Monthly Archives: January 2011

Abstinence bad for grapes…need more sex.

According to a new study by Cornell University, wine grapes have abstained from sex for nearly 8,000 years.  As many of 75% of current grape varietals are as closely related as ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ or ‘parent’ and ‘child’ (for example, Cabernet Franc & Sauvignon Blanc are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon).  Now especially many grape vines are identical to each other (clones), much up France (some estimate 90%!) is made up of specific clones of vines.

This lack of diversity has lead to increased risk of the vines being infected with pests or disease, which has lead to increased use of pesticides.  Many of domestic and European wineries know that it only a matter of time before judicial bodies step in to regulate the use of pesticides and with no disease resistant vine strains they may be out of luck.

So what is a winery to do?  There are a few options, one being developing disease resistant grapes, however that may require cross breeding specific varietals with each other (for example Chardonnay a ‘new’ resistant varietal) which would cause the type of grape (and wine made from that grape) to change.  Under current regulations in most of the winemaking world, a wine can only be called a ‘Chardonnay’ if it is made from at least a certain percentage of the Chardonnay grape.  While cross breeding may be the most logic and successful way of beating vine disease, it definitely will disrupt and confuse consumers and affect the pockets of everyone involved…so I don’t see this as happening anytime soon.

The second option is to move towards organic or biodynamic farming, fighting disease with sustatinable practices rather than pesticides and chemicals.  We’ve seen many wineries move to this method of farming for many different reasons, and I think this will be the continuing trend.

The third would require adding a resistance gene to the current varietals in use.  However, this would come with an increased risk of consumer resistance and allergy developed to to genetically modified crops.

For right this is unlikely to majorly affect grape growers, however definitely one that requires more research.

To read the full story from the New York Times including a varietal ‘family chart,’ CLICK HERE.

New Definition of “Craft Brewer”

The Brewers Association has changed the definition of a “craft brewer.”

To accommodate the growing craft beer industry and those breweries that are coming close to surpassing the previous maximum on the number of barrels which constitute a craft brewer, the Brewer’s Association has changed the rules. The previous definition capped out a craft brewer at 2 million barrels per year. The new definition of a craft brewer, as of December 20, 2010, has been bumped up to 6 million barrels. To give you an idea of the quantity of beer we are talking about…1 beer barrel equals 31 gallons of beer, that’s about two kegs worth. 6 million barrels equals 12 million kegs. That’s one hell of a party.The Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams beers is staged to become the first craft brewer to surpass the 2 million barrel mark within the next few years.

Although some may not be thrilled about the idea of such a large brewery continuing to segment itself in the craft beer market, in comparison, Anheuser Busch produces over 125 million barrels per year. That’s a heck of a lot more beer than Sam Adams is making.

Nick Matt, a Board Member for the Brewer’s Association, commented on the recent change: “Rather than removing members due to their success, the craft brewing industry should be celebrating our growth.”

As larger craft breweries such as Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Magic Hat and Dogfish Head continue to grow and popularity increases, expect to see more of these companies getting closer to the larger volume production that The Boston Beer Company is at. The flood gates are open, the craft beer movement is in full swing. Cheers to that.

If you would like to see the full definition of a craft brewer, visit the Brewer’s Association website

Feature Winery: Nickel & Nickel

I was asked by a customer of ours the other what my favorite Cabernet is.  That’s a hard decision to make, especially when you are staring at a wall of such deliciousness.  But after some thought I responded, “I don’t have a favorite single Cabernet, but overall I appreciate the Nickel & Nickel cabs the most.”  To me, Nickel & Nickel represents California winemaking at its best representing the true structure of the varietal and illustrating how much terrior can change a wine.

Nickel & Nickel was founded by the partners of Far Niente in 1997 (what we call a sister label), with a task to produce 100% varietal wines from single vineyards across Napa Valley.  President and winemaker, Darice Spinelli, explains how N&N selects their vineyards…”We’re not just seeking out any vineyards. Every aspect of each vineyard must be top-notch, including the soil and the climate, but we also want to know the site is proven ground. We look at who the neighbors are, who is the vineyard manager, and will that grower be willing to do whatever it takes to make the best of the vineyard.”

The top notch vineyards that N&N has selected spans six sub-appellations of Napa Valley for Cabernet.  They also produce Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Syrah from vineyards in Napa and Sonoma counties.  Nickel plans to continue their growth into over 25 single varietal and vineyard wines.  Here’s an overview of the Cabernet Vineyards that we rotate in the store.

