Recycle Your Used Wine Corks

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Photo by Rennett Stowe

What do you do with your used wine corks? If you're like me, you toss them into a series of increasingly overfull bowls that the kids occasionally tear into and toss around the house. There may be a few corks I'd like to save for sentimental value, but for the most part I think I'd be better off if I tossed them in a bag and recycled them.

ReCORK America is an organization that collects used corks and recycles them:

"Natural Cork, the kind of cork used in wine closures, is a perfect choice for recycling. It’s 100% natural, biodegradable and renewable. There is absolutely no reason natural wine corks should end up as landfill when recycled cork can become flooring tiles, building insulation, automotive gaskets, craft materials, soil conditioner and sports equipment.

Because of a worldwide interest in sustainable agriculture and natural products like cork, an alliance of concerned businesses, individuals, and ecological organizations has been formed to address the opportunities to recycle natural cork closures."

Check out the ReCORK America website for locations where you can recycle your corks. If you live in the Boston area, the only place they currently list as participating is Greenward in Cambridge. I called them and they confirm that they do indeed accept corks. Check 'em out- it looks like a pretty cool store.

Thanks to reader DZ for submitting this cool idea.


Bin Ends Wine Flea Market Sunday, June 28th in Braintree, MA

Friday, June 26, 2009

This Sunday, June 28th from 1-5PM, Bin Ends Wine in Braintree, MA will be holding a Wine Flea Market. I broadcast this information with a little hesitation- you might all beat me to the deals!

I've been scoring what I think are some huge deals on wine at Bin Ends lately. 500ml bottles of 2003 Neal Family Cab for $18, a 375ml bottle of 2002 Ridge Monte Bello for $35, and a $25 375ml bottle of 97WS Sauternes come to mind. I'm hoping to find similar at this event- I hope to see you there.

Check 'em out:
Bin Ends Wine
236 Wood Road, Braintree, MA

What to do next:

Like hearing about events like this? I'd love it if you subscribed to The Wellesley Wine Press.


Top 10 Wineries to Check Out at San Francisco Pinot Days 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Coming this weekend to Fort Mason in San Francisco is Pinot Days- a wine tasting event focused exclusively on Pinot Noir. It's not too late to take part: Check it out

The line-up of wineries at Pinot Days is amazing. Scanning through the list, these jump out at me as being "must see" for one reason or another:

  1. Black Kite
  2. Clary Ranch
  3. Goldeneye
  4. Hirsch
  5. Keller Estate
  6. Martinelli
  7. Merry Edwards
  8. Sanford
  9. Siduri
  10. Zepaltas
Further Reading:
Question of the Day: Which of the wineries exhibiting at Pinot Days would you add to the "must see" list? Check out the list and let us know.


Robert Foley Wine Dinner at BOKX 109/Hotel Indigo Newton, MA

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Robert Foley [Robert Foley Vineyards, Pride, Hourglass, etc.] will be present at BOKX 109 American Prime in Newton, MA (inside the Hotel Indigo) for a 5-course paired wine dinner. After dinner The Robert Foley Band will be playing along with dessert.

I've had a chance to visit this hotel and I thought it was quite a swanky place. I've tried a few Robert Foley wines over the years and they've always impressed, so this is an enticing opportunity- especially so close to home in Newton.

WHEN: Tuesday, July 21st, 2009 at 6:30pm
COST: $95.00, excluding tax and gratuity.

