Welcome to Poor Robert’s (Wine) Almanac

I dedicate this site to all the wine drinkers and new winemakers, not old line professionals.  “Poor Robert’s” will provide interesting wine related stuff with links to other (detailed) information that helps all who love wine understand wine terminology, varieties, history, and stylistic differences.  I am not trying to turn wine lovers into experts or critics, but rather to create a place where all can get reliable information enabling a better understanding of the wine world and an enhanced personal enjoyment of the various styles of wines. 

At this point in this sites evolution, I am pretty happy with its appearance and content, but like all things in life nothing is perfect and everything can be improved. So with the advent of my retirement from my 44 year career in the “real” world, I am giving this site a face lift and working on significantly upgrading my web development and blogging skills. Stay tuned. I know you will like what you see.  By the way, I still love the feedback.

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Wine, Wine Everywhere, but is it Old Enouth to Drink?

I’ve been AWOL for a while as life has gotten in the way of my blogging, but I am slowly getting back in the swing of things and hope to do a lot more this spring and summer.

This offering will be a bit more editorial than information driven as opposed to my usual  posts.  While I’ve been off the air I have still been drink a fair number of new and different wines and in that process it has occured to me that the wine today is not what it was even five years ago. Torcido.jpgWe see wine makers trying to compete in a much more dynamic beverage market We’ve seen brewpubs, botique distilleries, cider house and yes wineries popping up everywhere.  I think it fair to say that this phenomonon is part of the “New Economy” that has arisen over the past ten or so years.  Everybody is hawking something new; the other day when out with some friends I was offered a local distiller’s “Premium Bacon (as in cured pork) Vodka”.  I passed as, one I am not a big Vodka fan, and two I really prefer my bacon with eggs and hashbrowns.  The point though the trend is to  differentiate, no matter what you are offering.  Wine today is not all that different; as winemakers tune up their wines to sell to different buyers and less picky tastes.  Before you tune me out for this last comment, it is not meant as a jab but rather as an observation about expectations astime to market is now the driver.

I’ve been  drinking wine for nearly 50 years (legally this next April) and I’ve experienced  some really amazing wine and I’ve tasted some really awful ones as well. When I was younger I was more interested in the impact of a wine than I was the bouquet or the palate. CVNE Rioja wines As I entered the world of business entertaining where i could write off the cost of a bottle of wine as a business expense and try to impress a client with my wine knowledge (older must be better).  Later in my career I started buying better wines and suddenly I noticed that some of the old and expensive wines were really interesting.  Yes on occasion I over paid for a bottle and the value was not there even with the business deduction. On occasion I found some not so expensive wines that were really remarkable and almost as interesting.  Along the way I learned a lot about wine and I actually got pretty good at predicting what would be a good buy and what would not.  Let’s face it in most restaraunts there are no inexpensive wines when looking at price as your value point.  so I learned to measure value not on cost but rather on the additive that the wine brought to the meal, the conversation and the company.  It has been an, indeed, interesting journey and one that I would not trade for anything.

What I observe about today’s wine — wine makers are working to produce a product that consumers will enjoy early in its life rather than producing really great big bold interesting wine that will stand the test of time and lay in a cellar for years waiting for their time in the sun. Who can blame them, finding a well aged wine in a wine shop  is getting tougher and very expensive, the holding costs kill their bottom line.  Wine makers want to move their inventory quickly as well as holding spece for them is at a premium and the marginal increase in value of aged wine doesn’t keep up with their operating costs.

Red wine has changed the most to meet the changing demographic.  Traditionally Men prefered the big bold reds and women gravitated toward the whites that tended toward fruitier and had more sipable characteristics. Today I see many more women drinking reds and the wine makers have driven  this by changed their vinting to porduce reds with more fruit in the nose and on the tip of the tongue.  These are younger wines that have not developed the subtle flavors of the older bolder wines which are definately not as fruit forward. In point of fact, these new Reds will not age the same way as the Reds of the past and  will deminish in character over time.  I have wine in my cellar that is Forty some years old and a lot that’s aged past ten, but I have to take a lot more care in today’s wine world selecting wines to age as many simply were not bred to age.

