Friday, October 31, 2008


So the plan is fairly simple, take home a bottle of Bogle Phantom 2005 ($17.98), cook some burgers for me and the Mrs., pour some candy into the big black smoky bowl my mother bought me from some antiques store that burned down, and sit outside waiting for frostbitten trick-or-treaters tonight, enjoying a clear sky and a neighborhood filled with nosy kids, screaming parents, and qite possibly, a high school football game (Beechwood High is just around the corner).

It's the simple things in life that make the silly season a bit more bearable. Oh, if I could only scrounge up some good holiday metal to annoy the neighborhood. Or maybe just play that damn "Monster Mash" song over and over again.

November will be bringing a more hectic work schedule, frayed nerves at home, less hours in the day to get anything done (or so it will seem), constant muscle pulls and strains, the holidays, and of course, a new president.

Until then, happy halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Last week, our good friends at Cutting Edge Selections, a Cincinnati-based distributor and importer, invited us to dinner to taste through a small selection of wines from Jorge Ordonez, undoubtedly the premier importer of Spanish wines in this country, and meet Jorge’s Master Sommelier, Sara Floyd. The night out – a rarity for yours truly – was to be held at Chalk, one of Northern Kentucky’s finest new restaurants.

I have a soft spot for Chalk – the former Pho Paris that had moved from its original location in Oakley to the former Scalea’s (and other places) across the river in Covington (the last restaurant I would ever work in, moonlighting there to train for my first-level M.S.) The menu is well-suited for just about any type of wine, and proved more than compatible with the wines of Spain.

Sara is a well-traveled, very lovely woman at first meeting, yet whatever intimidating veneer is supposed, she proves to be a very approachable, down-to-earth soul with an extraordinary passion for the wines she represents, and her passion is more than rivaled by her knowledge. Orchestrating this intimate event, which was only myself, Jesse, Shannon, Tom (our Cutting Edge sales rep), Mark Maher (one of my mentors in this biz and the owner of Cutting Edge), and two of the managers at Jeff Ruby’s new Bootsy’s in Downtown, Sara proceeded to show us during the course of appetizers, entrees and desserts, nearly 20 wines from all over the Spanish map, including spectacular Garnachas from Campo de Borja’s Bodegas Borsao (the Monte Oton 2007) and Bodegas Ateca’s Garnacha de Fuego 2007, the amazing Vina Godeval 2007, some fantastic Riojas from Finca Allende and the white Rioja from Bodegas Muga, the ethereal Mas de Can Blau 2005 from Montsant, and some beautiful dessert wines from Malaga.

With such a vast portfolio of wines from Spain, the wines of Jorge Ordonez would take days to try everything, yet this sampling of his portfolio more than showed my cohorts just how amazing Spanish wines can be.

I’d like to thank Sara for taking time out of her busy schedule, and Tom and Mark as well, for showing us the level of passion that goes into bringing these wines to the states, as well as to Jared, Summer, Bryant, Tina and Jeremiah for a great evening full of decadent food, wine, and conversation.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


The Grade: OUTSTANDING. The Mojo: One of the weirdest intros to a winery was a few years back, when a local customer of ours talked to us about a winery he was involved with out in California called X Winery. We were one of the first to bring it into the market, and it has always been a fall-back favorite of ours. Well, recently, we were sort-of reintroduced to the brand with a special buy on their California Syrah, whimsically called Syrahtica 2006 ($11.99 special). In the glass, the ruby red-purple color is vibrant and translucent, with enticing red fruit flavors. There is red cherry, red currant, black and white pepper, and hints of bittersweet chocolate and espresso. The soft tannins are propped up by well-balanced acidity. This red is a pretty good deal for the money.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The Grade: OUTSTANDING. The Mojo: One of the most-noteworthy value producers from California (and there ain’t too many of them left) is Bogle, a family-owned and operated winery that prides itself on making really good, affordable wine, and nothing else. One of their flagship wines is their Petite Sirah 2006 ($7.98), which year after year, proves to be one of the best red wines under $10 on the market.

The 2006 is certainly impressive at first glance, with its deep purple coloring (the first few bars of “Smoke On The Water” or “Perfect Strangers” springs to mind right now) and the aromas of blue and black fruit wafting from the glass. It is fairly opaque, revealing just small hints of light and translucency. There are notes of vanilla, cinnamon and oak in the nose as well, and all lend themselves to the supple dark fruits and supple tannins upon first taste. It actually gives you a bit of peppery grapey-ness as well as good presence of acidity. It almost gives me the impression of blackberry nectar, and the finish is fresh yet dry. This red is pretty fantastic for the money, and even with the economy sucking the way it does, you could still afford to buy this one by the case.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Sicily is one of those "new frontier" wine regions we in the biz are always hearing about, with wineries from Italy, France and the U.S. going in and buying up old, existing producers and vineyards, and bringing them to the American marketplace as exciting new brands. Some of these projects are actually brand spanking new ventures, like Mirabile, a consortium of up-and-coming winemakers in Sicily specializing not only in native grapes such as Nero d'Avola and Inzolia, but also unique grape varieties to the area, such as Viognier and Tannat.

After having tried the Viognier, I picked out two of their more limited reds: the Menfri 2004 ($17.98) and the Tannat 2005 ($22.98).

Mirabile Menfri 2004. The Grade: OUTSTANDING. The Mojo: The Menfri 2004 is garnet-to-purple-colored, this interesting red blend of Nero d’Avola, Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon, the Menfri 2004 is expressive with rich cranberry and currant aromas and flavors, with hints of tobacco, baked cherry, black tea, and fennel. It is soft and supple, with medium body and mild tannins. Quite a change of pace for any Italian wine fanatic or otherwise. This red wine is extremely limited – only 240 6-bottle cases were produced.

Mirabile Tannat 2005. The Grade: AMAZING. The Mojo: Now for something completely different, the truly unique Tannat 2005, a grape variety usually found in the Madiran of France or from the emerging wine region of Uruguay, this typically potent, robust red grape shows off less earthiness in the nose than a Madiran, with raspberry and blackberry aromas. It’s really juicy, with lots of black grape, ripe blackberry, black currant and pomegranate flavors, intermingled with hints of cinnamon, chicory, and even some espresso and milk chocolate notes. It’s quite tasty, with a semi-dry, long-lasting finish. The cool factor alone is off-the-charts, yet this wine is more than just a novelty. Only 660 6-bottle cases were produced.

These two are wonderful examples of what is coming out of Sicily - both cutting edge winemaking and traditional sensibility. Give them a try.

Friday, October 24, 2008


One of my duties as wine buyer at Liquor Direct has been Webmaster (how I got roped into that assignment is anyone’s guess). And one of the components of the Liquor Direct Web site has been my own K2 Selections page. For the past few years, I have posted each month, a dozen wines I think are exceptional, whether they are limited releases, amazing values, or just something completely different.

Now, seven months into the Under the Grape Tree blog , the K2 Selections page has become irrelevant.

So with a sort of integration of the two entities, I will present my wine reviews in the following format:

The first part will be what I have been calling the “grade.” Instead of using the odious 100-point scale, I will use a 3-level system, with the top being AMAZING, the middle being OUTSTANDING, and the bottom being AVERAGE. My criteria for judgment are varietal-correctness, style, value and appeal. I don’t equate a full-bodied wine with being “amazing” nor do I think a light-bodied wine is “average.” If I try a Pinot Noir, it SHOULD be light-bodied, and it SHOULD be soft and fruity. Likewise, an Aussie Shiraz should be spicy, should be medium-to-full-bodied, and should be fruit-forward.

And forget the bad ones. Grandma always said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.”

The second part is what I have been calling the “mojo,” a term used by importer Terry Thiese to describe the prose portion of a wine review. It will be a to-the-point paragraph concerning the character and profile of the wine, as well as a reason for why I brought it into our store. Wines blessed with the dubiousness of being left off a reviewer’s tasting table, or one that just was never submitted to the press gods (Spectator, Parker, et. al) for unknown reasons, are the primary focus for my diatribes.

So beginning now, I present to you the K2 Selection of the Day.

Mirabile Viognier Sicilia 2006 ($22.98). The Grade: OUTSTANDING. The Mojo: I was intimidated by the price of this Sicilian Viognier, a bit of an oddity in its own right, but I needed to satisfy a bit of curiosity and fill a niche for Sicilian whites. Trying this with pan-seared swordfish and Gruyere and Parmesan scalloped potatoes, the initial aromas of honeyed apricots and white flowers was overtaken by high alcohol (this is 14% for a white wine!). But letting the glass cool its heels while getting dinner situated for my wife and I gave the wine ample time to blow that “heat” off. What was left was a supple-tasting, medium-bodied white, with baked peaches, a dash of vanilla, some honeysuckle and an almost-creamy apricot finish. It was a pretty nice wine though the price may stave off some interest. Still, it’s a wine you should give a chance.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Well, as a retailer, the call to shun Beaujolais Nouveau comes a bit too late. Thanks to all the forward thinking individuals for calling on all eco-friendly folks to ban Nouveau when we retailers had to order this months ago. Fortunately, we here at Liquor Direct decided to pair up with our friends at Boisset America and try the Bouchard Aine Beaujolais Nouveau 2007, which is in the environmentally friendly PET bottles, which cut down on shipping weight, which at least, cost less to ship via airlines.

It’s not a complete boycott, but a step in the right direction.

And of course, I would be remiss in not mentioning that the latest 2007 cru Beaujolais from Georges Duboeuf have arrived, including the Regnie Flower Label 2007 ($10.99), Julienas Chateau du Capitans 2007 ($16.96) and the Moulin-a-Vent Flower Label 2007 ($14.96). All three are beautiful, soft, fruit-forward wines that will be exquisite accompaniments to the holidays.

As a retailer, I am not a big fan of boycotting, simply because this business ebbs and flows as it is, without any extra pot stirring. You always want to be good to everyone and anyone in this business because you never know who you are going to run into – either on the way up or the way down. Life is funny that way no matter what business you’re in. Yet aside from minding your karma, don’t we have better things to worry about than whether Beaujolais Nouveau uses up too much airplane fuel in being rushed to the U.S. market? Hell, it’s less than 2 weeks to the elections, where any incumbent should be out on their ass, Republican or Democrat, because if these morons were working for any of us out in the real world, the whole lot of ‘em would be fired on the spot. No 2, 4 or 6 years of screwups – just terminated.

I digress.

Let’s just keep things in perspective, shall we?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I was reading Tom Wark’s latest post on his Fermentation blog, regarding the frequency of blog posts, and wasn’t quite sure how to take it. For me, once I get wrapped up in something, I feel compelled to get into a DAILY routine about it, otherwise, I quickly lose interest. With the Grape Tree blog, I feel compelled to offer up something every day, even if it is to simply post tasting notes. Being a wine buyer, that seems simple enough, given the fact that on average, I taste anywhere from 20-100 wines a week, depending on how much time I can allow for tasting (either with staff, sales reps, or solo).

And while most of my blogging peers are in this for credibility (and I must admit, I am too), this particular blog is an extension of the Liquor Direct Web site and therefore, an extension of the stores themselves. Running the wine buying department here, I don’t always get time to talk to the customers on a regular basis, and with all the new wines coming through each week, it is hard to keep the customers up on new things. Hence, the need for our blog – a means to convey a lot of the new goings-on in the wine world to our customers, as well as make some new friends in cyberspace, seemed logical.

The hope is that I (we) can maintain an almost-daily posting schedule through the holidays, but since this is a new frontier for me, as well as the store, that’s all “up in the air.” In the meantime, we'll just keep doing what we are doing.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Strange the things I get in the mail at work, but I just got an “update” from Randall Grahm and the goings-on at Bonny Doon these days. Randall has, in my mind, come to his senses by abandoning the Big House wines (he sold those off to The Wine Group a year or so ago), and has gone back to making top-quality, small-production wines, such as the Le Posseur Syrah and Le Cigare Volant.

