Presidents’ Day Wine Recommendations

February 10, 2016 3 comments

Wine recommendations for the Presidents’ Day? Which also falls on Monday? In the other words, wine recommendations for Monday? Really?

I can see that you might be surprised, but why not? Monday is as perfect day for a glass of wine as Sunday. Or Saturday. Or Friday. I hope you are okay with wine on Monday, so let’s move on.

First of all, especially if you don’t live in the United States, let’s me briefly explain the holiday. Presidents’ Day commemorates birthday of the first president of United States, George Washington, and it is always celebrated on the third Monday in February. While the original holiday was linked to the actual birthday of George Washington on February 22nd, some states also celebrated birthday of Abraham Lincoln (February 12th), and some even add Thomas Jefferson (third President) to the mix, thus the holiday is collectively called Presidents’ Day (if you are interested in exploring the subject further, here is the link to Wikipedia article). Presidents’ Day is an official Federal holiday, which means that all the branches of the US government are closed – however, it is typically a regular work day for most of the companies.

Now, let’s talk about wine choices for the holiday which always falls on Monday. Does Monday calls for a special bottle of wine? Well, it is the first day of the week, which often is difficult enough in itself, so may be we need a bottle of wine on the lighter side? I happened to come across the wine which I think would be perfect for any Monday, but it is incredibly fitting this special Monday – and I will tell you why in a second.

Let me introduce to you The Federalist – the winery in California, founded in 2007 with the goal to commemorate our Founding Fathers. The first wine produced by The Federalist was called Visionary Zinfandel, and it is dedicated to Alexander Hamilton, who pioneered The Federalist Party. Currently winery offers 5 different wines, all of them dedicated to the people who defined The United States of America.

Now, for the holiday at hand, I would like to offer you two wines – Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, both from Lodi in California. Zinfandel is dedicated to … very conveniently, I have to say … George Washington, the first President of the USA and the man who’s birthday we are celebrating on the Presidents’ Day. The Cabernet Sauvignon bears the picture of Benjamin Franklin – while I’m sure many of you are familiar with Ben Franklin as the man who’s face emboldens the $100 bill, Ben Franklin is often called The First American for advocating unity of the colonies, and he was one of the key participants in drafting The Declaration of Independence.

The Federalist Wines

Here are my notes on the wines:

2014 The Federalist Zinfandel Lodi, California (14.5% ABV, SRP $17.76, 93% Zinfandel, 7% Syrah, 12 months in 25% new American Oak)
C: dark ruby
N: fresh, open, medium intensity, blackberries, ripe raspberries
P: delicious, clean, round tobacco and raspberries, perfectly clean Zinfandel profile, smooth, clean, perfect balance
V: 8-, outstanding rendition of Zinfandel, good for everyday drinking with this QPR

2014 The Federalist Cabernet Sauvignon Lodi, California (13.9% ABV, SRP $17.76, 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petite Syrah, 1% Sangiovese, 15 months in 35% new Oak)
C: garnet
N: eucalyptus, cassis, restrained
P: bright, fresh, delicious, red currant, cranberries, crisp acidity, medium body.
V: 8-, quite atypical of traditional California cab – much lighter style, but very delicious

So, have I convinced you to raise the glass to honor first American Presidents on Monday? I hope I did, so grab a bottle of The Federalist and let’s celebrate! Cheers!

Top Twelve of 2015

February 8, 2016 5 comments

In the 5 years this blog exists, I always summarized my wine experiences of the year with the list of most memorable wines. For the 2010 and 2011, the top lists included exactly 12 entries. However, 2012, 2013 and 2014 lists comprised of a first and a second dozens for the total of 24 wines or even more.

There were lots and lots of great and spectacular wines in 2015. But it is February of 2016 already, so I will simply limit the list to only 12 wines. Okay, of course not only 12, but I will stay as close as possible to the 12 – which makes it a fun challenge in itself, as now I need to go over the bigger list again and decide what to include into the  one and only. From here, it makes sense to explain how this Top Wines list is built.

The Talk-a-Vino Top Dozen list is simply based on the memorable wines of the past year. I don’t take into account color or style of the wine. I don’t take into account price. I don’t take into account availability. What matters for this list is that one look at the name of the wine is enough to say “ohh, yes, I remember that” – these are the wines which left the biggest impression.

Done with all the explanations, let’s get to the list, shall we?

