In the 1965 musical, The Sound of Music, a smiling Captain Georg von Trapp tells his 16 year-old daughter Liesl, “No,” when she sheepishly asks him “I’d like to stay and have my first taste of Champagne.” I was barely a teenager when I saw the blue-eyed Liesl posing this question to her father, but this scene has always stayed with me. This was about the first time I had my first sip of Champagne as I stole a glass that my parents had poured. All I can remember is they smiled and toasted a lot when they drank it. What is it about Champagne? Its magic and allure, what does it mean to different people? Whether it merely tickles your nose or tantalizes the palate, everyone has a slightly different spin on one of the most iconic beverages in the world. Continue reading Savoring Champagne
It was some time ago (circa 2003), in a dark place when I tasted my first Grüner. I had no idea (well maybe a little) of what this unusual white wine was about. Where was I? In some San Francisco Bay Area wine bar with a couple of somm friends as I recall. So what is it about Grüner that drives us wine folks crazy? The wine generally comes in a hock bottle, with its German and low-alcohol history, but the Austrian white wines are far different from their German counterparts. Can we talk Chardonnay here? I was reminded of this when I posed a Facebook question and my friend Alison Smith Story of Story Wine Cellars brought this notion to my attention. I never could understand completely why Grüner Veltliner was so appealing but I did enjoy the wine’s fatness without the aid of oak or residual sugar. I am now thinking, could there be a similarity between Grüner Veltliner and un-oaked Chardonnay. Continue reading Austrian Wines- Grüner takes a Chardonnay Spin?
You may be skeptical of this, but not all Napa Cabernets require securing a loan. While some bottles may fetch upwards of $300.00 or more and consumers have been trained to spend at least $50.00 on a Cabernet with a Napa Valley AVA, there are still a few wineries that know their customers are still hoping to buy Napa cabs under $30.00. While they are not easy to find, they can be had. There still exists parts of the valley that are not considered the high rent district and at least a few companies have the wisdom of producing Napa Valley Cabernets in this price range. In my recent tasting journeys I have found a trio perfect for the bargain hunter. Continue reading A Deal on Napa Valley Cabernets
One health question that I get more than any other—besides whether or not a wine contains sulfites—is whether or not wine is gluten free. The short answer is that yes, it is. The production of wine is inherently gluten free as the raw materials involved are grapes, and there is no wheat used in the growing or fermentation process.
As far as the production process, the only place—theoretically—where gluten may be used is in fining. The best fining agents are animal based products, the most common being egg whites, but I couldn’t find any winemakers that use wheat gluten in this capacity.
In regard to the aging process, the heads of some wine barrels can be sealed with a wheat paste; however, wax alternatives have been found to be less expensive, and offer a better seal. Tricia Thompson, a dietician who specializes in gluten free products recently commissioned tests of a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot. The results of the tests conducted on both wines came back showing fewer than 10ppm. According to the FDA, products that contain fewer than 20ppm are considered gluten free.
So, to sum up, for all intents and purposes there is no discernible gluten to be found in wine, making those who must or who choose to watch their gluten intake very happy!
*always check with your doctor as the final source of information.
You think you need to travel to The Mecca of Pinot Noir to satisfy your appetite for the variety? Well, I have news for all of you starving wine lovers. Though it is hard to deny that a week in Beaune, France would do wonders for the wine soul, I can point to so many places in California where Pinot Noir has gone to the next level. Where? Could it be the Russian River Valley, the Anderson Valley, Sonoma Coast? While those places do indeed have some of America’s very best Pinots, today I’d like to talk about the Santa Lucia Highlands. Continue reading The hunt for California’s Holy Grail