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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Covid-19 and Small Wineries — A Personal Perspective From the Trenches

We live in a very different and crazy, uncertain world right now and for many of us it involved simply going home, working from home and doing the occasional jig-saw puzzle to break up the day.  We watched mainstreet businesses shutter for the first time in our lives and for some of us even saw friends get sick (some really sick) and even die. Our news sources suddenly became Covid-19 updates and little else.

I’ve been close to the craft wine world for a lot of years and latley kept in contact with many small, even  some very obscure winemakers to see how this new world order impacted them.  I, for one, found myself buying cases and cases of wine direct from wineries, where  before I might buy a couple of cases a year, just to support them in this strange and uncertain time.  Brick and Mortar Winery stands as one of my favorite and most regular sources of boutique Pinot Noir, Rose, Chardonnay, Nouveau (an American take on Nouveau Beaujelais) and Vin Claire (my all time favorite white blend) and represents just that sort of craft winery.  A few years ago I asked Matt Iaconis to write a guest blog for me on the modern style of Chardonnay and how it has evolved over the years as one of California’s signature wines.  Well today he seemed like the perfect person to ask to pen a blog post on what the new Covid-19 world means to the craft wine industry.  I am posting his unedited perspective so you can all share in what I have observed and followed this past few months.  Enjoy!

An Open Letter from Matt Iaconis 

I’ve had the pleasure in knowing Robert (Bob) Minto (a/k/a “Poor Robert” to many in the craft wine world) for nearly a decade. He has supported my wife Alexis and I since we first began producing wine for nakedwines.com. When we launched our own two wineries (brick & mortar and delta wines), he was amongst the first to sign up for our mailing list and has championed our wines since the beginning. So, when Bob mentioned the opportunity to share our story, as well as how this global pandemic is affecting us and the wine industry as a whole, it was a quick response: ‘Yes, absolutely.’

Our two small, family-run wineries have a wide spectrum of wines, and in turn, a wide audience. The first winery we launched back in 2011 was brick & mortar (www.brickandmortarwines.com), where we originally specialized in single vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Our newest winery, delta (www.winesforchange.com), specializes in your everyday drinker: high quality wines at an affordable price point of $15 per bottle. Plus, we donate a portion of all sales to two different local organizations here in California dedicated to helping fight for climate change.

Back at the beginning, we didn’t have grandiose goals or dreams of owning our vineyard or winery space; instead, we just wanted to produce wines that we loved to drink and share them with people we love. As we have evolved as a winery, we added different tiers of wines: some high-end, singular expresses of a given place and time, as with our single vineyard Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays; some more accessible, broader reaching wines like our Anderson Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which are blends of several different vineyards and come in at a price that is much more affordable for many more wine enthusiasts; some exciting and fun natural wines like Vin Pétillant and Nouveau, which create a ‘human’ aspect to our brand – just real wines, nothing pretentious; and cans – our single biggest risk we’ve ever taken as a winery, stepping outside our comfort zone only to find ourselves as an industry leader in quality wine in a can.

When we started brick & mortar, we knew this brand would be our foundation for everything we did in the wine industry, and with every great success, we needed a solid foundation – something made from brick and mortar. We’ve worked between six and seven days per week for the past nine years to build our winery into something that garners recognition not only here in California, which is no small feat battling for relevancy with over 10,000 other brands in Napa and Sonoma alone, but also throughout the United States and around the globe. That said, we’re still very small. My wife and I own and operate brick & mortar. We aren’t backed by a large bank. We boot strapped this entire endeavor from day one. We aren’t rich. We don’t come from money. We just work really hard to hopefully create something to hand to our kids and have them take the reins and make it their own.

In the first two months of 2020, we were laying the groundwork for our best sales year to date. We have noticed things really start picking up in the latter half of 2018, with increased recognition from wine writers, the sommelier community as a whole and as a result, increased sales; this trend only continued last year and through the first few months of this year.