14. 2012 Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Pomino Bianco Benefizio Riserva DOC ($45) – I have a weak spot for a good Italian Chardonnay, and this wine was just that – classic, clean and beautiful.

13.  Changyu Red Wine Blend Ningxia, China (~$36 on the wine list in a restaurant in Beijing) – this wine was definitely an unexpected surprise, especially after unsuccessful first encounter with the Chinese wine. Classic round Bordeaux-style, with perfect balance and lots of pleasure in every sip.

12. 2013 Fero Vineyards Saperavi, Pennsylvania ($25) – Saperavi of course is best known as the star Georgian grape. However, it is quickly rising in popularity in the eastern US. Fero Vineyards might be a good example as to why – this wine had a characteristic Saperavi tartness over firm structure and nice earthy profile. It was my first and successful experience with the New World Saperavi.

11. 2014 Left Coast Cellars White Pinot Noir Willamette Valley ($24) – of course we are all familiar with “white Pinot Noir” in the form of the Champagne and other sparkling wines. But this was a still wine, and it was clean, crisp and unusual, just if you would think about.

10. 2010 Massena Mataro Barossa Valley, Australia ($35) – I still have to write this post, as this wine was a surprising find in the Mourverde single-grape wine tasting. The wine was powerful, luscious and delicious.

9. 2014 Sangiovanni Leo Guelfus Piceno Superiore DOC, Marche ($20) – organic and superbly refined. I don’t drink a lot of Piceno red wines, as they are scarcely available in the typical wine store. This particular wine showed perfect silky layers and beautiful balanced fruit. An amazing QPR at a price.

8. 2010 Turley Zinfandel Tofanelli Vineyard Napa Valley ($45) – it was the smell which made me think of this wine over and over again. Fresh berries with spices, just unstoppable. Smell is the best part of wine drinking – and this wine was offering an infinite pleasure.

7. 1994 Chateau Lilian Ladouys Saint-Estéphe ($15) – love surprises. When I picked up a bottle of this wine at the local store, my only thought was “what do I have to lose”. After two hours in decanter, after the first sip, my only thought was “I really, really hope they still have it in the store!”. Outstanding.

6. 2010 Irwin Family Tempranillo Piedra Roja Block 22 Sierra Foothills ($36) – Best US made Tempranillo. Don’t think I need to say anything else. You disagree? Try this wine first, then let’s talk.

5. 2009 Quinta do Tedo Vintage Porto, Portugal (~$70) – After been told that 2009 was a very bad year in Portugal, I didn’t expect to find any Vintage Porto from 2009. The one I tasted during the visit to Quinta do Tedo was absolutely magnificent as all the young Porto wines are – powerful, full of fresh berries and in-your-face greatness.

4. 2014 Abbazia di Novacella [Kerner, Gruner Veltliner, Sylvaner, Sauvignon Blanc] Alto Adige, Italy (~$20) – yes, that is a whole bunch of wines for one single entry, but there is no way to chose only one. Spectacular aromatics and mind-boggling deliciousness (yes, I’m getting very excited as I even write this) across all.

3. 2011 Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Giramonte Toscana IGT ($150) – I can’t tell you too much or too little about this wine. Instead, I will use just one word – finesse.

No, there is no mistake down below. Both wines are #1 – best of the best from the 2015.

1. 2011 Quinta do Tedo Grand Reserva Savedra Douro ($30) – Spectacular – only as the best Portuguese Reserva wines can get. Espresso, dark chocolate, eucalyptus – there is no end to the descriptors you can apply to this wine. Truly outstanding and pretty much a steal at the price (problem is to find it anywhere outside of the winery).

1. 2011 Emiliana Coyam Colchagua Valley, Chile ($35) – imagine your mouth is full of ripe blueberries and wild strawberries. Now swallow all that, and take another handful of those fresh berries and eat them too. Repeat until happy smile will show on your face. Yes, that was my impression of this wine. Outstanding.

That’s all I have for you, my friends. Better late then never, that is the way I see it – yes, this is a late post, but I still wonder if you had any of these wines on your own and if you did, what do you think of them. Or if any of the wines from 2015 are still in your memory, I would love to hear about them too. Cheers!


500! Now Official

February 1, 2016 28 comments

As many of you know, I got the bug of The Wine Century Club for the endless quest to try wines made from as many different grapes as possible  – yes, you can call me a grape geek, I don’t have an issue with that.

