Posts Tagged ‘#MWWC7’

Wednesday’s Meritage – Texas Wine Country Trip Contest, #MWWC7 Results, Robert Parker Addresses Wine Writers, Amphorae to the Rescue?

February 26, 2014 3 comments

Meritage time!

Same as a last week, today’s Meritage doesn’t have the wine quiz answer portion – as there was no quiz last week. Thus let’s jump right away to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web.

Have you heard the expression “Everything is bigger in Texas”? Do you want to check it out for yourself? You have about 5 days to enter Wine Enthusiast’s contest to win a trip for 2 to the Texas Hill County. The winner of the prize will receive:

  • Round-trip flights and transportation for two to Texas
  • Up to 8-night accommodations at local B&Bs and winery accommodations in the Texas Hill Country
  • Guaranteed visits at up to 12 wineries
  • Select exquisite multi-course wine-and-food dinners

There are less than 21000 entries so far, so I think you have good chances! For all details and to enter the contest, please use this link.

#MWWC7 has concluded and we have the new champion – Kara of The Sweet Sommelier blog. This round was quite difficult, with the theme “devotion” putting many people on the offensive, but it still had a very good showing with 22 entries. You can read very interesting analysis by the SAHMelier, the host of #MWWC7, in her concluding post. And you can read the winning entry here. Now we will be eagerly awaiting the new theme for #MWWC8.

Last week, the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers took place in Napa. As you can judge from the name of the event, a lot of professional wine writers were in attendance. There were a number of interesting keynotes at the symposium, including one by none other but the Robert Parker (I don’t care what do you think of his ratings, but his influence over the wine world is indisputable). Alder Yarrow, who runs blog called Vinography and is a professional wine writer himself, recorded the full keynote and shared it in the blog post which you can find here. It is a bit long (slightly longer than an hour), but may be well worth your time.

Last note for today is all about experimental winemaking. As you know from the ancient history, an amphorae was one and only tool available to the winemakers thousands of years ago. Now, Andrew Beckham, a ceramics artist and high school teacher, started making amphorae and use them to make wines – and the results seems to be very encouraging, with the wines taking on the explicit earthiness and minerality trait. It is very early to tell when and if the amphorae will become a mainstream winemaking vessel – but nevertheless, it makes a very interesting read – here is the link to the article.

And we are done for today. The glass is empty – but the refill is on its way. Cheers!



Wednesday’s Meritage – OTBN, #MWWC7 Time To Vote, The Art Of The Wine Label, State Liquor Law Changes and more

February 19, 2014 8 comments

Meritage Time!

I had to skip the wine quiz last Saturday, as we are taking a family vacation this week, so you can enjoy your quiz break too. Therefore, let’s go directly to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web.

First and foremost – the upcoming Saturday, February 22nd, is Open That Bottle Night (OTBN). The concept of opening that special bottle of wine instead of hoarding it was invented by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, wine columnists for the Wall Street Journal – here is the link to one of the articles on the subject. The event is always taking place on the last Saturday in February – this is when you open and enjoy that special bottle of wine you were holding on to, not being able to find the right reason to pull the cork (or twist the top). As I think this is a great holiday for all oenophiles, I would like offer to you the following – if you open that special bottle of wine, will write a blog post about it and send me the link (through e-mail, comment, or Twitter), I will gladly re-blog it in my blog, and I will also add the link to the permanent page dedicated to the OTBN. So, what are you going to open?

Next up – #MWWC7 just concluded. The theme of Devotion was definitely challenging, but I think it led to a number of great entries. Here is the link to the SAHMMelier’s blog post, where you can see the list of all entries, and most importantly now, take a vote! Don’t miss it!

Have you heard of Sine Qua Non, the cult winery in California, making unique wines that are impossible to get? Did you know that every vintage of every wine produced by Sine Qua Non is released under a different label? And also each and every label is essentially a work of art, created by Manfred Krankl, the winemaker and owner at Sine Qua Non. To read more about these labels and Sine Qua Non wines, here is a link to the very interesting article at Wine Spectator – I highly recommend that you will read it.

I would assume that you know (or at least you know now) that States of the United States are in charge of individual laws regarding alcohol sales and distribution in those states. This leads to the situation where people’s access to alcohol in the neighboring states can be dramatically different (for instance, until recently, sales of alcohol were prohibited on Sundays in Connecticut – as the result, the people had to take their dollars to the neighboring New York state). The good thing is that in many states, the state laws are slowly changing to the benefit of the wine consumers (don’t take it for granted – some states are still trying to change it around and backward). Here is a very interesting article from the Wine Business publication, where you can learn about some of those changes in the works.

