21 May 2010
Guest blog post from Tamara Belgard of SipWithMe
Bacon is the new black, or so said the shirt on Cochon 555’s Master of Ceremonies. Sunday welcomed five chefs, five pigs and five winemakers to the Governor Hotel’s ballroom for Porkland’s culinary event of the year, Cochon 555. This national event pairs local wine with swine in order to promote breeding diversity and to help raise awareness for heritage breeds and family owned farms around the country.
Portland superstar chefs Naomi Pomeroy of Beast, Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon, Andy Ricker of Pok Pok, Cathy Whims of Nostrana and Jason Barwikowski of Olympic Provisions all participated in the competition for a cause to earn the coveted title “Prince/Princess of Porc,” but it was Jason Barwikowski who walked away with the crown after impressing the crowd with his nine renditions of the primal product.
Each of the five chefs was faced with the challenge of using the whole pig, head to tail, to create dishes that would delight an audience of epicureans and make 20 notable judges go hog-wild. Butcher extraordinaire Ryan Farr from Sweet Briar Farms in Eugene exhibited his talents in the exciting and somewhat disturbing “Whole Pig Breakdown Demonstration.”
Since pork and Pinot are a match made in heaven, some of Oregon’s finest wineries including Bethel Heights Vineyard, Soter Vineyards, Elk Cove Vineyards, Domaine Drouhin Oregon and Domaine Serene were on hand to share their story and pour their wines. VIPs had the priviledge of a little pre-funk Oyster and Reserve Wine celebration where creative props must be given to Anne Amie Vineyards who had a very beautifully unique pig decanter hand-blown especially for the occasion by local glass artist Justin Parker of Esque Studio.
Cochon 555 in Seattle May 23
All in all, over 750 pounds of heritage pork was served in every shape and form, from pork liver panna cotta to gold-crusted caramel tarts with chocolate dipped bacon and sea salt. Is your mouth watering yet? Feeling like you missed out? Well, you can follow that pig! This gluttonous event takes place again in Seattle on May 23 and San Francisco on June 6. The final showdown takes place at Grand Cochon on June 20, where all the Princes and Princessess of Porc with be competing for the ultimate title of Queen or King of Porc during Aspen’s Food and Wine Classic. Did someone say, “Road Trip?”
Tamara Belgard is a freelance writer, graphic designer and social media expert living her dream in Portland, Oregon. She currently writes a wine blog called Sip with Me detailing her journey through Oregon wine and is a lover of wine, chocolate, travel, and all things culinary.
20 May 2010
Guest Blog Christine Collier from @southernORwine
I may look more like a sorority girl than a sommelier, but that is exactly the reason I am pursuing my Court of Master Sommeliers certification. I want to level out the playing field with more formal wine knowledge to offset my 23 year-old, blonde, perky self. As a wine blogger and social marketing coordinator for an Oregon winery, many questioned why I was pursuing the Court of Master Sommeliers program instead of the Masters of Wine. And to tell you the truth, the first reason was the higher cost of the MW, but more importantly, I wanted to learn more of the service side and get the chance to be around the people who enjoy the wine, instead of always being the influencer behind-the-scenes.
Three years of industry experience is recommended before attending the Introduction Course and Exam, but not one to wait around, I convinced myself that I would complete all the suggested reading prior to compensate for my measly one-year wine experience. Well…none of the reading happened, so then I convinced myself I would be fine just taking REALLY good notes during the lectures (can you tell I am still in college?).
I recently attended the first phase of the process- the Introduction Course and Exam- in Seattle at the Washington Athletic Club. Eighty other wine professionals (and a couple of retired guys) gathered at the Washington Athletic Club for a two-day information overload. The agenda was jam packed with information on wine varietals, regions, production practices, food and wine pairings, service methods and deductive tasting. At the end of the second day, a 70-question exam was presented and is a requirement to pass in order to move on to the Certified exam. So much information was thrown around that my confidence level in passing an exam was about… 30%. (lucky happens, right?).
I was certain I failed the exam. I even started planning when the next time I could retake the course/exam was. But, somehow my memory pulled through! Here is a picture of my new friends and I after we found out the results of the exam (Champagne in hand!).
The excitement of passing inspired me to sign up for the Certified Exam this July in Portland. A July deadline is very rushed for me, after realizing all I have yet to learn, but if I hit my daily reading quotas, tasting practices and service rehearsals, I hope to pass and add Certified Sommelier after my name. Wish me luck and please follow my progress on The Southern Oregon Wine Blog or on my latest blog creation, http://ChristineCollier.com.
Passing the exam was definitely my highlight, but winning my bet with follow sommelier student was pretty gratifying. One of the instructors of the course was Greg Harrington, youngest person ever to become a Master Sommelier and owner of Gramercy Cellars in Walla Walla. He looked very familiar, in the way that my mind was boggling until it hit me. His story: New York sommelier turned winemaker… duh! He must have been the inspiration behind my favorite youtube video ever! I told the guy sitting next to me and he bet me to go confront Greg with my realization. Not one to be shy, I asked him after the course was over if he had seen it. He looked at me confused saying, “No, I haven’t.” I was beyond bummed and told him he had to look it up as I started quoting the ingenius script, “I want to trade in my Seven jeans for the freedom and movement of Carhartts.” He laughed and confessed he created it. As a wine marketer, I was star struck.
Christine is one month away from graduating with a degree in Business Entrepreneurship from Oregon State University. She currently works as the Social Marketing Coordinator for an Oregon winery and extends her expertise to other business looking to improve or create an online presence. She is the Co-Founder/Contributor to The Southern Oregon Wine Blog and recently launched ChristineCollier.com chronicling her process of becoming a Certified Sommelier. Christine enjoys hiking, fashion, road trips, playing board games, and begging her boyfriend to get her a cat (currently she is not making much progress in this area).
13 May 2010
WELCOME GUEST BLOGGER Melinda Knapp
There is a lot of talk about social media in the wine world these days. For me personally, social media has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people who share my love of the grape. As well as connecting with those in the industry.
However, the question that often comes up when wineries are considering the jump into social media is – What is my return on investment (ROI)? This is something that is really hard to gauge. Now, while I am certainly no expert in marketing, I am one in consuming. I buy and consume quite a bit of wine. As a consumer, walking into a wine store or the wine section of the grocery store can be intimidating. I could go with the old standby, but I really want to try something new. How do I choose? What is going to make a bottle jump out and say “buy me”? Familiarity. I am looking for something familiar to me like winery, vineyard, region etc. This is where social media comes in. My time spent on Twitter and Facebook has exposed me to many wineries in Washington I hadn’t known existed. In fact, I have 166 wineries on my WA wineries twitter list and I am sure I am missing some. What does this have to do with picking out a wine? Let me share my experience. A couple of weeks ago at my local grocery store, I was perusing the wine department as I normally do. My eyes fall upon a bottle of wine from a winery that I had just followed on twitter, Kyra Wines. I am thrilled because I had just read about this winery and had made a mental note to look for their wine.
Kyra Wines is located in Moses Lake, WA. It is owned by Kyra and Bruce Baerlocher. Kyra serves as the winemaker. Together they transform the grapes from their vineyards on the Wahluke Slope into some amazing wine. All their wines feature the wonderful artwork of Kyra’s brother.
Their 2006 PSV Red Wine is sourced from their Purple Sage Vineyard (PSV). It is a blend of 80% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6% Sangiovese. One of the first things I noticed upon opening this wine was the beautiful dark garnet color. On the nose I was getting berries and lots of spice and gingerbread; just like warm fruit cobbler out of the oven. This wine has such a great full mouth feel. Bright acidity with tart raspberry on the front palate that flows into a nice long finish with bing cherry and caramel. It only got better once I added food. As suggested on the back label, I paired it with a barbequed steak and homemade caramelized onion BBQ sauce.
This wine was a definite home run and one I want to have in my cellar. I am also excited to try more of the Kyra Wines lineup. I owe this great wine experience to social media. I mean, who knows how long it would have taken to me to discover them otherwise?
Follow Kyra Wines on:
Born and raised in Skagit County, about 60 miles north of Seattle. Payroll administrator by day, food & wine fiend by night, weekend or really anytime I can. Because of my love of the Great Northwest I have narrowed my wine focus to Washington. Both my husband and I love to cook and we indulge that love by cooking for our friends and pairing wine to those creations. Wine and food are a natural fit.
11 May 2010
WELCOME GUEST BLOGGER Joshua Sweeney
A favorite saying among online wine reviewers is that wine is a journey, not a destination. What this means is that we should be drinking wine for the experience of it, not the effect.
When you’re in college (and this is the cliché that we always fall back on, as if there aren’t discerning drinkers pursuing a higher degree), quaffing whatever beverage loaded with a high alcohol percentage is proffered to us, any plastic cup filled from any jug, cooler, bathtub, or keg will do. Once we move beyond the destination of drinking to get drunk into the realm of appreciating the nuances of a beverage with a secondary benefit of a buzz, the need for implements becomes more apparent.
Essentially, wine needs outside help to reach its potential.
First, a quick note on corkscrews. Any old thing that gets the wine open works, obviously, but some old things work better than others. In my experience, the two reliable wine-opening tools are waiter’s friends and lever models. Both give you the most control over how the cork comes out, preventing breaking and crumbling of the cork. Wing corkscrews and self-pull corkscrews, because of their nature, have a higher risk of damaging the cork and dropping bits of it into the wine.
Also, because the use of synthetic corks is increasing, it’s imperative that you have two kinds of corkscrews: one with a stainless-steel worm and one with a Teflon worm.
Teflon worms are remarkably easier for removing real cork, and are reliable for hundreds of openings, but their coating gets scraped off and damaged by synthetics.
Stainless steel works perfectly fine on synthetics, but they tend to grip real cork, making it a real pain to remove real cork from them.
You can get a waiter’s friend with either style for less than $10 to back up your primary cork-removing option.
While wine professionals and scientists alike perpetually argue about whether the shape or size of a glass influences the different types of wine differently, there does seem to be a consensus on one attribute of an adequate wine glass: the rim. The best wine glass will have a thin rim, delivering the wine most efficiently into your mouth and remaining unobtrusive as you sip. Thicker rims will affect the dispersion of the wine, causing it to miss the most ideal parts of your tongue for tasting.
As for the size and shape of a wine glass, it seems a tulip-shaped, fairly large glass is the safe option. This leaves you with room to swirl the wine vigorously without splashing out of the glass and gives you a narrower opening to concentrate the escaping aromas for your enjoyment.
Remember that you want to fill the glass only to the widest part of the glass. It’s the laws of physics at work. Tasting glasses will widen near the bottom first, room for only an ounce or so of wine, so those will not be ideal sippers.
Stemmed vs. stemless? All up to you. Stemmed glasses are much, much easier to break due to their larger profile, fragile nature, and higher center of gravity. Stemless glasses force you to hold the glass by the bowl, increasing the radiant heat that you transfer to your wine. Either style has its advantages.
There are insulating and cushioned slipcovers for stemware out there, but they limit your ability to see the wine in the glass and sometimes get in the way of your bottom lip when sipping. Again, advantages on all sides.
Oh, I almost forgot about Champagne glasses. While the argument that the shape of glass doesn’t matter may ring true for flat wine, on sparkling wine, you definitely want the narrower flute-style to accommodate the carbonation. Drinking Champagne in a regular wine glass is like drinking beer from a salad bowl (something you may also do in college).
A more complex consideration for your wine is storage. If you’re the kind of person who purchases wines to be consumed that night or that week, but you still want to display them, a decorative 4 to 6 piece display is all you need. If you plan to age wine, or you have a large variety of wines rotating in and out of service, a larger rack is required. You can get standing table racks that hold around 12 bottles and cellar-style racks that hold between 40 and 100 bottles. Bear in mind that the more bottles a rack holds, the less decorative and intricate it necessarily has to be.
Consider this: if you buy a wine that needs to age 3 years, that means that spot is effectively gone from your rack for at least 3 years. If you invest in a wine like this every 3 months, you will have 9 spots perpetually out of service on your rack, and that’s if you diligently pop the cork on a wine right when it peaks. On a 12 bottle rack, that means you only have 3 spots free for any bottles you’ll be purchasing on top of that.
As far as where you should be storing your wine? We have wine cellars and not wine attics or wine sunrooms for a reason: wine needs a cool, consistent temperature and minimal exposure to sunlight. Heat and sunlight negatively affect the quality of wine.
Heat makes wine more volatile, causing chemicals to react and change within the bottle much more quickly, defeating the purpose of aging them.
Sunlight (ultraviolet light, specifically) also induces chemical reactions in wine. Both are blamed for ultimately “cooking” the flavor of the wine.
A dark, cool room, perpetually in shade and around 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) will keep your wine in the best condition. Absent having an actual cellar, some sort of closet or cabinet far from sources of heat will do in a pinch. Air-conditioning to keep wine exactly at 10 degrees Celsius is helpful but unnecessary for all but the longer-term cellaring projects (5+ years).
Aeration and Decanting
The debate over aeration rages ever onward. Purists insist it dramatically alters the flavor of wine in ways the winemaker didn’t intend while another school of thought swears by the convenience and effectiveness. My personal experience with them? They’re perfectly fine for most cheaper wines, but aerating a wine that doesn’t need it (young, crisp, sweet whites come to mind) can have a negative impact on their flavor. To be safe, I recommend decanting wines over $20.
The ideal aerator works in one of two ways. One will have a narrow choke point with vents for pulling in air to mix with the wine. The other will have a decanter-like pouring surface or bubble to spread out the wine and simulate decanting in small amounts at a time. You should be able to get an aerator in either of these styles for less than $50.
If you have a wine that needs to breathe for a couple hours, you want to invest in a decanter. Decanters can run from the cheap, under $10, to the ridiculously expensive (gold-lined, hand-blown, uniquely designed for hundreds of dollars). Any investment on those fronts are largely aesthetic.
A wide base, offering a larger surface area on the wine is always good, as is a narrow, blooming mouth for pouring.
A punt (indentation) in the bottom will help ring out sediment, but on most wines that’s unnecessary.
If the opening is excessively narrow, some sort of funnel made from an inert material (stainless steel, silver, medical-grade plastic or rubber) will be necessary for pouring the wine into the decanter.
There are dozens of other accessories that are a worthy investment for wine drinkers, but the ones I outlined above are inexpensive, beneficial considerations for enjoying your wine. Any comments about the accessories I listed above? Any questions about other accessories I didn’t address? Leave a comment here or contact me directly. I’ll be happy to answer what I can.
About the Author
Joshua Sweeney is the Head of Online Retail and Senior Buyer for wine(accessorized). He worked his way up from humble beginnings, packing orders for a wine accessories company in a warehouse, during which he developed a keen interest in the wide variety of accessories available for wine. When wine(accessorized) began to take shape in December of 2009, he was tapped to help design and market the website and select the items that would be sold. He is focused on finding functional and interesting accessories that are affordable to average wine consumers such as himself.
Josh also writes for wine(explored), a wine blog affiliated with wine(accessorized). There, he chronicles his love of local wines in North Carolina and Virginia as well as his passion for discovering wine bargains and unusual wines. He embraces his role as a young professional and desires to help make his Millennial generation the greatest generation of wine consumers ever. Josh graduated from Virginia Tech with an English degree focused in both Literature, Linguistics, and Culture and Creative Writing.
06 May 2010
Two blogs were posted in April that underline the fact that what is going on in the wine industry is nothing new, it’s just farming.
Jason Haas of Tablas Creek posted a blog on the challenging economics of making high quality inexpensive California wine. He runs the numbers on whether the Tablas Creek cost structure could support adding a vineyard that would either allow greater production of one of their least expensive wines (around $25 retail) or produce grapes to sell at the going rate for top vineyards in the Paso Robles area. In the end, the plan didn’t pencil out.
Vinography posted what I’m declaring as the “truthiest” blog of 2010 called The Coming Carnage in the Wine Industry. With an opening one liner like, “The shit storm is just beginning,” it’s hard for The Farmer to look any new wine producer in the eye and think they can out talk or out smart him into believing that the wine industry isn’t in the same shit storm that the Napa Valley pear industry went through in 1965 when MA Thomson was the last grower to have a contract with Del Monte and California Canners & Growers.
I’ve had numerous conversations in recent weeks with new wine producers, old wine producers, brokerages, other growers, industry experts, industry bloggers, and consumers. My intent when engaging in each discussion is three fold
- Continue conducting a self-proclaimed unscientific survey in hopes of getting a better read on all the components of the industry. Ultimately positioning myself as a better informed business woman when sitting at the industry table
- Rustle out the Straight Shooters (who are fearless and tell it like it is) from the Shady Juans; because as a grower those are the wineries I want to work with
- Firmly establish myself and Thomson Vineyards in the group Vinography’s Workout Winemaker says there are simply are not enough of in the industry – individuals with a high enough level of skill in business to remain in business. Because after all, wine is a business; you can’t get to wine without farming; and farming isn’t anything new. We’ve been in business since 1938.
Both the Tablas Creek and Vinography blogs touch on the costs of farming wine grapes and both approach it from opposite ends of the spectrum. Tablas Creek is vertically integrated, managing all points of its wine supply chain. In order to grow one link in the chain, it must grow another or risk imbalance. Vinography paints an all too accurate picture of the winemaker who chases after the cult vineyard in the grower/winery model, where a winery purchases fruit from an independent grower to make into over priced wine at the staggering raw product cost of $6k/ton.
Back to all the talking I’ve been doing as of late. After I tick through the SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis of the wine industry in 2010 where I invariably make a case about the numerous breakages in the system, the winery, winemaker, newly vertically integrated grower asks, “Well missy, just how would you fix it?”
I offer several solutions. Most have to do with recalibration of the two models noted above. All solutions have to do with the industry self-regulating and readjusting it’s moral compass and as a final solution I offer that it may just be a good idea to send some more wine leaders back to business school where they may get a chance at getting their heads screwed back on straight.
Tablas Creek solution: Find a grower who is reasonably in touch with the market and sign a long term contract. Had to source outside of Paso Robles? But managed to make the costs pencil out taking delivery of fruit from Napa? Why not? Tablas Creek has no business planting any more vineyards while fruit drops on the ground year after year. I say the same to the vertically integrated wineries planting more Chardonnay in Carneros this weekend. Until your neighbor’s fruit has a home, put your shovel away. Contrary to popular belief your neighbors are in Santa Ynez, San Joaquin, and Mendocino Counties. California isn’t so big that it can afford to look the other way in the global wine economy. In Farmer terms: Nobody is THAT special. If they can build it in Argentina and ship it to the Port of San Francisco cheaper than we can deliver it 50 miles from Carneros to SF there’s a problem and you’re not immune, no matter how great you were in 1976. It’s simply not good enough any longer to just be Napa. The California wine industry must recalculate, calibrate and regulate as individuals and as a collective industry.
Vinography Solution: Find a grower who is reasonably in touch with the market and sign a long term contract. Oh wait. I already said that. What I meant was find a grower who has recalibrated their pricing and factored in California wine grape prices. $6k is ridiculous; any grower out there charging that per ton in 2010 should be shot. I do however offer this solution with one caveat. Wineries: District 4 average prices should not be chipped away at. If you are lucky enough to source a grower who’s only breaking even in an effort for you to only break even, ride out the shit storm together. Don’t be so nearsighted. You DO NOT need custom corks and pretty little wax closures. The Millennial generation doesn’t care. Have you seen the number of cork recycling programs going on at Whole Foods and the like? This solution can be applied to Workout Winemaker’s point that not enough of you wineries, start up or not, have the necessary business tools and foundation to understand cost benefit analysis. See me – I’ll run one for you for $500.
And finally, don’t think you’re getting out of here unscathed Workout Winemaker. You sir are a problem too. Don’t start your own label, only to fund your label by taking on 19 other “clients” in your newly minted wine shed incredibly reminiscent of a Public Storage unit. Funding your operation by bringing on 19 more competitors in an industry which is already at standing room only capacity is not doing anyone any favors. Shut up about David and Goliath. You’re as bad as the Goliaths planting Chardonnay right now in Carneros!
Whether you are a vertically integrated Goliath, a $6k/ton grower, or a tiny Workout Winemaker named David look yourself in the mirror every morning and adjust your moral compass to reflect solid business ethics. That means staring supply and demand square in the eye; it means doing the hard work to not only care about your own survival but the survival of your neighbors and the California wine industry in relation to the global wine economy. The “What’s In It For Me Club” should officially be shut down. Closed for business. Effective immediately. And that is what will solve the issues of the wine industry; otherwise you can count on The Farmer being right – it’s nothing new to him, he’s seen it all before, and it’s just farming son.
About the Authors
Jennifer R Thomson is the fourth generation of Thomson Vineyards and kicked and screamed her way into the wine industry fighting off the family business as long as she could. Her family has farmed the same 80+ acres of pears, apples, prunes, and cattle in Los Carneros, Napa California since 1938. The family was responsible for the development of the first irrigation system in Napa Carneros in the 1950s made possible by a series of federal soil conservation land grants. Growers of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Merlot since its first wine grape planting in the late 1960s, Thomson Vineyards has supplied both the David and Goliath wineries with premium fruit in the Napa, Bay Area and Central Coast regions of California.
George A Thomson, known as The Farmer farms all of the acreage himself. No vineyard management companies here! Most recently he gave in and allowed crews to prune the vines in February of 2010 when he made his first international trip to New Zealand to learn more about the global wine industry. He puts grapes on grapevines, never left the county of Napa before age 30 and also stamps his feet occasionally to say, “You name it, I’ve farmed it.” Jennifer does everything else as Chief Strategy and Development Officer of Thomson Vineyards; writes and negotiates contracts, schedules harvest crews and deliveries, sorts fruit, reviews P&L statements, submits farm paperwork to the county and state, and ensures the BBQ at the vineyard office is stocked with Tri Tip and tequila! She has an MBA from Florida and her thesis was titled, “The Economic Status of the California Wine Industry.” She’s just now getting comfortable with the millennial label.