Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Forlorn Hope Wines

Hello friends of Wine Ophelia. I asked winemaker Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope Wines if I might share his fall releases with you. ENJOY!

Welcome to the Forlorn Hope 2010 Autumnal Release.

As this season of harvest draws to a close and we prepare ourselves for the coming winter, the Forlorn Hope is pleased to present a trio of Rare Creatures for your enjoyment: Ost-Intrigen, Sogni della Speccia, and Les Deux Mathieux. Each distinctly different from the others in texture, weight, and character, as a group they bring into focus the wondrously diverse potential of the winegrowing regions of northern California.

Introducing the 2008 Sogni della Speccia: Seductively textured field blend from Shale Peak
Veins of vertically upthrust volcanic shale comprise the soil in the remote Solano County Shale Peak Vineyard. These earthen seams form a foundation from which rises fruit of uncommonly pure and resonant character. Just under an acre in size, the plot is planted mainly to Sangiovese with a little Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Sirah rounding out the cast of characters. This unexpected combination -- varieties grown on a site of rousing geology, in an unheralded and overlooked appellation -- yields a wine which is a testament to California’s still largely unexplored viticultural potential. While co-fermentation seamlessly brings together the disparate elements of this field blend, it is the Sangiovese whose voice rings clearly in the 2008 bottling. Focused, bright, and unrelenting, it unfolds on the palate like a hall of mirrors.

17 cases produced; 10 are available at this offering.
$24/btl, $288/cs.

Return of the Intrigues: 2008 Ost-Intrigen, because you demanded it.

The abrupt disappearance of the 07 Ost-Intrigen following this year’s Vernal Release was no surprise, considering how little of it is produced each year; what did come unexpectedly were the insistent demands that the 08 be made available as soon as possible. Though originally slated for an early 2011 release, the wine is showing so well at this moment that it seemed propitious to acquiesce. Austrian in origin, the St. Laurent winegrape yields an exotically scented and lushly textured wine of unbridled sensual allure. So uncommon in California as to be virtually non-existent—the 90 vines sequestered in Carneros that yield the Ost-Intrigen may in fact be the only ones in the state—this wine is among the rarest of the Rare Creatures.

11 cases produced
$22/btl, $264/cs.

**Please note that the 08 Ost-Intrigen doesn’t appear on the secure online order form at; to place an order for this wine, simply fill out billing and shipping information as usual, and then indicate how many bottles/cases you’d like in the field provided for messages to me at the bottom of the form. Trés simple.

Les Deux, part… deux. The 2006 LDM is now on the loose.

This time, it’s for real! The 2006 Les Deux Mathieux is finally, officially released. “Accidentally” pre-released in a warehouse mix-up a year ago, some of you might have gotten your hands on a bottle of this long-lived Petite Sirah even before I did. Now, though, this wine -- the beginning of the whole Forlorn Hope project -- is ready to showcase its second vintage. Dense, powerful and brooding, it follows in the footsteps of the 05 in its exhibition of the captivating balance of power and finesse that is a hallmark of the vineyard. Delicious now, the 06 LDM will continue to evolve in bottle for a decade or more.

97 cases produced
$42/btl, $504/cs.

Fall Six-Pack with free shipping

For the 2010 Autumnal Release we are pleased to offer the friends of the Forlorn Hope free shipping with the purchase of two bottles each of the 08 Ost-Intrigen, 08 Sogni della Speccia and 06 Les Deux Mathieux. Just include a message for me at the end of the order form that says “Fall Six-Pack with free shipping” and it’s on. Wine cost: $176 plus tax.

Click here to order your Forlorn Hope wines

As always, we thank you for your interest in the Rare Creatures of the Forlorn Hope collection. It is our great pleasure to continue to produce natural wines that are the pure expression of the relationship between site and vine, offering a diverse array of alternatives to the ordinary and overproduced. We enjoy nothing more than sharing them with you.

Please contact us directly if you have any questions regarding the wines, the Forlorn Hope collection, events, private tastings and winemaker dinners.

We look forward to hearing from you.



Monday, October 4, 2010



My dear friend Khan Duong of iKhanh Studio (It is worth your time to check out his photos.) posted this video on his Facebook page the other day.

Khanh gets it. Here is what he said in response to the video:

Beautifully executed visual and music combo..Reminds me of "Koyaanisqatsi"

In the Hopi language, the word Koyaanisqatsi
means "crazy life, life in turmoil, life out of balance, life
disintegrating, a state of life that calls for another way of living".

Yep. That sounds about right. I think that not enough of the rest of us "get it." The people I'm meeting here in Italy get it. Maybe Italians in general just get it! (I'm starting to think this.) I also think I'm beginning to get it. I had an amazing day yesterday and I'd like to share some of what it taught me. I spent the day driving up to a little village called Sampeyre in Italy. Then we drove up into the foggy, chilly mountains high above the village to the home of Quinto, an amazing cheese maker. It made me think to myself that if more people would only take the time to invite friends and family over for a meal more often, take the time to create that meal with love and care from ingredients raised, grown with love and care, that the world would be a much different, better place. Yes. Yes, that sounds totally cheesy. I know it. I don't care.

Here is how we spent our day:

We got up early and had our caffé and biscotti and left the house at 9:30.
We stopped at a great little bar on the way for an aperitivo at around 11:30
We stopped in 2 adorable little mountain villages and bought some incredible gnocchi-like noodles to serve later and some bread, stumbled upon a small event in a square with a brass band. We listened to all kinds of music in the car and laughed and told stories and jokes the whole way (about 2.5-3hours all told.) It seemed like half an hour!

We arrived at our destination at around 1pm and were greeted by Diana and Orso the sweet cattle dogs, a couple of hunters and our dear host Quinto who makes very literally the best cheese and butter I have ever tasted.

We started off with some artisanal salumi and Quinto's delicious cheeses and butter with the bread we just picked up an hour before. Wine of course! Started off with Armonia from La Bruna a delicious, light dolcetto. Lots of stories, laughing, talking, eating, drinking and general merriment.

After this we dug into the delicious beef and potatoes Quinto had been cooking all morning. We got into the San Luigi DOCG dolcetto di Dogliani 2007 from La Bruna for this one. Medium body and delicious. Perfect with the beef! Delicious! More stories, more joking and laughing. Some cookies for dessert with caffè corretto. Then off for a nice walk with Quinto, my new friend Nadia and the cattle dogs Diana and Orso to find his happy Alpine milk cows.

We found them:

Talk about happy cows... the cheese and butter from these glorious beasts is incomparable.

After our walk, we came back and somehow managed to eat even more! This time some spaghetti with salumi, white wine, shaved parmesean and a little bit of tomato. Simple and perfect. More bread, more cheese, more wine. Now the Luigina from La Bruna a nearly opaque blend of barbera, merlot and nebbiolo and sublime with the salumi and strong cheeses.

This is when the real fun began! After dinner we pulled out the digestivo and the harmonica! Yes, NOW it's a party! Turns out that Bruno and Quinto are fantastic singers and harmonica players! Not the time to forget the video camera! And NOT the time for the camera battery to die. But, you know... sometimes these things happen. Sigh... You'll have to take my word for it that there was a lot of laughing and carrying on!