Is this trend a bad thing?  I think not.  I actually enjoy many of the new age reds with their fruit forward sense sweetness (not actually sweet it’s a slight of scense that makes it seem so). These are sippers and wines that I will drink with spicy foods, but not ones that I like with a big slab of red meat as, for me, those still require the leathery, herbal mustiness of a well aged wine.

So what does all this mean to the wine drinkers of the world?  Well we have more choices, it’s no-longer just reds or whites, it’s as much about the occasion in which we intend to drink the wine.  If I am serving wine at a cocktail party without food or just munchies, I’ll be pouring a nice Chenin Blanc, a Euro style Chardonnay or and an Aussie Sauvignon Blanc for my whites and not worrying about paying for age  On the Red side I’ll be pouring a late vintage Zinfandel, a Merlot with a bit more (two years) age, a Pinot Noir with two or three years of age,  and Cabernet Sauvignon that carries a good blend of (25% non Cab grapes) Merlot and Zin) with no more than three years of age. If I am serving it with a meal (again depending on the meal – seafood, pork, chicken or beef it will vary greatly) I am still going with my older wines with a little more niuance, a white Bordeaux, a Fume Blanc, a big Oaky Chardonnay for my whites and with reds it will be a classic Cabernet Sauvignon (less blended varietals), a minor Bordeaux (can’t afford the big ones), a nice Grenache, an older Spanish Rioja or an Oregon Pinot Noir all with at least five years of bottle aging.

Am I right in my choices? For me yes, for you maybe or maybe not. With so many new and interesting wines out there today we can all have just what we want.  the Key to that is trying a lot of different wines, keeping good notes on what you like and don’t and picking carefully at the wine shop.  Remember two things: (1) older and more expensive may or may not be a right choice for your taste or the occassion, and (2) unless you are unfortunate to get a bad bottle (it can happen) you will get to enjoy a nice wine and learn more about wine and wine and food pairing.  Bon Appitite.





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Rioja Versus Rioja – Will One Tempranillo More?

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Originally posted on Talk-A-Vino:
The time has come for a battle, where the brother will go against the brother and the blood will spill … – oops, let’s cull the drama before it sets in – it is the wine…

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Economic Impact of California Wine Country Wildfires: Preliminary Analysis

I was in the process of writing up something on the impact of the fires in wine country on the wine community and production when Mike posted this. It has better detail than I had so I am just reblogging it for now. I’ll save my post for a time after the dust settles. Enjoy, this is really well done.

The Wine Economist

wine-country-fire Like most of you I have been intently focused on the wildfires that have swept through the California North Coast wine region and their tragic human impact. It is difficult to accept that such loss of life and property is possible, but the fires and the winds that drive them have been relentless.

I started getting calls from reporters as soon as a wildfire emergency was declared and, like many others, I declined to comment on the economic impacts. Too soon to know, I said, and not the real story in any case. More important to tell the human story and help people come together and cope with loss.

Still Too Soon

It is still too soon to know the economic impacts. The fire danger continues and the fatality  and property damage reports are still coming in. But I have started to think about the nature of the potential losses…

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The Weekly wine for September 25, 2017 A Very Rare (unobtainable) Wine

It’s been a while since I’ve posted to Poor Robert’s, as they say; Life has sort of gotten in the way.  Well I now have a reason. I just tried a really fun and interesting wine that nobody, not even I can buy.  A friend of mine, an engineer from Chicago vinted it and sent me a bottle to try.  Sorry Jim my expectations were not that high when you told me you were send it to me to sampPapa Starle and rate.  First thought; how do I rate this wine honestly and not hurt Jim’s feelings?  Well, I owe Jim a huge apology for doubting his winemaking skills.  In fairness, I’ve tasted a lot of homemade wines and I had a strong basis for my concern going in.