Back in August of last year I wrote a post about reaching the 500 grapes milestone and submitting my application for Pentavini level at The Wine Century club. Two days ago, I got a suspiciously promising envelope in the mail, and there it was:

The Wine Century Club Pentavini CertificateWell, it is nice to get an acknowledgement for your geekiness in the form of this cool paper; it also reinforces desire to continue the quest. You can see my grape count in the right column of this blog page – yes, I got a long way to go to get to the next level, but it is a fun journey. At this point, The Wine Century Club doesn’t have a designation for the 600 grapes level – but it doesn’t make the process any less fun.

To look at things seriously, this is nothing more than a form of an adult fun, just another way to collect the experiences. There is no need to congratulate with this achievement, really. But I will be happy to be a source of encouragement for all the grape aficionados out there; if you want to leave comment, tell me about your own journey in the Wine Century Club quest, no matter how many grapes you tried so far. Grape geeks, rejoice! Cheers!


While The Snow Was Falling on East Coast…

January 24, 2016 25 comments

I heard about snow storm targeting East Coast of the USA on Wednesday. As I was at the meetings in San Diego, my first thought was “I have to make it back home to Connecticut”. Originally, I was supposed to take the red eye flight on Friday, come home for a day, and then leave for the conference in Florida on Sunday. I called travel agent right away, and moved my flight back to Newark to the middle of the day on Friday, and Florida flight to Monday morning – and felt pretty comfortable that I dealt well with upcoming storm.

Only on Friday, when I was practically ready to start moving to the airport, I got a message on my phone any air traveler is dreading the most: “your flight had been cancelled”… The thought of my family dealing with the snow on their own was practically unbearable. After talking to the travel agent, the truth settled in – I will not be able to make it home for the weekend, no matter how hard I will try. And yes, I will simply have to go directly to Florida without stopping in New York – no other options.

Coming out of the stupor, I realized – I have very close friends living close by in Irvine, which is about hour and half from San Diego – visiting them for the weekend would be a lot better than sitting by myself at the hotel – so Irvine it was.

My wife kept me updated on the snow situation back at home – this is what they will have to deal with today, and even for a while:

snow storm 2016,

My day looked quite different – I discovered a Farmer’s Market in California. In the United States, there are two primary sources of fresh fruit and produce all year around – California and Florida, this was of course known to me. And farmer’s market is something which is not difficult to find in Connecticut, where I live – but only during the summer, mostly offering vegetables and a bit of fruit, and somehow always inciting me to challenge the authenticity of the actual “local farm” origin of that produce, seeing it sold from the pretty big trucks.

Thus farmer’s market we visited in Laguna Beach in California on Saturday in January was absolutely mind boggling experience for me as a foodie. All the citrus fruit you can imagine – grapefruit red and white, oranges, blood oranges, mandarins, Satsuma mandarins – to be honest, I don’t think I ever tasted a grapefruit which was as sweet and delicious as the one I tasted at this farmer’s market. Then you got strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, apples, pears – lots of them. Everything tastes fresh, delicious and almost unreal for someone from the east coast. All sorts of vegetables, of course, almonds with lots of different preparations, walnuts, dried fruit – I can go on and on – I’m sure you can tell that I can hardly contain my excitement. So here is simply an extravaganza of colors for you, in the form of the pictures – unfortunately, blogs can’t convey taste and smell – not yet, at least:



Satsuma mandarins

Lots of beets of all colors

strawberries - I wish you could smell them




California Avocado



And then of course there were flowers:

Also, you never know then the Universe might strike back, so someone always have to be ready:

Galactic Patrol Car

Spotted on the street in Laguna Beach – couldn’t resist to include this

If you are on the East Coast, I hope your digging out was successful and not super-tiring, so you can now relax with the glass of wine or whatever your heart’s desires. I’m off to continue flying. Cheers!

One on One with Winemaker: Aurelio Montes of Montes Winery, Part 2

January 19, 2016 2 comments

As promised, here is the continuation of our conversation with Aurelio Montes Sr – Founder and Chief Winemaker of Montes Winery. You can find first part of the interview here.

Montes Alpha winesWhile the first part offered insight into unique (and unexpected) areas such as using of Feng Shui principles and Gregorian Chants at the Montes winery, this second half of the interview is also full of  interesting details about present and future of Chilean winemaking. Here we go:

Q7: Do you use natural yeast in production of your wines?

