Why Wine Vintage Matters For All Wine Drinkers

 

Mo Wine Please! Wine Vintage

Does wine vintage matter?

While the reasons may be different depending on if you are a serious collector,  a wine dabbler, or someone who buys wine to drink right away,  the answer is “YES”.

Wine vintage matters.

The quality, quantity, and flavor profile of wine can vary greatly from year to year, vintage to vintage.

Some wine vintages are just better than others. And, for collectors, some wine vintages can be aged longer than others.

Why is one year different than another?

Remember that wineries are in the agriculture business. The vineyards are the farms and grapes are the crops. Magical, wonderful crops.

As farmers, wine growers are at the mercy of weather and climate. Too much rain – no good. Too little rain – no good. The same can be said for heat. And coolness and fog.

Each of these things – factors that only Mother Nature controls – can make or break a wine vintage.

Napa Vineyard

Throw in things like earthquakes, forest fires, fungus, parasites and disease and you have to imagine that winemakers and vineyard managers must do a whole lot of worrying. And praying.

Vineyard managers and winemakers are in the field every day checking on their crops and doing whatever they can to overcome the challenges thrown at them by Mother Nature.

And they do it all for us so that we can enjoy the delicious nectar of the vine.

Why do I care if I plan to drink my wine right away?

Studies show that 80 – 90% of wine purchased is consumed within 24 hours. And 90 – 95% is consumed within a week.

So why does wine vintage matter if you are not going to keep the bottle for very long?

Because some vintages are simply better than others. Going to the store armed with a little bit of knowledge can make all the difference in how much you enjoy the wine you purchase.

Do yourself a favor and check out this super-helpful vintage chart from Wine Enthusiast.

 

Let’s take the example of a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa.

According to the Wine Enthusiast chart, the Napa Cabernet vintage of 2011 is rated 89 while the 2012 and 2013 vintages are rated 95. Quite the difference, eh?

When you are in the grocery store picking up a bottle of wine for tonight’s dinner, you might look at the vast number of choices and have no idea where to start. Maybe you don’t recognize any of the wineries or you want to try something new.

First, you narrow down the choices based on price point. Next, perhaps you pick out a few based on the wine label (38% of wine buyers do).

But what next? How do you make the final selection?

Wine vintage, of course.

Again, let’s use Napa Cabernet as an example.You will likely see some 2011s, some 2012s and some 2013s on the shelf.

We know the 2011 is out. Both the 2012 and 2013 are rated the same and will be great. But, if presented with both, I’d go with the 2012 because it has had a chance to age a bit just relaxing there in the bottle on the shelf.

The same rule applies if you are out to dinner and ordering a glass or bottle of wine. Given the choice, pick the better vintage. And the older vintage as long as you know it is of equal quality.

But be absolutely certain that you are served the vintage you selected. Sometimes restaurants are slow to update their wine menu when they run out of a vintage.

Binny's Beverage Depot Lincolnwood

And, by the way, watch out for this when looking at “shelf talkers” at your wine store.

Shelf talkers are the little cards hanging from the shelf showing recommendations and noting high scores. If the shelf talker says that the 2012 Blah Blah Cabernet is rated a 95, be sure that it is the 2012 Blah Blah Cabernet you are buying.

Wine vintage matters.

And what about those who hold bottles longer?

If you are someone who wants to stock up on wine to save for a little bit of time or for serious aging, you will want to focus on the best vintages.

You are going to want to search out Napa Cabernet from 2005, 2007, 2012 and 2013 rather than from 2011.

Sidenote: Even though it was a tougher wine vintage, that’s not to say that all 2011’s are inferior. We have some bottles from that vintage in our cellar. But, we only have wines from winemakers we know and trust. It was a challenging year, for sure, but not impossible.

wine cellar

In addition to affecting the quality, wine vintage can also affect the ageability.

The Wine Enthusiast chart has a nifty color-coded system that shows if a wine is past its prime or right in the sweet spot for drinking.

Wine vintages that show up as “Hold” can certainly be consumed now if you want. The “Hold” designation just means that the wine will get even better with age.

The ageablity information helps collectors keep track of when wines should be consumed. You certainly wouldn’t want to invest in a fabulous bottle of wine from an excellent vintage only to stash it away for too long and miss the peak flavor.

