Archive

Posts Tagged ‘sine qua non’

Lists Worth Waiting For

January 24, 2019 6 comments

Once again, one of my all-time favorite subjects – lists. This time, however, these are the lists with a twist – these are the lists you probably want to know about.

Let’s talk about wine collecting.

I have to say that I don’t consider myself a wine collector. I will gladly identify under multiple “wino” categories. I can identify as wine snob – I have my [strong] preferences and if I’m not careful, they will either slip off my tongue or will be readable off my face as in the open book. I’m definitely a wine geek – wine from the barrel, 2-days fermented juice, obscure grape varieties, wine in the can, wine in the plastic bottle – bring it on, I will happily try it all. I’m a wine lover, oenophile – all of these identities are just fine. Wine collector – I would never present myself as such. I love aged wine – this is the main reason for me to have a “collection” – I buy the wines which I believe (hope?) will improve with time, and I store them to give them time to evolve. In my mind, to be qualified as a wine collector, you need to have more or less an unlimited budget – you taste a good wine, you like it, you say “I’ll take a case” – all of it without paying attention to the price. You are definitely free to disagree with my approach, but this is not what this post is all about.

Collector or not, but I’m passionate about wine. I’m paying attention to what I taste. I’m paying attention to what critics have to say. I’m paying attention to what fellow bloggers and writers are saying. Yes, I’m paying attention to the recommendations, reviews, and suggestions – but the trick is to convert the recommendations into the actual wine. You need to be able to find the wine which is so highly recommended – otherwise, the wine will remain only a “fiction”.

If you think that getting the wine everyone wants to drink is easy, you are probably just starting your oenophile journey. Getting the “desired” wine is not even a question of money. Yes, some of these wines are impossible to find and very expensive. But this is not always the case. For example, 2014 Carlisle Syrah Papa’s Block, 96 rating by Wine Spectator, was priced on release at $44. According to Wine-Searcher, it is available only at one single store in the USA. I’m sure you can afford it – but you can’t really find it. And this is just one example. Theoretically, any wine can be acquired from the wine store. In practice, lots and lots of the wines which built their reputation, are not available in the store, neither “brick and mortar” nor online.

This is exactly what I want to share with you today – where and how to find the wines everyone wants to drink. Before we get to it, one important note – everything I will be talking about here is relevant only for the wines in the USA. It is entirely possible that some winery around the world has the same mechanisms in place, but I’m not aware of those wineries – with the exception of Bordeaux En Primeur however, this is not something I want to talk about today. 

Now, how can you reliably get the wines everyone wants to drink? You will need to learn few key terms – “allocated wine“, “allocation” and “mailing list“. The gist of the process can be summed up in one sentence – in order to get highly allocated wine, you need to be on the winery’s mailing list in order to receive your allocation. Sounds simple, isn’t it? Let’s take this summary in pieces.

Highly allocated wine” simply means that the desirable wine is produced in the limited quantity – 100 cases, 200 cases, whatever the number is – but it is given that demand greatly exceeds supply, and so the wine becomes allocated.

A mailing list is a form of the winery membership which is very different from the typical winery wine club. In the wine club, you say how much you are willing to spend, and the winery will decide what they will send you (yes, you have an option of ordering more, but this is beside the point). Mailing list membership gives you access to desired wines the winery produces, but you still have no guarantee that you can get any wine you want.

Every member of the mailing list receives their allocation – how many bottles of what wine they can buy. Allocation is uniquely tailored to your buying history, position on the mailing list and other factors. Even when you get your allocation, life is still not necessarily perfect – some allocations are guaranteed, and some are offered on “first come, first serve” basis – yes, you have an allocation for the wine, but unless you are buying as soon as you receive the email, the wine you wanted might be already gone – experienced this scenario with Peter Michael and Turley many times.