1st Course:
Wood Grilled Santa Barbara Spot Prawns
Salt and Pepper Monterey Squid
King Oyster Mushrooms with green onion Butter
Confit Sweet Breads with roasted garlic
2006 Pinot Blanc

2nd Course:
Tautog and Razor Clams with onion, garlic, potato & thyme
2007 Charbono

3rd Course:
Hobbs Prosciutto Wrapped Boar with almonds, coffee & honey
2006 Merlot

4th Course:
California Squab Under Brick with foie gras, raisins & barley
2006 Claret

5th Course:
Dueling Beef: Cacoa Strip Loin and Poivrod Spinalis with corn, mushroom & leek
Dueling 2006 Petit Sirah, Muscle Man/Pepperland

Check 'em out:
BOKX 109 American Prime
399 Grove Street
Newton, MA 02462
(Located inside Hotel Indigo)

For reservations and more information call 617.969.5300 or visit


Tasting Report: Hall Cabernet Sauvignon

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hall Wines, a Napa producer of a portfolio of wines ranging from $20 to $150 a bottle, has recently received some very big numbers from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast for their 2006 Cabernet Sauvignons.

Some interesting quick facts about Hall:

  • Hall sources most of its fruit from about 500 acres spread across 6 vineyards in Napa Valley.
  • They have tasting rooms in St. Helena and Rutherford.
  • All of their vineyards have been organically farmed since 2007.
  • They offer two levels of wines: The Napa Valley Collection and the Artisan Collection. One of each is featured in this review.
  • David Ramey [Chalk Hill, Dominus, Rudd, and Ramey Wine Cellars] is a consulting winemaker at Hall.
  • Kathryn Hall, proprietor of Hall Wines, served as US Ambassador to Austria from 1997 to 2001. "Exzellenz" is the Austrian word of "Ambassador".
I was fortunate enough to receive pre-release sample bottles of the Kathryn Hall and Exzellenz Cabernets which presenting me with the enviable decision: How should I enjoy these wines? Do I geek out and drink them on a week night analyzing them to the last drop? Or should I crack them open with friends over dinner?

I chose the latter, and we had some of our favorite neighbors over who happen to be wine lovers as well. We paired the wines with an assortment of Italian small plates made from ingredients procured from Tutto Italiano. We had a great time enjoying these wines with wonderful conversation, delicious food, and four energetic kids running around the house.

Since the wines were so young (2006 Napa Cab and not yet released) I was a little concerned that these wines might be austere and closed. Those fears were quickly allayed with the first taste of the first wine.

2006 Kathryn Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
$75/3,040 cases produced
Release Date: September 12, 2009
96 Points Wine Spectator
95 Points Wine Enthusiast
Aged 24 months in 65% new French oak barrels
14.5% alcohol

This wine screamed Napa Cab on the nose. It was very expressive aromatically, filling the glass with blackberry and black currant along with savory components which are a hallmark of some of my favorite big red California wines.

This wine floods the palate with gorgeous dark berry fruit. Imagine a spoonful of warm mixed berry pie filling on your tongue. Perhaps most notable was the chewy, fleshy tannins. Not harsh tannins- soft ones. And definitely enjoyable.

The finish went on for a mile, and in a good way [as opposed to an aftertaste kind of way]. For me, not a hint of excessive heat.

Probably one of the most enjoyable wines I've ever had.

96 Points/WWP

2006 Exzellenz Red Wine Sacrashe Vineyard Rutherford

$150/200 cases produced
Release Date: February 1, 2010
95 Points Wine Spectator
97 Points Wine Enthusiast
Aged 22 months in 60% new French oak barrels
14.5% alcohol

This was the second bottle we tried. Compared to the Kathryn Hall, this wine was similar, but it seemed just a bit more bashful aromatically at this point in time. Still a wonderful nose, but just not quite as obvious as the Kathryn Hall.

On the palate- oh my. This wine was even denser and with even "chewier", sweeter tannins. Wonderfully mouth filling, it too was a truly delicious wine.

Perhaps with some time, as the tannins soften a bit, this wine will rise to a level even higher than the Kathryn Hall, but if you're wanting to find a wine to enjoy immediately I think the Kathryn Hall would be the better play (especially given that it costs half as much as the Exzellenz).

I was thrilled and honored to get a chance to try such a limited production, high quality wine as this one.

93 Points/WWP

Ironically, though the Exzellenz is labeled as a "Red Wine" it is 100% Cabernet whereas the Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon is 99% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc. According to Alder Yarrow of Vinography, this was to allow for future flexibility in blending in other varieties into this wine. Read Alder's piece on the Exzellenz here.

