Premiere Napa Valley Day 3

Well, we are just back from 6 days of wine tasting at Premiere Napa Valley and, while we can barely think about any more wine, we did find some gems that we are excited to talk about.

Each February, hundreds of top wine professionals gather in Napa Valley for the must-attend trade event of the year: Premiere Napa Valley. The annual grand tasting and futures auction, held at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, helps to promote, protect and enhance the Napa Valley appellation. Premiere Napa Valley is an invitation-only event for members of the wine trade and media.

Over the next few weeks we will be bringing you the highlights of Premiere continuing this week with Anderson’s Conn Valley and Turnbull.

Anderson’s Conn Valley is well up Howell Mountain and we had to do at least one 5-point turn to get there (great driving *cough*). The fabulous tasting was in their cave, and we tasted through: Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (very good), Chardonnay 2012 (typical Napa), Pinot Noir 2011 (above average), Right Bank 2011 (outstanding), Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2011 (needs time), Eloge 2010 (also needs time), and the Signature 2010 (truly great!)

We had the luck and privilege of bumping into Robert Hunt, the winemaker, and he was more welcoming that we should have expected. We tasted multiple vintages of upcoming wines (which we will keep in confidence). We thank Robert for the private look we were given. He ushered us out after all the offerings with “now get out of my cave”, which was an epic end!

Turnbull has a bit of history with Josh and I. On my first visit to Premiere (in 2005), we hit Turnbull and fell into Merlot Fortuna 2001 (which turned out to be one of the greatest Merlot’s made in this countries history). This year we were warmly welcomed with the following wines:

Turnbull Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (typical Napa), Syrah 2010 (stunning…very reminiscent of northern Rhone Valley), Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville 2010 (absolutely amazing!), Cabernet Sauvignon Black Label 2010 (one of the best cabs of this vintage!!)….

…it didn’t end there really. Because of our past experience, we were given the privilege of purchasing a bottle of Merlot Fortuna 2007 and Merlot Fortuna 2010. We brought them home and had them with some canapés over a solid game of Settlers of Catan, and while the 2010 was great, the 2007 was nearly on par with the 2001. Sadly, all the Fortuna Vineyard Cabs and Merlots are only available to list members of Turnbull. We cannot recommend these wines more enthusiastically!

Thank you so much to the staff of both Anderson’s Conn Valley and Turnbull, you were appreciated.

Premiere Napa Valley Day 2

Well, we are just back from 6 days of wine tasting at Premiere Napa Valley and, while we can barely think about any more wine, we did find some gems that we are excited to talk about.

Each February, hundreds of top wine professionals gather in Napa Valley for the must-attend trade event of the year: Premiere Napa Valley. The annual grand tasting and futures auction, held at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, helps to promote, protect and enhance the Napa Valley appellation. Premiere Napa Valley is an invitation-only event for members of the wine trade and media.

This year we were thrilled to get into some extremely exclusive wineries including Kongsgaard, Hourglass, Anderson’s Conn Valley, Turnbull and Shafer.

Over the next few weeks we will be bringing you the highlights of Premiere continuing this week with Shafer Vineyards.

This is a “must attend” event each year of Premiere Napa Valley and this year did not disappoint. We tasted each of the current vintages: Chardonnay Red Shoulder Ranch 2012, Merlot 2011, Cabernet Sauvignon One Point Five 2011, Syrah Relentless 2009 and Hillside Select 2010 (100 point wine!). We also tasted the Chardonnay Red Shoulder Ranch 2009, Merlot 2005, Syrah Relentless 2003….then it got good.

I mentioned earlier that we tasted the 2010 Hillside, that was actually nearly the last wine of a Hillside Select vertical! We started with the 2004, then the 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010 and a special-lot 2012 (still in barrel)! We all agreed that the 2005 was the star. The 2004 was beautiful, the 2006 might actually surpass the 2005 in time, the 2007 was still young, the 2010 was an absolute baby, and the 2012 was a complete enigma as it is still in barrel.

Later in the week, Joshua and I had the unique opportunity to try the 1984 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon in a blind tasting. Here are my tasting notes…”Garnet throughout with little rim variation, raw meat notes, white pepper, full-bodied still, long finish, medium to large tannins…MONSTER”. That’s right, I used the word “monster” in reference to a 30 year old wine.