The wine arrived at my house in as solid a wine package as I’ve ever seen; bottles individually wrapped, all wrapped together and then padded in the box (a Chewy.com box no less so the UPS Guy thinks my dog scored again). What a surprise, James has his own wine label and they look as professionally bottled as any you would find in a high-end wine shop.  So now I am beginning to wonder what I have in front of me.  I cellar them for a couple of days to let them recover from their travels and tonight I popped the cork (tightest cork I’ve ever seen, I practically broke my Rabbit getting it out) and poured a glass to let it breathe.   What a treat it was to look at, a goldenrod nectar of Viognier as appealing as any I’ve ever had.  The rest of the story is in the tasting notes found in Poor Robert’s Wine Review section.  I won’t spoil the review by rehashing it here.

James I profusely apologize for ever doubting your wine making abilities.  Your Viognier blew me away.  My friend you should quit your day job and take up winemaking as a profession; you and your wine are that good.

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Weekly Wine for April 29, 2017

Yellowstone Cellars & Winery – 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

Okay so my wife knows me too well and knows I love the unusual in most things.  For my birthday this year she bought me a couple of bottles of Yellowstone Cellar & Winery 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, after all who would expect to find a fine wine vinted in  Billings Montana.  She hit a homerun!  I really enjoyed this wine on every level and it was way more than I expected when I first opened the bottle. 

That said, I have to admit that given the current immigration climate, it might be ripe for deportation (to the state of Washington – okay so that would be emigration). WhileIMG_20170419_083941 (2) crafted in South Central Montana  on the banks of the Yellowstone River, this wine was born of grapes from the Elephant Mountain Vineyards (Yakama Valley) under the fine stewardship of Joe Hattrup, owner and horticulturist at this highly sought after Central Washington Vineyard. So the question is: Washington state wine or Montana crafted wine.   This is a serious question as the grapes come from Montana soils deposited in the Yakama valley when the Ice dam broke and drained Glacial Lake Missoula through the Columbia River basin carrying enormous amounts of silty rich soil to all sorts of place downstream including the Yakama valley.   On a humorous note, Federal wine labeling laws further compound the problem because they don’t allow this wine (all vintages after 2011) to be considered a Washington wine because after 2011 the wine was actually vinted in Montana.  On the other hand since the grapes are not grown in Montana it can’t be labeled a Montana wine either. After 2011 this wine is labeled as an “American” wine as th2010-Clint-at-Elephant-Mountain-215x215at’s the label the government puts all wines that don’t fit the mold. You have to love government regulations.  In keeping with my 1960’s upbringing I choose to ignore the regulations declare this to be a very fine Montana wine made in a state of the art Montana Winery by a Montana (born and bred) winemaker, Clint Peck.

Clint (pictured left in the Elephant Mountain vineyard), proprietor and wine maker at Yellowstone Cellar and Vineyards sources his grape from several Washington State AVAs to give him the highest quality ingredient to produce these his amazing wines.  Elephant Mountain is just one of several he utilizes.  His understanding of soils, growing seasons and moisture requirements to produce the absolute best quality wine is amazing.  Elephant Mountain produces just what he needs to make this Cabernet Sauvignon at the level he considers optimum to meet his winery’s very high quality standards

This Cab can stand up to the best that California and Washington State has to offer and in many cases come out on top. I’d even venture a prediction that in seven to ten years this wine will still stand up grandly while many of the California and Washington competitors of the 2011 year have passed their prime and become cooking wine. If you would like to see my tasting notes and a complete review of this wine and its complexities, you will find it on the Wine Reviews page of this Blog.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Craft Wines, Montana, Red Wine, Varietals, Washington, Wine Making, Wines | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A White Barbera (yes that’s correct)

Jim Olsen, one of my all time favorite winemakers received a $100,000 grant to create a really unique wine of his choosing.  Boy did he ever! He started with the best California grown Barbara grapes  (deep Italian red grapes) raised in the classic Piedmont style. Right after picking he stripped them of their skin and set to work to make a white wine (classic straw color – not a hint of red or pink)  like nothing I’ve ever tasted. it has none of the big Barbera trappings and presents itself as a sweetish, fruity wine (think essence of pineapple, apricot and Royal Ann Cherry) with enough  nice acidity to balance it beautifully.  My complete tasting notes and comments are found in the Wine Reviews section of this site.  Sadly for those not in the US, it is only available through nakedwines.com and is going fast as it was a limited batch vinting. Enjoy.

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A Guest Post by Pascal, a Young Frenchman living in South Carolina who loves and lives Wine.

Pascal who grew up with his hands in the soil of Frances great wine regions wrote this as a post to a wine group I frequent and I asked permission to reprint it to my Poor Robert’s.  I am posting it just as he wrote it without corrections or interpretation.  He asked that I fix it because, as he said, he was thinking in French and writing in English.  I have chosen not to honor that request as I really feel that his blending of French thought and English words add flavor or perhaps aroma to the piece. I personally found it very informative and learned a lot about “smells” and how we perceive what we think we smell in a wine.  Likewise I learned a bit about “words” and how we perceive what we think we understand in what we read.  Enjoy:

Have you ever smell a grape?
Someone asked me why can we smell all sort of aromas in the wine like raspberry, blueberry, currant,…spices, herbs, dirt, mushrooms..etc. but NOT in a bunch of grapes even smashed.

So I thought I could put an explanation on Naked Wines for the Angels who would be interested although many of you Angels know it. So there it is. To perceive the aromas, the easiest way is to crush the berry between your fingers. Then, you mood carefully, in order to try to put a name on the perceived aromas.


In general, after a few seconds, here is the reflection that you will make:
“Bah, it smells like grapes” and you will not be wrong! Because in terms of aromatic complexity, the grape is to light years of our glass of wine. And yet the grape is the raw material. No good wine without good grapes.

It is true that some grains are more fragrant than others. For example : If you feel a grain of muscat or gewürztraminer, you will distinguish characteristic aromas. But if you feel a grain of Riesling, White Grenache, or Muscadelle, … (to stay on the white grape varieties), you’re going to have a lot more trouble smelling specific aromas. Basically, some grape varieties are aromatic, others are much more discreet. But in any case, the grape is rather “poor” in aromas.

But why do you find aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant, pepper, wood, vanilla, etc. in your wine? In fact, this is what to keep in mind:
          1 / In the grape, there is already a large part of the aromas that you will find in your wine.  And yes, the aromas are there, located in the film of the grape, in the pulp … but only a part of these aromas is “free”. These free flavors are those that you feel once the grain is “broken” (we talk about grain crushing).
         2- In addition to these “FREE FLAVORS”, you have “RELATED FLAVORS”. To put it simply, remember that the related flavors are linked to the sugars of the grape, hooked up or “accrochés” But they can not spread.  In short, these aromas are odorless! for the moment, because they only want to express themselves. These bound aromas are called “flavor precursors”. At the base, they are there, in your grape. But you do not smell them.
These aroma precursors become odorous through FERMENTATION. Fermentation is the key! It is who leaves the fruit of its olfactory nothingness. It is who tilts the grape juice into wine, creating alcohol from sugar (thanks to the work of the yeast ). It reveals the FRUIT.

In Summary, retain this distinction FREE aromas and RELATED aromas, which explains in large part that a grape “does not smell anything”, whereas the wine develops a whole panel of aromas. (And I do not speak here of the aromas brought by the way of vinification, by breeding , or aging, …)


P.S  This is an addition derived from questions and comments of some NW angels.  From here it really becomes a dialogue that tells several lovely stories Enjoy:

Thank you Angels,
Bea, my Grandfather was a winemaker “a vigneron” he had 12 children ( 7 were boys) and they all continue the winemaking. Still now with my cousins ( I have 43 first cousins) hugh!
I have harvest every years with my brother and participated in wine making since we were 8 or 9 years old.
I remember in Southwest France lunches and dinners at the table especially during the harvest where we would be 20-30 people eating with a bottle of wine every foot on the table.
I remember going to the cellar ( chai )
as a kid and pour wine from the barrel ( fut) for the table. The smell of the cellar is nothing that I have experienced and I miss it .
During the harvest as a teenager for breakfast the “vendangeurs ” had breakfast “petit déjeuner ” consisting of fresh white Bordeaux with pate and saucisson and country bread. Something hard to forget.
I hope that you like my story


Reply from John:

in the telling of your story, I remember mine. My Grandfather made wine in a underground cave. He was a stone mason by trade, and he constructed a cave to make his wine. As a boy I was sent to the cave to get wine from the huge barrels. I was allowed a half glass with orange soda at dinner. Nothing as grand as yours, but good memories

Reply from James:

That’s a great story Pascal. So when you drink wine from the barrel, how long does the rest of the wine have since more oxygen is in the barrel? Do you need to replace the removed with with more of the same wine to remove oxygen? Just curious how that works. Thanks, Cheers!

