BITS & BOBS…

Leading into the Thanksgiving holiday, as sales reps try to sell me wines that are good for the meal, I am reminded once again how important vintage is. J. Lohr produces a Gamay style red called Wildflower made from the rare grape Valdiguie. Normally I would consider this an excellent compliment to the traditional holiday meal and bought a few boxes for display However I asked for a sample bottle before I pulled the trigger. It is the ’16 vintage and let me tell you it is nothing like the ’15 or ’14 vintage. Normally very plum driven with a hint of licorice and raspberry, this baby tasted like black tea and earth. Not only that, it lacked any sort of its normal complexity. There were parts of it I liked and parts I didn’t. I am sure that most of my wine customers would be disappointed if they put this out for themselves or their company. That being said, if you like black tea with a little dirt thrown in, by all means grab a bottle. Vintage can make all the difference in the world, especially with a winery like J. Lohr that is honest in their wine making, not manipulating the juice to fit a certain flavor profile they are looking for. Rest assured, I will always taste a wine before I recommend it, especially for an important meal like Thanksgiving.

Speaking of wine for Thanksgiving…Is there a perfect wine? The answer in my opinion is absolutely not. As subjective as everyone’s palate is, it would be impossible to peg one wine as the perfect match. As a wine steward, I can guide you to what I think will work based on past experience. Let’s face it, if you don’t like Pinot Noir, and I recommend it, you are not going to buy it no matter how passionate I am about the pairing. I have recommended Zinfandel many times in the past and lately have become disenchanted with this common turkey wine. Why you ask? For the past few years, I have popped a Zin for the occasion. Every time, I found the Zin to be too much for the food. Yes, it was jammy, perfect for the savory. Yet, for some reason it was too jammy. Next time, I went for a less “jammy” version and found it to be too tannic for the subtle flavors of the meal. On top of all that, Zin is notorious for being higher in alcohol than most other wines. With all the food and alcohol, I just wanted to go and curl up in my bed, instead of cleaning up and socializing. Bottom line, I no longer pull out a bottle of Zin for the occasion. I love Zinfandel, but now save it for the Superbowl or the BBQ.

This is not going to be a long story short sort of issue. My point of all this is don’t always feel you have to go with a certain type of wine with Thanksgiving if you’ve found that it didn’t work for you in the past. I’ve read where some wine writers slash critics have recommended Chianti for the meal. Well, it better be a damn good Chianti or you are going to get a ton of acidity and rust and dirt in your wine. Granted, there are a relatively few out there that like that style. If you want a Chianti that works, you most likely will have to spring for more than you budgeted. Last year, I went through more than five bottles of wine with the group that came to my house. If each of those bottles cost around twenty-five bucks, that’s a lot of money to spend on vino. Needless to say, if I poured an inexpensive Chianti, I probably could have kept the consumption down, and at the same time creating doubt in my families mind as to my future in the wine world. Chianti would not be my choice. The problem with wine folks like myself, is that we like to experiment and that’s fine for us, but not for the average consumer just looking for a wine that is cheap and cheerful and good with the turkey meal.

Are you waiting for me to give some ideas? It is Monday, and many of you are going to start your wine search soon. Here are a couple of thoughts, but never let a wine professional tell you what you should drink. Stay true to your palate and if some of my ideas stink to you then ignore them. Pinot Noir is a classic Thanksgiving wine, but I always caution people to be careful of thin, acidic versions. Gamay is also nice, but once again unless you are fond of acidity, be careful. Beaujolais Nouveau, which is a baby Gamay seems to work for a lot of people. Recently I have found that Grenache works very well. It seems to have the fruit to match the savory, but at the same time is not over-powering. Many versions will even have a little spice action which is really nice with the meal. Be careful with Grenache from Spain which they call Garnacha. I say be careful, because some versions can show a lot of rusticity which may turn you off. Stick to the new world on this one and I believe you will be happy. GSM blends can work quite nicely if they are Grenache dominate. GSM stands for Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and they are very popular now. You will not have a problem finding one at your local wine shop, just ask for some help. Whites seem to be the easiest for most. Riesling is classic as well as Gewurztraminer. Try a Moscato D’Asti if you want something new or just Moscato since you can get some nice ones for a prayer. Try a Rhone style white blend that has a fair amount of Roussanne in it, or just a straight up Roussanne if you can find one. Writer’s Block from Steele Wines out of California does a nice one for around fifteen bucks.