Try a bottle a bottle of the entry level Hall Napa Cab for around $40, or try it by the glass at The Capital Grille. If you like what you see there, consider stepping up to the $75 Kathryn Hall -or- the $70 "Jack's Masterpiece" (also 96 WS/470 cases made).

Plugging a 96WS/$70 Napa Cab into the wwpQPR Calculator (What's that?) with a $45 baseline for outstanding Napa Cab, we get 2.57: Very Good. Gotta love a $70 value play.

What to do next:
Buy this wine on

Question of the Day: Have you tried Hall wines in the past? If so, what did you think?


Only 90 Point Wines for $15 and Under at Costco?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Recently, there's been some lively discussion about Costco's wine buying policy. In short, it's been asserted that Costco "told its vendors that it will only buy wines that will retail for $15 or less and have scored at least 90 points" (read more...). This policy was reportedly only for new wines (existing wines wouldn't get booted out just because they failed the test). Costco denies the claims, yet several vendors assert this is what they're being told.

First off, if there's actually a wine store in the country that has an assortment of 90+ point wines for $15 and under, please let me know where it is- I'd love to check them out. The reason I say this is that only 99 out of 7287 (about 1.4%) of all wines rated by Wine Spectator for the 2005/2006 vintages met that criteria. And none of them were Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, domestic Pinot Noir, or California Chardonnay (categories that I'd estimate make up roughly half the assortment at Costco). I understand that ratings might be pulled from other publications like Wine Enthusiast or Wine Advocate, but still- these are long odds that basically say that, if followed, Costco wouldn't be stocking *any* wines in the most popular categories in the U.S. market. Therefore, I doubt they're strictly following this policy.

Second, I get the feeling that folks bristling at a policy like this are taking issue with a powerful retailer relying so rigidly (and lazily?) on a few publications to determine which wines they should carry. I don't think Costco is doing anything other than what the purchase patterns of people who shop there tell them to. Specifically: Stock a limited number of SKUs from brands people recognize that are highly rated and affordable. My point: Take issue with American consumers, not with Costco.

Finally, there seems to be a notion that consumers who seek out 90+ point wines are relying too heavily on professional ratings. This may or may not be the right way to go about buying wine, but I think the reason consumers chase after 90 point wines is because they're not as scarce as you might think. Have a look at the histogram below. It shows the frequency with which each numerical rating was assigned to the 2005 Napa Cabs Wine Spectator rated. You'll see that more than 1/3 (35.9%) of the wines received a score of 90 or higher -and- there's a stunning spike at 87/88 points. Keep that in mind the next time someone tries to shame you for only buying 90 point wine.

It looks like, for this vintage at least, 88 is the new "Average".

Further Reading:

Question of the Day: What do you think of this situation? Smart retailing? Or lazy retailing? And who do you trust more- professional ratings? Or your local wine retailer?


A Taste of Westport, MA: Saturday June 20th

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery in Westport, MA is hosting "A Taste of Westport" this Saturday, June 20th 2009 from 1-4 PM. The event will feature local wine, beer and food available for sample as well as a cash raw bar. Tickets are $45 per person and are available online and at the Westport Rivers Company Store.

I'm not sure that I'll be able to make it down (what with the kiddos not being 21 and all) but it definitely sounds like a good time. I hope you'll check it out, and if you do please let us know what you thought.

More information:

View Larger Map


The Capital Grille Newbury Street Kicks Off Monthly Wine Events

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Capital Grille on Newbury Street in Boston, MA is kicking off a series of wine tasting events that starting tonight and run once a month over the next six months. The Capital Grille in general, and this location in particular, is one of my favorite restaurants in the country. I like so much of what they do, and they offer great wines by the glass.

The tasting will include 4 wines selected from their list, and each will be paired with a sample of their chef’s culinary creations. This does not include dinner- it’s primarily a wine tasting.

