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Registration Deadlines Approach for Two Wine-Related Courses

sanfranciscowineschool

The next round of classes for the San Francisco Wine School’s California Wine Appellation Specialist course begins on January 16. In eight evening sessions, you’ll learn the essentials of every important AVA in the state. Instructors include David Glancy MS, Catherine Fallis MS, Rebecca Chapa CWE, MS candidate DLynn Proctor and me.

Each class includes both lecture and a tasting of eight to ten wines. Pass the test on March 19 to get your CWAS certification. Register for the full course and get a set of four “The One” wine glasses and a one-year membership to the Guild of Sommeliers.

More information and registration for the San Francisco Wine School’s California Wine Appellation Specialist course

 

February 1 is the application deadline for the Foundation Course in Sonoma State University’s Online Wine Business Management Certificate. This class focuses on the strategies, costs and key decisions that go into growing, producing, marketing and selling wine. It’s taught by Tim Hanni MW who, along with being a respected wine educator, conducts research on consumer preference and behaviors with respect to wine.

More information and registration for Sonoma State Wine Business Management Foundation Course

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

 

New Wines and Intriguing Blends from ZAP 2012

I attended the 2012 ZAP Grand Tasting on January 28. It was a good event. There were more than 200 wineries on hand, almost all of them pouring multiple wines. The new venue was excellent.

About the Wine

It’s safe to say that every important Zinfandel growing region and Zinfandel wine style was represented at ZAP 2012. There were released wines and barrel samples. Wineries that produce less than 200 cases of Zinfandel per year poured alongside some making many tens of thousands. Some of the wines sell for under $10. I also tasted some that go for more than $60. The only Zinfandel you couldn’t find there was White Zinfandel. And that’s okay by me.

I tasted about 50 wines. I tried enough of the usual suspects to know that you can count on them to be good again this year. But I also looked for things with which you might be totally unfamiliar.

The Best New Wines I Tried

2009-clopton-vineyard-poppy2009 Wine Guerrilla Clopton Vineyard Zinfandel Russian River Valley
Wine Guerrilla may be a familiar name to you. They’ve been something of an old vine Zinsation since people discovered their 2007 vintage at ZAP a few years ago. Wine Guerrilla has nine different wines available from the 2009 vintage. All but one are single-vineyard. Each features a different — and gorgeous — label designed by Sean Colgin.

2009 is the very first vintage of wine from the Clopton Vineyard for Wine Guerrilla. The vines at Clopton are more than 100 years old. Wine Guerrilla made just 125 cases. The wine oozed berry cobbler and spice with a touch of cocoa. Tannins are moderate and the palate smooth. You can drink it on it’s own, or with food. Highly Recommended. $35

2010 McCay Cellars Contention
I’ve written about McCay before and listed them as a recommended stop at ZAP 2012. They’ make excellent Lodi Zinfandel: complex, balanced and unique. Proprietor/winemaker Mike McCay poured me a barrel-sample from a new single-vineyard wine.

In keeping with McCay’s thoughtful style, the wine was fermented with native yeasts only and is aging in French oak, just 24% new. It will be bottled next month and released during the summer. The nose was a bit sleepy, having been rousted from barrel in the dead of night, but showed intriguing dusty berry aromatics. The palate is concentrated blue and black fruit with notes of spice. The wine will be positioned as McCay Cellars’ top-of-the-line and I expect it be a powerful and age-worthy expression of the vineyard. Look forward to it.

Delightful Zinfandel Blends

I like Zinfandel as a varietal wine, relatively unblended. It has a purity of flavor and sings with one voice. Most Zinfandel-centric, multi-varietal blends use the additional grapes to fill-in gaps in the wine without changing the core. They are still a solo performance, rounded out with some studio mixing. But, even more daring blends can be exciting and even transformative.

2009 JC Cellars The Impostor California
In The Impostor, Zinfandel is the lead singer in a group. Each member contributes something unique and identifiable. You get bold blackberry, but also leather and allspice plus notes of peach and white flowers. The blend is Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier. It’s a complete and engaging wine. Highly Recommended. $35

2008 Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Ancient Vines Sonoma
Bucklin Zinfandel garners complexity from some of Sonoma’s oldest vines. But there are more than 20 background singers too. Most are used in small amounts; some of the varieties aren’t even identifiable in the vineyard. In my glass there was a strong core of integrated black fruit complemented by subtle herb and exotic spice. Chalky tannins and ample acidity indicate this wine will age well for a decade. Highly Recommended. $34

2009 Saldo Zinfandel California
Dave Phinney collects grapes — mostly Zinfandel — from choice vineyards throughout five counties to create a blend that is both high-quality and high-volume (more than 25,000 cases). Made from Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Grenache it reminds me of seared venison with a delectable mixed berry sauce. Highly Recommended. $28

2009 Tres Sabores “Por qué no?”
Serious organic viticulture and winemaking don’t have to result in stuffy, intellectual wines. Tres Sabores’ Por que no? is blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot aged in Bordelais, Burgundian and American oak barrels. And it’s a delightful, crowd-pleasing wine bursting with fruit and spice. Having a couple of bottles on hand, you’ll want to throw a party. Highly Recommended. $24

About the Logistics

The move to The Concourse at 8th and Brannan was a huge improvement. The new spot involves a somewhat greater amount of city traffic in the immediate vicinity. However, there are significant benefits that outweigh that inconvenience.

The Concourse is much closer major freeways than Fort Mason. Getting to the conference by car this year should have been a lot easier for most people. There was more parking nearby and the Concourse is much closer to BART, Caltrain and central San Francisco.

The Concourse was big enough to contain the entire Grand Tasting in one, long hall. At Fort Mason, the tasting had to be split between two buildings. As it happened, that wouldn’t have been a big issue this year because the weather was good. But, in past years that were cold and/or rainy, a single hall would have been very welcome.

The Concourse has a warmer, friendlier vibe. The floors are carpeted and the walls and ceiling much nicer than the cold, concrete warehouse’s dubbed pavilions at the Fort. I’m looking forward to more tastings at The Concourse.

Moving on... the ZAP group did a good job of making sure that everyone attending the trade tasting got a baguette slapped in their hand before getting to the wine. That’s a very good call and I applaud the effort to keep attendees soberish. Along those lines though... they should offer more spit cups! There were too few and they were too hard to find.

 

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. Wine label courtesy of Wine Guerrila, artwork by Sean Colgin. All rights reserved.

Executive Director Mark Chandler to Leave Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission

Mark Chandler created the position he now holds 20 years ago. While serving as executive director of the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission, Chandler has been extremely successful at promoting the interests of the Lodi wine industry, garnering recognition for it with large wineries seeking to buy fruit and with consumers looking for old vine Zinfandel. Vineyard acreage in the Lodi area has doubled and the number of its wineries increased 10x to nearly 90.

Chandler will leave his position at the end of the year to found a wine marketing and management company. The move was not expected by the Commission and plans to replace him have not been solidified. They are hoping he will continue to promote Lodi. “Mark Chandler’s efforts transformed Lodi. In his new role we will continue to rely on him as the top spokesperson for Lodi wine,” said Bob Lauchland, chair of the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission. Chandler is open to the idea, but no agreements have been made yet.

Lodi is one of California’s oldest wine and winegrape producing regions. It was granted official AVA status in 1986 and includes seven smaller AVAs within it: Alta Mesa, Borden Ranch, Clemente Hills, Cosumnes River, Jahant, Mokelumne River and Sloughhouse — all granted in 2006. The Lodi AVA produces roughly 20% of California’s winegrapes and more Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier than any other district in the state.

Here’s a video clip about the Lodi wine region, narrated by Mark Chandler:

 

 

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Everybody Loves the Bedrock Heirloom Wine

I have to thank Tom Johnson, all the way out in Kentucky, for calling my attention to an article published down in Los Angeles that covers wines practically made in my own backyard. I've been so busy lately studying for WSET Diploma tests on sparkling wines and distilled spirits that I've missed some great stuff on my primary beat.

The LA Times article by W. Blake Gray is all about Zinfandel-focused field blends. The feature wine in the article is Morgan Twain-Peterson's Bedrock Wine Co. Bedrock [Vineyard] Heirloom Blend. Based on 18 different grape varieties from a Sonoma Valley vineyard that was first planted by William "Tecumseh" Sherman and Joe Hooker, before they made names for themselves as Civil War generals. I love this wine. I gave the 2008 Bedrock Heirloom Wine the highest rating of all in my overview of this year's ZAP Grand Tasting. The article also includes a video that Morgan made in which he talks about the vineyard.

Coincidentally, I found this wine on the list at Central Market restaurant in Petaluma last Friday. I was there with friends who left me in charge of selecting the vino. We started with a nice, approachable Grenache from the south of France that went well with our wide range of appetizers. Then we dove into the 2008 Bedrock Heirloom Wine. And then we killed a second bottle of it. This is a wine that will make you a hero with your friends. If we hadn't been so stuffed from the excellent and generously-portioned food Central Market puts out, we'd have probably stayed for a third bottle. [If you're near Petaluma around dinner time, you owe it to yourself to try the Crispy Pork Confit.] In the meantime, check out that LA Times article.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook.
Also check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

What is the Value of a Wine?

Value is important. We all want to get a good deal on things we buy. We don’t want to feel we’ve overspent by a few dollars, let alone experience the disappointment of paying way too much for something. We read reviews to guide our purchases. We ask friends for their advice.

Wine reviews aren’t perfect though. No review can tell you exactly what your impressions of a wine will be. Reviews can’t even provide a complete picture of what the critic experienced. Words are not sufficient. Add to this the facts that individual bottles of wine vary from one to the next, that wine changes over time and that the environment in which we taste a wine impacts our perception. Assessing value based solely on a review and a price point is very difficult.

There is more to wine than aromas and flavors too. Unlike other beverages, or virtually any product that might be considered a commodity, a good wine is unique. A glass of Pepsi or a Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino looks, smells and tastes almost the same every time we drink one. This consistency can be comforting, but such products rarely bring back memories of a particular occasion on which we drank one previously. Good wine does do that. It can be a landmark leading to a specific memory. And, since wine is often — and best — consumed with family or friends, those memories can be very rich. To me, the richness of those memories can add value to a given wine beyond whatever sensory pleasures it provides.

I opened a “bonus bottle” of wine for my tasting group the other day. A bonus bottles is something I pour for the sheer enjoyment of the wine once a serious, all-business tasting is over. After nine Chardonnay and Chardonnay-pretenders from around the world, we were ready for some red wine. Everyone enjoyed the bonus wine. It was rich and fruity, yet interesting. Plush but structured. A young wine, it didn’t offer a lot of complexity but its sensuous pleasures were a great way to end the evening.

As our glasses neared empty, someone asked me what I paid for the wine. I told them the price. “That’s kind of high,” she said. “Would you buy another bottle at that price?” “Yes,” I said. “I bought a three-pack.” “Would you buy it again at that price,” she persisted. It was a simple question on the surface but I saw the potential for layers of answers. I couldn’t answer it directly just then.

Why was it such a hard question to answer? I believe that a given wine can become very personal because of its uniqueness and the memories with which it can become intertwined,. But that personal aspect of a wine doesn’t extend to other people who don’t share the same frame of reference.

A professional photographer told me the difference between a snapshot and a great photograph. A snapshot is only meaningful to those people who have direct, emotional ties to the memory it depicts. A great photograph can make anyone at all stop and say “Wow!” Great wines are like great photographs. But, if a given wine also evokes the personal memories of a snapshot, it has even more impact. To me, the bonus wine was both.

The wine tasted and smelled great, a hedonistic pleasure. And it will age. But it also brought back memories: memories of visiting the winery and various conversations with the winemaker over a period of years; memories of my having taken friends to that winery where they tasted the wine for the first time with me; memories of them loving the wine and wanting to buy it; memories of the rest of that day together in wine country. In me, it also created anticipation of future visits with those friends and, ultimately, their stories of when and where they opened the bottles they purchased for themselves. The wine will develop over time, as do friendships, but it will always be “that” wine.

So, would I recommend that someone else buy the wine at that price? It’s a very good wine. If I thought they would iike the style and could afford it, I would recommend they try it.

Would I recommend that someone in my tasting group buy it at that price? I think the wine is reasonably-priced given it’s low production-volume, high quality and region of origin but, on a purely objective level, one can probably find equal degrees of yummy or more distinct terroir for less money. And I can’t put my memories in someone else’s glass. They have tasted the wine and know their own budgets. It’s their call.

Would I buy a similar, but different, wine at the same price? Perhaps, though I'm currently in a mode of drinking from my cellar rather than adding more wine to it.

However, if the question was truly personal and specific, my answer is clear. Would I buy that wine again at that price? Yes. I would buy that wine again. And I would pay more for it.

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Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. Frappucinno is a registered trademark of Starbucks. All rights reserved.