Featured Post

Welcome to Children of the Grape

Children of the Grape ​Born out of our love of fine wines and delicious food, Children of the Grape has an interesting backstory. It a...

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Who Says Terroir Doesn’t Matter?

There is one thing we have all have been told about the grapes that make up wine. Location matters. Terroir matters. The same vines planted in different soils will produce different grapes. Not just in quality or quantity, but the actual taste of the grapes, and ultimately the wine, will be affected by the soil and other materials the roots grow in and through.

According to a story I saw in the New York Times entitled “Turning Cemeteries Into Wine at a California Diocese”, chardonnay and pinot noir vines were planted 10 years ago at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward California as a less expensive and more water-frugal alternative to grass.  At $17,000 an acre for grapevines, versus $50,000 an acre for grass, it seems like a no brainer, plus the vines produce grapes while grass only produces hay fever.

The Holy Sepulchre cemetery grounds in Hayward, CA

The plan was to mix all the grapes together and make a rose alter wine that one Diocese official said, “Didn’t really have to be all that good”. They worked with Shauna Rosenblum, winemaker for urban winery Rock Wall Wine Company, to make the wine from the cemetery grapes. Both she and Jim Ryan, the general manager at Rock Wall and a consulting winemaker, were amazed at the quality of the grapes and approached the Diocese about making a serious wine.

And it seems to have worked. This year, a Bishop’s Vineyard cabernet sauvignon won a silver medal at the Monterey International Wine Competition, and Its cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel both won silver medals in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Now I haven’t seen the score cards or tasting notes, but has anyone mentioned notes of varnished mahogany or walnut, with a nice cement vault minerality? If terroir matters what tasting notes do you get in the cemetery? 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

White Oak is not the same as a White (Wine) in Oak

While American White Oak trees are used to make Wine barrels, the White Oak tree cannot be confused with a white wine that has been put in oak. These are two different things altogether.

American White Oak

There are several types of white wines that can stand to be put in oak barrels for any length of time. Three that come to readily mind are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and a Viognier.

Chardonnays are almost always processed in oak for some length of time to provide some tannins to control some of the acidy, as well as to impart some of the goodness that comes with oak. The butterscotch, vanilla, spice, nuts, and toast tastes and smells that add to the experience, for some people.

White Oak Barrel

Not everyone likes oak. If you don’t, you probably drink a lot of Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Grigios. So you may have wondered why I put Sauvignon Blanc on my list of white wines I think of as being on oak.

It started in the 1960s when Robert Mundavi had a surplus of Sauvignon Blanc and was looking for a way to sell it. He places the Sauvignon Blanc in oak, created a marketing campaign calling this wine Fume Blanc and developed a whole new outlet for this grape and wine.

Fume Blanc is now considered a synonym for Sauvignon Blanc, although most people in the industry feel that the wine should be on oak to carry the Fume label. So if you get some notes of oak in a Sauvignon Blanc, it may be, or you could call it a Fume Blanc.
Oak isn’t just for Big Reds or Chardonnays. If you like the buttery taste and feel, there are a lot more whites out there to try that also get some oak. Be sure to ask your wine store to help you find a new favorite.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Wine O'Clock?

If Oxford Dictionary says it, it must Be true. Wine O'clock is now an official word. I'm not sure whether to rejoice or cry. I'm mean it isn't like I ever stood on formality, and you'll never catch me saying it's 5 o'clock somewhere...But when does a colloquialism or slang become mainstream?

Doesn't that take the fun out of the whole thing? Like saying damn or hell when you're 8, it's cool. Once you say fuck and your parents don't flinch, what's the point? It become anti-cool, un-cool, dare I say boorish?

Wine O'clock

If we are going to stop from crossing the line, stop from jumping the shark, we need to know where the line is. Fortunately Enolytics, a firm that leverages big data for wine industry sales and marketing, has determined that wine o'clock begins at 4:45 p.m.

I now have a plan. I can start drinking wine before 4:45 and it ISN'T wine o'clock. I won't be un-hip and un-cool. I'll just be on Wine-light savings time.

Monday, April 11, 2016

To Pair or not to Pair, that is the Question...

I’m not a big fan of the word pairing. I get it, I know what it means, and so does everyone else. Maybe that’s the point. I’ll call it word laziness, or being non-creative. What is wine pairing? In short, wine and food pairing is the process of matching food dishes with wine to enhance the dining experience. Did we also pair the mashed potatoes and the kale salad to the main course?

