Wine pairings, no longer by the book.

The thing I love most about the gym is catching up on podcasts.  This morning I was listening to a great Splendid Table podcast and Lynne was speaking with Matt Kramer abut his new book On Wine.  He was discussing wines of fear and wines of conviction.  The difference between wines created for the market that could be from anywhere and the wines that are created out of conviction for a place or a grape that express so much more and can be so exciting and different.

This got me thinking about pairings and pairing apps.  Recently I spoke about the night and day Pinot Noirs that we tasted on our last trip.  The Bien Nacido Pinot’s that are rich and savory and full of fantastic barnyard (and yes this brett is fantastic!) and the glorious elegant Pinot we tasted at Carhartt which was floral and elegant but beautifully layered.  These didn’t seem to be the same varietal!  I think back to our trip to Portland and tasting at Erath where they do a bottling with the same varietal from three different sections of a row and they are all different!  There is so much variety in wine, that’s the amazing beauty of it, so how can we have a wine app that tells us that Pinot Noir pairs well with Salmon?  It seems so limiting and uncreative.

I am of course a huge fan of the Mayo Family Reserve room.  There the pairings come from the wine.  They taste the wine and determine which foods will pair well.  I remember Max (a previous chef there) saying that they would drink the wine and see what foods they wanted to eat with it.  Brilliant!  So really…you cannot pair a type of wine with a food, well you can but that is just too basic for me.  I think that wine pairing suggestions must come from the winery or from a chef who has tasted that wine.  The pairings have to be for the individual wine and vintage, not from just what varietal it is.

I am often frustrated in restaurants.  I think I have mentioned this before, when a server has no suggestions for a wine pairing.  I feel that if you are a restaurant that serves wine, you should be able to pair your dishes with one or two of the wines you are serving.  I suppose I am too much of a wine geek dining in restaurants without sommeliers.  Ah well.


Winery’s off the Beatin Track, Part 2

Another Wine Maker not to miss while visiting Paso Robles. On our last day this trip in Paso Robles we stopped at:

4:00 pmTerry Hoage Vineyard



Carol at Vina Robles suggested we stop here.  She said they have great wines and not enough people get by their tasting room.  The tasting room, while small was Beautiful!  Terry Hoage played football for GA Bulldogs and then the Eagles, as a safety.  His College GPA was stellar and he is a brilliant man.  He and his wife settled her to raise their family.  They have chickens in the vineyard eating the bugs and a lake.  The wines here are lite bodied, but full of flavor, nuance, texture and depth.  Evan in the tasting room was warm and knowledgable and filled us with great information on the wines and vineyard!  A guy in the tasting room (lawyer) suggested Evernote as a great application for taking wine notes. Michael will check it out.  It allows you to take label photos.

Evan was the pourer, and very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their wines. This was a passion not just a job, was encouraging, because we had been at a couple of previous stops where the winery just hired a body, who had no real knowledge except how to pour the wine. We tried 2008 Tranche Cuvee $48, 2008 The Pick, Granche Cuvee  $48,  2007 The 46, Grenache Syrah based on the 46 defense of Buddy Ryan, 2008 5 Blocks, Syrah Cuvee $48,  all Very good complex wines that had body, structure, taste, and subtle nuances.  A great find we never would have tried or put on our list without a recommendation.

Terry Hoage Tasting Room Paso Robles California

Have you found any Hidden Treasures?  Let us Know?


Day 3 in Paso 1st Stop, J. Lohr

10 am  J. Lohr

Arne helped us in the tasting room.  He is fairly new to Paso, but retired to Paso recently and loves wine and he said he was a club member for years.  We like going to tasting rooms during the week because we usually get one on one attention because it usually is a bit slower, so we get more information, most of the time this works very well, This time it did, sometimes it does not(more on this later).

J. Lohr has lots of acreage (1100 in Monterey, 2300 inn Paso and 35 in St. Helena) and the Estate Wines can be found anywhere.  The wines were nuanced and lovely across the board.  Good advertisment for the big guy making good wines without selling out quality.  The tasting room from the outside was unassuming, inside it was lovely, but not huge.  They are down Airport road, so you have to search them out.  All of their fruit is sustainably farmed, in fact they were designated Certified California Sustainable Winegrowers in 2010.

