Friday, October 30, 2009

liquor license

If you're a young(er) wine/beer/cocktail blogger who wants to get more exposure, then come join the newest blog pack/social network Liquor License! I started this group as a way to bring us "beverage experts" together, to both increase our readership and get to know other fantastic blogs!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

another day, another year

Celebrating 24 years of life on our fantastic planet of ours! How, you ask? Of course by not working, drinking mimosas with Friexenet Cordon Negro Brut ($10), and taking silly pictures with my iPhone. The scarf was a gift from my mom, isn't it beeaootiful???

Oh yes, I really love my mimosas. Will post more bday bash pics later!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

weird wine fact of the day

Did you know?

According to Persian mythology, wine was discovered by women. She drank the fermented juice from grapes stored in a jar, went to sleep, and surprisingly woke up cured of a headache.
(source - Wine Snob)

Way to rock it, ladies! Who says wine is a man's world?

On another note, I'm getting ready for my 24th birthday tomorrow. It's a surprisingly weird combination of hooray and oh-my-gosh-the-reaper's-getting-closer. My plan is to relax all day, let my boyfriend spoil me rotten, then have dinner with his family. Oh, and drinking lots and lots of wine.
Also getting ready for All Hallow's Eve. Should be a fun night.
Sorry I haven't written on a wine in the past couple of days. Julien's dad gave us 7 half-empty bottles (count 'em, 7!) from an exclusive tasting he went to, and asked us to taste them all. I've been sampling them all over the past couple of days, getting a sense of the winery. I plan on writing a detailed article about the winery and writing a quick memo on each wine. I should be posting that tonight or tomorrow.

Friday, October 23, 2009

atw - answer the question

For my first entry into my 'around the world in every wine' series, I decided to go with a California wine. Not just any California wine, but a complete California mystery wine. Think of it like the game Mystery Date ... only with wine instead of, um, boys or whoever. And yes, that is south park in the background.

This wine is a non-vintage California red from Oreana Winery with no specific varietals and no name - it's only known by the giant orange question mark on the front of the bottle. This wine is specifically promoted as being a complete accident. According to the winemaker, this wine was due to an accidental hose incident that combined two different batches together, which they then decided was good enough to sell for $4.99 at Trader Joe's. I bought this wine under the complete impression that it was going to be horrible.
Well, I wasn't entirely wrong ... but I wasn't entirely right, either.
The nose has hints of sweetness with a touch of caramel, chocolate and rich berry fruit. The color is a deep red/burgundy with rather thick legs (remember, the lines running down the sides of the glass?). It actually smells rather nice.
It tastes young and, though not exceptional, definitely not terrible. It tastes like a combo of Pinot Noir, Cabernet and maybe a little Syrah. I can't say what the exact grapes are though because there are absolutely no indications of what they could be. The finish is more on the acidic side with a touch of tannin. I enjoy the start of the wine more than the finish. The first note of the wine has a hint of caramel, plum and blackberry fruit. The lingering flavor, however, has a little too much vegetable, as well as a hint of balsamic. Not the way I particularly enjoy remembering my wines.
I don't suppose I should assume it's a compliment that I didn't consider this wine a complete disaster - but I'm going to, so you can take that as you will. Though I don't plan on finishing the bottle, I do plan on making a rather delectable red wine tomato sauce with it tonight. Pasta, anyone?
On to the next adventure! article is posted!

Hey everybody! Just wanted to let you know that my article for, titled 'Too Young For Wine?' is now posted on their Web site! Here's the direct link: Too Young For Wine? Hope you like it - leave a comment letting me know what you think!

isee your iphone

Since it's a little too early to be writing about wine (I don't want to seem like one of "those" people!), I decided to write a little snippet about the iPhone wine apps that I like. Be sure to look for a wine entry this afternoon, by the way.
I don't know how many of you out there have iPhones (or a comparable smart phone), but for those of you who do, I would definitely recommend checking out the options for a good wine app. Wine apps are like the little notepad of the future - instead of scribbling little notes onto a napkin or a piece of paper, only to lose it later, you can store every wine you ever taste FOR ALL ETERNITY. There are also countless searches and databases which not only show you excellent wines, but can also separate them based on country, cost, varietal ... anything you want, they can do.

