Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


With the close of the new year, we are moving over to Wordpress. The new URL is http://underthegrapetree.wordpress.com. Come over and check the new look.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Thinking about what wines I chose for my Top 40, there were some obvious oversights, as well as just no room for all the amazing juice of which I had sampled over the past year. I wanted to round up some other standouts that I missed, forgot, or just couldn’t get into the list (in no real particular order):

1. Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast 2006. From the our friends at Hahn Family Estates, this gorgeous Cab impressed many customers this year, showing that a Cab under $25 can beat even the priciest counterparts.

2. Dusted Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2006. Corey and Chad made quite an impression on me out in WA, and this wine was one of the first I reeled into the store upon my return. It’s a beautiful effort and affordable too.

3. Atalaya Almansa 2007. Another glorious red wine from importer Jorge Ordonez. Monastrell and Garnacha make up the bulk of this sexy beast.

4. Dei Sancta Catharina 2006. Usually on my Top 40 every year, I left it off simply due to the overwhelming amount of wines I came across this year. Catharina Dei is one of my favorite winemakers, and her signature red blend is a perennial guarantee of quality and phenomenal drinking pleasure.

5. La Gramiere Cotes-du-Rhone 2006. This tale of husband and wife buying a small plot of land in the Southern Rhone, and turning out a stunning red blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre that is a beautiful love story in a glass.

6. Poet's Leap Riesling Columbia Valley 2008. A gorgeous effort from the collaborative-happy Allan Shoup and the good folks at Long Shadows Vintners, this amazing Riesling is arguably their best and certainly their most affordable wine in the lineup.

7. d'Arenberg The Hermit Crab Marsanne-Viognier McLaren Vale 2008. D’Arenberg is one of the most deserving, unsung producers of Australia, turning out a vast array of values, including this tasty white wine. Just great bang-for-the-buck quality.

8. Intriga Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley 2008. A sleeper wine that is produced by the Gras family (of MontGras) and made from almost 50 year old Cab vines. Dark, concentrated and rich beyond belief, this Cab really overdelivers.

9. Montes Folly Apalta 2005. I opened a bottle of this one with the Mrs. sometime back and really blew her away with the level of concentration and density this voluptuous red possessed both in bottle and glass. Drinking it with dinner was like eating leftovers in bed after previously engaging in some pretty steamy behavior. Just sin heaped atop of sin.

10. Achaval-Ferrer Malbec Mendoza 2008. Another usual suspect in my Top 40, I once again gave some other wines a shot on the premise that this is the BEST friggin’ Malbec under $30 year-in-and-year-out and doesn’t need my blowhard opinion to champion it, unless you haven’t tried it yet. Then my friends, I suggest you get up off your duffs and get yourself a bottle, grill some meat, open and enjoy.

Once again, new things are coming for 2010 so have a Great New Year, be safe, and see you next year!


2009 has been an incredible roller coaster ride, to say the very list. Personally, I've managed to earn my first certification (Certified Specialist of Wine), visit the Windy City for some amazing Italian/French/South American wines courtesy of Palm Bay Imports, and be part of an amazing ride with the Washington State Wine Commission and the Washington Wine Road Trip. We've had two great events with winemaker Bruce Neyers (who moonlights as National Sales rep for Kermit Lynch), and I have met a lot of phenomenally talented winemakers throughout this year.

I want to take a few moments to thank my assistant Shannon, and the cast and crew of D.E.P.'s Fine Wine & Spirits for taking my vision to the masses, incorporating their own wine world view, and helping our stores continue their successful run (which makes the boss happy). Thanks too to all our sales reps who make sure that things are running smoothly around here by keeping the flow of product moving freely. Thanks to my buying counterparts (Jim, our GM, Rob - liquor, Mark & Brandon - beer) for helping out whenever possible - thanks for having my back, you know I've got yours.

A huge thank you to all the brokers, importers and winemakers who continue to amaze us all with their wares - it's the reason I love this business so much.

Many many thanks to my cohorts in the blogosphere: The Unofficial Ohio Valley Wine Bloggers Association (thanks Tom at Louisville Juice for that one) - Mike Rosenberg, Tim Lemke, Jonathan Seeds, Tom Johnson, and the amazing duo of Michelle Lentz and her husband Kevin Gerl. Thanks to Jeff at Good Grape, Joe at 1WineDude, David at Palate Press, Megan at Wannabe Wino, and everyone else who has been an inspiration to me over the past year and a half. I hope to finally meet many of you in person this year at the WBC.

And most importantly, thanks to all our D.E.P.'s customers and Grape Tree readers. You're the reason I keep doing this everyday, or at least one of the many. Cheers and Happy Holidays!

We'll be back in 2010 looking newer and groovier. See you then!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Strange how my post the other day – “The Portfolio Shuffle” – caused a bit of confusion amongst suppliers. Seems somebody somewhere coughed up misinformation on importer Southern Starz and the correct distributor. My apologies to both Bryant and Solera (the Columbus, OH wholesaler who actually STILL handles S.S. for Northern Kentucky). Unfortunately, the confusion came from S.S. themselves. Hopefully, everyone up and down the chain has their story straight.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Thanks to the Internet, there is a King’s Ransom in information available – all you have to do is seek it out. I’ve been at this wine thing awhile, and since the Internet came along, hours searching for articles and books at the bookstore or the library are replaced by minutes on the Web. And with all the various wine bloggers out there, I have access to dozens of perspectives and opinions that not only help me in my quest for ultimate wine knowledge, they help me stay better informed on the various trends in the wine industry – trends I need to know as a buyer.

There are literally thousands of wine blogs out there, with a wide array of points-of-view, all aimed at giving you another piece of the picture. The printed magazines such as Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and others, are one side of the vast landscape that is the world of wine, and they do a great deal to keep people up to date, yet they do have an agenda – it’s no surprise. They are in the business of selling magazines. They sell ad space and provide a reciprocity that is either overt or unintentional, but there nonetheless. I don’t fault them for it. I am in the business of selling wine, and need to do what is necessary to show reasons for carrying the wide range of wines the stores I work for do sell. Business is business. So when it comes to information, it is beneficial to the student to glean said information from as many sources as possible.

For wine, the best resource online is The Wine Lover’s Page, the brainchild of Louisville columnist Robin Garr and his army of likeminded winos. Assembled there is a huge wealth of knowledge all linked together in one neat Web site. It’s not elaborate by any means, nor should it be. The meat of the Site is the content, not the graphics. A great new resource is The Palate Press, founded by friend David Honig, and contributors include over 20 of the Web’s current bloggers including Joe Roberts of 1 Wine Dude, Jeff Lefevre of Good Grape, Gabriella Opaz of Catavino, Kori Voorhees of Wine Peeps, and our own local blogger friend Michelle Lentz of My Wine Education.

Some of my favorite must reads are Wine Enthusiast writer Steve Heimoff, one of the most articulate and irreverent bloggers out there, Samantha Dugan of Samantha Sans Dosage, a brutally honest writer who doesn’t back away from speaking her mind about anything, not just wine, and Tom Wark from Fermentation, the daily wine blogger who takes on the industry and doesn’t back down from the fight.

If you only look at the blog roll at the right of the screen, you can see the list is long and distinguished, and really gets longer every day. There is always a new voice to discover, and another piece of the puzzle to add. Knowledge is essential in this business. And if you are a true geek like me, it takes on a very twisted impression of fun.


Seems like at the end/beginning of every year here in the Commonwealth, the various distributors/brokers/importers/etc. apparently get together and change their lineup cards a bit (I know that is not how it works). This distributor takes brand A from that distributor who gets brand B from another distributor who takes brand C from the first distributor, or there is a distributor going under so there is a feeding frenzy in the shark tank – you get the idea.

To stay in the game, retail buyers need to keep one ear to the ground and the other in the wind, just so they can know where what brands are going and to whom they are going. Couple all that with the recent Constellation restructuring, after all the mergers and acquisitions, and your brainpan will be spilling over. Sometimes I just want to stand up and scream “make up my friggin’ mind for me, would’ya?” My favorite resulting move is Constellation becoming Diageo Jr., by forcing their distributorship in KY to form its own house. And of course, they call it Starz. They are with Southern Wine & Spirits, hence Southern Starz. This is not to be confused with Southern Starz, the importer of Australian and South African wines that recently migrated from a small outfit based in Columbus, Ohio to Kentucky’s Bryant Distributing.

Trade-offs in just the past few months include Nevada Co. Wine Guild, Burgess Cellars, St. Supery, Paolo Scavino, Michel Picard, Las Rocas de San Alejandro, and more. Lord only knows what the new year is bringing our way in 2010, but change can be fun. It can also be a real big pain in the ass, too.