Monthly Archives: June 2010

Green Beer – Not Just For St. Patrick’s Day

Anderson Valley Brewing Company; a solar powered, environmentally friendly brewery in Mendocino, California. Many have the perception that a “green” business equals pricey products. But with more and more businesses hopping on the green wagon, that doesn’t seem to be the case, especially in California, where they know how to be environmentally-friendly and affordable at the same time.

Anderson Valley is using their PV solar panels to cover 40% of their annual energy needs. While this may not seem like a lot, remember that brewing beer is not light on energy consumption. Large boilers and heat exchangers work hard to heat the wort (the mixture prior to fermentation), hold it at a boil for 1 to 2 hours, and then cool it quickly. Larger-scale breweries that are constantly making batches of beer have developed a more efficient way of heating and cooling. Pipes running side by side take the cool water as it goes into the tanks on one side and pass it by the heated wort as it exits another tank. This heats the water that is about to be boiled, and cools the wort that needs to get down to 70 degrees prior to beginning its fermenting process. As much as brewing beer has not been a green process in the past, it is refreshing to see breweries making the step. And it’s not just the hippies out in California, Coast Brewing Company out of Charleston, SC is located in a sustainable community, uses local and organic ingredients and runs their brew kettles on biodiesel.

Although breweries are finding ways to deal with the excessive energy use, water is still an issue in the less-rainy areas of the country. I find it ironic to think about the clever saying  “Save Water, Drink Beer.” It actually takes 6 to 8 gallons of water for every gallon of beer produced. If you really want to save water, just drink water. But then, what is the fun in that?

If you think that Anderson Valley is spending it’s energy trying to save energy instead of creating tasty beverages, think again. Their beers are full of flavor and made with the finest ingredients grown in the nearby Pacific Northwest. One of my favorite beers of all time is their Poleeko Gold Pale Ale. Some pale ales can be overly hoppy, or too light. This one is just right, balanced and full bodied with a slight dry citrus flavor and a crisp light finish. If you are an IPA fan, try Hop Ottin’ IPA.  This big, hoppy beer is a hop-lover’s dream. 80 IBU’s in this sucker.

So there you have it. You can be environmentally friendly and make a damn good beer at the same time. If you want to check out some of Anderson Valley’s fine brews, you can find them online at http://www.decantedwines.com or in store at Decanted Wines, 1410 Pine Ridge Rd, Naples FL 34108

Poleeko Gold Pale Ale $2

Boont Amber Ale $2

Hop Ottin’ IPA $2

Special: $10 six packs. Online order code BEER. Expires 7.7.10 http://www.decantedwines.com

Cheers to South Africa Sparklings!

Break out the bubbly for the World Cup! What better way to celebrate your team’s victory (or wallow away your sorrows) than with a bottle of South African Graham Beck sparkling wine?

Graham Beck wines come from the diverse vineyards of the Western Cape. There are four vineyards in total, including Firgrove and Robertson Vineyards where their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes thrive in the limestone rich soil. Graham Beck offers a portfolio of wines including Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Shiraz, Merlot, Pinotage, and a Malbec/Sangiovese Rose.  I am going to highlight an aspect that many overlook when they think of the traditional styles; sparkling.

Graham Beck creates a sparkling wine in Champagne style, but at a value that rivals a $40 bottle of the French bubbly. They offer five styles from dry and crisp to sweet and fruity. They are a third generation family winery who concentrate on superior quality fruit throughout three diverse and unique terroirs. They celebrate their New World attitude that flows from the winery and stylistic characters to the modern lines in their tasting room and cellar architecture. John Wessels, architect for both of their cellars says it best “There is no need to mimic France or Tuscany when one is rooted in Africa.”

Don’t forget to raise your glasses for their sustainability practices. They are the second wine farm on the Cape to be awarded the Biodiversity Champion Status!

Here are a few of the Graham Beck sparkling wines, and you can’t beat the value!

Graham Beck Brut NV $16- One of my favorites! A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Fresh, light, dry, rich and complex. Serve with freshly shucked oysters.