What is my point with all of this? I mean, sure... it is fun; the food is inspired; the wines are delicious. But what am I getting at? I'm getting at slowing down, at taking time, at change of pace and venue, at sanity, balance and a better way of living. Can we do this every day? Probably not. But I'd like to encourage you to do this:

Invite your family and friends to your home often. MAKE TIME FOR THIS on a REGULAR basis. This is what life is for as far as I'm concerned---to share sweet moments together. And really, most of them are sweet if you think about it. If you are really THERE for it. Invite your friends, family, even strangers into your home, into your life, into your heart. I think this could change the world. Really. (Yes, there I go getting all cheesy again.) Try spending a little less time in front of the tv, a little less time complaining, thinking about useless arguments, or busying yourself with unproductive pastimes.

Pick up a cookbook. Go to your grandmother's house. Invite your sisters over, your best friends, some coworkers, a stranger. Leave your door open (haha depending on your neighborhood of course!) Set an extra place at your table (you never know who might pop in.) Cook together; eat and drink together; laugh and sing and be silly together. Spend a long day/evening together. I think you might be amazed at the restorative effect this will have on everyone it touches---simple but profound effects---a few more subtle smiles on the faces and in the hearts of people throughout the day as they remember the good times around the table with the people they love best.

Now, run along, call your friends, your family and invite them over for some food, some wine, and really spend some time together. Take a walk, play some games, sing songs, be silly together, laugh and hug each other.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Where in the World is Wine Ophelia

Right now I'm here, at the beautiful winery La Bruna in Dogliani, Italy. It is nestled in the hills of San Luigi in between Dogliani and Monforte d'Alba. I've been working harvest (la vendemmia) here while I work on my current culinary/wine tourism project seeking out beautiful, historic, local, artisanal wines and foods as well as charming, culturally relevant accommodations. (And am I EVER finding it!!) My deepest thanks to Sebastiano Ramello of Piemonte Wines for helping me with my trip and to Bruno Andriano my host for his incredible kindness and generosity.

I'd like to share with you the story of La Bruna and the truly lovely wines that they make here:

The historic winery and vineyards of La Bruna have been in the Andriano family since the beginning of 1850 when Dogliani was but a speck on a map. Giuseppe Andriano, great-grandfather of the current owner Bruno Andriano, inherited this lovely piece of land between picturesque Dogliani and Monforte d'Alba In the rolling hillsides of San Luigi.
The vineyard extends over 20 hectares, 17 of which are planted exclusively with dolcetto with 39,000 vines. The southwest exposure and 400m altitude are quite favorable for viticulture. The vineyards are cultivated with great respect for the environment and all work is done by hand.

The vines are trained in Guyot style rendering a production of around 2kg of grapes per vine.

Piero Ballario, oenologist for La Bruna and his wife Alessandra provide the winery with the expertise to pull the best out of the dolcetto,producing around 55,000 bottles.

The wines of La Bruna are:

This is one to drink every day if you can! (I certainly am!!)

Langhe Dolcetto ARMONIA: Fermentation in small tanks of 25-50 hectoliters for around 7 days, then in steel tanks for 8 months. Armonia has lovely translucent violet-red color. The bouquet offers bright, just-ripe cherry aromas. On the palate it is youthful with pure, clean fruit, a lively acidity and good tannins and the same bright, ripe cherry notes with a pleasant, faint rose petal acidic finish.

Dolcetto di Dogliani pi cit: Fermentation in small tanks of 20-50 hectoliters for around 7 days then in steel tanks for 9 months. Pi cit has a translucent ruby red color with violet hues. The bouquet is ample with intense ripe black cherry and ripe blackberry and a whiff of spice. On the palate, gorgeous ripe black cherries, subtle leather and a slight chervil note, good tannins and a long pleasant floral, bright cherry finish.

This is the staple of the winery and has developed an incredible reputation in the area.

Dogliani San Luigi DOCG: Fermentation in small tanks of 20-50 hectoliters for around 7 days, steel tanks for 5 months, oak barrels for 5 months, then in bottles for 6 months.
La Bruna Dogliani San Luigi has been DOCG since 2005.
This is the house Cru and is among the most celebrated in the region.
This wine is a very intense, almost opaque ruby red with violet hues. On the bouquet it has concentrated ripe black cherry aromas. The palate is mature and well-structured with delicious ripe black cherry and dark forest berry notes. Firm and pleasant tannins support the ample fruit. It has a long finish with tobacco notes, cherry and herbs.

And this brings us to my personal favorite at the winery:

Langhe Luigina: An assemblage from the best of the barbera, merlot and nebbiolo vines. Fermentation is in small tanks of 20-50 hectoliters for around 7 days then steel tanks for 9 months. After this it rests in barriques for a year to provide it with a balanced structure, complexity and ability to age well.
Gorgeous dark, nearly opaque, red-violet color that belies its lovely extraction. Beautiful aromas of ripe cherries and thyme. On the palate it is complex, lively with acidity, and present, but not overwhelming, tannins. It has notes of mild leather, subtle chocolate, bright cherries, herbs and a lovely floral component. The finish is long and pleasant with an herbal/floral note. It is best served below room temperature and can stand up to a wide range of foods.

From time to time they also make a chardonnay that is aged in barriques for 9 months.

Friday, September 24, 2010

This is not a manifesto.

What is Wine Ophelia looking for in a wine? Authenticity. Palatability. Done.

There is a good bit of chatter these days on the internet about “Natural Wine.” What is it exactly? How does one define it? Does anyone really care? I really enjoy what many people are calling “natural wine.” But I have to say that I've had a lot of so-called natural wines that taste like shit. Really. Not that I've tasted shit, but I can imagine... Anyway, what I look for in a wine is something as authentic

authentic |ôˈθentik| (abbr.: auth.)
1 of undisputed origin; genuine : the letter is now accepted as an authentic document | authentic 14th-century furniture. See note at genuine .
made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original : the restaurant serves authentic Italian meals | every detail of the movie was totally authentic.based on facts; accurate or reliable : an authentic depiction of the situation.(in existentialist philosophy) relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life. (*added on 1/31/12) possible that still tastes delicious to me. I just don't want the winemaker to haul out the chemistry set to give me a monotonous giant fruit and alcohol bomb that tastes the same year after year after boring year. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Snoozefest.

That being said, some people who have too much time on their hands and who like to hear themselves talk (and they are the only ones who do) say that wine itself isn't natural. We've grafted onto the rootstock. We add things to it and mess with it. Whateverthefuck. I don't care. You can nit pick a thing to death no matter what the subject and I don't have time for these nit pickers. Go find a monkey somewhere and have at it. What I'm after is something as authentic (*see above) as possible that is still palatable to me. I love to see what has happened in the field during the year. I want to taste the extraction of lack thereof. Don't mask it with oak. Balance it out? Sure? Give it a little structure? Sure. But I want to experience what the grapes experienced. I like a minimal hand in the winemaking process. Guide it along, but don't intervene overmuch. Don't let it die. Dont' let it get a brett infection. Don't let the VA take over. Please, for the love of all things good and decent, don't let the VA take over! Ick!

I think that's all I really have to say. I'm looking for a passionate grape grower, a winemaker who wants the life of the grape that year to show in the bottle, year after interesting year, without adding too much to it. The end.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

France! Wahooooo!!

What a whirlwind I've been on! Arrived in Paris on Monday. Visited with my cousins, and one other friend.

