Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wine Tasting at Robert Sinskey Vineyard

Wines tasted for this Vlog:
1. Robert Sinskey Vineyard, Pinot Blanc
2. Robert Sinskey Vineyard, Vin Gris of Pinot Noir
3. Robert Sinskey Vineyard, Carneros Pinot Noir
4. Robert Sinskey Vineyard, Carneros Merlot
(By the way, the dog that appears in this video is our new winery puppy.
His name is Toumie.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Chenin Blanc

Wines tasted for this Vlog:
1. Dry Creek, Dry Chenin Blanc, Dry Creek California 2006, $11.99
2. Mulderbosch, Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch South Africa 2005, $17.99 on sale $14.97
3. Domaine du Closel, Savennières, Loire Valley, France 2002, $24.99
4. Chateau de la Racauderie, Vouvray Demi-Sec, Loire Valley, France 2004, $12.99

Great Local Wine Event of the Week: Wine Tasting Pre-Sale and Light Appetizers at Toast Wine Bar.

Join us Wednesday, April 25th from 6:30-8:30pm for collaborative tasting between Toast Wine Bar and Sam's Wine Shop. $20/person. (Call 612.333.4305 for reservations.)

Toast will supply the food, Sam's will choose the wines, and of course special pricing will be available for those in attendance to purchase any of the wines showcased.

This event is to showcase the wines from the portfolio of importer Neal Rosenthal.

Rosenthal is a name in the wine business that is synonymous with quality. This great portfolio is filled with the kind of wines that we love to work with. Some of the selections are in limited supply, so they are not frequently tasted out.

For instance we will taste the Jean Pillot, Bourgogne Blanc, an elegant white burgundy just in time for summer fare, and the Brovia, Barolo a wine that is always in season, amongst many more from this wonderful portfolio.

Call today, space is limited. Toast Wine Bar 612.333.4305 (See map below for directions.)

More on Rosenthal and The Mad Wine Group

One of the most splendid things about this portfolio is that it is made up of wines that represent the areas from which they come. In this modern world, so much can be done from a wine-making standpoint to make wines fit a certain flavor profile. Rosenthal selections do not do this. They look for wines that are indicative of their region, in fact exemplary examples of the areas from which they come.

To guide us on this tasting journey we will be joined by Michael Solway of Neal Rosenthal's Mad Wine Group. Michael is a wealth of information, animated, opinionated, and generally a great wine fellow.

Space is limited, so contact Toast right away to reserve a spot. Of course all of the wines tasted will be offered to the participants at special ONE TIME ONLY pricing.
Don't miss this great opportunity to taste some great wines, and stock up you cellar.

Here is some more info on Rosenthal (from their website http://www.madrose.com/index.html)

"The Mad Rose Group is the corporate umbrella for a close-knit group of people who understand that wine is an agricultural product and that in its best and purest form wine must reflect a specific sense of place. We share the goal of communicating this concept to an ever-increasing public by presenting the finest examples of wine made in this classical tradition. This endeavor started in 1978 as a humble, one-man retail operation very much outside the mainstream of the wine business. Neal Rosenthal, having stepped away from his corporate and international law practice, conceived of this project.

The objective from the outset was to work as directly as possible with growers who were dedicated to producing limited quantities of the finest quality wines and who shared the RWM passion for "terroir", that ephemeral "sense of place". Forays into California in 1979 and then into France and Italy in 1980 were the initial explorations. Since that time the RWM portfolio has grown to include 75 different suppliers. These producers supply wines from almost every viticultural area of France, a broad range of wines from Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria, Liguria and the Oltrepo Pavese in Italy and a handful of elite appellations in California. The wines are selected for concentration, purity of flavors, and clarity of expression. All products brought to the marketplace by RWM are produced in as natural a manner as possible. Our selections have a striking balance between finesse and power which results in exceedingly age worthy wines."

More On Toast Wine Bar

Toast Wine Bar and Cafe
415 N 1st Street
Mpls, Mn 55401

From City Pages
Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl

Toast Wine Bar & Cafe

"Toast is the new wine bar put together by one of the founders of dear, departed Auriga, and if you can find its little half-underground home in the northern reaches of downtown Minneapolis's Warehouse District, you will be amply rewarded with fine, unusual, affordable wines and some of the best antipasti and cheese plates in town. The wine list is particularly strong on unusual offerings from Mallorca, Campania, Sicily, Salento, and other such places where the world-flattening Godzilla of Merlot and Chardonnay hasn't obliterated indigenous grapes. The charcuterie plate is all killer and no filler--it's got some of the best dry salamis and sausages available in the United States; the ever-changing cheese plate is presented with all kinds of fine-dining high-style grace notes, such as a bit of Italian pear preserves infused with spicy mustard. Paper-crusted pizzas are topped with sophisticated combinations, and desserts, such as a panna cotta made with orange flower water, are often quite graceful. Sound like just the thing downtown needed? We'll toast to that. American Casual. $-$$, Desserts, Great Bar, Notable Wine List, Outdoor Seating, Pizza, Romantic, Vegetarian Spoken Here."

Friday, March 16, 2007

What is Organic?

Video: 10 mins: Introduction and Tasting of 4 Organic Wines around $10 price point.
Recently at Sam’s Wine Shop we hosted a tasting in our cellar tasting room that featured the wines of Napa Valley's Long Meadow Ranch.

(Below Chris Hall of Long Meadow Ranch, leading a discussion about his family's wines and farming practices.)

On the table were the 2006 Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc, 2005 Ranch House Red (a Bordeaux style blend with a dash of sangiovese), and the 2003 Napa Valley Cabernet.

All of the wines showed very well, and perhaps it was no small coincidence that one reason why was because Scott Pampuch chef/owner of Corner Table Restaurant in South Minneapolis prepared a little picnic to accompany the tasting featuring some of the other products from Long Meadow Ranch, including their grass fed beef and wonderful olive oil.

(A real treat, Scott is a great chef, so if you haven't yet, go to his restaurant.)

(Long Meadow Ranch Grass Fed Beef Salad ala Pampuch)

But the real conversation of the evening became the philosophy of organic food and wine production. Both Corner Table and Long Meadow Ranch share the same commitment to local sustainable farming practices.

"Our food is a reflection of the local agriculture in the upper Midwest. Corner Table sources as much as possible of our meat and produce from small family farms in and around the state of Minnesota. We especially want to thank the South East Minnesota Food Network and their farmers that supply us with high quality products." --Corner Table

In the nearly 10 years that I have known Scott, he has always felt this way. And because of his passion and dedication he is one of the leaders of this movement in the Twin Cities.

Long Meadow Ranch for their part practices all organic farming techniques, not just with the grapes they grow for wine, but with all of the farming they do. They are 1 of only 30 certified organic farmers in Napa Valley.

So deep is their commitment that they "make their own fertilizers on the Ranch through an extensive composting operation that relies on organic material from each segment of the Ranch. Soil erosion is controlled and new soils are built through the extensive use of permanent cover crops made up of carefully selected grasses, clovers, and legumes."

They do not use herbicides or pesticides and all crops are certified by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).

According to the standards set forth by the CCOF, organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.

Before a product can be labeled "organic," a USDA accredited certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified and inspected also.

Yet with all of this commitment to these sustainable farming practices, the wines they produce are not organic. In fact, very few wines in the market place are "organic wines".


Yes, the grapes come from organic and sustainable farming practices, and we as consumers should applaud these efforts and support them with our dollars if that is something that we believe in as well.

However, due to the restrictions on the addition of sulpher during the wine making process, the overwhelming majority of wines in this country will never be labeled as organic. In this country, the threshold of sulfites in wines to qualify for organic labeling is 10 parts per million (ppm).

In Europe, (a country that has centuries more wine experience than ours), that threshold is 100 ppm.

There is a cynical part of me that wants to believe this is all part of a conspiracy by the US Government and Neo-Prohibitionists to scare people away from wine consumption, one of lifes greatest pleasures.

(If you think this is far fetched consider this: In 2003 a group of Senators conspired to make it law that all French wine labels carry a warning that there may have been bull's blood used in the production of their wines, a practice that is all but extinct.) click here for more

Just for comparison, consider this: Most wines have between 25 and 80 ppm of sulfite: fresh salsa can contain 1500 ppm and pre-cut french fry potatoes as much as 1000ppm. Dried golden raisins and dried apricots can also easily reach 1000ppm.

Generally speaking these other foods do not carry the kind of warning stickers that wine does. To the average consumer, which seems the more "natural" and "healthful" product, the aforementioned dried apricots bought in a co-op with no warning labels, or a bottle of wine that has a very obtrusive Government Warning Label?

The upshot is that very few wines will be labeled "certified organic". However the number of farmers that adopt more eco-friendly practices continues to grow every year. For those of us interested in supporting these efforts it is these producers that we should seek out and support with our wine buying dollars.
--Sam Haislet

Monday, February 26, 2007

Cabernet and Cab Blends

Video: 13 mins: Introduction and Tasting of 4 Wines
(click the links below to got to sales page for these wines.)

Here on The Wine Vibe we will post links to local wine events so that you as the enthusiastic wine reader will be "in the know". But more than that we would love to get your views and reviews on any of these events that you attend.
Did any of the wines you tried thrill, surprise, disappoint or intrigue you?
Are there certain kinds of events that you would like to attend?
Have you been wanting to try or learn more about a certain reion of wines?
Whatever interests you, please feel free to write it down in these pages. Just give your honest opinion, good or bad and get the conversation going.

This is one of the biggest local wine events of the season. It is a three day weekend of wine and food vendors that gather to show their wares to the general public in an effort to help Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) raise money.
This is a very large event with scores of vendors and hundreds of wine and food offerings. From a consumer standpoint, if you aren't afraid of crowds, theoretically this would hold a vast interest (to those who can afford the price of admission) to sample a number of different wines.
But I would contend that this event is no longer going to appeal the the true wine enthusiast as a venue to further educate ones palate or knowledge base of wine. Certainly there is plenty of fun to be had here, and as a social event it is really terrific.
Due to the grand nature of the event and the sheer vast amount of wines that are poured, the kinds of wine that are most usually being sampled are among the most mainstream of the offerings available in the market. This is due to the fact that because the event is a benefit for MPR they do nothing to defray the cost of the samples served by the vendors.
Therefore the vendors must absorb this cost themselves, and at a certain scale they are able to do so. But on this grand scale they are more likely to go to the producers of these wines to ask for help to defray the costs.
And here is where the danger lies, for it is nearly impossible for many of the hand-crafted artisinal wineries, wineries that make rare and interesting wines to be able to offer the kind of support needed for an event of this magnitude.
More often it is the large wineries, and frequently the extremely large holding companies that own dozens of brands and mass produce oceans of wine that will have the pockets deep enough to support these kinds of events.
Over and over we see the same wines from the same companies at these events. The wines become recognizable as brands. These brands then compete for the same shelf space in every wine shop and liquor store. As there is only so much space on those shelves and only so many dollars for inventory, the shops that stock these massed produced items begin to look the same.
And this harms the market place. Whenever diversity is replaced by the generic, something is lost. As Twin Citians we have great diversity in the selection of wines that are available to us. We should cherish this. We should encourage this by seeking out the unique and using our dollars to "vote" for wines that keep the market interesting.
The MPR event is nothing more than a victim of its own success, but it is a slippery slope (just as the issue of wine in grocery stores is...more on that later) that all of us in the business need be aware and ever watchful.
Here's to more great wines and great times along the wine trail.