Here are a few of the articles I wrote for I Like This Grape
#SommNextDoor: Two Generations of Winemakers Innovating in Chile and Argentina, Montes Wines and Kaiken
March 22, 2017
Montes Wines was started in 1988 by a group of four men - a winemaker, a marketer, a viticulture engineer, and a financial expert. These four set out on a mission to create the finest, ultra premium wines that Chile had ever produced.
The idea was scoffed at and considered ridiculous at the time of its conception. However, the Montes team proved it could be done. Montes' founding winemaker, Aurelio Montes, Sr., is considered the "father of Chilean wine" for all of his contributions to the Chilean wine industry. He studied agronomy in college and later concentrated on enology, often experimenting with different winemaking methods and techniques. He always searched for a better, more innovative way to do things.
Aurelio was one of the first winemakers in Chile to use commercial yeast. This was an alternative to the reliance on native yeast for fermentation. Since the beginning of Montes Wines, Aurelio focused on sustainability in the vineyard and winery; not simply on organics. The Montes brand believes in being stewards of the land and taking care of the people who work the land and produce the wine.
In 2002, Montes expanded its borders by starting Kaiken, a new wine project in Mendoza, Argentina. "Kaiken" comes from the Patagonian geese that fly across the Andes from Chile and Argentina - similar to how the Montes family flies from one side of the Andes to the other.
Aurelio Montes, Jr. was "born in a barrel" and began working in the winery at ten years old. A trip to Napa Valley at fifteen years old ignited a desire to follow after his father's path and continue the family winemaking legacy. Junior studied enology at Chile's Catholic University and worked harvests in France, Argentina, Australia, and Napa Valley to learn how other regions and winemakers approach winemaking. He eventually joined the Montes team in 2011 as head winemaker of Kaiken wines.
Like father like son, Junior experimented with varieties not commonly planted in Mendoza. His goal was to prove that Argentina is more than just Malbec. Junior developed an appreciation for Cabernet Franc and decided to test out how Cabernet Franc performed in Mendoza.
Kaiken's Obertura Cabernet Franc was a success. It demonstrated the Kaiken spirit of innovation and exploration.The fruit comes from the highly regarded Valle de Uco within the Vistaflores designation. It's all hand-picked and sorted and rests for twelve months in neutral French Oak barrels.
The 2014 Obertura ($35) is fleshy, sensual, and inviting with aromas of licorice, blueberry and blackberry jam, cloves, and floral perfume. In the mouth, it retains freshness and acidity with hints of minerality. This wine is heavenly and will make your eyes roll back like a much needed deep tissue massage.
Sommelier Recommended Halloween Candy & Wine Pairings
October 31, 2016
It's that time of the year again where it's totally acceptable to dress up crazy, get college-kid wasted, and binge on "fun size" candy just because it's around. Whether you're stealing your favorite candies from your kid (or nephew) or indulging in the Halloween treats from work, here's a guide on what wines to pair with your Halloween sweets!
Chenin...Oh Chenin (Chenin Blanc is the grape in Vouvray) -- so beautiful, fresh, bootylicious, and perfumey! Domaine Pichot Vouvray has notes of honey, nectarine, green apple, ginger, and orange blossom with racing acidity and a luscious mouthfeel. This off-dry white wine pairs with the sweet gooey marshmallow flavor of the Rice Krispie without overpowering it.
Tower Road Petite Sirah is loaded with flavors of blackberry, black cherry, mocha, caramel, and dark chocolate. This inky, full-bodied wine matches perfectly with the dark chocolate and caramel flavors of the milky way midnight. Both the candy and wine enhance the flavors of each other harmoniously.
Candy corn is known for its honey, marshmallow-like flavor. Almost any sweet or off-dry white wine would pair well with candy corn, but since Gewurtz doesn't get much playing time, let me introduce you...Gewurtztraminer has a honey character along with lychee, pineapple and spice. The candy corn-and-Gewurtztraminer combination instantly adds impressive complexity of flavors to an otherwise one-dimensional candy.
Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins and Zynthesis Lodi Zinfandel 2013 $15
This is the PB&J effect! The fruit-driven, jammy zinfandel acts as the jelly/jam component in a PB&J. It just works! Salty and rich Reese's Peanut Butter with a Zynthesis Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel is a no-brainer pairing. You will be wildly surprised; you might even be convinced to pair this wine with your Goober sandwiches.
