WinoStuff  Ancient History


You have stumbled upon the very earliest ramblings of WinoStuff's What's New! files.  Some of these reports are a bit cryptic, having been written in the ancient language of civilization's primeval wino-technodweeb.   For more recent wino-babble, see:

What's New!
Old News!
Older News!


12/10/00

What’s New?!!!  Well, WinoWally checked in with some information updates just before the Thanksgiving holiday.  (Actually, I visited the palatial Wally estate for a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat, but that 's another story.)  WinoWally has been relatively quiet on these pages recently.  There are now two more women in his life, albeit very small women, who demand 99% of his free time.  It was still good to hear from him.

WinoWally forwarded the following article to me which he extracted from somewhere on the web:

West Coast residents might be surprised to learn that New York is second only to California in wine production in the United States.  Traditionally, Empire State wineries have concentrated on French hybrids, grapes hardy enough to survive the challenging climate. In recent years, however, there's been new interest and investment in vinifera grapes — the familiar varieties typically found in winegrowing regions — and the result has been a surge in quality.

• 1997 Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard Chardonnay, Finger Lakes, New
   York, $13.00
• 1998 Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, New
   York, $9.95

Curious as to how West Coast residents actually feel about the East Coast competition, I contacted unnamed industry insiders for comment.  (Isn't journalism great!  You can just make shit up and accredit it to "unnamed sources."  I think back to college when I was taking Plasma Physics and all the women were taking Journalism.  WHAT WAS I THINKING???  I could have  taken journalism and made stuff up!  How tough could that be?  To be honest, I made stuff up in Plasma Physics, too, but nobody actually knows what plasma physics is, so no one caught on.)  Anyway, unnamed sources had this to say.   

    "While we are aware of the growing production volume of New York State wines, Californians assumed that most of that production was being consumed by the burgeoning New York State prison population."  These sources further noted that, "We recognize that wineries such as Hermann J. Wiemer and others in the Finger Lakes Region are producing quality wines but we feel that the real threat to California’s premium wine position comes from New York’s  emerging boutique wineries.  For example, Hillary Vineyards’ Carpetbagger Cabernet and Sharpton Cellars’ SauvigNon-Blanc are recognized nationally for what they are.” 

Speculation into New York’s rising prominence in the wine world centers around the theory that the Empire State benefits from a large rodent population which serves to keep phyloxera and Pierce’s Disease at bay.  Apparently, the rats feed on the vine louse and the glassy winged sharpshooter thus protecting the vineyards from infestation.  It’s amazing what you can learn with a little research.

So, what’s next?  I figure it’s just a matter of time before some of New York’s premiere wineries start moving to New Jersey.  Yea, New Jersey.  There’s still lots of land available in the Meadowlands area.  OK, its technically not land, but I’m sure we could build a stadium… uh, … I mean a winery there to house some of New York’s ex-pats.  It’s been done before.   But now I’m just rambling.

Anyway, relax, enjoy your Christmas holiday, drink some wine, be safe, and if you get the urge, drop us a line.

WinoJohn


11/18/00

So, what’s new?  Progress has been somewhat slow here at WinoStuff.  But we are making progress.  Traffic is increasing, we’ve recently been linked on several large wine-related web sites, and a couple of search engines now list WinoStuff.  Even world famous wine guy and Honorary Wino, Robin Garr, had a few nice things to say about us in his November 6 edition of The 30 Second Wine Advisor.  Not too bad for a couple of techno-dweebs.

But we know that there is more to do.  My 14 year old son, aka The Boy,  still thinks the site lacks “pizzazz”.  (My word, not his).  I asked him how to spice the site up a little.  His reply was something like, “Duh, Dad, just hyper-page the java meta links to enable frame text IP code and ping the server to ftp eb script applets!”  Duh.  Why didn’t I think of that?  I’m not sure whether he’s Gen X or Gen Y but, either way, it’s a scary thing.  Right now he’s figuring out how to scam big pay-per-click sites into sending him a monthly check for doing absolutely nothing.  No wonder the Nasdaq’s in the crapper.   The dot-com’s are all going out of business because geek kid’s are siphoning off all the dot-dollars.

Speaking of the Nasdaq, did you ever notice all the stock market statistics that are based on seemingly unrelated events?  For example, the market always goes up in a year when the Washington Redskins lose their second game after a Monday night win.  Or, the market always goes down two years after the President of the US gets impeached. Who keeps track of this stuff?

So, being an engineer and knowing that you can make statistics say anything, I set out to analyze the relationship between the stock market and the ratings of various wine vintages.  (I know that you thought that there would be NO math on this page, but bear with me.)  I looked at the percentage gain of the Nasdaq during each year of the 1990’s and charted those gains or losses against Wine Spectator’s rankings of those same vintages of California Cabernet, Bordeaux, and Italian Tuscan wines.  The results are startling.  ( OK, maybe mildly amusing.)

I found absolutely no correlation between the Nasdaq’s performance and either California or Italian vintages.  However, Bordeaux is another matter.  This chart shows the Nasdaq’s performance as compared to Bordeaux’s vintage ratings.  (The 1999 Bordeaux is not yet rated.)

As even the novice techno-geek can clearly see, there is a very high correlation between growth in the Nasdaq and the quality of Bordeaux vintages.  (I’ve removed the scale along the y-axis because its irrelevant and, frankly, it even confused me.)  But anyway, this chart tells us that the ’99 Bordeaux should be highly rated.  Also, knowing what has happened to the Nasdaq in 2000, you should probably avoid the 2000 Bordeaux.

“What evil force of nature is causing the Nasdaq/Bordeaux phenomenon?”  you may ask.  Frankly, I don’t have a clue.  (Or I’m not permitted to divulge any more than I’ve already presented…)  All I can suggest is that you just relax…enjoy…and drink more wine…

Stay tuned.

WinoJohn


10/5/00

We winos have a strange kind of love affair with wine.  We have a mental image of wineries and vineyards as idyllic, peaceful places where the air is clean, the water is pure, and the technology is ..., well, there is no technology.  (Or at least, the technology is a couple hundred years old rendering it "quaint").  Simple people living a simple life, making wine.  That's what they want us to believe.

I was reading an article about the wine industry in a well known business publication recently.  The article discussed all the mergers and acquisitions that are occurring in the wine world today.  It listed a number of big name wineries and the parent companies or holding companies that control them.  The article also talked about some wineries that might be potential takeover targets and the reasons why they would fit nicely into a large corporation's portfolio of companies.  Corporate takeovers of wineries?  So much for the image of the simple life.

As I finished the article, I became depressed.  I was under the naive assumption that most wineries were small, independently owned and operated enterprises.  You know, family businesses.  I wanted to believe that some old Italian immigrant personally picked the grapes, that he and his family lovingly crushed these grapes and, using an age-old family technique, they carefully crafted the juices into the fine wines that I enjoy every day.  All this without the use of computers, electronics, or any of the other technological necessities of life.   

To my dismay, the reality of the wine business is just that.  It's a business.  A very big  business. And one that may not bode well for wine lovers.  Big wineries buy up small wineries and become bigger wineries.  Big foreign corporations with some quasi-wino at the helm, buy up American wineries and become monstrous multinational conglomerates with stockholders and revenue targets and market penetration and hedge funds and other stuff unrelated to the enjoyment of wine.  I'm not just talking about Foster's Beer buying the Beringer Wine Cellars, I'm talking about every "Wine Corporation" that measures their production in the millions of cases and which, oh by the way, also sells vacuum cleaners, perfume, and luxury goods, and owns a chain of hotels in the Caribbean.  I'm talking about those gargantuan wine producers that own thousands of acres of land all over the world and blend all the grapes together in production facilities that look more like petrochemical plants than wineries.  I can just see the wine engineers designing the transcontinental wine pipelines that will transport the wine crude to the massive wine holding tanks where it will be loaded into caravans of wine tanker ships which will transport the wine to the wine refineries strategically located around the world.   Of course, all production and pricing is controlled by the international cartel, the Organization of Wine Exporting Companies (OWEC).  Their goal: to control the world's supply of wine.  If that happens, they control us all.  If we don't buy home electronics or laundry detergent from one of their other subsidiaries, they close a few valves, reduce the wine flow, and prices start to go up.  They've got us.  What can we do?  I'm feeling sick. Let's move on to another topic.

Corks.  As you may have read elsewhere in the pages of WinoStuff, the wine drinking public has some kind of romantic obsession with cork.  Many wine "aficionados" would never buy a bottle of wine that was sealed with anything but cork.  They turn up their noses at the mention of artificial materials.  Plastic, after all, is used in cheap jug wines.  I, myself, won't even pick up a bottle at a retail store unless the stopper at least looks like cork.

Cork fits in nicely with our image of the family-run winery with a few acres of vines and total production capacity of a few hundred cases per year.  But in the high tech, profit-driven, real world of wine that may not be the case.  Let's examine this issue from the view point of a techno-geek.  

Speaking purely from a technical perspective, a plastic stopper or a twist-off cap would do a much better job of providing a hermetic seal than a hunk of old tree bark.  Material purity, stability, dimensional tolerance, impermeability.  All characteristics that you would look for in an ideal sealing material.  Characteristics that you would expect to find in a space age, engineered material and not in an organic compound.  Think of the process technology that goes into a plastic molding operation.  Statistical process controls, x-bar and r charts, process centering, etc.  Hell, just think of the high temperatures and pressures.  Hasta la vista, germs.  

But yet, we remain firm in our resolve.  We know that 3-5% of all bottles with corks are tainted and still we stand unwavering. We must have our cork.  Have we been brainwashed?  Is OWEC behind this cork phenomenon?  Perhaps they keep the cork around to perpetuate our belief in the family-run winery and to hide the truth.  Frankly, I'm surprised that the FDA allows the industry to continue to use this antiquated method to seal bottles.  Could you imagine buying any other consumable product that used a piece of wood to seal in the flavor and freshness and seal out mold, mildew, and germs?  Can you see yourself buying a bottle of Coke in a container that is sealed with a CORK?  I don't think so, Tim.  Perhaps OWEC has influence within the FDA... (Uh oh,...I'd better not go there.)

So now what do we do?  It has become clear to us that the wine industry is controlled by cold, uncaring, profit-minded mega-businesses who use rotten tree bark to protect our venerated beverage of choice and they have somehow brainwashed us into believing that this is a good thing.  All I can suggest is relax, enjoy, drink more wine, and try not to think about it.  It will just make you crazy.

WinoJohn


8/13/00

What's new!!!???  If you're visiting this site, you should know what's new!  We're DOT COM'ers.  Yes, we took the monumental step and registered our URL.  We are WWW.WINOSTUFF.COM!  We're also wineguys.ws, but that's another story.

"So, John," you may ask, "why did you winos go for the dot-com?  Why not stay on Geocities for free?  Why did you fork out the $35 to do the dot-com?  Why not spend the 35 on a nice bottle?"  

The answer: because we are serious about this WinoStuff stuff.  We're not just a couple of wine-drinkin' losers and a brother-in-law.  We're not just a couple of guys with computers and no life!  We're serious wine aficionados.  We desire only to spread the word, to inform the masses, to enable technogeeks around the world to sit down in a restaurant and confidently order a decent bottle (one with a cork) without embarrassing themselves or their geek counterparts.  We're sort of like cyber Johnny Appleseed's, spreading the seed of the grape across cyberspace!  Okay, we also thought that once you become a dot-com, the Brinks truck just backs up to your door and drops off cash.  That hasn't happened yet, but stay tuned.

Actually, I don't want to say anything bad about Geocities.  The Geocities site was a breeze to maintain, the guestbook and hit counter were no-brainers, and it was a great place to start.  (The ad banners were terribly annoying but, hey, it was FREE!)  Now, however, we've matured.  We've moved on.  We're in the "bigs".  It's dog-eat-dog in the dot-com world and we're ready to compete.  WinoBob's sobered up considerably, WinoWally had a couple of kids, and frankly, I'm tired of my 14 year old son laughing at my web address.   We HAD to do the dot-com.

So now, the pressure's on.  We have to perform.  I have to hone my HTML skills and Bob has to fine tune his taste buds.  We have to post a top quality site (or give away free stuff) if we want the traffic.  And since the Brinks truck can't seem to find my house, there ain't no free stuff! 

So here's this week's assignment:  Tell your friends about WinoStuff.  Log onto chat rooms and talk about WinoStuff.  Ask your favorite wine retailer if they advertise on WinoStuff.  Write a letter to the editor of your local paper demanding that the government do something about this... this... WinoStuff!  (Hey, publicity takes all forms.)    If you can't manage to do any of these simple tasks, then, at least, relax, enjoy and drink more wine (while logged onto WinoStuff.)

WinoJohn


July 18, 2000

What's new????  I am very pleased to announce the arrival of two new releases from Chateau Boston; the year 2000 vintage Grace Vineyard Reserve and the Sarah Special Select.  The Grace is a light, charming, sparkling young wine with a character that that will steal your heart.  The  Sarah is a bigger, darker, more full bodied wine, with a touch of spice that shows through even at this early stage.  

These are the first releases from Chateau Boston, one of the most prestigious Chateaux in the area.  Winemakers W.E. Boston and S.O. Boston are thrilled with the results.  "These two little beauties have been in the works for quite a long time and have certainly not disappointed even the most discriminating aficionados", quips W.E. Boston, who oversees the vineyards.  S.O. Boston, who manages the fermentation and bottling operations, adds that "These two limited release bottlings are the culmination of our many years of experience in the industry." 

Don't expect to find these two rarities in your local wine store.  Quantities are extremely limited.

Welcome to the world, baby girls. 

WinoJohn


5/30/00

What's new!!!?  For those of you who have been faithfully checking out this site, looking for cutting edge reviews and hot industry insider info, you know that there has been nothing new in What's New for several months.  "Why?", you ask.  "Why are we not getting the kind of timely and insightful updates that we need in order to get in touch with our inner winos?"  To that, I can only respond, "It's my wife's fault."

Think about it.  Managing content is very time consuming, particularly when you've got a full time job as a technogeek!  Throw in a wife and a handful of kids and there is little time left to produce the kind of high quality, wine-oriented website to which you've become accustomed.   Every night I'm compelled to drink some nice wine, surf the web, download nearly unintelligible reviews from the Dead Guy, and try to decipher his ramblings.  By the time I finish all that, I can't even remember what wine I enjoyed with dinner.  And through it all, there is that incessant reminder,..."When are you going to get off that computer???"  But, I digress.

For the regular visitors to WinoStuff, we hope that you've enjoyed a few of the changes we've made over the past month or two.  Restaurants for Winos is a category that we added because today's Wino is highly mobile.  He or she  looks forward to a nice meal and a good bottle of wine when away from home.  We know how difficult it is to find a nice wine at McDonald's, although I understand the McPinot is drinkable very young.  Wino Wally seems to never visit Mickey D's since he's provided a substantial number of the Baltimore choices.  Maybe we'll get him to visit our neck of the woods.

Winery Links is another category that is ignored on most wine-related websites.  We've conducted an exhaustive search to find as many winery websites as possible.  Many of the other wine sites only list wineries in which they have a financial interest in providing referrals.  Some wine sites don't list winery sites at all since they want you to buy wine from them and not directly from the winery.  We've got the links to the wineries.  (Now we have to go back and visit each winery site and provide a review!)  Of course, if you are aware of any sites that we've missed, we'd like to know.

Other Links is our catchall page and will be further refined as we continue to develop WinoStuff.

Look for some future changes in the Wine Reviews area.  We'll keep that under our hat until we're ready to reveal those changes.

We're also hoping to find a new host site soon and a new name.  We'll keep you fans posted on that as well.  For now, relax, enjoy, and drink more wine.

WinoJohn


4/1/00

This week, I received an e-mail from long time friend of WinoStuff, Wino Wally.  Wino Wally is also my brother-in-law and a world-class wino.  Like Bob and I, Wally is also an electro-techno gadget geek.  (See how we keep coming back to that wine/electronics symbiosis?)  I've often had the distinct pleasure of staying at the palatial Wally estate.  His wine cellar is larger than my living room and he is always willing to pop open a nice bottle for his wino friends.  His wine-appreciative but unfortunately non-wino wife, Sharon, always prepares the perfect gourmet meal to accompany Wally's wine selections.  After reading his letter, you'll understand why I'm anxious to make another journey to Maryland.  Here's his update:

Wino John,

I read your old news comments about the Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages 96. Thought you might like to let your readers know that the entire production is sold out. My wife and I journeyed to Napa and Sonoma over St. Paddy's Day weekend (a great time to be in Napa since the Irish are hanging out in establishments serving green beer or Guinness Stout!). At the Robert Mondavi winery, we were informed that the Wine Spectator gave the Cinq Cepages the number one rating because it was "creatively crafted" with five different grapes which is the latest trend. Meanwhile, we bought the 30th anniversary Mondavi Reserve Cabernet (1996) at a price that would give you apoplexy ($150/bottle, limit two per person). I think that that wine was rated #3 by Wine Spectator. You cannot get it anywhere other than the winery in the Valley. We also bought the 96 and 97 Cabernet Sauvignon (not a reserve) for $28/bottle before the 15% case discount. In addition, we purchased the 97 Pinot Noir Reserve ($50/bottle before discount) and the 97 Zinfandel ($19 per bottle before discount). Mondavi says that these wines should peak between 2003 and 2005 the latter of which will be the year that our twin daughters enter kindergarten. Lastly, we signed up for the Robert Mondavi Ensemble which provides us with a 15% case discount, and sample wine shipments four times a year. Each shipment provides the member with the opportunity to buy limited and pre-release vintages. Interested readers can contact Ensemble at ensemble@robertmondavi.com.

Meanwhile, the wife and I are extremely organized and efficient when we tour Napa and Sonoma, so we made plans to visit Chateau St. Jean when we journeyed to Sonoma the following day. After Mondavi, we journeyed up Route 29 to Whitehall Lane Winery. We're also Pre-Release members at Whitehall Lane, a membership that we secured on an earlier trip to Napa. This time we purchased a case of the 1997 Knight's Valley Merlot (a definite buy at $28/bottle before discount) and a case of their 1997 Cabernet (at $28/bottle). Knight's Valley is a wine that is not available anywhere other than from the winery. It has a deep, spicy nose, long flavors and pleasing finish. The flavors and aromas are of ripe plum, blackberry, fig and vanilla with hints of incense and mint. It is nicely oaked but shows plenty of fruit. It is a full-bodied merlot which will mature over the next three to five years. Interested readers can contact Whitehall at 800-963-9454. Their website is www.whitehalllane.com. I don't think that the website is set up for ecommerce yet. The Leonardini family has worked their butts off to turn this winery into a world class organization in a relatively short time.

From Whitehall Lane, we moved into Rutherford and stopped at Grgich Hills Cellar. None of the friendly folks that we visited before were around. We think that the reason the "grouch factor" was abundant was that the Wine Train had just pulled in with a bunch of tourists. You'll find that almost all of the wineries will treat you with a lot of respect and spend a lot of time with you when they find out that you're a serious buyer. It took a little bit of coaxing, but we did get to sample enough to decide that we would buy a case of the 97 Chardonnay ($30/bottle pre discount), 96 Cabernet ($45/bottle pre-discount), and 97 Fume Blanc (at $18/bottle pre discount a steal).

I might interrupt this dialogue to talk about the issues regarding shipping wine to your home state. There are currently many issues regarding shipping wine out of California. Sometimes you can do it and sometimes you can't. If the winery has made arrangements with a distributor in your state (as Landmark has done), you won't have problems. However, the following states are the only sure bets because they have reciprocal privileges with California: CA, CO, IA, ID, IL, MN, MO, ND, NE, NV, NM, OR, WA, WI, WV. The wife and I live in Maryland, a state that succumbed to lobbying by the distributors and passed a law that made it a felony to ship wine from California (or any other state) to Maryland. We are fortunate enough to own a business in West Virginia and make arrangements to ship our wine there and pick it up after the order is in. The irony of this is that the distributors have lobbied successfully to stop Internet wine distribution because "minors will buy alcohol". I doubt that many minors will spend $20 to $150 per bottle to buy quality wines. These laws are nothing more than efforts to keep the prices high by employing the three tier system of alcohol distribution developed after the prohibition repeal in order to keep the mob from controlling distribution. Times need to change, so anyone with legislative contacts in states that do not have reciprocity with California, please do your bit. Shipping runs around $39/case on average because most of the wineries will only ship second day air. However, shipping saves you from a 7.5% California sales tax if you purchase and take it with you.

Back to the journey. After Grgich, we stopped off at Markham Vineyards in St. Helena (www.markhamvineyards.com). Markham has an architecturally distinguished building which draws you in from the highway if you're not familiar with their wines. While there, we bought a case of their Markham Reserve Merlot 96 ($38/bottle before 20% case discount) and their 1996 Markham Petite Syrah ($21.75/bottle before 20% case discount).

Our last stop of the day before heading over to Sonoma, was at Murphy-Goode Estate Winery in Geyserville. The first wine we sampled and purchased was their 1997 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Brenda Block. Brenda Block is the highest elevation Cab vineyard for Murphy Goode and produces a very concentrated fruit. Deep cassis and blackberry characterize the flavors of this wine and meld with vanilla notes from new barrels. Specifically, the wine ages in new and one-year-old French oak for 18 months followed by two months in new American oak. Only 800 6-bottle cases were produced. We paid $39/bottle before discount. We then purchased a case of their 1997 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Sarah Block Swan Song. Sarah Block is the vineyard block located just below Brenda Block. The 1997 bottling was the first and last bottling from these old vines which were pulled after the bottling. Chris Benz, Murphy-Goode's winemaker, tended this lot through the winemaking process and had it bottled separately rather than blended. Only 450 6-bottle cases were made and few bottles remain. The wine has a sweet cassis and cherry fruit flavor as well as notes of blackberry, spice, and vanilla with a hint of mint. We paid $39/bottle before discount. Neither of these two wines are available outside the winery. In addition, we picked up a case of the 1997 Murphy-Goode Zinfandel Sonoma County Liar's Dice. This wine is named after a morning breakfast group of Zin growers whom Tim Murphy, partner, hangs out with. This wine is aged for 15.5 months in American and French oak barrels. Spicy wild berry aromas lead to a mouthful of jammy fruit. Oak notes and tannins merge with the fruit for a lingering finish. I highly recommend it at a price of $16/bottle pre-discount. Lastly, we picked up a case of the 1997 Murphy-Goode Reserve Chardonnay Alexander Valley Island Block. Island Block is entirely barrel fermented in French oak barrels. Half of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation. This wine provides lovely spiced apple aromas, along with ripe peach and apple flavors. There's a lengthy finish with significant oak notes. This wine would go great with a veal tenderloin and chutney.

Knowing that Wino John appreciates a good wino trip, we then retired to the town of Santa Rosa for an evening of fine wine and fine food. The next day, we opened our trip at Landmark Vineyards in Kenwood. We picked up their 1998 Damaris Reserve Chardonnay (90-91 rating from Robert Parker, $28 per bottle, no discount), 1998 Lorenzo Chardonnay (90-91 rating from Robert Parker, $45 per bottle, no discount), and 1997 Pinot Noir Kastania Vineyard (91 rating from Robert Parker, $45 per bottle, no discount). Many people may be familiar with Landmark's Overlook Chardonnay which is available on the East Coast. the Damaris reserves are seldom sold outside of California. The 1998 Damaris reserve has a spicy, smoky, leesy nose offering up tropical fruit, tangerines, roasted nuts, and lemon butter flavors. The Lorenzo Chardonnay has a lemon butter scented nose, hints of oranges and a long finish. The 1997 Kastania Pinot Noir is expensive since Landmark only turned out 100 cases of this wine. It offers a nose of cherry and black raspberry fruit with a touch of cassis. It's silky with a powerful firmness. Parker believes it will drink well for a decade.

Chateau St. Jean is next door to Landmark. It was a simple matter to turn left on the Sonoma Highway and head a couple hundred yards before turning left into the long driveway of Chateau St. Jean. Incidentally, Chateau St. Jean is owned by Beringer. We inquired about the Cinq Cepages and the folks were polite when they informed us that it had been sold out some time ago. As a result, we tried to buy some futures for the next batch (no dice). We ended up purchasing futures on their 1997 Estate Merlot which we were able to sample from the barrel. We also purchased their Reserve Chardonnay 1997 ($22/bottle pre discount) and 1997 Merlot ($22/bottle pre discount).

Since we had a 2:30pm flight from San Francisco, we had time for one more vineyard. Upon the recommendation of a friend, we headed to Schug Carneros Estate Winery in Sonoma (www.schugwinery.com). Walter Schug, the owner and winemaker, emigrated to California from Germany. He's known for his world class Pinot Noirs, 30% of which are exported to Europe. We picked up the 1997 Pinot Noir Reserve ($30/bottle pre discount), the 1996 Merlot Reserve ($35.00/bottle pre discount), the 1998 Chardonnay Reserve ($25/bottle pre discount) and the 1996 Carneros Chardonnay Reserve ($40/bottle pre discount). The Schug Heritage club is a good pre-release club to join. The Pinot had a sweet vanilla and ripe cherry nose, earthy notes, fresh fruit flavor and a toasted oak finish.

After leaving Schug, we enjoyed a leisurely drive back to San Francisco on a wonderful, 70+ degree day. It took an hour. Be sure to leave plenty of time for returning the rental car since it's a bus ride from the airport.

Wino Wally
March 28, 2000


3/15/00

What’s new this week?  Petite Syrah!  Yeah, that’s right, Petite Syrah!  Now, I know what your thinking.  You’re thinking, “John, Petite Syrah has been around since the middle ages”.  Or, “John, Petite Syrah is a girlie wine akin to White Zinfandel”.  All I can say is “Au contraire, you uninformed loser.”

Actually, Petite Syrah comes from an obscure grape varietal known as “Durif” in France and dates back only to the 1880's.  Durif is a cross between a grape called Peloursin and the very familiar Syrah.  The “petite” comes from fact that this cross produces very small berries (a malady with which Bob is all too familiar!)   Fortunately for us, these small berries produce a wine with very firm tannins, a hearty full flavor, and a deep, dark, stain-your-teeth color that will leave you wondering why you don’t see more of this wine at your local wine store. 

Two of my favorite Petite Syrah’s are from Ridge and Stags Leap Winery (aka “the other Stags Leap”).  Each has its own unique character and style and both are hard to find.  The Stags Leap shows up frequently on restaurant wine lists but rarely on the retail shelf.  Ridge is famous for the huge cab, Monte Bello, and all other varietals from this winery play second fiddle.  Each, however, is worth searching out.  The Stags Leap should be under $30 and the Ridge under $25.

So, here’s your homework assignment.  Search out a Petite Syrah at your local wine establishment or on the internet (see Links – Retail), enjoy it with your next hearty meal, jot down a few tasting notes, and e-mail them to us.    If it appears that you know what you’re talking about, we’ll post your review on this site.  It’s just that simple!  If you don’t know what you’re talking about, that’s OK, too.  At least you will have expanded your wine horizons and, after all, that’s what this site is all about.

WinoJohn 


3/1/00

My kids are into stuff.  Soccer stuff, gymnastics stuff, basketball stuff, and other random kid stuff.  My wife hauls the kids to their various activities during the week while I am slaving away at my electronics job.  On the weekends, however, I willingly pitch in to ferry the kids around to their various activities.

All this time on the road affords me the opportunity to scope out new wine stores.  I know all the big wine retailers within a 50 mile radius, but I often stumble upon small, previously uncharted liquor stores in one of New Jersey's 27 million strip malls along the way.  Yesterday, against my better judgment, I stopped into... (don't laugh) the A&P Warehouse Liquors in Hackettstown, NJ.  Yes, A&P, as in "The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc".  You know, A&P, the grocery store.  I told you not to laugh.

I figured I'd stumble upon the usual - jug wines, maybe a good box of White Zin, maybe even a nice $5 champagne.  But what is the first thing I spot as I enter the establishment?  None other than BV Private Reserve, 1994 and 1995, ON SALE!!!  I haven't seen a '94 Georges de Latour at retail in a couple of years.  They also had '94 Mondavi Napa and Reserve, '94 Raymond Reserve ('97 is the current release, they had that, too), Stag's Leap SLV, Fay, and Cask 23, Whitehall Lane, Staglin, Girard, Beringer, etc., etc., etc.!!!  Where did they get all these good wines?  Why am I spilling the beans to all you winos?  You'll just go there and clean out the store and there will be nothing left for me!  By the way, they probably have the White Zin, too, I was too distracted by the real wine to notice.

The manager of the establishment noticed that I was mulling around the nice wines and came over to lend a hand.  His name is Brian and I found him to be friendly and knowledgeable.  I also found out that he is a computer geek on the side.  (Remember the electronics/wine connection?  I rest my case.)  Our discussions ran the gamut from quality Bordeaux vintages to compatibility of 16 and 64 megabit synchronous DRAM in AMD Athlon applications.  Don't get me started.

Bottom line, The A&P Liquor Warehouse had a surprising selection, knowledgeable staff, and some good bargains.  Check it out next time you are in Hackettstown.  The address is 79 Route 46 East, Hackettstown, NJ.  Phone 908-852-2627.  It's in a strip mall.

WinoJohn


2/19/00

What's new?  The 1996 Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages.  The whole industry is abuzz about this first-rate meritage that was named Wine Spectator's #1 Wine of the Year.   One of the reasons that the Spectator rated it so highly was it's anticipated release price of $28.  That would make it affordable to the average Joe wino.  

Now, after all the hype, I understand that Chateau St. Jean is upping the ante to $35-$40.  Supply and demand, I guess.  As far as I know, it hasn't even been released, and yet I am already seeing it "auctioned" on the Internet for $100 a pop. 

This is ludicrous.  I've been a fan of Cinq Cepages since the release of the '94 vintage.  It was big and smooth and drinkable very young.  The '95 was equally delightful and both could be purchased at retail for less than $25.  Now with all the press and hype surrounding the '96, I'm sure that the price at the retail level, if you can find it, will exceed $50.  Perhaps when this site lands some big advertising $$$, I'll be able to afford a bottle or two.  But for now, I will search out that last bottle of '94 or '95 and let the wino elite savor the '96.  Thanks a lot, Wine Spectator.    

WinoJohn

 


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