Oakville, Napa Valley

  • John C. Sullenger Vineyard: The home vineyard of Nickel & Nickel, situated behind the winery.  Deep, sedimentary soil leads to black fruit flavors with a balance of velvet and chewiness in the body.
  • Tench Vineyard: Red, rock soil of clay and volcanic rock.  Grapes in this vineyard rapidly develop color and flavor right before harvest.  Dark berry flavors with a hint of blueberry, silky tannins with a toasty oak finish.
  • Rock Cairn Vineyard: At the southern edge of Oakville, just east of Highway 29 and north of Yountville.  The vineyard is named ‘cairns’ for the piles of rocks left by the Indians during their passage through (rocks were a symbol of the route being safe).  Deep gravel with western exposure, concentrated dark cherry flavors with some earthy notes on the finish.
  • Branding Iron Vineyard: Located in western Oakville, close to the Mayacamas Mountains, the area has a relatively warm growing climate that is perfect for slow ripening the fruit.  Bright and ripe cherry flavors.  Juicy and soft.
  • Kelham Vineyard: Located at the base of the western hills, well drained clay with a perfect canopy allowing ideal growing conditions for the grapes.  Ripe, jammy blackberry and cassis flavors with a long, concentrated and weighty finish.

Stag’s Leap District, Napa Valley

  • Copper Streak Vineyard: Located in a protective area at the base of the palisades, gravel mixed with red (copper like) streaks.  Dark fruit flavors with hints of earth and tea, very indicative of this area of Stags Leap.

St. Helena, Napa Valley

  • Dragonfly Vineyard: One of the most, and hard to find, located at the base of Spring Mountain in St. Helena the Dragonfly Vineyard is located in the “Banana belt” area named for its ideal microclimate of summer temperatures.  Deep gravel soils lead to flavors of red fruit, wild strawberry and floral notes.

Howell Mountain, Napa Valley

  • Vogt Vineyard: High, shallow rocky vineyard atop Howell Mountain on the northeast edge of Napa.  Typical, distinctive fruit of Howell Mountain.

Rutherford, Napa Valley

  • C.C. Ranch: Located in Rutherford, just west of the Silverado Trail gravel soils lead to dark cherry flavors with the signature “Rutherford dust.”

Yountville, Napa Valley

  • State Ranch: My personal, new favorite 2007 is just the second vintage of State Ranch.  Located just northeast of Yountville, the vineyard is made of rock, loam soil.  Flavors of dark cherry, this juicy wine is soft with a long, luscious finish.

But how do you choose between them all?  I say, you don’t.  I think the best wine tasting party is tasting a few of the Nickels side by side.  It is the best way to understand the true intent of Nickel & Nickel and the strong differences that lie in the soils and areas of Napa Valley.

Exclusive for blog readers, use code “NICKEL” on any purchase of 6 bottles of more Nickel & Nickel Cabernets this month and the price for each is only $70/bottle (regularly $90, savings of 22%!)

Alcohol Shipping Explained (Sort of)

With the growth of internet commerce, everything has become readily available on the internet.  Google virtually anything your heart desires, and you can guarantee that at least three virtual stores will pop up.  And the same is true for wine.  Internet commerce has allowed small wine stores to grow into multi-million dollar companies virtually overnight (I’m sure you’ve all heard The Wine Library story owned by Gary Vaynerchuk).  But with this opportunity for growth comes a lot of legal and technical work on the store side and very complicated and often one sided shipping laws that vary not only from state to state but county to county and even in some cases city to city.  Here’s a brief overview about alcohol shipping in the U.S. and why we may or may not be able to ship our wine to you.

Who can ship wine?
Any business that possess a liquor license and operates in a state that allows alcohol shipments out of state can ship wine.  State governments limit both shipments out for alcohol and shipments in.  Most states that do not allow shipments in also do not allow shipments out as well (except for one – what we refer to as ‘the monopoly’ or more commonly known as New Jersey). Individuals are not allowed to ship wine or any kind of alcohol.   If you need to ship wine personally, we recommend visiting your local wine store (us of course) and arranging shipments through them.

What states still do not allow wine shipments?
Every year more and more states open their state up for consumers to receive direct shipments from wineries and online retailers.  Currently, 36 states allow wine shipments to consumers., a non-profit website that is currently lobbying for the dissolution of all wine shipment restrictions, has a helpful map that clearly displays the ship to and non-ship to states.

