Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Groundswell California White Wine 2010

Groundswell Vineyards, Parlier, CA
California White Wine 2010
$4.99 (purchased at Whole Foods)

Aroma: Green apple, maybe peach
Texture: Light to mid-bodied
Taste: Citrusy, green apple
Finish: Some mineral

Made with organic grapes - pale yellowish color. Likable wine that tasted decent on its own and complemented our dinner as well.

Would you like your wine reviewed?
Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Native Foods Cafe Restaurant Review

I haven't eaten meat since October and have been mostly vegan since the beginning of this year. I was really excited last year when Native Foods Cafe announced they were opening one of their vegan restaurants right across the street from where I work. Delays led to this location only opening after the New Year and personal business delayed my eating there until very recently.

I've tried ordering foods using both options - online/pickup and at the counter (maybe I'll even dine in one day!). The online ordering was relatively simple, though not totally intuitive. Pickup was painless, and the cashier had me sign up for the Loyalty Program, which immediately earned me a free drink and could, through future purchases, get me some gift cash to use on subsequent meals. Ordering at the counter was equally easy - I was told my order would take 6-9 minutes, but it seemed much faster. Friendly happy employees are definitely the norm here.

It's kind of inspiring to know that literally everything on the menu is vegan and thus can be ordered without concern. It's also overwhelming, as the options seem endless. Of course they are not, but I want to try everything.

The food I tried all tasted fresh, with a good assortment of vegetables in each bowl (I've eaten there several times now). The drinks are unusual (Watermelon Fresca, Lavender Lemonade) but very tasty.

The Soul Bowl was outstanding, even though it was listed as having red beans (it did not) and "Jazzman Rice" (it had plain white rice, maybe it's a play on "jasmine rice?"). The Gyro Bowl was not particularly successful, especially not as a gyro replacement. As with most vegan foods, some items are successful, while others are less so. I look forward to working my way through the menu, especially when it comes to the dessert case. :)

If you're vegan, hope that Native Foods opens up near you. If you're not vegan, check them out - this restaurant will change the way you might think about eating vegan. They are that good.

Native Foods Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Wine Wit: The Wine Taster

In an alcohol factory the regular taster died and the director was in urgent need of looking for a replacement.

A drunkard with ragged, dirty look came to apply for the position..

The director of the factory wondered how to send him away.

They tested him.

They gave him a glass with a drink. He tried it and said, "It's red wine, a muscat, three years old, grown on a north slope, matured in steel containers." "That's correct", said the boss.

Another glass. "It's red wine, cabernet, eight years old, a south-western slope, oak barrels." "Correct."

A third glass. ''It's champagne, high grade and exclusive'' calmly said the drunk.

The director was astonished.

He winked at his secretary to suggest something. She brought in a glass of urine. The alcoholic tried it.

"It's a blonde, 26 years old, pregnant in the third month. And if you don't give me the job, I'll name the father!"

Source: Share The Goods

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Grapes Under Pressure: Rush and Wine

I love music and wine, so I'm always excited to find connections. Here's an excerpt from an article in Guitar Aficionado that features an interview with Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee of Rush. Rush were the one of the bands I first saw in concert, so an article about rock and roll wine and them is just perfect.

Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee of Rush

Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson recall in vivid detail the night of November 12, 1974, when a bottle of wine changed their lives. Ontour, they ordered bottles of Château Margaux and Château Latour Bordeaux and instantly turned into wine connoisseurs.

Lee became a serious collector about 10 years after Lifeson did, and their shared passion for wine has helped the pair maintain a strong, lasting friendship, one that goes back to their childhoods. Though they’ve enjoyed many experiences during their time in one of the world’s most successful bands, the ones they treasure most involve memorable bottles of wine savored during their travel adventures and on each other’s birthday.

What have you been drinking recently?

LEE I’m not just a wine snob. At home I drink a lot of Cru Beaujolais. I’ve become quite a big fan of Loire wines recently.
LIFESON I’m drinking mostly white wine.. My wife and I love Gewürztraminer. We also like Huet Vouvray Moelleux, which has a similar sweetness of fruit to Gewürztraminer, although it’s not as crisp.

What are some of the most memorable bottles you ever drank?