Here are the ones I use:
1. Wine Snob ($3.99) - I freaking LOVE THIS APP. I bought it last week and have used it at least once a day ever since. It's the perfect note-taking app, in my opinion. I know a lot of people swear by Drync Wines (free or $4.99), but I gave that one a try and while it was informative, honestly, the style and structure of the app was a little droll for me. I really enjoy Wine Snob because it's fun, sleek and very inviting. You fill in a small entry about what wine you're tasting and, unless it's the occasional oddball or vintage, it will fill in the blanks for you to create the entire database for the wine, including cost, varietal(s), etc. There's a notes section where you can write everything you enjoy (or don't) about the wine. Another thing I love about it is the rating system, which instead of the boring 1-10 by-the-numbers rule, it goes from Undrinkable (1) to Orgasmic (7). Definitely a lot more fun to rate wines when you're going by their Orgasmic principle rather than their closest proximity to a 10, whatever the hell that means (boring).
2. Hello Vino (free) - What I love about this app, despite the fact that it's FREE, is the highly comprehensive format that it takes to help you find a way. You can search for a perfect wine based on about any main option you can think of: food, occasion, taste/style or country/origin. Granted, you can't search based on cost, which is unfortunate, but hopefully that's something they'll be repairing soon. As a 24-year-old bartender, I don't have a lot of funds, and searching based on cost is a very very good thing. Anyway, I've used this app many times to find wines based on my specific needs. Another more expensive option is the Wine Enthusiast Guide ($4.99), but I haven't heard that many great things about it. It's basically chock full of "expert" reviews on the wines in their rather huge database - but, as a wine writer, it gets tricky when someone else's review becomes involved with the wine you want to try out. They might put ideas (or, heaven forbid, taste suggestions) into my head! Oh, the horror! The tragedy! Yes, I can be a bit dramatic.

So those are my two favorites. I wouldn't recommend putting too many into your iPhone because having too many apps can kill the memory. And we all need that extra bit of room to add the FMyLife app or the Family Guy Uncensored game, right? Well, at least I do.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

atw - california

The first country/state/region I'm going to cover for my new 'around the world in every wine' project is the state of California in the United States. Yes, I know that California is not technically a country, but I've decided to divide the United States based on states, because of its unique political landscape. I also plan on dividing up California based on several of its winemaking regions, in addition to France, Italy and perhaps Spain and Australia.
California is one of the most unique winemaking platforms in the world due to several different factors, the first being that the California winemaking industry only really took flight about 30 years ago. Compared to the hundreds (or thousands) of years that places like France and Italy have had in order to make their wine, the success of Californian wines is a sight to behold.
The first vineyard was planted in California in 1779 by monks at the Mission San Juan Capistrano in San Diego. Gotta hand it to those monks to know what a person really wants, right? Over the next 100 years winemaking grew in California, due largely in part to the California independence movement, as well as the California Gold Rush in the mid 19th century. By 1920 the wine industry was serious wounded, due to both a plague of phylloxera as well as the Prohibition movement, which halted all production and consumption of alcoholic beverages.
However, the years since then have allowed California to blossom and grow as one of the world's leading winemaking platforms for the modern wine industry. California's wines are inherently unique with high elements of berry and warmth. Yummy yummy fruit.
California is divided into three main wine regions: North Coast, Central Coast (where I live) and the Interior/Central Valley. Those sections are also divided up into several sub-regions, including Monterey County (again, where I live), Alexander Valley, Mendocino, Santa Barbara County and, of course, Napa Valley and Sonoma.
California is known for growing a wide variety of grapes, due to the wide variety of climate that California has - however, it's best known for great Cabernets, Chardonnays, Merlots and Pinot Noirs. It can also grow a mean Sauvignon Blanc.
Our first wine entry into the 'atw' will be a mystery California red, from parts unknown and grapes highly speculative. See what happens.

