Archive for the ‘Question of The Week’ Category

Question of the Week, Win Wine Road Barrel Tasting Tickets

Its that time again: today through Wednesday go to the Wine Road’s Facebook Fan site, to submit your wine related “Question of the Week.” We will choose a question, answer it Thursday in a blog article, and the selected person will win two tickets to Barrel Tasting, or a Wine Road cookbook.

To post your question, please go to the Wine Road Facebook Fan page, and under today’s post, write your question.  Wednesday afternoon we will pick. (And last week, Beth gave out 3 more pairs of tickets for runners up!)

Also don’t forget two more chances to win: at the end of today, and end of this month, we will have a drawing for email subscribers of Simple Hedonisms, for more Barrel Tasting tickets.

For those of you that followed our contest two weeks ago, we asked for your thoughts and prayers for winner Melissa Martin Mayorgas, whose son was about to have  a muscle biopsy at Children’s San Diego Hospital to determine what type of muscular dystrophy he has.  Melissa was concerned as little boys with MD are susceptible to malignant hyperthermia during general anesthesia. I am happy to share that her son Parker came through great!

In the next few weeks, I will be writing more articles for Barrel Tasting to help for consumer planning and enjoyment. Ultimately this blog is for you, the wine consumer. If there are any topics or areas of assistance you’d like to see, let me know in comments.


Question of the Week: “How long can I keep an unopened bottle of wine”

I’d like to thank the many Fans of the Wine Road on Facebook who submitted questions for this week’s contest. We had many great responses, in fact I don’t think we can choose just one, so in addition to this answer, the Wine Road ladies ‘may’ more to announce on their Facebook Fan page, so go there!

Also don’t forget there are two drawings this month, for email subscribers of Simple Hedonisms, so go over to the right sign and sign up for (secure, no spam) email notification of new articles.

Many of the questions asked were of use to the typical wine consumer, in my opinion, and I will be coming back to this list for future articles. (Look for an upcoming poll.)

Drum Roll Please

Our winner is Melissa Martin Mayorgas, of Temecula, California, with her question:

“How long can I keep an unopened bottle of red wine, same question for whites.”

This is an excellent question on many levels. Storage of wine, both opened, and unopened, is one of the critical, and often ill-treated factors in enjoying wine.

Like many things about wine, the answer can be both simple and complex at the same time. I will focus on the basics first, and then delve in.

But first a little about about Melissa (and her husband Dan.) Proud mother of 2 handsome boys. When I asked her to tell me her thoughts and interest in wine,  she shares:

“Hubby and I started drinking wine when we moved to Temecula 6.5 years ago. We’re members at a few wineries here and we try to get out tasting once a month. I love a great Sauvignon Blanc, but I’m starting to enjoy reds more. I try to be very open minded about wine and drink wine that goes with what I’m eating. I’m still a novice, in my opinion, but learning more every day.We’re coming to Sonoma at the end of May for our 15th wedding anniversary.”

I love people like this. At the early stages of wine exploration, they likely know more than they give themselves credit for, and their palette is like a canvas, awaiting paint. With open minds and willing glasses, the world is their oyster, with so many paths of discovery. After 20 years of drinking wine, I find there is a never ending journey of amazing discoveries, if you aren’t afraid to ask questions, read and continuously try new things.

I will tackle wine storage another day, only to state now, if you are buying wine, and subjecting it to temperature fluctuations of 20+ degrees a day, and keeping it over 70 degrees, open it tomorrow, as you are ruining it. That wine that stayed unprotected last summer when it went over 90 for days in your non air conditioned house  – it lost years of bottle potential, drink it this weekend. (We won’t even delve into light and vibration.)

Even during the stages of wine making, wine (whites especially) are very susceptible to exposure to air (oxygenation.)

As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t keep an open bottle of wine more than 2-3 days.

This is subject to a number of variables, most of which are common sense if you understand the process.