Lastly, you need to keep in mind that your allocation will not necessarily include all the wines which winery included in so-called Release – some of the wines in the release might not be a part of your allocation. Ahh, and one more thing – in order to be on the mailing list, you need to continue buying the wines. I don’t know if there are minimal quantities, and I know that some of the wineries will allow you to skip one or a few of the mailing list offers and will still keep you on the list. Some wineries, however, warn you in a very direct fashion – if you will not order wine from this offer, you will be taken off the mailing list.

So that’s it, now that you understand how the system works, the rest is easy, right? Let’s find the wines we want, go sign up for the mailing list and start receiving the wines – easy! Not so fast. There is one more term I need to make you familiar with. This is the scary term – it is called “waiting list“. Remember I gave you the gist of the buying process for the highly desirable wines in one sentence? We need now to use a few sentences to fully explain the process:

In order to get highly allocated wine, you need to be on the winery’s mailing list in order to receive your allocation. Before you will get on the mailing list, you will first join the waiting list for that mailing list, as the mailing list has limited capacity.

What’s so scary about the waiting list? You have no idea how long will it take for you to transition from waiting list to the mailing list. I was on the waiting list for about seven years in order to get on Cayuse mailing list. I’m waiting for more than seven years now to get on Saxum and Sine Qua Non mailing lists with no end in sight. So yes, if you want access to the wine, you will have to learn to wait.

That’s about all there is to the allocated wines and mailing lists. I would like to make it clear – mailing list is one of the sources of allocated wines – but it is the only option if you want to be fully in charge of what you will be buying. Wine distributors in the USA also hold positions on various mailing lists and they get access to the allocated wines exactly as individuals do. However, their allocations are also limited,  and different stores have different access to those wines. Yes, you can definitely rely on the stores as your source of the allocated wines – for example, Wades Wines in California offers an amazing selection of the allocated wines – but you still have to hunt down the wines you want to drink.

At the beginning of this post, I said that we will be talking about wine collections. So far I explained how you can get wines for your collection – but as someone who had been hunting down collectible wines for a while, I would like to give you a number of suggestions for the wines I consider of being worthy of anyone’s collection – and worth hunting them down and waiting on the lists. Or at least, worthy of most anyone’s collection – for instance, if you don’t like Zinfandel wines as a category, Turley and Carlisle might not be wines you will be interested in. I’m not going to recommend any individual wines – below are the wineries I suggest you will get on the waiting lists for mailing lists, including a short explanation as to why I’m recommending them. I’m also including links for your convenience. The list sorted alphabetically without implying any preferences.

Alban Vineyards

Rhône-style specialist located in Edna Valley in California. Produces both whites and reds. Alban Syrah is a riot, and Alban Viognier might be the best in the country – among other wines. One release per year.

Carlisle Winery

Zinfandel and Syrah specialist. Produces also a number of white wines (Gruner is amazing) and few of the red blends. The wines are released twice a year. Allocations are typically guaranteed until the expiration date of the offer. Majority of the wines are under $50. Wines can be ordered as individual bottles.

Cayuse Vineyards

One of the very best wineries in the country, located in Walla Walla, Washington. Produces predominantly red wines – Syrah and Grenache rule, but Cabernet and Bordeaux blends supposed to be outstanding. Didn’t have a pleasure of tasting the Cayuse wines yet, but have high expectations. The wines are sold in the 3-packs, so 3 bottles is the smallest quantity you can buy. One release per year.

Horsepower Vineyards

The winery takes its name from the fact that all the heavy work in the vineyards is done using horses. Another winery from Washington and closely affiliated with Cayuse through Christophe Baron, the winemaker at Cayuse. Produces only Syrah and Grenache. If you like Syrah, Horsepower Syrah is amazing. One release per year, 3-pack offering only.

No Girls Wines

yet another project of Christophe Baron. Syrah, Grenache, and Tempranillo from Washington. Delicious, terroir-driven wines. One release per year, all wines are available as 3-packs only.

Peter Michael Winery

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon specialist out of Napa. The wines are simply outstanding. Two releases per year. Wines are available in single bottle quantities. Allocations are not guaranteed – first come, first serve.