With an average price of around $250, this total tasting amounted to around $2100, and every penny was right there in the bottle. Hillside Select continues to be one of Napa best and truly a world-class wine!

Premiere Napa Valley Day 1

Well, we are just back from 6 days of wine tasting at Premiere Napa Valley and, while we can barely think about any more wine, we did find some gems that we are excited to talk about.

Each February, hundreds of top wine professionals gather in Napa Valley for the must-attend trade event of the year: Premiere Napa Valley. The annual grand tasting and futures auction, held at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, helps to promote, protect and enhance the Napa Valley appellation. Premiere Napa Valley is an invitation-only event for members of the wine trade and media.

This year we were thrilled to get into some extremely exclusive wineries including Kongsgaard, Hourglass, Anderson’s Conn Valley, Turnbull and Shafer.

Over the next few weeks we will be bringing you the highlights of Premiere starting this week with Burgess.

We were on our way back down to the valley from Howell Mountain and had some time to kill before our next event, and on a whim decided to stop in at Burgess. They were not officially even open, but they were gracious enough to allow us in and we proceeded to have, arguably, our favorite tasting of the entire week. We started with the current releases: Merlot 2009, Syrah 2009 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. All were great and all clearly show that they are going to improve. We then moved on to the much maligned 2000 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon which was simply stunning! There is just something about this plot of land, somewhat up the mountain, and extremely West facing that gives these wines an amazing ability to age (more to come on that).

After our tasting ended, we were lucky enough to be able to purchase some older library wines, and we grabbed a 1996 and 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon for later that evening. Both were absolutely amazing. 1996 is universally lauded as one of the great vintages of that decade, and 1998 is universally considered the WORST year of that vintage. Lo and behold the 1998 edged out the 1996 in all of our opinions. This is a wine I could drink for the rest of my life! That being said, the 1998 is drinking better NOW, the 1996 feels like it has more to give down the road.

Later in the week, Joshua and I had the unique opportunity to try the 1984 Burgess Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon in a blind tasting. Here are my tasting notes…”Great color for a 30yr old, earthy, white pepper, cedar, lighter fruit, tastes like it has years to go”. When a Napa winery is putting out $35 Cabernets that, at 30yrs old, taste like they have “years to go” you know they are doing everything right.

We want to extend our heartfelt thanks to the gracious staff of Burgess for allowing us to taste and to congratulate them on making fantastic wines at almost unbelievable prices.

Collectible Cult Wineries

Below are some wineries that we consider to be “collectible”, wines that are rare, exceptional, back-vintage gems, or a combination of the 3. Many are list-only wines, which are not normally offered for retail. These wines, which make great gifts, will improve from additional bottle age, when properly stored, and may show the greatest potential to increase in value. All are very, very limited quantity. Every one of these spectacular wines was purchased from private sellers and must undergo very strict vetting for provenance, authenticity and condition prior to sale. Some minor issues with label conditions may exist on older wines.

Founded in 1984, Harlan Estate is a winegrowing estate in the western hills of Oakville, California – in the heart of the Napa Valley. Consisting of 240 acres (97 ha) of natural splendor set above the fabled Oakville benchlands, the property rises in elevation from 225 to 1225 feet (68 to 374 m) above sea level. Forty acres (17 ha) under vine, planted to cabernet sauvignon (70%), merlot (20%), cabernet franc (8%), and petit verdot (2%). All hillside siting, on both volcanic and sedimentary bedrock; a combination of terraced vineyards and closely spaced vines on spare soils over fractured rock; vertical trellis with shoot positioning, 360º of exposition.

Turley Wine Cellars is the most iconic Zinfandel maker in the world. With wineries in both Templeton and St. Helena, Larry Turley and Ehren Jordan (until earlier this year), have crafted some of the most long-lived and stunning reds from vines that are up to 100 years old.

