Friday, December 21, 2007

What is a connoisseur?

Like I said, I just dig wine. While I did run a wine bar for almost 2 years, I just enjoy wine and love to find good juice for great prices! I don't profess to be an expert but I know what I like. Do you? Well you're a connoisseur too!

For your reference, here's an actual definition of connoisseur for you!

December 20, 2007 Newsletter

Wine for the holidays? Go for bubbly!

Champagne is a versatile wine and it more or less 'goes with anything'. Too often it is relegated to "celebration only" status, but it's that time of year! Vintage Dom Perignon for $123 may be too much but there are plenty of quality wines out there from Spain, California and even some bargains FROM Champagne (i.e. the Champagne region of France). I hit Sam's and Costco over the weekend and found some great pricing and options for you. Costco had the better deal on Veuve Clicqout (look for the famous yellow label) as it was $42 (Sam's $45) and Perrier Jouet Brut for $29 (vs. Sam's @ $35). Sam's had a few that Costco didn't, such as Roderer Estate (a CA wine from the makers of $250 Cristal) for $19 and a really fun Cava (sparkling wine made like Champagne, but from Spain) called Cordoniu for $10 (don't be afraid that it's a Rosé-it's very dry). For a sweet dessert bubbly get the Rosa Regale from Italy for $17. One of my favorites at Costco is the Piper Heidsick Rosé for $30, or Costco's own Kirkland Rosé (also a true French Champagne) for the same price. A big surprise was seeing 90 points for Kirkland's $23 Brut (a "Top 100" wine from Wine Spectator as well!). Always popular Möet et Chandon "White Star" is about $36 (Chandon's CA version is only $15). Rounding out "the cheapies", go for Cristalino for under $6 (always a top seller) or Gloria Ferrer (CA, 90pts???) for $14. Final shot? Look for Segura Viudas from Spain for around $7. I LOVE that one! Happy New Year to us! (more...)

My other blogs

My email newsletters are ordinarily split into three groups: Wine Tips, Economic News and Miscellaneous ramblings. Instead of saving each 'full' email in one blog, I split them into three separate blogs. Here we have the Miscellaneous Ramblings blog, which is "Bo Knows". The Economic News blog is "Bo Knows The Economy". Finally, wine tips can be found at "Bo Know VINO". All in good fun.... If all else fails, check out my website too! Cheers!

Here are all my previous wine tips from Weekly emails!

Here are all my previous "year to date" tips. Enjoy!

December 7, 2007 “Drink to your health!”

As you already know, I am a red wine lover. Unless you've been under a rock, you've probably heard about the potential 'healthy' effects of drinking red wine in moderation (yes, RED wine... TRIVIA: Who wrote the song "Red Red Wine"?). Good cholesteral (HDL's) measurements commonly rise with red wine drinkers and there are several books about "the French paradox". I actually "lived" the French paradox while spending about 2 months near Lyon, France (and lost over 10 lbs even though I ate a LOT of pastry, desserts, red meat, and pommes frites). What's it all about? Well, many French foods have heavy and/or fattening ingredients. You'd expect to see a very obese and unhealthy populace but overall they are not as fat as Americans (sad truth-I figued out which departure gate was mine due to a convergence of large people wearing sweatsuits). Red wine has large amounts of antioxidants (such as Resveratrol) which have been linked to lower instances of heart disease. Other antioxidants found in red wine are known as polyphenols. Wines from Bordeaux, Cotes du Rhone, Bourgogne and Sardinia Italy have the highest levels of procyanidins-the compounds in grape seeds responsible for making red wine good for the heart. Full disclosure: you can find many of the same properties in cocoa (ooh..chocolate!) and blueberries. But a nice glass of wine goes much better with my steak!

November 15, 2007 Thanksgiving wine/Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive!

The turkey is in the oven, you're watching the Macy's Parade (wave at Mark Z & family) but you've got to plan on what to drink for the feast. You've got a wonderful 1997 Cabernet (the "Vintage of the Century" per the wine mags) that's been aging peacefully in the cellar, laid down since its' release. Well, guess what--this is NOT the occasion! Save it for your wonderful roast beast on Christmas night! Thanksgiving means Turkey and turkey needs something less tannic and more smooth. A white fan? Well, this is one of the rare times you'll hear me recommending Chardonnay. Go for a French Burgundy or an American approximation like from Acacia or other Carneros &/or Russian River juice. As far as reds go, I'd say Pinot Noir from the same places. Both areas have climates that are perfect for such a 'difficult' grape. The only bummer with Pinot is that it's tough to find a good inexpensive one. Oregon makes great Pinots as well. What are some alternatives? Viognier is always a favorite white and if your tastes run sweeter, a DRY (note the CAPS!) Riesling would be nice or even a Gerwurtztraminer (ger-Vurtz-trah-ME-ner). Finally--a family tradition for me is to bring home some Beaujolais Nouveau. This is more or less the first release from the Beaujolais region and it's meant to be drunk young (don't buy it after January even on special!) and it's very fruit-forward. Chill it slightly for even more fun! The grape is Gamay and you'll love it with the bird! CLICK here: (more...)

November 8, 2007 Miscellaneous “Wining”

No whining here! Just some random thoughts...

Cheap wine can be your friend! The "Round One" zinfandel that I found at BJ's wholesale club is now only $3.88! The "RED" from St. Francis I mentioned is evidently not at all Costco locations, FYI. Nice wine gift baskets are showing up at the warehouses as well--I picked up some Ravenswood (4 bottles of "Vintner's Blend" varietals + a cool tray!) at Sam's for $29

If you live in Cobb County, you MUST brave the Barrett Parkway traffic to visit Total Wine and More. It's next to Target where Media Play used to be located. Put it this way--did you ever visit Media Play when it was open? Think about how big that space was and picture it stocked with wine, beer and more--all at killer prices! Check it out!

Need some nice glassware? Get to Cost Plus World Market before their sale ends (Sat?)--they have various stems that are VERY similar to pricey Riedel stems--only $30 for 6! You can use them daily and won't cry if you break one ; )

What is a connoisseur? People who know how geeked I am about wine tend to introduce me as a wine connoisseur. I'm flattered, but in response to that I'd say do you know what you like? Then YOU are a connoisseur! You could try every wine I've ever recommended but you may hate them all! If your favorite wine is $5 or $50, as long as YOU are happy, NO WORRIES : ) Drink what you like, don't put up with snobs--ask questions and don't be afraid to try something new!

October 26, 2007 “What’s in your barrel?”

I've talked a bit about regions in France and how many wines are blends of grapes typical for that region. As noted previously, Rhône wines ordinarily contain Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Bordeaux wines are primarily blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. The English commonly call these wines Claret (Claire-ette) and in America, there are producers who call their Bordeaux blends "Meritage". Snobby waiters try to (incorrectly) say "Meri-taj" but remember this is an American creation. The word is a blend of Merit and Heritage and rhymes with the latter. Go forth and impress your friends! Click on the "more" link at the end for more info.

So you've got all this wine in barrels left over from your expensive blend (Opus One anyone? Merryvale Profile? YUM!) and don't want to flood the market (which would hurt the exclusivity and make the price drop). Why not take that wine and make a cheaper blend? I already talked about a mid-priced zin producer and its $6 'cheapie', now I have a new one-"RED" ($9 at Costco) from St. Francis. I'd call it a Bordeaux blend (see above) but they also add Zinfandel. Try it! While you're there, several other blends are available such as Peter Lehmann's Clancy's Reserve (Shiraz/Cab/Merlot, $14.50-90pts. WS), Big House Red ($7 from Bonny Doon), a "Rhône" blend from South Africa (Goat Roti, from Goats du Roam $14). Heck, they even have a $9 Bordeaux (80% Merlot 20% Cab). Go wild, they're not too pricey! Enjoy! (more...)

October 19, 2007 “What’s in your glass?”

I tend to talk about full-bodied reds and this week's topic is no exception. Another favorite wine is produced from Grenache (gren-aash). The grapes like hot climates so you'll normally find them produced in Australia, Southern France and in Spain (where it's called Garnacha). An article I read recently noted that grenache is one of the world's most highly planted grapes, if not THE highest (I learned something new!). I have mentioned Rhône wines before; many of them are Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre blends (which is why you commonly see "GSM" as an abbreviation). I recently saw a Rosemount GSM at Costco for around $18 and you may be able to find Ravenswood "Icon" for about $16, but it is primarily Syrah). Many Châteauneuf-du-Pape's from France are primarily Grenache, but likewise are blended with Syrah and Mourvèdre. They tend to be a bit more pricey (usually about $45). As for Garnacha, a favorite is Las Rocas (around $10) or their amazing Viñas Viejas (about $20) which is more of a 'reserve' wine (the more expensive bottle has a traditional Syrah or Pinot shape). Bringing up the bargain bin is Torres "Malena" Garnacha, which I found at Sam's for $6.88! Another bargain is La Vielle Ferme (which may totally be spelled wrong as it's been a while) that I found in 1.5L format at Pearson's for around $10-another GSM blend from the Rhône region of France. Note: some of these may seem to smell a bit 'off' when first opened; decant or give them some time to open up! Enjoy!

October 12, 2007 “Fall Means HARVEST”

First things first--I want to credit my friend Mike Mears for the photo he took in Sonoma, CA recently. Take a look at the grape cluster-just about time to harvest! I got an email from Justin Vineyards today noting that they are halfway through harvest. Can you believe that their white wines are already in bottles at this point? They began harvesting whites in August and expect to be finished with reds by month-end (Merlot & Syrah are aging in barrels while their Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc are still fermenting). It's amazing to see the process in action. One of the coolest things it to be able to steal some wine! (No, not really but there was this one interesting story at Ravenswood that I could tell you about...) Confused? I'm talking about barrel samples as the tool used to pull wine out of a barrel is called a "wine thief" (which looks like a long glass turkey baster to me). It's interesting to taste the wine at different stages in the aging process. Most reds could be harsh and tannic or totally 'fruit bombs' when they begin the process. Over time the tannins can ease or the fruit may take on flavors from the oak barrels. Either way, I highly encourage you to "Go West" and visit the wine country soon. If you have several days, make sure to visit Sonoma (laid back) but if you have only a day/afternoon, head to Napa (can be snobby?) as you can visit several vineyards in a row. Ask me before you go! Cool weather now, think RED! (like Zin & Syrah) (more...)

October 5, 2007 “What’s in your bottle?”

When is a Pinot Noir not a Pinot Noir? How about Chardonnay? If you want to venture to Europe you may have trouble understanding their labels. If you were in the French wine section of your local store you'd have to search for wines from Burgundy to find these varietals. For example, Chablis produces wonderful chardonnays (nope, not those screw-top jug wines at Grandma's). Burgundy is comprised of five main wine producing areas: Chablis, Côte d'Or, Côte Chalonnaise, Maconnais and Beaujolais (Beaujolais wines are usually made from the Gamay grape). Other 'typical' wines? Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc's make up a high percentage of Bordeaux wines as do Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion. Chenin Blanc? Try Loire or Alsâce. Rhône wines are typically some blend of Grenache, Syrah and/or Mourvèdre for reds, Viognier, Rousanne or Marsanne for whites (many similar California blends from Paso Robles are produced by members of the "Rhône Rangers" who have an affinity for Rhône wines). Spain produces wonderful Temperanillo and Monastrell (or Mourvèdre) wines. Many German wines are made from Riesling. Going to Tuscany? Hopefully you'll enjoy some great Chianti (which is Sangiovese). If you hear the term "Super-tuscan" it refers to the practice of blending Sangiovese with Merlot and/or Cabernet).

September 21, 2007 “Celebration = Champagne!”

As the subject line proclaims, this is the Anniversary Edition! A year ago this Sunday I was lucky enough to be married to Susie and it's been a wonderful thing! We are heading out of town later today to celebrate! When YOU think of a celebration, do you think of bubbly? We do! Here are some great options for you.

While you can spend over $100 on a vintage bottle of Dom Perignon or Tattinger you can likewise find some great wines at a more reasonable price. Two 'standards' are Moët et Chandon "White Star" (usu. around $30) or Veuve Clicquot (look for the Orange label, about $35). For value hunters, look to Spain or California. While they are not allowed to be called champagne (as they are not made in the Champagne region of France) they are usually made in the style of champagne (méthod champenoise). Cava from Spain? Try Cristalino or Segura Viudas (both around $7!). Most of the well-known French houses have set up shop in California. Instead of $190 for Roderer Cristal (FR), try Roderer Estate (CA) for $22. Domaine Chandon or Mumm Cuvée Napa are also excellent choices, usually in the $15 range. Don't be afraid to go pink either! Rosé is pink in color, Blanc de Noir is 'off-pink' and both have lovely flavors (not 'sweet' but more floral and fruity). An off the wall place that makes incredible sparkles? New Mexico! Look for Gruet and expect to pay around $18 for award-winning wines. Try Italian Prosecco for a lighter/sweeter option. (more...)

September 14, 2007 “What’s in your glass-or what glass is it IN?”

Confused? Let's talk about crystal! Look at the photo and you'll see 3 glasses that are specifically designed for Cabernet and/or Merlot wines. 2 have stems and one has a flat bottom so it won't tip over. One thing you should notice is that they all more or less share the same shape--a wider middle section with a more narrow top (sounds like life after 40). Why are they made like this? When you drink that particular varietal (i.e. that type of grape) these glasses are designed to accentuate specific characteristics of the wine. I know it sounds crazy, but you can taste side by side and really discern the difference! I am not going to go into a ton of detail about why certain glasses are better for certain types of wine so I attached a link to Riedel if you are interested in learning more. (Fact to know--it's pronounced REEDLE like needle). You can find similar glasses at a cheaper price than Riedel but make sure that the rim of the glass is smooth without any 'speed bumps'. Look at a typical restaurant wine goblet--that heavy edge around the top makes the glass more durable, but it can really screw up the flavor. Other things that cause issues with your wine enjoyment relate to cleaning and storage. Smell your glass BEFORE pouring your wine. If you smell dish soap, rinse it out. If you store your glasses upside down you may smell the wood (ditto if in an enclosed cabinet). % (more...)

September 7, 2007 “What to drink this weekend-or what we DRANK”
I said what we DRANK because I helped out with a great wine tasting last night. As you may guess, I chose 'different' wines. We held the event at Vino 100 in Alpharetta (link to their site below) and had a great turnout. All of the wines we had were perfect for the heat and are great food wines. We started with a Vinho Verde from Portugal (which literally means Green Wine). "VV" is nicely acidic and has a bit of effervescence. Perfect to kick off an evening (and it went well with the prosciutto wrapped asparagus and cream cheese!). Up next was a Vouvray, which is a French wine made from Chenin Blanc (a future topic will talk about how most European wines are named for their regions, not their grape like in America). This wine was a bit too fruity for some last night, but I found it to be just 'peachy' (yep, crisp, but with some peach, apricot and floral notes). Our first red was an excellent Pinot Noir called "Grateful Red" (pun fully intended!). This "kind" wine was a perfect transition wine, with light cherry and strawberry fruit. The 4th choice was Plungerhead Zinfandel, which has an interesting closure--not a cork, not a screwtop, but a Zork! Pick up a bottle and see for yourself, but the contents are what matters--perfect zin attributes with a nice finish. Final shot (and favorite) was Petite/Petit (Petite Verdot and Petit Sirah). Big mouthfeel with teeth-staining plum & blueberry flavors. Go see Pete Servold at Vino 100 soon! Blame me! (more...)

August 31, 2007 “What to drink this weekend: Step out of that box!”
Nothing against wines sold in a box, but I happen to prefer wine in bottles... Regardless, I want you to take a walk on the wild side. When I used to run a wine bar (ages ago), I would go out of my way to NOT pour common wines at events. If you wanted a Cabernet, Merlot or Chardonnay you had to look elsewhere. If you wanted a Dolcetto or Vernaccia you would be in luck! As we are finishing out the summer (i.e. it's still HOT!) let's focus on a lesser known white wine--VIOGNIER (vee-own-yay). Viognier is commonly grown in the Rhône region of France but has also found success in some parts of California. I was in Costco recently (Factoid: I once read that Costco sells more wine than any other store in the US!?!) and found 2 wonderful examples. The bad news is that Viognier is not as common in stores, so you may pay a bit more than my previously-recommended $5.88 Zinfandel (which just went up to $5.99 I found!). The two I found at Costco were Rosenblum (around $14) and Treana (a blend-around $17). Both are excellent examples and are great food wines. They tend to have somewhat of a honeysuckle, floral and peach aroma and are dry, medium-bodied with a lot of fruit flavors. Pork would pair well with Viognier, as would mild cheeses and lightly flavored fish (i.e. not an overly fleshy or "fishy" fish). Pick up some pork tenderloin and use a nice spice rub (try Grill Creations Citrus blend); grill it (along with fresh grilled asparagus!) for a wonderful meal! (more...)

August 24, 2007 “What to try this weekend?”

I actually have been 'hitting the grill' a lot lately! Ribs, split chicken breasts and some steak have recently graced our dinner table (and you know there was some ZIN to be had as well!). This weekend we have to visit my sister in Spartanburg where I bet there will be some time spent in her pool! Just like Atlanta, it's been pretty hot and I expect the pool to be somewhat like bathwater. C'est la vie, my thought is to enjoy one of my favorite whites, Sauvignon Blanc (I know, dear friends from the past, this is yet another repeat).

It's hot, why not try something light and refreshing? Sauv Blanc is a great food wine versus everyone's favorite Chardonnay. Chardonnay tends to overpower food due to its' oak and 'buttery' flavor (though this makes it perfect to go with crabcakes, scallops and lobster, but I digress). Sauv Blanc is keen with oysters, but I think we may be out of season soon? How about a nice starter course of salad? Take a 'tube' of goat cheese, slice them into quarter inch rounds (run your knife under hot water); dip them in egg (or if you want to be more healthy, olive oil) and coat with breadcrumbs. Bake in the oven until slightly brown--then place on a bed of fresh spinach (or mixed greens) with a nice vinaigrette (try Good Seasons Italian--but only the kind you make yourself). My wife Susie adds apples (such as granny smith) to give it a bit more kick. Either way, you have a simple salad that goes well with Sauvignon Blanc.

What to buy? Here we go again--Monkey Bay is a cheapie that you can find in any grocery. I usually avoid California Sauv Blanc as they tend to be 'oaked' vs. being fermented in stainless steel tanks (in a nutshell--stainless steel keeps the wine crisp whereas (ooh--a lawyer word!) oak adds the woodsy flavor that's great for Chardonnay but not for my buddy Sauv Blanc). Other safe bets? ANYTHING from New Zealand, specifically from the Marlborough region. Chile has great offerings as well (Veramonte, Morande, etc.). Final shot: if you STILL think a wine needs to be expensive to taste good, check this out: (more...)

August 17, 2007 “What wine goes with Barbecue?”

Summer may be almost over, so it's time to think about a lovely Labor Day weekend cookout! I love grilling chicken leg quarters. The sauce I use has a slight kick, as do many other sauces. I think one of the most perfect wines for BBQ is ZIN. I know, I know, I'm talking about zinfandel again. I love the stuff! To someone who has never seen one of my emails, I am referring to the dark red zinfandel, not the sweet pink stuff (don't get me wrong--if you like it, drink it). I love some pink wines, although they are usually rosé champagnes or just plain dry rosé wines. I digress, but rosé wines also make for perfect hot weather drinking.

Regardless, why Zins? Firstly, the grape is an "American Original". They are full-bodied filled with some spiciness, but yet have a soft fruit component to the flavor. This 'sweetness' can help to smooth out the spice component and complement the grilled flavors. Some zins are light bodied, some we nickname "fruit bombs" and others can be appreciated (and aged!) like a fine cabernet sauvignon. It is a great food wine! Some great options? Anything from Ravenswood is a good bet, from the sub-$10 Vintners Blend (from grapes sourced from all over California) to their "county" wines (usu. $15-20, only from one county, such as Napa, Sonoma, etc. ). For true zin-lovers, they have single-vineyard designates which cost a bit more but are amazing. Another famous producer is Ridge, though many of theirs are pricey as well. What can you find on a budget, Bo? As I am always looking for a good "pizza wine" (translation--something under $10 that you'd pop for a burger or pizza) I have an excellent choice IF you are a BJ's Wholesale club member. I hate giving out this secret, but they have a zin called "Blackeye Zin" that is... shhhh... $5.88!!!!!!! It is a Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel that appears to be produced by Alderbrook Vineyards. Alderbrook is a great producer, but they normally are in the $18-30 range. This must have been a limited run "2nd label" for them. What do I say? WHO CARES! It is a great-tasting zin and amazing for the price! Not a BJ's member? Sam's club has a fruit-bomb called Gnarly Head that's around $8 and Costco always has Vintner's Blend from Ravenswood (plus I noticed several other choices such as Cline and Dynamite Vineyards and the silly "7 Deadly Zins").

Final shot--my leg quarter BBQ recipe is easy (no measurements). Put your leg quarters on the grill (I like to use "Montreal Chicken Seasoning"). As it slowly cooks, take a measuring cup and fill it about 2/3 full of BBQ sauce (like plain-jane Hickory flavored sauce). Add picante sauce to the cup, but leave a little room at the top for the final bit: add some quality bourbon, such as Maker's Mark. Mix it together and brush on your leg quarters for the last 10-15 minutes of grilling. You will be pleased : )