Here are the dates:

  • Monday, June 15
  • Monday, July 20
  • Monday, August 17
  • Monday, September 21
  • Monday, October 19
  • Monday, November 16
5:30 – 7:00 PM/$30 per person

A portion of the cost will be donated to the Boston Bruins Foundation, whose mission is to assist charitable organizations in enhancing the quality of life for children throughout New England.

For more information, contact Dina Trueheart at 617.262.8900 or

Further Reading:


Value Alert: 2006 Mockingbird Hill Petite Sirah

Friday, June 12, 2009

Let's face it, Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley is expensive. For the 2005 vintage, the average price of a 90-point Wine Spectator bottle was $75.

So what to do if you enjoy the characteristics of the category but don't want to drop $20+ on a weeknight bottle? I enjoy Napa Cab for it's big, rich fruit, balanced by meaningful yet enjoyable tannins. Where else can we find these characteristics at a more approachable price point?

One place to look is Cabernet from outside of Napa. Areas that come to mind are Washington State, Argentina, and Chile. Of these, I'd say that Washington State might be the most similar stylistically to Napa. I say this with a blind tasting which compared a Cab from Washington to two from California fresh in my mind.

On the other hand I've found Cabernets from South America to be different than those from California. Things like smoke, raisins, and green peppers are more commonplace it seems and those wines have not provided to me with an affordable substitute to Napa Cab in my experience.

Another play would be to stay in Napa, but avoid the Cabernet grape. The only problem with this approach is that when you flank to another grape in Napa, you tend to still land on expensive producers and similar (if slightly lower) price points. Land is expensive in Napa and the labels that come out of Napa tend to be famous.

I think the 2006 Mockingbird Hill Petite Sirah provides an affordable way to stay in Napa while avoiding the Cabernet grape and still enjoying similar charactersitics. The price is lower on this wine because it's from a non-famous label. More on that important point in a moment.

Typically, I wouldn't expect a Rhone variety like Petite Sirah to be as full bodied as Cabernet Sauvignon, and I don't want to mislead you into thinking this wine is as dense as a Cab. It's not. But there's something to this wine that is unmistakably California. It's luscious, delicious, and intense, with a nice firm backbone. I would rate it 90 points.

Plugging this wine into the Wellesley Wine Press QPR Calculator (What's This?) with a baseline price for California Petite Sirah of $30 and a street price of $12 for this wine, we get:

Value: 2.5 (Very Good

Back to the previous point I alluded to regarding this being a non-famous label. It seems this wine can't be mentioned without whispers about it being juice from a more prestigious winery and that if it had the original winery's label on it, it would sell for $38. Judging from how much I've enjoyed this wine, I wouldn't be surprised if these whispers were true.

I originally discovered this wine at Legal Sea Foods where they pour it by the glass and offer it by the bottle or by the case. I always try to make follow-on purchases from the retailer that first turned me to a wine, but I have seen this wine available at other retailers as well:

Where to Buy:

Further Reading from Me:
Related Reading from Other Sources:
Question of the Day: How do you avoid the cost of Napa Cab while still enjoying similar characteristics? Any tips you'd like to share?


Does Price Correlate with Quality?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"What people need to understand is this: Price has no impact on quality." Gary Vaynerchuk

So, the other day, I'm browsing the web and I see a Twitter update pop up from @garyvee saying he's going to be on Fox & Friends in a few minutes. So I turn on the TV and sure enough Gary is doing one of his [now usual] 3-5 minute spots where he introduces the audience to a set of interesting, value-priced wines. Something he said didn't ring true with me- it's the quote above.

First off, I have to say that I'm a huge fan of Gary's. I probably wouldn't be writing this blog if it weren't for his groundbreaking work on his daily video blog Wine Library TV.

And I don't want to take what he said out of context, and I think we all know the point he was trying to make to a national television audience. It's that spending a lot of money on wine doesn't guarantee you'll get a good bottle of wine, and there's good wine to be had at all price points.