* most of my historical information provided by Exploring Wine, 2nd edition by Koplan, Smith and Weiss ... and, of course, a bit of Wikipedia (but only a bit, I swear!)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

around the world in every wine

I recently heard about these two young men from Europe who decided to travel the entire world without ever using an airplane. They are currently at least one year into their voyage, hardly a penny in their pockets, depending on the kindness of strangers to carry them through. I admire that sort of reckless abandon, the commitment to doing something extraordinary, instead of relying on the easy road. Job applications, car payments, the occasional weekend luncheon. It's all so ... I don't know ... supple. Rich in texture but lacking in real warmth.
I've been thinking a lot lately about commitment versus safety. How we make so many decisions based on comfort, safety and security. We live our lives in this tiny little bubble of here-to-there, and for what? To accomplish something eventually? I can no longer wait for that. I need to commit to something real, something valuable and something utterly bizarre. It's my turn to do something different.
I'm going to travel the world.
Now, before you throw me a ticket and wish me a bon voyage, I don't mean a physical trip around the globe (at least not yet!). I mean the wine world. I've spent so much of my time focusing on random wines - something I see, something I like, when I could be doing so much more with this wine experience. I could be tasting things I've never experienced, and through that it'll be like I'm there in those countries, tasting their soil, wind and sky in their wines.
I'm going to do something concrete, something real. I've got a list of all the wine-producing countries in the world - some with only one region, some with several. I want to visit them all.
My goal is to taste a wine from every wine-producing country in the world - and, with some of the major countries (like France, Italy and the U.S.) several, if not all, of their regions.
My plan is to visit one per week. I will start by writing one or more blog entries about the region in question, perhaps highlighting a specific vineyard or two, and then we will get to the wine.
I know it's going to take a long time - and yes, it's not going to be cheap. But I'm going to rely on my gut for this, and perhaps even the kindness of strangers to help see it through. So if you know of any bottles, wineries or regions that I have to visit, please let me know.
I'm turning 24 next week. I know I'm not a full-fledged adult yet but the time is coming really fast. Which means that time is going, too. I need to create something that I can be proud of. I really feel like this could be it. I hope all of you enjoy it.
The journey starts tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

little italy - 1

Lucky for me, Julien's dad is a sommelier at a restaurant in Carmel, CA. However, the restaurant traditionally serves Italian wines (it is, after all, an italian restaurant!). So whenever Julien and I enjoy some wines with his parents, they're usually Italian. So I've decided to start a little mini-series inside this blog that consists of my "little italy" wine experiences, since they seem to be pretty common.
Today I got the chance to try not one, but TWO Italian wines.

The first one was a 2007 Tormaresca Chardonnay from Puglia ($13). It's a nice light and acidic wine that's best served near room temperature - something that is basically true for most Chardonnays, since keeping them too chilled will lessen the intensity and focus of the flavor. The color is a nice yellow with a slight greenish tint as well as some golden highlights. The nose is light and tart, hints of lemon curd, lime and a slight hint of mango.
The taste is rather acidic for a Chardonnay (there are also a few bubbles in the wine, too, which kind of give that hint as well). The flavor has notes of pear, green apple, citrus and a finish of light white peach. The acidity tends to overwhelm these flavors, however, and I found it difficult to really enjoy. It wasn't bad, by all means it certainly wasn't bad, but it wasn't a Chardonnay I would overtly choose to purchase myself (the bottle was free, so it was kind of a why not situation *smile*).
The second was a 2007 Guido Porro Barbera d'Alba from Vigna Santa Caterina ($13). It was a surprisingly acidic red wine with a medium ruby-red color. The nose had hints of red berry, tangerine peel, cedar and bacon fat. You could practically smell the acidity on the wine, it was so noticeable.
The mouth had a spicy beginning, notes of citrus peel, raspberry and red cherry very detected. Again, the strong acidity played a very important part in the taste and quality of this wine. It did have a clean finish with incredibly light tannins. According to Julien's dad, these are all noticeable qualities in a Barbera, since they're traditionally highly acidity with only the slightest hint of tannins on the body.
This was definitely a pleasant start to my "little italy" series. I hope you enjoy them as much as I am!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

link it

Sorry I haven't been able to post a wine review in the past few days - I've been working on a paper for school and it's kicking my ass, to be frank. In the meantime, here's a link to a really good article about Best Budget U.S. Wines that will hopefully hold you over for the next day or two while I finish up this darned paper.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

le prof est ici!

