10 Feb 2010
Pinot. Just the mention of the word causes many wine lovers to begin to salivate at the light, sweet fruit. Pinot. This fickle grape drives wine makers crazy with its thin skin, susceptibility to weather, and its influence from the soil. The high-maintenance drama queen of wine perpetuates passionate prose and is the ire of Merlot lovers everywhere.
Oregon winery, Willamette Valley Vineyards manages to gently coax 310 acres into beautifully crafted Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir (among a few others). Wine Enthusiast calls Willamette Valley Vineyards, “One of Americas great Pinot Noir producers year after year.” As you’ll see in the video, I whole heartily agree.
While the wine I’ve tasted is a palate pleaser, even more impressive is the wineries stance on being a steward of the land. From the basic reduce, reuse and recycle to a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2010, Willamette Valley Vineyards is a world leader of sustainability. One impressive program offers fifty gallons of biodiesel to employees every month (10 employees participate).
Those that know me (or watched my reviews) know that I have a love / hate relationship with Pinot Noir. My limited experience with the grape has left me with a sour view of what it can produce. I’m not giving up! A wine that generates so much passion must have an impressive upside.
2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir, 13%ABV, 37,446 cases produced
- The Swirl: Very translucent and clear. Borderline amethyst like tone
- The Sniff: A moderately restrained nose that produces gentle whiffs of sweet cherries or cranberries, woody oak, and vanilla.
- The Sip: A little thin on the initial attack but opens up to delicate raspberry / cherry with a dash of vanilla. The finish is slightly sweet and tart like a SweetTart candy.
- The Score: At $25, I score this wine a 3 (out of 5). It’s a very nicely made Pinot Noir. It lacks the brightness of flavor to score higher. At under $20 on sale this would be a solid wine.
2007 Signature Cuvee
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir, 14.5%ABV, 305 cases produced
- The Swirl: Translucent and clear with moderate garnet tones. Very pretty – would make a nice piece of jewelry
- The Sniff: Very bright aroma of cherry and cola with hints of smoke and wood
- The Sip: Impressive balance, the initial taste feels slightly carbonated (like pop rock). The sweet cherries are not overwhelming and the finish is wonderfully round with the right amount of acidity.
- The Score: At $50 this wine may be out of reach for the majority of consumers but shows very well and deserves a score of 4 (out of 5).
Overall this round of Pinot Noirs has shown me why there is such a passion for this fruit. You can feel that the wine is a delicate dance and must be carefully crafted to produce a good product.
*This wine was provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
09 Feb 2010
The work I do for my day job got me thinking about wine tracking / wine reviewing database sites. A recent project I was managing mashed together information from 17 web sites creating one global intranet site where 320,000 people view over 21 million pages each month. Over the weekend we launched the site and with a few minor glitches we were live for all to see on Monday.
Through my recent journey of wine reviews and wine blogging, I’ve discovered a need for a repository for the information. At the current pace, I’ll have a collection of 250 reviews by the end of the year. For me, keeping track of and referring to this information needs to be in a simple to use format. While many wine tracking sites are available, I’m reviewing my use of three: Cork’d, Cellar Tracker, and Vincellar.
Each of these sites has its strengths but I’m reviewing them based on my business requirements.
- I want a site that has easy entry of tasting notes, search of existing entries and easy recall of existing entries for comparison
- I want a site that allows me to easily slice and dice my entries by date, grape, price, score, etc.
- I want a site that is smooth, easy to navigate, and is not clunky or disjointed
- I want a site that provides the greatest exposure to the wineries being reviewed
- Nice to have: Connection to other wine lovers
Do you have a wine tracking site that you use? What do you like / not like about it? Let me know in the comments.
VinCellar stats indicate 74,000 users, nearly 600,000 cataloged wines and over 38,000 tasting notes. VinCellar’s unique feature is the ability to catalog, track and even sell your wine through their site.
The user interface of VinCellar is spectacular. The tabbed navigation allows for easy access to your cellar, tasting notes, and the community. Well placed buttons facilitate quick entry of new wine and updating “consuming” wine from your cellar. Overall the navigation is smooth, intuitive and contains some unique features. Each of the database collections is easy to sort, slice and dice for quick analysis of the wine entries.
What I Love:
VinCellar seems to love dashboards. I love dashboards. One of the coolest things for me is the tasting note dashboard that shows a synopsis of the entered wine including web pricing, community tasting note averages, other users who own the wine, and even a quick search menu of everything from Able Grape, Snooth, Wine Spectator and Wine Zap.
What I Don’t Love:
The lack of active users and tasting note entries often returns zero matches for comparison. Use of the search fields does not auto-populate with the data base. The community aspect seems to be focused on buying and selling wine, rather than sharing wine experiences.
Cork’d aims to be the “Simple way to review and share wine.” Cork’d has over 50,000 users. At publish of this article I was unable to validate the number of reviews in the database. Cork’d thrives on being a place where users can share and have a social experience with their wine tasting.
The Cork’d interface is bright and clean. Users can easily create profiles, add buddies and use Cork’d as a “Facebook” for wine conversations. Cork’d is also great at wine education and awareness with their database of grape profiles, winery profiles and the newly launched Cork’d Content that showcases articles about various wine topics.
What I Love:
I love the extensive database of wine and the ease of adding wine that is not already in the database. The format is also very conducive to conversation with other users through the discussion thread format on each database entry.
What I Don’t Love:
The navigation feels clunky and a little outdated. It is not easy to move from task to task, search or filter database entries, and slice and dice my existing entries. While I enjoy the conversational format and feedback of reviews, it takes too much time to find a consolidated list of comparative reviews. The database of reviews seems slightly larger than VinCellar but still returns zero results on some searches.
Cellar Tracker contains the largest database collection of the three boasting nearly 100,000 users and 1.2 million tasting notes. Cellar Tracker is simple in form and function and its users are active. Wine collections can easily be cataloged, tracked, and the data can be sliced and diced seven ways to Sunday.
The best part of Cellar Tracker is the vast amount of comparative data and the ability to filter it. The reports tab also provides an incredible amount of useful information about your cellar, tasting notes, and the community.
What I Love:
The search fields auto populate to aid in searching for the exact match. This feature helps to eliminate duplicate selection as it leads you more quickly to the selection you’re looking for. While on a selected wine (tasting note page) you get a vast amount of information including the ability to bid on user wines for auction.
What I Don’t Love:
Cellar Tracker is the most minimalistic in design. What the database has in data it lacks in navigation, and interface. The text based design is a distraction (to me) and makes using the site cumbersome. Links on the site indicate that a new design is being launched in February (that’s this month). The site doesn’t easily offer a way to connect or converse about various wines.
VinCellar has the best interface with the most effective and visual interaction with the data.
Cork’d has the most social site and a robust wine education component.
Cellar Tracker has the most extensive user group and data base.
I’m going to enter all my existing reviews (currently 70) into each site and experiment more with the best solution. In the end it may be necessary to use two or more of these sites to provide the greatest exposure to the wine reviews and the wineries.
What are your thoughts?
08 Feb 2010
Many people associate Australian wine with a little yellow kangaroo. While this little yellow kangaroo has done wonders for wine promulgation, it has also caused some negative backlash into the wine world. Australian wine has garnered a reputation for being big, fruity, and cheap, affordable, inexpensive. The price point has been fantastic for introducing people to the world of wine but it has also set the expectation that wine pricing should be under $10 and red wine = massive fruit bomb! The low price point (and the current economic time) has shook the California wine business like a 7.2 earthquake. Wine is way more than the little yellow kangaroo. Australia produces quality wine in many price points.
Today’s review is from Australia’s #1 export…no not Paul Hogan…a bolder, more alcoholic import…no, not Mel Gibson either! Today we review Australia’s #1 wine export, Jacob’s Creek. If you’re familiar with wine, no doubt you’ve seen and tried Jacob’s Creek. With a history dating to the 1850’s Jacob’s Creek produces over 1.1 million cases of wine per year. The vineyards in Southern Australia are some of the oldest and highest quality on the continent.
Jacob’s Creek offers four labels in a variety of price points and focus:
- Jacob’s Creek (main label): A variety of two grape blends and single varietal offerings ranging from $5-$10
- Jacob’s Creek Reserve: A mid price label with a range of white (Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose) and red (Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir) $10-$15
- Jacob’s Creek Heritage: Moderate price label with a range including Shiraz, Shiraz-Cab, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, and Chardonnay $20-$30
- Jacob’s Creek Three Vines: Contemporary label exploring non-traditional blends $8-$15
Reviewed in the video: 2007 Chardonnay, 2006 Shiraz, 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Reserve label
2007 Reserve Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 100% reserve block Chardonnay; 60% barrel fermentation; partial malolactic fermentation; 13.5% ABV
- The Swirl: Yellow gold tone with hints of green apple. Beer-like color.
- The Sniff: Bright acidity and lemon qualities with moderate hints of green grape and oak
- The Sip: Two dimensional wine with mellow front end consisting of meaty vanilla and pear and a bright acidic lemon peel back end. The flavor drops off quickly and leaves a moderate bitterness in the mouth.
- The Score: At $12ish I score this wine a 2+ (out of 5), for my tastes there are more complex and robust Chardonnays available for the money
2006 Reserve Shiraz
- The Stuff: 100% reserve block Shiraz; 18 months in oak; 14.3% ABV
- The Swirl: Dark plum inkiness with mild jewel tones toward the edges
- The Sniff: Underwhelming nose with hints of blackberry and/or plum, moderate sprigs of clove and spice
- The Sip: Grape candy licorice on the front end with green twig component on the back end. The wine still feels young and could/should be cellared for a few more years.
- The Score: At $12 this is a pleasant Shiraz offering that scores a low 3.
Other researched scores: Cellar Tracker (2 scores avg 86.5); Cork’d (2 scores avg 87)
2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 100% reserve block Cab; 18 months in new and old French oak; 14.2% ABV
- The Swirl: Dark plum with hints of aged rusty brown toward the edges
- The Sniff: Mellow aromas of sweet blackberry and a whiff of vanilla and cocoa
- The Sip: Mild front end with a wash of chocolate and berry; back end of bitter cassis and pepper spice. Slightly off balanced in flavor
- The Score: At $12ish can score this a solid 3 and makes the re-buy list. Paired well with our hearty beef stew.
Other researched scores: Cellar Tracker (1 score at 78); Cork’d (2 scores avg 85)
Have you had Jacob’s Creek? What is your experience with some of their other labels?
In the video I mentioned the Washington Redskins and my annual disappointment. What team do you cheer for? How do you cope with the let down?
*This wine was provided as an industry sample with the intent to review
07 Feb 2010
Name 10 things that come to mind when you think of New Orleans and Indianapolis? I guarantee wine is not on the list. Wine probably wouldn’t be on the list even if you expanded it to 100. Add the Super Bowl in the mix and wine has the potential to become a small afterthought in the midst of the beer, bourbon, Hurricanes, and absinthe – where does the wine fit in?
The Super Bowl draws an audience of over 175 million people worldwide. 50 million American’s are enjoying Super Bowl parties. Common party food is pizza, wings, chips, nachos, BBQ, and of course BEER. This year an All-American city known for its Hoosiers and Indy racing goes against the deep south known for its French architecture, jazz and blues, and rich spicy food. What about the wine scene in each city?
Indianapolis is a city built on farming, industry and transportation. New Orleans is a city built on water trade, arts, and oil refinery. New Orleans holds a special place in all our hearts after the devastation experienced during Hurricane Katrina. Indianapolis is an often overlooked American city, except during football season, high school basketball, and the Indianapolis 500. What about the wine scene in each city?
Wine in the Super Bowl Cities
Saints and Wine
A Google search of vineyards and New Orleans is indication that this is a city, although steeped in French and Spanish history, not rich in wine making. The wet humid climate and the moist soils make New Orleans a difficult place to grow grapes. Pontchartrain Vineyards makes a valiant attempt with Cynthiana (bold red similar to a Cabernet Sauvignon) and Blanc du Bois (dry and fruity white). Although greatly outnumbered, a handful of wine bars serve the community. When visiting bourbon street, take a detour for some fine wine at:
Wine Institute of New Orleans
610 Tchoupitoulas St., 324-8000
- W.I.N.O.’s Enomatic system, a self-serve draft dispenser, features 120 wines available by the ounce, but $17 Opus One shots add up.
1901 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, (985) 674-5988
- Small plates of New Orleans-style delicacies provide the unique stamp on the Mandeville location of this national wine bar chain.
Wine and food are inseparable. Food and New Orleans are synonymous. With New Orleans vibrant French and Spanish history, wine is still a thriving community. Louisiana residents consumer 2.3 gallons of wine per year (about ½ as much as California).
Saints Food and Wine Pairings
New Orleans food is rich, bold and spicy. Many of the dishes contain sausage and seafood. A common pairing may be an off dry Riesling, Burgundy Aligote or Beaujolais, and a sparkling wine (Brut style). Sausage based dished may pair well with Pinot Noir or a hearty Cabernet Franc. It may be best to avoid fatty (oaky buttery) Chardonnay and high alcohol Zinfandels.
Colts and Wine
Wine in Indiana? Does it grow among the corn? Indiana is home to 52 wineries, many of which call the Indianapolis and Southern Indiana area home. Indiana’s oldest and largest winery, Oliver Winery produces over 270,000 cases per year with a range of sweet white, sparkling, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel. While most of their grapes are brought in from other regions, Oliver is also home to 15 acre Creekbend Vineyards. If you find yourself in Indianapolis for a sporting event enjoy one of these fine wine bars:
The Corner Wine Bar
6331 Guilford Avenue, Indianapolis – (317) 255-5159
1112 Shelby Street Indianapolis, IN 46203
Indianapolis Food and Wine Pairing
Indianapolis is an All-American city with great steak houses, big burgers, and hearty meat and potato meals. A classic pairing is Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Wine is a part of every culture and city in America. Wineries exist in every state in the country. I hope you enjoy the game, enjoy some wine, and enjoy your time with family and friends. DRINK.HAPPY!
05 Feb 2010
California is known for the Cabernet Sauvignon, big, bold, beautiful and sometimes over the top (kind of like the California lifestyle).
Oregon is known for its lighter, earthy, liberal, organic Pinot Noir (similar to the people who live there, eh).
New York is producing quality Riesling ranging from sweet to off dry, this opulant varietal is often misunderstood but pairs well with tons of food (akin to the oft mis-understood and passionate New Yorker).
What about Washington? Is Washington the Merlot king – underappreciated, oft-maligned, but delightfully robust? Or, is Syrah the fruit of the Evergreen State – deep purple with bright bold berry and hints of smoke on the water?
I asked informally on Twitter a week ago and the vote was pretty close.
- 10 Merlot, 8 Syrah, 4 Riesling, 2 Chardonnay, 2 Bordeaux Blend
This is research for a future article on a national web site as well as a potential tasting event. Please use the voting buttons and share, re-tweet this with friends. Thanks for your participation.
If you have a favorite WA Wine / Winery or select “other” please share in the comments!