But I wanted to continue the conversation and drill down to see what the correlation between price and quality looks like. So I consulted the Wine Spectator ratings for the 2005 Napa Cabernet Sauvignons they rated. I chose Wine Spectator because they taste wines blind against wines from the same appellation and variety (ie, Napa Cab in this case).

Now, we can debate whether Wine Spectator's numerical ratings are the best judge of quality, and whether numerical ratings are valid in general, but I don't know of another way to go about this, nor another source that rates as many wines blind. So for the sake of argument, let's go with Spectator ratings for now. We can discuss the merit of their numerical rating system another time.

I plotted the Wine Spectator rating of each of the wines vs. the release price. I then asked Excel to create a trend line to model the scatter plot and the result is the image at the top of this piece. As you can see, as price goes higher so does quality. If price didn't correlate with quality, we'd see a flat line, or a line with a negative slope.

We do see that the distribution of the plot is rather wide- that is to say that there is not perfect 1:1 correspondence between quality and price. And that's where value plays come in. But in general, as we'd expect, quality does correlate with price. That's not to say that high prices cause quality wine- rather quality wine is generally the result of hundreds of things that cost money.

Ask any winemaker and he'll tell you this. Whether these things result in discernible quality differences that align with what you want in a wine is another matter, but judging from the Spectator ratings alone, I think it's safe to say that there is indeed a correlation between price and quality.

As I was going through these ratings, I found a number of fascinating facts and figures. I'll be following up on those in a future post or two.

Further Reading:
Like kicking around ideas like this? I'd love it if you subscribed to The Wellesley Wine Press. It's free and you can cancel any time.

Question of the Day: What do you think? Does price impact quality when it comes to wines?


Tastes and Tapas: Free Spanish Wine Tasting at The Wine House Holliston, MA

Monday, June 8, 2009

This Wednesday June 10th, 2009, The Wine House in Holliston, MA is offering a free tasting of Spanish wines along with some tasty snacks. Although I don't visit as often as I'd like, I'm a big fan of The Wine House. On top of their diverse selection of value wines (at all price points) they're now offering a 20% discount on mixed case purchases.

Wayne Dills from Horizon Beverage will be leading the tasting. Long-time readers might remember my praise for the way Wayne ran the wine department at the Whole Foods in Wayland, MA. I have no hesitation recommending this event at all based on my past experience dealing with Wayne. He's tops.

The tasting is scheduled to run from 6-8PM. Click here to download full details including RSVP information.

Further Reading:

I hope you'll check 'em out:

The Wine House
76 Central Street
Holliston, MA 01746


MA Retailers Lead the Charge Against Alcohol Sales Tax Increases

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Photo by James Trosh

As discussed on this site earlier, the Massachusetts Senate voted in favor of increasing taxes on wine at the point of sale from 0% to 6.25%. On the House side however, their proposed increase on sales tax (from 5% to 6.25%) did *not* include alcohol. This means that there's still hope to avoid this tax increase on alcohol.

Today, June 4th, 2009, those in opposition of additional increases in taxes on alcohol sales in Massachusetts will descend upon the State House to have their voices heard. The event is planned for noon. More information is available on the Massachusetts Package Stores Association web site.

According to the Association, a $9.99 bottle of wine already includes $2.90 of taxes built into the purchase. If this increase goes through, that bottle will now cost $10.62 of which $3.55 would go to taxes.

The Boston Globe recently showed their support for alcohol tax increase saying "IT NEVER made any sense that drinkers at Massachusetts restaurants pay a 5 percent tax on their beer and wine while someone buying a six-pack or a fine Pinot Noir at a package store does not." However, they seemed to realize their logic was faulty after a shrewd commenter "dotDude" pointed out that "With this logic, you could argue that it makes no sense that we pay 5 percent tax on our food in restaurants, while someone buying the same food in a grocery store does not!"

