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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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 , , , , , | 2 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

Valpolicella: So Misunderstood

Ian is one of my favorite wine writers and this post to the Bristol Wine Blog was very enlightening. So much so that I went straight to the local Wine shop and looked for the three varieties of Valpolicella, on the top two shelves and sure enough they were all to be found. In my youth I Valpolicella was one of my favorites, but over the years I’ve been more focused on other varietals. So now with three bottles all over $20.00, I am going to renew the acquaintance. I hope you enjoy this re-blog as much as I did.

Wine talks and tastings

valpolicellaSay the name ‘Valpolicella’ to many wine lovers and you’re likely to hear a fairly negative reaction.  I take a different view: Yes, there’s a glut of pretty ordinary examples among the bargain basement offerings on supermarket shelves and these have caused Valpolicella’s reputation to suffer in recent years.  But, leave those alone (and pay a few £s more) and you’ll find some delightful, fresh and deliciously fruity reds that are ideal for drinking on their own or with, for example, a seared tuna steak.

My suggested food match is a key to what you should expect from this red wine from the Veneto region of northern Italy: it’s a delicate red, not heavy or chunky but light-bodied, refreshing and easy drinking.  You can even chill it for a summer picnic.  One of the best producers is Allegrini whose wines bring out all the lovely bitter…

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Vibrant and Versatile-Barton & Guestier Rosé

This gallery contains 7 photos.

Originally posted on SAHMmelier:
We have all heard about how versatile Rosé can be. It carries throughout the year, pairs with a wide variety of dishes, and you can find delicious examples at a variety of price points. Did you…

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Everything you always wanted to know about Chianti Classico (and lots more!)

Well loyal PRWA readers, once again I am poaching (re-posting) a piece from Mike Veseth’s Wine Economist. Mike has done it again with this great synopsis, book review, of Chianti Classico. I am a broad reader of all books wine, but I never miss one that Mike Veseth reads and reviews. I am off to see if I can get it for my Kindle or whether I’ll actually have to go to B&N to pick it up. I am not a lazy reader, just a lazy book shopper. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did.

The Wine Economist

nestoBill Nesto MW and Frances Di Savino, Chianti Classico: The Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine. University of California Press, 2016.

I didn’t know much about Sicily and its wine industry until I read Bill Nesto and Frances Di Savino’s 2013 book The World of Sicilian Wine  and it really opened my eyes. I enjoyed the detailed analysis of the regions, the wineries and the wines and I especially appreciated the  economic history of the wine region and its complicated relationship with international markets. What an interest place!

I approached their new book on Chianti Classico from a different perspective. While I am no expert on Chianti and its wines, I am way more familiar with this region that Sicily. (A section in my 1990 book Mountains of Debt analyzed the fiscal history of Renaissance Florence, including their wine tax scheme.)

Would Nesto and Di Savino be able to open my eyes…

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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 play for the LA Lakers 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. 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 it 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 which is 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 but 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 , , , , | 9 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.

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