I wish all of you a fantastic Thanksgiving and if you feel motivated, please share with me your wine experience during this celebration. I would love to hear from you, so please comment on this blog or send me an email. I love feedback. One last thing. If the Hawks can beat Atlanta tonight without Cam or Sherman, we may be on the road to the playoffs once again. GO HAWKS!

Cheers!
Stan The Wine Man

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BITS & BOBS…

I had a very cool experience the other day at the store. I was stocking some wines and straightening up when a customer came up to me and showed me her phone with a picture of a wine I recommended. I found it for her, not remembering ever suggesting this wine to anyone in recently. I had to ask her when I had recommended it, since I couldn’t recall it. She simply said that she had read my review and I had given it a B/B+ grade and she wanted to try it. That meant that she was reading this very blog and no doubt found the review on my Friday’s Thirteen article. It was exciting in a way to know that the information was getting out there and that someone appreciated it. I thanked her for reading my blog and she said that some of her friends had told her about it. Again, very cool. I do this, because I love the wine world and I especially love to help people find great values that will save them money and lead them to wines they will enjoy. That experience made my week!

I recently had my yearly celebration with a special group of friends who love and appreciate wine. This is the sixth year I have organized this and although some have come and gone, the core of the group is essentially the same. I pull several special bottles from my cellar and line them up in a blind format. The challenge is to determine whether they are old or new world wines. It seems as if it would be easy, but I know the style of the wine makers and try to dig out new world wines that have an old world flair and old world wines that have a new world edge to them. There were five different types of wine for a total of ten wines. We have a lot of fun with this and all of us remembered last year when my brother-in-law from Texas won the challenge despite his lack of expertise in wine. He wasn’t at this one, but we did have Joe, a new invitee to the group. Wouldn’t you know it, Joe got all of them correct! He wasn’t the only one however. Marc also nailed them. It was especially impressive in that the ’07 Beaucastel Homage A Jacques Perrin Chateauneuf-Du-Pape was big, powerful and fruit driven. I would have mistaken it for new world myself had I been taking the challenge. Excellent job guys, I was impressed.

Thanksgiving is next week and this means that many of you are going to be seeking advice on a wine that pairs best with this meal. For whites, I would stick with Riesling or Gewurztraminer. Both match well with the savory side of the meal. For reds, I have switched gears a bit in the past couple of years. I have found that Grenache is a very nice play. I have recommended Zinfandel many times, but each time I have uncorked one for my meal I have been disappointed in the pairing. That being said, I am sure that some have had the opposite experience. That is just the way the wine world is. For me however, Grenache seems to have the right stuff to go with all the components of the meal, especially Grenache from the our side of the globe. I still like Pinot Noir with Thanksgiving. I am very careful to make sure it is not an acidic version of this wine as that definitely does not work. Go new world on this baby as well and you will be better off. Still, ask your local wine person for advice. There are new world versions that lean toward the acid side of the spectrum. Remember, I am talking Turkey here, so if you are doing something else for Thanksgiving, disregard everything I just wrote.

How about our Hawks! I think that Richard Sherman has a valid point when it comes to Thursday night football. He hates it and what happened to him just validates how stupid having a game after only three days of rest is. They had just come off a very tough game with the Redskins and had to face the always tough Arizona Cardinals. That’s a lot of smash mouth football in a short period of time. As a result, Sherman sustained a season ending injury. There were actually several injuries in that game which may not have happened if the players had the proper amount of rest. For those of us who love football, it is nice to have a game to watch on Thursday. However, I am more than willing to make the sacrifice if it means less chance of injury to the players. They are human beings, not commodities.

Cheers!
Stan The Wine Man

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STAN’S PICK FOR NOVEMBER 2017

I was standing on the aisle talking with a customer about the virtues of my pick for November and it dawned on me that I hadn’t put it up on this blog. Foolish me, since I do want all of you that read my blog (thank you very much), to know about this fantastic Washington red blend.

2013 Maryhill Winemaker’s Red


2013 Maryhill WineMaker’s Red (Columbia Valley, WA)… $12.

Anyone who has been following me, knows how excited I have been about the 2013 vintage out of our state. Most, if not all of the wines I have tasted have been better than past vintages and a lot of them have reached stellar status in my opinion. This little gem is no different.

