Valentine Salentein was Fine Wine

salentein-bInterestingly, as we commented in the earlier posting about the difference between the magnums and the regular 750ml bottles, this single-vineyard bottling was more like the flavor of the magnums of the 2010 Malbec–a little more tannin, more flavor in “the middle,” and a longer-lasting finish. We wondered if the magnums contain a different blend than the general Malbec, with perhaps a bit more from this single vineyard.

Over a 2+ hour period, it continued to improve. As always, we left a little on our cruvinet system (a Nitrogen system to halt Oxidation) to try the next day. But by then it was over the hill; our lengthy dinner allowed it to go beyond it’s best. Sometimes, heavily tannic wines need 3-4 hours open time for their full flavor to emerge. Continue reading “Valentine Salentein was Fine Wine”

Salentein for Your Valentine?

This wine adventure begins in the early 2000s, when Rose and I decided to travel to Argentina to explore their great wines. We had been enthusiasts of Argentine wines since the early 1990s, when we had annointed Malbecs as the next great value in wines. So, although we did not make it to Mendoza on this trip (we instead hung out at Iguazu Falls, and then at Punte del Este), we tasted a large variety of Argentine Malbecs in Buenos Aires.

We tasted the price range, from lower priced wines to several of the high-priced ones; as usual, the best values were in a notch above the lowest prices. Of course, we tasted the wines with food, and the pampas beef and the puffy fries were our favorites. And on our last night, we had an excellent dinner at a restaurant near the dock area–a bit out of the way. Continue reading “Salentein for Your Valentine?”

More Into Wine In Walla Walla

Another Featured Posting by Jan Beks, The Wining Dutchman!

At the end of July 2009 we headed for Walla Walla. From The Dalles, OR, it is about a half day drive to this centre of more than 100 wineries in the South East of Washington State. For the first time in 2 years we are able to travel together again. My travel partner Teresa surprised me with scheduling a five day trip into this booming wine area. Situated at the same latitude as the major French wine areas it substantially has grown over the years since it established in 1984.

We discovered that once we arrived in the region it became even harder to select the wineries and their tasting rooms we wanted to visit. An article by the Wine Spectator given to us by Stacy was some help but as adventurous as a Middle East Correspondent and as stubborn as a Wining Dutchman can be it sounded nice to try some other places too or instead of the pre-selected ones.

After we found a campground and set up our tents (our residences during the length of our stay in the Walla Walla Valley) we spend our first day (or what was left of it) in the city of Walla Walla. This was because some of the major wineries left the airport area and relocated their tasting rooms all over the town and the country side. Not that there aren’t any left at the airport; there are some good ones there but none of the ones left were on our first list.

Once in the city of Walla Walla we got wine brochures (e.g. the Touring Washington’s Wine Region) about the area and all the tasting rooms available. And as we like to make things even harder we had limited ourselves to two max three tasting rooms a day. Although the car we drove was big enough to carry a lot of bottles home we both simply didn’t want to spend a fortune on wines. Also until this day I don’t want to spit out the wine I am tasting, I want to experience the joy of swallowing it. So safe driving was an issue too. Continue reading “More Into Wine In Walla Walla”

Umpqua Valley’s Henry the V

This is a posting by Jan Beks, from the Netherlands, and now working in the Middle East. Thank you Jan!

In great contrast to the sweet Tokaji wine experience posted recently was my experience in 2007 in the south of Oregon. We were finally able to visit the winery Stacy recommended in the area around Roseburg. That was on one of our annual trips with Poppy, visiting his 60th and somewhat year school reunion. I am glad we followed your hint and visited Henry’s Estate Winery . We did the wine tasting and as a last we decided to try the Henry the V 2004.

This red wine is a blend of 5 different wines in for it seems the perfect mixture of grapes grown by the owner at this particular place in that particular year: 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cabernet Franc, 13% Merlot, 7% Syrah and 1% Malbec. For just over $30 a bottle I was tempted to buy more than the one bottle we did buy to take with us back to the Netherlands. But we simply had no other choice since the airlines wouldn’t allow us even one bottle more.

The bottle laid down for almost a year in our kitchen before we decided to open it up, a little before the summer of 2008. And wow! It tasted even better than the year before, and while drinking it empty over the time period of a couple of days, half way through those days we both wished we had bought 5 cases of this suburb wine. Don’t ask me about the fruits, coffees, chocolates, acidity or whatever in the taste. I am still a beginner, but believe me, Teresa and I really enjoyed the fond touch of our taste buds. Heaven was back again! Continue reading “Umpqua Valley’s Henry the V”

From King to King

This is a Special Posting by Jan Beks, from the Netherlands. Thank you Jan!

Long after my first wine experience I went on my first trip into a cellar all covered with mildew in the far Eastern part of Hungary. It was my first ever wine tasting, sometime in 1997. Close to the Romanian border and not far from the Transylvanian area where vampires used to haunt humans like you and me. There it was where I would be taken for several wine tastings over a period of two years. I thought I had found my love but instead the only love I found was love for the region’s famous wines.

By the way it was around the same era Teresa (Stacy’s sister) was at arm’s length without me noticing it. Such a small world.

Each time a cellar visit started with some “ordinary” wines from the region or nearby.

The region being famous for its white wines, a Furmint was usually the first one to be tasted. Already much better than the red ones from the center and western part of Hungary. I am referring to the Bikavér (Bull’s Blood) wine which is improving, but in the old days stood for cheap and nasty tasting. A Furmint is a dry wine and since I didn’t like dry white wines back then for me the tasting really started with an édes (sweet) served. The first one was called Szamorodni, already nice fruity and some kind of sweet. The Szamorodni was followed by an Aszú, standing for real sweet. Starting off with the három (three) puttonyos, which sometimes was better tasting than a Szamorodni, but not necessarily. Continue reading “From King to King”

Beat the Dao Jones Average

Perhaps that title is a bit too vague; so much for catchy titles! The purpose of this post is to highlight the wines of the Dao Valley, in Portugal. This post is in two parts, the first part is a story, the second part is a follow-up on a visit to the Dao Valley.

Part One: The Story
Twenty five years ago this month I was in Brasil. I was teaching a Project Management class, the first of a series over the next 8 years. I had a wonderful time, and I love Brasil and its people. But I had nearly forgotten about one of my most interesting early wine experiences–until it was time to plan a trip to the source of the story. Here ’tis.

The date was 1982. I was at dinner at the Brasilton hotel in downtown Sao Paulo. I looked over the wine list, looking for anything I could appreciate. I saw a lot of very average wines on the list, and nothing that inspired me. I asked the Sommelier, who was hovering over me expectantly, “don’t you have anything that is a little more special?” He puzzled a bit, then smiled, and scurried off. Continue reading “Beat the Dao Jones Average”

The Man From Margaret River

This post is about both people and places. Mat Lewis is The Man From Margaret River, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Rose and I had decided to visit Australia again. In prior trips, we’d been around the Eastern and Southern edges, and met many wonderful people. This time we wanted to visit the interior, see Uluru (Ayers Rock), and head to Perth, then to Margaret River.

Preparing for the trip, we websurfed to learn more about Margaret River. Already familiar with the wines, especially the Cabs from Devil’s Lair (and their bargain Fifth Leg), and from Leeuwin Estate, we figured we could find some less-discovered wines.

I came across the website for Margaret River Wine Club (no longer available), and signed up on the spot. Immediately I received a gracious response, saying “if we were ever in the neighborhood, to let them know”. I immediately replied that we were on our way there in the next month. That’s when the fun began! Continue reading “The Man From Margaret River”

Mutant Teenage Ninja Winelist

This post is a rant about restaurant winelist prices. I have long been a critic of USA restaurants with overpriced and underqualified wines. Indeed, part of the reason wines have not become a part of ordinary life is because of the fuss and nonsense restaurants place on wine–unlike much of Europe, where one can have an excellent vin de pay with lunch or dinner for a reasonable price.

To this end, I have long used a guideline (and taught it to many others) that with some exceptions the cost of wine should not exceed 1/3 the cost of the total restaurant check. Do the math: if you and your dinner mate have a nice steak, salad and dessert, perhaps each meal comes to $20-$35 (or more) depending on the restaurant. Thus the wine for two people should be within that pricerange to be 1/3 of the total bill.

Reasonable, yes? And if the nearest thing to a decent wine is $50, then the restaurant is either gouging you on the wine, or has no clue about the magnificent selections to be had (in a retail store) for $10-15.

Yes, the argument goes, the restaurant is using the same markup it applies to the other items it serves. And (the argument continues), it covers the cost of cellaring, fine glasses, and a sometimes knowledgeable Sommelier.

What brings this rant to the WiKnow blog is a recent experience in a Florida restaurant, that is rated with a wine speculator “award of excellence”. The name of the restaurant, and its city are discretely withheld, but this post’s headline is a clue (don’t tell). Continue reading “Mutant Teenage Ninja Winelist”

Visiting Barbi di Montalcino

We were in Italy, traveling from Florence to Rome; the year was 1983. Before we left Florence, I had spotted a mention of a winery in Montalcino that had a noontime meal. Montalcino is between the two cities, and along the route, so we decided to stop in.

In the center of this great medieval city we saw a little fingerboard sign pointing to Fattoria Barbi; we followed the sign. Soon we saw another. We traced our way to the winery via the signs, sometimes doubling back because we had missed one.

Arriving at the winery, we went to the most obvious place for a restaurant, a low, smaller building. Although the door posted hours of Noon to 8PM, and it was 12:30, it was locked. We knocked.

A wizened old man opened the door, welcomed us, and escorted us to a 12-person bench. He poured wine into the jug on the table, and disappeared. Continue reading “Visiting Barbi di Montalcino”

Great People: Tom Cygnar

When I moved from Oregon to Colorado, one of my first challenges was to find a decent wine shop. For me, this was a serious project, because I visit wine shops all over the world when I travel, and have some expectations about selection, expertise of staff, and the condition of the wine storage.

After discovering treasures that the staff didn’t know were there in many candidate shops, I stumbled on the Wine Company, some 45 miles to the North, in Littleton. What sold me on the shop were the owners, Tom Cygnar and Dave Tewksbery. Tom especially demonstrated far more understanding about wine and the trade than I ever would. I started making regular trips North to stock my wine cellar with his insights and discoveries.

When it came time for my annual Wine Country trip to California, I asked Tom if there were any places he could set me up for “special tastings”. Thus I discovered the insiders’ wine tours. Far better than the “herd ’em out” tours featured in the movie “Sideways”, these could last half a day and provide tastes of wines most people never experience. Continue reading “Great People: Tom Cygnar”

Getting Into Wine

I did not get “into wine” very early. When I drove through Napa and Sonoma Valleys in 1971 on my way to my sister Terry’s 21st birthday, we stopped off at Louis Martini, Robert Mondavi, and Sebastiani. We liked the Sebastiani Green Hungarian wine most of all.

In the mid 1970’s, I tried to get my local wine retailer (Of Grape and Grain, in Eugene, Oregon, still a great place to find wine) to set me up with a progression of red wines to try, figuring that wine would be an interesting domain to master. I hated all of them! Of course, at that time, my idea of a good wine was Annie Greensprings Apple wine.

An event happened in 1982 that changed my wine path. I did a 10 day project consulting gig in Monte Carlo, and every night, after each long workday, I explored a different wine from the Hotel menu. I didn’t know anything about any of them; they were all French, all red, all started with a B. Some were good, some so-so, and some not very good (for my tastes). Continue reading “Getting Into Wine”

The Cork Quandary

It has been going on for quite some time: the battle between those enthusiasts for corks, and those who prefer other options, such as synthetic closures and screwcaps.

Of course, corks have only been around for the last 3% of wine’s history, so it’s not like they are part of a long tradition. But the 7000 B.C. wine pots we saw in China just had bronze covers, and we will certainly not go back to those!

So what are the issues on each side of the cork controversy? Continue reading “The Cork Quandary”

Absolutely ZinFul

Here’s another Washington Wine Wonder! Maryhill Winery, just NorthEast of The Dalles, on the Washington side of the Columbia River. We had visited them in our last two trips to Oregon, and the very nice young man (and knowledgeable, too!) behind the counter remembered us. That’s probably 5,000 visitors later.

It might have helped that after our first visit, we worked to get Maryhill’s wines into Colorado. It probably also helped that we got signed up in their Industry program on our last visit (their Gold Program is the best one for repeat offenders/customers).

In our first visit, we had purchased an assortment of wines to taste on our visit to the Oregon coast. As I recall, all were great, but the 2001 Zin was outstanding. Between our visit and a week later when we returned to get more, it had won some California judging and had totally disappeared. That was the best Zin I’d tasted in 2 years! And it was gone!

This year we made it a point to catch them earlier. Continue reading “Absolutely ZinFul”

Washington Wine Source

This month we had a meeting in the San Juan Islands off Seattle. Several of the guys provided their boats as part of the extra-curricular activities, and to show our gratitude, we gave them each a mixed case of wine, and wine glasses engraved with the boats’ names (Classea and About Time).

We ordered the glasses through (no longer open) The Wine Company in Denver and they are great. The glasses are perfect for boats, because they are the new Magnesium Crystal (break-resistant) ones from Wine Enthusiasts. Oh, and they are dishwasher-safe, too!

For the wine gift, a wine trade friend (Tom Cygnar) told us about Compass Wines (, right in Anacortes, where the ferry to the islands docks. We used their newsletter to survey their featured wine, and their website to score excellent Washington wines at decent prices. We’d recommend this shop to anyone. And such service: Nikki delivered the wines before store opening hours as we waited in (a long) line for ferry boarding. Based on their website, they do quite a business in provisioning adventurers to the San Juan islands. Visit them!

First Wine Insights

The year was 1971, early January; Louise (girlfriend, and then wife) and I decided to travel to San Francisco to help my sister Terry (Teresa) celebrate her 21st birthday. So we loaded up my Ford van, and headed South from Eugene, Oregon. The approximately 500 miles distance meant we should probably stop for the night somewhere before we reached San Francisco, so we started researching stopping places.

We quickly decided that sleepy Napa Valley would make an interesting stop-over; we knew nothing about wines, but figured we could learn. In fact, at that time, my idea of a good wine was Annie Green Springs Apple Wine, or for special occasions, Mateus.

On our arrival in Napa Valley, we found a place for the night, had a nice meal, and planned our next day. That next day, we had an entire day to tour Napa, and then Sonoma Valley, before meeting my sister and her husband in San Francisco. So we decided on the following:

  • Louis Martini and Mondavi, in Napa Valley;
  • Sebastiani, in Sonoma Valley; plus others, if there was time.

We figured that would be a good introduction, and still get us to San Francisco on time. Continue reading “First Wine Insights”