Before we part, I want to bring to your attention two more articles on the subject of Italian wines, both are quite controversial. Ten years ago, the movie called Mondovino made Michele Rolland and Robert Parker quite upset. Now, the new movie called “Natural Resistance”, made by the same director Jonathan Nossiter is talking about natural wines in Italy, also taking an aim at the Italian DOC system and overall approach to quality – here is the link to the article on the wine-searcher where you can get more details.

It turns out that people at Gambero Rosso, one of the leading Italian wine rating publications, are not the big fans of the natural wines. A blanket statement about “natural wines been bad wines which will give you a headache” doesn’t sound right coming from the organization which should simply embrace and promote best Italian wines. So it is not surprising that Italian natural wine producers have an issue with Gambero Rosso – for more details, here is the link to the wine-searcher article.

That’s all I have for you for today, folks. The glass is empty – but the refill is on its way. Cheers!

Devotion – The Blog Post I Can Not Write

February 16, 2014 34 comments

MWWC_logoAs soon as I saw the new theme for the Monthly Wine Writing Competition #7, Devotion, my very first thought was “hmmmm, this will be hard, or more precisely, extremely hard”. The problem is that when I hear the word “devotion”, the immediate mental picture is of a giant cross at the very best, or no picture at all – but I can assure you it ain’t the picture of a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ever since the theme was announced I was struggling to find the connection of “devotion” to the wine world. I’m sure the examples of the true devotion are abundant in the wine world. May be even more than in many other trades, the success requires a lot of sweat, blood and sacrifice. Not been a wine historian, but rather only a very appreciative and dedicated consumer, I don’t have those stories of sweat and blood handy, and searching the Internet and rewriting someone else’s stories is not something I usually do, thus search for the connection between wine and devotion became literally a daily routine. To no avail.

I thought that I will start my post with the analysis of the word “devotion” – yes, the linguistic analysis. Oliver did it it perfectly in his post for the #MWWC7, as he was struggling with the theme in pretty much the same way as I did. Oliver took the Latin route for the meaning of “devotion”, so I can still refer to the English meaning of the word. Here is a nice representation of the Google search for the definition of “devotion”:


Yes, love and loyalty (or dedication for that matter) sound like the right way to go here – but if that is the direction, I would simply use the word love, and not devotion. Nope. It doesn’t connect.

So as today is a pretty much the last day to submit the entry, I still don’t have it.

But let me give you somewhat of an interesting twist here. Let’s put the word “devotion” aside for a minute, and let’s go back to the wine. Think about two sides of the wine world (not exclusively two – but let’s simplify here). On one side, winemaker should be willing to make an honest wine, the wine he or she will be willing (and proud) to offer (sell) to any consumer. On another side of the spectrum is the consumer who should be willing to buy the wine. Let’s make this statement even more precise – the consumer who should be willing (and eager) to drink the wine. Do you think we can find devotion on both sides here? Does it take devotion to make the best possible wine? Yes this is an easy case, I would say (and it was perfectly presented by Jeff at FoodWineClick in his photo essay about devotion of the winegrower). And how do we get to the devotion of the wine consumer? While this might not sound all too fitting for the term, but one should be devoted enough to the wine world to be willing to open the bottle – any bottle, a cult (DRC, Petrus, Screaming Eagle), or the most obscure, of unknown grape and producer; the wine which costs thousands, and the wine which costs $1.99. Open and give that wine a chance, step over the preconceived notions (“ahh, I don’t drink California Chardonnay”) and make an effort to understand the wine for what it is. Is that a behavior of the wine-devoted consumer, an oenophile? We are not talking here about people who buy the wine as an investment, with the sole purpose of selling the wine once its price will increase – those people are devoted to money, not to the wine. But for the oenophile, the wine is approached with an open mind – that doesn’t mean that the one should equally love all the different styles and tastes – but that one has equal respect to them all.

And let me tell about devotion of the winemaker through the eyes, nose and palate of the devoted oenophile (yep, myself in this case).

I brought the bottle of 1966 Louis M. Martini California Mountain Pinot Noir from Chicago about a month ago. I was in the store, shopping for the older vintage wines, and I couldn’t resist to buy such an old wine for $25 – yes,this is how much this wine was.

I didn’t want to hold it for too long, so Valentine’s Day seemed like a perfect opportunity to open a special bottle of wine (yes, I should’ve wait for the Open That Bottle Night, but we are always traveling over the actual OTBN day, as it generally falls on the kids’ school vacation).

