An Illogical Argument Against Wine From the Tap. Keg wine served through bar-top taps has never caught on in the U.S., and I think I know the reason: romance.Wine is surrounded by traditions, some of them indefensible. Is cork inherently better as a stopper than synthetic corks or twist-off tops? Of course not – but we still prefer it. We’re creatures of habit. That’s why we like that sleek bottle in front of us, reflecting the candlelight as talk turns intimate and the hour gets late.In Europe, the wine-tap system has been around for decades; I remember seeing them everywhere during trips there in the 1980s. On a visit years ago to a bar in southern France, the local Beaujolais was served to me directly from a big wooden keg sitting right on the bar.But for some reason, wine taps have never been widely accepted here, despite attempts to make them trendy in the 1970s and ’80s. I’ve seen them in only a handful of Orange County (California) bars over the last 18 months or so.But What About the Taste of Keg Wine?Many in the industry claim that wine stored in kegs is better, on average, than the same product in a bottle. Corks can carry impurities which undermine the taste of a wine. So can oxidation, which happens when a wine bottle is opened and the unfinished portion is exposed to air. When a keg is tapped, the void space inside instantly becomes pressurized by an inert gas, which prevents oxygen from coming in contact with the wine.There’s the nagging perception that wine from a keg is plonk. But respected wineries such as Au Bon Climat and Qupé are getting into the practice, so that argument doesn’t really hold.True, not all wine benefits from keg storage. Many require bottle aging. But for wine that’s meant to be consumed when it’s young, kegs are ideal.Still, where is the romance? I know, I know, it’s not a logical argument. But to me, part of the pleasure of wine drinking involves observing its traditions and rituals – even the ones that make no sense.
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We asked Master Sommelier Brian McClintic how a first-time wine collector should start a wine collection. You'll find a handful of articles online about the subject, but each article requires a starting budget of $10,000. We challenged Brian to give tips on starting a collection by spending no more than $1,000. Think of spreading the $1,000 over a year and, preferably, keeping yourself away from the goods! Have a separate 'drinking' allotment. (I know, it's tough!)"I like the $35-$55 range with starting a cellar. That's the range I use for 99% of the wine I buy and for Viticole as well."Obviously that's not going to be a lot of bottles before you hit $1,000 but anything lower than that is typically not worth cellaring. There are exceptions but few and far between for something that is farmed and produced responsibly.When it comes to a buying strategy, start with the producer first and work your way out. In other words, instead of saying you should cellar Northern Rhone Wines or Barolo, start with bankable producers, following them in subsequent vintages."To me the old world still represents tremendous value."Here are a few thoughts on Brian's favorite producers in different styles. All are farmed organically:Light, crisp whitesMartin Muthenthaler Bruck Riesling $50 SRP. This Austrian producer has just started being imported to the states and is making some of the finest dry Riesling on the planet. Expect the current release to drink well young and cellar 20+ years.Richer whitesGonon 'Les Oliviers' Saint Joseph Blanc $37 SRP. This Marsanne-dominated blend will give Chardonnay drinkers something to love. Gonon's Syrahs are extremely age-worthy, but the whites tend to eclipse the reds in the cellar.Light redsJL Dutraive Fleurie 'Terroir Champagne' $44 SRP. This Cru Beaujolais is so delicious now but in the last couple of vintages ('14 & '15) it demonstrates the hallmarks of a wine that will last 15 years plus in ideal conditions.Big earthy redsDomaine Tempier Classique $45 SRP. It appreciates in every vintage from the moment the next vintage drops. The wines are accessible now and can age comfortably for 40 years plus in the best vintages.Parting words of wisdom from Brian as you journey down this obsession: "Too many people get fridge happy after a few drinks and open up something they shouldn't. I've learned this lesson the hard way and now store all my wine off-site for this reason." Editor’s Note:Here are some wines that are similar in style to the ones above and more readily available to try.If it’s tough to find a Martin Muthenthaler Bruck Riesling, then go for either Austria's Pichler-Krutzler Trum Riesing 2013 ($30) or Schloss Gobelsburg Tradition Riesling 2013 ($50). Equally impressive and a beneficial addition to our collection.For a domestic equivalent to the Saint Joseph Blanc give a white Rhone from Tablas Creek out of Paso Robles ($22) or Booker ($48) a shot. Tablas Creek partners with iconic Chateau de Beaucastel, so their wines are remarkably French