I particularly enjoyed the follow-on comment from "victimnation" saying "Bullseye !!! You sent this editorial into the dunk tank..." A tip of my cap to dotDude and victimnation.

The real issue here, in my mind, is that increasing taxes so disproportionately on alcohol is a sure way to penalize small business owners at the worst possible time. Further, the increases won't raise the revenue its backers are predicting because more people will cross over the border into neighboring states where taxes are lower.

Craig Drollet, Managing Partner at Bin Ends Wine in Braintree, MA offers this perspective:

"This decision and other similar issues call in to question whether 'Massachusetts is good for small business'. Adding 6.25% to every transaction and backwards shipping laws will eventually force us and others like us to look to friendlier states to operate our business. The timing could not be worse, many shops are already struggling to keep up and now we are encouraging shoppers to cross the borders to shop. We continue to put these people into office and then we run across the borders to shop when they do exactly what we knew they would do. It really does not make sense."

If you can't make it down to the State House to show your support, you can always contact your legislators. Don't know who your legislators are? A list can be found here.

I'll be discussing other legislative issues related to wine sales in Massachusetts in upcoming entries. Consider subscribing to The Wellesley Wine Press so you won't miss an update.

Further Reading:
Question of the Day: What do you think of all of these tax increases? Our responsibility as tax payers? Or disproportionately raising "sin" taxes at the worst possible time?


Flemings Prime Steakhouse: Sonoma vs. Napa Wine Dinner

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar is hosting a paired wine dinner which offers a chance to taste wines from Sonoma and Napa.

Trivial Fact: The P.F. in P.F. Chang's China Bistro stands for Paul Fleming, who also created Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill, Pei Wei Asian Diner and the Flemings Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar franchise.

I'm a big fan of all of these restaurants (and wish they'd open at least a Pei Wei near me) but ironically I don't recall having ever visiting a Fleming's Steakhouse. Here's what's in store:

Blue Cheese Flatbread
with red onion marmalade
GLORIA FERRER, Blanc de Noirs Sonoma County NV

Bodega Bay Crab Cocktail
California Dungeness crab, citrus relish, fruit infusion

MERRYVALE, Napa Valley Starmont, 2006
PICKET FENCE, Sonoma Russian River Valley, 2006

Filet Mignon and Wonton Crusted Ahi Tuna
Cantonese mushroom sauce, yucca tater tots

FREEMARK ABBEY, Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, 2004
RODNEY STRONG, Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Reserve, 2005

Dutch Apple Pie
Layers of Gala apples, laced with cinnamon & nutmeg with an aged Wisconsin cheddar crumble

Coffee & Tea

When: Friday, June 5th, 2009 at 6:30pm
Where: Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
217 Stuart Street, Boston, MA
(next to The Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers)
Cost: $55.00 per person (does not include tax and gratuity)
How: Reservations are required. Please call: 617-292-0808.

These events are going on at Fleming's locations across the county. Check for your nearest location here.

As if you needed further encouragement, their Boston location even offers complimentary car service. That's right- they'll come pick you up and drop you off in a Mercedes, subject to availability. Read more about that offer on the site for the Boston location.

Further Reading:
Question of the Day? What's your favorite steakhouse? Franchise or otherwise.


Syrah: The Steroids of the Pinot Noir World

Monday, June 1, 2009

This piece is an entry for a contest Capozzi Winery is running. You can read more about the contest here.

As I've said before, I write this blog to help people enjoy wine more while spending less money. I'm passionate about wine because I find it to be an incredibly enjoyable means of [virtually] exploring the world through a fascinating and delicious beverage. At this stage in my life, with two little guys filling our home with energy, I find that wine provides me with intellectual stimulation and is a hobby that I can pursue without disrupting our daily routine.

I was at a wine dinner a while back, seated next to some hard core wine people. You think I've got wine on my mind a lot? The folks I was seated with took it to another level. I really enjoyed the conversation, and as we were discussing the importance of wines having a sense of place and being varietally correct, a side issue came up that I thought was quite fascinating.