That’s what we call a wine collector’s/first world problem/gut-wrenching nightmare.

As with everything, knowledge is power. Bookmark this post and download the Wine Enthusiast vintage chart to help with your wine purchasing choices. You will be glad you did!

Cheers!

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Is It Fall Yet?

Labor Day weekend traditionally marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Although the temperatures outside don’t agree, I know that sweater weather is just around the corner.

Tomorrow is a big day for me – stay tuned for that – and next week I will be sharing a post about why wine vintage matters even to those who don’t cellar their wine.

But today, I’d like to share some random things that have caught my eye.

The Art of Liz Lyons Friedman

I first discovered Liz Lyon Friedman’s beautiful work at the Sausalito Art Festival several years ago. Held every year over Labor Day weekend, this beautiful art festival in Sausalito, California, is one of my favorites.

As I walked past her booth, I couldn’t take my eyes off of Liz’s colorful and intriguing pieces.

Liz creates “linocuts” or linoleum block prints. (See details on her process here.)

Their beauty with a touch of whimsy, speaks to my soul. And, the themes Liz focuses on – wine, friends, life, and love – are the very things I celebrate every day.

We have these fabulous pieces in our house along with her award-winning poster from the 2012 Sausalito Art Festival.

Kitchen Crowd by Liz Lyons Friedman

Kitchen Crowd by Liz Lyons Friedman (used with permission by the artist)

Cooking With WIne by Liz Lyons Friedman

Cooking With Wine by Liz Lyons Friedman (used with permission by the artist)

You can visit Liz Lyon Friedman’s site or find her on Facebook to see more of her talent.

College Football Tailgating

In a couple of weeks, we will be heading to Notre Dame for a home football game.

My mouth is watering thinking of the delicious meatball subs, chili and scrumptious baked goods on hand at the tailgate party our friends so generously invite us to.

This post, It’s Tailgate Season, by my blog friend Vicki at Life in My Empty Nest, is chock-a-block full of amazing recipes for tailgate parties. Vicki found all sorts of great recipes on Pinterest (like this yummy looking bacon cheeseburger meatball recipe from An Affair from the Heart) collected just for us!

I have pinned every one of the recipes shown in Vicki’s post. Now I just have to talk someone into making them for me!

The West Wing Podcast

I’m a nerd. My favorite television show of all time (please don’t tell the housewives) is The West Wing.

I loved that show from the first minutes of the pilot all the way through two terms of Jed Bartlett’s presidency.

Imagine my delight in discovering that there is a podcast, The West Wing Weekly, which is an episode by episode analysis of my favorite show.

Be still, my nerdy little heart.

Hosted by Joshua Malina (who played the role of Will Bailey starting in season 4) and Hrishikesh Hirway (musician, composer, podcaster and political news junkie), the podcasts feature analysis of each episode, behind the scenes stories and visits from many of the West Wing actors.

Netflix is offering every season of West Wing. I have been watching each episode, then listening to the podcast.

The only teensy tiny problem is that Netflix encourages binge watching by starting the next episode as soon as the last is done. I have stayed up waaaaaay too late too many nights hanging out with Toby, Josh, CJ and Donna.

And loving it.

Bounty Hunter Wine Catalog

I’ve shared this gem with you before. I consider the Bounty Hunter catalog to be the best source for online wine purchasing. They also carry spirits.

Bounty Hunter Wine Catalog

The fine folks at Bounty Hunter scour the world, curating a collection of wine based on quality and price. There is something for everyone and you can be guaranteed the wine will be good.

Just this weekend, Peter and I pulled a bottle of wine which we had never had before out of the cellar, a 2007 Pedestal Merlot.

2007 Pedestal Merlot

As soon as I saw the Bounty Hunter sticker on the back of the wine, confirming where we had purchased this bottle, I knew it would be a gem and it was!

When you visit Napa, be sure to visit Bounty Hunter’s Smokin’ BBQ Restaurant and Wine Bar for delicious food and a wide selection of wines. It is right in the heart of downtown Napa at 975 First Street.