in style. Booker’s Eric Jensen has a way with white Rhones that make him a standout in California.America has nothing to compare to the Cru Beaujolais, though the world’s favorite light red wine, Pinot Noir, is becoming more entrenched in California, and the quality is rising (as are prices -- expect to pay above $50 for most good-quality examples). Sanford ($60) and Babcock ($21) from Sta. Rita Hills are excellent investments; so are Hahn ($23) and Pisoni ($55) from the Santa Lucia highlands. Farther north, turn to Landmark and Patz & Hall ($87).Brian McClintic is a Master Sommelier and documentary film star of the movies SOMM and SOMM: Into the Bottle. After 20 years in the restaurant/retail industry he founded Viticole, an online wine club and travel blog that focuses on domestic and import selections that can't be found on the open market. By the 1st of every month, Brian travels to a wine region and offers out a special cuvee directly from the winery door in real time. You can follow his travels and join the monthly wine club at: http://viticolewine.com
Recently, a reader of I like this grape. asked us to recommend a wine to celebrate getting a promotion.Some more context: she is a 5th year software engineer at a mid-size company in California that builds high-end websites and apps. She’s in her late 20's and this is her first job out of school. So the promotion is a big deal. She plans on having a little celebration with family and friends at her house.We asked some of our sommelier and wine expert friends to weigh in and help our dear reader. Here’s what they said:Alex Sanchez, Certified Sommelier and a Somm Next Door!"I’d recommend the 2011 Mascot Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley for $115.The story of this brand is really interesting. Will Harlan, the son of legendary Bill Harlan, created this brand as an experimental project focusing on the younger vines of Harlan Estate. The Mascot has had incredible success since its beginnings in 2008 and it represents the younger generation of winemakers in Napa Valley. This is the perfect wine to enjoy and treat yourself to for your big promotion. After all, you deserve it!"Lisa Strid, Winemaker at Aridus Wine Company in Scottsdale, Arizona"I think you have to go for a fun wine - after all, it’s a celebration! If you’re someone who loves bubbles, go for a Franciacorta - they’re Italian bubblies made in the same method as Champagne, and they encompass a huge range of styles at very friendly prices. Get a Riserva if you love bready, biscuity aromas and flavors. But, if you’re a fruit lover, an NV (non-vintage) should satisfy.If you’d rather have a red, seek out an old vine Grenache from Australia. I’m sorry to say that this will probably ruin all other Grenaches for you. Oh, well. Now that you’ve been promoted, you can become the old vine Grenache person that was always there inside you.I especially like the Clarendon Hills Kangarilla. And if you really want to mark the occasion, why not invest in a vintage port, use a marker on the bottle to remind why you bought it, and then hide it from yourself in a place that you won’t bother to look for the next 50 years? Then when you retire and decide to clean out the crawlspace and find the bottle, you can pop it open and praise yourself for being so wise at such a young age to invest in your own future enjoyment."Andrew Cullen , Founder/Editor, CostcoWineBlog.com (no affiliation with Costco)“Since this is a young developer, I’m going to put $100 cap on the wine since that will likely seem like a lot to drop on a wine unless they are really into wine. Given that range, I’d go Old World with something that isn’t the standard Napa Cabs which they might have had at company dinners and see all the time.I would also want something with a little age on it so the wine can change and develop over time in a decanter. That way, this person can really savor and enjoy the wine as well as the fruits of their hard work. So my pick would be a second or third growth Bordeaux, which would fit the bill on all of these points.A Pontet-Canet ($95) from an off year might fall in this price range, as would a Duhart-Milon ($120). You could also move to the right bank and go for something like the Canon La Gaffeliere ($85) or La Dominique ($45) which would save a few bucks.I’d pick one of the above, toss it in a decanter and cook a fantastic meal enjoying a small taste every 30 minutes paying attention to how the wine develops while savoring your success.”Cassandra M Brown, Certified Sommelier, CSW, CWAS, CSP"If money isn't an issue, I would say splurge and pop a nice bottle of Champagne. "Champers" ranges from dry to sweet and works for every occasion.If budget is an issue, popping a bottle of delicious bubbles doesn't always mean you have to pop a bottle of Champagne. It's totally fine to go for something more moderately priced like Prosecco from Italy or Cava from Spain.Cremant de Bourgogne or another 'Cremant' is also a nice choice. 