Crane Brothers 2006 Brodatious


Michael and Robert Crane have been making wine since 2001 using grapes from their families 9 acre Crane Ranch Vineyard in the Oak Knoll district of Napa Valley. The vineyards are on the valley floor and on the hillsides above and are overseen by Jon Anthony Truchard. Using organic and sustainable farming methods they produce less than 400 cases each of their wines.
Winemaker Al Perry has been making Crane Brothers wines since the beginning. He also makes wine for Robert Biale Vineyards where he is also co-owner. In his 25 year plus career, Al has made wine for some of the most well respected wineries in Napa Valley including Stags Leap Winery and Opus One as well as for Yalumba in Australia.

The 2006 Brodatious is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah and is aged in French oak. Big and juicy at the beginning this wine has nuances of black cherry and berries. Spices and oak along with softer tannins gives it a nice lingering finish. ABV is 14.5% and should retail for about $35

2010 Kogl “Mea Culpa” Ranina


Back in 1542 is when Kogl Estates starting producing wine in the Podravje region of Slovenia, not far from the Hungarian and Croatian borders. It was dormant for quite a while until 1983 when the Svetko family bought the winery and vineyards and brought both back online. Using both old world traditions and new world technology Kogl specialty is white wines, with red wines having been recently added to their portfolio. Dessert wines are also being made.

The 2010 Ranina is rare grape and translates to “early ripening”. With a pretty nose of honey and wild flower, the wine is dry on the 1st sip and has a good mouth texture. Good acidity and fruit gives this wine a nice balance that could be paired with both hot and cold foods. It could also be drank by itself. This wine is an excellent example of a rare grape from an emerging wine region.

Wines of Croatia & Slovenia



Some of the most exciting new wines coming to the United States are the delicious and racy wines from Eastern European countries such as Croatia & Slovenia. Situated on the north and eastern side of the Adriatic Sea and across from Italy both countries have centuries of wine making tradition that has only recently become evident in the U.S. Making both wines from grapes only found in their respected countries and grapes that are internationally known, both Croatia and Slovenia wines are being widely accepted by great retailers and restaurants around the country. Many are practicing natural methods of wine making using only grapes and natural yeast, which allows for the terroir to speak through the wine. So don’t be surprised to see some of these wines at your local wine shop or restaurant. And more importantly give them a try.

Coronica Malvasia is a crisp, acidic white wine that offers good fruit, minerality and is a well balanced food wine. Grown in nutrient rich soil & near the sea, it benefits from the Mediterranean climate found in the Istrian region of northern Croatia. This wine would go great with both fish and lighter fare foods. Retails for about $20.

Kabaj Sivi Pinot is known as pinot grigio outside of Slovenia and is made by Frenchman Jean Michel Morel and his wife Katja Kabaj at there western Slovenian winery, not far from Collio Italy. The Kabaj family has been selling grapes for generations and only started making wine in the 1993 after Slovenia disbanded from Yugoslavia. With vineyards near the Italian border, Kabaj makes wine in a very old world style using clay vats (called “Qveri amphora”) for fermenting and aging in some of their wines.
This full bodied pinot is crisp, lively and dry also shows good fruit and complexity rarely found in pinot grigio’s. It is aged for a year in oak and held back 3 years prior to release. It would go well with shellfish, cheese’s and fruits. Retail is about $20.

2009 Coturri Testa Vineyards Carignane


3rd generation winemaker Tony Coturri gets the grapes for his Carignane from 3rd generation grape growers, Testa Family and their 70 year old vines in Mendocino County. Carignane is a grape usually found in the Rhone region & southern France and is usually used as a blending grape. Less than 1,000 cases of this rare bottling are made. Coturri does not use chemical or additives on his wines & uses natural yeast and his wines are not filtered or fined. This gives the truest expression of the vineyard & terroir.

The 09 vintage has a rich, red color that is dry, yet still has nice fruit at the start, along with medium tannins and a spicy finish that lingers on the palate. A well balanced wine that goes well with grilled meats and roasts. A great opportunity to experience Carignane if you’ve never had one before. 13.9% ABV Suggested retail should be less than $25.00 www.coturriwinery.com

The Narrow Minded Wine Buyer

As I have chosen a career in the wine industry I’ve been on both sides of the equation, buying & selling. Buying for retailers and selling both wholesale & retail, I’ve come across many narrowed minded people.. retailers, restaurateurs and consumers who choose not embrace the ever evolving world of wine. Even after 18 years in the industry I am always learning about new varietals, wine regions, etc. that become available. I only wish more people would not take wine so seriously to the point where they won’t try something new and tend to play it safe w/ predictable purchases. I understand that there is only so much shelve space in a retail shop or so much room on a restaurant’s wine list, but to hear some of the excuses is somewhat sad. Most of the excuses come from people who started a career doing something else & liked wine or cashed in some stock options and opened a wine bar/retailer. It’s usually these people who feel that actually “selling” wine becomes a burden. Some will say “I don’t have demand for …”, so do you create the demand using passion & enthusiasm, not to mention there are many opportunities nowadays to taste consumers. I look at like which comes first, the chicken or the egg.