Well priced with nothing over $40 and they all tasted like wines that were worth alot more.  Ranging from a $10 Bay Mist White Riesling to their 2005 Hilltop Cabernet at $40.  Not a bad wine on the tasting menu.  Coming from a large corporation this was great control of quality.

We left with a couple of bottles as well as a great new go to wine when we need to pick something up at home, that will be easily accessible.  I happened to have received a bottle of the 2007 Hilltop Cabernet, that thanks to Arne, I know will drink wonderfully now, but if I can hold out for 2 or 3 years, it will be amazing!


Red Soles Winery, Paso Robles

After Tablas Creek  we hit Lone Madrone, Kenneth Volk more on them later, then went to….Red Soles.  We like to get referrals from enthusiastic Wine Geeks like ourselves, the guy at Wildhorse said we should try Red Soles.  He was definitely right on.  Tiffany the tasting room manager greeted us with a smile.  She obviously loves her job.  She had worked at other tasting rooms and loves working here and loves the people she works for.  The owners are growers who have been growing grapes here in Paso for years.  She said they grow around 2000 ton’s of grapes and keep around 30 ton’s for themselves. A while ago the “wife” convinced the “husband” to make some of their own wine.  They stomped their own grapes and ended up with Red Soles.  While we were there the owner Randy came in and chatted with us.  A wine club member came in for a tasting and we found that he was on the team that did not win on the Members Blend.  Their wine club has a bi -yearly competition to mix and blend their own blend of wine, the winner gets their wine made into the club members blend.  All of the wines were very good with a great sense of humor.  The people there were all very down to earth and after talking to Randy, you could see why Tiffany loved working there and the enthusiasm showed and the wines lived up to the enthusiasm.  You could tell they liked making great wine, and that is what they served.  These are the types of companies and wine makers we want to buy from. Passionate about what they do, and down to earth, who try not get to big to lose track of the journey, and have fun along the way.  We will review the Wines in later Post.

They have brandy added to some of their Late Harvest Lineups and are working to create their own brandy to add to the their mix.  We bought some of their Monkey shine and Club members Blend wine, and look forward to buying many more of their wines in the future.


Tablas Creek, Part two

This years crop (2011) was low similar to 2009.  But the fruit they did get was high quality.  They lost all of their Viognier to a spring frost in late April.  They turned on the fans to bring down the warmer induction layer of air, but all the air was cold.  There was nothing to be done and they lost a good portion of grapes that had budded out early.

We went down to the old nursery.  All the vines here were originally from Chateau de Beaucastel and were grafted here onto American Rootstock.  He showed us the grafting machine which cuts and omega shaped cut out of the vine stock, you make another cut into an american rootstock of the same diameter and put them together.  They typically wax this connection to protect it while it heals together.  They are placed in a callous greenhouse room which is maintained at 85 degrees and 85 percent humidity, then move to other green houses to slowly bring down humidity about 3 to 6 months.  These are then planted.  The post hole digger goes down about a foot and the rootstock is dropped it with most of the vine underground also so that only the top of the newly grafted vine stock is sticking out from the earth.

We talked about grapes and climate and the microclimates that they have here.  Steve mentioned a trip to Spain and his worry that the wines would be big bold high alcohol warm climate wines.  He found that they were not!  They were nuanced and often aged much longer before release than standard wines.

We went into the winery and looked at the tanks.  They have quite a few stainless steel tanks which are 3000 gallons (3.5 times a waterbowl Zu folks!)  They also have standard barrels, Cuvee which are 1700 gallon wood tanks, larger barrels at 2.5 times the size of a standard barrel and the Foudres which are 1200 gallons.  The 120 Gallon Barrels ar called Puncheons , the 160 gallon size are called Demi-muides, roughly double and triple size of regular barrel, so you get a greater ratio of volume to surface area, which means less oak in the wine, and the barrels tend to last longer then smaller barrels.  When we had walked in the girl in the tasting room had mentioned that often it felt like the wines were not put into a container by specific design, but rather by need, as there was no where else to put the juice.

Finally filled with tons of fascinating information, it was time to taste.


Keeping up with cellar & tasting notes!

This was the weekend to update our cellar data.  It’s not that the wine cellar is large, it’s just a bookcase and not completely full, but we don’t update the data on it often enough.    We use Vinocella  I like it.  We did a little comparison shopping before buying it, but not alot, so I won’t say it’s the best thing on the market, because I’m not familiar enough with what else is out there.  I know people who swear by Cellar Tracker.  For me this works for now.

So we needed to rearrange the wine cellar and I had added the iPhone ap to my phone, which we could now sync with Michael’s iPad ap.  So we spent time recording the things we drank and adding the new stuff that we had never recorded.  Somehow it just feels better having it organized.  Now we just have to go back and add all the tasting notes on things that are not in the cellar.  We used the iPad program on our trip to the Dundee Hills, but I have my notebook from all the tastings in Sonoma from last month to add.  And I think we have a bunch of tasting notes that we just took in the notepad ap on the iPad from Temecula.

It might be an exhausting process for some people, but I love it. For me it means that I will have a relatively complete list of wines I’ve tasted and what I liked or didn’t like about them, right in the palm of my hand. Over the next week as I try to add in all the tasting notes, it will allow me to remember which wines I really enjoyed.  It’s kind of like watching home movies and reliving the vacation! You can expect to see more blog posts on wineries as I refresh my memory.

Keeping up with these notes can be as simple as a notebook, which sometimes as I’ve mentioned, I prefer.  But with the great aps available out there, you have the ability to add a wine you enjoy at a restaurant right to your database,  and for wine geeks that rocks.  New programs even have bar code scanners so if the information has been added before it will pull it from the data base, saving you from having to type in the details.  And having a label shot comes in handy when you are trying to find something again at the wine store.  I’m working to find the balance between using this technology and obsessing about it.  Wine is meant to be enjoyed, to slow life down a little…but the details on wines are so fascinating that I really enjoy the research also.  I guess it’s a great balance.  Do your notes your way, or don’t take notes, just drink and enjoy.  So many wines and so many ways to enjoy them.  Salute!


Taking wine notes and using wine apps

I am a self proclaimed “wine geek”.  I’m still early on my learning curve and I have a need to document as I learn.  So I have investigated wine applications for wine storage and for tasting notes.

After looking around for something that would work for both storage and tasting notes we came across Vinocella.  This iPad application seemed perfect!  We laid out our cellar and added our notes and then took it with us to wine country to add tasting notes as we went along.  The difficulty was in adding the wineries ahead of time so as to maximize discussion time with the person in the tasting room as opposed to standing in a corner typing the entire time.  Poor Michael ended up doing most of the typing and I did most of the talking.  And we found that we couldn’t get the details in on aromas and tastes as quickly as we would like.  Don’t get me wrong, I love this ap for holding my information, but…just before our last wine trip, my dear friend RuBen gave me a wine journal.  Now people get these and use them over the course of a year to put labels in and take notes….I however was taking mine into tasting rooms, so one trip almost filled the book.  The benefits: I would right the vineyard name on the first page and then I knew it was the same until I wrote a new name; I can take notes with one hand and hold a wine glass with the other (no two hands needed as in texting); and this type of writing allows for conversation while you are doing it, as opposed to typing something in.  The negatives….without my full vocabulary in front of me (even though I had the Vinography wallet card handy) I didn’t get the kind of detail that I otherwise might have.  I hope as I move forward I will get better at this.  Now it is just a matter of taking that information and inputting it into the Vinocella ap at home.

Call me crazy, but I can’t bear to taste a wine and not have it documented anywhere!  In my new geekdom I need to have it written down so I don’t forget.  I have not begun to really start to photograph wine labels, but that is coming.  And this morning I downloaded a new iPhone ap that allows me to scan wine barcodes and get info that way.  We will see…there are lots of aps out there and like wine, you just have to find one to suit your palette.