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc it is smooth, structured and lifted on the palate. Notes of Currants, dark cherries backed by hits of blueberries and tobacco, penetrate the palate front to finish with a little smoke underneath. This is a “10′ in the delicious factor, yet it has the acidity and tobacco notes that keep everything in harmony. What I like about this wine is it’s versatility and appeal. It would be a very nice red to serve with the upcoming holiday meals. You pull the cork on this baby and you will make a lot of wine drinkers happy. (B+)

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BITS & BOBS…

I recently organized an Italian wine event with two featured guests from Winebow. Winebow is a large importer and distributor of wine and other wine related items. My friend David Bronleewe (who has worked for Winebow for a number of years) and I set this up well over a year ago while enjoying an Italian meal together. He suggested that we include Sam Kass who is an Italian wine expert and educator for Winebow. I really wanted David to handle it, but I figured if he wanted this guy to lead the event he must be good. Turns out, Sam did an amazing job leading the group through the wines we were tasting and educating all of us about this outstanding wine country. His passion for Italy and their wines was quite evident and incredibly, he kept my group’s attention for the entire evening. I have a very social wine group that can get noisy as they talk to each other about the wines. This was not the case with Sam, as he kept their rapt attention. It was only until the end that they really cut loose with the noise, but by then it was essentially over. Everyone left that night knowing a lot more about Italian wine culture. Thanks to both David and Sam for coming to the event.

Speaking of events, we are going to finish 2017 with a bang. In November we will have our holiday tasting event featuring the wines from the Martine collection with Courtney and Stacia. As is the norm, we will be pouring wines that will compliment the upcoming holiday meals along with a variety of bubbles. In December, Marty Clubb from L’Ecole will be coming. Marty is the wine maker for this iconic Washington winery located on the outskirts of Walla Walla. These are all invitation only events, so maybe you should come and see me and get in my wine group. Just saying. I’m trying to set up a You Tube episode with Marty, which I am very excited about. Stay tuned.

All of you are very aware of the terrible fires that ravaged the Sonoma/Napa area. Due to one of the wettest winters on record and a very dry summer, there was lots of fuel for the fires. It nearly wiped out Santa Rosa and a few wineries suffered severe damage. It will be a while before we know the exact extent of the destruction caused by the inferno. A few have come into the store and purchased wines from this area as a way to show support for the wineries. There are also many organizations set up to accept donations to help in the rebuilding effort. Go to winebusiness.com to get more information in this regard.

I would like to take a moment to write an epitaph to Rose`…Just kidding of course, but it is quite amazing to me how quickly Rose` sales stall as soon as the weather gets on the cold side. Are you kidding me folks? Rose` is an amazingly diverse wine that can pair with a number of dishes we may serve up on cold Fall nights. How about Mac & Cheese…Perfect. Roast fowl…Perfect. Taco Tuesday…Perfect. Pizza and football…Perfect. The point is, Rose` should be a part of your Fall and Winter. Next time you’re tempted to buy yet another bottle of Pinot Gris, think twice and make it Rose`.

Speaking of Fall, have many of you already started referring to it as Winter? I wrote in the past how Fall is the forgotten month. Remember, Winter does not start until the third week of December. I love the Fall. I know it has been unusually cold for the beginning of November, but wasn’t it cool to see the snow on the trees before they lost all their leaves? Fall is a great month as we watch the transition of scenery around us and we get a chance to get together as families and enjoy a holiday meal. Fall is great, because I get to tap into my modest cellar and enjoy some of the reds I have been ageing. If you’re a football fan, is there a better time of the year than Fall? Fall also has the task of acclimating us for the Winter. Can you imagine jumping straight into Winter from the Summer? So let’s embrace Fall and enjoy the transition.

Susie and I had a chance to go to Seattle and taste some fantastic wines on the top floor of the Columbia Tower. It has a breathtaking view! The wines were amazing, and I got to ask a few of the folks there about the fires in California as many of them were from the Napa area. They were all concerned of course, but it was nice to hear that a lot of them came out of it unscathed. The tasting was put on by Youngs Market and I want to give them a little advice. Don’t invite so many people that you can barely walk through the crowd and get to the tables to taste the wines. Also, have each winery bring more than three bottles of each. There had to be over two hundred at this event, and when we tried to get some Champagne for Susie, every table had run out, and there was still and hour and a half to go. I have put on many wine tasting events, and for 125 folks I have six bottles each available for tasting. We may not go through them all, but at least it’s there if we need it. As a good friend once said, “It’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.”

Cheers!
Stan The Wine Man

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