My Wine Tribe http://www.mywinetribe.com What tribe are you in? Fri, 16 Jun 2017 02:59:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Best Wines For A Cookout http://www.mywinetribe.com/2017/06/14/best-wines-for-a-cookout/ http://www.mywinetribe.com/2017/06/14/best-wines-for-a-cookout/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 00:31:37 +0000 http://www.mywinetribe.com/?p=3836 Whenever the sun comes out, we like to throw impromptu cookouts. You know the deal: a few family members, some neighbors, burgers and vino. But given the casual nature of a backyard BBQ, we don’t want to be sipping fancy wines. What we serve has more »

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Whenever the sun comes out, we like to throw impromptu cookouts. You know the deal: a few family members, some neighbors, burgers and vino. But given the casual nature of a backyard BBQ, we don’t want to be sipping fancy wines. What we serve has to be delicious, but also inexpensive and approachable. And most importantly, it needs to be at my local grocery store so I can buy a few bottles as I’m picking up burger fixins. Luckily for y’all, to find the best wines for a cookout we recently held an “exploratory tasting” (i.e.; folks came over for burgers and I sprung a blind tasting on them).

My neighbor, me and my mom. We liked the wine as you can tell by the nearly empty glasses!

Before you go on to the results, make sure you know which tribe matches your preferences. That way, when you see our customized notes and recommendations by tribe, you’ll know which wines are best for your palate.

The Lineup

Here’s what we tried:

· Casal Garcia Vinho Verde (Portugal): $7-10. This widely distributed white wine is a steal for less than $10.

· Kestrel 2015 Viognier (Washington): $15. You can find this white wine retailing anywhere from $11-15 a bottle.

· Hahn 2015 GSM (California): $16. “GSM” stands for Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre—the grapes that make up this red blend.

· Hedges Family CMS 2014 Red (Washington): $12. This blend consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.

The Results

The Casal Garcia Vinho Verde was a crowd pleaser. This is an easy drinking wine (aka: porch pounder) that smells like orange blossoms and tastes like apricots, green apples and light citrus. It has a few bubbles, so it feels spritzy and refreshing. It is a bit sweet, though. “Reminds me of Sweet Tarts” said one taster. Still, all of the tribes liked it, and it was the favorite of the night for the Accessible and Balanced tribes.

The Kestrel 2015 Viognier, on the other hand, was not a big hit with any of the tribes. I’m a fan of this winery, so I was surprised by this particular wine. Tasters found it to be a no-go on its own, but once we paired it with some food people warmed up to it. Still, one taster said the wine smelled like the classic Jean Nate’ after-bath fragrance your great aunt used on special nights, “light, lemony and floral.” That’s great if you like Jean Nate’, but the lemony fragrance didn’t translate well on the tongue. Our tasters considered it too acidic, like sour green apples, and found the wine weirdly flat. Honestly, save your money and try a different Kestrel wine.

Writing up our tasting notes and enjoying a sip or three.

On to the Reds

Y’all might remember that we are big fans of Hahn Pinot Noir. Every time we throw that wine into a blind tasting it performs well. So I was curious about the Hahn GSM blend. Sure enough, it was a hit with my people, the Developed Tribe. We liked the smells of black plums, raspberries and “a little bit of campfire.” The wine tasted a bit like dark chocolate and plums with a finish of bacon. Sounds good, right? It was a little overpowering when paired with salads, but as soon as we started eating burgers this wine rocked.

And finally, the Hedges Family CMS Red was the hands-down favorite of the Complex Tribe. Scents of dark berries, leather, rocks and burnt brown sugar made this wine distinct. For some tasters, the wine was a bit too tannic, but for the Complex Tribe it was just right. It had big cherry tastes, some oak and a hint of dark cocoa powder and was really nice when paired with the burgers.

So the next time you’re running to the store to prep for your spur of the moment cookout, consider the Casal Garcia Vinho Verde for the white wine drinkers and either the Hahn GSM or the Hedges Family CMS for the red wine lovers. You really can’t go wrong with either of these reds in one hand and a juicy burger in the other. Cheers!

My dog decided to take a nap in the midst of the photoshoot.

 

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What’s The Deal With Biodynamic Wine? http://www.mywinetribe.com/2017/04/13/whats-deal-biodynamic-wine/ http://www.mywinetribe.com/2017/04/13/whats-deal-biodynamic-wine/#respond Thu, 13 Apr 2017 17:48:25 +0000 http://www.mywinetribe.com/?p=3819 Phil Cline, the owner of Naches Heights Vineyard, is a third generation farmer. He grows all of the grapes for Naches Heights Vineyards wines and even sells grapes to other winemakers. Phil is all about growing his grapes with love, and for him that means more »

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Phil Cline, the owner of Naches Heights Vineyard, is a third generation farmer. He grows all of the grapes for Naches Heights Vineyards wines and even sells grapes to other winemakers. Phil is all about growing his grapes with love, and for him that means using organic, salmon safe and biodynamic practices.  I have to admit that I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to biodynamic growing, but I’m also a big fan of Naches Heights Vineyards. So Phil seemed like the perfect person to talk me through it.

Q: What’s the history of biodynamic growing?

A: Rudolf Steiner, a highly trained German scientist, philosopher and clairvoyant, was the father of biodynamics. His basic premise was that everything is connected, from the star systems in the universe to us in our everyday life.

With conventional farming, we manipulate the cycle of life by using large amounts of whatever we need to keep a plant alive [e.g., pesticides and other chemicals] even if the plant isn’t healthy or producing fruit. Steiner believed that by connecting into the larger system, using the energy of the cosmos, you can get healthier plants without having to use chemicals.