Pascal’s Response to John:

Same here, I loved to go in the cellar and pour wine from the barrel, Reds or Whites.
I wish now I could have keep my grandfather ‘barrels, smalls and bigs.
Those are founded memories!
Cheers John

Response by Pascal to James and John:

Good question James: actually
wood brings oxygen to the wine The wooden barrel has physical properties that the stainless steel tank does not have: Instead of being waterproof, it has a porosity that allows the wine to be exchanged with the air. It is a kind of micro-oxygenation of your wine.

Thus, in a Bordeaux barrel, the 225 liters of wine are in contact with the wood and these gas exchanges will change the structure of the wine.
Oxygen is indeed the main factor in the evolution of wine. As Pasteur said, “it is by the influence of oxygen that the wine ages.” This contact with the air will bring fat and complexity to the wine. The sensation of acidity will be attenuated to exacerbate the fat of the wine. And there it is.

Hope it answers your questions James.

I know what’s you mean. Sentimental value has no prices. And I know it would mean a lot to have your grandfather’ treasure back.

Posted in Pascal, Travel, Wine, Wine Tasting, Words, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Brexit Means Brexit (But What Does It Mean for Global Wine Markets?)

Well wine fan’s There is a reason Mike is one of my favorite bloggers, he is thoughtful and his facts are actually facts. This post on the impact of Brexit and it’s impact on the wine world is just wonderful. It has not editorial conclusion that you can take to the bank, but it gives us a lot of information to think about and prepare ourselves to watch the Brexit process unfold. Enjoy.

The Wine Economist

“Brexit means Brexit,” according to British Prime Minister Theresa May and a host of other officials. If all goes according to plan PM May and the United Kingdom will formally begin the process of exiting the European Union in March 2017 when Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is invoked, starting a possibly irreversible two-year ejection-seat countdown.

Know What I Know?

But Brexit isn’t as simple as walking out the door and will require detailed negotiations on dozen of issues. No one knows what the terms of the exit agreement will be, so no one really knows what Brexit really means. Brexit means Brexit? Nonsense.

Brexit is best understood at this moment as a “known unknown” in Donald Rumsfeld’s famous taxonomy (see below) and not a “known known” as some people pretend.

Britain is sharply divided about what Brexit negotiations should seek to accomplish and in any case each of the…

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The Holidays and Wine (not so much)

The holiday season regardless of your religious (or not) persuasions is supposed to be about peace, love and joy.  Since the beginning of recorded history we read and hear about wine being an integral part of the season.  After all at its most primal level this time of year is a celebration of the Winter Solstice and early records indicate the use of fermented beverages as part of the celebrations.  Why not; intoxicants have the reputation of creating a euphoric mind-set and a reduction in inhibitions (make us much less stuffy).

As I sit, in my wine room with a glass of wine and contemplate this holiday season, I have many visions dancing in my head, many joyous, many thankful, some curious and some sad. Why has this become such a dizzying season and where has the relaxation gone. I wonder about the commercialization of the time but mostly I wonder what has become of us as a society that we can’t rejoice and celebrate each other, our many mutual blessings and yes even our differences.  I was at a Rotary meeting last Wednesday and I greeted a Jewish friend who I have known for a very long time with “Happy Holidays”.  He responded “and Happy Holidays to you as well” and then followed with in a not so joyous tone, but a smile on his face “after January 20th next year you will be able to just wish me a Merry Christmas and be politically correct again”  Afer a pregnant pause we both laughed and I said “for some of us it will always be Happy Holidays”.

He offered his comment in a very humorous and non-judgmental way, but still it made me pause and question why we as a society have become so insular that we must only rejoice in our own traditions and not be able to rejoice in and embrace all the season’s traditions in recognition that, after all, in our differences we are all the same in the traditions of peace love and joy and it matters not, how we express them?  I for one refuse to insulate myself in my own Christmas traditions, but rather just celebrate Christmas in recognition that we all (regardless of religious practices) remain part of a greater family of man.  We are one in the season of joy, and better for all the diverse ways we celebrate the true meaning of love. As we all raise a glass of our favorite wine (or other beverage for those that prefer) to toast the season let us remember that individually we represent an insignificant speck of dust, ala Horton Hears a Who (Dr. Seuss for those that don’t remember) in this great universe of ours and that it takes all of us yelling in our own voices, traditions and languages “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me” for it to become a reality

Driving home from a store this afternoon after doing a little last-minute preparation for my families Christmas celebration I heard a very County song about a mans reflection on the large family holiday celebrations when he was a child and how he loved them and it followed with (to me) a sad refrain about the current Holiday being just him and his mother, as the rest of the family had all died or gone to the far corners of the earth. I thought about the sadness in the tone of the song and the message about how we as families have blown to the far corners of the earth and become so much more disconnected and distant.  I believe that to a degree we all suffer from this feeling but being the Pollyanna I am I thought how luck he was that he could spend the holiday with his mother and what joy it must have brought her to have him home for Christmas.  In this vein let us all reflect on the many children and seniors who will spend this holiday season alone, in group homes, on the street or alone in their own homes.  Let us all be thankful for the families we still have, the friends we have made in our lives and reach out and give them all hug (even if only figuratively). After all that lonly person could be us you know.

This holiday season I am truly thankful for all my readers who I have come to consider my friends and all the many blessings I have. my health, my good fortune, my home, my family who will all be under Bonnie’s and my roof again this Christmas (yes it is Christmas in our house).  As I will, I ask all of you and yours to consider your good fortunes and to raise you glass at your holiday table asking a special blessing for those in the world that cannot sit at your table and may not have a table but who  all who still remain a member of our great and wonderful “Family of Man”

I close this post wishing you all a very joyous holiday season in the hope that you will find personal joy in your own individual celebrations, just as I am in mine.



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The Weekly Wine for October 31, 2016


Brick and Mortar Vin Clair 2015 wouldn’t scare anybody, even on Halloween, in fact it’s quite soothing  to both the eye and the soul.  I’ve never tasted a wine like it.  Okay so I am not all that worldly as wine blends go but this one came off as totally unique to my palate.  Winemaker Matt Iaconis and his wife Alexis crafted this wine quite by chance one evening when they felt that the Pinot Noir they were tasting might be a bit astringent as a stand alone.  Crack open a bottle of their iconic Chardonnay and this wine is born,  By blending  a Pinot Noir (51%)  lightly oaked (unbuttered) Chardonnay (49%) IMG_20161029_132549prior to the Pinot Noir developing it’s traditional claret color they created, not a Rose of Pinot Noir, but rather a slightly peachy colored white wine.   It has an acidic front end (coming from the Pinot Noir) on first taste, but the acidity softens on sides of the tongue with the slightly oaky presence.  Part of this wine uniqueness emanates from the flavor profile  of Meyers lemon, mulling spices, Oak, peaches (this just maybe mental because of the color) with a touch of Sorghum.  All in all it doesn’t taste of Pinot Noir, or Chardonnay, but really creates a complex flavor profile unlike any of the usual cast of classic wine types.  Matt tells me that the 2016 Vin Clair has ben made differently with the whole grapes blended at crushing allowing the wine to be genuinely white.  Alas there goes my peach color that I so liked about this wine.  I am looking for ward to the release of the 2016 so I can do a side by side vintage and methodology comparison

At this point I have not done a formal review and tasting notes profile of this wine as I am waiting to drink a second bottle to compare.  I want to get it right and it is so different that I don’t want to get it wrong based on just one tasting. When I do, I’ll update this post and create the link to the Poor Robert’s Wine Review Page.

Posted in Chardonnay, Craft Wines, Matt Iaconis, Pinot Noir, Varietals, Wine Making, Wines | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment