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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What Old Wino’s Do In Retirement

When I made the decision to retire it wasn’t easy.  After all I’d been doing lawyers stuff for forty-three years and as you can imagine, it pretty much defined me professionally.  What would I do with all my time? Would Bonnie and I have enough to live on?  Could I stay active  mentally and physically? Lastly what would it be like not getting on an Airplane and flying off to lord knows where to do lord knows what?

The good news on the first question; I am and always have been a woodworker, had built up quite a shop full of tools (almost to the degree it’s hard to move around) so I could always make furniture.  Which I do.  Before I walked out the door of my office for the last hattime, I had my first professional commission.  My CFO has an amazingly high counter between her kitchen and dining room (fifty inches) and couldn’t find any stools tall enough to allow people to sit at the counter.  Well, off I went to engineer stoolsappropriate stools that people could still be able to get up on.  I figured the seat needed to be thirty-nine inches high (allowing for leg room under the counter).  She wanted them rustic, she likes wine so what could an old wino use to make them uniquely hers?  What else — wine barrels.  Here is the finished product.  They are rustic, fit her space and have their own built in step s so a person who doesn’t pay for the LA Laker can get up on them without jumping to make it up.

I’ll tell you, being a pretty precise person, working with barrel staves (curved irregularly and not the same width) is a real life lesson in how to put square pegs into round holes, each step and the foot rests all had to be cut to fit as none of the spaces between the legs, nor the slopes of the cuts to make the leg and step faces match, were the same. I used the top and bottom barrel bands to create a relatively uniform leg spread so that the stools wouldn’t be too tippy due to the height. In addition they made a great anchor for the steps, allowing them to support a persons weight as they climb up on to the stool seat.

As to how Bonnie and I were going to have enough to live on, furniture building is not going to be a solution to this problem.  Just in materials, each of these stools cost about $100.00 when you count in the cost of lumber swivels, hardware, finish and the initial barrel.  Assuming that I could charge say $250.00 each for them, which I didn’t, I would be working at about $0.15 per hour.  If I add that to what I make writing this blog  looks like Bonnie and I will just have to make due with our retirement savings and hope it lasts as long as we do.

Now to the question of what it’s like not having to get on airplanes every week, that’s pure heaven.  Don’t get me wrong we are doing some traveling (to see our kids and parts of Montana we’ve never seen in all the years we’ve lived her) but It’s been in a T&Cmotorized four wheeled vehicle, with lots of creature comforts, and a good GPS navigation system.  It certainly won’t be in my grandfathers rambler1960 Rambler with 40,000 original miles, it’s original interior in mint condition thanks to my grandmother terry cloth seat covers she sewed for it when it was new.  It is not a summer road car (no air conditioning, sucks gas like a bandit, and it takes the strength of a teenager to steer it).  I love the car but it’s a parade car . Don’t get me wrong, I am sure that someday I’ll be able to face airline travel, but for now being without it is alright by me. 

So what the heck does this have to do with wine? Not much, I confess, except for using wine barrels  as a raw material and my wine consuming lifestyle.  I felt in the mood to post to my blog and today could find nothing better to write about but what an old Wino does with his spare time.

Posted in Craft Furniture, Food and Wine, Life Balance, Travel, Whimsy, Wine Barrells, Words, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

The Weekly Wine is Back

“The Weekly Wine” feature has been gone a while mostly because I didn’t want to turn it into “The Weekly Whine”.  Politics has played a part, a general lack of congeniality in some wine circles as well as the world, but also there hasn’t been a lot of really nice consumer priced wines being released.  Oh did I mention it was summer?  In any case I am resurrecting it for the fall and beyond as I’ve given up on politics, I can’t do much about congeniality and the fall release of wine looks promising.

This weeks Weekly Wine, Kimbao 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon comes to us from ConstaKimbaonza Schwaderer and Felipe  who represent the best of the new rising stars in the Chilean wine industry   I picked this out of an outstanding class of Cabernet Sauvignons I tasted this week partly because I thought was the pick of the litter but also because it’s a great example of a Modern Cabernet.  To me this means it has a more fruit forward nose and taste than some of the classic Cabernets.  It’s really drinkable and has really nice bones for some good aging. 

I tasted it over a three day period.  the it I paired a very spicy meal, the second with a Pesto Chicken and on day three I paired it with crisp Bartlett Pears and Stilton and just drank it.  I have included a detailed review of this wine in the wine reviews section of this site, if you are interested in some of its characteristics.

If you find any of this wine (limited offering) and like it, or don’t, please let me know by leaving a comment to this post.

Posted in Chilean Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Yuk! This Wine Tastes Awful

I see this statement or something similar all the time on wine sites I frequent.  Just because you think a wine tastes awful doesn’t necessarily mean the wine is bad.  In my experience the most prevalent causes for this reaction fall into three categories: a) The wine doesn’t suit the taster palate, b) the wine lacks sufficient age, and c) least commonly, the wine is actually bad (corked in wine vernacular).  The real issue is how to tell.

Palate Pleasing:      There may actually be a genetic reason for some wines to not seem pleasing to the palate.  It’s the same gene that makes some of us hate Cilantro because we find it bitter, while others just love the flavor.  In addition drinking dry (not fruit forward or sweet) wines is actually an acquired tastes, that requires patience, tolerance and persistence.  Seriously, I know very few people who first tasted a good dry red wine that just wanted to grab a straw and slug down the whole bottle.  It’s a little bit like a first cup of coffee, you wonder why anybody actually drinks the stuff, and after a while the habit forms and we actually begin to enjoy tasting the difference in the types of roast, and beans.  Wine is not much different, but it is a bit more complex.  Wine comes from different grapes, and the fermentation and winemaking processes differ greatly, accordingly we react differently to different wines and even different vintages of the same wine.

As a rule, I think that most wine drinkers start their journey by enjoying softer, fruitier wines. Some are just plain sweet  while others have enough fruitiness to without being sweet to be pleasing to drink.  Very few start their wine journey with big Bordeaux’s or Beefy Cabs.  It can take a few bottles of sipping to acquire the taste for dryer, more acidic and tannic wines.  Honestly, those with the wrong genetic make up may never get there.

Drinking Wine Before its Time:     This is the most common issue with wine that may not please the palate.  It’s a bigger problem today than in the past as wine production, hits the shelf younger than ever before.  Simply we open bottles before the wine has sufficient time to develop and achieve a peak of flavor, aroma and texture.  As a general rule, I never drink (unless just tasting for academic reasons) a red wine that is not at least three years old.  This is just my rule and certainly not an industry standard as todays young breed of winemaker have done some amazing things with forcing fruit forward and producing wines that don’t need a lot of age.  That said, I believe that a three to five year old Cabernet Sauvignon will tastes better than one that carries last years vintage.  White wines, while they can age well generally will be better in the first three years.  I know, no self respecting wine snob would drink white wine.  Well I beg to differ, some of my favorite wine snob friends love their white wines and have developed a real palate for the fine nuances between the various white varieties.

One caveat, aging wine requires care in both temperature and humidity so take care if you decide to age your own wine.  The better bet  for most of us is to buy our wine from a reputable wine merchant who has it properly displayed and cellared.

Take heart, you can hyper-accelerate a wine’s (especially young red wines) aging by the infusion of Oxygen.  No I am not talking about a fancy canister that costs an arm and a leg and takes up space.  Oxygenation, occurs naturally by simply exposing the wine to air.  I personally use a big flat bottom decanter  that creates a lot of wine surface IMG_20140524_125455to expose to air. Swirls it around a few times and let it sit for an hour or so and you will find a remarkable difference in the character of  a bottle of wine. I’ve even been known to pour a bottle of wine into a 9 by 12 glass baking dish when a wine needs a lot of air in a hurry.  One bottle of red wine in a baking dish for half an hour is about the same as an hour plus in my decanter.  I also use a technique I call double decanting when I am preparing a number of bottles.  I keep several sterilized screw cap bottles on hand for just this purpose.  If you pour  the wine into a decanter and return half the wine to the original bottle and pour the other  half a bottle into a sterilized second bottle bottle recap them both and put them in the cellar (or a cool closet) over night it has the effect of several years of bottle age.  I have one caveat – none of this is as effective as just letting the bottle rest on its own for several years.  The natural aging process allows the wine to develop flavors and textures that decanting simply will not.

There is another phenomenon that can cause a young bottle of wine to taste flat, off or bitter, it’s called “bottle shock”  This usually occurs when a wine is first bottled or if it has been tossed around in shipment.  It can even occur in older wines (10 or more years) when it is moved from a horizontal resting position to a vertical position if it is not moved gently. The cure for this is rest.  I like to let a wine rest for a least a week (not less than three days) after it arrives in my cellar.  Is this necessary for a wine you buy at the grocery store or wine shop? No, unless you kids played catch with it on the car ride home from the market.  For me resting new wines  more of about  “I’m not in a hurry to drink most of my wines as I have plenty at rest in the cellar”.

The Corked Bottle:   When you find one you will know it.  You open the bottle and it immediately smells like diesel fuel or hot asphalt.  If you get one of these no amount of aging or aeration will fix the problem.  It is simply a bad bottle.  If you purchased it from a wine merchant, and take it in right away they will generally replace it, but if it’s been in your cellar for a few years, just chalk it up to bad luck and a bad investment.  I’ve said on a number of occasions (in jest) “You could dress a salad with this wine.”  It is simply not true; a bad wine is a bad wine an its only value, if any is to sanitize your garbage disposal and kitchen sink drain.  I’ve done a lot of digging into what causes wines to go bad and I’ve even made some pretty fair wine vinegar in my time, but it has never been with a bad wine.  Making wine vinegar may well be a topic for another blog, but not this one.

Old wine with bad or odd tastes and smells is not necessarily “corked” but it may be too far past its time to be enjoyable.  Too much Oxygen over a long period of time can turn a wine and with a red wine, the fist hit comes as an auburn hue in the glass where you expected a garnet or ruby color.  The next will come to the nose where instead of fruit, mineral and spice you get the aroma of shellac mixed in.  Even then the wine may be drinkable and even enjoyable if you like a Madera mixed in with your usual wine flavors.  I find that sometimes with really old wines an hour in a decanter can do wonders as the aeration allow the wine to shed it’s musty character, take a deep breath and regain it’s wonderful old and complex character.  Some times is it doesn’t and it’s back sanitizing you drains.

All that said when you get to “Yuk” as a reaction to wine it’s time to reflect on what your dealing with decide if  and how the wine can be fixed. 

Posted in Craft Wines, Wine Tasting, Winemaking, Wines | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

The World is a Battle Field

This Post has absolutely nothing to do with wine, except that wine can have a calming effect (in moderation) during stressful times. I re-posted this piece from one of my favorite (non-wine) blogger. It says what I feel more eloquently than I could and does so in a way that, at least in my case, up-lifts the spirit and provides an iota of hope that we (all men, women, children and the little creatures in this world) can live together in peace. May it be so.

Nenes Life

From the beginning of time we have been fighting each other because of our differences…in religion, in politics, in personal beliefs. 

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Will the Real Sangria Please Stand Up

I am, to a fault, a wine purest and don’t add anything to my wine, no ice, no sugar no fruit and certainly (not since my Fraternity days) don’t pour two wines in the same glass.  The days of pouring a gallon of Gallo Hearty Burgundy, a pint of Hawaiian Punch concentrate, four (each) Seven-up and Ginger ale into a wash tub with a block of ice (dry Ice if it was Halloween) , sliced fruit and lord knows how many pints of what-ever  hard liquor anybody brought to the party have long since passed.  I am sure this (or something similar) went by many names, but for those that don’t know it by another name, back in the day this concoction was known in my circles as a “Hairy Buffalo” , because  the next morning your mouth tasted like you had eaten a buffalo, hide and all.  Ah, those were the days.  Right, not so much from my current perch.

Well it is summer, and heat is upon us so somehow warm red wine may not fill the bill.  We always have a nice Sauvignon Blanc or Chablis, or Chenin Blanc chilled to perfection (37 to 40 degrees F).  But wait, how about a nice bottle of Sangria (over my dead body) that nobody really know what it contains.  If we want to do Sangria, let do it right just like the Spanish did.  I happen to have a recipe handed down through generations of my family ( say what! Minto’s Scottish).  Somehow a Spaniard must have slipped in.  In any case this is a recipe for authentic (unadulterated) Sangria.  Before I actually get to the recipe, I need to clarify that it calls for a Rioja, but getting a nice Rioja in the USA at a price you would waste on creating Sangria is not easy so I substitute any cheap red wine (sometimes white – Anything but Chardonnay – if I have fresh berries or  peaches).  If you pay more that $6.00 you have gone to up scale.

Now for the Recipe:

Make a simple syrup:
Boil 2 cusp water
Add 2 cups bakers sugar (fine but not powdered)
Stir until melted and pour half into two quart mason jars.

Make it into Sangria Syrup:

Cut one large Orange, Lemon and Lime and add half to each jar.
Let the liquid cool to room Temp and put them in the Frig.

Create the Sangria:

fill a Kool-aide style (glass) pitcher half full of ice cubes, add 3/4 cup of the simple syrup, add a half dozen of the citrus slices from the jars, and fresh fruit (apples, peaches, pears, oranges, berries, etc.) to the pitcher. Pour in a single bottle of wine (red or dry white). Chill until ready to serve.

Serving:

Fill 12 to 16 oz. tumblers, with ices and some fruit pieces from the pitcher and then fill with Sangria mixture. it is ready to drink – Enjoy.

Adulterations:

Some like to add a couple of shots of brandy or dark rum to the mixture, but I am a purist and drink mine just as the Spaniards have for centuries.

Asides:

The Simple Syrup will keep in the Frig for the whole summer, though it seldom makes it.
Also I have been known to make a batch without the ice and fruit, have a glass and pour the rest back in the wine bottle, cap it, refrigerate it and drink it over a period of days (up to a week) by just pouring it in a wine glass with or without ice and fruit( no frills).
I really like using a Cab as my base, but a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, or while blend really work well. If you want it fruity, try it with the Zinfandel.

Winter Use:

If you substitute a garnish bag filled with equal parts, whole clove, allspice, broken cinnamon sticks (add star anise if your brave) for all the citrus but the Orange, the syrup makes a great base for hot mulled wine.  Simply omit the ice part, heat the wine, pour into mugs with an unbroken Cinnamon stick and you have a nice mulled wine to take the chill off winter evenings.

Bon Appetite

Posted in Red Wine, Sangria, Varietals, Whimsy, Wines | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Nasty, smelly wine!

This one is for those of my readers who wonder about what “corked wine” mean. Ian has such a great way to make complex issues simple.

Wine talks and tastings

Ians mugshotYou open a bottle of wine and instead of the lovely, fresh appealing aromas you were hoping for, a nasty smell hits your nose. Something is obviously wrong, but what? – and what, if anything, can you do about it?

It depends on the smell. Perhaps the most likely is a musty, mouldy smell. This suggests a ‘corked’ wine. Corked wine is nothing to do with bits of cork floating about in the glass, which are harmless (take them out with a spoon or your finger and be more careful opening the bottle next time) – but is the result of a problem in the cork production process which has tainted the cork, which, in turn, has spoiled the wine. Nothing you can do except take the bottle back for a replacement or refund.

Another possibility is the wine might smell a bit like sherry or vinegar and a white…

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The End of the Cork?

I follow a lot of wine bloggers, but Ian is one of the more authoritative and reliable. I happen to agree with him on the use of corks, but I wonder if we will ever see the day when it is all screw caps. At 69, I doubt it will happen in my lifetime.

Wine talks and tastings

CorksHow long before the practice of using a cork to seal a wine bottle is consigned to history? It may not happen in 5 years or even 10, but corks are on their way out. In a tasting I ran recently, 5 wines out of 6 were under screwcap. And it’s not only the cheapest bottles that no longer need a corkscrew – these 5 were all good quality wines around £8 – £10. Nor is the trend restricted to the New World; producers in some of the most traditional Appellations of France are also switching: I’ve opened a Chablis and a Crozes-Hermitage recently – both had screwcaps.