Naches Heights Vineyards. Photo courtesy of Craft Beverages Yakima.

Q: How does it work?

A: You think about the vineyard as a single self-sustaining organism that’s all connected. You need to understand the biodynamic calendar and its implications on a day-by-day basis. Then you take preparations that have minute amounts of material and spread it out over large pieces of property. For example, you put a small amount of cow manure into a cow horn and bury it under the vineyard for four months, and then you dig it up and spray the contents into the vineyard to promote soil fertility. You also integrate animals so chickens, cows and birds play a role in the vineyard.

I think [biodynamic practices] are brilliant because the most important thing is the ability for all of the microbes in the ground to thrive via nurturing. With biodynamics, you don’t do anything with heavy metals, herbicides or pesticides that would discourage microbial population in the soil because plants with good immune systems, like humans, can fight off most of the common ailments and some of the more serious ones as well.

Q: How did you get into it?

A: A lot of things in farming involve faith. We farmed conventionally for years, and then we evolved to sustainable and organic growing practices. But even for me, biodynamics was a stretch.

I decided to try to apply Steiner’s logic to pruning [removing unwanted growth during the dormant season]. Steiner knew that from the moon’s pull, there was a gravitational effect on plants. When the moon is waning, you have less pull from the moon so the xylem and phloem [transport tissues that act as veins in a plant, moving water and nutrients around] stay in the root system. If you’re pruning something, you want to do it when there is less flow to help fight off infections. I have tried pruning both when the moon is waning and when it’s waxing, and you definitely see a difference in the levels of liquids coming out of the plant. So that was a very visual example for me and one of the first steps in my becoming a believer.

Q: Have you seen other tangible examples of how biodynamics work?

A: I purchased a vineyard that had been conventionally farmed for about 60 to 70 years. A lot of commercial fertilizer had been applied. In fact, our first soil tests showed that 100 pounds of nitrogen was still in the ground, even though it had been 10 years since anything was added to the soil. There were other heavy metals, salt and herbicides in the ground, so it was pretty much a sterile situation. We didn’t fumigate because I didn’t want to disturb what life was there, and when you fumigate you are basically nuking everything in existence, which is not a good start for the plants. The ground was like walking on concrete. But now, years after we have been farming it biodynamically, it has a better feel to it. Its softer and spongy. Now organic matter is starting to thrive and worms are moving around, which the soil was devoid of prior, so we have been very happy with the results.

I believe in biodynamics because it comes down to being observant and a little more prudent. You don’t have at your beck and call certain products that can fix things, so you have to be proactive and preventive.

Dear readers, I can tell you that the proof is in the pudding. Phil Cline is making some fantastic wines at Naches Heights Vineyards. I recommend the Pinot Gris to the Balanced Tribe and the Syrah to the Developed and Complex Tribes. Cheers!

Me, Phil and my friend Tomoko at Taste of Washington. Happy despite the empty glasses.

 

 

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Which Washington Cabernet Sauvignon is Right for You? http://www.mywinetribe.com/2017/03/22/which-washington-cabernet-sauvignon-is-right-for-you/ http://www.mywinetribe.com/2017/03/22/which-washington-cabernet-sauvignon-is-right-for-you/#respond Thu, 23 Mar 2017 03:42:19 +0000 http://www.mywinetribe.com/?p=3790 I’m just going to warn you that today’s post involves a little math, so maybe you want to pour yourself a glass of something before continuing. May I recommend a Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon that’s perfectly suited to your palate? Washington boasts over 30 different more »

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I’m just going to warn you that today’s post involves a little math, so maybe you want to pour yourself a glass of something before continuing. May I recommend a Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon that’s perfectly suited to your palate?

Washington boasts over 30 different varietals, but Cab is the most harvested grape at 47,400 tons per year. That’s just shy of 95 million pounds of grapes. If we figure that 2.6 pounds of grapes per bottle of wine (that’s just an estimate but don’t worry I let the gang at Cornell University do the figuring for me) that’s…wow! Lets just say it’s a lot of bottles of wine. Here at My Wine Tribe, we decided to do our part to help with what must be a real storage problem and simultaneously celebrate Washington Wine Month with a blind tasting of some of the state’s finest Cabs. With over 900 wineries in Washington, identifying the best bottles of Cabernet can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Lucky for us, Sean P. Sullivan, a local wine journalist and expert, recently published his list of the Top 100 Washington Wines.

The list gave us a great head start. But remember that while Mr. Sullivan is an expert, he is a party of one. He can identify great wines, but he can’t provide nuance based on your palate preference. And that is where My Wine Tribe comes in. Take our nifty quiz to find your wine tribe and then read on for recommendations from others who share your palate preferences.

A Lovely Line Up of Washington Cabs

The lineup for our blind tasting of Washington state Cabernet Sauvignon follows:

2012 Gramercy Cellars ($47): This wine is no. 5 on Sullivan’s list of top Cabs.

2013 Tamarack Cellars ($32): No. 12 on the list.

2013 Fidelitas Quintessence ($60): This wine is no. 4 on the list, making it the highest ranked wine of those we tasted.

2013 Longshadows Feather ($70): No. 10 on the list, this one is the highest-priced of our selections.

WA Wine Winners, and Also-Rans

We tasted the Gramercy Cellars first. Despite the high ranking on Sullivan’s list (and the cool label), none of our tribes gravitated toward this wine. Tasters liked the aromas of spice, earth, pepper and fig, but that was about all the favorable comments they could muster. Though the wine had no more alcohol than any of our other choices, our tasters noted an overwhelming sense of alcohol in this bottle: “When I breathe it in, it makes me cough.” They also found the wine to be quite tannic, “like eating berries when they are still green and unripe.” This wine is much better with food, and decanting (for a long while) could help balance it out. But in the end, regardless of your tribe, I wouldn’t bother with this one.