Saxum Vineyards

the winery, located in Paso Robles in California is focused only on 3 varieties – Syrah, Grenache and Mataro (they prefer to use the popular Australian name for Mourvèdre grape). Their wines supposed to be amazing – I’m still waiting (for 7 years now) to find out how amazing.

Sine Qua Non

the legend. I should really stop right here and not even try to describe this winery. Might be the most cult winery in the United States – it’s either Sine Qua Non or Screaming Eagle. These wines are impossible to get (unless you have a spare $1000 – then run to Benchmark Wine website, they have one bottle available at that price). Sine Qua Non makes supposedly amazing wines in California (the winery calls Santa Barbara home), each wine in each vintage having a unique name and unique label. I’m waiting for about 7 years already and will continue to do so.

Turley Wine Cellars

best known as Zinfandel and Petite Sirah specialists from Paso Robles. Turley produces 47 wines from 50 vineyards. When it comes to Zinfandel, Turley is often considered a hallmark of Zinfandel expression. In addition to Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, Turley produces a small number of whites, plus a number of red blends. A few years ago Turley even started making their own Cabernet Sauvignon wines, called The Label. Most of the wines are priced under $50, with a few exceptions. Two releases per year, plus separate end of the year release for The Label. All wines can be acquired in the single quantities. Your allocation is not guaranteed – first come, first serve.

There you go, my collector and future collector friends – my explanations about inner workings of the desirable (allocated) wines, and the list of the wines I find worth waiting for. I’m sure many of you have your own take on wine collecting and wines worth hunting down – use the comments section to share your opinion with everyone.

Hope you will find this useful. Cheers!

An update: After this post was published, I received a number of suggestions for the lists worth waiting for. I have very little knowledge of most of these wines, but as they came recommended, I will list them here so you can do your own research and make your own decisions: Abreu Vineyards, Aubert Wines, Brand, Hourglass, Quilceda Creek Winery, Scarecrow Wine, Schrader Cellars, Vérité.

 

Latest Wine News Update

April 1, 2014 7 comments

So many things are happening in and around of the world of wine that I had to share some of the latest updates with you.

Coravin, the maker of the Coravin™ Wine Access Technology, announced that the company recently finished development of the patented wine fingerprinting algorithm, which allows to uniquely identify all different wines made in the world. Using this algorithm, Coravin is planning to complete within the next 5-6 months the creation of the database of all the wines ever made. The next version of the popular Coravin™ Wine Access appliance will not only allow you to enjoy your prized wines without pulling the cork, but will also automatically identify year, grape(s) and producer of the wine, and provide a prediction as to for how long the wine will continue to evolve in the cellar. The new Coravin gadget will also serve as a deterrent against fake wine, as it will be able to tell you if the wine you are drinking doesn’t match information on the label. Coravin is accepting pre-orders now and expect to start shipping the new device in the first half of 2015 –  make sure to order yours now as it is expected to be sold out of pre-orders within the first week.

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s wedding seems to be occupying the thoughts of everyone nowadays, and it seems that everybody want to be a part of it. I’m sure you heard that Burger King offered to provide all the food for Kanye and Kim’s wedding. Now Korbel, the famed producer of California Champagne, is offering not only to supply all the champagne for the wedding, but they also want to provide an unlimited access to any amount of champagne to Kim Kardashian for any occasions when she will feel a la Marylin Monroe and would want to take a bubbly bath.

You probably read recently that sales of Prosecco worldwide surpassed sales of French Champagne in terms of volume shipments. This news is not taken well by the bubbly greats, and based on the unconfirmed rumors, Krug Champagne, one of the most venerable producers, entered the talks with Zonin Prosecco about purchasing the company. It seems that Zonin’s witty TV commercials had a great effect on Krug’s top management, and they believe such an acquisition will be a great asset in the Krug’s portfolio. The exact amount of possible transaction is unknown.

