Category Archives: wine

What is natural wine?

As the organic food movement has picked up speed over the last few years, there is also a movement with organic, biodynamic and natural wine. Organic & biodynamic happen in the grape growing process, for them to be natural the process must continue in the wine making process. By not using or using the least amount possible any of the 200 approved additives permitted in wine, this also includes the technological manipulation(spinning cones, laboratory cultivated yeast,etc) that will take away what the individual terror & what mother nature has provided. This is the way wine has been made for centuries before technology was introduced.

The definition is similar to the German Law of Purity for beer, where only water, barley and hops are used. Natural wine is just grape juice and nothing else.

Some aspects to consider in natural wine…
Avoiding chemical herbicides.
Using indigenous yeasts.
Hand picked grapes.
Low to no filtering & sulfites.
No chaptilization.
No adding of powdered tannins.
Respecting of the grapes including rough handling,pumping or micro-oxygenation.

Natural winemaking represents the true expression of terroir and prevents wine varietals from all tasting the same.

The Psychology of Wine

As wine has become more mainstream in the last 15 years, it’s no doubt the wine industry now has a big spectrum from the small wineries who have a passion for wine making or the big bulk producer where it has become more about the dollars and cents of it all. Along with the growth has been the marketing of wine making it more or less a commodity in some circles. Marketers using psychology to get in your head and trying to get you to buy their wine. Whether it’s seeing a lot of the product making you think “there’s a lot so, it has to be good” mentality or just getting you to look at it and taking a mental note by using colored boxes, funky labels or sponsorships to catch your eye.

The wine media is just as guilty of getting in your head with its 100 point ratings system in some cases. Equating a number with the opinion of a few select people, who usually look for different things than the casual drinker will. You already know you like the wine before you pull the cork as you’ve subliminally told yourself based on the score or price for that matter. Not to mention you probably just looked at the score and didn’t even read the comments. If you did you would probably buy lesser scored wines as some sound really good.

The above is based on what’s outside the bottle, what about the wine itself? Manipulating it to make you like it with, added sugar (chaptalization) to drive up alcohol content, not to mention the big oak and fruit people seem to gravitate to. Having done plenty of R&D, large wine companies know how to market what is the best flavor profile to please the masses to be repeat customers.

Be assured there are things you can do to avoid letting the marketers get in your head and influence your decision making process. One way is by keeping an open mind, realizing everybody’s objective is to SELL. Whether it the actual winery and it’s packaging or the magazines, bloggers and it’s ratings system to sell magazines and ad space(Conflict of Interest??) or build traffic. Everybody has an agenda so take everything with a grain of salt..and a glass of wine.

Wine & Spirits Trends of 2011

As we enter 2011 here are some trends to look for in the coming year.

Malbecs from Argentina are still hot.

Carmenere from Chile will be one of the next grapes to see influx of. Brought from Bordeaux over 100 years ago, it’s no longer common in Bordeaux.

Root beer & cotton candy are next in the flavored vodka segment. Root beer floats to be a cocktail we will see.

Obscure varietals such as Ruche & Grignolino, etc. from Italy will make some head way.

Micro brewed beers are still gaining steam & fans.

New Zealand’s sauvignon blancs will continue to see their rise and the emergence of NZ pinot noirs may give other pinots a run for their money.

Robert Craig Winery


Robert Craig has been in the wine industry for over three decades having been General Manager of Hess Collection Winery and helping to emphasis the the unique qualities that mountain fruit can have when making wine. Mountain fruit is better structured, concentrated than valley fruit & can age better. He’s helped develop hundreds of acres on Mt. Veeder & when he started his own winery in 1992 he wanted to use fruit from both Mt. Veeder in southern Napa Valley & Howell Mtn. further north and across the valley. He also makes a limited wine from Spring Mountain. Known for their big style Cabernet Sauvignons Robert Craig Winery has garnered not only some great press over the years, but also a cult like following. I had the chance to see Robert once again when he was in town and taste some recent releases. I also had a chance to chat with him and he is looking forward to the 2010 vintage and says production could be lower than previous vintages.

Here is what I tasted with Robert and my thoughts….

The 2009 Durell Vyd. Chardonnay Sonoma Valley was just released and I was one of the 1st people to taste it. Lively and soft I found it very well balanced with good fruit, oak & mineral characters. Only 588 cases produced.

The 2007 Howell Mtn. Cabernet Sauvignon had big tannins, a good fruit character and nice long finish. Built to last (like all his Cabs.) this shows the depth of how mountain(2,300 ft up) fruit differs from valley fruit. He recommends decanting. 1,488 cases produced.

The 2007 Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon has softer tannins, bigger concentration of fruit combined with good acidity and see’s almost 2 years in french oak barrels. One of his most age worthy wines and patience will be rewarded. 1,480 cases produced.