The Tamarack Cellars bottle was the least expensive wine and on the lower end of Sullivan’s list. Of course, since this was a blind tasting no one knew that before we put glass to lips. That made for a pleasant surprise when we unveiled the wines. Our tasters gave this wine a lot of love, and it was the clear favorite of the Balanced Tribe. The wine yielded light scents of smoke, graham crackers and olives. And the Balanced Tribe really dug the tastes of almond paste (or Almond Joy according to one taster), blackberries and honey. This wine is “so good with food!” And after a bit of decanting, it gets even richer and velvety smooth.

Wine that Pleases the Most Palates

The number one choice for both the Developed and Complex Tribes was the Fidelitas Quintessence. Folks liked its minerally, jammy scents and raved about how it tasted. Some of the predominate flavors are spice, blackberry jam, leather and dark chocolate. Tasters were effusive in their praise, leaving comments like “smooth like a Cab should be”, “great with food”, “Big! But nicely balanced” and “Earthy yet juicy. Love!” If you’re in the Developed or Complex Tribes, I strongly recommend this one.

Finally, we tried the Longshadows Feather. To my surprise, Accessible Tribe members loved this wine. Cabernet’s boldness usually overwhelms the Accessible Tribe’s delicate palate, but this wine was ultra-smooth, a bit sweet and not overly tannic or acidic. Perfect for people who don’t think they like Cabernet. Our tasters commented on its scents of warm cream, ginger and roasted nuts. And they liked its flavors of milk chocolate, raisins and black currents. If you are in the Accessible Tribe, tickle your taste buds with the Feather.

And with that, Ill leave you with my favorite quote of the night from a Complex Tribe member who declared that her “porch-sippin’ Cab” would be the Tamarack Cellars bottle, but her “food-sippin’ Cab” was the Fidelitas. I agree, and encourage you to drink more Washington State Cabernets to find your favorites for all sippin’ occasions. Drop a comment and let us know what you discover. Cheers!

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Seattle Wine Tasting Rocks! http://www.mywinetribe.com/2017/03/06/tasting-results-from-local-seattle-wineries/ http://www.mywinetribe.com/2017/03/06/tasting-results-from-local-seattle-wineries/#respond Tue, 07 Mar 2017 05:39:42 +0000 http://www.mywinetribe.com/?p=3716 Seattle’s urban wine scene is growing with new wineries and tasting rooms popping up all over our city. As curious Seattleites, we wanted to investigate the scene and taste the bounty in order to suggest wine for you to try. To that end, we recently more »

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Seattle’s urban wine scene is growing with new wineries and tasting rooms popping up all over our city. As curious Seattleites, we wanted to investigate the scene and taste the bounty in order to suggest wine for you to try.

Good times at Sleight of Hand Cellars!

To that end, we recently went on an urban winery crawl in Seattle’s Sodo district and visited Waters Winery and Sleight of Hand Cellars. Both are Walla Walla wineries, but both opened tasting rooms in Seattle in order to attract more people, more often. Given that Walla Walla is a 5 hour drive from Seattle, I say thank you!

Both winemakers, Jamie Brown of Waters Winery, and Trey Busch of Sleight of Hand, are really into music. And both make stylistically distinct wines. But that is where the similarities end as their styles are wildly different. Lucky for us, we found a variety of wines that each tribe can love. Before you read any further, be sure to take our nifty quiz to find your tribe and unlock recommendations from others who share your same preferences.

Waters Winery

Tasting wine with Waters very own Jamie Brown.

Jamie Brown is an icon in the Washington wine scene. He has mentored a number of young Washington winemakers and through his travels, has furthered the acceptance of Washington wines. Stylistically his wines can be described as food friendly, slightly acidic and fruity, though never jammy. Our tasters dug his wines across the board. But while all were great, there were clear stand outs by tribe.

The Old Stones 2012 Syrah ($50) was a hit, particularly with the Balanced Tribe (and it was the runner up for the Developed Tribe). The grapes for this wine come from the “Rocks District” which is in the Walla Walla Valley AVA, right across the Washington border in Oregon. The Rocks District is known for its Syrah and after tasting this wine we understand why. These grapes, put into Brown’s hands, yielded scents of black fruit, pepper and burnt toast (“in a good way” one taster noted). The wine tasted like it was infused with rich spices with hints of warm berries bathed in brown sugar and smoke, reminding one taster of “ripe cherries marinating in woodchips”. Sounds weird, but it was delicious.

Waters Winery Old Stones. Yes please!

The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) was a winner with the Developed Tribe (and the second favorite of the Complex Tribe). This wine is made with grapes from Cold Creek Vineyard, owned by Washington’s Chateau Ste. Michelle. They don’t share their grapes with many other winemakers, in fact Brown is one of 2 winemakers with access and its a good thing because this wine was dynamite. Scents of blackberry, vanilla and a hint of fresh grass got people excited even before trying the wine; “smells perfect” noted one taster. And its rich, smooth tastes of cooked plum, dark chocolate and cedar smoke was “amazeballs!”

21 Grams

21 Grams is a collaboration between Waters Winery and Japanese artist Makoto Fujimura, blending the best of Washington wine along with globally inspired art.  The 2011 21 Grams, a red blend primarily composed of Cabernet was the favorite of the Complex Tribe. Not surprisingly this was a complex wine, with aromas of leather, spice (one taster even detected patchouli), cocoa powder and a hint of barnyard. Tasters loved the heft, the smoothness and tastes of cherries covered in dark chocolate and tar. This one generated comments like “full bodied without being heavy” and “distressingly quaffable”. At $125 a bottle it probably isn’t your go to choice for quaffing but if you want to impress your Complex friends, this is the wine in which to do it. And the wine’s beautiful label, designed by Fujimura, adds to the wine’s stature.

Sleight of Hand

Its all about the music and the juice, baby!

Sleight of Hand is a winery inspired by music and whimsy with a strong winemaking vision led by Trey Busch. Interestingly “funk” is a word that popped up in many tasters’ notes (“funk” as in hints of smoke, barnyard and dirt). You know you are drinking something that came from the earth when you are drinking a Sleight of Hand Wine.

The 2014 Magician is a Riesling that was preferred by the Accessible Tribe. This is a pretty wine with aromas of pineapple, green apple and a hint of petrol which is typical of a Riesling. This light wine had tastes of tropical fruit, green apple and Orange Crush. It was sweet but not overwhelming, light on the palate and would be perfect for summer porch sitting.  And at $18 a bottle it won’t break the bank.

The Balanced and Developed Tribes preferred the 2014 The Sorceress ($60) which is 100% Grenache.  Tasters dug the scents of smoke, burnt sugar, citronella candle, and yes, funk. They liked the wine’s smoothness and tastes of smoky cherry, cedar, wet dirt and marionberry pie.

And finally, the Complex Tribe’s favorite wine was the 2014 Psychedelic Syrah ($60). This wine makes no apologies for its bigness and it isn’t afraid of being funky. Smells of barnyard, burnt popcorn and smoke reveal tastes of black fruit, dark chocolate and olive tapenade. Tasters commented on its smoothness and gave it a big thumbs up. It is also the only wine that has ever elicited comments from multiple tasters wanting to “drink it while sitting by the campfire all night long”. Only 14 barrels of this wine are made and are only distributed via Sleight of Hand.

Why visit?

And that my friends is one of the best reasons to get out to your local tasting rooms and wineries. You tend to get better pricing and you always get more selection than at your local grocery store or bottle shop.

Bottom line, all of the tribes are fans of these two distinct Washington wineries and we hope you give some of our recommendations a try. Cheers!

 

 

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Seattle Wineries Offer Easy In-city Imbibing http://www.mywinetribe.com/2017/02/03/seattle-wineries-hell-ya/ http://www.mywinetribe.com/2017/02/03/seattle-wineries-hell-ya/#respond Sat, 04 Feb 2017 00:42:10 +0000 http://www.mywinetribe.com/?p=3706 When I last wrote about Seattle’s urban wineries and wine tasting rooms, there were 25 of them and more on the way. As of now there are 28 and they appear to be thriving. The economics and the appeal for winemakers in crafting their wines more »

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When I last wrote about Seattle’s urban wineries and wine tasting rooms, there were 25 of them and more on the way. As of now there are 28 and they appear to be thriving. The economics and the appeal for winemakers in crafting their wines in the city versus where the grapes grow makes sense to me. They ship their grapes in from eastern Washington, rent space in the city in which to make their wines and then they can distribute directly in a big market, be it direct to consumers or in local restaurants and wine shops, all while enjoying life in the city. And for those wineries who produce their wines in eastern Washington, having a tasting room in the big city can’t be beat.

Good times at Kerloo Cellars

What’s in it for me?
Even better? It’s a big win for Seattleites. Generally you get the best prices and widest selection when you buy directly from a winery. And you can more easily visit a variety of wineries in the city verses schlepping 5 hours to Walla Walla. Once you find one you love you can pop in on a regular basis and get to know the winemaker and their team which adds to the experience and somehow makes the wine taste better.

So how is the juice?
And the best part is that the wine is damn good. Through the course of personal visits and 2 organized winery crawls I can vouch for the top 8 of the list below. And the research continues with a My Wine Tribe Winery Crawl next week to Slight of Hand Cellars and Waters Winery (oh the sacrifices we make for you dear readers). Ill be reporting back soon on results. In the meantime, get yourself out there my fellow Seattleites and support your local winery. No matter what tribe you are in, you will be sure to find some winning wines. Cheers!

Seattle’s Urban Wineries:
Kerloo Cellars
Structure Cellars
Viscon Cellars
OS Wine
Cloudlift Cellars
Almquist Family Vineyards
Cadence Winery
Elsom Cellars
Sleight of Hand Cellars
Waters Winery
Rotie Cellars
Scarborough Winery
Animale
Bartholomew Winery
Eight Bells Winery
Hand of God Wines
Laurelhurst Cellars
Northwest Wine Academy

Nota Bene Cellars
Pine Lake Cellars
Riley Sexton Vintners
Robert Ramsay Cellars
Stomani Cellars
Two Brothers Winery
Ward Johnson Winery
Wilridge Wineries
Domanico Cellars
Charles Smith Wines Jet City

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Which Red Wine Is Right For You? http://www.mywinetribe.com/2017/01/19/which-red-wine-is-right-for-you/ http://www.mywinetribe.com/2017/01/19/which-red-wine-is-right-for-you/#respond Thu, 19 Jan 2017 19:13:51 +0000 http://www.mywinetribe.com/?p=3694 One of my many New Year’s resolutions is to drink only the wines that I love. I’m assuming I’m not alone here, but what I like may not be what you like. As you know, the point of My Wine Tribe is to provide customized more »

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One of my many New Year’s resolutions is to drink only the wines that I love. I’m assuming I’m not alone here, but what I like may not be what you like. As you know, the point of My Wine Tribe is to provide customized wine recommendations based on your palate preferences, not mine. Take our nifty quiz to find your tribe (based on the tastes and scents you gravitate toward) and then this year, follow along with our tastings to see what others in your tribe like.

Most recently, My Wine Tribe wanted to find red wines perfect for our various palates. The way to do it, we decided, was to hold a blind tasting of single varietal reds. Single varietal means the wine is made entirely from the same type of grape, aka the same varietal. In contrast, blended wines can contain anything from two different varietals up to a dozen, which you might find in your favorite Chianti.

Nick, prepping for our wine tasting.

The Wines We Tasted

Advanced Sommelier Nick Davis, of Medium Plus, hosted our tasting. He’s the one who recently taught us the deductive tasting method, used to identify and better understand what’s in your glass.

Nick wanted to push us beyond the varietals we might usually encounter–Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, for example–and to let us try wines that best express the characteristics of the varietal. He chose four wines for our tasting:

* Domaine Joseph Drouhin 2013 Pinot Noir (France) $31. From the Cote de Beaune region in Burgundy, where Pinot Noir reigns.
* Syncline McKinley Springs Vineyard 2013 Syrah (Washington State) $32. This one’s from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, which is home to about a quarter of the state’s acreage planted in grapes.
* Finca la Emperatriz 2008 Reserve Rioja (Spain) $33: Hailing from La Rioja region, this wine is made with 100 percent Tempranillo grapes.
* Ridge 2014 East Bench Zinfandel (California) $32: Ridge has long been a leader in making surprisingly complex Zinfandels. This one sources its grapes in Sonoma County.

The Results

Not surprisingly, different tribes gravitated toward different wines.

The Domaine Joseph Drouhin is a classic expression of French Pinot Noir and was the Accessible Tribe’s favorite. The wine is light on the palate with flavors of sour cherry and rose petals—or as one taster said, “this tastes like sunshine and grapefruit.” Drunk on its own, high acid levels made the wine a bit tart, but those acids mellowed out when we paired it with food. If you are in the Accessible Tribe and looking for a good wine to go with food, this is it. For everyone else, I recommend that you hold out for some of our other choices.

Lots of our tasters appreciated the Syncline Syrah, but the Complex Tribe absolutely loved it. With deep aromas of leather, dark chocolate and wood, this wine got people excited even before their first sip. It isn’t particularly fruity, rather it’s smoky, earthy and lush. And like the Pinot Noir, a higher acid and tannin level means it’s best when paired with food. Here’s a tip from one taster: “This is the perfect winter wine . . . when there is snow outside you want to be inside with this wine and a roaring fire.”

The Finca la Emperatriz Rioja was another hit across the board, particularly with the Balanced Tribe. They liked the aromas of black plum and herbs and dug the flavors of baked fruit and olives. Sounds like a weird combination, but people apparently liked it. This wine got a lot of colorful feedback: “it’s a little rough but sexy,” “this wine is like a symphony, complicated and interesting” and the final word, “overall, this wine is delicious.”

Our reaction to the Ridge Zinfandel depended on which tribe you asked. We either loved it or hated it. My fellow Developed Tribe members and I loved it (as in, I’m going to go buy a case of it). Here’s the deal with this wine: It’s fairly high in alcohol, so it coats your tongue and feels kind of thick. Think of this wine as being like whole milk, versus the Pinot Noir, which is like skim milk. The Zinfandel smells like cream brulee, dried fruit and, oddly, peach yogurt. It tastes of cloves, raisins and barbecue sauce. It’s luscious and bold–another wine perfect for winter.

That’s a wrap folks. Hopefully these tasting results will help you find your perfect red wine, based on your palate and your tribe. Cheers to that!

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New Years Resolution: Becoming a Better Wine Taster http://www.mywinetribe.com/2017/01/06/new-years-resolution-becoming-a-better-wine-taster/ http://www.mywinetribe.com/2017/01/06/new-years-resolution-becoming-a-better-wine-taster/#respond Fri, 06 Jan 2017 18:34:17 +0000 http://www.mywinetribe.com/?p=3634 Happy new year everyone! If you are like me it’s time for a resolution or two. Should I strive to be a better person? Nah, I’m good as is. Focus on saving more money? Wise idea but sounds unfun. How about indulging my passion and learning more »

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Happy new year everyone! If you are like me it’s time for a resolution or two. Should I strive to be a better person? Nah, I’m good as is. Focus on saving more money? Wise idea but sounds unfun. How about indulging my passion and learning how to be a better wine taster? Yep, sounds about right.

To that end I decided some professional help might be in order. That’s why I invited Nick Davis, the owner of Medium Plus, to lead a recent Wine Tribe wine tasting. Nick is an Advanced Sommelier, which means he has wicked good knowledge of the world of wine and is just one step away from becoming a Master Sommelier, of which there are only 135 in the world. (Check out the terrific documentary Som to learn more about Master Sommeliers.)

Nick, prepping for our wine tasting.

One of the wine tasting techniques Nick shared with us is deductive tasting. It sounds like something Sherlock Holmes would lord over Mr. Watson (“It’s elementary, Watson. Deductive tasting led me to the murderer”), but it’s how sommeliers are able to taste a wine and tell you its grape, age and region of origin—all without looking at the label. For those of us not pursuing a sommelier classification, the technique can unlock sensory cues to help us understand why wine tastes the way it does, leading us to become better tasters.

Here’s a primer on how it’s done.

Gaze Into Your Glass

When we hold up our glasses and gaze at the wine inside, what we’re really looking for is color and clarity, which can indicate the wine’s age. If a white wine is a pale yellowish green, for example, it’s likely a young wine versus a deep golden yellow, which indicates an older, barrel aged wine. If a red wine is bluish purple, it’s probably young. A brick red color points to an older wine.

Clarity, meanwhile, suggests the wine is young or has been filtered. A cloudy or hazy look might mean the wine is unfiltered or—worse—flawed.

Nice legs!

One other thing to look for: whether the wine has “legs.” After you swirl your wine around, you may notice a bit of liquid seems to coat the sides of the glass. That means the wine has legs, and that it’s likely on the high side in sugar and alcohol content, too.

Take a Good Sniff

This might surprise you: Appreciation of wine is mainly due to its scent. In fact, your sense of smell is the most important sensory tool you possess when tasting wine—even more important than your sense of taste. That’s because the flavors you perceive are actually due to the odors that reach your nose first. Weird, huh?

Sniff the wine deeply and ask yourself, “What am I smelling?” It could be a type of fruit, like red fruits, black fruits, tropical fruits or dried fruits. It could be the relative ripeness of the fruit—a tart cherry smells different than a ripe cherry, for example. Or, it could be aromas that aren’t fruity at all. In Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, I usually smell smoke, dark chocolate and coffee.

Now Take a Taste

Once you have a sense of a wine’s scent, take a taste and confirm that what you were smelling is what you are tasting. Then, you can make an educated guess as to what type of wine you’re sampling. For example, wines that smell and taste like red fruits (think cherries, raspberries, strawberries), are likely to be Pinot Noir, Sangiovese or Merlot, while wines that smell and taste like black fruit (black plums, black currants, blackberries) are generally Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec or Syrah.

Check Out the Structure

The final consideration is the wine’s structure, which is an assessment of overall balance based the levels of acidity, alcohol and tannin in the wine and the wine’s body. Acidity is sussed out by detecting tart, citrusy flavors (i.e.: lemony wine=high acid wine). You can get a hint of the alcohol content by looking for the wine’s legs, as we learned above. Tannins, the levels of which are determined by how much time the grapes’ juice sat together with its skins and stems, are more prevalent in red wines. You can assess tanning levels by gauging the feeling of drying on your tongue. I am not a huge fan of tannins and they make my face scrunch up but dont do what I do, be more professional and go with the sense of dryness on your tongue.

The final assessment that professionals make has to do with a wine’s body. Think of this as the thickness of the wine, sort of like the difference between skim milk and whole milk. Typically, wines with more body have higher levels of alcohol and sugar.

And with that, you will have learned the deductive method for tasting wine. It will help you to be a better wine taster by finding clues that can be unlocked by observing, smelling and tasting your wine, ultimately leading to a greater appreciation for what’s in the glass. This is a new years resolution I can get behind and focus on throughout the year (thank goodness as many of my past resolutions have been a bust). Thanks Nick and happy 2017 to each of you!

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10 Best Wine Gifts For Every Budget http://www.mywinetribe.com/2016/12/07/10-best-wine-gifts-every-budget/ http://www.mywinetribe.com/2016/12/07/10-best-wine-gifts-every-budget/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 05:19:19 +0000 http://www.mywinetribe.com/?p=3646 Ho ho ho! Happy holidays, my fellow wine drinkers, and thanks for reading My Wine Tribe all year long. To show my deep affection and appreciation, I got you a little something: a guide to the 10 best wine gifts for this holiday season. I’ve more »

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Ho ho ho! Happy holidays, my fellow wine drinkers, and thanks for reading My Wine Tribe all year long. To show my deep affection and appreciation, I got you a little something: a guide to the 10 best wine gifts for this holiday season. I’ve tried to pick something for every kind of wine lover and in every price range. I hope it helps you find the perfect gifts.

For the Wine Geek

Recently, I was handed a black glass filled with wine and asked to identify what I was drinking. It was a mind-bending experience because, with these glasses, you can’t tell if the wine inside is red or white. If you have a wine geek in your life, black wine glasses are an awesome gift because they’ll give your wine-obsessed pal plenty to “research” and will be sure to stimulate conversation. Set of 4 for $44.50. black-glasses

For the Wine Drinking Comedian

OK, Ill admit it: I want a pair of these socks with a message, either to send a not-so-subtle signal to my family or simply to amuse myself. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the wine drinker with a sense of humor, you can’t go wrong with wine socks. $13.winesocks

For the Yogi Who’d Rather Be Drinking Wine

Got friends who say they’re into yoga but really they’re more into wine? Get them this tank top so they can proudly admit that downing a glass of their favorite vino can in fact be better than downward dog. Namaste. $18.tank

For the Wine Drinker on the Go

If you have friends who are out and about with their wine in tow, why not help them out with this cool canvas wine tote? It holds two bottles and is designed to prevent the tell-tale clinking that makes it tough to be ultra-cool and undercover. They’ll love the looks of this streamlined bag and will be proud to walk around with it, silently. $22.2bottlebag-highres-2_1024x1024

For the Entertainer/Imbiber

I love this olive tray made from a recycled wine bottle. It has a rustic elegance and it blends two joyous things: wine and olives. Your friends will dig it. I know I would (hint hint). $25.olive

For the Wine Drinker Who’s Attached to Their Phone

Got that friend whose mobile phone is like an extension of their body? Perhaps the only time they set it down is to take a sip of wine? If so, you can’t go wrong with this gift: an iPhone case with a cute wine motif. It comes in multiple sizes and has a rubber bumper for added protection. $35winecase

 

For the Wine Drinker Who Nests

If you have a friend who loves wine and decorating their nest, this wine rack and glasses holder is an ideal gift. It holds four glasses and up to five bottles, and you can personalize it with a monogram to boot. Since it hangs from the wall it doesn’t take up much room, which makes it even more perfect if your pal lives in a place where space is at a premium. $95.winerack

For the Concerned Wine Drinker

If someone on your list has a streak of altruism, consider making a gift in their name to ¡Salud! ¡Salud! is a nonprofit organization that provides health care for vineyard workers in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.You can donate at multiple levels. Donating $100, for example, covers the cost of laboratory and diagnostic services for four people. Cheers to that!unnamed[1]

For the Drinker Who Loves to Try New Wines

Once you know your friends’ wine tribe, you can give them a few favorite bottles based on their palate preferences. All the wines listed below have been taste-tested over the past year at our monthly blind tastings. If you’re not sure of your friend’s wine tribe, either get them to take the quiz or make an educated guess: on one end of the scale is the Accessible Tribe, which consists of folks who like lighter, delicate tastes and have a definite sweet tooth. On the other end is the Complex Tribe, which consists of people who dig big, bold tastes (think IPA beers, stinky cheese and super dark chocolate). And in between you have the Balanced and Developed Tribes. I’ve listed some wines below that have appealed to members of each tribe at our tastings. If you need more ideas, here are more recommendations.

Accessible Tribe:
Bisol Crede 2014 Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G. $25.
Justin Monmousseau 2015 Rosé D’ Anjou, $13.
Dreaming Tree 2012 Crush, $17.

Balanced Tribe:
Louis Roederer Champagne, $47.
Costamolino Vermentino di Sardegna, $16.
Hahn SLH 2012 Pinot Noir, $20.

Developed Tribe:
Gruet Brut, $15.
Domaine William Fevre 2012 Chablis, $30.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2012 Canoe Ridge Estate, $36.

Complex Tribe:
Gramona Gran Reserva 2011 Cava, $21.
Bodegas 2011 Muga Reserva, $25.
Kerloo Cellars 2012 Walla Walla Syrah, $40.shutterstock_196572365_edit

For the Wine Drinker You Want to Go Big On

If you want to impress, give a winery club subscription. While not cheap, this is the gift that keeps on giving—and who knows, perhaps you will be invited to share in the bounty. Two of my favorite clubs are Oregon’s Raptor Ridge Winery and Washington States’ Longshadows Vintners. Raptor Ridge focuses on Pinot Noir and consistently delivers wines that are balanced, elegant and delicious. A Raptor Ridge wine club subscription would be ideal for your friends in the Accessible or Balanced Tribes. If your friends are in the Developed or Complex Tribes, I suggest a subscription to Longshadows Winery, a unique partnership that pairs Washington’s premium grapes with some of the best winemakers in the world. There are a lot of expansive red wines coming from the folks at Longshadows, which is sure to make the Developed and Complex folks happy.shutterstock_winebottlesincratecrop1

It’s all over but the wrapping for this year, folks. I hope these gift ideas will help you surprise and delight your loved ones. And I hope you and your friends and family have a joyous holiday season filled love, laughter and lots of wine. Cheers!

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Best Sparkling Wines from Around the World http://www.mywinetribe.com/2016/11/03/best-sparkling-wines-from-around-the-world/ http://www.mywinetribe.com/2016/11/03/best-sparkling-wines-from-around-the-world/#respond Thu, 03 Nov 2016 16:32:08 +0000 http://www.mywinetribe.com/?p=3619 Champagne is the best known sparkling wine, but there are loads of other options that, while less famous, can offer more value. Consider French Cremant (sparklers from regions other than Champagne), Spanish Cava, Italian Prosecco and good old sparkling wine from the USA. My Wine more »

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Champagne is the best known sparkling wine, but there are loads of other options that, while less famous, can offer more value. Consider French Cremant (sparklers from regions other than Champagne), Spanish Cava, Italian Prosecco and good old sparkling wine from the USA. My Wine Tribe recently decided to dive in and explore the world of sparkling wine via a blind tasting.

A Sparkling International Lineup

Here’s what we sampled:fullsizerender-5

We had a few surprises in this tasting, but, as usual, people stayed true to their tribes. Not sure what tribe you’re in? Take our handy quiz and find the sparkling wine that’s best for you based on your palate.sparklinggroup1

Winners in Sparkling Wine, by Tribe

A lot of TLC goes into Gramona Gran Reserva, which was a hit with the Complex Tribe. Tasters loved its “lush, full mouthfeel” and “nice bubbles with hints of apricot, almond and pear.” They also appreciated the touch of sweetness, “like a brioche bun.”  Though some of the other tribes found it a bit too heavy when paired with food, it’s a lovely wine on its own—and the quality-to-price ratio is unparalleled.

The Bisol Prosecco was the favorite of both the Balanced and Developed Tribes. Tasters liked the floral aromas, the fruity tastes (green apples, lime and not quite ripe pear), the lightness on the palate and the bubbly effervescence. This one easily paired with all kinds of food and was also just fine on its own. If you’re in the Balanced or Developed Tribes this is a sure bet, and I’m willing to wager it would be a hit with Accessible Tribe members as well.

Wines Still Sparkle, if Not as Brightly

The Francois Chidaine Brut Cremant surprised many of us: It was not a winner. While a few tasters liked the overt sweetness, most of our tasters didn’t. They found it to be almost raisiny, with a heavy dose of honey and a bit dusty tasting. On its own this Cremant was tough to drink, but it did mellow out a bit with food. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it, regardless of your tribe.

And finally we had the Shramsberg Blanc de Blanc. This was my personal favorite, but no one else in my tribe (Developed) was really digging it. It is bright and citrusy, with a bit too much grapefruit for most of our tasters. I think of it as zesty and I do like grapefruit, so perhaps that has something to do with my love for this wine, although at $39 a bottle it was a bit of a financial stretch.

The Bottom Line

The big winners of the night were the Gramona Cava Gran Reserva from Spain for the Complex Tribe and the Italian Bisol Prosecco for everyone else. Lucky for us, they’re both on the affordable side, yet another reason to drink more bubbles now, instead of saving sparkling wines for New Years Eve. Cheers!sparklinggroup3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Who Needs Napa? Five Reasons to Go To The Livermore Valley http://www.mywinetribe.com/2016/10/19/who-needs-napa-five-reasons-to-go-wine-tasting-in-the-livermore-valley/ http://www.mywinetribe.com/2016/10/19/who-needs-napa-five-reasons-to-go-wine-tasting-in-the-livermore-valley/#respond Wed, 19 Oct 2016 17:37:45 +0000 http://www.mywinetribe.com/?p=3584 Before my recent visit, when I thought of California’s Livermore Valley I thought of the Livermore Laboratory, famed for creating and protecting the nation’s nukes. Not exactly romantic wine country, right? Boy, was I wrong. I was blown away—not by the nukes, but by the more »

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img_7632Before my recent visit, when I thought of California’s Livermore Valley I thought of the Livermore Laboratory, famed for creating and protecting the nation’s nukes. Not exactly romantic wine country, right?

Boy, was I wrong. I was blown away—not by the nukes, but by the Livermore Valley’s tremendous wines, hospitable winemakers and incredible history. So rethink that visit to Napa and get yourself to the Livermore Valley now.

Here’s why:

No. 1: The Livermore Valley is only 35 miles east of San Francisco, making it an easy day trip from the city. (It’s 60 miles from San Francisco to Napa).

No. 2: With the exception of two storied wineries, Wente Vineyards and Concannon Vineyard, the Livermore Valley is home to small, boutique wineries. That means you’ll have a more intimate experience and a higher likelihood of visiting with the winemaker than you do at the bigger places farther north. And of course, it means you’ll be able to get your hands on killer wines that aren’t widely available elsewhere. If, like me,  you’re a member of the Developed Tribe, here are some recommendations: McGrail Vineyards 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($42), Page Mill Winery 2013 Petite Syrah ($39) and Murietta’s Well 2013 The Spur ($22).

Exploring the local juice at a wine tasting hosted by McGrail Vineyards.

Exploring the local juice at a wine tasting hosted by McGrail Vineyards.

But Wait, There’s (Liver) More

No. 3: The Livermore Valley is less touristy than many other wine regions of California, so prices for both tastings and wine are generally far more reasonable than, oh say, Napa Valley.

No. 4: Because of how and where the Livermore Valley is situated, the wine grapes are of the highest quality. Here’s the equation on the terrior: temperate climate + maritime influences from the San Francisco Bay + the valley’s elevation + the well-drained gravel soils = grapes with complexity and balance. Perfect for delicious wines!

Visiting teh vineyard with Rhonda Wood of Wood Family Vineyards.

Visiting the vineyard with Rhonda Wood of Wood Family Vineyards.

No. 5: The Wente Winemakers Studio is a seriously great place to learn about wine. I’ve  been in more than my share of  tasting rooms, but never have I been so electrified as I was by the accessible education offered at Wente Vineyards. I took classes on how to be a better taster, whether wineglass styles really matter (they do), pairing wine and food and identifying wines’ aromas. It was a unique experience and worth the trip alone.

Classes offered at the Wente Winemakers studio.

Classes offered at the Wente Winemakers studio.

Don’t Tell Us: You Still Like Napa

Need a little more convincing to leave Napa to the tasting hordes and give Livermore a try? Consider the region’s venerable viticulture history. I thought it was the 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting that brought international attention to US wines, particularly those from California. Yet again, I was wrong. In 1889, Livermore Valley’s Cresta Blanca Winery won the Grand Prix at the international Paris Exposition, becoming the first California wine to win a competition in France.

And here’s a little more history for you: In 1936, Wente Vineyards released the nation’s first bottling of Chardonnay. In 1961, Concannon released the nation’s first bottling of Petite Syrah. And if that’s not  enough, Concannon is the granddaddy of California Cabernet Sauvignon—clones that came from its rootstock have been used in 80 percent of California’s Cabernet Sauvignon.

Left: John Concannon, 4th generation winemaker at Concannon Vinyard. Right: Carl Wente, 5th generation winemaker at Wente Vineyards.

Left: John Concannon, 4th generation winemaker at Concannon Vinyard. Right: Carl Wente, 5th generation winemaker at Wente Vineyards.

Surprised? I was too. But here’s one thing that’s not surprising: As soon as I can, I’ll be heading back to this unique and highly satisfying California wine region. See you there!

 

 

 

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