The Web site has been revamped, with a lovely hint of vertigo to continue Mr. Grahm’s assault on the status quo, and the postcard informing me of the changes offers a “comic strip” to play infomercial for all the latest happenings.

That reminds me, I need to talk to my distributor about some of their dessert wines.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I was really excited to get in the Waterbrook Syrah Reserve 2006 ($19.99), a phenomenal Syrah from Columbia Valley. For those of you unaware, Washington State is producing some of the most incredible Syrahs on the market. This particular red (a blend of 96% Syrah and 4% Mourvedre) is oak-aged and has undergone 100% malolactic fermentation to give you a rich, layered wine, full of red berry aromas and flavors, tempered with hints of cloves, herbs, red flowers, plums, and mint, for an amazingly expressive red wine that would be perfect for roasted meats and root vegetables.

This is a small-production, single-vineyard Syrah from one of the top value producers in Washington State. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


One of the most delicious Petite Sirah’s I’ve come across in recent years is the Eaglepoint Ranch Petite Sirah 2005 from Mendocino County ($24.99). First impression was DAMN! This is amazing. Loads of thick and rich blackberry fruit along with hints of mocha, espresso, black currants and oolong tea notes, with silty tannins and a surprising balance of acidity, this is a real treasure in PS, one that you could put on the shelf for a decade and be confident that it will only acquire more finesse and more brilliance.

Eaglepoint Ranch isn’t one of those big names in California wine. Born out of the collaboration between John Scharffenberg (sparkling wine producer and chocolatier) and viticulturist Casey Hartlip. Concentrating primarily on Rhone reds (though they do a small amount of Albarino just to be different), this PS is surely going down as one of their master strokes.

Stop by and pick up a bottle. You’ll be blown away!

Friday, October 17, 2008


I haven’t had the opportunity yet to thank Mike from Naked Vine and Jonathan from Best Drink Ever, so I’d like to take the time to say “thanks” to both of them, and to all their readers and friends who came out to check out their selections. It was great fun, and look for us to make this a repeat performance, for all 4 of our local wine bloggers.

It was actually quite cool to turn the reins over to these special guests (Mike, Jonathan, Tim from Cheap Wine Ratings and Michelle from My Wine Education) because it’s always nice to get outside perspective. In this madcap world of retail wine, a buyer’s mind and palate can be reduced to moldy tapioca, so taking a back seat to some of my blogging brethren is a breath of fresh air – and pretty relaxing too.

Look for more special guests in 2009.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Attention Collectors:

Playboy will be releasing wine with classic playmates from the 60’s-70’s on their labels. Although this is amuzing, the wine inside the bottle will actually be some good stuff, including Schug and St. Supery.

This grabbed my attention because of, what I’ve seen, the explosion of pin-ups in the market. Along with the wine Marilyn Merlot, you can hardly watch TV without catching a glimpse of “The Girls Next Door”, Pamela Anderson’s TV show, LA Ink (which exposes a non-traditional pin-up girl), and most recently, Kate Hudson posing as a pin-up in see-through mesh. It’s a pin-up phenomenon!

In case anyone is interested, we may be able to get our hands on some of these exclusive wines…maybe they would make a nice birthday present, with the playmate of your birth year wrapped around the bottles. As the Spectator cheekily commented, maybe a full-bodied red is just what you’ve always wanted.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I’ve been feeling a little scatter-brained as of late, where usually my wine and entertainment choices tend to hover around one theme, (i.e., Burgundy and Amelie, pesto penne with pinot grigio…), they now are really just all over the place. Let me give you one example:

The other night I wanted to try a new wine we just got in, Mirabile Inzolia. After asking Kevin if he knew what the blend was, I foolishly learned that Inzolia is actually a white grape varietal grown primarily in Sicily. (What’s worse is that we actually carry another brand of this varietal, except it is spelled Insolia.) So what did I pair with my new varietal experience? Some insalata caprese? A friendly game of futbol? No. The movie Risky Business.

Where this might seem like an odd choice, let me explain that I have never seen the movie (which worked well, because I had never had this wine). Interestingly enough, a new Italian white and a classic pre-pubescent Cruise were actually the perfect pairing. The wine progressed slowly on the palate, and showed some interesting spicy notes. It was a bit acidic, but not too citrusy. And the movie followed suit, a little slow at first, but by the time the call girls showed up there was definitely some spice thrown in.

Another interesting wine happening of note: The French government limiting wine writing, wine access and wine advertising. It seems funny that something so inherently French, such as wine, would have such puritanical laws put around it. What’s next? They’re knocking down the Eiffel Tower because it appears too blasé?

Maybe this is just another ‘sign of the times’. The financial world is an upheaval, and apparently, so is the wine world. Stay tuned, wine is sure to ‘bounce back’.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Brand new is the Red Truck Organic Petite Sirah 2005 from California ($8ish). Always known for good value, this value-oriented winery from Mendocino has turned out a certified-organic red that has juicy black fruit that almost leap from the glass. Very jammy on the palate, with loads of juicy blackberry, loganberry and black currant flavors gushing forth, intermingled with coffee, black tea, red flower and spice notes. It’s a really good PS for the money.

Monday, October 13, 2008


From the Friuli region of Italy, comes this beautifully-classic red, the Conte d’Attimis-Maniago Refosco 2006 ($25.98). Refosco is actually the Mondeuse Noir grape from Southwest France, though either name is pretty unfamiliar in these parts. Dark purple in color, the nose gives off earthy notes of red fruit, herbs and spice. Flavors of bright cherries, rose petals, rosemary and oregano spices, and espresso showcase good concentration, balance and medium-tannins. This is really expressive, and lingers for some time, with light notes of vanillin oak, milk chocolate and baked cherries. This is really delicious, and a unique experience for those looking to branch their Italian palate out beyond Tuscany and Piedmont.

Sunday, October 12, 2008



The time has arrived for wineries to start putting freaky labels on their bottles for Halloween. Shannon actually came up with the idea of displaying some of these wines in our store. Ghost Pines (that’s right folks, the Cabernet is back and we grabbed about half of Kentucky’s supply), Pinot Evil, Seven Deadly Zins, Temptation Zin, and Evil Cabernet are among some of these wines that would be ideal to bring along to some freaky-deaky Halloween party. You would definitely be the life of the party showing up in your little red hookn’ in the hood costume with a bottle of Big Red Monster. It seems us ladies like to use Halloween as an excuse to dress sexy as hell so I can’t think of a more appropriate wine for the occasion.

I sampled a bottle of Big Red Monster and let me tell you, the name gives you a forewarning of what to expect out of this wine. As Alfonse would say, “Big as a house!” Make sure you open it in the car on the way over so you don’t need to gnaw on a steak while you’re drinking it. If you are planning on stealing the costume idea mentioned above, I would stick it in your basket with some other sleazy goodies and skip around offering a swig to everyone. We don’t currently carry this wine so if it sounds fun, shoot Kevin an e-mail with a suggestion. ;-)

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Guenoc went through a resurrection in recent years, retiring the Lily Langtry labels for a more clean, simple package. The wines have come back to a more qualitative style, offering up the kind of juice those familiar with the old days were used to, thanks to new management, new winemaker and renewed focus. Case-in-point, the Petite Sirah California 2005 ($8.59) is a great value in “Pets,” with a solid, medium-bodied expression of the often-misunderstood red varietal that is descended from Syrah and Durif (an obscure Rhone varietal brought to the U.S. back in the 19th Century). Black fruit intermixes in the nose with floral and spice notes. There’s a lot of dried blackberry and plum flavors, with hints of apple peel, clove and cedar on the palate. The tannins are dry, yet the finish lingers, leaving the impression of a black cherry tart. A very affordable PS!

Friday, October 10, 2008


So I just received the October 2008 edition of the Kentucky Beverage Journal, a sort-of haphazardly thrown together magazine put out by the Kentucky ABC that primarily serves as a directory for Kentucky wholesalers and their products. The magazine does however, offer a few articles pertaining to the latest trends in spirits and wine. This month, I was stunned to see a feature article on Southern Wine and Spirits and their recent merger with Glazer’s. The reason I was stunned is that once again, the wine leviathan professes their emphasis on customer service and wine knowledge, the kind of which I have not really seen.

To be fair, the staff of Southern operating in Northern Kentucky, as well as the folks at the American Wine & Spirits side of things, have been really great, and extremely cooperative, even in the face of the company’s obtuse bureaucracy. Our stores have always had issues with Southern, though I must admit, they have come a long way.

The problem I have these days, is that as their wine portfolio grows exponentially, thanks to all these importer mergers and acquisitions going on in the business, is that their sales staff can’t keep up, and that they also don’t really have the passion or the knowledge required to sell the vast majority of the brands they now represent.

Importers like Vin Divino, Empson, Negociants, and others, tend to get lost in a book of Southern’s size, mainly because a lot of these wines are small-production wines, extremely limited, and fairly pricey. Many of the sales reps in Southern’s stable are still “spirits” guys, more concerned with turning boxes than generating buzz about wines like Gruner Veltliner and Nero d’Avola.

And for a company that employees more Master Sommeliers than anyone on earth (I believe there are currently 10 working for Southern/Glazer’s), you would think that these folks would just dazzle you with their wine knowledge, but I am sad to say, no. I might be tough on them, and the guys that I personally deal with are hard-working, extremely cooperative, and fairly knowledgeable, but I expect a lot more when I read articles such as this, where the father-son team of Harvey and Wayne Chaplin (CEO and COO of the company respectively) profess a fourteen-point outline of how they succeed in working with retailers.

I would like to see, in the near-future, wineries at least insistent on stronger product knowledge, stronger general wine knowledge, and a greater passion for their products, and I would love to believe, as the executives of this company want me and everyone else at my level to believe, that they really care about us, and that there are not suppliers, but partners. I have never really had any issues with any of my other distributors, yet have always felt as though SWS is out to “complicate” things. We are left with a “you’re stuck with us” attitude that serves no one very well, except maybe them. Wineries and importers get the shaft, retailers get the shaft, and the wine consumers get the shaft.

This megalith has the wherewithal to put together the best wine company on the planet, but from my vantage point, they seem to be content with just being the biggest.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Castle Rock is an interesting winery in that, in addition to their various bottling from California, they also have a few wines from Oregon and Washington State as well, and all of their wines are pretty good values, especially for this day-and-age. In particular, one of their biggest successes with our customers is the Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2007 ($12ish). Light-purple in color, this Pinot gives off supple berry and cherry notes in the nose, with a bit of red flower and roasted nuts. On the palate, red berry and cherry flavors lean against soft tannins and a tiny hint of acidity. Its juicy and soft, and finishes lightly on the palate. It makes for a good, inexpensive Oregon Pinot Noir that is great for any day of the week.

The second wine I have tasted this month from Castle Rock is the Petite Sirah Russian River Valley 2005 ($11ish). Blackberry and black currant notes are present in the nose, with just a slight note of roasted oats. The palate shows off more black fruit, with dried cherries, coffee and dried herbs. Showing good concentration and grip, it finishes with notes of kirsch liqueur. Very nice.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


There are those dreaded wine allocations that come along a wine buyer's desk that just make him or her want to throw themselves in front of a fast moving train. Today is just one of those times with the arrival of our highly anticipated, enormously miniscule allotment of Mollydooker 2007s.

These wines garner huge accolades from Spectator and Parker, and have enough alcohol to be classified fortified wine without any need of extra brandy or cognac. Yet after hearing Sparky Marquis physically tell me that production would increase each year to keep up with the foreseen demand (he visited our store just after the 2005s were released), each year since the amount that not only we get but that this area gets as well has diminished significantly. I really have enough to sell to just a few of the customers on my ever-burgeoning waiting list.

Since tasting some of the 2005s, I don't dare try the current releases because of the fact there is just an eyedropper's worth to go around, so I am only relying on my initial impressions, which were that they (the wines) are far too extracted for my tastes (I might think of using them as a substitute for blueberry syrup for my pancakes though), but the folks driven to buy by the massive points these wines receive, more power to ya. I just wish I had more to sell because nothing screams at you to "eat @#$% and die" like a customer mad that you can't get anymore of what they want.


This week's tastings will feature local wine bloggers Mike Rosenberg (pictured left) of The Naked Vine and Jonathan Seeds (on the right) of Best Drink Ever. Mike will be your host at Covington on Friday and Fort Thomas on Saturday, and Jonathan will be just the opposite.

Mike, recently back from a Mediterranean cruise, will feature wines from Spain, Italy and France, while Jonathan will have a "wines with dinner" lineup, featuring great wines to go with a typical household menu plan.

Should be a lot of fun, and as always, it's free, and at no cost to you. Come join us!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


[Our wine guy Corey - Mr. Bogdan to all his 5th graders - evokes a bit of Rod Stewart on this one.]

"If you want my body, and you think I'm sexy..."

You want sexy? I’ll give you sexy! Have a gander at the Gaudium Gran Vino 2001 by (Marques de) Caceres. It’s simply a sultry Spanish sipper supplemented by silly silkiness. This tempranillo blend is a high-end bottle that you quite simply deserve. I had the pleasure, honor, and glory of sampling this bottle at a recent staff meeting, and my eyes literally widened. To say that Marques de Caceres is the Kendall Jackson of Spain is a gross understatement. They outproduce most of all other Spanish winemakers combined. However, even amongst their Reservas, Gran Reservas, and the like, they still find it in their hearts to make something as glorious as this wine. Need to impress someone? Drop this on them and they will hold you in much higher standing. Not done yet? Tell them that Gaudium is Latin for satisfaction, joy, and pleasure of the senses. Didn’t I tell you this was sexy? Making it even sexier is that this was aged for over 42 months before release, with at least 18 years in French Oak. This will pour down your throat like liquid satin sheets. Afterwards, just remember who told you about it, and tell your friends that I was good.

Monday, October 6, 2008


So last year we were introduced to this fairly unassuming Cab from the folks at Gallo, called Ghost Pines. A blend of Napa and Sonoma fruit, this Cab was a huge surprise, and quickly became a staff and customer favorite. I can’t mention what price we sold it at last year because this year it will be closer to $17-$18, but naysayers will be impressed at its textbook California Cab aromas and flavors of currant, cedar, mocha and spice. This red is full-bodied with good tannic grip and a phenomenal finish.

The only thing unfortunate about this wine is that, unlike last year, when we had a significant supply, we’ve been allocated only 20 cases, so this one will actually sell out rather quickly. And with Alfonse back from vacation, he will probably sell it all out singlehandedly (this was his favorite wine for the holidays last year).

Friday, October 3, 2008


I haven't wanted to mention it before, because I hate talking about these things, but recently, I was stunned by the death of one of my favorite writers, David Foster Wallace. In fact, he was one of my writing heroes in that he came up with the most astonishing prose of what has been called the "post-modern era." The tragic thing about it is that Wallace was only 46, just a few years older than myself, and that he actually committed suicide, having long suffered from severe depression.

A lot of people would say that depression is not a real disease, yet having a long history of it in my family, I could certainly empathize with what he was going through. I've walked in the darkness myself, and many of my maternal family has been afflicted with depression, including my mother and her mother, and the thought of ending one's life as a solution to untenable problems doesn't seem too far-fetched.

In this crazy, mixed-up world, we often become too consumed with what MAY happen and lose sight of what IS happening sometimes, and we don't seem to realize that what the world really needs in this time of confusion is to reach out and let others around you know that they are not alone.

It's interesting that wineries such as Staglin do so much to help raise awareness for Mental Health issues - check out their Music Festival for Mental Illness.

This is a disease that can be helped simply by reaching out and letting someone know you're there and you care.
David was a brilliant writer, and his legacy is a collection of essays, short stories, and novels, including his magnum opus, INFINITE JEST. It pains me to know that his work won't continue, and that his family and colleagues are left wondering what they could have done to save him, but I can only hope that through the good work of folks like the Staglin family, that more people were come together to help those suffering from this severely debilitating disease (which affects an estimated 57 million Americans).


"The past couple of days have been bright, crystal clear, and the most amazing cool temperature. The cotton ball-like clouds have been sitting low in the sky, with an illuminated gold lining. And when I get home from work everyday, the first thing I notice is the sound of dry orange leaves flitting across the drive way. Maybe I’m letting my literary background show, but it’s just been gorgeous!

Besides converting my closet over to fall clothes and planning out would-be outfits in my head, last night I also ushered in the fall with a glass of wine. Red, that is.

I can’t think of a better way to embrace the fall weather than with a warm, hearty meal and a great red wine.

That meal for me happened to be beef brisket, the wine, Writer’s Block Malbec 2006. Both were gifts, in a sense, the brisket coming from my mom, who is an excellent chef, and the wine from the winemaker, Jed Steele, whom I have blogged about in the past.

My sister and I basically devoured the tray of tender brisket (no one make it better than mom!), and I poured a glass of the malbec for her and myself. Although she is only 17, she is interested in wine, and likes to try whatever I open. C’mon people, I don’t pour her a whole glass, but maybe a good ounce or so!

I guess Malbec from California has some type of stigma around it as not being as good as Argentinean, but I found this Californian Malbec to be quite good and could easily stand up to some of my favorite Argentineans. It was lush, with some cocoa, and a hint of vanilla. The description on the back of the bottle describes it the best, “Wine was born of angel tears…”

As the weather continues to get cooler and more and more leaves begin to fall, I’m looking forward to having moments and meals just like last nights’. Some good wine, good food, and of course, good people."

Thursday, October 2, 2008


The first of my Petite Sirah reviews for this month is one of my all-time favorites. The Girard Petite Sirah 2006 ($25ish) is a gorgeous, medium-bodied red with inky colors, fragrant aromas of dark berries, mocha powder and white flowers. There is a slight earthiness to it, however this wine always leads me back to the memories of my grandma's homemade blueberry pies - the ones she would make me for my birthday (I wasn't a big cake eater as a kid). There is a lot of complexity here, though it's all subliminal, with smooth yet well-mixed tannins, and a lot of hidden power on the palate. I love this wine, though I wish there were more than the barely 4300 cases produced.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I never get tired of James Coburn's line in the movie HUDSON HAWK, where he tells Bruce Willis' character, "...and to quote the late great Karen Carpenter, "We've Only Just Begun." People I am sure get tired of me saying it, but there is no line more apropo than that when talking about O-N-D. It's that three-letter acronym that us in the business lovingly refer to as "The Silly Season."

Now, to be sure, this is the time we retailers live for - the last quarter of the year, where the last 9 months of sales are equally made during these last three and then some. What with impending holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's - the holy trinity of entertaining (or more to the point, drinking) are all lined up for our pretty little marketing campaigns and bulked-up inventories.

It is during this peak time that I personally get my best workout of the year, because I move more boxes than UPS. I can't complain - I will save that for when I am not doing anything around here - and in this day and age, with the economy tanking the way it is and the government not really giving a crap one way or the other (NOTE TO ALL: End incumbency - vote for the New Guy (or Gal)!!!) - doing volume business is like a blessing from the gods.

But a lot of people have no idea what kind of controlled chaos goes on behind the scenes. It's pandemonium really, though if it weren't for our crack staff (or our staff on crack), we'd really be in the shiitake mushrooms. The old adage rings true around here - "stack 'em high and watch 'em fly!" I'll show you what I mean along the way to the New Year, with a few choice behind-the-scenes pix of our staff in action! At the very least, it will be good for a few laughs.

Stay tuned!