Wine Advocate leaked that Robert Parker will be leaving the publication very soon. To replace him, based on the information from inside industry sources, it appears that Wine Advocate reached out to Ron Washam, the HoseMaster of Wine. The folks at Wine Advocate believe that addition of Ron Washam to the team will help to take the publication to the next level – Ron’s fiery wine reviews and skewering comments are expected to be especially well received by the aspiring audience of Chinese wine lovers. Stay tuned as this story is developing, more updates will be coming.

And the last update for today: in the usual spat between Manfred Krankl and TTB, the application for the newest label of Sine Qua Non Syrah, called Five Naked Women and A Cowboy, was rejected. TTB reviewers said that cowboy’s facial expression is too scarily detailed, and young wine drinkers might feel threatened be simply looking at the bottle. It is unknown if Manfred Krankl is planning to appeal or will decide to change the name of the wine to something else.

That’s all I have for you for today. Enjoy your day and 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 family vacation during this week, so you can enjoy your quiz break too. Therefore, let’s go directly to the interesting stuff around vine and the web.

First and foremost – the upcoming Saturday, February 22nd, is Open That Bottle Night (OTBN). The concept of opening of 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 been 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 the 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 the 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 which 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 the 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 backwards). 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 Roland 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!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, International Tempranillo Day, Beaujolais Nouveau, Bad Wine Reviews and more

October 31, 2012 9 comments

Meritage Time – and Happy Halloween!

Let’s start our meritage post from the regular place – an answer for the last week’s Wine Quiz #34 – Hello, my name is… I would like to say that I’m quite happy with this quiz, as there was a very good participation, and there was a full range of answers, covering all available options.

And the winners are (drum roll, please) PSsquared, VinoinLove and thedrunkencyclist as  they all correctly guessed that Predicament is not a wine name. Believe it or not, but the rest of the names on the list are for the real wines. I don’t have the labels to show you for all of them, but here is some information and the links.

if you see kay: the wine is made by Jason Woodbridge, and yes, the name is controversial – here is one of the articles on the subject.

No girls: an actual wine by Christophe Baron, the winemaker behind Cayuse – here is the link to the winery’s web site, and here is the link to my short post about that wine (I’m a happy owner of a few bottles from the inaugural release).

Frequency: I can’t show you the label or a good link, as 2011 Frequency Central Coast GSM is the first release of the wine. You can search for it on Wades Wines web site (I guess this is the only merchant carrying it right now).

To the rescue: an actual wine by legendary Sine Qua Non, California’s cult Rhone style winemaker. The full name of the wine is Sine Qua Non Grenache To The Rescue, and you can look for it on Wine-Searcher (don’t be shocked at the prices, and if you will get a bottle for yourself, can you get one for me too, please?).

Let’s move on to the interesting news from around the vine. First, I want to bring to your attention that November 8th is International Tempranillo Day – if you read this blog for a while, I’m sure you know that I’m very impartial to the Spanish wines, and Rioja in particular, and Tempranillo is a star there. Tempranillo is also successfully grown in many other regions of the world – Australia, California and Texas come to mind first. Find a bottle of Tempranillo and join the celebration on November 8th!

Talking about celebrations – Beaujolais Nouveau 2012 is almost here! The new harvest celebration, originated by the French wine maker and wine merchant Georges DuBoeuf, takes place on third Thursday in November, which this year will fall on November 15th. The Beaujolais Nouveau arrival is celebrated with parties and events all around the world, and celebration this year will be special, as it will be the 30th celebration of this tradition. Look for the events in your area – I’m sure you will find some interesting places to visit and celebrate in style. At the very least, make sure to pick up a bottle of that young wine and celebrate in the comfort of your home.

One of my favorite wine bloggers, W. Blake Gray, is back from vacation, so I’m offering to your attention an interesting blog post about bad wine reviews.

Last but not least, here is the post by Joe Roberts, a.k.a. 1WineDude, where he is defending usage of oak in the wines. I’m also curious what do you think about oak in your wines, so feel free to use comments section and express yourself.

That’s all for today, folks. The glass is empty. Happy (and spookingly exciting) Halloween Wine Wednesday! Cheers!

