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Wednesday’s Meritage #150

November 4, 2020 Leave a comment

Meritage Time!

In the last issue of Meritage (#149) we talked about Italian police uncovering the crime ring focused on the production of the fake Sassicaia. While essential in its own right, this should be designated as a child’s play comparing with what’s coming. This week the wine press was overflowing with the news that the most famous wine fraudster of modern time, Rudy Kurniawan, is about to be released from jail. This article on wine-searcher is full of predictions for Kurniwan spreading his wings after deportation and doing again what he does best – making fake wine. I guess we will see, but the lovers of the first-growth and DRC should probably take notice.

Tre Bicchieri Gambero Rosso tasting in New York is one of my favorite wine events to attend – this year, it was the last grand wine tasting I managed to attend before covid took the world under its blanket. I don’t think we will have an opportunity to taste the Tre Bicchieri 2021 winners next year, but at least we can read about them in the Tre Bicchieri magazine. I can give you a few of the interesting stats – for example, 46,000 wines were tasted, 467 wines were awarded Tre Bicchieri, and 1,800 wines received Due Bicchieri Rossi award. You can also read about 12 special awards such as Bubbles Of The Year which went to 2011 OP Pinot Nero Dosaggio Zero Farfalla Cave Privée Ballabio, or Meditation Wine Of The Year which went to 1976 Vernaccia Di Oristano Antico Gregori – Contini. Don’t know about you, but I would loooooove to taste Meditation wine of the year…

When it comes to wine, is 20 years a long period of time or not? Of course, it depends. In today’s world, everything is changing fast, and while particular wine in the bottle might only barely start its aging after 20 years, the same 20 years bring a lot of change to the world of wine and wine culture at large. This article by Richard Hemming MW published at JancisRobinson.com looks into some of the changes in wine production, wine consumption, and more.

You know what time of the year this is, right? Yes, the holidays are coming! While the holidays are great, they also bring with them uneasy questions – presents. Presents are difficult and finding some suggestions always helps. If you have a wine lover in your life (and you probably do if you are reading this), here is one list I can recommend to flip through – you might find some good ideas there.

Last but not least – another grape holiday is almost upon us. On Monday, November 9th, we will be celebrating Tempranillo! Tempranillo is one of my absolute favorites, whether in its Rioja, Ribera del Duero, or Toro rendition – but Tempranillo today is one of the most planted and most popular grapes in the world, so you can look for it well beyond Spain. California, Washington, Oregon, Texas, Australia all produce delicious Tempranillo wines. Get your favorite bottle ready and make sure to share your Tempranillo experiences with the world on November 9th.

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

Wednesday Meritage: Where To Get Wine [Values]

June 4, 2020 1 comment

Meritage Time!

This is a bit of an unusual Meritage post, as it is focused on one single subject – how to maximize your hard-earned dollars while continuing to enjoy your beloved beverage. Plus, I want to share with you my case buy recommendation at the end of this post.

The inspiration for this post were the notes I receive via subscription to the blog by Robert Dwyer called Wellesley Wine Press which I had been following for a long time. Robert has a special talent for finding wine deals and discounts, and he shares all that information in his blog, so we can all benefit from that.

In addition to Robert’s finds, I also want to suggest another source of discounts which might or might not work for you – the American Express credit card. If you don’t own the American Express card, you should skip all this Amex talk and advance to the case discount section. For those of you who has the card you can’t leave home without, please continue reading.

When you log into your account at the American Express website, you can find a section of “Amex Offers & Benefits” at the bottom of the page. There are 100 different offers that are available to you on any given day. I believe those offers are targeted, and I’m not sure if everyone will see the exact same set of offers. Today, out of those 100 offers, 12 are wine-related. These are real savings, I used those offers many times in the past and those are real deals, saving you $20, $30, $50. These offers are easy to use – find what you are interested in using, apply the offer to your card, then make a purchase in required amount before the offer expiration date on the American Express card you applied the offer to, and your credit will be posted automatically within a few business days.

Here is the list of the offers which are currently available for my American Express card – I’m also adding the additional discount information which can be found in Robert’s blog:

Wine.com

Spend $100+, get one time $30 credit. Expires 6/30/2020.
You can add to this a $50 off $150 purchase with the code CN50 – see Robert’s post for explanations and additional discount codes. So technically, you can spend $150 on the wine, and with the combination of these two offers, your cost will be only $70. I took this opportunity to get a few bottles of Grosset Riesling from Clare valley – definitely a great deal.