The wider the wine surface area exposure to air, the faster wine oxidizes. In the old days, it was common to pull the cork on a bottle of wine, to let it ‘breathe.’ Wrong.  Look at a full wine bottle – how much surface area of the 750 ml of wine is exposed to air after a cork is removed? .05%? Studies have shown you can uncork a wine, let it sit, and 24 hours later, barely any oxidation has occurred.

How could it have.  The effect on the open wine is in direct correlation of the surface area of the wine, exposed to air. That’s why we pour wine into decanters when we want it to breath  – a decanter generally has a very big bowl, and exposes much more of the surface area to air, this allowing the wine to ‘breathe’ much faster. Pour a glass from the bottle, and now the wine in the glass, and what’s in the bottle will now ‘breathe’ much faster.

Thus our basic premise lesson: the more volume of the wine is exposed to air, f0llowed by how long;  the less long it will be drinkable. (or at least enjoyable.)

So let’s translate this into the question and some additional basic facts on wine aging.

  • There is a wide held belief that open white wines ‘keep’ longer. Not true, if anything white wines are more fragile and susceptible. So where did this myth come from? White wine is often stored in the fridge (which is a WAY too cold a drinking temperature fyi.) The lower temperature, slows down the oxidation process. One of the ways to slow down oxidation of an open red wine is to put it into the fridge overnight. Remember to take it out prior to drinking, to return to an optimal temperature of 57-58 degrees. Same for whites, its a tragedy to drink a good white out of the fridge at a 40 degree temperature.
  • Devices that try to remove air, or create a vacuum, like a Vacu-vin help to some extent. However the less wine in the bottle the more exposure to air, and there is only so much a Vacu-vin can do. Injecting a small amount of an inert gas like nitrogen, is also a method to help preserve. You can also buy very expensive devices that keep the bottle sealed and preserved in between pours, like what you see at higher end wine bars, especially if they pour expensive wines by the glass. Note that one does not use air extraction techniques on sparkling wines: buy a device that reseals the bottle, or better yet, just enjoy all the bubbly.
  • One of the simplest ways to help wine last longer is to transfer it to a smaller container. I keep a few empty of 375 ml half bottles around. If you have half of less of a bottle of wine, by pouring it into this you have once again reduced the surface area of exposure, and will extend its life.
  • The type of wine varietal, production techniques, and age will all have an impact on how long it can last. A young red with with lots of tannins, high oak, and structure will benefit from the air exposure, and last longer. A wine that has already aged and mellowed, and is at or past its drinking prime, may deteriorate much faster, and be less desirable after 6-8 hours.

I could go on extensively, but I think this will suffice. I’d be happy, with expressed reader interest, to write more on wine storage devices and cellars. I have used many of both.

Congratulations again to Melissa – we look forward to welcoming her and hubby when they come to visit for barrel tasting.

I’d ask on a personal note, you keep she and her family, especially her youngest son Parker,  in your thoughts and prayers today. In getting to know her yesterday, I learned he’s having a muscle biopsy at Children’s San Diego today to determine what type of muscular dystrophy he has. Little boys with MD are susceptible to malignant hyperthermia during general anesthesia. Sonoma is a nurturing place – lets extend our good karma, and positive wishes to this family. See you soon Melissa! Big hugs to Parker!

Question of the Week – Winery Recommendations for Winter Wineland event

I hope everyone’s new decade is off to a good start, and less frenzied than mine!

This week’s question of the week is:

If you were steering a visitor during the Winter Wineland coming up in a few weeks, what wineries would you urge them to visit?

This is a great question, one that I will answer in a few different posts. But first, for the uninitiated, what is the Winter Wineland?

This is an annual event, hosted by the Wine Road, Northern Sonoma County. I have long sung the praises of this marketing organization, which represents 150+ wineries, in the appellations (wine regions) of Russian River, Alexander Valley, Green Valley, and Dry Creek Valley.  I will write a follow-on article with tips to maximize enjoyment of this event, for now I refer to my posting on the last event, Wine And Food Affair, which still apply.

With over 120 wineries participating, there are any number of ways to decide where to go; by geography, by wine type, by food offerings, by wineries not open to public normal, by your normal favorites.Are you going for 1 day, or both? Generally, 4-5 in a day is about what you can expect to experience and enjoy, unless you are jamming through, spitting, and hitting denser clusters of wineries. Wine and wine country is to be enjoyed, and leisurely, go for quality of experience, not quantity.

As a rule of thumb, the first day of an event is ‘usually’ the busiest, and the mid afternoon on times are the craziest. Plan your stops accordingly, and make popular places your first, and lesser known ones perhaps later. Some wineries and their experience will resonate with you and make you sing like a bird, others may not make you all warm and fuzzy. I think  it’s a good idea to save a winery you know will be a good experience to finish on, to end your day on a high note.

I highly recommend you print out and read the detailed (11 page) list of participating Wineries, and what they are offering.  Live music, food pairings, library wines: each winery has unique offers.

This years Winter Wineland has a record number of participants (kudos to the wineries for solidarity.) I think it always good to visit some of the new participants to encourage them, especially if they are new to you. But don’t forget your favorites and the steadfast regular attendees.

I certainly have my own favorites wineries: for this posting I am going to highlight some of the new member wineries, many I have not yet explored. In a subsequent post, I will write about some of my favorites, and my planned itinerary. (Day 2 is mapped out, Day 1 still in progress.)

  • D’Argenzio – this new member winery, is in Santa Rosa, and is an Italian family offer Italian varietals not commonly produced in this area, including Sangiovese, Muscato Canelli and Rossat, being tasted at a special event this Saturday. They also source and crush traditional Sonoma varietla like Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, etc.
  • Robert Rue – new member winery, in Fulton. A family of Growers now also turned small wine producer –  Currently offering a 2005 and 2006 Russian River Zin. < 800 cases, old Vine Zins. Be among the first to visit Bob and Carlene Rue’s “just opened” Tasting Room. Taste award-winning Zinfandels paired with Mushroom Soup prepared by winery chef Kathy Bradley, and hand-made truffles by Gandolf’s Fine Chocolates.
  • Souverainnew member winery. Their gorgeous Cloverdale property is offering historic Asti Tours at 11:30 am,
    1:00 pm and 2:30 pm
  • New Members Hart’s Desire, J. Keverson, and the Hudson Street Wineries, visit 8+ wineries all side by side, right off downtown Healdsburg. Hart’s is offering a Mediterranean Lamb Stew that will pair wonderfully with their Red wine selections. (good Pinot!) (Make sure you go around and see Holdredge too. ) J. Keverson is offering a Chipotle-Squash Soup with Fresh
    Rosemary and Toasted Pumpkin 2006 Hales Zinfandel.
  • Freestone Vineyards – a little off the beaten track, this new member and newer winery has a comfortable home like tasting room, and makes great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Lounge around the fire, and enjoy!

Haven’t bought your tickets yet! $40 for two days of wine tasting and food pairings! Advance ticket sales end Jan 11th, and prices go up to $50 for the weekend, so get them soon.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to post any questions or comments. If you enjoy Simple Hedonisms, sign up for (secure, private) email notifications of new posts, in the top right, so you never miss a post!

Question of the Week: Recommendations for an Every Day Wine (chardonnay in this case)

Welcome to the Inaugural post of “Question of the Week.”

This week’s chosen question is week from a Facebook follower/friend Janey Patton Russell who enjoys wine, and learning. (One of the things I love about wine, is you are never done learning.)

I have a chardonnay question for you. You will laugh or may think my every day choice of chardonnay wine is gross.  I really enjoy Clos Du Bois for my “everyday” wine sometimes I step it up to Rombauer or Sonoma Cutrer. That said do you have a suggestion for me for a nice, dry chardonnay? I like Sonoma, Russian River Valley.  Tried Toasted Head here and there but over that.  Prefer  dry, a little buttery,  but certainly not a lot. Come to think of it I like it dry and oaky!

Great questions. Long time friends of mine may find it ironic I am doing reviews of chardonnay and being asked questions. Until the last few years, I generally shunned chardonnays, my palette not enjoying most of the US made highly oaked, buttery styles. As I have dove headfirst into exploring whites, (especially Rhone varietals) I have learned more and more to be open minded, and explore more styles and countries.

Explore and Branch Out: The many names of chardonnay

I am hardly a Franco-phile, but I have been embracing French wines more (don’t worry Sonoma County, my heart is yours forever), especially white wine from Burgundy…..which is chardonnay. You may hear or see “white burgundy” or “chablis” or “pouilly-fuise” – don’t be confused. All of these are chardonnay, the latter two being appellations (regions) of Burgundy, France. Unfortunately many people hear ‘white burgundy’ or ‘chablis’  still have memories of low quality white jug wines from decades ago, in a travesty of marketing.

How to Pick a Wine, Where to Buy

One of the challenging things of recommending wine to the average consumer outside of this area, is there is little consistency, even in a national chain, of what you can buy. Even Costco varies what they offer by location. There are certainly a few brands you can find many places, but I have to say as a general rule, I shy away from a bottle of wine that had one million cases made. I am buying and tasting more larger production wines for review (my personal cellar still stays mostly small producers) to assist with this, but it will always be a challenge.

(It is worthwhile to note that even the million+ case wineries will bottle a release in much smaller scale. I was amazed at a visit to the La Crema winery (not the tasting room) to taste through 5 pinot noirs and 5 chardonnays. I knew of their massive scale releases, but was pleased to enjoy bottles of limited small lot production as well.)

So when asked, in addition to exact bottle/wine recommendations, I am will often give you some broader guidelines.

My answer to this enquiry:

” I generally drink a newer style of chard, which is unoaked and non ML (not buttery)…odds are you won’t find many of these in a every day retail store. Rombauer and Sonoma Cutrer are definately higher end better chards. If you ever see say, a Lynmar or Hartford Court (won’t be at Safeway) try them, although more pricey. They will have the oak and ML components, but be beautifully balanced.

One you could try, that should be easily found, is La Crema…they have several mass produced chardonnays that are widely distributed and decent, and they also have some great ones here that don’t make mass market. I haven’t tasted through Kendall Jackson’s chardonnay releases entirely, but enjoyed some of their whites at the Heirloom Tomato Festival this fall.

My best suggestion – try your local wine shop. Explain your tastes, and what you like, and what you want to spend. for the same money you will get something from a smaller winery. Let them recommend a few and buy 2-3 of those for comparison.

Be opened minded to other countries as well:  French, Australia, Chile. I shunned France for years, but have re-opened that, especially now that I drink more chardonnay. Chardonnay from Pouilly-Fuissé region of Burgundy tend to be reasonable. I had one last night actually that I really enjoyed, I picked up at K and L Wines.

Don’t apologize for drinking chards, its one of the world’s most planted and consumed varietals, and the French still make really great, original style. The bad name came from the over oaked US garbage. Instead embrace it, and see what you can learn about styles, different areas. Australians’ make good chards as well.

My friend responded back with one more comment I thought worth sharing.

Thanks so much! I will try your suggestions. I had a feeling you being a real wine person would not drink chardonnay. I was told by a guy at the store to try this one French but I did not….I will go back and ask him again what it was. I’m going to embrace my love of chardonnay and learn as much as I can. Thanks for the boost of confidence! I’m told by my wine  friends that real wine drinkers don’t drink anything bit reds.

I’d tell her the wine friends are clueless, but frankly I was one of those for 12+ of my 20 years drinking wine.  It took some pushing and exploration at first, but once my mindset and palette cracked, and I discovered gems like Viognier, Torrontes, Rousanne, Marsanne, and now some chardonnay, pinot gris, chenin blanc and more – my experience and enjoyment of wine has increased many fold – so many more options, things to learn, and tastes, aromas to experience. Open your minds and palettes, try things, wine is a never ending journey, or should be.

And as I will constantly repeat, do not drink your white wine overchilled. (Unless its not very well made, then by all means drink it right from the fridge.) You can not experience the aroma, mouthfeel, and nuances of a wine if you drink it out of the fridge at 52 degrees.

Hope you found this useful, I’d love comments. You can also reach my on Facebook, Twitter, or the Contact Me, tab.


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