Visiting Barbi dei 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 near Montalcino that had a nice mid-day meal. Montalcino is between Florence and Rome, 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 dei 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 gentleman 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 dei Montalcino”

Great Wine People: Tom Cygnar

Tom and Claudia 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 upon 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.
Continue reading “Great Wine 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 4000 BCE 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, Oregon, 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 (note that we did not keep the label; the photo at left is from 2005). 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! Continue reading “Absolutely ZinFul”

First Wine Insights

From our Wi-Know Wine Blog

The year was 1971, early January; Louise (my wife at the time) 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 Robert Mondavi wineries, 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”