Can I ship wine to myself or a friend?
No.  All the laws that currently allow wine shipments in allow it only through approved commercial shipping programs with UPS and Fedex.  Here is where it gets slightly more complicated, our boxing material is regulated, our rates our regulated, special signatures are required (receiver has to be over 21), and some states even require double taxation on alcohol shipments.

My state isn’t listed, will I ever be able to receive wine shipments?
Hopefully. A Supreme Court decision in 2005 (Granholm v. Heald) has been integral in opening up new states for wine shipments including Michigan, Florida and New York.  The case determined that states cannot discriminate between out-of-state and in-state wineries, basically doing so would create a monopolistic environment.  Therefore, any state that allows their in-state wineries to direct ship must do so on even terms for all, based on the US Commerce Clause.

I can receive wine shipments, GREAT!
Yes and no.  An ongoing battle, direct wine shipments to consumers are always under scrutiny.  Many wholesalers (distributors) of wine and beer feel that allowing wine to be sold directly and via internet threatens their business.  The spin usually has to do with how alcohol shipments could increase the amount of underage drinking or credit card fraud, but the real reason is the distributors do not want their business affected.  I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t have ordered $50 bottles of wine online in my youth.  Currently, Bill HR 5034 is seeking to once again prohibit alcohol shipments to consumers…this time the bill is lead by the beer distributors.  Visit Stop HR5034 on Facebook to learn more about the bill.

What’s the deal with New Jersey and Maryland?
The same lawsuit that opened most of the other states up to direct shipments is now working in favor for residents of New Jersey and Maryland.  Both states house in state wineries that makes the ruling in previous cases applicable, New Jersey also houses (and protects) some of the biggest online wine retailers in the country. (Wine Library)

What happens to me (or a retailer/winery) if they ship wine to me in a non-ship state?
That depends on the state.  Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you get a slap on the wrist, sometimes you are fined…but by law the state can charge you and/or the retailer with a felony.  Massachusetts and Utah (surprise surprise) take this pretty seriously and we’ve heard through the grapevine (no pun intended) that they will go after you with a felony charge and hefty fine the first time you are caught.  So I wouldn’t try it.

New Arrivals: 1/19/11

New beers this week, just in time for our Domestic Microbrew tasting tomorrow night, Jan 20th

Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan

From:Kiln, Mississippi

About: Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale is the first beer in the world made with whole roasted pecans. The pecans are used just like grain and provide a nutty characteristic and a delightful depth to the flavor profile. This beer is very lightly hopped to allow the malty, caramel, and nutty flavors shine through. The color is dark mahogany.

Ratings: Bronze Medal in the 2006 World Beer Cup, B+ Beer Advocate

Price: $2.10 12 oz

Boulder Brewing Company Singletrack Copper Ale

From: Boulder, Colorado

About: Refreshing yet full flavored, medium bodied copper ale. Not too dark, not too light…it’s just right.

Ratings: Silver Medal in the 2002 World Beer Cup and Bronze Medal in the 2004 World Beer Cup

Price: $1.75 12 oz

Bells Brewing Oberon Ale

From: Kalamazoo, Michigan

About: A wheat ale fermented with Bell’s signature house ale yeast, mixing a spicy hop character with mildly fruity aromas. The addition of wheat malt lends a smooth mouthfeel, making it a classic summer beer.

Ratings: B+ Beer Advocate

Price: $2.25 12 oz

Cigar City Brewing Bolita Double Nut Brown

From:Tampa, Florida

About: An imperial northern English brown ale. Huge malt flavor and aromatics.

Ratings: A- Beer Advocate

Price: $11.25 750 ml


From: Lakewood, New York

About: The Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya, unfolds a complex web of mystery around a beverage known as xocoatl (ch-co-atle). At Southern Tier, we’re not surprised that hieroglyphs of the ancient Maya depict chocolate being poured for rulers and gods. Brewed with bittersweet Belgian chocolate this is the perfect dessert beer.

Ratings: A Beer Advocate

Price: $9.25 22 oz

Food & Wine Pairing: Stone Crabs

It is winter in Florida which means many things, one of which is Stone Crab season.  Tonight we are very lucky to get a fresh batch of Stone Crabs from a local fisherman.  So the question at hand is what wine to pair with them?

I always believe when it comes to food and wine pairing, you not only need to take into account the protein (in this instance Crab) that you will be eating but also the spices and flavors.  Stone Crabs are served fresh and chilled with no seasoning, but we will be making a number of dipping sauces that include horseradish, stone ground mustard, and even a bit of butter.  With the combo of the delicate flavors of the Crab and the heavy flavors of the sauces, I steering in the white direction so as not to overwhelm the crab but have also selected wines that have enough flavor to stand up to the sauces.

Wine #1:  Red Hook Chardonnay
From: Brooklyn, New York
About: Made by Robert Foley, this wine really is made in Brooklyn….however the grapes are grown in Long Island and then trucked into the city.  Foley went the California direction with this wine aging it in new oak barrels and allowing the Chardonnay to ripen fully and then undergo malolactic fermentation.  Basically, it is California style Chardonnay made out of Long Island grapes in Brooklyn…very Robert Foley.  And very good.  I’ve been tentative about New York wines, but this is one of my favorite new Chardonnays – New York or not.
Price: $48

Wine #2:  Robert Foley Pinot Blanc
From: Napa Valley, California
About: Let’s just call it a Robert Foley night…but he is a great winemaker and adventurous when it comes to whites.  Complete opposite of the previous, this wine is all fruit…no barrels or malo.  This 100% Pinot Blanc is very dry and crisp with strong floral flavors.  Perfect to counter balance the spiciness of the horseradish.
Price: $18

New Arrivals: 1/17/11

A new weekly addition, we’ll keep you up to date with all of our new arrivals to and our store location in Naples, Florida.

1.  Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet, 2008
From: Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California
About: This “Alexander Valley” style Cabernet is rich in color with concentrated fruit flavors of blackberry and dark cherry with moderate tannins.  A small amount of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot was also added to the wine to build character and structure.  Alexander Valley Vineyards has been growing grapes for more than 40 years, founded by Cyrus Alexander (whom the whole Valley was named after).
Ratings: Not rated.
Price: $20

2.  Evening Land Blue Label Pinot Noir, 2009 (Both California & Oregon Wines Came in This Week)
From: Oregon/California
About: Evening Land has acquired some of the best vineyard in fruit sources to develop their Pinot Noir and Chardonnays made in a Burgundian style.  They pull fruit from Eola Hills in Willamette Valley, Oregon; Occidental on the Sonoma Coast in California; and Santa Barbara County’s Santa Rita Hills.  These three vineyard sources are blended together to form their Blue Label series which features the distinctive California and Oregon styles of Pinot Noir.
Ratings: Not yet rated.
Price: $28

3.  Favia Cerro Sur Red Wine
From: Napa Valley, California
About: A collaboration between Annie Favia and Andy Erickson (Leviathan, Dancing Hares, Screaming Eagle), Favia’s Cerro Sur is a red blend of 66 % Cabernet Franc and 34% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Vibrant, bright fruit balanced with spice, coffee, and floral notes it is aged in French oak barrels for 22 months.  The majority of the fruit comes from the vineyards to the east of downtown Napa in the Coombsville, Wooden Valley & Sacramento Valley areas.  Only 211 cases produced, a gem and very hard to find!
Rating:  95+, Robert Parker (Wine Advocate) “This is a beauty – elegant, restrained, and slightly closed, but displaying more intensity than last year, with a beautiful nose of bay leaf, blueberry, spring flowers, graphite, and crushed rock. Medium to full-bodied, pure, dense and impressive, it should drink well for 10-15+ years.”
Price: $145

4.  Ken Wright Cellars Abbott Claim Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2009
From: Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon
About: One of my favorite Pinot Noir producers, Ken Wright focuses on the Vineyard source making a number of single vineyard Pinots that truly illustrate the qualities of the soil.  The Abbott Claim Vineyard is within the Yamhill-Carlton AVA along the Savannah Ridge at an elevation of about 400 feet.  The soil combined with the use of the Pommard clone deliver a dark and lush wine with flavors of plum and black cherry.
Ratings: Not rated.
Price: $60

5.  O’Shaughnessy Howell Cabernet Sauvignon
From: Howell Mountain, Napa County, California
About: 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 4% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot, 3% St. Macaire from the Del Oso & Amphitheater in Howell Mountain, Napa.  This wine packs a lot of punch (14.8% alcohol) aged for 20 months in New French oak.  Big and bold flavors of blueberry and chocolate.  Only 3,000 cases produced.
Note: This winery is also a featured vintner at the 2011 Naples Winter Wine Festival and will be featured at our Wine Festival Tasting next Wednesday.
Rating:  95 points, Robert Parker (Wine Advocate) “The stunning 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain (83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot and the rest Malbec and St. Macaire and Petit Verdot) is the finest Cabernet this estate has yet produced from their Howell Mountain holdings. A dense purple color to the rim as well as the exquisite bouquet of black raspberries, blueberries, camphor, creme de cassis, smoke, and crushed rocks are followed by sweet fruit, gorgeous density, a full-bodied mouthfeel, and a layered, multi-dimensional mid-palate and length. With no hard edges, this flawless wine should drink well for 20-25 years. One of the superstar estates of Howell Mountain, winemake Sean Capiaux is the force behind these impressive reds.”
Price: $85

Armenia…the birthplace of wine?

An international research team published an article in the Journal of Archaeological Science claiming they had found the oldest winery in the world, in Armenia.

“It’s the oldest proven case of documented and dedicated wine production, stretching back the horizons of this important development by thousands of years,” Gregory Areshian, co-director of the excavation and assistant director of the University of California Los Angeles’s Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, told CNN.

It appears that clay pots, vats and a sprawling cave system was used for wine production over 6,000 years ago (known as the Copper Age).  The vats appear very similar to the foot-stomping pieces of the equipment popular in winemaking during the 1800’s.

The cave system was discovered under mulitple layers of rock that appeared to have sealed and preserved the remnants of the winery after a collapse of the cave roof many years ago.

CNN states, “The wine might have tasted similar to modern vintages as well. Botanists examining the find say it was the species Vitis vinifera, the same one used to produce the vast majority of wine today.”

But what did the wine taste like?  A modern, unfiltered red wine much show similar characteristics as many of these are produced in similar manners today as the could have been 6,000 years ago (just might have been a bit more tedious).

So the question is, what to do with France?  It was deemed ‘the birthplace of wine’ but with this discovery…do we now pass that title to Armenia?

Read the full CNN article here –>Scientists discover ‘oldest’ winery in Armenian cave –

Beer and Food Pairing: Morimoto Soba with Sushi

Looking for a great beer to pair with sushi? You are in luck. Rogue Ales out of Newport Oregon has teamed up with Chef and Restaurateur Masaharu Morimoto, best known for his appearances in Iron Chef, to develop a line of specialty beers to specifically pair with his Japanese fusion style cuisine.The beers include Morimoto Imperial Pilsner, Morimoto Soba and Morimoto Black Obi.

My personal favorite, the Morimoto Soba Ale is brewed with roasted soba, a buckwheat grain which is a staple in the Japanese diet and used to make the traditional soba noodle. Buckwheat is known for its nutritional value, being high in potassium, phosphorous, vitamin B and protein. The best part of all though, is that it  is virtually fat free!

The beer itself is light and crisp, especially for an ale, and has a slight nutty finish. When you think of the typical beers that are served with sushi, often Sapporo, Kirin and Asahi come to mind; light lagers with limited taste. While they still may be refreshing and great in their own way…the flavors of sushi, with accents of wasabi, ginger and sodium filled soy sauce tend to overpower those light beers and make pairings complicated with fuller bodied ales. Thank goodness for Chef Morimoto, Rogue Ales, and ingenuity.

Morimoto Soba Ale, $7.75

Parker v. Vaynerchuk on HBO?

Rumor has it that the writer of “Sideways” is working with the production company responsible for HBO hit, “Boardwalk Empire,” on a new show for the premium network based on wine.

“The Nose,” supposed name of the show, will be based on two characters modeled after Robert Parker and Gary Vaynerchuk, two popular wine critics with very different personalities.

It is likely that the Parker character will be poised as the old-school, swirling, big word dropping wine snob and Vaynerchuk will be the hip, cool, tweeting, social media guru.

The show hasn’t even filmed a pilot and hasn’t been picked up by any networks, although word on the street is HBO is looking for a wine related show that displays “the real wine busines.”

For us, we are hoping this show won’t be the one HBO picks up. Robert Parker is a fantastic critic but probably not the best person to base a series on. And don’t get us started on the other guy….let’s just say The Situation is all we can handle from Jersey.

Read the full story at The Gray Market Report. (