When I told my friend Zak (who owns the wine store) that I will be opening the 1966 California Pinot Noir for the Valentine’s Day, his reaction was “why? You understand that the wine will not be any good, just keep the bottle as is for the decoration”. My thought was “I can always keep the empty bottle as a decoration. I have to give this wine a try”.


I honestly didn’t know what to expect. 1966 Pinot Noir from California? Not made by the star winemaker at the state of the art modern winery? The only thing I knew about the wine that it was made at Louis M. Martini winery. And Louis M. Martini doesn’t even make Pinot Noir wines today! Okay, let me come clean here – I had an additional reinforcement of my hope. I remember my wine class on Californian wines at the Windows on the World wine school, where after we tasted the line of California Cabernets, Kevin Zraly said “this wine is made by the Louis M. Martini. They make make excellent wines, and they could charge a lot more for them, but they chose not to”.

Louis M. Martini was an Italian immigrant who came to the United States in 1899. After working in the wine trade for a while, he opened Louis M. Martini winery in Napa Valley in 1933, as Prohibition was ending. Last year, the winery celebrated its 80th anniversary. You can read the history on the Louis M. Martini winery web site, but I want to mention that Louis P. Martini, the son of Louis M. Martini, went on to become one of the pioneers of California Pinot Noir and Merlot, and he was inducted to California Vintners Hall of Fame in 2008.

Let’s get back to the wine. It was the time to open that 1966 bottle, so I armed myself with the waiter’s corkscrew and the two-prong cork pull. I even had a thought of using Port Tongues, but that sounded a bit too fancy. Foil was cut, and I was presented with pristine looking cork top. Considering that appearance, I used the the regular waiter’s corkscrew, only moving it very slowly. The cork struggled only a tiny bit, and came out as a whole – and just look at this cork! I had 5 years old wines, where cork was in the terrible condition, never mind 48 years old wine!

DSC_0914So I poured the wine into the glass – beautiful red brick color, with an orange hue, reminiscent of signature Barolo color. I was really concerned about the first smell – hoping not to find a sauerkraut or vinegar there – and the nose was perfect! Yes, the herbal flavors were prevailing over the fruit, but nevertheless, it was a very pleasant nose without anything disturbing. The first sip – wow. This wine is beautiful! Yes, lots of herbs – sage, eucalyptus, may be even lavender, but also with the nice plum component, and most importantly, balancing acidity. An extremely complex and thought provoking wine – but in the perfect elegance of all the components. The wine opened up a bit more, showing a bit more sweet fruit notes – and then it was gone – we finished it all. Truly spectacular and almost unbelievable – but it was real. I would love to compare this wine to the old Burgundy – I guess this is what it will taste like, if I’m lucky.

And you are looking for connection to the today’s theme, devotion? To me, it is simple. To make the wine which will last for so long and stay in such a perfect condition (go back and look at that cork again) requires a dedication, it requires the full devotion of the winemaker, it requires the unconditional love to what you do. And this wine had it all.

Raise your glasses, my friends, for the true devotion of the winemakers and oenophiles. Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, #MWWC7 Few Days Left, Cali Crush Report, Wines At State Dinner, And More

February 13, 2014 1 comment

Meritage time!

Let’s start with the answer for the wine quiz #92, grape trivia – Montepulciano. In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about indigenous Italian grape called Montepulciano. Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: In the number of regions, Montepulciano is often blended with … [name that grape]

A1: Sangiovese is a popular blending partner of Montepulciano.

Q2: Wine Spectator calls wines rated in 95-100 range Classic (the highest and the most prestigious category). True or False: there are no Montepulciano – based wines rated in the Classic category

A2: False. There a few Montepulciano wines with the ratings of 95 or above. For example, 2000 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo got 97 points from the Wine Spectator.

Q3: From the list below, which state in US doesn’t make any Montepulciano wines of notice:

a. California, b. Maryland, c. North Carolina, d. Texas, e. Washington

A3: Interestingly enough, Washington so far doesn’t have any Montepulciano plantings of notice.

Q4: True or false: from 2000 to 2010, plantings of Montepulciano in Italy increased by more than 15%

A4: True. Plantings of Montepulciano in Italy increased from 28,679 acres in 2000 to the 34,824 in 2010.

Q5: Best known Montepulciano wine comes from Abruzzo in Italy and it is known as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Do you know the name of the white wine commonly produced in Abruzzo?

A5: Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is a white wine from the Abruzzo region.

When it come to the results, first of all, we had very good participation in the quiz, quite a few answers. And, most importantly – we have a winner! Tracy Lee Karner answered all 5 questions correctly, so she gets the top prize of unlimited bragging rights! Great job! I also would like to acknowledge Suzanne of apuginthekitchen and Mario Plazio (no web site), who both got 4 questions out of 5 correctly. Very well done!

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web!

Boy, I have a lot of interesting reads for you. First of all, there are only a few days left to submit your entry for #MWWC7, “Devotion”. Over the past few days there were quite a few submission, which is great. I have a problem to come to grips with this theme, as “devotion” doesn’t trigger any mental image for me – I would much happier deal with “obsession” or at least a “dedication”. Anyway, may be my muse will still come, all covered in the snow? No matter – get your wine devotion story going! Here you will find rules and submissions to the date.

Like the grapes and the numbers? I personally do – I don’t even know why. Anyway, the California Agricultural Statistics service just released the numbers for the 2013 grape crush report – 4.23 million tons of grapes were crushed last year, up 5% from the 2012. The most crushed grape in California was Chardonnay, closely followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and then Zinfandel. For all the numbers please take a look at this article at

Now, I want to share with you two interesting articles from the Dr. Vino’s blog. First, it is always interesting to know what the other people drink, right? Don’t you try to glance at the label of the wine been served at the table next to you? So this is not just some other random people we are talking about here – Dr. Vino analyses selection of the wines from the State Dinner given by US President in honor of the high guest from France. Here is the article – and similar to the Dr. Vino’s opinion, my question is – really? These are the best wines made in US? Okay, okay – I didn’t taste either one of the particular 3 wines served at that dinner – in case you have, I would be really interested in your opinion.

Last, but not least for today is another article from Dr. Vino’s blog – a short post about the sale of the wines at the auction in Chicago. Considering all the stories about the counterfeit wines nowadays, it is not surprising that the wines with the guaranteed provenance are sold at the premium nowadays. But for me personally, it is the data in that old receipt which is very interesting – $78.99 for the Echezeaux or $68.99 for Vosnee-Romanee – sigh, and another sigh – are those days gone forever?

And we are done here. The glass is empty – but the refill is on its way! Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, #MWWC7 12 days left, Don’t Forget OTBN, How Much Would You Pay For A Cocktail?

February 5, 2014 7 comments

Meritage time!

First, let’s start with the answer for the Wine Quiz #91, grape trivia – Cinsault. In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about the red grape called Cinsault (it is Cinsaut for French-proper). Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Name 3 grapes, traditional blending partners of Cinsault in Provençal Rosé

A1: When it comes to Provençal Rosé, Carignan, Grenache and Mourvèdre are most often blended with Cinsault.

Q2: In which US state the history of winemaking is associated with Cinsault?

a. Oregon, b. Texas, c. Virginia, d. Washington

A2: Interestingly enough,  early history of winemaking in Washington is associated with Cinsault, which was introduced in the Walla Walla region by Italian immigrants.

Q3: The oldest continuously producing Cinsault vineyard in the world is located in:

a. Algeria, b. France, c. South Africa, d. United States

A3: It was recently discovered that the small vineyard in California is actually the oldest continuously producing planting of Cinsault, and was planted in 1885. For more information, here is an interesting article by W. Blake Gray.

Q4: True or False: Cinsault is one of the 30 most planted grapes in the world

A4: True. According to the statistics of 2010, Cinsault was 25th most planted grape in the world with slightly less than 50,000 acres planted worldwide.

Q5: Considering Cinsault plantings worldwide, sort the countries below from the largest area plantings to the lowest:

a. Algeria, b. France, c. Morocco, d. South Africa

A5: France (about 20,000 acres), Algeria (about 7,500 acres), Morocco (about 3,500 acres), South Africa (about 2,000 acres).

Talking about the results, somehow this quiz had very low participation – may be the subject of somewhat obscure grape, may be the snow, but something got in the way of hundreds of people who I know wanted to play. Anyway, there is a next time for everything. But – one person attempted to solve the quiz, so I would like to acknowledge Suzanne of apuginthekitchen, as this also was her first participation in the wine quizzes here – well done!

And now, to the interesting news around the vine and the web!

First, I would like to remind everybody that the deadline for #MWWC7 is rapidly approaching – only 12 days are left until the deadline. Are you devoted to wine something or someone? Get your passion flowing, devote some time, pour yourself a glass of wine (want a “brute force” solution? find the bottle of Dowsett Family Wines Devotion Red and just do the review), but really, it is time to get more devoted to the #MWWC7. For all rules and regulations, please check SAHMMelier’s blog post.

Do you know what OTBN stands for? Need another two seconds? Okay. OTBN stands for Open That Bottle Night – the movement started by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, brilliant wine columnists writing the wine column for Wall Street Journal for many years. The idea of OTBN is that all of us have our “special bottle(s)” waiting for the special moment(s) to be open. And for the sake of the wine – and our own sake – in many cases it is better for the wine and for the people to have that special bottle opened rather sooner than later. OTBN is meant to encourage people to open and enjoy that special bottle. OTBN is celebrated during the last Saturday of February, thus OTBN 2014 will be taking place on February 22nd  – here you can find the full calendar of all past OTBN events. Start thinking about that special bottle of wine you will open – that is definitely a fun part of the experience.

Quick question – how much are you willing to pay for the cocktail? Okay, $11.95, of course. What are you saying? You can sometimes splurge the whole $30, especially if you are in the best New York hotel? Okay, sure, make sense. So, how about $50,000? Shocked? Absurd, you are saying? Yes, I’m with you – it is an absurd all the way if you ask me, but apparently someone found it quite palatable to pay $50K for the diamond studded glass filled with Hennessy Richard (most exquisite cognac made by Hennessy). I wonder if he got to keep the glass… Hope he did. To make it more fun, before you read the story, try to think about the place (city?) in the world where someone will pay $50K for the cocktail. Here is the link to the article about that $50K extravaganza.

That’s all I have for you for today. The glass is empty – but the refill is on its way. Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, #MWWC7 Theme, Booze Map of the World, Wine Obsessions

January 29, 2014 3 comments

Meritage Time!

Let’s start with the answer to the wine quiz #90, grape trivia – Pinotage. In this quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about South Africa’s signature grape, Pinotage. Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Explain the origin of the name Pinotage

A1: While Pinotage was born as the result of the cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, Cinsault, one of the Rhone varietals, was known in South Africa as Hermitage (which is actually the name of the region in Northern Rhone), hence the name Pinotage.

Q2: While Pinotage primarily grows in South Africa, California also has some plantings of the grapes. Can you estimate the approximate size of Pinotage plantings in California?

a. 50 acres, b. 250 acres, c. 500 acres, d. more than 1000 acres

A2: The amount of Pinotage growing in California is miniscule, but it is trending up. The correct answer is 50.

Q3: Here is the list of of nasty aromas often associated with the smell of Pinotage wines, except one. Do you know which one doesn’t belong?

a. Burnt rubber, b. Rusty nails, c. Paint solvent, d. Sauerkraut

A3: Sauerkraut flavor is not generally associated with Pinotage.

Q4: Wine Spectator calls wines rated in 95-100 range Classic (the highest and the most prestigious category). True or False: there are no Pinotage-based wines rated in the Classic category

A4: True. 93 is the highest rating allotted by Wine Spectator to Kanonkop Pinotage.

Q5: Pinotage was created in 1925, but for the long time it was used only as blending grape. Do you know when single-grape Pinotage bottling was first released in South Africa?

a. 1946, b. 1961, c. 1976, d. 1989

A5: b, 1961. While the first released vintage was 1959, the wine was commercially available in 1961.

I’m glad to report that we had a good number of participants in the quiz, who also expressed a lot of admiration for Pinotage wines. We have 3 winners this time around – barring spelling mistakes, the drunken cyclist, the winegetter and Wine Everyday answered 5 questions correctly, so they all get the coveted prize of unlimited bragging rights. I would like to also acknowledge Caspernick who correctly answered 4 questions out of 5. Well done!

And now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web.

The new #MWWC7 Theme had been announced, and it is … Devotion! With all the love and devotion in the air (February 14th – Valentine’s Day – is rapidly approaching), the theme sounds very appropriate. Pour yourself a glass of wine, sharpen your pencil (okay, flex your fingers) and start writing! The submission deadline is February 17th. For the detailed rules and regulations, please take a look at the announcement post by SAHMMelier, the winner of #MWWC6.

Want to know what is the most popular drink in the United States? Italy? China? Now you can! Few days ago, Yahoo! published Booze Map of the World (if you want to skip the article, here is direct link to the map). So it seems that Vodka is a drink of choice in most of the places (USA included), but then Rum in Italy? Really? Was Grappa even on the list? Anyway, have fun analyzing the map.

Last but not least – are you wine obsessed? Do you search for the most unusual wine on the restaurant wine list? Do you remember what is the next “almost extinct” grape you always wanted to encounter in the bottle? Matt Kramer, one of my all time favorite wine writers and Wine Spectator columnist, wrote a very interesting article regarding the wine obsessions – I suggest you will read it for yourself here,  it definitely worth your time.

That’s all I have for you for today. The glass is empty – but the refill is on the way! Cheers!

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