A: Not for white varieties, although we have made Chardonnay trials in coastal areas, but in most cases result in that we obtain a very slow and long fermentation, which jeopardizes the final quality of the wine.

We prefer to use selected yeasts in white varieties, which ensure us a good rate of fermentation, working at low temperatures and retaining maximum aromatic potential of the wine.

In the case of reds it is different. We love to work with natural yeast when possible. They tend to express terroir better than the selected ones. However, much will depend on the conditions of the season, that is, if the season was very warm and the fruit arrives to the winery with a very high potential alcohol, we then prefer to use selected yeast that will ensure a good end fermentation. In the case of very rainy seasons, where the grapes arrive at the winery in bad conditions with some presence of fungi, we prefer to don´t take any risk and use selected yeast as well.

Under normal harvest of red grapes, without rain during maturity or heat peak’s that can cause an exaggerated increases in sugar content, we can then use natural yeast, maintaining important regimes of oxygen during fermentation and also moderated temperatures, in order to not stress these yeasts that behave in some cases very sensitive when the conditions are adverse during fermentation.

Q8: Montes Alpha had been a pioneer in many areas of winemaking in Chile. Particularly, it was the first winery to produce Syrah wines. How would you describe your Syrah compare to Northern Rhone, California or Australian wines?

A; Our Syrah, because of the natural conditions, and some winemaking policies, is different to Rhone or Australian Syrah. Ours is midway between the two mentioned valleys. It is ripe but not as jammy as the Australian one…is austere but still far more friendly and approachable than the Rhone style. This puts us in a perfect position, in terms of quality, and in fact my opinion is that the best New World Syrah comes from Chile

Q9: What was your most favorite vintage of Montes Alpha Syrah and why?

A: I think the 2006 vintage was a very good harvest, where this wine was well known. But I feel that the 2012 was even better. We had a very good season in terms of absence of spring frosts, an accumulation of rain water which enabled us to reach harvest with a low level of risk, and also a free of summer rains and reasonable temperatures. In particular, our Syrah from Apalta that comes from mountain grown fruit behaved very well, controlling a balanced amount of clusters per vine, allowing us to concentrate fruit color and body. Elegance and aromatic complexity found in the Apalta Syrah is really incredible. From this estate also comes the Syrah that goes to our Icon Folly made 100% out of Syrah.

Q10: In the wine world, there is always a conversation of the “next big grape”, which is usually country and region specific – like Sauvignon Blanc in Argentina, for instance, or Chardonnay in Oregon. Is there a “next big grape” for Chile?

A: I like to believe that the Carmenère can be our “next big grape”. But we struggled to position it, despite the efforts the sector makes. Chile has a high level of quality in this variety, considering various valleys and different heights, in the central and even coastal areas of Chile. After this many years of experience we must remain vigilant and continue working and learning in order to deliver the best quality Carmenère in the world.

I would like to add that recently Chile also has been making quite some noise on varieties such as Pais, Cinsault, Muscat, Grenache, Carignan, etc. In this last varieties with very good results.

In our case we crafted the Outer Limits line, which allows us to be more adventurous, dreamers, and let our imagination fly to experiment;

However I believe that the Cabernet Sauvignon is still the king of varieties that Chile has. Not only well renowned for the great quality but also because it represents the productive power and essence of the Chilean wine.

Q11: Does Montes Alpha have plans for the new grapes to be planted? Anything you are experimenting with right now?

A: We are not closed to the possibility. We are always looking for new things, but today to plant new surface is a sensitive issue. Chile is going through a time of overstock of wine, which forces us to be cautious about increasing our production. In the northern hemisphere the situation is similar, which puts us at a critical point.

Without adding the irrigation problem that the viticulture is facing around the world, which forces us to be very astute at this point. Today, more than planting new varieties on new surfaces, we are willing to replace those varieties and vineyards that do not meet our expectations, and replace this to try some new things.

For example, we have had very good reviews on our Tempranillo and Tannat 2015, after years of testing and harvesting dates, and exploring winemaking forms. Maybe we can do something about those varieties in the near future.

We are also touring various new areas as Cachapoal Valley, in search of a distinctive variety with unique quality and expression. Is under this inspiration that we have found and made quite interesting things, such as Pink Moscatel from Curtiduría, or a Pais from Lolol and other interesting projects that currently are still in the oenological kitchen … but this strategy of seeking other wine realities has given us many satisfactions to myself and the team.

Q12: when you are not drinking Chilean wines, can you give me a few examples of your favorite wines, regions and producers?

A: In terms of wines, if I were to pick an outstanding wine I would choose an Ornellaia Masseto. And if I could delight and reward myself with another, it could be an old vintage of Pétrus.

And we are done with the interview. It is time to take a look at another two Alpha Montes wines I tasted:

2012 Montes Alpha Syrah Colchagua Valley, Chile (14.5% ABV, $25)
C: very dark garnet, almost black
N: blueberries, violet, sage, fresh, touch of tobacco
P: silky smooth, round, roll-of-your-tongue, restrained, nice minerality, balanced fresh berries, touch of spice, touch of sweet licorice, excellent overall balance
V: 8, easy to drink, will greatly evolve

2012 Kaiken Ultra Malbec Uco Valley, Argentina (14.5% ABV, $25)
C: dark garnet, practically black
N: concentrated, dark fruit, plums, violet, tar, tobacco, very, very inviting – super sexy, first analogy
P: wow, concentrated fruit, luscious, polished, layered, round, balanced, great dark power, well integrated tannins
V: 8+, outstanding, wow and dangerous (and sexy! – I rarely designate wines like this, but … of well, I will wait for you to try it)

And we are finally done here. I hope you enjoyed our conversation as much as I did, and may be even learned something new. Until the next time – cheers!

Does the Wine Deserves Second Chance?

January 18, 2016 23 comments

MWWC_logoThis post is an entry for the 22nd Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC22), with the theme of “Second Chance”. Previous themes in the order of appearance were: Transportation, Trouble, Possession, Oops, Feast, Mystery, Devotion, Luck, Fear, Value, Friend, Local, Serendipity, Tradition, Success, Finish, Epiphany, Crisis, Choice, Variety, Pairing.

Let me describe to you I’m sure a very familiar situation: the bottle of wine is opened, wine is poured in a glass, you take a sip and … you don’t like it. Too sweet, too acidic, too sharp, too tannic, too “biting” – it is not always that you follow a sip with “wow” or “ahh”. What do you do next? Of course I understand that this question doesn’t have a single answer, as everything depends on the context. And as a side note, it is also implied that the wine is not spoiled – not corked, not cooked, not oxidized – it is simply not to your liking.

Let’s assume that you opened the wine in the comfort of your home. You can simply put the glass aside and decide to wait and see if the wine will change (you of course hope for the better). If this happened in the restaurant, your choices are limited – if you just ordered this bottle out of your own will, in most of the cases you can’t send it back (remember, we said it is not spoiled) – you can ask for the wine to be chilled or decanted, but that is about all you can do. If you are at a friend’s house, you probably have only one choice – to smile and to say that this is delicious, unless you grew tired of that friendship long time ago, so then it might be a good opportunity to end it on a high note.

No matter what setting it was, let’s assume you didn’t get to the point of liking the wine, and now it is in your memory as the wine-I-never-want-to-touch-again. Would you ever think of giving this wine another chance?

Yes, I know. There is such an abundance of wine around us that if we don’t like something, why bother with any “second chances”? It is humanely impossible to taste all the wines produced in the world, so why bother with something which you were done and over with? Yes, by all means you have a point. But is there a tiny little voice inside your head, which says “may be that wine needed more time to open up”, or “may be I was just in the wrong mood”, or “may be my food overpowered the wine”? Do you ever get any of those “may be”s, so you would actually go and try the wine again, just because you are curious?

Lamborghini wineI understand that this is matter of personality and an outlook on life in general, but more often than not, I find myself in the “may be?”, a “what if?” group. This is especially true when it comes to the wines which I open at home. If I take a sip of wine and don’t like it, I often put it aside, to try it on the next day. Or may be the day after next. Or may be even after that. One of my favorite examples is the bottle of 2002 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, which opened up only on the 5th day (the wine was 11 years old when it was opened). When I took a first sip after just opening a bottle, the wine was tannic and literally devoid of fruit – there was no pleasure in that wine. Pumped the air out, put it aside for a day. Next day – literally no changes. And so was the story on the next day, and the next day. But I was not not ready to declare the wine a failure and just pour it out – kept giving it second chances. And the reward came on the day number 5, with layered fruit and delicious, powerful wine.

I have another example from literally 2 weeks ago, when we opened a bottle of 1980 Lamborghini Colli del Trasimeno Rosso (I can tell you that I bought the wine strictly on the basis of the fun name – Lamborghini – a car which I’m sure anyone would be happy to drive at least once). The wine was opened, went into a decanter – and for the whole evening nobody liked to drink it, as it tasted more as brine than the wine. I can’t tell you if I was giving the wine a conscious second chance, or was simply lazy to pour it out. Next day before clearing the decanter I decided to take a little sip – why not? And it appeared that the wine actually developed into delicious, mature wine, with the nose of tertiary aromas and palate full of sweet plums. Not the most amazing wine I ever had in my life, but perfectly delicious, mature wine which delivered lots of pleasure.

I could go on and on with similar examples, but I’m sure you got my point – the wine could’ve been discarded as “bad” and the great pleasure would be missed, if it wouldn’t be for the second chances.

So, what do you think? Do you have any “second chance” wine stories of your own, maybe with the happy ending? Do you think wines deserve their second chances? Cheers!


One on One with Winemaker: Aurelio Montes of Montes Winery

January 13, 2016 13 comments

Montes AlphaThings in life often connect in most unexpected ways. Few years ago I read an article about the ways music affects the winemaking. I was unable to find that article or much references ever since. Many times I came across the wine with an interesting label and somewhat peculiar name of Montes Alpha – but I never tasted one.

Few weeks ago I got a note about wine samples from the winery called Montes Alpha from Chile. That note also mentioned Gregorian Chants and Feng Shui been essential elements in wine production at that very winery. This was enough to send my curiosity through the roof and ask for more information – and talk about the way things connect in life, right?

Who can better answer questions wine and winery questions if not the winemaker? I gladly used an opportunity to [yet again] sit down (yes, virtually) with the winemaker and send the barrage of questions his way. I have to tell you that all my questions were answered well in depth – and I think you will find this conversation interesting too. Here is our dialog with Aurelio Montes Sr – Founder and Chief Winemaker of Montes Winery.

Q1: I understand that your winery was built using Feng Shui principles. Are there any specifics in using Feng Shui specifically for the wineries? Do you have any followers from other wineries who came to learn from Montes Alpha experience?

A: We seek to apply the principle of balance and harmony of space in our winery. If you live and / or work in nice balance places, the energy will continue their natural rhythms and will lead to welfare in all its aspects.

It is in this sense, it was incorporated as a fundamental principle in the early stages of design and construction of our winery, the inclusion of all basic elements such as water, metal, wood, stone, etc., in accordance with the principles of this Asian discipline, to ensure this harmony and above all a positive atmosphere.

For example at the entrance to the building is the wooden bridge over a small lagoon, whose water flows toward the building. A fundamental principle of Feng Shui is that prosperity will only come if the water, which represents energy, flows into the center of the building, rather than away from it.

I understand that no other winery has incorporated the Feng shui principle.  In our case, one of our founders, Douglas Murray, was always fascinated with this concept and idea of building a harmonious winery and wine with our environment, therefore we hired the advise of an expert in this field to introduce the principles of feng shui in the foundations of our construction.

Q2: Did you apply or can you even apply Feng Shui principles in the design of the vineyards?

A: Feng shui is related to harmonize spaces. In our case it was considered to harmonize the spaces between the vineyards, winery and of course, our people. To get, as a result, the best wine we can possibly achieve. I believe that in a balanced environment, all pieces come together to perfectly to achieve a greater result.

I am not an expert on the subject though, and not sure how Feng shui can be applied to the vineyard. However our vineyards are planted according to quality policies, soil conditions, variety, etc. I believe that the harmony in the management of our vineyards is the result of the best possible quality grapes we can achieve, keeping always in mind the sustainable conditions.

Q3: I heard about Gregorian chants at the winery. How and where do you use them?

A: The Gregorian chants play constantly in the icon barrel room of our winery at our La Finca de Apalta Estate. The wine seems to enjoy it and I love it. In my opinion, besides the physical effect on wine, it does have an important effect on people’s moods and they work with more happiness and confidence. It keeps us calm in the cellar.