Someone at the table relayed a story about a California Pinot Noir the winemaker was having a tough time with. The wine was thin and lacked the structure the winemakers sought to achieve, so they decided to blend in some Syrah. According to US law, this is perfectly acceptable: A wine can be labeled as Pinot Noir so long as it contains 75% Pinot Noir (and similarly for other varietal wines). The wine was submitted for rating and received the highest score Wine Spectator has ever bestowed upon a California Pinot Noir: 98 points. A classic.

Some might say this is a travesty. Some might say this encourages winemakers to pursue a style that isn't true to the Pinot Noir grape. I say so what. Why? Because my primary concern when it comes to wine is simple:
  • My guests and I should enjoy it.
  • It should be delicious.
  • It should be a good value.
All of this stuff about being true to the grape is a little bit far reaching, and I thought Steve Heimoff summed it up well (with his typical straightforward writing style) in this piece:

'So let’s stop this talk of “what Pinot used to be” and “trusting it will come back” because it used to suck and there was really nothing for it to come back to!'

It occurs to me that there exists a parallel here between Syrah in Pinot Noir and steroids in major league baseball. America loves the long ball, and a lot of us love big juicy wines, at least some of the time. Add on top of that the competitive nature of being at the top of the game, the adulation, the awards, the jealousy, the competitive nature of it all. And the money.

Some would argue that, similar to jacked up shortstops, full bodied Pinot Noir is unnatural. It's not the way it should be. I can appreciate that point of view, but so long as the consumer knows what they're getting into, no laws of the appellation are being violated, and (most importantly) we enjoy the wines, I see nothing wrong with adding a little Syrah to Pinot Noir. Unlike with steroids, nobody is being physically hurt.

There seems to be a fundamental question here regarding whether wine critics should prescribe the way wines are made -or- whether they should simply review what's in the bottle? Taken literally, this question would seem to apply to things like oak levels, filtering techniques, and how invasive the winemaker should be with the somewhat natural process of wine making. However, taking a more simplistic take on the situation: Should wine critics take issue with a wine that isn't right down the middle in terms of varietal correctness? I would say no.

Similarly, when I'm looking for a wine, I want wine critics to primarily tell me how much pleasure the wine brought them- how much excitement the wine offered. Don't get me wrong- I do trust that experienced/professional wine critics will tell me how well a wine stacks up against the characteristics they're looking for in that variety, but if a wine does well against those characteristics *and* it brings a little extra "umph" what's wrong with that? I say nothing.

So what was the wine being discussed at dinner? I have to think, based on the fact that Wine Spectator has only rated one California Pinot Noir 98 points (ever) that it was the 2004 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Kanzler Vineyard Pinot Noir. I couldn't get my hands on that particular wine, so I sought out the only bottles of Kosta Browne that I could find. I was able to obtain a 2006 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir for around $60 from a retailer in Napa ($48 was the release price). I cracked it open with friends and family last night.

I have to say- I wasn't disappointed. It was a gem. If this wine had been given a poor rating by Wine Spectator because it was good but too full bodied for Pinot Noir, it probably would have been a review that I disagreed with. I think it would be a case of the critic getting too much into the winemaker's domain. That's why I like critics to review primarily what's in the bottle.

Here's hoping that Congress *doesn't* get involved in an investigation into which Pinot producers are "using" Syrah. And here are my notes:

2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (5/29/2009)
This is the first Kosta Browne I've had and I approached the bottle with a little bit of trepidation based on the reputation the wine carries for being heavy handed. I've gotta say- I loved the style and didn't think it was overdone at all. Big red strawberry fruit on the nose and a nice amount of spice. Smooth on the palate while still being hearty and a finish that went on for miles. YUM. Would recommend, but don't think I can justify the price and the difficulty in finding. Enjoyed very much though. (93 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

Further Reading:
Question of the Day: What do you think of Syrah in Pinot Noir?



  © Blogger templates Newspaper by 2008

Back to TOP