'Cremant' is French Sparkling wine made outside of the Champagne region but produced in other regions of France and is made in the traditional Champagne method.There are also some beautiful domestic sparklers from California and even New Mexico that should not be overlooked. Bubbles...always the way to go!Here are some to try. Great rec's other than Champagne. All these producers have an amazing assortment!:Lucien Albrecht - France, $19Schramsberg - California, $32Roederer Estate - California, $45Gruet - New Mexico, $15Bien Vivre et Boire le Meilleur!"Naushad Huda, founder of I like this grape. (not a sommelier, just a wine geek with an opinion)"I’d go with a Cru Beaujolais. Beaujolais is a region in France and the grape used in these red wines is Gamay.Now, don’t confuse Cru Beaujolais with Beaujolais Nouveau, which are uber popular wines that are released the 3rd week of November and heavily marketed.Beaujolais Nouveau wines are bottled just a few weeks after the grapes are harvested, have very little tannins and are typically purple/pinkish in color. It's simply spiked grape juice! They are meant to drink and have a jovial time - think Pirates of the Caribbean! (Nothing wrong with them, but save the Nouveau for Sunday brunch.)The Cru regions of Beaujolais, of which there are 10, produce wines that are very diverse in flavor - though all the wines are made from the same grape: Gamay! It’s fascinating to experience how the same grape can express itself so differently.You can get some vibrant, juicy wines from a region in Beaujolais called Chenas all the way to slightly heavier, minerally, stony wines from regions such as Morgon. You can easily pick up a Cru Beaujolais wine for under $35. They pair with just about everything you eat, can be stored for years, and will be a fun wine to pronounce when you’re tipsy.Tip: buy 3 of the same bottle, one to drink for the celebration and 2 to hang on to for future so you can reminisce about this wonderful achievement in your life years later.Here's one I dig: Duboeuf Morgon Jean-Ernest Descombes 2015 ($19)"If you have any suggestions for our young reader who is climbing the corporate ladder then please join the conversation Twitter: www.twitter.com/ilikethisgrape
It's been a devastating week for Napa and Sonoma counties and, as of this writing, the fires are still raging.There has been loss of life, homes, wildlife, and livelihood for many - specifically to those in the wine industry which spans from the vineyards to various hospitality and tourism businesses. There are many articles on the destruction so we don't need to rehash that information.Instead, we'd like to provide a list of ways to help our Northern California brethren, and highlight entities who are providing assistance. Also, there is a running directory of wineries that have been affected: one way of helping those wineries is by buying their wines in addition to sending them messages of support.Please send us any tips to add to this post and we will update asap: firstname.lastname@example.orgWays to HelpThe Press Democrat has partnered with Redwood Credit Union, Senator Mike McGuire and numerous business leaders to raise funds to directly help fire victims. Every donated dollar will go directly to fire victims – all costs will be covered. To donate, click here.The Salvation Army NorCal Wildfire Relief - Monetary donations are needed at this time. 100% of your gift will be used in support of the relief efforts. Donate here.Donate to the Direct Impact Fund in partnership with GoFundMe. Your tax-deductible donation will go directly to support charities and individuals with verified campaigns on GoFundMe, donate hereThe Redwood Empire Food Bank is currently providing critical food to shelters for our neighbors displaced by fires. Donate hereUnited Way of Wine Country. Donate hereSonoma County Recovers, both to donate and also ask for assistance if you've been affected. Click hereSonoma County of Education will be coordinating funds for schools and students that have lost everything. Make a payment to a school district. Click hereRunning Directory of Wineries AffectedTres Sabores - "Although the fight and worry is not yet over, the winery, Julie & Jon's home, our staff and all our furry/wooly/feathered companions are currently safe. We are indeed the lucky ones at this moment. Our hearts go out to other wineries and residents who are not so fortunate." FBDarioush Winery landscape and vineyard damage, but the winery building itself is still standing. (Take a sip of their '13 Caravan Cabernet, $50) IG, TW, FBHagafen Cellars, “The winery building appears to be fine. The tasting room also appears to be fine though much of the vegetation surrounding it is black and burned." (Take a sip of their kosher Sauvignon Blanc, $20) IG, TW, FBHelena View Johnston Vineyards, “all is lost.” You can support them by donating even a few dollars to their YouCaring page.Mayacamas Vineyards, “Our team is all well. The winery is safe.” Tasting room is burned down. (Take a sip of their 2012 Chardonnay, highly rated, aromatic, and