When concerns of COVID-19 first started to surface in the US eight weeks ago, no one could have imagined the impact and devastation it has caused throughout the world. We’re so thankful to every doctor and nurse working tirelessly day in and day out right now to save our friends, our family and our colleagues. It almost feels tone deaf to write about how COVID-19 has impacted my life, as my wife, my three kids, and all of my family and friends are all healthy and have been spared.

Where I do feel this open letter (or whatever you want to call this) does have value is answering the question that we in the in the wine industry have been asked countless times in the past few weeks: “How are you doing in all of this chaos? How is all of this affecting you and your wineries?”

First off, it needs be mentioned that wineries are more fortunate than some in this situation and I think that should not be overlooked. We can still sell wine direct to customers, and have done so at a higher rate than we have ever done in the nine years of operation. Restaurants have been crippled due to the state mandated closures. While some have been able to operate take-out and as pseudo wine shops, I doubt this covers the operating costs, but rather mitigates the damage that a full closure would cause.

With the mass closure of restaurants, some wine shops, sport arenas, concert venues, the active outlets that have served our wines for the past nine years have vanished – and thus, so have the majority of our sales. With Alexis and I coming from the restaurant world – both of us worked at Michelin 3-Star The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, CA – brick & mortar, as well as delta, were build on the restaurant industry. We sell about 80-90% of our wine through restaurants and wine shops from here in California and New York to Norway and South Korea.

The lack of sales is only a tip of the iceberg, albeit it’s a large tip. The struggle all small businesses are facing now, including the wine industry, is the lack of clarity pertaining to how we access support by way of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). We’ve applied for any and all assistance possible for a small business like ourselves but the absence of any real guidance has all but extinguished the hope instilled but the CARES Act passed a few weeks back. While all is not lost with assistance from the federal government, every day that passes is another day closer to small business like our closing their doors.

We were recently interviewed for an upcoming story that will run in a local magazine and regional paper in May, during which time we were asked how we see the wine industry coming out of this post COVID-19. Honestly, no one has a crystal ball here. As with all tragedies and disasters, it has created a sense of ‘survival instinct’ within us all. Frankly, we’ve been more creative in the past month with regards to new ways to sell wine, than we have been in our nine year of existence. From visual tastings on Zoom and Instagram Live features with wine influencers to sponsoring podcasts in order to get our name our there more and creating specials on our website to drive more traffic, we have pulled out all of the stops to stir up more business – and it has worked thus far! My hope is that this creative light and ingenuity doesn’t become a dull glow when we get back to our new normal. Furthermore, we hope all new direct sales customers that taste our wine for the first time become long lasting customers – directly from us or by way of visiting local restaurants and buying our wine of the list.

In life, I’ve always been one to look for the silver linings in situations in order to stay positive; this pandemic has been no different. I’m not going to say I’ve been 100% positive and optimistic during the past month (and my wife can attest to that…), but I’ve always been someone who looks to distill a situation down to positivities and other things I need, throwing the rest away.

The camaraderie by everyone in the our small town of Healdsburg has been so inspiring. The number of people reaching out to us to check in and then those people purchasing wine from us has been overwhelming. You never really know the impact your have on people until you’re in a vulnerable, distressed situation – just trying to figure out how to survive – and you look up only to see the calvary coming over the hill of everyone that you’ve supported yourself over the years; everyone who you’ve donated wine to their school event or their little league fundraiser; everyone you’ve shared a glass or a conversation with in passing.

There is no script of how we all get through today, tomorrow or the coming months. But, together, we will prevail. That I can promise.

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New Wine for a New Generation of Wine Drinkers Or . . .

For a while now I’ve been thinking about the sheer volume of new wine (different labels) have hit the market in the past several years, why and what it really means.  In an effort to synthesize my thoughts on the subject, I decided to write a blog post which will be a bit of a ramble as it comes together.  By way of disclaimer, this is a very subjective topic and so what follows can only be viewed as my opinions, questions and ideas.