Caramel Apple lollipops and Jacques Bourguignon Chablis 2013 $12
Easy one, green apple lollipops with caramel and a wine that has apple and lemon as its main fruit flavors - duh! This Chablis is a steal and will keep your mouth watering and thirsty for more. Chablis is a region in the north of Burgundy. For those that can do without the cougar-juice Chardonnay go for a Chablis. You're mouth will love you and the sommelier at the restaurant will want your lollipops!
#SommNextDoor: Native, Wild, Natural
September 2, 2016
This week’s question via email from Ted in Sonoma, CA
I'm hearing more about "natural" wines and the wild yeasts used, can you explain what this means and its affect on the wine?
Traditional winemaking was based on native yeast fermentation, meaning no commercial yeasts were used as it commonly is today. Natural, wild yeasts are present in the air and on vegetation everywhere. When grapes are harvested and left alone, they will start fermenting on their own because of the native yeasts found on the grape skins, fermentation vessel, and in the air.
However, some winemakers prefer using commercial cultured yeasts because it allows them to control and select which strains of yeast they prefer. Every strain of yeast has a different affect on the fermentation process, and subsequently the wine. Certain yeasts perform faster and complete the fermentation in a shorter amount of time, usually within a week or two. Other yeasts work at a slower rate, which makes for a slow and steady fermentation that can take up to years to complete (this is on the extreme end). Some winemakers prefer the "get it done fast" approach so they don't have to worry about the yeasts dying or not completing fermentation. When faced with a "stuck" fermentation (a fermentation that does not finish) it is extremely difficult to get it started again. The yeast strain not only affects the rate of fermentation but also enhances certain flavors and aromas in the wine. If a winemaker wants a Pinot Noir to express more cherry, red fruit characteristics, they can select a specific strain for that.
Basically, there's a yeast strain for every style of wine and flavor/aroma character. Native fermentation, limits a winemaker from controlling anything. The winemaker's role is to sit back and let the wild yeasts do their thing. Wineries are usually unaware of which yeast strains they have floating around in their space unless they've had it tested; but even then the native yeasts in the vineyard are unknown because it varies each year. The benefit of a native fermentation is that there are usually many different strains working. Think of a painting with many different colors rather than just one---it's usually more interesting and complex. When there are many different wild yeast strains contributing to fermentation, it adds complexity and layers to the wine. Native yeast advocates believe that it allows the wine to express the terroir fully. Wines that go through native fermentation tend to have a special "funk" to them. This could be from Brettanomyces, a type of yeast that produces "off flavors" like barnyard, horse stable, band-aid, and medicinal; or from another type of yeast. Brettanomyces is generally considered a flaw and when a winemaker chooses to use native yeasts, they take the chance of Brett being one of them. If you're open to funky, interesting wines give native ferment wines a try! They will for sure stir up conversation and have you trying to identify the unfamilar aromas and flavors you sense.
These are a few of my favorite wines that are made with wild yeasts:
-The wine that made Valdiguie popular again; supple and lush with notes of sour cherry, watermelon, violets, rose, and green apple jolly rancher.
-Considered the "cult" sparkling wine of California with notes of cranberry, raspberry, blood orange, and baking spices.
-Blend of 2012 and 2011 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with notes of juicy black plum, blackberry, forest floor, white pepper, and black currant.
#SommNextDoor: 50 Shades of Rosé
August 19, 2016
This week’s question via email from Samantha in Concord, CA
What is Rosé? How is it made?
Rosé has risen in popularity over the last two years appearing on Instagram accounts everywhere. Much like the trendy photos of macaroons, peonies, and donuts; snapping a photo of a pretty pink wine in your glass has become the “thing” to do. Merchandisers have even taken notice, profiting off this trend with apparel, bags, and phone cases with “Rosé” on it. This represents a huge accomplishment in the wine industry, people are no longer looking down their nose at rosé as the cheap white zinfandels of yesterday, instead there is a new found appreciation for this delicious beverage. This style of wine isn’t just for the ladies, men have made it into their own with canned rosé like Brosé and "Real Men Drink Pink" events.
Rosé is made from red grapes but produced in a white wine method. We do not get rosé from mixing a white wine with a red wine nor is color added. Rosé gets its beautiful color from skin contact with the juice. All wines get their color from the grape skins, so the longer the juice sits with the skins, the more pigmented the wine will be. Depending on the producer, some winemakers let the juice sit with the skins for an hour while others leave it for five hours or more. Pale pink wines see very little time on the skins and deep magenta toned wines have developed due to longer time on the skins.
There are a couple different ways to make rosé; some producers grow or buy grapes specifically for making rosé. These grapes are usually harvested earlier to retain their natural acidity. The grapes are then pressed and macerated (juice is left on the skins) and then removed so that the juice does not extract too much color or tannins. The other method is called Saignee, which means to bleed in French. Rosé that is made in the saignee method is a by product of a red wine fermentation. When a winemaker wants to bulk up a red wine and increase tannins they bleed off a small amount of juice from the fermenting lot. This increases the juice to skin ratio, further extracting color and tannin. The juice that has been bled off will then be used as a rosé. Basically, with the saignee method you start out with one red wine and before the end of fermentation you have a more tannic red and a portion of rosé. To saignee or not to saignee is a controversial question among rosé aficionados. There is something special about harvesting grapes with the intention of using the grapes only for rosé production, instead of it being a by product of another fermentation. However, some people prefer the saignee method because it tends to be more tannic.
Rosés comes in many different styles ranging from delicate, light styles from Provence to meatier, tannic versions from Bandol. Here is a list of great examples of the varying styles of rosé.
Blend of Grenache 40%, Cinsault 40%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20%
The color is delicate and clear with a nose of subtle floral and spicy flavors and minerality.
Blend of Mourvèdre 50%, Grenache 28%, Cinsault 20%, Carignan 2%
Crystal clear with a salmon pink color and notes of citrus, white flowers, and white pepper.
Domaine des Carteresses Tavel 2015 $17
Blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Carignan, 15% Clairette, Picpoul and Bourboulenc
Bright ruby pink with flavors of cherry, cinnamon, and pepper.
Eleven Eleven Estate Rosé 2015 $28
Maraschino cherry hue with flavors of rosewater, strawberry, faint black cherry and watermelon.
Herman Story After Hours Rosé 2015 $24.99
Dark ruby pink color wine with notes of rose petals, strawberry daiquiri, mint, maraschino cherries, and raspberry sorbet.
Pinot Noir Rosé
Sokol Blosser Estate Cuvée Rosé 2015 $18.99
100% Pinot Noir
Clear and pale pink color with hints of pink lady apple, watermelon, and balanced minerality.
Niner Wine Estates Rosato 2014 $20
69% Sangiovese, 29% Barbera, 2% Cabernet Franc
Salmon color with fresh watermelon and bright cherry.
Marques de Caceres Rioja Rosado 2015 $8.99
Blend of 96% Tempranillo, 4% Garnacha tinta
Vibrant coral red color with flavors of fruit loops, strawberry, stone fruit, and anise.
#SommNextDoor: The Life of a Wine
August 10, 2016
This week's question via email from Judy from San Diego , CA
How long can I keep a wine open for? Is it different for a red wine and a white wine?
This is a common question I always get asked. People want to know how long they can keep a wine open for and how to determine if a wine can or should be aged. In this post I'll be covering aging potential of wines and the fridge or kitchen counter life of your wine after popping the cork (or screw cap).
First off, I recommend only keeping a red wine for up to 3-5 days after it has been opened. White wine is more delicate and can’t withstand as much exposure to oxygen as reds do, so keep your whites for up to 3 days after opening. Ideally it’s best to consume wine within the first two days but I know it’s not always possible to defeat this “difficult” challenge. Pay attention to how the wine evolves each day and use your own judgment; when you think the wine has taken a turn south and isn’t tasting even close to how it did on day one, then stop. You cannot get sick from drinking a wine that’s been open for too long, but it will eventually turn into vinegar -- and no one wants to sip on that.
As for the aging potential of a wine, if a wine has high acid, high tannins, and low alcohol it’s a wine that can be aged and will age well. These three components preserve the wine for a long time and change as the wine ages. The wine you once considered too tannic for your taste will be much more mellow ten-plus years down the road. Same goes for acid: a wine that once had super-high acid will become less acidic over time. Some of the oldest wines in the world from the great regions like Bourdeaux and Burgundy have lower-than-average alcohol (less than 13.5%). The lower the alcohol, the longer the wine will last.
Generally, most wines today are made for immediate consumption. Up to 90 percent of all wine purchased in the U.S. is consumed within 24 hours. It’s clear that we don’t know how to hold onto things or have the patience to wait, and wine companies know this. Most New World wines are made to be consumed within two to four years. Old World wines from Europe typically have the right amount of acid, tannin, and alcohol that allow them to age beautifully.
This isn’t to say that you can’t find wines made in the U.S. that will age well, but be sure to evaluate the structure of the wine. Many wineries offer vertical tastings -- they showcase the same wine over several vintages. This can give you an idea of how their newest releases will evolve with time.