The Colgin winery is located at the northern end of IX Estate in the Pritchard Hill area of St. Helena, California. A collaboration between Tom Faherty, architect from Valley Architects of St. Helena, Hendrix Allardyce Interior Design of Los Angeles, Mark Aubert and the owners, the winery features classical design coupled with contemporary technology. The winery is not open to the public, however you can buy it here. Ann Barry Colgin, owner of Colgin Cellars, heads a highly talented team who produce some of Napa Valley’s most sought after hand-crafted wines. Colgin founded the winery in 1992 with a vision of making the finest wines possible from exceptional hillside vineyards in Napa Valley. Each of the five wines produced at Colgin Cellars displays a distinctive personality and sense of place.

Cayuse is no longer a secret and it may be America's toughest mailing list to crack....but do whatever it takes to get your hands on a few of these gems." - Jay Miller, The Wine Advocate. Currently, Cayuse farms eight vineyards spread over 60 acres in the Walla Walla Valley. All are planted in the rocky soil that first caught Christophe’s attention in 1996, resulting in highly stressed vineyards that average a yield of only two tons per acre. Syrah is the dominant fruit, with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Tempranillo and Viognier making up the balance.

Sine Qua Non, the ultimate garage wine from southern California emanates from a rusty warehouse that appears to be on the wrong side of the railroad tracks running through Ventura. The winery's name is Sine Qua Non (literally translated from Latin means "without which one cannot".), and as the proprietors'(the husband and wife team of Elaine and Manfred Krankl) indicate on the label of their sumptuous 1997 Syrah called Imposter McCoy, "the truth is inside". Sine Qua Non has been producing 2,000-3,000 cases of wine for a half-dozen vintages. In this short time it has become one of the hottest and most desired wine producers in California. Elaine and Manfred Krankl are both very involved in the production of artisinal wines from their small garage/warehouse.

Quilceda Creek is dedicated exclusively to the production of world-class Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon. Founded in 1979, Quilceda Creek has had an unbroken string of highly-rated vintages that has led Robert Parker Jr. to name it Washington State’s premier Cabernet Sauvignon producer.

Hip-Hop's Influence on New Generation of Wine Drinkers

For over 30 years now hip hop and rap music has changed and developed. From Sugar Hill Gang through Lil Wayne, it has covered ground in too many areas to count, expanding in all directions as it grew. Rappers have always enjoyed promoting their vices, via paid sponsorship or simply personal promotion just because they enjoy a product. In years past, the liquid side of this mostly focused on malt liquor, cognac, and champagne. More recently though, more are more artists are starting to express their love of wine.

Champagne has always been a rap staple. For years Cristal was the brand of choice, being name dropped from every corner of the rap world. In 2006, the question, "Do you think your brand is hurt by its association with the 'bling lifestyle'?" was asked of Frédéric Rouzaud, managing director for Cristal. His response, "That's a good question, but what can we do? We can't forbid people from buying it." Not a good move. The entire hip hop world turned against it, the charge being lead by Jay Z, the former [unofficial] Cristal spokesman in the rap world. A$ap Rocky wrote, "Cristal go by the cases, wait hold up that was racist/ I would prefer the Aces, ain't no different when you taste it," referencing the Ace of Spades, Armand de Brignac.

Though champagne has always been around, now you're just as likely to hear a number of other wines mentioned in rap music. Waka Flocka Flame is sippin' Moscato, Rick Ross (AKA Ricky Rose) is forever asking for another bottle of that Rose (commonly touting Luc Belaire Rare Rose), and Drake has been known to mention everything from Chardonnay to Luc Belaire Rare Rose Santa Margherita by the liter. Wine has exploded in the hip hop world, and with it comes quite a significant increase in sales.

Some rappers are even going further. In 2008, Lil Jon founded Little Jonathan Winery, and Nelly's St. Lunatics have been producing Freaky Muscato for the past three years.

“In 2010, [Moscato] sales in- creased in the U.S. by 50 percent,” says Natalia Iglesias, senior brand manager at Martini. The largest growing demographic? 20-30 year olds. Whether you enjoy hip hop or not, it is growing and refining the tastes of a generation, introducing them to the wine world.


Staff Picks

The staff here, at Saratoga Wine, obviously tastes dozens, if not hundreds of wines each month. Sometimes we agree with the "professional tasters", and sometimes we disagree. Rarely do we publish our opinions, because they are just that...ours. We are all happy to give our thoughts when asked by customers though, so please never hesitate if you are curious about any particular wine. Occasionally, when a wine is un-reviewed, we will use this format to give our tasting notes.

This week we tasted:

NxNW Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009

Matt Swapp (Staff):

I was blown away by this wine. Full disclosure, I really, really enjoy full-bodied reds from Washington State, there is just something about the balance between fruitiness and earthiness that I find in these reds that I usually miss in Napa Valley. I had never previously heard of this producer, and the story is interesting. A grape-buying "project", NxNW (North by Northwest) has relationships with growers in the Columbia Valley allowing them to pick and choose grapes from some of the best vineyards in the northwest, including Alder Ridge and the world famous Seven Hills Vineyard in Walla Walla. The nose was very plum dominant with hints of chocolate and graphite. Tons of fruit on the palate makes this a wine that makes me want a pepper crusted steak to alternate bites with sips. Something I also really appreciate is the relatively low alcohol content on this Cab., 13.5% is very modest by the standards set by Northern California. It is extremely refreshing to enjoy a really robust red without that alcohol "afterburn". This wine immediately reminded me, to some extent, of the Charles Smith Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon from last year....which i finished off my 3rd (and sadly last) case of recently.

All in all, a fantastic drinker, and a wine that feels like it will easily last a few years!


The New Shop

Well, the move is finally complete! We loved our 10 years in downtown Saratoga Springs, but with all your help, we simply outgrew the space. We have moved down the Northway to our new expanded location in the Hannaford Plaza Just off exit 11. We have plenty of parking here and if you are coming north or south on the northway it will probably be easier to stop in at our new location than find a parking spot in downtown Saratoga. As always you can still shop online and have it shipped to the store to take advantage of our expanded online selection and deeper online discounts.

You can now find us at:

New Hannaford Plaza (Old Malta Mall)

43 Round Lake Road Suite 3

Ballston Lake, NY 12019

Toll Free: 1-877-493-6532

Local Phone: 518-899-9463

We look forward to seeing everyone that helped us become the company that we are.

"Que Syrah Syrah"

Syrah is the fastest growing (in popularity/planting) grape in our country. Cabernet Sauvignon is still king, but more like a modern day king in his waning years, who has no heir of his own. I attribute this to two things; the obvious similarity in taste from one Cab to the next (which is one of its attractions for many people) , and the increasing prices of California (and now Washington) Cabernet. Syrah is being planted EVERYWHERE and can, and does, taste dramatically different from one area to the next, hell even from one slope to the next. The same can be made true of Cabernet, of course, but not for the right price.

Great syrahs are coming from some very inexpensive land areas: Paso Robles, Eastern Washington, California's Central Valley (long the home of "bulk wine"), Missouri, and even the Arizona desert. Pick a couple up from different areas and taste how amazingly unique they can be. Some of my current favorites are any of the Ojai syrahs and the lovely wines being created by Dumol Cellars.

I broke in my new smoker some old and new friends, with a batch of mesquite smoked pork loin. One friend, who has now achieved "great friend status" brought a bottle of Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz 1998! Everyone knows P-L and they consistently make great shiraz, but Stonewell is kind of rare even in the business. And 1998 is considered the best year for Aussie reds in a generation. He knew neither and just wanted to share a great bottle with friends. Keeper (the friend and the bottle)! After 2 hours in decanter the whole house smelled like plum and raspberry and spice. This wine was still young at 10 years.

Basement Surprise

Two weeks ago, while working on a slow Monday afternoon, I received a call from a local customer who asked if I was willing to help him check the quality and value of some bottles that he had recently found in the basement of the house that his father had left him. I end up doing this a few times every year, it seems, and it generally results in showing the owner how he/she can type the name of the wine into Google and discover that the bottle of White Star/Beringer/Mondavi/etc. is worth exactly what the price tag on it says.

Steve walked in carrying a dusty cardboard box filled with very dusty, oddly shaped bottles. The bottles were labeled as Moet 1922, and had clearly been re-filled. Back then, many bottles were hand-blown, and this was certainly the case here. Immediately I was disappointed when I saw that the corks were loose, port corks. Bad sign. We poured 2 glasses and it instantly smelled and looked like old Sherry, brown and cloudy. Obviously fortified (high alcohol), but still a nice nuttiness. I braced myself and took a sip, and while it was completely vinegary, it wasn't bad. At some point, his father had made a very passable, basement Sherry, that had survived for as many as 40 years without tight corks or good conditions. It was one of the most interesting days I have had since I started in this business.

Phew, what is that smell?!

I was recently pouring wine for some friends when I detected that familiar aroma, "cork". I explained to them why I was discarding the bottle, and while they both politely nodded, it was obvious that neither of them had any idea what I was talking about. This is not that big a deal to me when the wine if you drink inexpensive wine exclusively, but these were customers who clearly enjoyed much more expensive bottles when dining out. If that is your situation, you need to be familiar with the most pervasive problem in wine today: TCA, commonly referred to as "cork taint".

TCA (2,4,6 trichloroanisole) is a bacterial contamination in certain natural, or pressed corks. It is in no way harmful, except to your sense of smell. TCA, and its little brother TCB, will generally be described as smelling like moldy newspaper. It is not as easy to distinguish this on the cork itself, as much as in the wine. Once an infected cork has been placed in the bottle, the wine is effectively tainted, permanently. There is no way to remove the smell once it is there. It is such a problem because it can be picked up at levels as low as 10 parts-per-TRILLION! Because of its tiny effective levels, there is no point in dumping out a glass which has contained a "corked" wine, a new, or well rinsed glass is needed, otherwise you are just going to "infect" the new wine poured.

There are conflicting reports as to the percentage of wine that is affected by TCA/TCB. I have read everything from 1% to 15%, but the number that I see most often is between 6-7%. In the past 3 days, I have pulled the cork on 3 different bottles with TCA, from a $10 bottle of South American white to a $40 California Red.

The good news is that distributors and producers recognize this problem and allow for a certain percentage of returns, so if you do feel your bottle is "corked", stop drinking, and return it to the location you purchased it, or notify your server. Usually this will result in an exchange for another of the same bottle. This is OK as it is very unusual to get multiple tainted bottles in the same lot.

Allergic to Sulfites? Probably not...

Here is an issue I have been dealing with for years, friends who believe that they are allergic to sulfites. Sulfites are possibly the most misunderstood aspect of winemaking by the general public. Let’s spend a few minutes discussing the benefits of sulfites and dispelling some of the rumors and wives' tales.

#1. Sulfites are added, intentionally, as a preservative in all wines. The only preservative. There are wines out there that are sulfite-free, but they spoil quickly, often in as little as 6 months. Think about how long that bottle has probably been on the store shelf and reconsider buying it!

#2 Sulfites are a byproduct of fermentation. All wine containing alcohol has sulfites, naturally. Sulfite-free wines must mechanically remove the sulfites, removing all kinds of other good stuff in the process. Again, avoid!

#3. Organic and sulfites are mutually exclusive. Don't be tricked into thinking that organic wines are sulfite-free or vice-versa. Organic wineries are not allowed to use copper sulfate as a pest repellent, which is a good thing, but they still usually add sulfites as a preservative. Likewise, the vast majority of wineries which make wines costing more than $12-15 are no longer using copper sulfate for pest control either, they just aren't advertising it. France and Napa/Sonoma have taken huge strides in the use of natural pest controls and weeding, the new favorites are planting other, complimentary agricultural products between the rows of grapes (i.e. mustard, in Napa) and allowing sheep and goats to free graze in vineyards.

Finally, the question of allergies. If, when you drink wine, you go into cardio-arrhythmia, and have to be rushed to the hospital, you almost certainly have a sulfite allergy. Sulfite allergies are similar to bee sting allergies or shellfish middle ground. If, however, when you drink red wine, particularly heavy, tannic reds, and become flushed and develop a headache, you are probably having a reaction to the histamines found in the skin of red wine grapes. The same histamines that are probably making you sneeze or itchy, seasonally. The true test is whether red affects you the same as white. If you react worse to red, know that white wine has around 3 times as much sulfite as red (it is used to clarify as well as preserve), so again, not a sulfite issue.

If you must drink red wine, I recommend a NON-DROWSY anti-histamine, such as Claritin OTC, or Zyrtec (my small secret, I have to resort to them from time to time, embarrassing when you do this for a living). Whatever you do, do not combine Benadryl with alcohol! I cannot emphasize this enough; I don't want you waking up in the hospital.

This blogger is not a doctor, and in no way advocates, or recommends the taking of any medications without consulting your own physician

Port. No not left, I said Port!

We recently made plans to enjoy a Saturday night barbeque with a our neighbors. As Texans (the neighbors), barbeque always consists of brisket, and only brisket, smoked for 10-11 hours. Not having a smoker, I decided to bring a few racks of mustard/bourbon glazed baby back ribs. We paired a nice Sonoma Zinfandel (Turley) which worked out great. I had been looking for an excuse to open a bottle of vintage port that I have been holding on to for years, and this looked to be as good a time as any. Now for the real question. How long to decant a 1985 Fonseca Port. The accepted practice is no more than 2 hours for an older, delicate Port, but as this was the only bottle I had of a particularly great year; I didn't want to risk it. I emailed Fonseca, and, surprisingly, they responded. Contrary to what most drinkers think, Fonseca recommends extended decanting. They turned me on to what is referred to as the Hirsh Method. I have included it below, without the lengthy explanations.

7 years or less: *10-12 hours of decanting time

8 -15 years old: *8-10 hours of decanting time

16-25 years old: *6-8 hours of decanting time

26-35 years old: *4-6 hours of decanting time

36-45 years old: *3-5 hours of decanting time

46-60 years old *2-3 hours of decanting time

60 years old: *1-3 hours of decanting time

I gave it 7 hours, and was overwhelmed by the intense blueberry, raspberry jam, and graphite notes pouring out of the decanter. A few hours later, we were all regretting the ridiculous amount of meat we had just consumed. Time for a great cigar and the port. So sad! I had pulled the cork years too early. This wine has so many more years to go, that while we all fully enjoyed it, I could only think of how it would taste in 10 years.

10 Wines to try before you Die! Part 3

This blog is to point you toward something you HAVEN'T tried. Something new, something exciting, maybe even something that will change how you drink and feel about wine. So without further ado, the wines you must try before you die:

Wine #7 - Aglianico, is a black grape grown in the Basilicata and Campania regions of Italy. The vine originated in Greece and was brought to the south of Italy by Greek settlers. The name may be a corruption of Vitis hellenica, Latin for "Greek vine". Another etymology derives the name Aglianico from a corruption of Apulianicum, the Latin adjective which indicates the whole of southern Italy in the Roman age. In early Roman times, it was the principal grape of the famous Falernian wine which was the Roman equivalent of a First Growth wine today. Aglianico, often seen as Taurasi (the AVA), is a dense, brooding red that often reminds me of Malbec, just with way more refinement. This wine demands fat, be-it from steak, ribs, etc, all of which lend themselves to summer grilling.

Wine #8 - Sicily, with its Vermentino/Nero d'Avola is One of Europe's oldest viticultural regions still offers some pleasant surprises. Sicily's oenological history is an ancient one, dating from the time when the island was part of Magna Graecia. One usually associates fine wines with eastern Sicily and the areas near Mount Etna, but many new wineries have sprung up across the island. Sicilian oeniculture is not just varietals. Sicily's vintage wines are a magical creation, and many of the island's traditional wines and spirits are famous far beyond its shores. Vermentino, like Muscadet, is a white that cries out for fresh seafood....and we mean FRESH. Nero d'Avola, an inky, dark red, has an unexpected freshness that lends itself to a number of dishes, especially spicy ones. Have a friend that is eating a spicy dish, but refuses to drink white....Nero d'Avola!

Wine #9 - Albarino; Rias Baixas, Spain: It was presumably brought to Iberia by Cluny monks in the twelfth century. Its name "Alba-Riño" means "the white from the Rhine" and it has locally been thought to be a Riesling clone originating from the Alsace region of France, although earliest known records of Riesling as a grape variety date from the 15th, rather than the 12th, century. This mineral loaded, zesty white is one of the perfect summer-sippers. The closest relative, on my palate, is possibly a crisp Viognier from France. Loads of character, significantly less than their French equivalent, and (unfortunately) much more difficult to find.

Wine #10 - Chablis, France: This may seem like an odd choice, as everyone has heard of Chablis. I am including it in the list because Chablis has had such a hit to its reputation from all the "chablis" made in this country over the years. Chablis is, without a doubt, the most misunderstood wine on Earth. Stunningly great Chardonnay. Price can be an impediment, as it can with all great wines, but this is a wine worth splurging on if you love Chardonnay. The great ones can last longer than you, the not great ones can last 20 years. If it has a loop on the bottle, it is NOT Chablis. Go French, pay as if it were electronics (I apologize if you ever bought a Technics know who you are), and open it an hour before you want to drink it, you won't be disappointed.

Let me reiterate, I am not faulting you for liking Modavi/Gallo/Banfi/etc.....I do as well. Consistency and versatility has its place. I'm just saying branch out every once and a while, take a risk. If there are umlauts in the name, buy one. A schwa above the vowel...not dangerous. A tilde above the "n"...grab it! I am being facetious at this point, but you get the idea. The wine world is HUGE, take off your blinders.

10 Wines to try before you Die! Part 2

This blog is to point you toward something you HAVEN'T tried. Something new, something exciting, maybe even something that will change how you drink and feel about wine. So without further ado, the wines you must try before you die:

Wine #2 - Red Mountain Reds, Washington State: The Red Mountain AVA is an American Viticultural Area that includes the land surrounding Red Mountain in Benton County, Washington. It is part of the Yakima Valley AVA, which in turn is part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA. Located between Benton City and Richland, the Red Mountain AVA is the smallest in the state at only 4,040 acres in area.The area has 600 acres under cultivation of primarily red varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. The reputation of the wines produced in this area has brought Red Mountain AVA worldwide acclaim. The vineyards in this appellation have produced grapes for some of the most sought after wines in Washington State.

Wine #3 - Lebanon is among the oldest sites of wine production in the world. The Phoenicians of its coastal strip were instrumental in spreading wine and viticulture throughout the Mediterranean in ancient times. Despite the many conflicts of the region, the country has an annual production of about 600,000 cases of wine. Recently the sector has been witnessing an unprecedented growth.The number of wineries went from 5 in 1998 to over 30 nowadays. Check out Chateau Musar, with about 40 years of back-vintage offerings still drinking superbly.

Wine #4 - Muscadet; Loire Valley, Frace: Muscadet is a white French wine. It is made at the western end of the Loire Valley, near the city of Nantes in the Pays de la Loire region neighboring the Brittany Region. More Muscadet is produced than any other Loire wine. It is made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape, often referred to simply as melon. These crisp whites are the perfect accompaniment the season known as summer. Shellfish and Muscadet are like Romeo and Juliet. In particular, try a Sevre Et Maine Sur Lie (will trail the wine name), which is aged on the Lis and develops some very complex yeasty/nutty goodness.

10 Wines to try before you Die! Part 1

Robert Modavi Cabernet, Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay, Two-Buck having NOT tried one of these three wines is a sucker bet. Napa Valley, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Rioja....heard of them? Tried them? Of course you have, at least one of them.

There are somewhere between 5000 and 10000 varietals of wine on Earth. That is a big number! Hundreds of countries make wine, and export it. 20 million acres of wine grapes planted. Don't let your experience end at Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Stretch yourself...if Pinot Noir was a new grape for you a few years ago, try Sangiovese. Had Sangiovese?, try Grenache. Now Dolcetto, then Melon de Bourgogne, then Corvina.....there is literally more wines to taste than your lifetime will realistically allow. You will find a wine you enjoy more than Merlot, or Chardonnay, or Riesling. Most of us like Merlot, Cab and Chard, but most of us also like Kraft Singles. That should not mean we don't try other cheeses, and there is a world of both wine and cheese out there, baby. Try all you can (and try them together)!

This blog is to point you toward something you HAVEN'T tried. Something new, something exciting, maybe even something that will change how you drink and feel about wine. So without further ado, the wines you must try before you die:

Wine #1 - Finger Lakes Riesling: Perhaps New York wines do not get the recognition they deserve. New York is the second-largest wine-producing state in the U.S and has a long and distinguished winemaking history. The oldest continuously operating winery in the United States is located here, as is the second largest wine company. The most important region is the Finger Lakes, an AVA which produces 85% of New York wines. You can score Rieslings from just about every state that produces wine (and that is all 50!), but real value can be found in the Finger Lakes.