The 2008 Affinity Cabernet Sauvignon is considered by many to be his flagship wine. A Bordeaux blend of mostly Cabernet, followed by Petite Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc & Malbec offers some unique flavors thanks to the mix of grapes and changes from year to year. Currants and spice are prevalent along with a medium body make the 4,780 cases produced always a winner with the consumer and the press.

He also makes small amounts of Zinfandel and a Mt. George Cuvee. His wines are not found everywhere, but they’re well worth the search. So next time you’re looking for a big Napa Valley Cabernet or if you’re a collector Robert Craig wines needs to be in your collection. You won’t be disappointed.

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse’s Memorable Meal for 2 & Fall Prix Fixe Menu

I recently had the pleasure of joining about 12 other lucky souls who had the chance to taste 2 of Fleming’s Steakhouse new programs and their new release of their own wine 46 Diamonds. We were hosted by Scottsdale’s Operating Partner Michael Head who guided us through our experience. Here is what Flemings has to offer.

We were greeted with a new cocktail just in time for the holidays The Merry Maker’s is made with Maker’s Mark bourbon and Chambord then shaken with orange, pomegranate & cranberry juices. Quite a tasty cocktail and as one guest said “I don’t like bourbon, but I really like this”.

We then proceeded to sample the Fall Prix Fixe menu which consists of
Your choice of Oysters Rockefeller or Autumn Salad for appetizer then for an entree your choice of Veal Osso Bucco or Cioppino. For dessert you get a slice of Dark Chocolate Cheesecake. All were very good and everybody enjoyed what was tasted so far. I really enjoyed the Oysters Rockefeller. The Prix Fixe menu costs $39.95 per person and runs through Jan. 3 2011.

We then moved on to The Memorable Meal for Two which is The Cellar Master’s Filet & Maine Lobster Tail. You start with a Caesar Salad with a King Crab Crostini followed by Filet Mignon & Maine Lobster Tail and a side of Maple roasted baby carrots. For dessert you’re served Carrot Cake with Dark Rum Caramel. I’m not a big carrot cake fan, but this may have changed my mind. All for $99 for 2 dinners. This runs through Dec. 15 2010 so hurry and reserve this soon.

We were also treated to the new release of Fleming’s own wine Forty Six 46 Diamonds. This years bottling is a collaboration with Fleming’s Director of Wine Marian Jansen op de Haar & Schug winery team of Sonoma County. This Cabernet Sauvignon is blended with Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot & Malbec from very reputable vineyards in the Sonoma Valley.It is medium bodied with with good tannins and fruit and showed a very elegant, long finish. A nice compliment to any meal you may be enjoying. Only 388 cases were made of this and can be had by the glass for $16.50 or $65 for a bottle.

Make reservations soon for these limited time specials and even more limited wine.
There are 4 Phoenix are locations and several more throughout the country. 905 North 54th Street, Chandler, AZ 85226 480-940-1900
20753 North Pima Road, North Scottsdale, AZ 85255 480-538-8000
9712 West Northern Avenue, Peoria, AZ 85345 623-772-9463
6333 North Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85250 480-596-8265
http://www.flemingssteakhouse.com/

You’re not into wine if……….

Over the years as I’ve been a wine professional I’ve been introduced to plenty of people who when they found out that I am in the wine business their first reaction was “cool”, followed by “I am so into wine”. Whether it was the film “Sideways” that influenced them or the fact that wine drinking has become main stream, wine consumption has surpassed beer consumption, just because you drink wine does not mean you are “into” wine. The same way one is not “into” photography if they buy a disposable camera every time they go on vacation.
So I’ve come up with several criteria to let those people who think they are “into” wine know that they are not into wine. If your attitude toward wine fits this criteria then, sorry, “you’re not into wine” you’re just a wine drinker.

If you can’t pronounce or know the difference between…..If you emphasize the ”t” at the end of merlot or the “s” at the end of pinot gris when asking for a glass not knowing they are silent. If you don’t know that pinot grigio & pinot gris are the same grape or that syrah & shiraz are also the same grape just called differently based on where they come from, you’re not into wine. I don’t know how many times people have said to me that they love shiraz, but don’t like syrah and are amazed to find out that it’s the same grape.
If you buy your wine based on “critter” labels or funky names……. You know what I am talking about, those cute little animals on the label that don’t even exist or a funny name of a wine with a sexual innuendo(Menage a trois) or a description of your ex-husband(Fat Bastard). Things that have nothing to do with the wine itself, just marketing 101. Its not about what’s on the bottle, but what’s in the bottle. If this is you, you’re not into wine, you’re into marketing.
This can also be said for people who by their wines based on “ratings” that some wines get. People who buy only wines rated ”90”points and above. Keep in mind that the people who rated these wines are only a few and like everything else nowadays, politics come into play. Can you say “pay to play”. There are plenty of great wines that don’t rate 90 points or above that drink real well.
If you are married to a wine…… Anytime I try to introduce people to a new wine, say chardonnay, I tend to hear “It’s my favorite” or “I’ll stick to what I like” referring to the chardonnay they ALWAYS drink. I tell them its OK to “cheat” on your favorite, it will never know. Its OK to have a favorite, we all do, our favorite pizza place, flavor of ice cream or even beer,(anybody see a food or drink trend here) but it’s always fun to find a new favorite & have old stand by that will always be there for us in our time of need. If you’re into wine you should be open to trying new wines is my point.
This also includes those that like to “play it safe”, jeez! it’s a wine recommendation not a stock recommendation.
If you buy your wine at a supermarket or big box retailer…….I know, I know some of these places have a better selection than they did 10 years ago but unless they have a wine savvy person working in the wine dept., this does not mean shelf stockers, you are better off going to a wine shop, or at least a place that specializes in wine & spirits. Most of the big box retailers stock the mass marketed wines from big companies who use marketing to influence buyers(see criteria #2). At the wines shops you can speak w/ a person who actually makes the decision to stock these wines, not a corporate buyer in an office wondering if we sell 20,000 cases will I get to go to Hawaii again this year. The wine shops and specialty retailers actually have knowledgeable people work there & who enjoy wines themselves. You may be able to taste the wine before you buy, plus how else would you find out about that cool new pinot noir from Oregon that only 750 cases were made or that Napa cab that all your friends that are into wine are drinking and talking about. If you were into photography would’nt you visit the local camera shop to see the latest and greatest camera’s, lenses’s & equipment, not to mention chat w/ the owner and employees to show the picture of that beautiful sunset you took in Turks and Caicos.
If you don’t drink a certain varietal……If you only drink red wine and swear off whites’s for no apparent reason then you are only into red wines. I understand you can’t like everything, I don’t, but not to drink white wine or certain varietals completely insane. I particularly don’t care for chards that are too oaky, but that does’nt mean I won’t try others when the opportunity presents itself. Saying red wine is better for you so you don’t whites is really missing the boat, especially when certain white wines pair well with certain foods.
If you spend 20 minutes………walking the wine aisle’s reading the descriptions and end up with the same wine you always buy. In this “I’m so busy” world we live in nowadays to spend that much time window shopping, knowing you’re going to play it safe does not show a real open mindedness to being into wine.

The moral of this story is that nowadays there is an ocean of wine out there. Hundred’s of different varietals coming from all over the world, not to mention the wines and places we have not seen yet. China, Israel and other countries we don’t associate w/ grape growing and wine making will soon be exporting in years to come. Wine is a ‘want”, not a “need” and despite what you hear there really are no rules with wine drinking, just drink what you want and what you like. I only ask that you keep an open mind as a consumer and not be afraid to try something new when its offered. Obviously if its more money than you are willing to spend, I understand. That reminds me of a guy I was talking to about a exceptional $11 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon the other day when he said “ I have to do my research”, I chuckled and I proceeded to give him a bottle thinking he meant take it home and drink it. What he really meant was to go home and research it on the Internet. I was thinking it’s not a car or big ticket item, it’s an $11 bottle of wine.
So if you really are into wine, great happy drinking, but if you think you are “into” wine and only drink wine quit pretending. If you just drink wine and don’t take it too seriously, cool! No harm, no foul maybe some day you will expand your horizons and you will see what the wonderful world of wine has to offer.

Why it’s good to be a wine consumer now in 2010.

With more wine on the market than ever before it’s good to be wine consumer. Figure that not just is there more wine being imported from all over the world, all 50 states have bonded and licensed wineries. Keep in mind you’re going to see more and more wine hitting our shores from countries you least expect i.e. China, eastern Europe, etc then take into consideration the economy you have lots of supply & growing demand= lower prices. Prices are lower than they have been in previous years, high end wineries are either dropping prices or selling of wine to “negociants” like Cameron Hughes, Heron wines & Castle Rock, just to name a few. Big box store and small retailers are having private labels bottled for them or “exclusives” as we say.
There is no better time to try a new varietal(cabernet franc, grenache)you’ve always been curious about. Or how about something from a part of the world you’ve be hesitant to buy(South Africa, Portugal). Quality of wines are far above where they were thanks to new technology, colleges offering course in wine making and winemakers and grape growers experimenting and pushing the boundaries.

At some point the economy will do a 180 and things will be good again, wineries will increase their prices when inventories level level off & demand comes back. But will prices go back up to where they were? Who knows, if consumer will pay that high prices again after seeing that they can pay significantly less for the same wine. It’s only a good time time to be a wine consumer if you take advantage of it. Playing it safe and drinking the same wine will generate the same result, but trying new wines at this time should generate new experiences & new found favorites.

So take advantage of the wine economy 2010 and don’t let these opportunities pass you by and leaving you wondering “what if”.