Wine is meant to be fun and enjoyable and part of the fun is being open to new varietals such as Malvasia, Tannat, Gamay, etc. Having spoken to other wine industry people and even tasted wine w/ them we’ve wondered why more people don’t embrace lesser known varietals. After all grapes are grapes like apples are apples with similar textures but different uses and taste profiles and their is not something so off the charts in there taste. The best advice I can give to people about wine is to keep an opened mind. Another post I did which may be the precursor to this one. http://pullingcorksandforks.blogspot.com/2010/07/youre-not-into-wine-if.html

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.

The Macallan Single Malt Scotch Whiskey tasting

Having been invited to a Macallan Single Malt Scotch whiskey tasting recently, I thought it would make an interesting post. Like many wine & spirits, single malt whiskeys have an acquired taste and usually require multiple tastes to acclimate your palate. Different nuances splash your palate the same way wine would. The tasting was led by Macallan U.S. Ambassador Eden Algie, a Scotsman and proud of it. Eden walked us through a history of Scotland’s whiskey industry, the different regions & types of whiskey and what sets Macallan apart from the rest. All done in a very funny and informative manner. Macallan has been distilling whiskey since 1824 in the Highland region of Scotland and is the 3rd largest single malt whiskey distiller, producing over 500,000 cases a year.

Macallan is a single malt whiskey, which means that what’s in the bottle comes a “single” distillery & comes from only malted barley. Unlike blended whiskey’s that are not only blended from different distilleries, they can use malted barley but other cereals also. At Macallan they use sherry oak barrels barrels for the aging. We tasted 4 of the offerings including 10, 12, & 15 year old in sherry oak and a 15 year old in fine oak. All had very distinctive tastes, some were tasted neat(no ice or water) & some were tasted with a few drops of water to open it up a bit. There are no rules to how you drink your whiskey, whether you like it neat, over ice or with a splash of water. Enjoy it how you like it. That being said one should always try it by itself before you choose to add ice or water so that you may taste it in its truest form. I was surprised to learn that Macallan is owned by a charitable trust and that they do a lot for charity. They recently raised $460,000 for Charity Water w/ a 64 year old bottle in a crystal decanter called “Lalique: Cire Perdue”.

So as you expand your palate for new libations, one should give single malt whiskey a try and for that I like Macallan.

Wines of Paso Robles




On a beautiful Wednesday afternoon in Paradise Valley, Arizona over 30 of Paso Robles 200 wineries were in attendance showcasing their wines as part of the Paso Robles Winery Alliance Tour.

Paso Robles is situated half way between Los Angeles & San Francisco. Although it’s not far from the Pacific Ocean, Paso does not get the cooling oceans breezes that many other coastal areas get, therefore the days are hot & nights cool down. Those conditions make for some big, lush Cabernets Sauvignons, Syrahs & Zinfandels. Though those grapes are the main attraction from Paso Robles you also see Viognier, Chardonnay and other lesser planted varietals, can you say Touriga Nacional or Verdelho just to name a few. Still with a small town atmosphere Paso grower & producers work together, trading secrets, buying & selling of grapes for the over all good of promoting Paso as a wine destination for wine producing and visiting. The most commonly asked question in Paso is “Are you on the West side or East side” as Highway 101 runs right through the town and wineries and vineyards are each side and both sides have micro climates that will affect grape growing.

Many great wines were tasted and even greater people including several owners and wine makers were in attendance to talk about their passion for wine. Some delicious Chardonnay’s & Zins were present from Sextant Wines, Robert Hall was in the house pouring his line up of whites & reds as was brewer turned winemaker & winery owner Sherman Thatcher of his namesake winery. Thatcher Winery makes only 1,800-2,000 cases and does a great job with 2004 being his 1st vintage. Former Wild Horse owner & founder Kenneth Volk was talking up his his newest wines from his latest label(he sold Wild Horse a few years back). Halter Ranch Vineyards who grows grapes for a lot of Paso producers also makes some wine themselves and gets a little crazy with their Cotes de Paso blends using rarely drank Picpoul Blanc & Grenache Blanc in the whites & tiny bits of Counoise & Cinsault in the reds. It was good to re visit the wines of Eberle winery with Marcy & Gary Eberle as it was the 1st time since I spent a birthday at their winery tasting wine & toasting the sunset. One of my final stops was at Justin Winery’s table to taste some recent offerings and wonder if the wines will be the same now that Justin just sold the winery to the Fiji Water Co.

It was great to see some of the newbies of Paso Robles wine scene and some of the veterans who have blazed a trail to put Paso on the wine map. Big & bold wines seem to be the reputation for Paso wines, but I’m glad to report that there is also an elegant side to many of the wines tasted, showing some well balanced wines. Cheers! www.pasowine.com