WineaAcess.com/amex

Spend $250+, receive $50 credit. Expires 9/30/2020. Limit of 3 statement credits (total of $150). Wine Access offers many interesting wines – you can read about my experience here.

Parcellewine.com

Spend $100+, get one time $20 back. Expires 9/1/2020

BenchmarkWine.com

Spend $250+, get a one-time $50 credit. Expires 8/22/2020. Benchmark Wine Group is one of my favorite online stores to shop for wine – lots of unique and different finds.

The restaurant at Beringer Vineyards or online at beringer.com

Spend $200, get a one-time $60 credit. Expires 8/28/2020. Beringer Vineyards needs no introduction – and this sounds like a good deal.

Vinfolio.com

Spend $250+, get 5,000 additional Membership Rewards points (one time). Expires 7/31/2020. Considering that American Express points can be valued at about one penny per point, 5,000 membership points would equate $50 – a good deal.

FirstBottleWines.com

Spend $250+, get a one-time $50 credit. Expires 8/23/2020

Benziger.com

Spend $200,  get a one-time $40 credit. Expires 7/20/2020.

Bcellars.com, the restaurant at B Cellars Vineyards and Winery

Spend $300+, get a one-time $90 credit. Expires 8/18/2020.

StagsLeap.com

Spend $200+, get a one-time $60 credit. Expires 7/27/2020. Another coveted winery on the list.

Vinesse.com

Spend $50+, get a one-time $15 credit. Expires 7/3/2020.

WineInsiders.com

Spend $20+, get $20 credit. Expires 10/31/2020. Limit of 3 statement credits (total of $60)

These are all the American Express offers which I found available today for my credit card.

Rabbit Ridge Wines Paso Robles

And now, for the case recommendations.

You see, when I find a good value wine, I’m always a bit hesitant to share that information with the world – what if there will be not enough left for me? Well, yeah, it is really not about me, right? It is all about delicious wine which you can afford to drink any day. What is also unique about these wines is that they don’t come from Spain, Italy, or France, where you can still find great bargains – these wines are made in California – at Rabbit Ridge Winery in Paso Robles.

I recently met winemaker and the owner Erich Russell and his wife Joanne at the virtual event organized by John Fodera. We were going to discuss Rabbit Ridge wines, and I ordered a few bottles for that discussion – 2017 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles Paso Robles (15.4% ABV, $10(!), Rhone blend), 2018 Rabbit Ridge Zinfandel Westside Paso Robles (114.9% ABV, $15), and 2013 Rabbit Ridge Petite Sirah Paso Robles (14.8% ABV, $20).

Opening a $10 bottle of California wine is hardly possible without trepidation – finding great wines at that price is really challenging. And nevertheless, Allure de Robles was delicious – soft, supple, well-present, and perfectly balanced. Would it compete head to head with the wines from Saxum or Alban – no, of course not. Yet this is an excellent, delicious everyday wine in its own right.

$15 Zinfandel is also not an easy find. Rabbit Ridge West Side Zinfandel was superb – the core of raspberries with a touch of smoke. Yep, delicious is the right word.

$20 Petite Sirah, drinkable upon the opening of the bottle – this doesn’t happen often, if ever. Petite Sirah is tricky and finding drinkable one at that price is also quite difficult – again, Rabbit Ridge perfectly delivered dark and firmly structured core, with the fruit leisurely weaved around it.

If these wines are not the case buy recommendations then I don’t know what is.

Here you go, my friends. I hope you will be able to take advantage of at least some of the offers and don’t miss on those Rabbit Ridge wines – nothing lasts forever… Cheers!

Stay At Home Resources for Wine Lover

April 15, 2020 2 comments

Since our world was flipped upside down a few months ago, and home is now one and only place for everything, including all winery visits, wine tastings, wine events, and festivals, I thought I would compile a list of items that might be useful for the wine lovers under the lockdown. I plan to make continuous updates to this list as new resources will come to my attention, so you might even want to bookmark this post.

Buying wine:

This might be a big question for many wine lovers – where to buy wine. Most of the wine stores are closed for in-person visits, and ordering wine via the phone requires you to know exactly what you want. Buying wine online can be done at one’s own pace and allows for thorough research if one desires. Now, as I love value, my two favorite places to buy wine are:

WTSO – this is a flash sale site. Typical WTSO sale is the wines that are priced reasonably well but require a minimum number of bottles to get free shipping. However, WTSO now offers case buys of the wines of your choice for $120 per case, shipping included. WTSO also offers Last Chance Wines, where you can buy wine in single quantities, and still have free shipping.

Last Bottle – another flash sale site; the model is similar to WTSO with a minimum number of bottles required to purchase to get free shipping.

Both WTSO and Last Bottle offer periodic Marathon events where wines can be acquired in the single bottle quantities – but those run once in 3 months or so.

If the price is not a concern and you want premium selection, take a look at Benchmark Wine Group – here you can find DRC at $10K, but you can also find a perfectly aged, 20 years old California Merlot at $20, and it will be still delicious.

Of course, these are not the only sources of wine. You can buy wine from other online retailers such as Wine.com, where you can always get additional discounts (American Express often runs specials for Wine.com, such as $30 off $100 purchase, or you can find other discount codes such as $50 off $150 purchase with the code “CIQ50” (in effect on the date of writing).

Directly from wineries – the absolute majority of wineries today offer flat rate shipping for their wines, sometimes with a minimum purchase required. Shipping can range from $0 to $15. If you have a favorite winery, this is a great option, as it also feels good knowing you are helping a business to stay afloat.

Wine Education:

This might be a perfect time to further your wine education. There is plenty of free educational wine content available everywhere. For example, web sites such as Rioja Wine and Wines of Portugal offer a wealth of information to any wine lover desiring to learn – without the need to spend even a penny. Just use your browser to type in whatever it is you want to learn – and your lessons will start.

Virtual tastings – this might sound like a misnomer at first – what is the point of watching winemaker tasting and talking about the wines if you don’t have the same wines in front of you – but then there is a possibility of doing it correctly. For example, Tablas Creek, one of the Rhone-style pioneers from Paso Robles, is offering a special virtual tasting pack of 4 half bottles – now you can actually follow along and learn. Tablas Creek is not the only winery which found the right way to do the virtual tasting – a quick search in Google for “virtual tasting pack” yielded names such as Clos Du Val, Benovia Winery, Rutherford Hill Winery, Project M Wines, Pindar Vineyards, and Stony Hill Vineyard, all offering specially designed packs for your next virtual tasting.

Wine Books – there are myriads of the wine books, of course. Here is the compilation of the wine books I personally like which you can buy off Amazon. I can offer you also another list – these are the books recommended by Wine Spectator magazine, well worth your attention.

Wine Entertainment:

Movies – movies are probably the most popular form of entertainment and considering the popularity of the wine, there is plenty to look for. You can look up the old movies, such as Sideways or the Bottle Shock. You can also watch the SOMM (available on Amazon Prime), or some of the most recent movies such as Uncorked on Netflix, or The Wine Guys again on Amazon Prime.

Wine Blogs – there are thousands and thousands of wine blogs. A lot of them are entertaining, and a lot of them are not – you will need to find what speaks to you. To help you with that, here is the list of Top 100 wine blogs according to the Feedspot. Also, this very blog you are reading (and I want to thank you for that), had been around for more than 10 years – there are many of the posts here which you might find interesting and entertaining, such as a series of the April 1st posts, winemaker’s interviews, or wine and grape quizzes.

Wine communities:

Last but very far from least is the issue of self-isolation. It is not easy to be stuck between four walls, without knowing when the life will restart. It definitely helps to have a community of sorts, just to be able to talk to other like-minded human beings. Videoconferencing today helps you greatly to solve this problem. You can use Facetime, Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, skype to talk to your friends one on one. You can also get a free account on zoom.us, and your world will become a little, tiny bit more comfortable. Another option might be to join one of the existing wine groups on Facebook, such as #Winelover (more than 26.5K members) or Friends Who Like Wine In The Glass (more than 10K members) – or you can start your own wine group on Facebook – it is really easy.

The self-isolation will pass. The virus will pass. Use this time as an opportunity to self-reflect, learn and grow. It’s all going to be alright.

Latest Wine News

April 1, 2015 15 comments

There were a number of interesting developments in the world of wine and related “beverages”, which prompted this post. Here are some of the latest happenings:

Who doesn’t like Rum and Coke? It is easy, simple and refreshing, and it clearly says “warm days are here”. Yielding to the ever increasing popular demand, Coca-Cola company just announced the brand new product – Rum and Coke in the can, which should be available in the supermarkets next to you starting in May. Going an extra mile, and taking an advantage of thawing relationship between US and Cuba, Coca-Cola signed an agreement with Bacardi company to use their famous authentic Cuban Rum for this product line, thus this new line from Coca-Cola will appear under the name of “The Real Rum and Coke“. Coca-Cola arch nemesis, Pepsi-Cola Corporation is reportedly peeved by the announcement and entered into the talks with the famous French Cognac producer, Hennessy, to come up with some authentic concoction. Stay tuned for the further updates.

Starbucks recently announced that in addition to the Starbucks Evenings program, which adds wine and beer offerings at a number of select Starbucks locations, the purveyor of the fine coffee will add a Starbucks Mornings program, which will feature a special morning beer program to be available in select markets nationwide. The pilot will start in Las Vegas and New Orleans stores, and then it is expected to expand to New York and Los Angeles markets. Starbucks also announced a partnership with Blue Moon Brewing Company to produce a special light morning brew called “Blue Bucks”. A number of analysts in the industry believe that Starbucks Mornings program will be widely successful.

Considering recent acquisitions of Siduri Wines by Jackson Family and J Vineyards by the Gallo, Bronco Wine Company, producer of the famous Fransia and Two Buck Chuck wines, decided not to be outdone by the competitors and made an offer to buy a legendary California producer, Sine Qua None, at an undisclosed amount. To express his reaction to the Bronco’s offer, Manfred Krankl, proprietor at the Sine Qua None, responded in his usual eclectic fashion by sending a case of one of his latest and greatest wines, a 100% Grenache, to the Bronco’s headquarters. The wine, called Middle Finger, had specially designed unique label, surprisingly quickly approved by TTB. There is a great suspicion in the industry that the acquisition talks might collapse after that.

And just a few more tidbits. Screaming Eagle, producer of the eponymous most desired California Cabernet Sauvignon, recently acknowledged growing trend of “Rosé Rules” by announcing the brand new Rosé, made from the best plots of Cabernet Sauvignon, under the name of “Screaming Hen”. The new Rosé wine will be priced at the $500 per bottle, and will be available to the mailing list subscribers. 150 cases will be produced. After this information became public, Christian Moueix, producer of the famous Petrus wines in Bordeaux, reportedly attempted to enter into the partnership with Chateau Miraval in Provence, to produce the best and most expensive in the world Rosé. Based on the limited information available to the press, the talks fell through as Christian Moueix was unable to convince Brandelina team to rip out Cinsault and replant it with Merlot.

That’s all I have for you for today. Happy Wine Wednesday and Cheers!

 

A Few Blog Updates

March 11, 2015 11 comments

Talk-a-VinoActual title which I wanted to use for this short post was talking about SSP (Shameless Self Promotion, of course), but then I decided against it. However, this is what this post mostly is all about – a SSP, consisting of some “asks” and updates.

First, the “ask”. SAVEUR,  the “definitive culinary and culinary-travel magazine” (their own wording), is running its annual SAVEUR Blog Awards. There is at least one category there, “Best Wine Coverage”, where this blog might apply. If you like what you are reading and think this blog is worthy of a nomination, here is the link to do so:

http://www.saveur.com/article/contests/blog-awards-2015-nominate

Note that nominations will close on March 13th, so you have less than 2 days left. Apparently, the more nominations, the better it is, so … thank you!

Now, a few small updates regarding Talk-a-Vino and social media overall. After long hesitation, I created a Talk-a-Vino page on Facebook. The page had been live for about 9 month, and in addition to all of the blog posts, I share interesting wine news and articles there as well, so you might find it useful. Here is the link so you can follow the Talk-a-Vino page if you are not doing so already:

https://www.facebook.com/talkavino

In case you are using a blog reader, such as Bloglovin’, you can find my blog there as well – below is the “follow button” for your convenience:

Talk-A-Vino

Last note regarding social media – about 6 month ago, I finally made it to Instagram. I didn’t create a specific blog account there (yet), instead I created simply an account for myself, so while you will find some pictures of food and wine there, most of the stuff simply relates to the travel, places, nature, flowers and so on. I’m thinking about blog-specific Instagram account, but I don’t know how to manage two with an iphone – if you have any ideas, I would greatly appreciate an advice. In any case, feel free to connect with me on Instagram (@anatoli.l).

And before we close here, a “local update”. In general, I pay very little attention to the ratings of the specific wines. However, I’m curious to know the average ratings for the wines in the specific region for the specific year. That information can be found in so called Vintage Charts. There are many sources for the various vintage charts – some are region specific, and some cover whole lot of different regions. In case you ever need to find and compare the different vintage ratings, I created a new page here in this blog which you might find helpful – here is the link. On the page, you will find a collection of various Vintage Charts from the different sources.

And this is all I have for you on this Wine Wednesday. Have a glass of something tasty and cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, Wine and Pregnancy, Impossible Food and Wine Pairings?, Don’t Diss The Chardonnay

June 26, 2013 8 comments

P1120673 Cavallotto BaroloMeritage time!

Let’s start from the answer to the Wine Quiz #62, Grape trivia – Nebbiolo. In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about Italian grape called Nebbiolo. Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Explain the meaning of the name “Nebbiolo”

A1: The name “Nebbiolo” comes from the Italian word nebbia, which means “fog”, by association with foggy hills of Piedmont.

Q2: In one of the regions outside Piedmont, the wines are produced from Nebbiolo grapes in the style of Amarone – with grapes drying on the straw mats before they are pressed. Can you name that region?

A2: Valtellina in Lombardy. I was lucky to attend a special seminar on Sfursat di Valtellina Nino Negri wines where I learned for the first time about this type of production (here is the link to my post). There was also a mention of Nebbiolo-based Recioto wines from Veneto – as this was really an experimental effort by one of the winemakers, I can’t count that as a right answer.

Q3: True or False: Blending is not allowed for any of the wines produced from Nebbiolo grape in Piedmont region.

A3: False. While blending is prohibited for Barolo and Barbaresco wines, it is allowed in Ghemme and Gattinara (however, many winemakers prefer to make wines with 100% Nebbiolo grapes).

Q4: White grape used to be such a traditional blending partner for Nebbiolo that it was sometimes called White Barolo. Do you know the name of this grape?

A4: Arneis. Arneis was a popular blending partner for the Barolo wines in the past, and that gave it a name of White Barolo.

Q5: In the blind tasting setting, the wines made out of Nebbiolo can be very distinguishable even before you take a first sip. Do you know what is this distinct feature of Nebbiolo wines?

A5: Orange hue. It is very indicative feature of Nebbiolo wines, especially as they gain any amount of age. You can also distinguish young Barolo by tremendous amount of tannins ( typically), but that is only a feature of particular style of wine and not the grape, and it is whole another story.

There were lots of responses this time! We have two winners (drum roll, please): VinoInLove and Mika ( no web site) get unlimited bragging rights. Also Stefano, Jeff TheDrunkenCyclist and Oliver TheWineGetter all get honorable mention with 4 correct answers out of 5. Thank you to all participants! We have one more red grape to cover for now, and then we are switching to whites. Oh yes, you can start guessing now, what will be this last red grape – you will find out if you are right or not on Saturday.

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

First, I want to bring to your attention an interesting article about wine and pregnancy from Vinography blog. I don’t know if there are right and wrong here, my personal theory that everything is good in moderation – and any good thing taken out of proportion can and will become your enemy. Still, it is an interesting read, and don’t miss the comments section.

Now, two of the bloggers I follow posted “impossible food and wine pairing” questions. Dr. Vino asked about pairing of wine with anchovies, and the TheArmchairSommelier had a very interesting question about pairing of the summer salad (which contains among other ingredients watermelon, blueberries, honey and feta), which sounds delicious by itself, but presents a substantial challenge of finding the right wine. Visit both blogs and offer your advice, if you will – of course if you want to comment here, I will be very happy to have the discussion in this blog.

Last but not least – a murder story and the warning to those who diss the Chardonnay, as presented by W. Blake Gray – read it here, it is short…

This is all I have for you – the glass is empty. But refill is coming, as usual – and don’t forget that today is Wine and Whiskey Wednesday (like you need a reason to drink, ha). Cheers!

 

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