Must Try Wines, with Updates and Explanations

May 6, 2012 Leave a comment

After publishing the first post about Must Try Wines, I had an extended dialog with @PeterZachar on Twitter, where Peter provided good suggestions as to more ”must try wines” to be added to the list. Then I thought about whole rationale of ”must try”, ”must do”, ”must see”, ”must experience”, and I believe it makes sense to talk about it first.

When it comes to ”must experience” in the wine world, I believe there are few deciding factors to get a given wine into that category. First one probably is a price. In the end of the day, this is how first known ”must try” classification came about – famous Bordeaux 1855 classification was made out solely on the price of the wines sold by various Chateaux. Of course price is just a consequence, an artificial showing of other, more fundamental factors, such as quality, reputation, demand and availability – but it is easy for us, humans to comprehend numbers, so the price serves as an aggregate measure instead of quantifying all other fundamentals independently. Looking at Chateau Petrus, Screaming Eagle or Seppeltsfield Port, each one faring at about $2500+ a bottle, it is easy to say ”if ever possible, I really really want to try it”.

Next factor is a reputation of the wine. Reputation in general is hard to assess, right? Well, when it comes to the wine world, one side of reputation also happened to be quantified for us – in the form of the infamous wine ratings. All over the wine blogosphere you can find beating and bantering of the various point rating systems – however, whether good or bad, consumers like to have some simple numerical indication of one ”thing” being better than another ”thing”. No, I’m not planning to divert into the 100-points scale discussion – what I’m alluding to is the fact that it is very easy to include wines rated 100 points into the ”must experience” category. Probably 98 to a 100 points will do just fine, as I can bet I would never be able to tell the difference between 98 and 99 rated wines, so 98 to a 100 is a good range. Should all 100 points rated wines be included into ”must try” list? I don’t think so, simply because you have to draw a line somewhere.

Another side of reputation shows up in the form of someone’s opinion – not a single person, but rather as a collective opinion. If the wine receives multiple [substantial] praises from multiple people, it is probably worth considering for the ”must try” subject – however, all these praises will most likely become reflected in the price, and almost certainly will affect one more ”must have” deciding factor – availability.

What do we usually want the most? That’s right – something we cannot have. In the industrial world, if we run out of something, we can make more of it. It doesn’t work the same way in the wine world. Deeply engrained in the concept of terroir, the most sought after wines are produced from the very specific vineyards – yes, you can plant more vineyards, but they will not bear the same fruit and you will not be able to produce the same wine. Therefore, you can’t address the increased demand by just making more – and your wine becomes less available (and its reputation most likely is increasing). The next step is for the wine to be sold only through the mailing lists thus injecting some sanity into that supply and demand equation. And in many cases price of wine goes up, completing the full connection between our three key ”must have” factors – price, reputation and availability.

I hope I gave you enough insight into my logic. To come up with the additions to the original ”must try” list, I did two things. First of all, I used the exact recommendations from Peter. Second approach was based on using the Wine Spectator online and searching for the wines with 98 to 100 ratings in particular regions and countries – then looking at the prices and styles to decide if I would be interested in experiencing that wine. The result can be found in the updated table which is available as a standalone page on this site (please click this link).

Few more comments, if I may. For most of the wines from France, actual vintage is not essential – all these wines show remarkable consistency in good years and in bad years. Also for Bordeaux, Burgundy and Sauternes the actual ”must try” wine is a flagship which usually goes under the same as the winery itself. Same is true for California ”cults” outside of Rhone Rangers. For all other wines, the exact wine is listed. Also for Port, Madeira and Spanish wines the exact vintage is listed and important.

I just want to repeat the same disclaimer as last time – this list is a personal reflection – feel free to criticize it or make it yours and change it. I’m sure there are plenty worthwhile wines which can be added to this list – this is why I’m sharing it with you. Yes, you are welcome.

Let’s raise the glass for the best experiences of our lives! Cheers!

%d bloggers like this: