Friday, December 12, 2008

Forgotten Anniversary

No, Susie is not angry with me because you may remember we celebrated our actual Wedding Anniversary WAY back in September. I'm referencing an event that I knew about (and 'celebrated' in my own way) back on December 5th--the Anniversary of the reversal of Prohibition! I truly enjoy wine with my dinner and I am thankful that the vineyards were able to remain in business through that dark period (sacramental wine, indeed!). Now look at the California wine industry-so strong, but do you know that there were wine producers all over the US prior to Prohibition? Yep, many were forced out of business thanks to all the people who wanted to force their will upon someone else (wow, Libertarianism 2 x in one day--take this quiz, you may be surprised to find you're one too!). We now have vineyards in most (if not all?) of the US again, but we could have better quality wines by now from some of these fledgling vines/vineyards. For an off the wall Libertarian view, read this article from the Wall Street Journal. Not sure how I feel about some of the items referenced being legal, but the premise sure makes sense... In any event, I'm hoping Friday traffic has slacked off a bit so I can get home to enjoy some Vino! Cheers, Bo

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Turkey Wine and Out of State experiences!

We had a lovely Thanksgiving and enjoyed some Beaujolais Nouveau prior to devouring our Turkey. We drove to KY to be with my family and brought a mixed case of vino (most under $12) including the Beaujolais. Most of the wines we drank were Zinfandel as they went perfectly with the meal. A Pinot Noir may have worked but the fruit of the Zin (remember, this is NOT the Pink stuff!) paired with everything, even the sweet potato casserole. We brought this wine from GA to KY because my parents cannot find a lot of variety in the big O (that would be Owensboro to you non-Kentuckians!) and what they do find is often overpriced due to lower competition. Meanwhile, before departing I made a run to Total Wine off Barrett Parkway (there is now one in the Perimeter area, there should have been one in Alpharetta but I was told that the powers that be blocked it--short sighted and silly at best) and made some fun selections for them. It's about choice, people! If I wasn't 'bootlegging' for them, they had no other option as you can't ship wine there (even GA still has some limits). Contrast this with Michigan-it's bad enough the auto biz is in the toilet (not that Real Estate is going gangbusters!) but the State is trying to limit their wine choices as well. Read THIS to see what's going on; I think they are fools. Let the people order their favorites and they can also pay TAXES on those wines (more money for MI). Wine lovers get what they want, the state gets what they want (MONEY). What's not to love? Well, for starters, the liquor/beer/wine retail industry has deep pockets. And politicians? They love to line their pockets with this type of special interest money! So consumers lose and politicians (and distributors) win. I wish the people of Michigan the best; hopefully a balance will be struck so there can be a "WINE-WINE" result! Cheers, Bo

Saturday, November 1, 2008

4th and 20: PUNT?

No, I'm not talking about Football; I'm actually talking about WINE (yum!) (though CONGRATS to the Sprayberry Yellowjackets as they pulled off a sub-regional championship Friday night; seeking the 1st regional championship in 26 years).

What is a punt? Pick up a nice bottle of wine and you will most likely find an indentation on the bottom of the bottle (a nice place to stick your thumb to show off a cool new way to pour!). What does it do? It's mainly there to allow sediment to fall and collect on the bottom. Many wine companies are choosing to eliminate the punt to make their bottle LIGHTER. What does that do? A lighter bottle means a lighter case; lighter cases = cheaper/economical shipping! Way to go green! To give you an example, the bottles in use at Fetzer vineyards (yep, big white zin producer) are on average 14% lighter, weighing in at 15.3 ounces when empty. With 23 million bottles shipped per year, that is about 2,200 TONS of glass saved. So less glass, less gas, more vino for you and me!

I've talked about Beaujolais Nouveau before (which is released annually the 3rd Thursday in November) but this year you may find different packaging; PET bottles! No, that's not something for Spike and Lillie (our dogs)--PET stands a type of plastic. Why BeauJo in plastic? It's actually a perfect use for the wine as the wine should be consumed 'immediately' (ideally before January--again avoid dusty bottles found after the new year). If the wine is expected to age, the vineyards will most likely continue to use punts, but in the case of young/fresh wines, expect to see flat bottomed bottles! We'll chat about BeauJo in a few weeks, stay tuned! We'll see how consumers adapt to plastic wine bottles--even though it's not truly green, I am 'old school' I guess--Cokes still taste better in the 8 ounce bottle to me ; ) Cheers!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You get what you pay for...

One wine comment-sometimes you DO get what you pay for! I love a great bargain! Likewise, there are a lot of costly wines that are 'good' but not great/worth the price (Silver Oak for example). One converse was a gift of Roederer's Cristal Champagne. Jeff & Will brought some over; it was SO yummy and SO smooth. WORTH IT!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

New Toy!

Wondering what to drink tonight? Go to the bottom of this Blog page and check out what's new from RedPinkWhite. Their "widget" is an application that you can load onto your website or Blog (like I did!) OR merely go and search for wine from their website. It's a pretty cool tool, though I am not sure that we will be able to find some of the wines listed in their database here in Georgia. Regardless, scroll down and give it a shot!

For example, I chose "Varietal", clicked on Z to find Zinfandel. From there I clicked "Click to view" and could scroll through the 144+ offerings they listed today. What a cool search function! They listed small descriptions but their goal is for you to buy wine. Unfortunately we live in a 'police state' that barely allows us to have wine shipped to us so that is not an option for us here in Georgia. However, if it looks really cool, ask your local retailer to get it for you! Cheers!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Vertically Challenged!

Actually not last night! We had some friends over for dinner last night and I dug out 2 bottles of a lesser-known Ravenswood wine called "Icon". Icon (the far right bottle) is a GSM, a blend of Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre and I had a 2002 and 2003. It is interesting to do a Vertical tasting, which is when you taste/compare (or just DRINK) wines from the same producer but from different vintages. Contrast that with a Horizontal tasting where you would taste several wines (from different producers) from the same vintage. I thought the 2002 was a more fruit-forward and balanced wine while the 2003 was a bit more tannic. One guest is more or less beginning to learn about reds and I was pleased that he caught some differences as well. We weren't really doing a formal tasting but we did transition from one wine to the other and found some cool differences. Final shot-while each Icon was a GSM, the percentages of each varietal in each vintage differed. It's intriguing to taste the winemaker's (or wine blender's?) skill in producing a very similar wine (i.e. each year was a solid GSM, with true varietal characteristics) but also to be able to taste the differences. Likewise, it was fun to choose a favorite. Either way, it is always great to dine with friends and enjoy a glass or two together! Cheers!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Yo Ho and a bottle of Merlot!

Ahoy mateys! It's that time of year again--it's TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY again and I hope you raise a glass with a loud ARRRRRR! Cheers!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wine dinners and/or wine pairings: Just do it!

Just a reminder--don't be afraid to try something different. Recently we took a road trip (see my posting on my other blog) At Highlands Grill in Birmingham, we didn't look at a menu, we never saw a wine list. We did, however, have an enthusiastic server guiding us every step of the way and our meal was wonderful! Likewise, we had a similar experience at Carolina's in Charleston, SC (off the beaten path-more of a local kind of place rather than touristy). The wine guy was absolutely geeked to share some off the wall (and off the wine list!) pairings with our food. Enthusiasm again and a 'what the heck' attitude made for a great meal. Contrast that with our multi-course meal in Memphis... Sadly our 'marquee meal' of the weekend was lackluster to say the least. It was supposedly Memphis' best restaurant but it was not as great as in B-ham. Part of it was the food (good, but not great) but it was definitely the service. Their adaptation of fine French 'style' was to have servers scurrying about with little to no personality. With that situation, how could the food shine? For that matter, we've been to some 'big name' places in New York, Chicago and other large cities and have returned unimpressed. Atlanta has some great restaurants; you've just got to be willing to be open to something new (and unfortunately burn some expensive fossil fuels in some cases). I know, the economy stinks. No one is eating out as much these days, but save up (Just say NO to Starbucks) and splurge at least once a month-you'll be glad you did!


I recently made my way into that lovely yuppie 'grocery' known as Trader Joe's after hearing from a friend that a favorite sparkling wine was on sale. Lo and behold I was pleased to purchase 6 bottles of Segura Viudas Brut Rosé CAVA for only $3.99 a bottle! This wine is actually well rated by the wine gurus and is a STEAL for that price. I was told it's a one-shot buy so you better get there quickly! I might go back for 6 more : ) Cheers, Bo

For more info click HERE (Note: the rosé is not currently listed; that's probably the reason for the 'deal' at Trader Joes) There was also an inexpensive Paso Robles red for $4.99 (Tres Pinos) that was a bit of a fruit bomb but was a good buy. It was okay with meatloaf, but wonderful with chocolate chip cookies : )

Thursday, July 3, 2008

VALUE wines...