Got to “enjoy” a train worker strike.
While I did NOT get to go to visit Thierry Puzelat (thanks striking train workers... thanks A LOT!) I nevertheless ate well, drank well, got some great shoes (always an important part of a Paris visit) and went to a few of my favorite spots in my old stomping grounds near La Sorbonne.

My favorite still has to be the Jardin de Luxembourg. My habit was always to take a coffee at Le Rostand and to go sit and read by the Fontaine de Medicis.

Le sigh... it is as gorgeous as ever. And I had been so proud of myself for not crying. Silly. I knew I would sooner or later. I always do. One look at the Fontaine de Medicis and it was all over. Couldn't hold back the tears. Not a full on sob-fest mind you... just a few little tears of joy, sorrow. Je ne sais quoi.
I didn't get enough time in Paris. Ok. That is just a moronic thing to say. I never get enough time in Paris. But this time it REALLY was not enough. Just 2 days.

Then I was off to Antibes to visit dear old friends. I had never been to Antibes before. This place is just beautiful. It has (as do so many French cities) a little historic section, Ancien Antibes.

I loved the sandy beaches in Antibes and preferred this to the galets (large pebbles) of Nice. The color of the water is INSANE. My photos don't begin to do it justice. My friends in Antibes took me to so many lovely places. Eze and St. Paul de Vence. Both gorgeous, historic hilltop villages overlooking the Cote d'Azur

Lots of lovely little places to sit, eat, have coffee and chat...just to relax and enjoy life. Perfection.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wine Ophelia Goes Rogue!

Somebody pinch me!

I am so excited I can't see straight! As some of you may already know from the Twitterverse and FB, I'm running off to Europe for a month! (More if I get my way!) I've been invited to work harvest at a small, family-run winery in the Piedmont region of Italy

while I do some research for a wine/foodimentary and some wine/travel projects I'm working on. (WAIT till I can tell you about THAT! Oh... it's gonna be GOOD!) Anyhow...being the francophile that I am, no trip to Europe is going to happen on MY watch without working my way into France somehow. So, I am (of course) flying into Paris and taking the train over to Italy. God Bless Eurail.

Get ready to follow along with me as I rediscover my beloved Paris after a (gasp!!) 6 YEAR!!! absence. Oh, how on earth could I let so much time pass before visiting again? I think this will be my 10th visit and 2 of those were 3 months at a time. Le sigh... I am so very happy to be going back. I'm also going to try to use Couchsurfing for my Paris visit if I can. Still haven't heard back from my requests.

After a few days in Paris I'm off to Italy to visit friends in Cuneo in the Piedmont for a food and wine festival and then to the winery where I will toil among the vines for around a month! This is where the fun should really begin. I barely speak Italian and to top this off, my host speaks only a Piemontese dialect!! Who is up for an adventure?! (raises hand and flails it wildly about, bouncing up and down... Think Arnold Horshack) Should be a barrel of monkeys!!

Cross your fingers for me and do dervishes and stuff! And let the "wild rumpus" begin!

Cheers friends!

---Wine Ophelia
aka Raelinn Doty Schmitt

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pineau what? An Offbeat French Grape Variety

Published on Bonjour Paris:

Ink, Tar, Pine Trees, Black or White Pepper...

Aromas and flavors of ink, tar and pine trees? Ever tasted a wine described like that before? Probably not. The grape variety Pineau d'Aunis (also called Chenin Noir) is little known these days and not much of it makes its way out of the Loire Valley in France. It used to be a quite common variety there and has practically fallen off the charts with only a handful of winemakers now taking it very seriously as it's been replaced by more commercially viable varieties.

The ones who do hold onto it, do it very very well. Christian Chaussard and Thierry Puzelat, considered mavericks by many, are two winemakers who know what is possible with this wild and crazy grape variety and both work in the method of biodynamie. Most of the time this grape is blended with other more common Loire varieties like Cabernet Franc and/or Arbois (menu pineau) with outstanding results evidenced in the rosé Coteaux du Vendômois and in Thierry Puzelat's Touraine Pineau d'Aunis and sometimes (when you can get it) rosé.

The Puzelat Touraine Pineau d'Aunis is a light to medium bodied wine with aromas of white pepper and a lovely bright cherry fruit and a lively acidity. Truly perfect with a slight chill on this one and it becomes a perfect hot weather red. Gorgeous and exciting in the glass. The wine is truly alive. Great with Mediterranean foods and lighter fare.

Another incredible example of this crazy grape is Christian Chaussard's Patapon. This one truly embodies all the wildness that is Pineau d'Aunis. Ink, tar, pine trees, white pepper. It is gorgeous and crazy at the same time, hence the crazy clown on the label.

This wine has a medium body and is normally slightly more extracted than some other pineau d'aunis out there. It is quite complex and offers a wonderful pairing opportunity with venison, wild boar, lamb and other game. Also good with a slight chill on it, making it a fantastic warm weather option in a red wine.

Both of these wines are Louis/Dressner Selections and can be found in many major cities throughout the USA and also online if they aren't currently in your local marketplace.

Learn more about these wines and winemakers at

Another wonderful, yet under-appreciated grape is Négrette. Most commonly found in the South of France, the Fiefs Vendéens a tiny area in the Loire Valley also permits the use of this grape variety along with Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc among others. In the Vendée it is also called pinot ragoutant. The characteristic aromas of Négrette evoke cassis (black currants) and licorice. A very nice example of the use of Négrette is in the wines of J. Mourat Collection. They have a red and a rosé that both incorporate Négrette, usually in equal portions with Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.

The J. Mourat Collection Red is a gorgeous deep red-violet with medium body and a lush mouthfeel. Aromas of herbs, licorice, and deep purple, ripe berries on the nose along with spice/black pepper. The flavors are just in line with the aromas. The finish is long and complex with lingering hints of cassis and spice. This wine is quite quaffable on its own but is lovely with medium-savory foods, especially lamb.

The rosé is a gorgeous very pale pink with quite subtle nose. The aromas and flavors are subtle and complex. Bright fruit, great acidity, lovely minerality. The distinctive J. Mourat bottle, based on an ancient bottle they dug up on the property, is quite striking. Even the owl on the label is significant to the Vendée. Story has it that during the revolution, the Vendée supported the royals and they would make a friendly call to each other in the fields to alert each other that they were friends. They used the call of an owl.

This site is in French only but has great info on the J. Mourat Wines.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

More on Closures: A Response

So, my friend has been following along, and while she/he does wish to remain a private citizen, he/she also wishes to clear up a few items and to expound a bit.

I hope that everyone will please play nice. I don't have much time or patience for snarky comments just so you know. Feel free to disagree all day long, prove your point ad infinitum, even ad nauseum, but keep it professional and civil please or I will edit your post or just won't post it at all. We are all, grownups I hope.

Now, mama's off her high horse...

Let's get right down to it, shall we?

In his/her words:


Answering some of the comments in your post in the most polite way I can:

You asked me for my preference and synthetically I told you what I do and prefer. Since there are some experts, let’s rock and roll things a little bit …

Corks: there are several types. What I mean for corks is a punched tree bark and one of certain technical specification (but let’s stay on a normal 38mm) that I have already indicated previously. Sure you can find cheap ones as well. If you make serious wines I want a serious cork in it (and I am talking real corks of course and for long ageing wines I will gladly take the risk of a cork over other closures. I want the wine to evolve on its own. I want to be surprised (and pleasantly) in tasting the same wine that can evolve differently sometimes depending on the vintage and location (yes location too); I don’t want copy cat – enough digression let’s stay technical.

What’s the problem with corks? You need to be able to select the right one. The vaporization (necessary process to clean them up) needs to be done in the right way otherwise you are going to face problems. A serious wine producer either uses more than one supplier and /or tests the corks for TCA etc.

Then there are technical corks, agglomerated corks etc. To me those have shown over time to be more risky. Vaporization is more complicated and also the gluing process but they cost far less than the above ones. There are some great examples though that are consistent in quality.

Glass stoppers;

comments made are correct; and what I said was that they are not air tight unless you are lucky.

“Silicon” stoppers and such: one of the replies states that are not made of silicon… partially true. All these stoppers pardon closures have been called silicon for a reason. While they are all made by “olde saurus blood” (if you don’t know what it is ask BP about it they may be interested in the discussion…) and they look very different in concept. Let’s stick with the most famous ones:

Nomacorc / Nucorc they use a co-extrusion of polyethylene,
Supremecorq uses thermoplastic elastomer injection molded
Integra uses Ethyl Vinyl Acetate injection molded

All of them use “olde saurus blood” in different forms... but all of them coated with silicon (duh if not I want to see you move the frigging thing same for technical corks by the way no silicon no party, particularly if the bottle is chilled the corkscrew is old and the waiter/waitress has a bad day or a mix of the above).

Like the technical corks, these are made for wines that are supposed to be drunk in 24 months or less. So if you are talking about totally naturally made wines, that is nonsense---ok they can be organic but not more than that. If you ask any of these producers as a buyer you can rest assured that all of them will guarantee their closures for 36months… after that it is your problem. And did you notice that all the tests performed and all technical brochures are made in a 24 month period? Guess why….

A pure cork (the serious 1 inch long stuff one piece and first choice thing) supplier will guarantee its closure for inherent defects for much longer (and they will make you pay for that, rest assured). The reason is that plastic stoppers (so to not upset people and not to call silicon stoppers or they will not sleep tonight) producers know exactly what they are making and targeting; which, by the way, is the majority of the market.

The problem with plastics is that all plastics is are sensitive to light, sun (ok bottles should stay in the dark but)… and they rapidly decay. Plus this one by its own characteristic is a plastic in that it needs to be squeezed into a hole and sealed (again maybe BP will be interested…). After a while the thing loses its own proprieties. Several solutions have been tried to keep it together (even with a frame inside and three different kinds of plastic) but so far the problem is that after 3 years the closure definitely crystallizes and doesn’t work properly. Plus the elasticity of the material is different. How many times do you find that it is basically impossible to put back in one of those corks once it’s been extracted? So if you are making wines that are supposed to last long time (and I personally like those) and you put them with “silicon” stoppers---well you can do it sure, you can you can even pee upwind if you want… but is not a smart decision.

Screwcaps /Stelvin… well the work nicely put it down by the Aussies had proved wrong (Australian Wine Institute is a nice source of information for wineries that do exactly what the Australian Wine Institute wants (which is not exactly their best artisan producers.) They follow the money too like every other country in the world. Screwcaps can make your life easier if you run an industrial winery and your production is high volume. But despite claims of certain producers with no vines who have all of a sudden become biodynamic, making wines in plastic bottle to save the environment (… no comment) that is not really true. Ask Tesco, who sent back I believe 10 containers of wine in 2007, how well the double chamber works. The double chamber is needed to bottle the wine. The wine gets stable if you make it stable before bottling it and during the process. And if there is a reduction, no biggie…a decanter works. Or you can fix it with cupper … sure you can, anything is possible. Then what about taking a lame white wine and filtering thru a used cat litter and male sauvignon blanc…Seriously speaking. The big difference in this case is once again what I, anonymous, consider wine and what the other side considers wine. To me a wine that has been manipulated a lot in the wine making department (which includes the filtration and bottling) even if legally is called wine is not that anymore for me; for them it is. It is a choice of course and everyone can do as they please. The day I see that a winemaker bottles an unfiltered wine in a small facility with a simple screwcap system and 15 years after the wine is fine and grown up well maybe then I will be convinced… I underline maybe.

Enough “brain masturb…”

These few notes are based on over 20 years in this industry, on my personal experience and belief. I do not consider myself a scientist, but I was lucky enough to make wines (just 7 times though) and to try a lot of them while doing something I love that still allows me to remain broke (but I give a lot of money to a lot of people). I read scientific publications and make up my own mind after talking with friends; some of them are winemakers that have 40+ harvests under their belts.

Regarding the anonymous writing, well couple of things... Raelinn asked me for my private opinion and I gave permission to publish it as long it remained anonymous. I find that in this industry there is unfortunately too much ego and many do things just to promote themselves while appearing as the “white knight”. I am not a blogger. I am not a social networker. I do not seek the approval from any journalist, whichever palate, points, etc. may be. So technically speaking I am an unsocial asshole. I am not saying don’t do it. If I import wines and I want to express my opinion or promote my wines as long as it is well understood who am I that is fine. I personally do not find ethical that, while we can express our opinion we take advantage of that. Too many times there are people involved in this business that are both involved in the sale of their own wines and also write on the side and promote them pretending to be journalists or independent bloggers or a mix of that without stating clearly that they are also making a profit by promoting them. That gives me an itch. What I care about is just the wines and people who make them and the people who enjoy them; anything else can go under a screw cap.

End of comments by my friend.

I hope that everyone will be respectful regarding the wishes of my friend to remain anonymous.

I hope that what this post might do is provide more of a platform for dialogue than for snarking. I'm interested in the information on the closures, as are many others given the number of questions I see out there.

I would LOVE to hear your opinions, see links to valid studies on the subject, etc. Otherwise, put a cork in it. :o) (really, I just couldn't resist. no aplogies.) heh heh.


Wine Ophelia

oh yeah... photo credits... as always, I found em on the web. If it's yours and you don't want me to use it, I'll take it down. Thanks.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Put a cork in it!

I’ve been trying to find some good information out there on different types of wine closures. There has been a LOT of online chatter surrounding corks and screwcaps, etc. of late---lots of opinions flying about. I haven’t been able to dig up anything that didn’t seem to be distorted in some way by the producer of the closure itself---no truly well-done independent study. If you have one, I’d love to see it! So, in lieu of this, I started asking around. The information below is from a long-time wine pro who asked if she/he might remain anonymous. So here you have it:

Natural corks are the best but they need to be pure ones (made in one piece) and patiently selected. A good cork (sorry, a serious one) costs a lot of money (€1/1.30) and should be over 1 inch long (1 ½ is perfect).

For cheaper wines I allow the producers to use T4 as a safe solution. A T4 has a bottom and a top that are one piece and the middle is glued together. The problem is how they glue together the parts because the use of non-neutral glue or improperly washed cork can become a problem (TCA is more often from improperly washing the corks or wineries floors than not from unclean barrels). If there is a problem with a wine we swap the bottles but we also need the cork back. If we are talking about pure natural wines, cork is the choice for the simple reason that is impossible to have a natural wine stable for vintages younger than 2007 in 2010 (at least a cold stabilization and/or a filtration needs to be done – a silicone stopper would be too risky as the wine easily spoils in 3 years).

Silicon works for wines that you do not age and plan to drink in 2 years max. The reason? Silicon doesn’t have a so-called “memory”. Practically speaking, even when it does not crystallize externally, when you squeeze a silicon stopper in, it is going to shrink and shrink and shrink and then it becomes “loose” in the neck of the bottle. Some producers try to use them with me and will usually stop when I threaten them to send the wine back or I show up at their premise with an ax. In that case the wine oxidized (if was alive) or it doesn’t – if the wine has been already taxidermized (see below on screwcaps)

Glass can work but if the wine is meant for long ageing they need to put “this wine has become ‘inert’” on the label. (See below under screw cap.) Plus it is very difficult to do it right. Bottles are not perfectly equal in dimension in the neck and a difference of a micron can make all the difference. The cost of a closure like that and effectiveness is usually not worth it.

Screwcaps are air-tight. So if you put a living wine with a screw cap you will get the typical rotten egg flavor (as it is reduced by the lack of oxygen). In order to avoid this you need to “kill the wine” with sulfur dioxide, nitrogen during the process and usually this is the key… a practical pasteurization. Do not look at me like this… they have to. Particularly if you have a winery that works with more than 6 tons/ha they need to stop the malo (practically do a partial) to keep the wine together and the only way to do it is to kill any little cute bacteria inside … oh yeah and then they write on the brochure they have been growing grapes following a natural process… but they sent them to a concentration camp after and then if you do some more research you discover that they do not even own vines… better if I stop here

And that is the end of my friend's comments...

For your reading enjoyment, here is a google search of Wine Closures.

In my search for images, I found that a lot of people have spoken on this in the past and I would certainly love to link to your blog if you have a post on various types of wine closures! Leave your link in the comments. And by all means, I would certainly love to hear from winemakers on this and even collectors. What have your experiences been with the different closures?

I should have a nice post from another winemaker to put up very soon. Thanks for reading. I hope you'll join in the conversation!


---Wine Ophelia
photo credit: I have no idea. If you own it and want me to take it down, just tell me. :o) cheers!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wilamette Valley Vineyards 2007 Signature Cuvee

Long overdue post! I tasted this wine with a dear friend of mine and we just absolutely loved it. We didn't really feel much like talking about it or making notes, we just wanted to drink it, which is the best compliment I think I could pay a wine. I find that at least for me, the more I like a wine, the less I have to say. It is far easier for me to dissect a wine that is just okay or even downright bad.

I did manage to scratch down a few notes:

Lovely, subtle, old-world style pinot.
Transluscent garnet-red color with a gorgeous medium body and beautiful mouthfeel. I won't go so far as to say luscious, because it isn't that fat, but silky might work. Notes of violet, tobacco. Slightly herbaceous in a very good way. Nice tannins and vibrant acidity. I'd even say you could hold onto this one a little longer, but quite delicious right now. I'd be comfortable pairing it with mild to medium-savory foods.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wine Ophelia Gets Naked! Naked Merlot that is...

Purchased at the Wine Cellar in Richmond for around $12. Live in Richmond? Go check em out and also follow them on Twitter HERE.
Tasting notes for the Live Twitter tasting #WAMerlot hosted by Drink Nectar.

Snoqualmie 2007 Naked Merlot Columbia Valley
This wine is visually quite lovely with a deep, almost opaque dark red-violet color. Pleasant aromas of dark forest berries rise to greet me. (ok, so it sounds cheesy... get over it. I like it.) Blueberries, black currant, a slight whiff of leather.

On the palate it is a bit green, youthful and acidic. Green in a way that I tend to like. The wine has medium body and nice, firm tannins but not overwhelming at all---nicely balanced. Vibrant acidity.
A touch of pencil lead.

The Naked Merlot seems like it would lay down nicely for a few more yers and mellow into a gentler, more subtle and complex wine. I can envision the tannins and greenness giving way to subtle leather and tobacco notes, showing off a more relaxed fruit profile and a little less acidity and tannin.

Much in the same way I imagine an exuberant teenager mellowing into an elegant adult or a frisky kitten into a mellow cat enjoying a puddle of sunshine.

This was on my first tasting. I kept this wine for 3 days, something I don't often do. Most of the time because with reds, I find they are just spent after day 2 and if I like them, well, there just isn't any left. Ok. My point being that on day 2, the tannins were totally relaxed and the wine was perfectly enjoyable. So this leads me to recommend decanting before you serve. Day 3 it was STILL GOOD. Which really surprised me. It was very mellowed out, showing off all its fruit in a very nice way (i.e. not fruit bomb)

I would definitely buy this one again and call it a good value for the price.

Cheers! -- Wine Ophelia

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tasting Notes: Willamette Valley Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir

This Oregon pinot has a lovely transluscent dark, ruby-red color, belying its very light body. On the nose, not very giving and slightly earthy. On the palate, it has a lively acidity with pronounced cherry and tobacco on the front end and no discernible tannins on the back end. Quite soft but for the pique of acidity which I like. The finish... well... reminded me of this guy

and this little song. only you know...with a short tail. Get it...heh, heh. Short tail. I kill myself!

So Ima stick it in the fridge, stick it in the fridge, stick it.... oh you know.

In the meantime, I decided to pair it with my pizza of chicken, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, feta, herbs, and a light drizzle of some organic CA extra virgin olive oil and a very light shake of red pepper flakes. (and yes... it IS delicious!) The wine's forward fruit and bright acidity paired very nicely with my pizza and quite frankly sloshed down VERY easily and happily.

Ok. So the wine is now cave temp or so. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand THERE it is! The zen of STRUCTURE! Wahooooooooooo! I love it when I'm right! Serve this one at cave temperature people. It makes all the difference in the world. (well at least for me) This wine went from soft, flabby and a little hot (alcohol-wise) with no finish to speak of to being just lovely. Now the nice characteristics it had on my first go remain... the lovely cherry and tobacco notes, but now it is not flabby and soft at all, but rather has good structure and the acidity is really well balanced with the fruit.

The nice folks at Willamette Valley Vineyards provided me with a sample. You can find it for around $20 retail.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sauvignon Blanc Notes

Yesterday on Twitter the kung fu master of social media Rick Bakas held a live sauvignon blanc tasting that dominated Twitter for the evening. Last I saw there were over 350 participants and over 1000 tweets! Great job and huge congrats to Rick! I had the great pleasure to participate and taste some wonderful and interesting wines from CA, NZ and the Loire Valley. I compiled my tasting notes below. Enjoy!

Domaine du Salvard Cheverny Delaille 2008 imported by Kermit Lynch
Sample provided by Loire Valley Wine Bureau

Bring on the funk! Super pale straw yellow color. Faint, funky old world nose. A bit reserved, but I like that in a sauvignon blanc. A whiff of cat pee. (yep… you heard me right… cat pee. A classic sauvignon blanc aroma profile.) I like that too, in moderation. Light body. It also has some mild citrus aromas and flavors. Pleasant acidity. Don’t serve this one too cold or it won’t show you any love. Cave temperature should be about right in my opinion (low to mid 50s.) The finish is crisp and dry with a slight minerality. I really enjoy the subtlety of this wine.

St. Supéry Dollarhide 2008 Sauvignon Blanc
Sample provided by St. Supéry

Extremely pale golden yellow color. Subtle aromas and flavors. Hints of lime and grass. Balanced acidity. Long, pleasant, clean, dry finish. Dry. Again don’t serve too cold. I really prefer this more subtle, elegant style of Sauvignon Blanc to the sledgehammer, over the top pineapple/guava nectar/cat box expressions.

Speaking of which…

St. Supéry Napa Valley 2009 Sauvignon Blanc
Sample provided by St. Supéry

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeere kitty kitty… heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere kitty! My husband walked in the door while I was tasting this one and the first thing out of his mouth was not, “hi (inappropriate nickname that I won’t tell you) how’s it going?’ Instead, he said, “why do I smell cat pee?” I just looked up over the rim of my stemware at him and giggled. “Sauvignon Blanc!” I said. He just shook his head. This wine is VERY aromatic with an explosion of tropical fruit and kitty pee. Loads and loads and loads of pineapple, guava, papaya and dare I say it? Juicyfruit chewing gum. A bit heavier in the mouth than I’m accustomed to in a Sauvignon Blanc. VERY long tropical fruit finish.

If you prefer an over the top Sauvignon Blanc, this baby’s for you! However, this is not my personal style preference. I much preferred the reserved, elegant Dollarhide.

Sherwood Estate 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough NZ
Purchased a glass for $7 at Caffe Driade in Chapel Hill, NC

So I was waiting and waiting and waiting for a distributor appointment yesterday which eventually got rescheduled. YAY! That meant I could start my sauvignon blanc tasting early! So I celebrated by grabbing a glass of sauvie b at the café where I had been waiting. They only had one. So I said to myself, “Not what I would normally drink, but, hey... it's here and so am I.” Just being practical. Heh. This one has classic pale golden yellow color. Austere on the nose with slightly grassy notes. In contrast to the aromas, it is quite flavorful with tropical fruits but not over the top at all. Light body. Nice, crisp acidity, not on the attack like some NZ’s I’ve tasted. Very pleasant, long finish. Dry. I genuinely enjoyed it and didn’t expect to. NICE!

Last but certainly not least:

Danielle de l’Année 2007 Val de LoireSample provided by Loire Valley Wine Bureau

This on just totally knocked my socks off. It is quite different from any Sauvignon Blanc I’ve tasted (and I’ve had a few.) Much richer golden yellow color than I would expect from SB. And WHOA! Tropical fruit Crème Soda on the nose! Also a slight hint of honey. What a total freakshow! This wine has a lush mouthfeel and medium body. Some yellow apple flavor. I’m gonna go ahead and guess it’s been on the lees to develop this creamy texture and wild aromas. VERY aromatic but balanced with a quite lively acidity and minerality. The finish is long and pleasant and dry, but maintains the crème soda and tropical fruit and minerality to the very end. This one surprised me so much that I liked it. I probably would not go for this if you described it to me in advance as I definitely prefer (like I said) a more subtle, elegant style to sauvignon blanc, but was just too weird not to like. That might say something about me, though I’m not sure what.

I hope you enjoyed reading the notes. Please consider joining the wine community on Twitter for some of the upcoming live tasting events. Follow @RickBakas and @NectarWine on Twitter for more details.


Wine Ophelia
- Raelinn

PS - I have no idea whom to credit for the photos but they aren't mine. Found them in a search. If it's yours and you don't want me to use it, I'll take it down, I promise.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tasting Notes - 2004 Bernardus Marinus Red

Mom and I popped into the local wine shop Valley Wine Cellar in my hometown and stumbled on a little wine tasting. Oh lucky Saturday afternoon! We tasted several CA cabernets and blends. Mom and I overwhelmingly preferred the Bernardus Marinus 2004 to the others on the lineup. 2 were just HUGE and I'm certain the "pro-flavor majority" would approve heartily of them.

The Bernardus website of course provides tasting notes for their wine as most winery sites are wont to do. And please pardon me a little quoting...they had me for most of the note:

"Our 2004 Marinus exhibits a deep crimson color and appears nearly opaque. Aromas are redolent [ok not sure I'd say redolent, but it's there] with ripe black plums and cherries accented by notes of spice and smoke with a hint of earth. The flavors of ripe red fruits and spice notes fill the palate." (and sorry for not indenting my long quote. I can't figure out how to do it on here!)

To this I would add a nice, youthful (still!) greenness. Now, don't go curling up your nose. This is not an unpleasant youthful greenness. It is underneath the fruit and mostly present in the finish. It feels like it is a result of the oak and I like it.

Where they lost me was here, " The texture is very full and rich with firm supporting tannins promising a long aging potential."

If they wrote the note in 2004, then they were probably spot on. I found that now, the tannins are fairly relaxed---present, yet subtle, and I like this too.

They also say, " The finish is very long with flavors that linger on and on. Can be enjoyed now, but will reward patient aging in a good cellar for many years to come."

Since we are now at 2010, I'm not quite sure how much longer it will hold up, but it certainly is pleasant to drink right now and may yet offer more complexity and subtlety.



Wine Ophelia

(photo credit to Bernardus)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lange Twins 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon - Tasting Notes

Big thanks to Lange Twins for sending me a sample for the Twitter Calicabs tasting on 2/15.

This wine has a pleasant, translucent medium red-violet color that belies its medium body. There is a faint whiff of pencil lead, prominent ripe black cherry on the nose along with a hint of black plum. On the palate it has ripe fruit and relaxed tannins with well-balanced, well-integrated oak supporting the structure of the wine. I find it somewhat green and youthful in a spunky, good kind of way. Would probably become more subtle, complex and interesting with time. Lively mouthfeel. Acidic. Could probably handle a slight chill in its current "mood".

This is a pleasant, enjoyable wine and a good value at $15.


Wine Ophelia

Supply or Demand?

Yesterday Robert M. Parker, Jr. made some posts on Twitter and one of them caught my eye. He said, "[the]biggest problem for consumers is the trade is not buying much, diminishing our choices."

It left me wondering if he hasn't got that a backward. It's been my personal experience in my own markets this past year that it is consumers who have tightened their belts, choosing less expensive wines and cutting back on spending in general. As consumers are sitting on their money, retailers, restaurants, importers and distributors are all sitting on inventory. I've talked to many trade partners who have seen an encouraging upswing in sales in January and February; but all are having to adjust their purchases to a stagnant marketplace, either by ordering less wine or by bringing in more wines that fit into the value category (what consumers are showing us they will buy) and cutting the ultra premium (what they are NOT buying.) I'm going to go ahead and say that I think it is the consumer who is not buying much, limiting the choices of the trade to provide them with options.

I'd LOVE to hear your opinions.

Wine Ophelia

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Because it's what we do... My Picks for Valentine's Day:

People, I'm thinkin' PINK!

Are you seeing a theme with me? If you aren't, you should... I LOVE ROSE! I drink it all year long in its various forms and I love them all! Still, sparkling, so many different regions and grape varieties to choose from! It is one of the most versatile wines out there in my opinion. And for Valentine's Day, it's a no brainer!

Here are some of my favorites:

Rendardat-Fache Cerdon de Bugey - a Louis/Dressner Selection - Sparkling, lightly sweet, light alcohol. This is pure bliss in a glass. Made from gamay and poulsard in the ancestral method. Incredible fizzy mousse, delicate aromas and flavors of raspberries. Gorgeous dark pink color. Looks incredible in the glass and on the table, like a present. GOES DOWN EEEEEEASYYYYYY...Buy more than one bottle. (you will thank me for that advice.) Just buy a case. You'll drink it.

Strohmeier Schilcher Sekt - a Monika Caha Selection- If there is a polar opposite to Bugey Cerdon, this is it. The mousse is the only connection. SUPER fizzy mousse. I love it! But this baby is BONE DRY. Beautiful pale pink color, aromas and flavors of tart strawberries. Made from the grape blauer wildbacher from the Styria region of Austria. I can't say it much better than Nico from Williams Corner Wine so I'm quoting:

"Because (in the words of Gary V) this wine is bringing the thunder!

So here’s the deal: Drink it with someone special[your Valentine!!] while enjoying something delicious (roast duck maybe.) Be sure to save one glass to drink the next day for breakfast or lunch (if you can wait that long…).

This is a no sulphur, no dosage, methode ancestrale sparkling rosé. It tastes better than most rosé champagne out there on the market that cost three times as much! For me, this is one of the truest and purest manifestations of natural wine. It is unadulterated, yet clean. Alive, refreshing, deeply fruited, taut, balanced. I could go on and on." (didn't want a huge indent sorry.)

Domaines Piron Gamay Rose - A beautiful, delicate expression of Gamay from Beaujolais. This one is SUPER pale, subtle but complex. Gorgeous fruit. Very light. Don't serve it too cold or the fruit will withhold itself from you; and you don't want that, now do you? Served close to cave temp in the mid 50s somewhere and it's sublime.

And probably my second favorite after the Bugey: J. Mourat Rose - Fiefs Vendeens - A gorgeous blend of Pinot Noir, Negrette and Cabernet Franc. Extremely complex and absolutely delicious. Photo credit to Hardy Wallace, taken at Dynamic Dish in ATL! YUM!

Lastly, one I haven't tasted in awhile but used to like qutie a bit is Rose di Regaleali a Sicilian deep, dark pink, fairly intense flavors. Find it if you can.

Have a favorite rose? SHARE IT HERE!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cheap Wine Challenge Recap

At LONG LAST! Here are the links to bloggers who reviewed wines for the Wine Ophelia Twitter Cheap Wine Challenge. I hope this helps some of you find some new-to-you inexpensive wines that at least SOMEONE else has tasted before and found to be good! We had a great time tasting and hope you will too! Let me know if you try any of them and post up your own opinions!

My Vine Spot

Cru Wine Blog

@Vino_Beth at Mom's Wine Rack

Great video recap from Nectar Wine


Wine Ophelia

Oh and PS... Here are some other wine blogs I've found who are writing up their own under $10 choices... Find more? Share the love!

Drink What U Like

even found some boxed wine reccos HERE

Here are the wines we chose from:

Casilliero Del Diablo - Chariot Gypsy - Bear Flag Red Blend #1 - Penfolds Koonunga - Monte Velho by Herdade do Esporão - Ravenswood Zin - Natura Chardonnay - Tomaresca NePriCa - Gougenheim Malbec - Bogle Petite Sirah - NV St. Cosme Little James Basket Press - Garnacha Del Fuego - Broadbent Vinho Verde - St. Francis Red - Honey Moon Viognier - Delas Cotes-du-Rhone St. Esprit - Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin - Dancing Bull Zin - 2007 Luzon Jumilla - Wolftrap 2008 - 2007 Altano Duoro


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Twitter Cheap Wine Challenge Part 2 - The BLIND TASTING! 8 pm EST Thursday, Jan 21st

I want to encourage all participants in the Blind Tasting to please consider donating to Wine To Water's Haiti Relief Fund

Thank you very much for blogging your notes for your favorite inexpensive and tasty wines! Now for the REALLY fun part! TASTING THEM!!

Here’s what you do… this is so easy it’s ridiculous!

1. Grab a bunch of your friends

2. Go to the local grocer and grab as many wines from the list as you feel like tasting! (it works well to just have each friend bring a bottle)

3. Have one person in charge of bagging the bottles. (it helps to completely remove the foil to prevent peekers!)

4. Number the bags and have 1 person write down what each one is.

5. TASTE! & Make good notes on each wine according to number.

8. TWEET! Did one win hands down over the rest? What was your favorite? Post up your tasting notes of your favorite wine.

9. The BIG REVEAL!! Pull the bags and see which wines were your favorites!

10. TWEET and name names! Tell us what the favorite cheap wine is at YOUR blind tasting! Feel free to blog your notes and link there here and/or post them on twitter!

That's IT! Drink, Tweet, and be merry! :o)

Have a great time everyone! I can't wait to hear what all the favorites are!

Can't do it with us on Thursday? Have your OWN cheap wine challenge over the weekend!


How easy and fun is that?! I can’t wait to see you all online on Thursday at 8pm EST!

Here’s the lineup:

Casilliero Del Diablo - Chariot Gypsy - Bear Flag Red Blend #1 - Penfolds Koonunga - Monte Velho by Herdade do Esporão - Ravenswood Zin - Natura Chardonnay - Tomaresca NePriCa - Gougenheim Malbec - Bogle Petite Sirah - NV St. Cosme Little James Basket Press - Garnacha Del Fuego - Broadbent Vinho Verde - St. Francis Red - Honey Moon Viognier - Delas Cotes-du-Rhone St. Esprit - Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin - Dancing Bull Zin - 2007 Luzon Jumilla - Wolftrap 2008 - 2007 Altano Duoro


Wine Ophelia

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Twitter Cheap Wine Challenge

Ok Wine Bloggers... BRING IT! Pick out your favorite nationally available wine under $10 and post your tasting notes on your blog. Share it on Twitter by this Friday, January 15 at midnight EST. Then we are shooting for Thursday, January 21 at 8pm (hoping that is late enough for our West Coast friends!!) for a live BIG BLIND tasting of our favorites! The idea is to get together with a bunch of your friends, taste the wines we have notes for and pick your favorite! The purpose? Share a bunch of inexpensive but really tasty wines with the masses and have a whole lot of fun while we do it! Be sure to use the hashtag #cheapwinechallenge when you talk about it on Twitter!

Yay! 5 entries already and it's only Tuesday! Here they are:

Cru Wine Casilliero Del Diablo

Young Winos of LA Chariot Gypsy

Hipster Enology Bear Flag Red Blend #1

The Wine Whore Penfolds Koonunga

Wine-A-Day Monte Velho by Herdade do Esporão

Keep 'em coming people! This is going to be so fun! I LOVE finding inexpensive wines that taste GREAT!

Make that 6!

The Wine Harlots Ravenswood Zin

Frank Loves Wine Natura Chardonnay

Holy Cow! a LOT of people posted their picks today!!

Cuvee Corner Tomaresca NePriCa

Mary Cressler Gougenheim Malbec

Nfluxus Bogle Petite Sirah

WC Wine Guy NV St. Cosme Little James Basket Press

Grapevine 4 Wine Garnacha Del Fuego

The Burping Sherpa Broadbent Vinho Verde

Brain Wines St. Francis Red

My Vine Spot Honey Moon Viognier

Vintology Delas Cotes-du-Rhone St. Esprit

Wow! I'm overwhelmed by all the people who've responded! Thanks so much!

If I missed the link to your blog post, please dm me on twitter @raelinn_wine

Oh... and...Note: I rejected a comment today because it was anonymous and just listed a wine name. If you would like to participate, blog your wine notes and post your link on twitter with @raelinn_wine and #cheapwinechallenge. Not too hard I hope! Thanks very much for joining in the fun!

Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel 2007 brought to you by Walmart

Let me just start by saying, yes... that IS Occhipinti Olive Oil in the photo. The olive oil all other olive oils apsire to. That being said...

So, I'm at Walmart... I know... don't even go there. I live in a VERY small town and unfortunately, I have to go there every once in awhile. But I try very hard to stay in good humor no matter what I'm doing (this doesn't always work... just ask my dear husband!) so I was doing my shopping and kind of got into the whole value mentality. As I'm passing by the "wine" section, I decide I'll take a little tour of the Walmart offerings. heh heh. Mostly what you would expect. Boxes, cheap jug wine and 750s of the same. I see a few I have heard at least decent commentary on and decide I'm grabbing one of these babies! Just for giggles if nothing else.

I decided on Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel 2007. I was in the mood for a zin. It was one of the only ones there and the only one I had heard any good news about. So... I bought it. (there's my disclosure) Paid more than I thought I would at Walmart though... $11.97. Have I mentioned that I hate Walmart? Ok... ok.. to the task at hand... HOW WAS IT?!

My take on it (I won't call it a review. I am not that special...just my view. Some tasting notes.) Medium ruby red color---lovely and translucent. On the nose, a bit of tobacco, ripe fruit...blackberry, maybe black raspberry. On the palate dark forest berries, very slightly floral, a hint of spice maybe white pepper. Pleasant fruity finish. It's somewhat acidic which I always like in a red. And it has enough structure to keep it out of the fruit bomb or soft and flabby category.

I'm calling this one cheap and tasty! I'd buy it again. No problem. I'm always so happy to find a wine that is this inexpensive and drinkable. This one is better than just drinkable. Whether it is or not, it doesn't feel messed-with too much either. I say this because some of you know, but some of you might not, that I have a serious propensity for natural wines. I think my palate just goes there, if you know what I mean. Read my post on natural wines for a better idea of that.

The description on the back of the label in my opinion describes a "bigger" wine than what I found in the bottle. But that was to my pleasant surprise. The back of the label tells us that these are "80 year old vines" and that the wine is named so because the writer exclaimed "Whoa, those are some gnarly heads!" when he/she first saw the vines. They let us know that the "grapes are hand selected from some of the oldest and most respected vineyards in Lodi." They also let us know that they use a combination of French, American and Hungarian oak which I found to be extremely well-integrated as I DO NOT enjoy unbalanced oak at all. They also say we should enjoy it with "barbecue, pizza, hearty pastas, chili and ribs." I might have to disagree here. I tried it first on its own, but then had a glass with a cheeseburger. It was somewhat spicy and the wine didn't stand up like I hoped it would. BUT if I had made a traditional cheeseburger I think it would have worked. Mine just happened to be on the spicy side with some chili peppers in the mix. Overpowered the wine a bit. I'd say go with more subtle grilled meats and dishes that have a flavor profile that falls into the medium-savory area.

I hope that helps you if you decide to grab this one at the grocer one day. I really did enjoy it and would most definitely get it again when I'm buying inexpensive wine to drink on a regular basis.


Wine Ophelia

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Natural Wine is a Gimmick

Yet another conversation from twitter that proves to be good fodder for a blog post. I’m going to start out with the caveat that YES, there are boatloads of unethical or borderline unethical marketers out there who are greenwashing in every sector. Wine is certainly not excluded. The example I’ve seen in wine that totally takes the cake is an extra paper hangtag on the neck of the bottle explaining how “green” the winery is. Really? LOVE the extra packaging and ink. (shakes head, rolls eyes.) Nobody likes a fake, much less a “natural” fake---the worst kind of hypocrisy in my book. Jumping on the “green” bandwagon in an attempt to capture some market share… shame on you!

That being said, I have to throw in my 2 cents (maybe more) on the subject of natural wine. Is there a bona fide definition that has been laid down by any governing agency? Not that I’ve been able to find. If you know of one, please post it here. I posted a link to this yesterday and I’ll repost the full text here from Williams Corner Wine’s website because I like their definition:

Natural Wine
Although no specific definition exists for a natural wine, it is commonly understood that a natural wine is produced with the minimum amount of intervention and manipulation possible. A natural wine producer seeks to produce the perfect vehicle to transmit the terroir of a place to you, the consumer. As such, a natural wine tends to be one that is produced from high quality, hand harvested grapes grown in low-yielding vineyards, typically organically or biodynamically farmed. Fermentation begins naturally, using yeasts present in the vineyard and the cellar, and the unfermented grape must is not sulfured. The winery producing the wine must aim to produce a transparent wine that respects its terroir; manipulating the wine through the addition of tannins, sugar, acid, oak chips, prominent new oak aging or through use of any number of other additives could dull or completely erase the wine's terroir. The wine is bottled with no added sulfur if possible, and if not, only as much as is absolutely necessary.

And also the following criteria:

Use Natural Yeasts to Initiate Fermentation
Curtail Yields
Hand Harvest
Recognize That Living Soil and a Biodiverse Ecosystem Benefit the Vine
Realize Only High Quality Grapes can make High Quality Wine
Use Sulfur Appropriately and Only When Necessary
Do Not Filter or Limit Filtering
Respect Their Terroir, but Aren't Afraid to Experiment
Produce Dynamic, Drinkable, and Food-Friendly Wines

Obviously this would be open to wide interpretation of meaning and some attorney somewhere would have a complete field day with it… but that isn’t the point of this post.

The point I hope to make is that there are MANY exceptionally hardworking, ethical winemakers out there whose only aim is to bring to life a wine of “place” that speaks to its region, its grape variety, the weather that year, and ultimately to the person blessed to have to privilege to drink it. I truly hate to see people furrowing their brows when they hear the words “natural wine” and skeptically thinking to themselves, “bullshit.” The winemakers who DO work very hard to create these natural wines, REALLY natural wines deserve credit for what they are doing. Organic and biodynamic farming aren’t easy. Then, to bottle something that doesn’t require a chemistry set or “chipping program” (yes, a winemaker once used that term on me!) to “fix” it and have it turn out mind-alteringly delicious is even more of an accomplishment in my book and certainly not a gimmick. In fact the winemakers who DO farm and vinify this way normally don’t even talk about it too much unless you ask them. It’s about the wine, not so much the process itself. It’s why many never bother to get certified. They just ARE organic and BioD and they don’t care if they are certified. It’s beside the point for them, the point being the wine and not the “natural” bandwagon.

I really would love to hear your comments about the subject. So please share your thoughts.

There are too many winemakers, wine bars, importers, distributors, shops, etc. to give a comprehensive list, but here is a handful of people who I know “GET IT.”

Share the unspoofulated goodness:

Louis/Dressner Selections NO spoof all day long
Williams Corner Wine Natural Wine Specialists
Monika Caha Selections - Austria
The Ten Bells Natural Wine Bar NYC
Forlorn Hope Wine - Rare Creatures from an awesome guy
Coturri Winery - Long family tradition of natural wine
Thierry Puzelat's wine gives me the shivers it’s so freaking good
Arianna Occhipinti Sicily baby. OH YEAH.
Saignée I LOVE Cory!
Alice Feiring needs no introduction
Amy Atwood totally gets it.

Links and blogroll coming soon…