Graham Beck Bliss Demi-Sec $16 – Much softer than the dry Brut. Hints of butterscotch, honey and praline. Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend from the coastal Firgrove Vineyard.

Graham Beck Brut Rose $16 – A blend of 80% Pinot Noir 20% Chardonnay from the Robertson vineyard with natural limestone content. Ripe strawberries with a creamy note of Chardonnay

Decanted is hosting a Sparkling Wine Tasting Wednesday June 30th from 5:30-8:00pm. Also look for the World Cup Wrap-Up Tasting to sample other South African wines Thursday July 8th from 5:30-8:00pm. 1410 Pine Ridge Rd, Naples, FL. Full events schedule is posted on http://www.decantedwines.com

Wine Review: HDV Belle Cousine 2006, Napa Valley Wine

HDV Belle Cousine

There are so many small production wines these days, it takes a bit more than ‘boutique small producer’ in the description of a wine to impress us and the consumer. However, with the mention of the names “Hyde” and “Romanee-Conti” our ears are open, add $50 retail price and we are listening…intently.

HDV Belle Cousine is a right bank Bordeaux style blend (mainly Merlot), made in a joint venture by the Hyde Family and Aubert de Villaine. The Hyde family, owners of the Hyde Vineyard, produce some of the highest quality grapes in the Napa Valley used by some of the great wineries including Kistler, Ramey, Paul Hobbs, Robert Mondavi, and Patz & Hall. Aubert de Villaine is one of Burgundies most recognized individuals, serving as the co-director of Domaine Romanee-Conti and owner of A&P de Villaine. Arguably the greatest winery in the world, Domaine Romanee-Conti, produces some of the most premier and highly rated Burgundies each fetching a few hundred dollars a bottle at a minimum.

So with that kind of history, we had high expectations of the HDV Belle Cousine. Inspection of the color shows a dark, brick red with little sediment. The nose opens up with a few swirls displaying dark fruit, sweet spice and vanilla. The aromas are so intense and brilliant, it is one of those wines that you could smell for days. Flavors varied from cherry, spice, and blackberry providing a complex flavor while maintaining some, luscious tannins. The HDV Belle Cousine is a wine that is prepared to be served today but will continue to develop and only get better over the next five years.

Perfect Wine & Food Pairing: Pan Roasted Pork Tenderloin with a Blue Cheese & Olive Stuffing

Decanted: 2.75 out of 3 glasses (Overall), 2.5 out of 3 glasses (For the Price)

A Summertime Favorite

Looking for your new favorite Chardonnay for the summertime? I have just the wine. Pavilion Crossing North Coast Chardonnay. This wine is perfectly balanced, lightly oaked (and I mean very lightly oaked), wonderfully silky mouthfeel with notes of apple, pear and vanilla. This is possibly one of the lightest California Chardonnays I have tried, while still maintaining complexity and depth. And with its price point at $15, this is one of the best values out there.

Pavilion will pair nicely with shrimp, fish and scallops as well as herb roasted chicken. Try a Key Lime beurre blanc over grilled shrimp or a spicy mango chutney over swordfish or Chilean seabass. If you are in the mood for chicken, stuff your whole roast chicken with rosemary, sage, garlic, lemons and plenty of butter.

Pavilion Crossing Chardonnay 2008 $15

You can find Pavilion Crossing Chardonnay at Decanted Wines 1410 Pine Ridge Rd, Naples, FL or at http://www.decantedwines.com

Taking the “Snob” Out of Wine

Over the years and centuries, wine has developed an image. Picture well-to-do’s in evening attire swirling their red wine in fragile long stemmed glassware. Examining the legs creeping down the glass, wafting the aromas in idle conversation as words of poetry flow in eloquent descriptions of the grape juice they are sipping.

That has always baffled me. Why does wine have such a fancy pants image? Beer certainly does not have that image. Although craft beer in recent years have worked its way into the gastronomic scene, not to mention world competitions, tasting events and clubs – all revolved around the noble grain based beverage. Yet it still does not stack up to the upheld image of wine.

Do these “snobs” know that their beverage is derived from one of the most primitave means of production…agriculture? Sadly, corn farmers are not held as in high regard as the winemaker and vineyard tender. Why is that? Corn can be manipulated in many ways, from backyard BBQ corn-on-the-cob to Michelin level restaurant presentation on a tiny bed of arugula laced with truffles and caviar (I’m not sure that’s actually been served, so don’t quote me on that). In the same sense you have a range from box of wine to a 50 year old Lafite Rothschild. What’s the difference?

I deduct it all breaks down to conversation pieces. The French constantly talk about food. They talk about food when they are eating, and when they are not eating, they are planning the next meal. They discuss proper preparation, combinations, what not to do. Americans aren’t as big of a foodie culture across the board. Don’t get me wrong, some of the best restaurants in the world are in our great country. But when it comes down to the average Joe, most are content with a quick, easy, non-complicated meal. To the French, food is life, and every meal should be the best meal you’ve ever eaten. Americans therefore need something to discuss at social gatherings. Since it’s typically not food, we choose another standard offering of our gracious host; wine. Because wine is such a basis of conversation in many social settings, that is part of the reason I believe Americans are so inquisitive about their wine. French, Italians and Spanish tend not to question what percentage of which grape is in their bottle, Americans must know. To Americans, knowledge is power and prestige. The more you know about your wine, the more you can speak with confidence and always have a fall back conversation piece at the next dinner party.

I believe the younger generation is starting to change the image that previous generations have instilled upon wine. It’s becoming more acceptable to simply know your likes and dislikes and discuss them with open minds. Don’t feel bad if the 1979  Bordeaux you are sipping is not your favorite, although I personally wouldn’t dump it in the swill bucket among company.

I don’t believe in wine “experts.” I think it’s impossible to know everything there is about wine. Every wine drinker is constantly learning. No one is a better wine drinker, maybe a bit more knowledgable, but no need for the aloofness! Were your teachers aloof in school? I sure hope not. They were there to educate you, not make you feel dumb. The best way to defeat that urge to snob (and avoid being snobbed) is to taste, taste, taste. Taste as many wines as you can, develop your palate and you will soon be able to easily distinguish varietals, regions and characteristics of your favorite bottle of wine. It could be an old Burgundy, an Argentine Malbec or heaven forbid, a Merlot (there is nothing wrong with Merlot in my mind). Your tastes are your own, and everyone has different taste buds. Embrace it. And most importantly, relax.

Decanted Wines hosts weekly tastings from 5:30-8:00 pm. Visit http://www.decantedwines.com for the events schedule and upcoming tastings.

K Syrah, Syrah

Que sera, sera – whatever will be, will be. K Syrah should be translated to – nothing left to chance. These wines aren’t left to the whim of a winemaker just going with the flow, saying, whatever happens,  happens. The K Syrah series wines are crafted with care and all the meticulousness one could expect from a wine of this depth.

One of Charles Smith’s many endeavors, K Vintners produces a wide array of wines, including  Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay and Viognier. But his bread and butter is his signature grape, Syrah. 13 different Syrahs from various vineyards make up his portfolio, each with their own defining characteristics, ranging from $15 to $120.

Charles Smith was awarded Winemaker of the Year 2009 and his Syrah is rated top 10 in America. Washington wines are making their way in to the forefront of domestic wines and Charles Smith is blazing the trail. See Washington Wines Revealed for a more in depth look at the Washington wine world. He offers several different levels of his fantastic K Syrah. Listed below are three of my favorites. As their price increases, so does their complexity. The Phil Lane is one of the most outstanding wines to grace my palate. Big, bold, almost black in color with a nose that just embodies Washington. Breathing in the Phil Lane took me back to the four years spent living in Eastern Washington where I attended college, the smells of the countryside, the warmth of the air, the lushness of the landscape. Charles Smith’s  simple explanation of the wine sums it up, but you just have to taste it to fully appreciate its loveliness.  But don’t feel bad if $75 is a little much to spend for Sunday dinner, the Northridge and Milbrandt wines are fantastic as well.

K Syrah Milbrandt $36

“As the day is long…a never ending finish of spices, fresh tobacco, cured meats and stone. So smooth, so fine.” Charles Smith

K Syrah Northridge $40

“Extremely concentrated, intense color. Notes of huckleberry, cedar, cigar and kirsch. Built like a brick sh*t-house; exuberant ripe fruit with grippy backbone and spice and a seamless finish.” Charles Smith

K Syrah Phil Lane $75

“Violets, lavender, roasted meat, game, crushed stone and a super long finish.” Charles Smith


What’s the Deal with Golden Monkey?

Everywhere I go these days Golden Monkey is the hot commodity. I overhear bar patrons asking their friendly bartender if they serve Golden Monkey…”I’m sorry, we ran out!” Comes the reply. It has a following, like a classic movie, beer enthusiasts (or simply beer drinkers) have been recently listing it as one of their top fav’s. So what’s the deal with this beer?

I found myself at my neighborhood bar one night several months ago, looking

at Golden Monkey on the beer menu. Although I wasn’t sure what to expect, I figured I better see what all the hub bub was about. As I poured it into the glass from its deeply hued bottle with its all-seeing eye and a Buddha monkey figure of some sort, its deep straw colored full-bodied texture filled my glass and perked with just that little extra head that Belgians ales tend to show. An

aroma of citrus and floral hit my nose and that characteristic snap of Belgian yeast. It was refreshing, strong but light at the same time, citrus and smooth with a bite. Delicious, I thought, but I still don’t understand the fuss. Until I finished my beer and noticed a serious buzz. Ahhh, 9.5% alcohol in this sucker.

Produced by Victory Brewing Company out of Dowingtown, PA, this beer has become kind of an icon of sorts among their eleven year-round beers and eight rotating seasonal brews. The fact that Southwest Floridians have jumped so willingly on to the Monkey wagon says their doing something right. It takes a stand-up beer to steer many of us away from the American Lagers on a steamy summer day down here in the South. Maybe it’s simply the fact that it only takes two, depending on your tolerance.

Victory’s Golden Monkey – $2.50

You can find Golden Monkey at Decanted Wines, 1410 Pine Ridge Rd, Naples FL 34108

Mendoza Magnifico

Harvest and a backdrop of the Andes

Argentina has multiple wine growing regions, but Mendoza is the shining star, producing more than 60% of Argentina’s wine. Argentina itself is the 5th largest wine producing country in the world and they have been making wine since the 1500’s. Up until the 1990’s Argentinians have been more focused on quantity rather than quality, with 90% of wine produced being consumed inside the country.  A shift in thinking and desire to capture a lucrative export market has driven many wine makers to begin producing quality wines at higher price points. With the devalue of the Argentine Peso in the early 2000’s, tourism has increased due to the country’s affordability for Americans and Europeans. This has allowed wine tours to become increasingly popular and has created a growing awareness of Argentina’s wine region.

Mendoza lies 500 miles Northwest of Argentina’s capital city, Buenos Aires. The region is tucked up against the dramatic Andes Mountain Range. Due to high altitude and low humidity of the region, the vineyards in this region rarely face issues with fungi, mold, insects and grape diseases that other countries deal with. This allows for little to no pesticides for the majority of the vineyards and offers ease of producing organic wines…good news for the sustainable wine enthusiast!

A Typical Argentine Bodega

Another aspect that the vineyards at the base of the mountains have in their favor is the use of spring run-off. Dating back to the 1500’s the Argentinians began building complex irrigation canals to channel snow melt from the Andes to sustain the vineyards and agriculture. Once the irrigation systems are in place, the grapes have a metered water supply.

The most common grape you are likely to find when shopping for wines from Mendoza is the Malbec. Malbec was introduced from France and has been found to thrive in this particular region. Other popular varietals is the Italian Bonarda grape, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chardonnay.

What may come to a surprise is actually how large of a region Mendoza is, meaning they have micro climates, just like Napa and Sonoma. You can get a good idea of what characteristics your Malbec is going to have by where it came from. Agrelo and Lujan de Cuyo are located in the warmer Northern region of Mendoza, producing Malbecs with rich, muscular profiles and black fruits. In the South, areas of the Uco Valley such as Tupungato and La Consulta are cooler and tend to produce Malbecs with vibrant fruit and minerality. Remember, when you move North within the country, you are heading to warmer climates, South is cooler. The Argentine snowbirds head North for the winter!

If you visit Mendoza, keep in mind that the growing season is opposite than the Northern Hemisphere. Grapes are starting to bud in October with harvest usually beginning in February. That means the best time to see the grapes, green leaves, warm weather and jump into the tasting rooms is during summer, Oct-Feb.

Now that you are probably thirsty, here are some delicious thirst quenchers straight from Mendoza.

Nieto Senetiner Bonarda Reserva 2007 – $35

Lujan de Cuyo – Bright, saturated ruby. Brooding aromas of crushed blackberry, leather, tobacco and smoky oak. Sweet and primary, with nicely concentrated flavors of crushed dark berries. Finishes with ripe, fine tannins and a note of dark chocolate.

Antigal Uno Malbec 2007 – $20

Tupungato Valley – Intense fruits with significant hints of oak. Silky but concentrated with a balanced and elegant finish.

Domaine Jean Bousquet Malbec 2007 – $15

Tupungato Valley – Made with organically grown grapes. Opaque violet, almost black in color. Ripe plum and chocolate flavors with a soft, supple mouthfeel. Voted a Wine Spectator Best Buy.

Buy these wines at http://www.decantedwines.com and receive a 10% discount on a case! Or shop in-store at Decanted Wines, 1410 Pine Ridge Rd, Suite 21, Naples FL 34108.

Wine Review: Orin Swift’s The Prisoner 2008

Dave Phinney’s story is one of the most unique and admirable in today’s wine industry.  After graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in Political Science, Phinney began pursuing his team by working harvest at the Robert Mondavi winery.  The next year he began Orin Swift Cellars with just two tons of purchased Zinfandel grapes.

Orin Swift has now become one of the top, if not the top, cult wineries in Napa.  Their flagship wine, The Prisoner, which made the winery famous has recently been sold to the mother company of Quintessa.  We are anxious to see what happens to the brand and the blend as the winery goes through some big changes the next couple of years.

However, we are now reviewing 2008.  Which we found to be a fantastic vintage for The Prisoner, one of our favorites.  The wine is composed of 46% Zinfandel, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, 10% Petit Sirah, 2% Charbono, and 1% Grenache.  The wine is a deep dark garnet hue.  On the nose hint at cherry, vanilla and new oak.

The flavors and mouth feel of The Prisoner is what really gives this wine its character and personality.  Round and soft on the front palette, dark berries and a slight caramel taste fill your mouth.  A perfect touch of acid rounds out the wine and leads into the very soft and supple tannins on the finish.  For a soft wine, the finish is long with the perfect balance of dryness and fruit.  One of Phinney’s best vintages to date.

Decanted’s Wine Rating:  2.75 glasses

The other guys ratings:
92 points, Wine Spectator
90 points, Wine Advocate (Robert Parker)

Buy Orin Swift’s 2008 The Prisoner
$35 at decantedwines.com, 10% discount on a case.

Can wine withstand heat?

We get asked a lot of questions in the store…one of which is about the proper storing conditions of wine.  And we’ve preached that proper storage techniques are essential for wine to age properly (55 degrees horizontal preferably in a cellar or wine refrigerator).  For ‘drinking’ wine we usually suggest that it is at least stored in an air-conditioned area, preferably 75 degrees or less.

But we’ve decided to put our advice to the test.  Living in Florida, during the summer, it is hot…sometimes hotter than hot.  What happens if you don’t store wine in your wine refrigerator or even the house?  What would happen if you left the wine out on say the lanai for a week?

Here’s our experiment.  We are going to use two bottles of the same wine (Twenty Bench Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa), keep one bottle stored in our wine refrigerator at 55 degrees and the other will sit on the lanai (out of sunlight).  We selected a Cabernet specifically as they are made to age and more complex than some other varietals, we’re thinking maybe this will give it an edge to hold up in the heat.

The experiment starts today and runs until next week….stay tuned!