For more than 200 years, the cork has been the most commonly used method of sealing a wine bottle. Provided it’s kept moist (which is why bottles should be stored on their side), the cork swells to fill the neck of the…

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The Billionaire’s Vinegar–A Tale of the Other Wine World

Billionaires Vinegar

My world of wine exists for my enjoyment and the enjoyment of hundreds of others who  sip, pair and socializing with a glass of wine in our hands.  I recently read a books entitled “The Billionaires Vinegar” which tells the story of the other world of wine; the one of excesses, deceit and collection for collections sake.  The story, half history and half memoir revolves around the sale of a cache of Chateaux Lafite from the 1870s belonging to Thomas Jefferson found in the 1960’s and sold at auction in London.  Not much of a page turner, but when they discovered it to be a fraud, the story brightens a lot.  The amazing excesses that surround the wine auction and collector’s world feigns reality, but strikes right at the heart of todays wine industry and it’s simplicity and genuine nature.  This dichotomy defines the two worlds of wine; mine and he Billionaires

The Washington Post reported last week that a Swiss Auction house pulled numerous lots of 1980’s Burgundy from it’s sale amid allegations that some or all of it was in fact fake.  Why create fakes when there is so much great wine out there to enjoy?  It seems, like identity theft, that picking on the “haves” is an okay way to redistribute the wealth.  Sadly with a supply of the right paper stock, a good color laser copier, a supply of bottles, properly stamped corks and the right foil, faking rare wine is not that hard.  We now have a whole industry devoted to sleuthing out fake wines.

My point in all this; Poor Robert’s is about wine that the masses can enjoy and not have to worry whether the wine we review is real or fake.  I know if I like a wine, I know if it’s a good wine and one that can stand a little more age before drinking, but in the end they will all be consumed, not collected for profit, maybe for fun, but never for profit.  My world of wine features the winemakers that actually toil in the wine sheds making real wine for real people. It’s about the real people who buy wine on line, in wine shops or supermarkets and do it just to enjoy the taste and society that a nice affordable bottle of wine bring.  To those who turn their noses up at  affordable wines because they lack a perfect balance, I shed a tear.  they have missed the true joy of wine; the seeking, the finding and most of all experiencing new and different flavors and sensations.

To the real wine drinkers, I say rejoice as you represent the best of Today’s wine world, those who enjoy for the sake of enjoyment and not for the sake of appearing better than someone else, just because you can.

Posted in Whimsy, Wine Making, Winemakers, Winemaking, Words, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Frankie, my dear, I don’t give a damn

I saw this on one of the blogs I follow and found it both interesting and funny. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Frankly Wines

Inspired by a comment from Mr Richie Magnier of The Motley Cru, here are 10 wines / grapes / regions / producers with some connection – however tenuous – to the name FRANKIE!  If this seems somewhat vain, well maybe it is, but hopefully also a bit of fun…

1. Cabernet Franc (Loire & Bordeaux)

Cabernet-franc From Viala & Vermorel – Ampélographie

So we kick off with one of the classiest Francs around, a stalwart black grape of Loire and Bordeaux that’s also becoming quite trendy in Argentina.

In Bordeaux it’s a useful blending component on both Left and Right banks, especially as it ripens before its offspring Cabernet Sauvignon.  In fact, in Bourg, Saint-Emilion and Pomerol it’s not usual for “Cabernets” plural to indicate a mix of the two without giving their relative proportions.

In the Loire Cab Franc is important in Saumur, Chinon, Anjou and Bourgueil.  It’s often a…

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Repurposing Wine Barrels – Just Cuz I Could

In retirement I make furniture, usually finely finished stuff.  Recently I got a commission to make a pair of bar stools out of  wine barrel staves and the metal barrelWine Table strapping.  They are still a work in progress as I sculpture the seats and create the barrel stave backs.  Last week was an indoor week here and I was not motivate to spend the days with my chisels and gouges so looking for something to do, I struck on the concept for a rough cocktail (patio) table, made out of the barrel scraps, that used the rustic beauty of the natural wine stain on the inside of the barrel.

Well, the whole project took me less than a day start to finish and I now have two identical tables.  While this photo doesn’t do the coloring justice, they are sturdy functional and a great conversation piece.  I  used a clear exterior water sealer as the finish.  They were super simple if you have a band saw (a hand held jigsaw will do if you are careful), a bottle of exterior wood glue, a couple of  24” clamps, 12 woodscrews and a 9”x 9”scrap of hardwood to make the sub base to support the tables legs.  You can buy all the material you need for this project at Lowes or Home Depot for less than $45.00.  They carry half barrels (good for 0ne table) in the garden department and all the rest is scattered throughout the store.  If anybody is interested, send me an e-mail at rminto@bigsky.net and I’ll provide more detailed instructions and more photos. 

Posted in Barware, Cocktails tables, Craft Furniture, Hodgpodge, Wine Barrells | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments