was a pleasure to listen to Markus Mleinek, winemaker at Dr. Heger/Weinhaus, who is a zaftig sort of guy, giggle about how important food-friendliness is to him in the Pinot Gris & Pinot Blancs he crafts. “As you can see by looking at me, I like to eat, I like to cook [pause] with a lot of butter and cream [laughs, audience laughs] and I want my wines to work well with the foods I cook.” We tasted through his Baden lineup and the whites were like no wines I’ve ever had from Germany, weighty, with some caramel and roasted notes, and lots of hazelnut.
Carl Erhard of Kunstler buzzed like the electric minerality and piercing acidity of his Rieslings. I got a chance to speak with this tall, gentle character briefly after the event to congratulate not only his wines but also his passion. I told him that one really can taste the love and joy that goes into his wines. “With wine it’s all about the passion you put into it,” he said with a smile, “that’s how you make good wine.” I was particularly taken with this man’s inspiration; though he spoke a bit more at length than some of the others, he wrapped by saying “My wife says, ‘when you talk about wine, you talk too much!’” The whole room had a good hearty laugh.
And it’s not all about Riesling. I was pleasantly surprised at how much good dry Pinot Blanc there is for quaffing and also at the richness and density of the Pinot Noir. For varietal expression, Rebholz in the Pfalz that stole the show. Each wine was unique and had its best characteristics teased out expertly. Wines were well-made, balanced, bright, and harmonious. Their 2009 Pinot Noir exhibited characteristics of smoke, red licorice, cinnamon candy, and tea leaves which coalesced in an integration whose result was both pleasurable and intellectual.
The large majority of the German dry wines were make organically and biodynamically. And frankly the more I pay attention to wines made without pesticides and in a sustainable environment, the more I notice how much better they taste, not only from mass produced wines, but also from smaller production wines that spray or fertilize with harsh chemicals. Below is a selection of my favorites – some of which will soon be available here at WHWC. Stay tuned.
2010 Pinot Blanc Estate: Bright, bold, dry, crisp, one of the better Pinot Blancs I’ve had. Guzzlable.
2010 Riesling GG Ganz Horn – Pepper, mineral, spicy, medium-bodied, big finish.
2010 Riesling GG Im Sonnenschein – Briny, saline, lime flower, & white rose.
2010 Riesling GG Kastanienbusch – red slate soil, hay, tea, dusty summer earth, dry herbs
2009 Pinot Noir Spatlese Dry Tradition – Smooth, velvety, sweet fruit, dense, cinnamon, clove
Wagner Stempel Reinhessen
2010 Riesling GG Hollberg – Gardenia, concentrated, ripe, stone fruit, mouthcoating
2011 Heger Pinot Gris Estate – Heavy Loess soil, medium body, round, lower acidity, drinkable, Food friendly, Rhone-ish
2010 Pinot Blanc Estate – Mouthfilling, delicious, ‘sweet’ fruit, lanolin, peach
2008 Pinot Noir GG St. Paul – Beachy, brambly, bright, orange rind, Campari, food-friendly
2011 Riesling GG Kostheim Weiss – Closed upon opening, after 15 mins steely minerality, beeswax, lemon curd, white flowers
2009 Pinot Noir Estate – Slate, smoke, currant, like a good Bourgogne rouge, woodsy, candied fruits, bright
A recent study was published by the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture called “Wine Expertise Predicts Taste Phenotype,” but credit goes to HealthDay for catching an interesting extrapolation of the data and posting it to Yahoo News here. They aren’t making the case that consumers don’t care about ratings, because, as we all know, they do… in some cases religiously. They do contend though that consumers shouldn’t care about ratings for one simple reason: their palates are not as highly trained and/or evolved as the wine critics’ are.
The study used a probe compound that would be easily detected as very bitter by people with sensitive palates while those with average palates would only detect slight bitterness, if anything at all. Out of 330 people tested at wine tasting events, only 111 participants detected the compound. All participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire to declare if they were an expert or not. They concluded that experts were much more likely to detect the compound and as such, expert recommendations may be based on tastes that are too subtle for the average person to notice.
They are careful to note that while the difference between an expert and the average consumer may have something to do with experience and education, previous research has shown that biological factors may explain the very sensitive taste of experts. In that case, if you are an average consumer, don’t hold out hope for becoming an expert taster. John Hayes, assistant professor of food science and director of the sensory evaluation center at Penn State says “If an expert’s ability to taste is different then the rest of us, should we be listening to their recommendations?”
I agree… sort of. In a perfect world, we should not care what reviewers say. I do agree that everybody actually does have different palates… it is the WHY that it up for debate. I like to hold onto the contention that the biggest factors in “palate awareness” are experience, education and training, not physiology. This view allows me to believe that there is room for anyone and everyone in the land of wine appreciation. It might be exposed as inaccurate someday, but for now, there is no fun in thinking that someone’s enjoyment of wine could be limited by their biology.
I do not personally pay attention to ratings and reviews when it comes to choosing what to spend my own money on. However, I understand that I have a lot more experience and knowledge at my fingertips to help with my judgment then some folks do. For some, ratings and reviews can be a comfortable place to get started and I would rather someone have a comfortable starting place then feel lost in a metaphorical (and literal) ocean of vino. In short time, most people will learn to take what a review says about a wine with a grain of salt, if not ignore it altogether anyway. Just remember, at the end of the day, the only persons palate that matters is YOURS. If you like a wine that scored low, stand proud. If you don’t like a wine that was reviewed well, don’t be afraid to speak your mind… you’re not “wrong.” There is no wrong or right when it comes to personal taste.
So, where do you start when you are deciding what to buy? Easy. The one thing a wine reviewer can’t ever say to you specifically is… “Yes, you will like this wine.” Why? Because they don’t know a damn thing about your individual palate. Go talk to a wine professional at a reputable wine retailer. Be ready to articulate what you like and just as importantly, what you don’t like… and then trust when they say you’ll like something… repeat after me: “ignore the score.” A wine reviewer cannot and will not ever take the time to learn about your likes and dislikes and personally recommend wines just for you…. some who you can actually converse with… CAN. The more time you spend developing trust with a retailer and the more feedback you can give… the more rewarding your drinking experiences will be. With just a morsel of info from you, they will be able to recommend wines that your palate will be able to understand, appreciate and enjoy. Just imagine what they can do for you when they have a deeper understanding of your preferences?
Do I think that things will change and move away from a marketplace controlled by the critics? Yes. Do I think that is a good thing? Yes. Do I think it will be anytime soon? Surprisingly, yes again. It is going to be a very exciting time to be in the wine industry but my thoughts on that and my other reasons for being anti-critic are best left for a different post. In the meantime, what are your thoughts? How much weight do you give to reviews and ratings? Why? Do you trust the “experts” over your own instincts, or the recommendations of people you know personally?