Montes Alpha wines

Q4: Did you try to test the effect of Gregorian chants on aging of the wines by creating a “control group” of same exact wine from same exact vintage and aging it under regular conditions (no music), and then comparing the two wines in the blind tasting?

A: For long now I have been interested in the effects of music in wine. I am happy to share with you a study we funded at Heriot Watt University about the effect of background music in wine tasting.

In terms of wine tasting the “control” with no music at all had a score 20% lower than the tasting held in presence of music.

Q5: Did you experiment with impact of music on the grapes in the vineyard? I remember reading about some of the experiments in that area, and I wonder if you have any information you can share here

A: Not yet and I don’t know of anyone that has done it. I presume there are so many uncontrollable variables such as temperature oscillation, different weather conditions, etc that would make it difficult to assess the particular influence of music in the vineyards.

Q6: Montes Alpha is certified Sustainable winery. Do you have any plans to become an organic or may be even biodynamic winery?

A: From our beginnings, our philosophy has been to produce wines of the highest quality, always concerned with the care of the environment, developing a sustainable viticulture in all stages of winemaking.

We believe sustainability covers a broader spectrum and a larger concept than being only an organic or biodynamic winery. It not only concerns the caring of our vineyards and the environment that surrounds it, but also the legacy that we leave for the next generations. We are very careful with our habitat, natural resources and above all improving conditions for the community.

Being sustainable also takes care of the social aspects of our workers – having a profitable operation permitting us to offer a stable place to work.

We also minimize our use of energy and treat our waste-water to reuse it in the irrigation of our vineyards.

Having said all the above we still have some plans to develop a line of biodynamic wines in a few years.  We have also moved forward in improving our carbon footprint, becoming one of the few carbon neutral wineries in Chile. We have not only traveled to improve our carbon footprint but also to significantly reduce the use of pesticides and replace them with more friendly environmental agents.

No, we are not done yet with the interview, but I don’t want to overload you with an information. I can also bet you are thirsty now, so let me present to you two of the Montes Alpha wines I had an opportunity to taste:

2012 Montes Alpha Montes Twins DO Colchagua Valley (14% ABV, $15, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Malbec)
C: very dark garnet, almost black
N: a bit of funk, herbs, blackberries, hint of black currant, inviting
P: good dark fruit, chalk, firm structure, pencil shavings, tart acidity on the finish, restrained. Next day the wine acquired some umami complexity with notes of tobacco.
V: 8-/8, an excellent wine hiding under simplistic packaging; outstanding QPR

2012 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley (14% ABV, $25, 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot)
C: dark garnet, almost black
N: cedar, cassis, classic
P: cassis, dark fruit, clean, round, soft
V: 8, outstanding, round, easy to drink

Here you go, my friends. Do you use Feng Shui in your life? What do you think of wine and music? And of course, did you have any of the Montes Alpha wines? I have two more wines to talk to you about, and continuation of our conversation with Aurelio Montes Sr. to share, so stay tuned.

To be continued…

Trader Joe’s Wine Finds – December 2015

January 9, 2016 6 comments

Trader Joe’s wines are not a new subject in this blog – you can read some of the earlier posts here. Every time I’m in a close proximity to a Trader Joe’s store which sells wine (not all of them do – I know, you would’ve never thought that it can be the case, especially if you live in California), I always make an effort to buy a few wines, usually trying to spend as little as possible, but to try as many wines as possible. Here is the report on the last visit to the Trader Joe’s store in Brookline, Massachusetts.

2014 Lazy Bones Cabernet Franc Paso Robles (13.9% ABV, $6.99)
C: Ruby
N: touch of the cotton candy, mint, hint of black currant
P: light to medium body, fresh blackberries, good acidity, easy to drink
V: 7, it is drinkable, but bigger body and some structure is desired.

NV ONX MOON Red Wine California (13.5% ABV, $8.99)
C: dark garnet
N: dark fruit, dark chocolate, very inviting
P: good power, round, more dark chocolate, good structure
V: 7+, very good wine

2014 Laurent Dublanc Tradition et Terroir Côtes-du-Rhône AOP (13% ABV, $6.99)
C: Garnet
N: plums, sweet chocolate, touch of eucalyptus
P: open, clean, fresh cherries, medium body, round, touch of herbal notes.
V: 7+, nice, soft and simple, very round.