LEE I was in this little out-of-the-way restaurant en route to visit another winemaker when I had this spectacular bottle of Burgundy with a friend of mine.
LIFESON I went to work at Joseph Phelps Vineyards in 1990, and I would get up every morning at 5:30 and work until 7:00 that evening. Towards the end, Joe had a dinner for some of his best supporters in the industry. It led to a conversation about the whole history of winemaking in California and what inspires people like Joseph Phelps who come from other areas of commerce and industry to become winemakers, get their hands dirty, and become just a few notches above farmers. I can still see the room, table, and lighting, and the glow in my face when he tried the wine and gave it a huge thumbs up.

Read more of Chris Gill's article at Guitar Aficionado.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Unquenchable Book Review

In Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest For the World’s Best Bargain Wines (NY, NY: Penguin Group, 2011), author Natalie MacLean writes in a mostly conversational tone ~ in her words: “I’m neurotically personal, prone to tangential digressions and Bridget Jones-like overreactions.” That’s not to say she can’t use winespeak with the best of them. Don’t believe me? How about “Saturated fruit flavors flood my mouth and pool around my taste buds before slipping down to deeper pleasure centers.” Love it.

As Natalie wrote in her first book, red, white, AND drunk all over (New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA, 2006), "[Wine]'s connected to so many facets of life: agriculture, science, commerce, culture, sociology, history, religion, art" (quote from Chuck Hayward, wine retailer). I think that is why I enjoy wine so much, not just what's in the bottle, but what leads up to that sip as well. I get the feeling that MacLean has a similar attraction, that it is much more than just tasting great wines.

MacLean spent several years travelling the world, tasting wine in situ, looking for the world’s best cheap wines. Her goal? One terrific bottle for each night of the week, plus one extra for Sunday lunch. Each chapter is followed by her “Field Notes from a Wine Cheapskate,” which include some insider tips, wineries visited, best value wines, suggested food and wine pairings, and more.

In truth, the title of the appendices is the one thing I didn’t like about the book. To me the word cheapskate has too many negative connotations, too much baggage. I guess I just don’t necessarily equate value with cheapness. But I digress.

Eight chapters take us from Sunday to Sunday, with visits to Australia, Germany’s Mosel Valley, Ontario’s Niagara, South Africa, Sicily, Argentina, Portugal, and Provence. The wines and grapes range from rosé to port to nerello cappuccino and so much more in between. Each chapter introduces one or more winegrowers, a brief history of the region, and often sumptuous meals.

Throughout the lighter humorous and entertaining writing are self-reflective moments, dealing with Natalie’s chosen profession of wine writer, her ancestor alcoholics, and the benefits of being uncomfortable. Really a good read – recommended.

About the Author: To fund her late-night vinous habits, Natalie MacLean holds down day jobs as a wine writer, speaker and judge. An accredited sommelier, she is a member of the National Capital Sommelier Guild, the Wine Writers Circle and several French wine societies with complicated and impressive names. Funny, brainy and unapologetically tipsy, her goal in life is to intimidate those crusty wine stewards at fine restaurants with her staggering knowledge.

Find more at Natalie’s blog, Nat Decants on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Natalie MacLean and the Penguin Group. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the book a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from Natalie's website.

Would you like your book or wine-related product reviewed?
Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Long Arm Lot 81

Familia Nueva
Long Arm Lot 81 Paso Robles Red Blend N/V
$5.99 (purchased at Trader Joe’s)

Aroma: Tart berry
Texture: Light to medium bodied, dry
Taste: Initial sweetness then drying
Finish: Relatively short

Familia Nueva is a label owned by Ancient Peaks Winery and this Lot 81 is unmarked as to what varietals go into the blend, but it’s a food friendly wine, also decent on its own. Decent for the price.

Would you like your wine reviewed?
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Monday, January 23, 2012

Is Organic Wine Better?

Photograph by Jeff Harris

Organic labels on wine don’t guarantee better quality — or even best eco-practices.

Now that organic has become a magic word, many high-end wineries are spending a fortune to convert their operations. Some eagerly splash the word all over their labels, but others hardly bother to tell anyone. Understanding the reason top winemakers are conflicted about the organic hype can help you pick wines that are better for the Earth without compromising on taste.