Not long ago, on one of the wine group sites I follow, a fairly seasoned wine drinker ask if the artisan wine being vinted today was so quickly produced as to have reduced it’s quality.  The inquirer made particular reference to Big Reds and domestic Cabernet Sauvignon in particular. On its face it is a fair question as clearly over the last five to ten years, these wines have changed, but without the context of who is drinking wine these days and their expectations the question may miss the bigger issue of consumer demand and preference.

I am old enough to remember the days when our domestic wine industry (California primarily) consisted of less than a hundred major wineries and winemakers that produced most of the wine we could find in our local liquor stores (yes back then that’s where you had to get your wine). Candidly the quality of the wine available in Washington State where I lived at the time couldn’t hold a candle to what we currently have available to say nothing about sheer variety.  Washington  State didn’t have the wine industry it does today so it was not a factor  For the record, at the time I didn’t think the wine we had available was all that bad. I was a wine drinker, not a collector or a taster back then and we bought it and we drank it pretty much right away. How production wine got made and aged (if at all) really wasn’t an issue like it is today.  In the modern wine world, where you source grapes, what grapes you blend, the medium in which you age the wine, how long it’s “barrel aged” and how long it ages in the bottle all matter.  Frankly all these elements impact the sensations we experience when we drink wine. Basically, over time,  wine for many became an experience, not just something to drink with a meal or on a hot afternoon.  I really believe that not only has the wine improved over the years, so have the wine consumers expectations and knowledge of wine.

Okay, I confess that I am a bit of a wine geek and for me the wine experience is as much about comparing this wine or vintage to another wine or vintage not just drinking it with a meal or in the company of friends.   I keep tasting notes on all the different wines and vintages I drink so that I can watch and understand how each wine and/or vintage changes over time.  This takes a lot of time and unless a person really enjoys that sort of thing it’s probably not high on the agenda for most wine drinkers.  In fact as I read comments posted to the many wine groups I follow, I would say there are really very few who enjoy the kind of detail I do.  Clearly the younger set of wine drinkers (huge generality) want to go to the market or wine shop by a bottle and enjoy it right away, just like I used to when I was younger.   That said the biggest difference today is the choices available and the number of outlets available to them .  I also posit that they prefer their red wine smoother and less acidic with gentler tannins than I do.  Simply wine is to be enjoyed for the flavor and the circumstance (not a bad thing) rather than to be compared, contrasted and analyzed.  In the a practical sense, wine consumption is a matter of style and preference that makes room for both extremes and everybody in between.  At the same time the number of choices makes selection more difficult.

I will observe that the growth and change in artisan winemaking results directly from the changes in and breadth of consumers wine preferences as well as the increased number of wine consumer in the market today. This however does muddy the water a bit for the wine geeks like me.  Much of the change in character comes from an increase in the amount of blending that occurs in making  wines carrying the same varietal lable. Blending wine varietals has always been around, but the extent and degree of blending has, for me changed the playing field a lot.  For example a Cabernet Sauvignon by label name doesn’t have to be made from exclusively Cabernet Sauvignon grapes (seldom is) and depending on the State of Origin or AVA  it may contain as much as twenty-five or thirty percent other grape varietals.  The secret is out – by adding Merlot or Zinfandel (or other red varietals) winemakers can smooth out younger wine and differentiate their wine from the pack. Based on market feedback, this enhanced blending is popular and has increased both sales and consumption in the younger market sector.  It has also brought about an increased interest in red wine amongst a new female population that previously had gravitated to  toward  less acidic and softer whites.

What this has done for this wine geek is to make cataloguing wines more difficult as I now find myself with a vastly larger inventory of each “varietal” to parse through and rate.  Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the process, but it makes giving them a “star”or a “numerical Wine Enthusiast type”  more difficult as now I have to factor in or out, as the case may b,  the personal preference for wine style within a specific varietal  that in the past had all been pretty close in style.  As I decide how to deal with this issue I’ll probably take the style factor out of the qualitative rating and add detail to my notes about  the wines style.