excellent aging potential.) IG, TW, FBParas Vineyard, no found website nor social pages, but a this video from SF Chronicle shows a structure property completely engulfed in flames.Patland Estate Vineyards, family is safe, they have not updated as to the extent of the damage. IG, TW, FBPulido-Walker’s Estate Vineyard, “Pulido Walker suffered a devastating loss of our home, but thus far the Estate vineyards seem to have withstood the destruction from the flames. Most importantly, we and our team are safe.” (Take a sip of their 95 point, 2010 highly acclaimed "killer Cabernet", $150) TW, FBRobert Sinskey Vineyards, no social pages nor updated website, but this Instagram post which indicates loss to vineyard and tasting room. (Take a sip of their biodynamically grown Stag's Leap Cabernet, $100)Roy Estate, no social pages nor updated website, but word is that the winery was extensively damaged. (Take a sip of their 92 point estate proprietary blend red, $70) TWSegassia Vineyard, A company spokesperson confirmed that the winery owned by the Cates family has burned.Signorello Estate Vineyards, “…while the winery buildings themselves had essentially burned to rubble, the vineyards appeared to be in good shape—and ready to bear fruit for another 20 vintages. We can, and we will, rebuild the winery.” TW, FBSill Family Vineyards, “We will rebuild as soon as we’re allowed to return.” IG, TW, FBStags’ Leap Winery, “In the face of too much tragedy and loss, we continue to be deeply grateful that our buildings, vineyards and employees have been spared.” (Take a sip of their regularly 90+ point Cabernet, $50) IG, TW, FBVinRoc, no social pages nor updated website found, but owner said “Total loss, everything gone except our (wine) cave,”White Rock Vineyards, “Everyone at White Rock is safely evacuated and accounted for. The whole eastern Napa hillside from Stags leap down to napa is on fire.” Believed to have major damage. (Take a sip of their Bordeaux blend of which they make less than 1,000 cases, $50) IG, FBWilliam Hill Estate Winery, “ we have confirmed that the winery buildings are intact. William Hill sustained only minor cosmetic and landscaping damage” (Take a sip of their Napa estate blend, 90 point offering at $43) FBAncient Oak Cellars, “I’m very sad to report that our house, two big beautiful redwood barns, gorgeous tasting counter... are gone,” IG, FBChateau St. Jean, ‘Our employees are safe and accounted for and their continued safety remains our number one priority.” The main structure appeared unharmed. (Take a sip of their 90 point Sonoma Chardonnay for just $25) IG, TW, FBGundlach Bundschu Winery, ‘I spent some of the day digging through the rubble at my parents’ house, with little to no luck finding anything intact.” Still assessing the damage. (Take a sip of this Sonoma Cabernet that's scored 90+ points across critics, giving Napa a run of its money, $43) IG, TW, FBNicholson Ranch, “All the people at Nicholson Ranch are fine..Some of us are without power and some are staying with friends. But we are safe.The winery was in the path of the fire but escaped being engulfed by the flames. We have some damage to fix. The wine is secure in our cellars." IG, FBParadise Ridge Winery, “We are heartbroken to share the news that our winery was burned down this morning. The winery may be broken but our estate vineyards survived, which is foundation of our wine.” IG, TW, FBSky Vineyards, no updated social page nor website; the extent of the damage is unknown because the fire is still active in that area. FBBackbone Vineyard & Winery,“Our winery burned to the ground along with all our wine made over the past five years.”Frey Vineyards, The country’s first organic and biodynamic winery lost its winery and bottling facility. The wines are readily still available at Whole Foods. IG, TW, FBGolden Vineyards, The vineyards “are scorched but they are not ruined,”. No updated social and website isn’t working. Oster Wine Cellars, destroyed in the Redwood Fire.J Cage Cellars: "We were one of the lucky ones." Their family is safe and their wine is already in barrel.Shout Outs To:Participating wineries from Paso Robles have mobilized and will donate $1 from every bottle sold in the month of October to charities helping those impacted by the fires. Here is a list including these 90+ point Cabernets by J Lohr ($13), Ancient Peaks ($17), DAOU Reserve ($50).Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Tuesday that the company is donating $1 million. The money will be divided among the Red Cross California Wildfires Fund, the Community Foundation of Sonoma and the Napa Valley Community FoundationE. & J. Gallo Winery and Apple are giving $1 million, plus matching employee donations two-for-one.Google said Google.org and the company’s employees are donating $500,000 to help support those affected by wildfires in Northern and Southern California. The money will go to the American Red Cross and to the Napa and Sonoma Community Foundations.Intel said it is matching its employees’ donations.
Just to clarify, people, we hardly mean the infamous latte here. Even if the title does seem to scream, “it’s autumn!”.However, as it is officially October, the lovers of summer begrudgingly pull out the sweaters and boots in preparation for the colder months ahead. Those devoted to the fall season rejoice...alongside the marketing geniuses over at Starbucks.Might we suggest a winery to accompany your seasonal transition, whether is be positive or filled with dread? Ladies and Gents, we present to you a couple drops from Smith-Madrone.The name of this winery, sitting in the Spring Mountain District of Napa Valley, found its origin from the brothers who started the establishment - Stuart and Charles Smith circa 1971 - as well as the beloved Madrone tree that has a prominent location on the grounds.Although they have a beautiful Chardonnay and reserve wine in their lineup, today we’re going to take a look at the Smith-Madrone dry Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon.The juiceNow for those of you in denial of summer’s end, this Riesling is a fine solace for your woes. The honeysuckle and lemon peel aromas will certainly remind you of warmer weather.The slight, yet distinctive petrol aromas, orange blossom notes and smooth mouthfeel will finish bone-dry. It seems to usher you right into the drier, savory months of autumn.Similar to this varietal’s old world versions, Smith-Madrone grows their Riesling along the steep mountain slopes that assist beautifully to their ripening process and crisp, refreshing notes.Whether paired with crab or seasoned pork loin with root vegetables, surely this wine is truly fit to consume no matter what time of year.For those of you celebrating fall’s arrival one pumpkin recipe at a time, wait no longer than to pop open Smith-Madrone’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. This 100% estate fruit Cabernet sings with an aromatic nose of black cherry, dried herbs and hints of perfume. The mouthfeel continues via flavors consistent with the initial aromas, plus additional flavors of star anise, oak and black cherry skin.A velvety and layered palate bleeds seamlessly into the long, enjoyable finish that extends a warming sensation. In other words, this wine is a flawless pairing for the cooling weather outside.Fair warning: this Cabernet comes with a slightly higher-than-average alcohol level. So take caution with serving at room temperature and instead shoot for a few degrees cooler to get the best expression and balance out of the wine. With this lovely drop, try a pairing of roasted vegetables with parmesan polenta, or skirt steak with rosemary butter.All in all, we say, “so long” to summer and “greetings” to autumn. We hope you enjoy these mountain-bred wines and the seasonal pairings that accompany them so well!Sam StowellSamantha Stowell began her adventure with wine 4 years ago after quitting her corporate life as an interior designer. After completing the Advanced Level 3 WSET course, she traveled to McLaren Vale, Australia to work for Mollydooker wines on the cellar floor, in the tasting room and, ultimately, their marketing department. Since returning, she has been the resident sommelier of two Southern California establishments, where she focused on developing their wine programs until deciding to retire from the floor and begin her own wine education and recommendation business, Sam(the)Somm.
The Doors provide one of THE best soundtracks for wine - simple as that. They just sound better with it. I mean, as one of the pioneers of 60's psychedelic rock, their music is created by (and meant for) altered states. Get the right kind of vino with Waiting for the Sun on vinyl and, yo, you're having a hell of a day.In fact, Waiting for the Sun features "Yes, the River Knows" - a jam penned by the band's guitarist, Robby Krieger. There's a line about "drowning myself in masticated wine". Or is it "mystic heated wine"? In any case, it's a damn good time if you get past the morbidity of it all.Pro tip: playing The Doors outside is awesome. Something about their L.A. roots makes the sun and a cool breeze the perfect companion. And for that you'll want some refreshing California grape juice.The wineLet's go bubbles. An appropriate select is the Chronic Cellars "Spritz and Giggles" straight outta Paso Robles in the 805. This California sparkler is well-aligned for those late summer transitions into early fall. That time where the air is starting to get a bit crisp yet the backyard is still ripe for lounging.You're going to get a lot of fruit on this one. Fresh-cut apples and some sneaky citrus will find its way on your tongue. Despite its fruit dominance, the bubbles aren't overly sweet nor dry. There's a bit of spice that will remind you fall (the season, not your balance) is on the way - all without ruining your day in the sun with The Doors. And at $15 a pop, you can easily stock a few in your chiller for a groovy afternoon.As referenced by their cheeky branding and unique label designs, the brothers who run Chronic Cellars produce wine that is true reflection of themselves. Zany, humble, and original. They come from a family legacy of winemaking and team up with their childhood friend, Joe Kalionzes, on all things design.Much like the creative output of The Doors, Chronic's aesthetic and product are woven together to create a richer tasting experience. Blend the music and juice together to give all of your senses a ride!