Tag Archives: port

DEMYSTIFYING YOUR WINE ENJOYMENT

The wine world is filled with possibilities. There are dozens of nations, hundreds of regions, thousands of appellations, tens of thousands of vignerons and wine makers, and probably hundreds of thousands of wine outlets if you count restaurants. You can add to that all of the wine knowledge, science, literature, publications, websites, bloggers, and well, it’s a lot. Can you imagine walking into a restaurant, asking for a wine from a specific label which you happen to like, and them actually having it?

How is one to make choices about what to drink and when?

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Dorianne at Gallerie Lafayette’s Chateau d’Yquem Display – Paris

And there are price points to consider, wine rating points (should I order a 91 or an 88?), sometimes snooty sommeliers and wine shop employees, various vintages of differing quality, and labels, labels, labels. And those labels are on bottles with corks, bottles with screwcaps, boxes, cans, casks, and more. And by the way, how should you store that wine?

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Too many options can be frustrating.

Oh, and what wines to serve with which foods? Which wines to sip alone? What kind of wine opener should I use? What other wine accessories should I buy? What temperature at which to serve the wine? In what kind of glass (or slipper)? Bubbly, sweet, dry, demi-sec? Port or late harvest? And ice wine!

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Many “experts” are just guessing.

All of this can be seen as a huge obstacle to wine enjoyment, or it can be seen as a vast array of opportunities to enjoy wine. Like much of life, it all depends on your attitude.

Entry into the world of wine is really quite easy. Wine is practically ubiquitous – it’s pretty much everywhere. I was just in eastern Ukraine and had local wine, some of which was delicious (LINK).

One way to view the many options in the wine world and all of the different types of knowledge and skill that goes into the whole process of bringing wine to your table, is to see an opportunity for almost endless exploration. You can have a different wine every day and never repeat yourself (assuming varied wine retail options in your area and online).

Another way to approach the wine world is to find a few wines that you like and stop there. I have a friend who rarely drinks anything beyond Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay; another who will only drink oaky chardonnays. Some may only drink Port wines; others Napa Cabernets.

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You can study broadly or do a deep dive into a narrow range of wine knowledge and experience. Most will be somewhere in between the extremes, but there is a niche for everyone. The key is not to pay too much attention to what the “experts” or the marketing forces tell you as they try to steer you toward their own preferences. Find your own way – if it isn’t interesting or fun for you, you’re not doing it right.

Me, I have some favorite wines, some favorite producers, some favorite growing areas, and some favorite countries. I also like to experiment with wines I have not tried yet, but I tend to favor a known quantity with a good meal. For example, we were in Kraków, Poland recently (LINK), dining at Padre, a local Polish restaurant. I was having lamb and noted that there was a very nice French Malbec from Cahors on the list. Knowing how a rich, inky Cahors Malbec would go with lamb made my decision easy – so I passed on some Polish wines. I picked a favorite over the chance to explore – that time. At other times, I will make a different decision. But that is me. You may well do something different.

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Visiting Wineries can be both Fun and Educational.

My point is that the bulk of the effort in learning about wine should go into learning what YOU like about it. Then go from there. You may become an expert in Cabernet Sauvignons from the east side of Paso Robles; or you may be the go-to person for advice on Hungarian reds. Or, you may be that person who always drinks Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay.

So, if you are new to wine, consider building yourself a starter case (LINK) to see what you like. Let your local wine retailer know your preferences, including if you like to try new things or stick close to what you already know. If you travel, check out the local wine scene, either in town – wine bars, urban wineries and restaurants; or head out into the local wine country to taste and explore. In an airport? Stop at Vino Volo and try a wine that you’ve never had before. Sign up for an online service like WTSO.com (LINK) and opt for something new to you.

Starter Case Slide
A Starter Case is a great way to find out what wines you like.

Maybe you are a long-time wine consumer who is ready to spread your wings a bit. You might begin with your local wine shop – tell them what you like and ask them how you can explore some new wines that have a similar profile. Go to a Greek restaurant with good Greek wines on the wine list, and try some if that is new to you. See if there are some small producers of wines in your local area and give them a try. There are lots of possibilities. Try not to be intimidated by the experts or by too many choices. Take your time and stick to what you like – and maybe explore around the edges.

The world of wine is literally at your feet. Enjoy!

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Text Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

 

CASA BARRANCA WINE PAIRING DINNER IN OXNARD

On Friday, eleven of us made the short trek from the Conejo and Simi Valleys to the Oxnard/Port Hueneme area for a wine pairing dinner at the Waterside Restaurant (LINK), featuring Casa Barranca Wines (LINK). The dinner was set up in the back of the restaurant and included a table for 12 or so in a back room and a table for 16 in the front room.

I will speak to the food, the wine, and the execution of the concept. I want to begin by giving kudos to the owners of the Waterside Restaurant, who have created a very nice wine bar on a scenic marina in Oxnard. We had lunch there a while back and everything was good – the food, the wine, and the service. They hold a number of events during the week, and are working hard to bring a good wine experience to an area that has been generally lacking in good cuisine and good wine venues.

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As you can see, the menu was both ambitious and inventive. I should also note that some of the dishes were prepared differently for a member of our party who had allergies.The service was efficient and friendly.

