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.

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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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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.

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