Why is value capitalized? For emphasis, obviously, but today I wanted to put the focus on the value, not the cost. Yes, I get geeked to find inexpensive wines, but it's also great to find a wine that's easy on the wallet but is really yummy! I continue to be blown away by Costco. Yes, I'm channeling Clark Howard again, but their line of "Kirkland" wines are very nice. Their Champagne scored around 90pts last year and they have several other varietals. I recently tried their Meritage (remember, it rhymes with heritage :) and loved it. It was primarily Merlot and had Cabernet and Malbec to finish the blend. I liked the Syrah, but I'm not completely sure about it but I LOVED their Chàteauneuf du Pape (a Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre blend). The key to all of these wines? The quality is great, but the pricing is perfect! French Champagnes usually sell in the $30 range; Kirkland's is $20. A Napa Meritage? Try around $30-50 depending on the vineyard. Kirkland's? It was around $12! Finally, the CdP was around $19 versus $35+ for a 'brand name'. I have yet to try their Italian wines, but that may be on the list for our next spaghetti night! I know that you may not have a Costco near you or feel that it's worth being a member but I promise that the $35 annual membership fee is worth it! As you hear repeatedly, I buy a LOT of wine there (they are actually the #1 retailer of wine in the country!). If you are a foodie you can also find a lot of great values and varieties! Dinner anyone? (Costco info HERE)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ramblings about cheap wine and consumption

As noted on my other blog BoKnowsClosings, I was not really open to spending almost $10 for a plastic cup of "Barefoot" wines at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. I remember trying one a long time ago and was not moved. The amphitheater did flash up a logo for "Tin Roof Cellars", which I've purchased at Costco but I didn't find it at the concession stands. Again, I paid $7.99 for their Merlot (a bottle!) and it would cost the same for a plastic cup at a concert. So yes, I'm griping! Over the weekend we did do some grilling and we drank some lovely Ridge Zinfandels. I can't wait to have my ATP wines shipped here. ATP stands for Advanced Tasting Program-some nifty small-batch wines (only several hundred cases produced). Once July 1st rolls around, I can start receiving those wines (and other clubs) here in Georgia (vs. shipping to another more 'friendly' state and waiting for friends/family to bring to ATL). It also helps GA vintners so they can ship (both intrastate and interstate sales).

The US is #2! We have overtaken the Italians for overall wine consumption but remain behind France. However, for per capita consumption, we lag behind (well, some of us do : ) French wine drinkers who consumed 52 Liters per adult in 2007, while Italians consumed 46L--Americans only consumed 9L per adult (that's ONE case of wine-heck we drink that over 2 weeks!). So do your part to increase our average! Current faves? Montevina "Terra d'Oro" zinfandel ($14, Sam's), Firesteed Pinot Noir (from $11 to 13). Cool info: Click on "Food & Wine Pairings" on this page from Sam's Club website!

Friday, May 23, 2008

GA Wine Shipping can start 7/1/8!

Here's a great article noting why this is such a great thing for Georgians, both wine consumers, producers and distributors. Enjoy!

Memorial Day = Summer = Time to Grill!

Last week was all about the whites. This week? Time to grill, so time to roll out some food-friendly REDS. Those of you who know me well can expect to hear about ZINFANDEL, one of my favorite grill-friendly wines. If you like to turn up the heat on your meats, Zin's fruity edge makes a perfect balance to the zing of your spices. Anything Ravenswood makes (from $6 Vintner's Blend to $40+ single vineyard wines) as well as from producers like Ridge, Rosenblum and Cline (from $9) will be hits. I love to grill chicken leg quarters-try spicing with Montreal Chicken seasoning, grill, then baste with a blend of Cattleman's BBQ sauce (1 Cup) Maker's Mark Bourbon (1/4 C) and Pace Picante Sauce (1/4 C). Yummy! What else goes well with Grilling? Aussies don't say "throw another shrimp on the barbie" for nothing-reach for a food-friendly Shiraz! While some Shiraz (also known as Syrah in other parts of the world-same grape though) can be highly complex, many excellent values come from Australia. Try Rosemount, Penfolds or spend a little more and grab Peter Lehmann's Barossa Shiraz ($14-16). Paso Robles in California makes great Syrah, one cheapie is Parker Station ($6 at "Sip Wine" in Crabapple). South of the border? Try Argentina for Malbec. Mainly known as a blending grape in the rest of the world, Malbec has come on strong of late. In fact, Chile's Carmenere (another lesser known 'blending' grape) is great too. Finally, try Monastrell (like Juan Gil for $15) or a Rioja from Spain. YUM!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Shopping thoughts; new shipping law (Hooray!)

I was pleased to hear that the new wine shipping law turned out to be less restrictive than expected--these two links make it clear that we are finally out of the Dark Ages! That's great for ordering small-production wines that aren't found on local shelves, but what about 'daily drinkers'? As you know I love shopping at the Warehouse stores (BJ's, Sam's, Costco) and superstores like Total Wines & More in Kennesaw (you MUST go there at least once!). I ordinarily don't see great bargains/selection in groceries (except for Harry's/Whole Foods' 10% off on SIX bottles) but I do love wandering into Cost Plus World Market from time to time. They have great deals on Riedel-style wineglasses and cool 'stuff' & also have an eclectic wine selection with decent pricing (try Vino 100 too!) For that matter, don't be afraid to walk in ANY wine shop and ask for help! Most of the time wine people are happy to share their knowledge. In fact, I think 'winos' fall into one of 2 categories (both equally passionate)-Wine Geeks or Wine Snobs. I think WG's really want people to drink wine-any wine, be it cheapies, white zin, or whatever floats your boat. Wine Snobs, on the other hand, continue to keep wine unapproachable by the 'masses'. Yes, WG/WS's use similar lofty terminology to describe wines (approachable, mouthfeel, etc.) but overall, WG's don't make you feel stupid! They want to share their knowledge & passion; WS's tend to show-off how much they know. I say drink what YOU like!!!

So where do you shop?

Try new things! Time for white wines!

As promised, no economic news this time! It's time to focus on wine! You may remember that I'm no fan of Chardonnay. Don't get me wrong, a nice Chablis or Carneros wine will make me happy, but many Chard's can be too over the top. With all the buttery/oaky flavors, some examples overpower most foods. On the other hand, a lively Sauvignon Blanc is a wonderful alternative as it will go well with food and be yummy on its own! California SB's are hit and miss, as many producers try to 'oak it up'. One interesting blend that is always a hit is Caymus "Conundrum", which is an amazing wine (though pricey at around $24). From France's Loire valley, "Sancerre" is the benchmark for Sauv Blanc. Crisp, tart, lots of underlying minerals and 'grassy' flavors will pair well with most fish dishes (as well as Caprese Salad and/or oysters!). My favorite producers tend to be from Marlborough, New Zealand (like Monkey Bay or Nobilo, both under $10). Their SB's are BOLD! Chile produces some great ones as well, such as Verramonte or even Concha y Toro's Casillero del Diablo (again, both under $10). Make sure you buy them young; no need to age them! Don't forget 'sparkles' and don't be afraid to try a nice rosé. Nope, not sweet white zin, but a nice pale pink Pinot Noir or a Rhône-type rosé. While I'm at it, a good way to find bargains is to stray off the beaten path-try something you've never heard of like Vinho Verde from Portugal or a Chenin Blanc, Gavi, Albariño, etc. Have fun and BE BRAVE!

Monday, February 11, 2008

For the LOVE of wine!

As you know, I am a wine lover. How did I become so enamored of the grape? I really got "the bug" in April of 1992 after visiting friends in San Francisco. We took a day-trip into Napa and visited several vineyards. I signed up for a wine club at Franciscan and happily received 2 bottles a month (1 red, 1 white) until the idiots in the GA legislature decided to outlaw direct wine shipments (see previous postings below). I am traditionally a red drinker but through this club I learned about many white varietals. I waited tables while studying for the bar (both in KY and in GA when I moved in 1993). In my hometown of Owensboro, KY I worked at a Houston's 'clone' (the owner was once a manager of both Lenox/Nashville locations) so I had a simple transition when I sought work at Houston's on Peachtree. I got to attend a few wine tastings through work and after beginning my career as a Real Estate Attorney I continued to attend events as well. I visited CA again (1998) and met a guy coming to ATL to open a tasting room/wine bar for a CA vineyard called Viansa (named for Vicki & Sam Sebastiani). After enjoying a glass or two in the shop, I ended up taking a job pouring wine on weekends for fun. In 1999 I took over as manager (it was called Lo Spuntino, which was on Peachtree) and REALLY began my wine education (Viansa had many odd Italian varietals). I was in CA 3-4 times per year! After 2 years, it was time to come back to the exciting world of real estate law!

Friday, February 1, 2008

A call to ACTION!