There are four main claims you’ll see on bottles: 100 Percent Organic Wine, Made From Organically Grown Grapes, Sustainably Farmed Wine, and Biodynamic Wine. The federal government regulates use of the word organic, so any wine labeled as organic, the most stringent of these qualifications, has grapes grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers and turned into wine without nonorganic additives.

“Made from organically grown grapes” means what you’d think: Grapes from organic farms have been turned into wine by means that the government doesn’t consider entirely organic.

As for the claims of sustainability and biodynamic farming, the federal government doesn’t regulate either of these concepts. But nonprofit certification bodies are trying to ensure that wineries claiming a high degree of sustainability use low-footprint measures like composting, solar power, and recycled materials. Biodynamic agriculture tends also to include quasi-mystical stuff like planning harvests around lunar cycles and even using various homeopathic preparations to harness the Earth’s natural “energy.”

But scores of high-end producers have great environmental practices — Napa’s Charles Krug Winery is a terrific example — without bothering with any of these designations. For them, going organic isn’t a fad. For starters, they depend absolutely on the environmental health of their topsoil, so they have every incentive to preserve its fertility. Then there’s the little matter of quality: Chemical pesticides can get into the grape juice and screw up the fermentation yeast. Many serious artisanal winemakers feel they get the best product by emulating old-world European operations that were, by default, largely organic. This means avoiding chemicals as well as the modern use of Bentonite clay and organic egg whites to “fine” the finished wine, meaning to remove any sediment that might cloud the juice.

However, there is one additive that winemakers have been using since Roman times: sulfur. Because the Department of Agriculture classifies sulfur as a nonorganic preservative, you can make wine the way they did back in Charlemagne’s day, and you still can’t claim it’s organic. As such, many wineries that are otherwise eco-conscious don’t rate as “organic.”

Ironically, some wineries actually avoid using the organic label, worried that consumers might be turned off and perceive the wine as low-quality hippie juice. The moral of the story: Don’t fear words like organic and biodynamic. They’re now seen on some excellent wines, such as Amity pinot noir and Quivira Wine Creek Ranch zinfandel. But if you care about good wine, don’t buy exclusively organic or you’ll miss out on some terrific Earth-friendly vintages. So long as you stick to handcrafted, small-batch artisanal wines of high quality like Sequoia Grove or Fort Ross pinot noir, you’ll keep your drinking green.

By Daniel Duane, for Men’s Journal

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Wine Wit: Giving Up Wine

Your source for fine wine is WineChateau.com.

(Sent on by my wife, she can't remember where she first read this.)

A woman was walking down the street when she was accosted by a particularly dirty and shabby-looking homeless woman who asked her for a couple of dollars for dinner.

She took out her wallet, got out ten dollars and asked, "If I give you this money, will you buy wine with it instead of dinner?"

"No, I had to stop drinking years ago", the homeless woman told her.

"Will you use it to go shopping instead of buying food?", the first woman asked.

"No, I don't waste time shopping", the homeless woman said. "I need to spend all my time trying to stay alive."

'Will you spend this on a beauty salon instead of food?", the woman asked.

"Are you NUTS!" replied the homeless woman. "I haven't had my hair done in 20 years!"

"'Well", the first woman said, "I'm not going to give you the money. Instead, I'm going to take you out for dinner with my husband and me tonight."

The homeless Woman was shocked. "Won't your husband be furious with you for doing that? I know I'm dirty, and I probably smell pretty disgusting."

The woman said, "Oh, that's okay. It's important for him to see what a woman looks like after she has given up shopping, hair appointments, and wine !!!"

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 19th Wine History

While researching some wine history, I came across some clever, short videos over on YouTube, posted by VinoVerve. Here's the one for today, January 12th:

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Toast To a Friend Who Passed

Today, I'm headed to the funeral of a coworker's father. I didn't know him, but my friend has shared so much about him, I almost feel like I did. He lived an amazing life, full of travel, adventure, education, and work, and his children are good people, so he succeeded with that part as well. It's a cold winter day here in the Midwest, but I guess there's never a good time to bury a loved one.