Just got these questions in from wino rhino reader 3dees, so I decided it would be fun to answer them right here:

1. What's the halo? The stain/mark left by the wine? - Excellent question! Actually, the halo is going to be the "ring" of wine that's touching the wine glass. If you look down at a glass with wine inside of it, it's in the shape of a circle, yes? Well, the rim of that circle, where the wine and the glass touch, is what's called the halo. Think of an angel's halo (hallelujah and all that!). The halo really helps you define the body and density of the wine before you even put it to your lips. It's fascinating! The lighter the halo, the lighter you can expect the wine to be.
Oh, and to answer your other question, the stain/mark left by the wine, running down the glass? Those are called "legs". They also help to determine the texture and body of the wine. The heavier the legs, the stronger the wine.

2. How can you tell that all those flavors are in there i.e. plum, blackberry and vanilla? - Let me start by saying that the flavors detected in wine are, above all, completely subjective. It's what YOU think is in the wine, what YOU think the wine tastes like. There's no all-powerful expert that determines what every wine is supposed to taste like. I mean, if you get sawdust in a wine, then there's sawdust (flavor) in the wine! I mean, I tasted a wine today (look for the review later on) that had a hint of cotton candy! Doesn't mean anybody else is going to taste that, but it's what I got out of it. What you need to do is taste and taste and taste ... and know that nothing you say is going to be wrong!

Granted, there are some people with more sensitive palates than others. There are some things you can do to assist the strength and sensitivity of your palate so that it's easier to detect different flavors. First, DO NOT SMOKE. Smoking kills your taste buds very easily. I'd also recommend avoiding drinking brown liquors whenever possible. Also, try to avoid extremely spicy foods, as well as foods like wasabi and, yes, even Skittles (my former fave) - they make your palate grow accustomed to the strength of those flavors, so it ends up being harder to detect other ones.
One more thing - the only reason I can detect things like blackberry and vanilla is because I'm familiar with what those taste like. The only way you can compare is to know what to compare with. Start broadening your taste horizons altogether - try some lycee, mango, cinnamon, boysenberry, molasses ... the possibilities are endless! It just takes some practice, a bit of luck and a lot of fun!

3. What does medium-bodied mean? - The body of the wine means the density of the wine in your mouth and in the glass. The heavier the wine feels and tastes in your mouth, the heavier the wine's body. Try and think of it like this: light-bodied feels more like water, and heavy-bodied feels more like vitamin-d milk, or even half-and-half. It's a pretty rough analogy and doesn't nearly encompass the true feeling of wine in your mouth, but I thought it might help a bit. Medium-bodied means that it had a strong consistency, but that it's on the lighter, smoother side. Kind of like a 2% milk! Merlots and stronger Pinot Noirs are most often leaning toward the medium-body, although a light Cabernet can often be put into that bracket.

There you go, friend! I hope that helped!

p.s. I love the iPhone! I snapped, cropped and Polarized the pick above in a study room of my school's library in one sitting ... all on my iPhone! Blogging has entered a new era of awesomeness.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

feels like falling for the first wine

Let me start by saying that I have had a seriously intense and oftentimes depressing couple of weeks. First I sprained my ankle, leading to me getting sick with the flu (maybe even the you-know-what flu), followed by losing my voice completely ... which leads me up to now. I haven't been writing much about wine because, honestly, I haven't really been able to drink any until now.
Well, today I celebrated (mostly) getting over my illness by opening up a nice light bottle of Riesling to enjoy with some sauteed macadamia nut-crusted tofu and roasted red bell peppers in a nice Peanut Ginger sauce.
Oh, by the way, I've recently decided to go vegetarian for awhile. Yippee! So pretty much all the food pairings on here are going to be sans meat.

