Monthly Archives: February 2008

Ikea to the rescue

Fancy cellarThe last note for a while about my burgeoning cellar, I promise: when shopping at Ikea recently for kitchen cabinets (we’re remodeling our kitchen at the end of the month, a fact which fills me with unreasoning dread), my beloved and I stumbled across a wine storage system which would store 80+ bottles… for only $100!

While Tom could very easily make me a wine rack, we’re embroiled in this remodel currently, and he’s also working on building us our own tear-drop trailer. So we figured to take the easy way out, and he put them together for me yesterday, an unusually cold rainy Saturday which would have kept him in doors anyway.

We located the new rack in the hall closet. I don’t know where we’re going to put all the camping gear that lived in there before – it’s hunched in the corner of the guest room, whimpering and bewildered.

For those of you that dream of someday owning your very own wine collection, bottles gently aging toward perfection, there are a few things you need to consider in the placement of your treasure trove. Firstly, light: wine hates it, and you don’t want your wine to learn to be a hater. Choose a wine storage location away from light.

Secondly, temperature: we call wine collections “cellars” because traditionally wine was kept in the basement, because there is little to no temperature variation underground. Sure, if you spring for a refrigerator to keep your wine in, you can store it at 55 degrees Fahrenheit, just like it would be kept in a cellar. Or if you actually have a basement (something largely uncommon in my neighborhood of houses built on solid limestone, and not so much with the tornados), you can keep your juice there with much sense of tradition. But simply giving your wine somewhere to sleep that will have a constant temperature (in my house, this means in the center of the home, close to the floor) is completely acceptable. Especially if you’ve got the dark part taken care of.

Thirdly, inclination: with the advent of the Stelvin closure, this is becoming less vital, but if you are storing bottles closed with corks, you need them to stay wet. Horses may sleep standing up, but wine doesn’t like it. Treat your wine better than the airlines treat all of us, and let it lay down to rest. Your corks will stay moist and pull-able, and everyone will live happily ever after.

Nominations for the American Wine Blogging Awards are Open

Tom Wark’s American Wine Blogging Awards 2008Tom Wark at Fermentation has opened nominations for the 2008 American Wine Blogging Awards, and you have until the 27th to nominate your favorite blogs for one or all of the 8 categories.

Said categories include: Best Wine Blog Writing, Best Single Subject Wine Blog, Best Wine Review Blog, Best Wine Podcast or Video Blog, Best Winery Blog, Best Wine Business Blog, Best Wine Blog Graphics, and the good old stand-by, Best Wine Blog. You can nominate up to three blogs for each category, as long as they were in existence during 2007 and had at least 52 posts during that time. (In case you’re wondering, I posted about 75 times in 2007.)

Last year’s winners include Dr. Vino (for both Best Writing and Best Blog, which reminds me of the old Oscar quandary of Best Director and Best Picture), Pinotblogger, Vinography, The Good Grape, Wine Library TV and The Wine Collector Blog.

I remember when I was thinking of starting a wine blog, I did a lot of reading of the sites that were nominated for the Wine Blogging Awards, hoping to learn from the best. This is the most positive aspect of an online award that is awarded by both the community and a panel of judges; it calls attention to those who are recklessly committing excellence in the wine blogosphere.

If we’re all not careful, we might learn something.

Don’t delay; nominate your favorite wine blogs today!

Grande Dame

Jamie and Hugh DaviesI’m saddened to hear that Jamie Davies passed away on Tuesday at the age of 73. She and her husband Jack Davies pioneered sparkling wine in California when they founded the iconic Schramsberg Vineyards in 1965 in the Napa Valley. In addition to producing some of the best sparkling wine in the world for over 40 years, the couple had three sons.

Hugh Davies began to work for the winery in 1996, and Jamie and the family continued to run the winery after Jack passed away in 1998. I had the pleasure to work with Hugh when I represented his wines in the US Virgin Islands; he visited the market multiple times, and I was always impressed with his gentle, cheerful manner and infectious enthusiasm for sparkling wine.

My heart goes out to the entire Davies family at this difficult time. For a full obituary of Jamie Davies’ life, try the Napa Valley Register or the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jamie Davies , Grande Dame of Calistoga, will be sorely missed. All of us here at Wine Scamp International raise a glass in her honor.

Am I professional enough for CellarTracker?

I spent many hours this weekend geeking my ass off on CellarTracker. If you are not yet familiar with this means of exhaustive wine cataloging, CellarTracker is a website that allows a user to log all the bottles in her cellar, including such details as when a bottle was purchased, how much it cost, when it should be drunk, where it’s being stored, et cetera ad infinitum.

Age-ableThis was necessary because I have finally been allowing myself to purchase wine. Not that I haven’t been buying the wine I’ve been tasting for you lo these last months — but a lot of my tasting has been in events and at wine bars. I have not until recently been able to afford to keep more than about 6 bottles around the house.

And look at me go! I learned, after pulling all my bottles out of the pantry and reorganizing them via the interwebs, that after relaxing the old purse strings for a mere 2 months, I have over 40 bottles in storage, to the tune of over $500. I have clearly been carried away, especially considering that almost half of my “cellar” is comprised of inexpensive, everyday bottles. Considering how much wine I drink on a weekly basis (not that much), the only word that comes to mind is ridonkulous, gentle reader.

Mostly everyday drinkingNow I need more room. As you’ll see in the photos (finally, I get to show you my rack!), I’m keeping wines organized through a combined system of 12-bottle cases and shippers. Classy, eh? Nothing but the best at Wine Scamp World Headquarters. No, seriously — Mr. Scamp is an accomplished welder and is planning out a dilly of a rack for me, which will allow my collection, such as it is, to top out at 60 bottles. Cross your fingers for me.

But that’s not why I gathered you all here this evening — the subject at hand relates to another aspect of the coolness of CellarTracker. The site allows users to share their own tasting notes in the Personal and Community Tasting section, as well as the tasting notes they’ve found from wine critics in the Professional Tasting section.

Ah ha! I can see I’ve got you now. Where do I put my tasting notes? Do I include the notes I’ve written for Wine Scamp in the Professional Tasting section, all up in the face of Robert Parker and Stephen Tanzer? Or do I write separate tasting notes in the Personal and Community Section, a la Dr. Debs?

There are long, fascinating discussions on the blogosphere on this subject. Check out this post on Lenndevours, this one on Catavino and yet another at Fermentation. (There’s an interesting Catavino post regarding Cellartracker and tasting notes in general, if you’ve got the time.) Just so you have a full grasp of the details, I publish this blog via a small business, DBA Wine Scamp, and accept paid advertising on the site. This blog does represent, quixotically or no, an attempt to make money from my writing. It has not yet even begun to turn a profit, but money exists in the equation. I have a day job, of course, which involves some writing, but not in the wine business. I have a Creative Commons license.

So here is where I solicit your opinion — do the wine tasting notes I pen here at Wine Scamp International belong in the Professional Tasting section of CellarTracker? Am I enough of a pro?

Tasting Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

Found this wine at the Cowboy Steakhouse in Kerrville, a city I rarely visit except during the Folk Festival. Fredericksburg is really my Hill Country dining destination of choice, but when I saw in Kerrville’s dining brochure that this restaurant had the most extensive wine list in the Hill Country, I just had to go.

Truth in advertising, y’all. I could have been more impressed by the food (my strip steak was correctly cooked to temp but could have been more much flavorful), but the wine list at the Cowboy Steakhouse is really impressively extensive. According to their website, they’ve got over 600 labels on the list, and that’s quite plausible based on the list I saw. They also have multiple verticals (a collection of the same wine from many different years), some dating back to the 80s. The Ferris family has been in the restaurant business since 1977, so I suppose all that collecting could have happened slowly and over time. At least I hope so, or I hope they have pockets as deep as Micheal Bloomburg.

Leeuwin 97 CSAfter dithering extensively over the pages and pages of wine available, I found a 1997 Cabernet from Leeuwin Estate in the Margaret River district. They make the best Australian white wines I’ve ever tasted, but I confess I had never been blown away by their Cab. Nonetheless, I was excited to find this aged red on the wine list for only $59.

Great deep black ruby in color; little no brick red on the edges. First up in the glass, menthol, redfruits, pine tar and cassis show in the nose. The palate showed great smooth raspberry jam and a hint of red Swedish Fish. The finish of green tobacco and cigar box is remarkably smooth, with rounded, soft tannins.

As it opens up, a musky limburger aroma shows up and the menthol strengthens into eucalyptus and cedar. Some green olive scents are evident, as well. The palate develops into licorice and coffee, with kirsch, graphite, green pepper and black olive. The flavors are exceptionally well-integrated. With steak, even the smooth tannins recede, and a cocoa-cassis syrup element peeks around the corner.

Leeuwin Estate was part of Robert Mondavi’s  attempt to break into the Australian wine region in 1972.  Dennis and Tricia Horgan founded this winery, located in arguably the best wine region in the country, with Mondavi’s guidance.  They have three labels: “Siblings,” meant for drinking young, “Prelude,” meant for drinking within a few years of release, and “Art Series,” meant for aging.

The winemaker’s notes predict an aging period of 7-10 years, but the 1997 Leeuwin Cabernet Sauvignon is in its prime at eleven years and counting. If you can find any (and it looked like the Cowboy Steakhouse had about 10 bottles left), I suggest you run, don’t walk, for a corkscrew.

Label image lifted from

Tasting Pellegrini Family Vineyards

I heartily recommend the Saturday tastings at the Austin Wine Merchant. They’re free and feature interesting, stylish wines that you probably haven’t heard of or tasted before. I have a slight infatuation with the shop right now, I’ll admit, which will likely fade as I start putting out my wine shop feelers closer to my new workplace, Anderson and Mopac. Yes, I know: Grapevine. We’ll see; I could have been much more impressed the last time I was there.

I tasted 6 wines at the AWM last Saturday, all from the Pellegrini Family Vineyards in California. Robert Pellegrini and Moreno Panelli were there, representing the winery, as was Alison Smith of Texacali Wine Company, who represents Pellegrini in Texas. Ali is a fellow blogger, writing about her experience running her small wine sales and marketing business at the Texacali Wine Trail. She’s a charming woman who reps an interesting portfolio, and it was a pleasure to meet her.

Wines are listed in order of tasting: Continue reading