Oh, here's to other meetings,
And merry greetings then;
And here's to those we've drunk with,
But never can again.


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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: René Barbier Mediterranean White

René Barbier Mediterranean White
$5 (varies - Trader Joe’s)

Aroma: Tropical fruit, green apple
Texture: Light-bodied
Taste: Citrusy
Finish: Smooth with hints of acidity

Interesting mix of 40% xarello, 30% macabeo, and 30% parellada, this wine is vibrant yellow in color with some hints of green, refreshing and light on the palate. Nice choice to add varietals to your Wine Century Club list!

Would you like your wine reviewed?
Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Wine History: Jan 16, 1919: Prohibition takes effect

A dark time in our nation's history, when the lack of legal alcoholic consumption led to a dramatic increase in organized crime's power in the larger cities. It also set back many states' winegrowing industries many decades, in some cases nearly decimating them.

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes," is ratified on this day in 1919 and becomes the law of the land.

The movement for the prohibition of alcohol began in the early 19th century, when Americans concerned about the adverse effects of drinking began forming temperance societies. By the late 19th century, these groups had become a powerful political force, campaigning on the state level and calling for total national abstinence. In December 1917, the 18th Amendment, also known as the Prohibition Amendment, was passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.

Prohibition took effect in January 1919. Nine months later, Congress passed the Volstead Act, or National Prohibition Act, over President Woodrow Wilson's veto. The Volstead Act provided for the enforcement of prohibition, including the creation of a special unit of the Treasury Department. Despite a vigorous effort by law-enforcement agencies, the Volstead Act failed to prevent the large-scale distribution of alcoholic beverages, and organized crime flourished in America. In 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was passed and ratified, repealing prohibition.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Barrio Urban Taqueria Restaurant Review

Industrial Comfy Chic

Walking into Barrio Urban Taqueria (714 W. Diversey Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60614) is somewhat surprising (in a good way, and the surprises kept coming). I would call it Industrial Comfy Chic, as it masterfully blends exposed ceilings and ductwork, country-chic furniture, along with some street-style art to make a comfortable space to hang out in. Sitting in the front windows (the entire facade of the restaurant is large fenestrated doors), plenty of light and street action made for an interesting perch.

Amazing Artwork!

Dorian Menchaca, the young owner, said that, while Barrio Urban Taqueria is his first restaurant, he's been in the business for his whole life, working or being around several Mexican restaurants his family owned in Chicago's south suburbs. It looks like either some serious money and/or sweat equity have been put into this place. Dorian seemed to do most everything, from greeting guests to serving to moving around the space. Definite pride of ownership.

The bathrooms were impeccable, always a good sign in a restaurant. Too many places ignore this, to their (and their reputation's) peril.

Lunch Entrees

The menu is chock full of options, especially nice to see each lunch entree boasting a vegetarian option. Really a welcoming gesture and not that difficult to do. The wine list is small but serviceable, with my one true disappointment of the meal - the restaurant no longer carries the Campo Noble Airen from Spain that I was looking forward to trying. New varietal score spoiled! The beer list is heavily local, with some alternatives on tap, and plenty of mixed concoctions for those who may want something whipped up. As we had to get back to work post-lunch, we opted for lemonade, which was (surprisingly) not overly sweet, but rather very refreshing.

We started with chips and salsa, fresh tasting chips and a decent though underspiced salsa - could really have used some more kick, in my opinion.

Our appetizer was the Queso Fundido 3 Culturas -- melted chihuahua, gouda, and manchego cheese with choice of ingredients: homemade chorizo, wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted poblano peppers and your choice of homemade corn or flour tortillas. We opted for the wild mushrooms and caramelized onions and it was an inspired choice. Great starter and the tiny handmade corn tortillas were tasty as well as cute. Flour tortillas allowed the other ingredients to really shine.
As part of lunch, a small cup/bowl of a Mexican Noodle Soup was offered. I tasted just a bit, decent tomato soup, especially comforting on a winter's day, though I admit it didn't seem overtly Mexican to me. Perhaps with more spice?