It's funny-I get frothy about how important it is to Vote, then I get on my soapbox to push you to contact your local legislator on something that (in the eternal scheme of things) is not "important" (like tax, school or economic reform, etc.). Today I am harping on Direct Wine Shipments. In the late 1990's Georgia made it a felony to receive wine from out of state. I received 2 bottles a month from a vineyard and was learning quite a bit about wine (i.e. I tried many grape varietals only because they sent them to me). Well, the state said that they were protecting children. Yeah, right--I'm sure your average teenager wants to spend $50 and wait a week or two to receive 2 bottles that will most likely make them gag. Nice try! I actually researched the contribution records at the Secretary of State after that and found that Distributors were the Alcoholic Beverage Committee's largest contributors! Surprised? Not so much! In recent years they've changed this backwards law to allow you to ship up to 5 cases IF you were "on-site" to buy the wine. This doesn't cut it! As an example, I love Ravenswood Zin. You can buy "Vintner's Blend" all day long at Kroger, etc. What about their single-vineyard wines that are only sold at the vineyard (such as a limited 150-300 case production)? Those will NEVER make it go GA--THAT'S what I want shipped to me. Heck, I'd even pay GA taxes if that's the issue. Click HERE to find and Contact your STATE Reps today--you need your FULL zipcode! Another great resource is FREE THE GRAPES!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Wine of the Year

The Wine Spectator took all the wines they reviewed over the course of 2007 and narrowed the list down to their top 100 wines. While the average price for the top 10 wines are $99.80 (with an average score of 95.9 points), the average for all 100 is $42 (with an average score of 93 points). I became interested in this list years ago when a $10 1992 Rosemount Shiraz took #2 on their list (the rest were over $100). Some standouts this year cost much less than the average and you may be surprised! Mid-priced? #91 is a 2005 Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma County ($20, 90pts). I saw one at Costco for $14, but it may not be the exact one. Rosemount returns with ther 2003 GSM (#60, around $18 at Sam's recently). 2005 Rombauer Carneros Chardonnay was #39 (92pts, $32) and 2005 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec at $22 was #45. Two standouts (to me) in the top 10 were #2 Ridge Chardonnay for "only" $35 (95pts!) and #5 Two Hands "Bella's Garden" Shiraz, 95pts @ $60. I love anything from both of those producers! Those are all too rich for me (esp. in this market) so how about #35 for $13 (Ch. St. Jean Fume Blanc 2005) or #75 La Marca Prosecco for $12? Try #71 2004 Columbia Crest Merlot for $11. The biggest surprise? #72 2005 Yellow Tail Shiraz for $11! You can find that all day long in your local Kroger, right?? Go figure! Again, it just shows that a wine doesn't have to be expensive to be good! Click on the link attached; click on "Full list of Top 100-PDF" for the entire list. Enjoy! Click HERE

The Legislature is now in session!

Here we go again! Time for tax and spend fun under the gold dome. One item that failed last year was the Sunday Sales amendment. I find it odd that Georgia is one of only 6 or 7 states that don't allow the sale of alcohol on Sunday. The fun logic of this is that you can go to a restaurant or bar and drink all day, then drive home, possibly endangering your life or the lives of others, but you cannot buy wine or beer at a store. Yes, if you plan ahead, there is no real problem in your life (i.e. stock up on Saturday is what people say) but I can remember heading to a friends' house on a Sunday and wished I had remembered to bring a 'hostess gift' of a bottle of vino. If we lived in 85+percent of the country we could have stopped in our local grocery and grabbed that gift, but no, Georgia (and Sonny) say NO. I find it odd that Georgia is 'more' Bible-belt than the rest of the Southeast Bible belt. Regardless, I recognize that this is not a hot button item for most people and to be honest, it is not truly that big a deal for me either. It is merely a question of convenience, not of conviction. My 2 cents.

What really burns me up is that it is STILL illegal to have wine shipped directly to you in Georgia. Yes, you can visit California and buy wine to ship "on the spot" but I can't just call up my favorite vineyard and order a case. It's not like anyone would order a case of Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay from California, it would be prohibitively expensive to ship. What I WOULD like to order is something like Ridge Winery's "ATP" program. I have bought wine in this program in the past and have shipped it to another state to pickup. Why? Ridge makes several small-production wines for this ATP program versus their wines found in any store/restaurant. I once had some of their Zinfandel that was part of a 13 barrel lot (under 100 cases made)--I would NEVER have been able to buy that wine in GA. Most producers send us very little of their production. It is the liquor distributors and their large cash donations to Politicians that keeps us from doing this. Sure, the legislators will say it's a loss of tax revenue, but I would gladly pay the tax just like I do when I visit my local retailer. I would still buy locally, but for collectors, we want more CHOICES. One sidenote, if you don't believe what I said about the lobbyists, try going to the Secretary of State's office and check the Election Commission's records. I did that in the late 90's when they passed the stupid felony law and was amazed at the contributions made by distributors to the Alcoholic Beverage committee. But hey, that's politics. How much money do you have, huh? That one vote of mine isn't enough... I need a check with several zeros I guess....