Anyway, the wine I picked was a non-vintage "American Riesling" Pacific Rim Dry Riesling ($8.99, Trader Joe's). Yes, it was a gutsy choice, but I'd heard many good things about it so I decided to give it a try. My boyfriend Julien didn't care for it much (he's not a fan of sweet whites, I think), but I enjoyed it much more than I expected to.
The nose on this wine has hints of sweet watermelon, green apple and a hint of pear and orange peel. Its color is a nice green-tinted yellow with a very light halo. It feels very soft and sweet in my mouth, yet it has a bit of spritz and a touch of acidity as well. It tastes very strongly of green apple, with some sweet lime as well. I also got a taste of grass with a touch of barnyard in the beginning. It drops out pretty smoothly in the end, but it does have a bit of bitter tart lingering that is not all that enjoyable. It's not a bad finish, per se, but it's not something I particularly expected from a Riesling. Was a little more reminiscent of a Pinot Grigio.
However, when push comes to shove, this wine was much better than I expected, and served as a nice pairing for the meal I had with it. I really did like it ... and I definitely could see myself having it again, under the right circumstances, i.e. with spicy food, like Thai cuisine or maybe some good veggie sushi.

I also had another mimosa breakfast this morning, this time with a bottle of Mumm Napa Cuvee M from (you guessed it) Napa Valley ($20, sale $13.95 at Safeway). It was an excellent choice, once that I would definitely enjoy again - a nice light Cuvee that complimented the orange juice exceptionally. Here's to another delicious mimosa weekend! Huzzah!

Speaking of Huzzah, here's a pic of me and my sister at the Renaissance Faire last week. I'm on the right, dressed as a gypsy belly dancer. Fun times! I love the Ren Faire. Oh, and good mead :).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

wino rhino interview - jesse porter, the young winos

I haven't been able to drink wine this week because I've been very sick (darned sprained ankle made me a walking disease receptor). So instead I had the pleasure of interview Young Winos ( founder Jesse Porter, 26. For those of you who don't know, the Young Winos is a social networking group of young 20-something wine drinkers with branches all across California (and one in NY too). Jesse was kind enough to let me pester him with questions about wine, his group and how he feels young 20-somethings are treated in the wine industry. 

p.s. this interview was conducted for my article, out next week. this is the entire, unabridged interview.

1. Name - Jesse Porter
2. Age - 26
3. Location - Los Angeles
4. Occupation - director's assistant

5. How long have you been drinking wine for? - Since age 20... my first summer bartending at a German restaurant in Upstate New York, when I learned the meanings of unpronounceable words like "Gewurztraminer" and "Liebfraumilch."

6. Describe your first wine tasting experience. - On a trip to the Bay Area, I stopped off in Sonoma to check out the cheese factory that I'd remembered visiting with my family when I was six.  The place has since been remodeled, but at that time, there was a tiny little wine tasting booth tucked into the corner.  I tried a lineup of Dry Creek wines, and wound leaving with an $18 Sangiovese that I absolutely loved (at age 21, eighteen dollars was by far the most I'd ever spent on a bottle of wine).

7. Does your career involve wine at all? If so, how? - No.

8. Are you one of the original founders of Young Winos? If so, what were the origins of the group? If not, when did you join and why? - I am actually the (only!) original founder of the Young Winos.  I started a beginners' wine tasting group at college that was very similar to the Young Winos: we'd meet once a week, I'd pick a specific theme and send out some reading material, and everyone would bring a bottle.  When I graduated in 2005 and moved to LA, I figured that a weekly wine tasting group would be a great way to educate myself more about wine and meet cool people in the process.

9. Tell me about your club and what it represents. - The Young Winos is a wine education organization for 20-somethings that aims to give our members a more thoughtful and informed drinking experience.  Our basic philosophy is this: while we're definitely experts at consuming alcohol to excess, we reject the wanton indifference often endemic of yesterday’s twenty-something wine consumer. Meanwhile, we simultaneously reject the exclusionary attitudes espoused by some of the more closed-minded veterans of the wine world. We’re drunks, but we’re not philistines; we’re enthusiasts, but we’re not elitists; we’re discriminating, but we’re not prejudiced.