  • Sopes (Corn masa boats sautéed to a golden brown) were vegetarian and included mushroom, tomato, onion with roasted corn and epazote topped with queso fresco. If you haven’t had sopes before they are a little Mexican tart -- this was a well-made version, with a good balance between toppings and base. I'm partial to crust, so was happy there was plenty of it.
  • The vegetarian taco was the surprise of the meal. In lieu of a tortilla (though available on request), the mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, apples, red onion, avocado, queso fresco with a balsamic glaze sit atop a Romaine leaf wrap. Alternately cold and warm (strange at first), this is an inspired creation and I would suggest that everyone try at least one.
  • Vegetarian tortas (a Mexican style sandwich on ciabatta bread), featured black bean spread, garnished with lettuce, avocados, tomato and sour cream. Not sure if there was vinegar included, though a tanginess surely suggested it.
    • Not being an avocado fan, I removed them from all the dishes where they appeared. They seemed fresh and were cut in large slices, so easy to remove for someone who didn’t want them.
  • My buddy opted for Skirt Steak and ChickenVerde tostadas -- 2 crispy open faced corn tortilla garnished with black beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, queso fresco and sour cream. Served with rice and beans. The rice was in an artful pyramid shape and really added to the cool look of the plate. The only complaint? The blue corn crispy tortillas were really crispy and somewhat difficult to cut, otherwise a tasty option for lunch.

Queso Fundido 3 Culturas, Mexican Noodle Soup, Tres Leches

Dessert was a Pastel de Tres Leches, made with sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream, with the heavy cream also whipped up to use as the topping. Incredibly dense cake, one piece was more than enough for two of us. One thing I'd do is to ditch the artificial looking cherries, though their color (along with the strawberries) added a nice contrast to this otherwise simple-looking dessert.

Overall, I was really impressed with the service, the options, the feel of the restaurant, and especially the prices, which seemed very reasonable for the portion sizes and high quality. I think if the food was punched up with stronger flavors and more heat, this place would need no further improvements.


Barrio Urban Taqueria on Urbanspoon

More info, including hours, menus, and special events, can be found at the Barrio Urban Taqueria website, by liking them on Facebook, and following on Twitter.

Disclaimer: This meal was comped for me for review purposes, courtesy of Barrio Urban Taqueria. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the restaurant a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your restaurant reviewed?
Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Carafe Of Red Book Review

With chapters such as A Carafe of Red, Storm in a Champagne Flute, Malmsey: A Greek Classic, Zinfandel: California’s Own, Wine and Food: The Myth of a Perfect Match, A Silent Revolution: Organic and Biodynamic Wines, and Simple Pleasures: Warm Bread and Hot Chocolate, among others, Gerald Asher takes on an idiosyncratic tour of 30 years of wine writing. Drawn primarily from articles written originally for Gourmet Magazine, the book is at once wine education, wine history, and a personal memoir, skipping from subject to subject with almost careless abandon. Since most of us approach wine the same way, it is both comforting and maddening, albeit in a pleasurable way. I would have preferred a more linear approach, but was also taken by the breadth and scope of Asher’s writing in this book.

The phrases penned by Asher are often very evocative:
  • "I can only say that one glass of champagne will raise the morale and two will fuse the most ill-assorted group into a dinner party."
  • "It had a mild and unobtrusive sweetness and an aroma and flavor that made me think of a confit of grapes."
  • "It is thought that much, though not all, of the difference between the way American and French barrels affect the taste of the wine has less to do with the oak itself than with the way it is handled."
  • "But, in absorbing alcohol converted from fruit-sugar two centuries earlier, I was actually sharing calories transmitted in the solar energy that had also warmed the faces of Thomas Jefferson and Marie-Antoinette."
A real pleasure to read.

Gerald Asher is author of The Pleasures of Wine, Vineyard Tales, Wine Journal, and On Wine. As an international wine merchant, he was decorated by the French Government in 1974 for his contribution to French viticulture, in 2001 was named Outstanding Wine Professional of the Year by the James Beard Foundation, and in 2009 was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintner’s Hall of Fame.

Sources: http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520270329

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of the University of California Press. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the book a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your book or wine-related product reviewed?
Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Airén

Today I’m headed to a new restaurant for a review opportunity. While perusing the wine list in advance, I noticed they had, by the glass, a wine made from Airén grapes. Never heard of them, so I knew I had to try it.

Airén is a variety of Vitis vinifers, a is a white grape commonly used in Spanish winemaking. This grape is native to Spain, where it represents about 30% of all grapes grown. As of 2004, Airén was estimated to be the world's most grown grape variety in terms of planted surface, at 306,000 hectares (760,000 acres), although it is almost exclusively found in Spain. Since Airén tends to be planted at a low density, several other varieties are more planted in terms of number of vines. Plantations of Airén are declining as it is being replaced in Spanish vineyards with various red varieties, such as Tempranillo.

Airén is also known under the synonyms Aiden, Blancon, Forcallada, Forcallat, Forcallat Blanca, Forcallat Blanco, Forcayat, Forcellat Bianca, Forcellat Blanca, Laeren del Rey, Lairen, Layren, Manchega, Mantuo Laeren, Valdepenas, Valdepenera Blanca, and Valdepenero.

Can’t wait to try it! (Oh yeah, and add to my Wine Century Club list…)

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air%C3%A9n

Would you like your wine reviewed?
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Monday, January 9, 2012

Wine Trivia

It's always interesting to come across a list of wine facts, pretty much every list has the same things except for maybe one new one. I found this over at About.com:

How much wine is in a bottle? Generally a bottle of wine measures the liquid in milliliters, with 750 ml being the standard amount in most bottles (or about 25 fluid ounces).

How many grapes does it take to make your average bottle of wine? It takes about 2 ½ pounds of grapes to make a bottle of wine.

How many bottles of wine does it take to make create a case of wine? 12

How many gallons of wine are produced from one acre of grapevines? About 800

Where does the vanilla flavor in wine come from? If newer oak barrels were used in the winemaking process, the wines will often have a hint of vanilla in both the aroma and flavor.

When was the corkscrew designed? Mid-1800’s.

How many varieties of wine grapes exist in the world today? Over 10,000!

How many gallons of wine does California produce annually? Over 17 million gallons

How many calories are in a four ounce glass of red wine? Approximately 85

How many gallons of wine are in a single barrel? 60

How many grapevines generally make up an acre? 400

When did winemaking begin? The Mesopotamians were credited with producing the first wines in 6000 B.C.

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Uncorked: Wine Made Simple DVD Review

Uncorked: Wine Made Simple (2007, 180 minutes, Not Rated) is a set of 3 DVDs narrated by Ted Allen of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy fame. Allen is also the author of The Food You Want to Eat: 100 Smart, Simple Recipes, a cookbook for beginners that features easy, all-natural recipes. He serves as the spokesman for Robert Mondavi Private Selection wines, is a contributing editor for Esquire Magazine and is a regular judge on Bravo's Top Chef and the Food Network's Iron Chef. That’s a lot of hats to wear!

From its description, this DVD series promises to reveal the mysteries of wine, teach one the basics (such as terminology and proper selection), learn which wines complement different foods and all of the various wine making techniques. Through the show, the viewer travels around the world to a variety of winemaking areas, including California’s Central Coast, Sonoma, France, etc.

This is a fantastic primer on wine and is helpfully divided into 6 episodes of 30 minutes each, making it easy to watch without getting tired or on the treadmill or trainer, as I did. While only several years old, it feels somewhat dated, though much of the scenery and basic wine information will remain timeless and therefore useful. Appropriate for the whole family.

Entertaining, beautiful, and simple. Wine DVDs don’t get much better than that.

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tapeña Wines

Over the holidays, I was lucky enough to win a Tapeña Wines party pack from Beau's Barrel Room - thanks Beau! I received a cookbook, corkscrew, refrigerator magnets, a pen, spices, and a bottle each of Tempranillo, Garnacha, Rosé and Verdejo.

So far we've tried the Rosé and Verdejo. The Rosé (a combination of Garnacha and Monastrell) was a bit surprising: a bit fruity, but dry, with nice acidity. Tasty on its own and also with food. The Verdejo was my 52nd varietal for my Wine Century Club list and a nice addition to it. Great floral aroma, with a nice mouthfeel, apricot-like flavors, and a clean finish. Also delicious on its own or with dinner (we had it with a taco salad).

Can't wait to try the Tempranillo and Garnacha!

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting and Running a Winery Book Review

Odd that the cover has the author's name misspelled, right?
Not so on the actual book!

For many people, owning and running a winery is a dream job. According to Wine Business Monthly, the number of wineries in the U.S. has jumped 26% in less than three years. To carry out this dream, one must understand that wine making involves both science and art. Starting a winery is just like starting any other business and requires planning and a deep understanding of the industry. In The Complete Idiot’s Guide® to Starting and Running a Winery, readers will learn:
  • How to put together a business plan
  • Different varieties of grapes and wines
  • How to lay out a floor plan and what equipment is needed
  • How to promote wines
If there was ever a book that simultaneously makes one want to start a winery while at the same time feeling like it is just an incredibly massive undertaking, this is it. The author, Thomas Pellechia, does not deny the romance that is the image most of us carry when dreaming of the wine life. However, he definitely tempers it with a strong dose of reality. From choosing a name and designing a logo, from deciding whether to grow or buy the grapes for one's wine, to hiring employees for the tasting room, each step appears meticulously researched and guidance provided. Probably the most important thing I really have overlooked in my dream of making wines is the endless paperwork involved, from tracking the grapes, payroll, licensing and bonding, to reams of forms that both the state and federal governments require. If you've ever idly dreamed of starting your own winery or you've actually taken the first steps, this is an invaluable research that not only warns of the inevitable pitfalls and steps needed for success, but actually points you in the direction of where to get help. Highly recommended!

The Complete Idiot’s Guide® series is published by Alpha Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. For more than 16 years Complete Idiot’s Guide® books have informed, entertained, and enriched tens of millions of readers worldwide.

About the Author: Thomas Pellechia is a twenty-six year wine veteran, from winemaker to winery and retail shop owner, to wine writer and educator.


Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Alpha Books via Wilks PR. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the book a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut N/V
$115 Magnum (Gift)

Aroma: Fruit, spices
Texture: Mid- weight, soft, caresses the mouth, small bubbles
Taste: Flowery, some slight cheese overtones
Finish: Lingering, luscious

New Year’s Day and a 100th birthday – what a day to remember. This wine, in magnum format, did not disappoint.

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Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Labeloff: Removing Wine Labels

We’re just past the holiday season and, if you’re like me, you got to drink some bottles of wine that now hold a certain sentimental value. In the old days, I kept the bottles, but it becomes pretty obvious that it’s cumbersome to do so. Soaking labels is an option, but often the resulting souvenir lacks charm, often wrinkled and possibly torn. Labeloff™ will allow you to remove the label from your memorable bottle of wine to store away as a keepsake - your memories will be stored on a manageable sheet of paper.

New Year's Day and a 100th birthday party - that's a special bottle!

Labeloff™ was invented over a quarter of a century ago in order to remember the great bottles of wine that were once enjoyed on a trip throughout Europe. The inventor was hoping to take the label off of wine bottles for a memento from his trip overseas, and while dining around appreciating great meals and excellent wine the simple question was asked, “Can you remove the wine label for me?”

Labeloff™ is an innovative and easy-to-use tool designed to remove a wine or beer label off of a glass bottle. Labeloff™ quickly and easily removes wine and beer labels by splitting the labels, removing the top printed surface and leaving the unwanted adhesive impregnated back on the bottle. This process will leave you with a laminated keepsake that can be fastened to your wine journal, or virtually any other surface.

Labeloff™ was designed for oenologists, collectors of wine and casual wine enthusiasts. This one-of-a-kind product, designed for removing bottle labels, enables you to easily remember a particular bottle of wine and the memories that go along with it.

Attempt 1: No directions

Attempt 2: Post-directions :)

Once I received Labeloff, I tried pulling off a label through an intuitive use of the product. Didn't really work. Next step? Read the directions! I read the directions and watched the how-to video, and the second label? Worked like a charm. Easy-peasy! Will it work every time, without fail? Probably not, but to give yourself the best chance of ending up wtih nice memento, try Labeloff!

For more information or to purchase from the company directly, visit the Labeloff website, on Facebook, and by following on Twitter.

Disclaimer: This product was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Labeloff. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the product a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your wine accessory reviewed?
Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

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