The other problem the new “drinkable younger”, smoother style wine creates  for rating is the need to determine how well a wine will age and what it will do in flavor, acidity and tannins as it ages.  In the past I found it quite easy to taste a red wine when it was young and be able to judge those changes because each varietal had a pretty consistent blend and behavior.  Today I find that I am taking almost a week with a lot of exposure to air and sometimes as many as five tastings to determine what a wine will be like at other points in its life and just how the basic characteristic will change.  Simply tasting and rating these wines is  now more of a process than before.  The French have been dealing with this for years and really have it down to a science they make some wines to age (Vin de Garde’) and some to drink right now but their classification system, while very arcane, makes the distinction clear. The newer, simpler American AVA classification system not so much. Simply unless they can find reviews with a lot of detail, wine drinkers are left to a lot more chance as to whether they will enjoy a bottle that they pick up at the market while shopping for groceries.

As I stated at the beginning of this post, I have rambled as I brought together my thoughts and it has help point me in a direction as to how I will rate and review wine, but it has drawn no clear conclusions.  So stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted as I work to find and end to this ramble.

Posted in Food and Wine, Life Balance, Varietals, Wine, Wine Tasting, Winemakers, Winemaking | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Wine Tasting and Reviews for the Masses

I’ve been drinking wine (good and bad) for over fifty years now and I’ve written  and read more than my share of wine reviews.  Lately I’ve become a bit disenchanted with both the content of the reviews and the process of writing them.  It seems to me that many of the reviews we see today are written to impress the reader with the reviewers knowledge of wine and to help the winemaker/distributor sell the specifically reviewed wine  Over the years I must confess my guilt in trying to help many of the Naked Wine Winemakers sell out their inventory as I really like their innovative offerings .  So lets be clear, my motives were purely personal as I wanted them to move on to their next great wine so I could enjoy it and perhaps grab a few bottles for my own cellar before they disappeared, never to be seen again.

To the point of this post –  shouldn’t the purpose of a published review be solely to help a reader decide if the wine suits their particular needs and desires when they contemplate buying a bottle or case of wine? For example, I don’t believe that listing a catalogue of esoteric aromas or flavors does anything for the average wine consumer except make them feel less worthy because they simply can’t pick out the “essence of eucalyptus” the “Mexican Cocoa” or the “Madagascar Vanilla Bean” buried in the myriad of other descriptor contained in a review. Frankly to me Vanilla is Vanilla, Cocoa is Cocoa and I don’t have a clue what an essence of anything really means. It should be sufficient for a wine review to tell the reader whether the reviewer liked the wine, its origin, who made it, what it cost, what (very) basic aroma/flavor profile the review found,whether the wine is ready to drink or could benefit with a bit more aging to be its best, what food types it enhances and whether it was a good value for the price.  Does it really matter if the color is “red” or  “Ruby with a hit of Brick around the edges”?  I don’t think the wine will taste any better regardless. It is important that a review let us know about acidity, sweetness and tannins as that information really helps a reader make buying decisions that favor their own particular tastes. Unless the reader is a winemaker, or has a degree in enology going beyond that  much more information does not help in a consumers understanding of the wine.

If you go to the “Wine Reviews” section of this Blog, you will find reviews of a lot of different wines.  What you really get is a copy of my tasting notes  and comments about a wine which I write for myself and my own use in helping me remember a wines characteristics so I can keep the hundreds of different wines and vintages straight as I pull them from my cellar or make a decision to add a new vintage of an old favorite.  In this regard some significant detail is important, but not as a guide for others.  So the question I ponder as I write this post – should I continue to post my notes in the wine review reviews section of this blog, stop publishing them at all, or try to simplify them down so that they actually help consumers make good wine buying decision for themselves?  I don’t have an answer yet, but I wanted to let my readers know that I am thinking about the subject and ask you all to think about what helps you and what you would like from a review.  Any feedback is greatly appreciated>

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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-fireLike 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