Category Archives: world of wine

Liveblogging red wine at WBC14

Live blogging the whites and rosés yesterday was so overwhelming that I almost didn’t attend the reds session this afternoon, but then I talked myself into it. I joined a little late because I spent so long talking WordPress in the lobby with the charming Allison from Please the Palate that I ran my laptop battery nearly dry and had to run up to my room for the power cord I had left there.  She liveblogged the reds too, so if we tasted the same thing, you can compare us. If we diverge greatly, trust her notes, not mine. 🙂

The Wines

Casey Flat Ranch 2011 Red Blend: (52% Cab, 24% Syrah, 6% Merlot, 1% Viognier) Oak and green pepper on the nose, mashed blackberries, and cedar. Kind of a pruney palate, with lots of pine and forest floor, pretty grippy tannins and a lasting menthol/chestnut flavor on the finish.


Gypsy Canyon 2012 The Collector’s Pinot Noir: BIG pomegranate, spicebox, mushroom, and thyme on the nose. Deep cherry juice on the palate with . Smooth mouthfeel, elegant tannins, with some coffee and blueberry on the finish. $110

Bianchi Heritage Selection Paso Robles 2011 Zinfandel: Pretty classic black pepper and blackberry jam with a nice lifted aspect on the top. Tastes like a good bbq ribs wine: sweet notes without cloying jamminess, but a nice bitey char at the end that I think would balance well with any grilled red meat. Yummy!

If you choose to engage in liveblogging, you might be writing your notes with the winemaker looking over your shoulder at your tasting notes. No pressure! :O

Trione Alexander Valley 2009 Red Wine Blend: Wow, menthol much? Mint/tobacco/green pepper overload. Really green on the nose but super-purple in the glass. I was expecting it to be spare on the tongue but it explodes with juice and goes out like an angry, eucalyptus-laden lamb. $45

Taken Napa Valley 2011 Red Wine: two millennial sons of famous Napa winemakers make this; sophisticated nose of pretty oak, currant, and pepper. Grippy tannins and nce fruit. Nothing wrong with this wine, but it didn’t blow my socks off. $30

Bandit NV Cabernet Sauvignon: You’ve seen this wine in the bright purple Tetrapack “bottle.” Great for camping or floating the river. Unremarkable cabernet with sweet oak, blackberry, and pine needles. Very soft tannins and a pretty vegetal finish, but good with burgers over a campfire I bet. Following the fancy Napa cab blend didn’t do it any favors. 🙂

Labyrinth Presqu’ile “Clone 667” 2012 Pinot Noir: Musky sweet/sour burgundy style nose, pretty violets, spice, and subtle herbs. I really enjoy smelling this wine. Smooth and delicious on the tongue, with elegant satiny texture. Extremely well-made. $50

Brecon Estate 2013 Paso Robles Cabernet Franc: Really pretty, floral and fruity nose. The oak lifts the floral spicy smells and complements without competing. Someone said caramel, I guess I can see that. Bright and sassy palate, with not-quite-ripe blackberries and a little tarragon on the finish.

Consilience 2011 Santa Barbara County Syrah: Great floral/fruit nose with brisk black pepper. Jammy and grippy on the palate but not overwhelmingly so. Violets? Lavendar? something flowery on the end there. $20

Whew! Let’s not do that again for a while, ok?

I’m speaking at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference

Somehow I’ve gone this far without telling many people that I’m speaking at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference next weekend in Santa Barbara County, CA, and I couldn’t be more excited! (And nervous!) I get to talk about my two favorite things, wine and WordPress. OK, I’ll mostly be talking about WordPress, but I’m sure to mix in a number of good wine-related allegories because that’s how much of a wine geek I am.

My talk is titled Supercharging Your Blogging With WordPress.com, and I’m scheduled for Sunday morning against a photography workshop and a writing workshop. So presumably anyone who comes to my session (other than my work-mates Derek and Rebecca) will be superlative writers and photographers who need to learn more about embedding images and video, managing spam, backups, security, and all the cool stuff that Jetpack lets you do on your self-hosted WordPress site. Oh, and people who didn’t stay up too late drinking on Saturday night. This seems like a good crowd for my inaugural workshop on blogging with WordPress, which will truly be a case study in the thought expressed here:

That being said, the thought of sharing the same “stage” (as it were) with speakers like Eric Asimov and Jancis Robinson is… a little intimidating. Could you tell? Just in case my presentation is less than thrilling, your consolation prize is a video of Jancis Robinson’s keynote from WBC 2011.

Live Wine Blogging to commence on Friday July 11

I’ll definitely be live-blogging my tastings at the Wine Bloggers Conference next weekend, using the WordPress iOS app. Unsubscribe if you don’t want to hear about all the cool juice I’ll be sampling in Santa Barbara County! 🙂

A Wine Scamp Bloggerpack? Surely you jest!

So months ago, Jill from Domaine 547, the hippest online wine shop run by a blogger, approached me about taking part of her blogger-pack program. I was quite excited to do so, as so many of my favorite wine bloggers have been involved already and it’s time I started hanging with a good crowd.

But what two- or three-pack of wine says Scamp? Jeff Lefevere of Good Grape did a neat selection of Alsatian varietals from the Willamette Valley. Awesome idea, and as an Oregonian I couldn’t agree more about promoting the whites from that region. Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20 did a great round-the-world trip of value, very apropos for her blog. I love good cheap wine, so was full of admiration for this idea. Brooklynguy did a two-pack of Loire wines, which he recommended for the holidays, and Ryan and Gabrielle of Catavino did a grouping of great Portuguese wines.

All great concepts, and I couldn’t bear to copy anyone. So I went back in my head (envision Wayne’s World wavy lines) to the days when I taught a weekly wine class, and remembered that my favorite classes to teach were the “X Varietal Around the World” ones. And because I’m such a Syrah freak, I thought we’d go that direction. Jill agreed, and we started trying to think about what three wines could take us around the world on the Syrah magic carpet ride… for about $60 bucks.

This was seriously hard work!

See, if you’re going to do a Syrah Around the World (which could sound positively dirty if you say it right), you must have a French one. But in France, they do not make very many 100% Syrah wines — mostly, they blend Syrah with Grenache and other lovely varietals into wines called Cotes du Rhone, Chateauneuf de Pape, etc. But you HAVE to have a French Syrah, because Syrah’s done so differently there and that’s the whole point of a ‘Round the World tasting: regional styles.

The two French wines that are all or mostly Syrah are: Hermitage Rouge and Crozes-Hermitage Rouge. The former is v. expensive. The latter is rather expensive. Jill and I spent most of our debate time looking, but finally found a C-H for Not Much Money that tastes French, from the good folks at Dme Ferraton. Voila.

Then the other obligatory region in a Syrah tasting is, of course, Australia. Because we both love it and because it’s just a kickin’ value for the cash, we chose the d’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz. (Anything, dear reader, from d’Arenberg is The Shizzle. Love them into little green apples, I do.)

Finally, a Californian Syrah. I hadn’t heard of the winery that Jill suggested, but once I tried them I was very impressed. Not telling, though, until I post the actual review.

A huge shout-out must go to my friend Lady J, who spent last Sunday on the couch watching movies and tasting (well, she was drinking) wine with me. Her presence got me to ignore the morning sickness nausea that has become my hourly companion and pop the corks that have been nagging me for weeks and weeks. Plus I knew that the bottles I opened went to a good home.

So be on the look-out for reviews of the three wines in the blogger-pack upcoming. I’ve been so remiss that I might be at the back of the blogger-pack line, but reviews you shall have, dearies, and sooner than summer this time.

As a post-script I must note that I REALLY MISS DRINKING WINE. Tasting it makes me miss it that much more. And these three bottles were SO good. Gah.

Closure kerfluffle

The Italian winery Allegrini, a reliable go-to for quality wine from the Veneto region, has announced their plans to close their bottles of Valpolicella Classico DOC with screwcaps this year, according to a Wine Spectator Online article. Unfortunately, because of silly Italian wine regulations restricting what wines can get what kind of closure, Allegrini will have to de-classify their wine to a mere Valpolicella, an appellation with less restrictions (and thus usually lower quality).

Franco Allegrini comments in the article that he’s not sure in screwcap closures are better for wines meant to be drunk young, like their Valpolicella, but that they have to use much less sulfur in the wine when they use screwcaps. This reduction of intervention would generally be thought of as a good thing, and it’s a shame that the Italian wine regulators are so hidebound to their outmoded traditions that they can’t see the advantage of modern closure technology.

Allegrini will probably get less for their wine, bottling it with screwcaps as Valpolicella, than they would bottling it with corks as Valpolicella Classico. Co-owner Marilisa Allegrini thinks this will actually help, rather than hurt, the wine’s sales, considering the dollar’s activity these days.

Funny old world in which, when your country’s wine laws work against you, it can actually boost your sales.

Moderation in all things

According to the Guardian, the British Medical Journal suggests that alcoholic overindulgence could be curtailed by selling bottles of wine that are 500 ml instead of 750 ml. The notion is that if two people open a bottle over dinner and have a glass each, they then proceed to finish the entire bottle so as to not waste any wine, getting dangerously sloshed in the process. It’s likened to the way “super-sized” portions on a plate induce a diner to eat too much food.

Thus, British supermarket chain Waitrose is debuting a line called Vin à Deux, consisting of eight premium French wines in 50 cl (that’s 500 ml in Britain) bottles. They’ll also expand their selection of wines in 250 ml bottles, while phasing out 375 ml — your typical half bottle — altogether.

Is Waitrose saving the British public from their own sot-like impulses? Gracious, but it seems to me that we have more than enough options for wine containers, especially that of the wine “box,” in which the plastic bladder-like container never allows air in and thus never lets wine go bad in the first place. If having a 5-liter box of wine in the fridge doesn’t lead to “overserving,” at home, then why on earth would having three-quarters of a liter in a bottle? This is the perfect opportunity for a new poll, don’t you think? Please direct your attention below and share your opinion via a few clicks or, certainly, a comment!

[poll=8]

Addendum to WBW#42: words and wine

Reviewing a wine in 7 words: it was the best of ways, it was the worst of ways.

I know that the idea behind the Wine Blogging Wednesday #42 seven word limit was meant in a whimsical way, but it got me to thinking about the words we use to talk about wine. Of course, this has been a subject on my mind lately, as evidenced by the poll I’ve been running for a week or so about whether or not winespeak makes it difficult to learn about wine.

The results to the polls indicate that while occasional words are confusing (technical words like carbonic maceration and battonage, I’m guessing), on the whole people get what we wineaux mean when we babble on about aromas and flavors. Or at least, 8 of the 13 voters said so.

I can’t blame them; some of the more technical words having to do with wine are not things that you’d natrually just pick up on the side of the etymological road.  And you won’t get a chance to use them very often, unless you have lots of wine geek friends or you work in the business.

So that’s been kicking around in my head, along with all the other maundering thoughts of recession, elections, new jobs and the old What I Should Be Doing Right Now.  And then Andrew Barrow of the British wine blog Spittoon (love that tag line) proposed that we review a wine in only seven words, I thought “Boy, that’s going to be tough.”   My reviews tend to run about 200-500 words, and the tasting notes alone run 30-80, depending on the wine.  How to truly sum up a wine for my readers in a mere seven?

Poetry to the rescue!  Mr. Rogers got me writing poetry since before I could write (I dictated to my mother); I don’t write many poems these day, but if you want to communicate a lot of sensation in few words, a poem is your magic bullet.  So I figured I’d take those shockingly few seven words and make them a haiku.  It was tough, but I was happy with the results.

So now I’m thinking… why not other poetic forms? Why not a sonnet about a wine you love dearly? A villanelle about a wine you drink often? Drinking a wine that’s so complex it seems almost impossible, try a sestina! For a rustic vin de table, a limerick?   If poetry communicates the ineffable, then it seems made for wine, as anyone talking about wine is describing a completely subjective, sensual experience.  Poetry and wine!  Game, set, match.

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?