I know I’m swimming upstream here and this may be a bit of a stretch, but unless opposites attract, we really aren’t pairing anything. We are matching different taste signatures, or better yet, blending these flavor components which include among others, sweet, acid, salty, bitter, etc. I add salt to my soup, I don’t pair it.

Fish Tacos...and wine, not paired at all

Food word semantics? It is. I minor pet peeve of mine. I’ll never call anyone out for saying it. I will most likely use the term myself, a lot. Because as I have been taught by both life and Wife, you need to communicate to others the way they can understand you. It does no one any good to use words no one understands, in a way no one (else) uses them.

So pass the wine that pairs well with my feelings of internal frustration of the concept of pairing.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Roll out the Barrel

Cinnabar Winery 

A barrel tasting is always fun. All of the sudden a wine tasting becomes a circus or a carnival, in the good sense of the word. The people are a little more excited, the tasting routine is a little different, it becomes an event. The other part of barrel tasting that is so much fun is that it lifts the vail a little on what an art form wine making is. How at every step you need to understand what you have, and what you can do to make it better. From the soil, to the grape, to the process, to the barrel, and to the bottle, how are you making something good, better. That is true wine making. I just went to a barrel tasting at Cinnabar Winery in Saratoga California. They had two wines in barrel for tasting, one Chardonnay, and one Cabernet Sauvignon, and both were amazing.


Let’s talk about the Chardonnay first. I’ll follow the tasting order. One of the things I really liked about the tasting is that they mixed the in barrel wines into the normal tasting cycle. It helped to compare the barrel wines in their unfinished states to the wines, minus a year or so vintage, they will become. So what was in barrel number one? It was a 2015 Chardonnay from the Santa Cruz Mountains. The grapes were sourced from two different vineyards, one in Scotts Valley, the other in Los Gatos. The two different locations, while fairly close to each other, they have some very unique qualities that add to this wine.

Santa Cruz Chardonnay barrel tasting

My first impressions when seeing the wine was to notice the cloudiness of the wine in the glass. Alejandro Aldama, Cellar Master and head of Grower Relations for Cinnabar, explained why. He stated that what we were seeing was the lees that have been stirred up while the barrels were moved. Lees are the sediments in the wine that come from 2 different sources. The first are the dead yeast cells, the other is from the grapes themselves. Yeast lees and grape lees. While I’ll save the in depth scientific winery alchemy for another time, the reason they are there is to do a couple of things. As both the grape lees and the yeast lees breakdown, they reduce the tannins (good for white wines) and add different flavors and aromas to the wine, which adds complexity. In a word, yum.

The next impression was related to the temperature of the wine as I held it. White wines are served cold, this was cellar temperature. It wasn’t a negative thing, but it did come into play for both of the next two tasting steps, breathing in the aromas, and actually tasting the wine. My point here is don’t let this effect your judgement, but understand it will affect smell and taste.
Ahhh, the aroma. This enjoyed more than a typical white wine due to the earthy, nutty aromas due to the lees and the higher tannins. This wine will sit another 8 months or so in barrel which will allow more of the tannins to be neutralized before bottling. Good for a real Chardonnay fan, and this bodes well for this vintage. 

Taste. Remember when I mentioned the temperature? I was expecting that cold crisp pop on my tongue. It wasn’t there, because the wine was cellar temperature. Take 2. The next sip was very different due to my adjusted expectations. Now I could taste the buttery flavors from both the new French oak, as well as the work the lees have been doing. Over those flavors rode the fantastic fruit flavors one expects in a Chardonnay. I really look forward to tasting this again in just under a year from a nice cold bottle.

To summarize, this is going to be a fantastic wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Now we can talk about my favorite, I know, I have a red varietal bias. I try not to let it show too much. No who am I kidding, I love Reds and I cannot lie. When the thief, that’s the little tube to take wine out of a barrel, entered the barrel of the Cabernet Sauvignon I started to get excited. The opportunity to taste something new, raw, and fresh is a treat. This 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is from Bock Vineyards in the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County AVA, and displays everything this area promises.

Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

First Impressions, after I calmed my excitement, was the color. Deep purple, vibrant color that just promised a deep rich flavor. Something else that I noticed was the head, or bubbles, on the surface of the wine in the glass. This is due to several different factors. First, just the action of the wine flowing from the thief to the glass will cause some bubbles. Second, if you look at the thief as it comes out of the barrel you will notice bubbles at the top of the wine, this is due to the fermentation that is still going on in the barrel. Third, I believe that the wine right out of the barrel is just thicker, more dense, which also allows this.

My next impression is the aroma. I could smell it before I got it close to my nose. I could also smell the oak from the outside of the barrel that only seemed to add to the experience. Putting my nose directly into the glass, I was able to block some of these outside influences, and I was not disappointed. If anything the more condensed aromas just kept getting better. There was still the oak, but it was now not the raw oak of the outside of the barrel, but the toasted oak of the inside of the barrel. The wood smells continued with some cedar cigar box aromas that just lingered. The deep fruit aromas made it seemed I had already taken a taste. I couldn’t wait any longer, I had to taste.
Now the taste. Wow. I could put a tap in this barrel and be done, right now. Great deep dark blackberry flavors you would expect from an Alexander Valley Cab, mixed with the vanilla oaky flavors that mirrored what I got on the nose. Great mouth feel that covered my mouth without clinging. I’ll be sad to see this wine go back to the cellar till it’s time to bottle, yet I’ll be so happy when it comes back.

I don’t think I have to summarize the thoughts for you as I left them all out there for you. Let me just say this is a wine to watch, at 100 percent Cab and not even finished yet it is amazing, one can only imagine what it will be with a little more age and a little more wine making magic.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Welcome to Children of the Grape

Children of the Grape

​Born out of our love of fine wines and delicious food, Children of the Grape has an interesting backstory.

It all started years ago on a bright October day in Apple Hill, Eldorado County California. A weekend of fall fun in the gold country involving some craft fair shopping, apple pie buying, and wine tasting. While heading from pie tasting to wine tasting, a couple of us heard we were going to the craft fair first, then wine tasting. I guess we were wrong.

We found a killer parking spot, very close to the craft fair, much further away from the winery as we were to discover. I should also mention there is poor to no cell service in this area. We waited…

Not seeing the other car after waiting awhile, we Scooby Doo’ed that they went to winery first. A quick discussion and we were agreed, we were not giving up this parking spot. We would walk. We had seen the sign, how far could it be? That far and further…

At some point while walking down the gravel road we decided to save some steps by cutting through the vineyard. We gained some time yet left our souls among the grapes waiting to be harvested. Grapevines clung to us, tugging at our hair and clothes, pulling and trying to drag us deeper and deeper into the dark interior of the vineyard.

As we struggled with the vines and broke into the clear with the sunlight reflecting off of the Madrona Vineyards sign we felt we were transformed, much as the children in Stephen King’s Children of the Corn had been, and we were now the Children of the Grape.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What's the what about a tasting?

I'm a guy. A guy who likes wine. A guy who likes all kinds of wine (but mostly reds). A guy who likes all kinds of wine because they taste good to me. I have a rule, if it is good... it is. Whether that is in music, food, or wine. So how do I decide if it is good? I taste. 

Red Wine in Stemless Glass

Tasting for me starts with the color. A great guide to color is found on the Wine Folly site here. Generally when I'm tasting (or drinking) I pour and observe the color. How opaque? Bright or dark? how does the color fade towards the edge? All of these help me understand, and learn, what to expect when I see it again. Life is a journey after all.

Next, I swirl. I swirl to allow two things. First to see what kind of legs the wine has and then for smell. 

Legs. I won't spend much time talking about wine legs here, you can Google it I'm sure. For me, wine legs show two things. Alcohol and sugar. Both very important in wine taste.
More legs can equal more sugar or more alcohol or both. I'm looking for balance and high alcohol can offset a too sweet wine. I use the info I gain about the legs to help with the next two things, smell and taste.

Smell. I put my nose right in the glass after a good re-swirl. As some of the alcohol evaporates it carries with it the essence of the wine, all the fantastic elements that make up its taste. Fruity, earthy, spicy, how does it smell to you? Smell makes up so much of the next step, taste.

Now what we are here for, the taste. I put enough in my mouth to be able to get all of my mouth exposed. Front and back of tongue and the roof of my mouth. Next I make some noise. Eating with your mouth full is gross, wine tasting with your mouth open is smart. You need some air to really open up the wine (there is a reason we aerate wines). Next, repeat. But, does it taste different after a wine cracker? After a sip of water? Try both of these, you may be amazed.

No one can smell for you, no one can taste for you. we are all unique and nothing tastes the same to everyone. I may smell smoke and you only get fruit, no one is wrong, but this is why I may like something you don't or vice versa. If  you pay attention to the look and smell of wines, you will get much more out of the most important thing, taste.