2014 Sauvignon de Seguin Vin de Bordeaux AOC (12% ABV), $6.99)
C: straw pale
N: intense, inviting, candied lemon, fresh citrus, very promising
P: perfect. Fresh, grassy, crisp, laid back, touch of fresh lemon, just excellent.
V: 7+/8-. Very impressive for the money, but even ignoring the cost – this is simply delicious, well drinkable wine.

2013 Purple Moon Shiraz California (12% ABV or less, $3.99)
C: dark ruby
N: fresh crushed berries, intense fruity
P: ripe blackberries, tobacco, touch of pepper, good acidity
V: 7-/7, simple, easy to drink, a simple BBQ wine, will go great with ribs. Excellent QPR at this price

2013 Archeo Nero d’Avola Terre Siciliane IGP (13% ABV, $4.99)
C: garnet
N: vegetative, restrained, hint of blackberries, distant touch of gunflint
P: presence of volcanic soil, good acidity, leather, nice astringency, good overall balance
V: 7+, pleasant with an excellent QPR

2013 Columbia River Landing Riesling Columbia Valley Washington (10.5% ABV, $4.99)
C: light golden
N: inviting, hint of honey, candied fruit
P: round, ripe apples, candied lemon, good acidity, perflctly smooth balance
V: 8-, may be best of tasting. Great classic Riesling expression with all the taste components being in perfect balance – not an easy fit for white wines in general, and Riesling particularly. I guess I have to call QPR on this wine “phenomenal”.

There you have it, my friends. What were your latest value wine discoveries? Cheers!

Looking Back and Looking Forward

January 8, 2016 14 comments

VineyardsI’m sure you guessed from the title and the timing of this post that I want to talk about past year 2015 and freshly minted 2016. Yep, I’m predictable like that, you are correct.
So how was 2015 for 2015 for Talk-a-Vino in my own eyes? Great, but challenging. Very challenging. 2016 will be equally difficult, with great potential to be even more challenging, a lot more.
Sure, I will explain. Nothing happened with my love of wine or passion for blogging – both are as strong as ever. What I had (and will have) a problem with is time – my main line of work (the one which pays the bills, you know) is incomparably busier than two years back, and finding quiet time for the labor of love is now not easy at all. No, I’m not complaining, just explaining the change in cadence of the posts coming out.
Talking about 2015, there were few new things which I started doing. During the year, I was offered a few opportunities to meet with the winemakers, and was unable to find time – this is how the concept of virtual interviews came to life. I realized that even when I can’t sit down with the person in the same room, I can still ask questions – and get great answers. I also offered to profile wine apps for any of the app producers who would be interested, and so far had 3 posts in that series – by the way, the offer still stands if anyone is interested.
From the things which I didn’t like so much, but they still happened in 2015, was stopping the series of the Saturday wine quizzes. I had lots of fun creating those, but reached the point when it became very difficult to create challenging, but fun questions, so I had to stop the series, at least for the time being.
What should you expect in 2016? I definitely will continue the virtual interviews – as a matter of fact, one of them is coming out very shortly. I also have good number of posts which I really should’ve written last year, but did not. There were wine dinners, there were tastings, there were winery visits which never made it into the posts. However, the subjects are still worth taking about, so you should expect to see some of those “posts from the past”. I don’t know if I will make a series out of those posts (as an engineer, I like to organize things, may be even more than necessary), add short intro to those posts, or simply put them out without any regards to the “past” – no matter, they will still appear on Talk-a-Vino pages.
2016 is on, so let’s raise the glass to all the fun things which are ahead of us. Cheers!

Categories: Blogging, Life, wine Tags: , , ,

Happy New Year 2016!

January 1, 2016 10 comments

I would like to wish you and your families wonderful, healthy, happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year 2016, full of new experiences and great little moments which comprise life. I wish you to have just enough failures so you can grow and move forward in your life. And as this is the wine blog, I wish you lots of wonderful, life changing and emotional wine moments.

Year of the Monkey 20162016 is the year of the Monkey – in the Chinese calendar, of course, so it will actually start on February 4th. it is also a year of the Fire Monkey – but the monkey you see above was the only I had handy for this picture (and I really don’t know how fire monkey should look like). The wines you see in the picture is what will be opened over the next few days – I will tell you later on what I think of them.

Happy New Year and let’s raise a glass to life! Cheers!



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