10. As a young wine drinker, do you feel respected? Have you ever felt looked down upon because of your age? Please explain. - In a way, people almost respect you more once they realize that you know your stuff.  There's this expectation that 20-somethings are inherently less serious about wine, so when you start talking about Brix and malolactic fermentation, they kind of do a double take, and then they get really excited and want to talk to you.

11. Have you ever had any negative tasting room experiences where you feel the staff treated you differently because of your age? If so, please describe. If not, why do you feel this hasn't happened to you? - There have been times when a group of us Young Winos will walk into a tasting room, and this disapproving pallor suddenly falls over the whole place, like, "oh great, here comes the party bus."  As 20-something wine drinkers continue to educate themselves, however, the prejudices that exist in the industry will hopefully begin to breeze off... like a bad funk on a glass of Syrah.

12. How "developed" is your palate? How often do you drink wines less than $20 verses wines more than $20? - After more than four years of careful, deliberate "edutoxication," I'd say that my palate is extremely developed.  As for the $20 over/under split, I drink a lot of $20-and-over wines when I'm at tasting events and such things.  When I'm purchasing wine for my own consumption, however, probably 90% of the bottles I buy are $12 or less.  The nice thing about drinking with other 20-somethings is that there's a great urgency and desire to find the excellent bottles in the budget range, because that's all that most of us can afford to drink on a regular basis.  There's obviously a correlation between price and quality in the very broadest sense, but I also think there are many more excellent bottles in the $6-$12 range than people realize.  You just have to know where to look.

13. How does modern social networking (i.e. networking groups, Facebook, Twitter, etc) help your online club expand? What are 'Young Winos' plans for the future? - Social networking has become a huge part of the Winos experience.  Our dedicated social network,, is the platform upon which we plan events, start new chapters, and allow our 1200+ members nationwide to interact with one another.

14. How do you feel about people claiming that young people "only drink to get drunk"? What would be your response to that? - I applaud the younger generation for not yet having forgotten that wine is an inebriant, something meant to provide us with pleasure -- a fact that seems to have been lost on much of the older crowd.  Drinking wine is a layered, multi-sensual experience, and while we definitely don't condone indifference to (or detachment from) the liquid in the glass, we also don't approve of the rather puritanical practice of spitting.  Wine is not just supposed to taste great, it's also supposed to inebriate you... that's part of the experience.  Gourmands don't spit out their food to avoid getting "full," and wine lovers shouldn't spit out their wine to avoid getting drunk.  It misses the point.

15. What advice would you have for new young wine drinkers? - Try new things.  Every time you have the opportunity to taste a new grape, or to drink wine from a region with which you're not familiar, do it.  Take notes -- keep track of which wines you like, and why, and what the environment was like when you drank it (with food, without food, your location, whether or not you were already drunk... all these things are important).  Introduce your friends to wines that you don't think they've had before.  Drink wine more often.  And most of all, never be scared of wine.  There's a lot to know, for sure, but that just makes it more interesting.  At the end of the day, wine is meant to give us pleasure, and the more we know about what we're drinking, the richer and more satisfying our enjoyment becomes.

16. What advice would you have for older "wine experts" who may look down on 20-something wine consumers? - As you might imagine, I'd encourage members of the older wine tasting crowd to take this younger generation seriously.  No doubt they may well have quite fairly been jaded by the indifferent 20-something boozers of years past, but I think it's clear to anyone paying attention that this generation is serious about wine in a way that previous ones don't seem to have been.  Everything I've read leads me to believe that never before has there been a demographic of young wine consumers who are as dedicated to the pursuit of thoughtful, deliberate wine consumption as ours.  I'd also encourage them not to be put off by the idea that young people are drinking both to enjoy wines complexities and to get drunk; indeed, there might be something in our bacchanalian approach worth taking to heart.  It's never too late, I'm inclined to believe, to embrace the full extent of the pleasure that wine can offer us.