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That said, there were some problems with the wine pairing event. The food was both inventive and beautifully presented, the chef used the paired wines in most of the courses. However, almost everything was served at a luke warm temperature at best. Part of this was due to the desire to have the chef explain each course after it was served AND having the winemaker describe the wine each time.This had to be done twice, as they could not be heard at both tables. They did finally alternate, with each speaking to a table then switching. I did taste a couple of courses as soon as they hit the table, and they were not hot. Something to think about for future events.

The Casa Barranca Wines are organically grown at a historic winery in Ojai, CA. The winery shares space with a spa retreat facility. Grapes are sources from Santa Ynez for the most part. Winemaker Samuel Tulberg, represented the winery at the dinner. He was very knowledgeable about the wines and their process, as you would expect.

The wines served were their 2013 Viognier, 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Pinot Noir, 2013 Craftsman Red, and a 2011 Vino Noche Port. The Sauvignon Blanc and the Craftsman Red (56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 22% Merlot – and just 12.5% alcohol) were quite good. The Pinot Noir was very average, and the Viognier and the Vino Noche were just not very good. The wines that I liked (and this was the general consensus at the table) were complex and somewhat elegant, with nice hints of fruit and terroir in there. The Viognier was anything but elegant, had a chemical nose, and simply was not a pleasing wine to drink. The Vino Noche Port was very harsh on the palate and hot with alcohol. It was better with the dessert – chocolate lava cake, but still . . .

I am sure that a visit to the Casa Barranca Winery is a fun outing, but I would not be going for the wines. Perhaps, over time, the wine making process will mature and even out.

As for the Waterside Restaurant, I encourage them to keep on trying and working on their presentation timing for food at events such as this.

WINE TRAVEL – WHERE TO GO, WHAT TO DRINK?

I love to travel. Since I was a child, I have always gotten excited about traveling – to the next town or across and ocean.

Dorianne shares this passion and we also are passionate about wine, so we combine the two passions wherever possible. This will begin a series of blogs on wine related travel, leading up to our departure in late February for a few months in Spain, Portugal, and France. I will, of course, blog from the places we visit about the locales, the people, and yes, the wines.

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Wine Travel is Fun and Rewarding – Here we are at Foxen near Santa Ynez, CA.

“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.” ~ Carson McCullers 

A couple of years ago I took a short sabbatical, six weeks, and Dorianne and I went to France. We spent 3 1/2 weeks in an apartment in Paris, then went to Lourdes in the Pyrenees for a conference, the spend about six nights in Bordeaux and six more in the Loire Valley. The year before that, we took our daughters to Paris, Burgundy, and Provence for three weeks. In each of these amazing places, we sampled the local and regional wines and, where possible, visited the vineyards and chateaus where wine was grown and made, and made friends in cafes and tasting rooms with others who love wine.

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A Great Wine Shop in St. Emilion.
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The Good Stuff.

 

“If I were really really ridiculously wealthy, I wouldn’t buy a mansion, just tiny apartments in every city I love.” ~ Mara Wilson 

Combining wine enjoyment and education with travel is something that may not be for everyone, but for some, it is the essence of a quality experience. Those of us who spend time with people who create and sell wines know that they tend to be very interesting people, indeed. People like Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe Estate in the Santa Rita Hills of California’s Central Coast region and Giancarlo at Le Wine Bar in Bordeaux, are just two examples of friendly, knowledgeable, and approachable people who happen to be in the wine business. There are countless others as well. Wine travel lets you meet these people and have the experience of connecting at a much deeper level with the wine itself.

Wine travel can be a day trip, for those fortunate enough to live near wine-producing regions. I will be taking such a trip in a week, to the Santa Ynez, Santa Rita Hills appellations in Santa Barbara County. This will be a group tour, with many people who I know – four wineries and a picnic lunch. A very nice way to spend a day.

One of the things we will be doing on our upcoming European journey is setting up future small group wine tours in France. Working with travel professional Steve Hooks, we will be creating a series of tours that will include time in wine country – initially Bordeaux then Burgundy – followed by some time in the city – either Paris or Lyon. The tours will be geared toward those who are already familiar with fine wines and in separate groups, those who want to learn about fine wines. The focus of the former will be discovery and enjoyment and the focus of the latter will be education and enjoyment.

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” ~ Anaïs Nin 

I really believe that good wine is best enjoyed with others. Our tours will emphasize that point, while offering some really unique opportunities to access some amazing places, enjoy great food paired with fine wines, and exploring the people and places of some of the world’s great wine regions.

We are not certain that there is a viable market for tours of this level. There are not many truly high-end wine tours being offered to North American customers. Some of the major tour companies and some of the cruise lines have tours featuring wine, but they are rather pedestrian, have larger groups, and mix the novice and the expert, which does not often go well in my experience.

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One of the Buildings at Chateau Smith-Haute- Lafitte in the Bordeaux region.
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In the Tasting Room at Smith-Haute-Lafitte

 

Our question is – is there a market for a week-long small group experience with four nights in a premier wine region (Bordeaux, Burgundy) followed by three in a major city (Paris, Lyon), staying in top hotels, with tastings of top wines, dinners in chateaus, connections with locals in the wine trade, special tours of museums (like a private evening tour of  the Musee du Louvre), wine pairing experiences, wine seminars and more?

As the year unfolds, we will be finding out. Share your thoughts in the comment section or email me at DrJim-Lockard@ATT.net