That’s my roundup for now. By the way, all of these opinions and endorsements are my own. Other than permission to use images of Liz Lyons Friedman’s art, I have received no compensation from anyone included in this post.

Now, what about you? What’s on your radar? Are you ready for fall?

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Two Melon Soup – A High Impact, Low Effort Recipe

Hi, folks!

We had a busy weekend which started with the celebration of this gal’s birthday.

the birthday girl

You may know her as “Momma” from the comments section of this blog. I know her as the best mom a gal could ever have.

Our two-day celebration was capped off with a delicious dinner at McCormick & Schmick’s.  By the way, did you know that they will print a special occasion message to the guest of honor on the top of your menus? Nice touch, McCormick & Schmick’s.

On Saturday night we had a mini-reunion with part of our Camino de Santiago group at the home of fellow pilgrims, Nora and G.

Before dinner, we plugged our computers into G’s gigantic and gorgeous television to share pictures from the trip. We scrolled through 300+ photos bringing back great memories of a most amazing journey.

In honor of the evening’s theme, Nora prepared a lovely and delicious paella.

paella and two melon soup

Paella is something I enjoy eating but would never attempt to make myself. Nora is a gifted cook who whips up dishes like this with her eyes closed.

I’m delighted to be the frequent beneficiary of Nora’s culinary skills and have, in fact, “borrowed” her recipes for posts (Panzanella salad).

Today I’m going to share another of Nora’s recipes with you.

See that pretty bowl of soup served with the paella?

This Two Melon Soup, served chilled, is the perfect, refreshing start to a summertime meal.

Also, Nora assures me that the recipe fits my requirements of being High Impact, Low Effort. The hardest part, she says, is pouring the soup into the bowls.

two melon soup

Nora’s Two Melon Soup

  • 1 ripe cantaloupe, diced
  • 1 small honeydew melon, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon minced fresh mint

Puree cantaloupe with lemon juice until smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Rinse blender then puree honeydew with lime juice and mint until smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

When ready to serve, either:

Transfer purees into two separate measuring cups. With one in each hand, pour simultaneously into the bowl, pouring equal amounts on each side.

or use Nora’s preferred method:

Tip bowl slightly to the side and pour in the desired amount of cantaloupe puree. Pour the honeydew puree into the other side of the bowl as you are lowering the bowl back to level.

Either way might take some practice but the result is beautiful.

Garnish with a mint sprig.

Easy, peasy. Or so I’m told.

Big surprise, Peter and I brought wine to enjoy with dinner.

First up, a bottle of Albariño.

Albariño is a white wine commonly grown in Galicia, the Northwest region of Spain. Galicia is the very same part of Spain we walked through on the Camino of St. James. Along the way, we enjoyed lots and lots of great Spanish Albariño. 

Peter and I brought a bottle from one of the few U.S. producers of Albariño, Hendry Vineyard. It was on a trip to Hendry’s winery in Napa that we first tasted Albariño and fell in love with it.

2014 Hendry Albariño

The 2014 Hendry Albariño ($22) is light and refreshing with good acidity. It is fruity and floral without going over the top. 

Floral, herbal and peachy aromas. On the palate, tangy citrus, nectarine and passion fruit flavors reflect the bright acidity.

– Tasting notes via Hendry.com

Albariño reminds me a bit of Viognier in that it is a pretty versatile food wine. It pairs best with shellfish like mussels and clams but is also great with chicken. It’s the perfect white wine to serve with paella.

For the red wine lovers in the group, we brought a bottle of 2007 Clos Mogador Priorat from Spain.

2007 Clos Magador

This bold red Spanish wine, a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carinena, is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Albariño.

The 2007 Clos Mogador Priorat is dark and juicy and immensely satisfying. It brings flavors of licorice, blackberry, and black cherry. It’s a little bit spicy and a little bit smoky.

Oddly, though, because of the hearty nature of paella, this wine played well and did not overpower the flavors in the main course.

You have to love a dish with which you can pair both a light white wine and a bold red wine. Something for everyone.

For dessert, Nora made (you won’t believe this) homemade non-dairy rocky road ice cream with mini-marshmallows, almonds, and dashes of cayenne and red pepper.

That’s what I call a “HIGH EFFORT, HIGH IMPACT” recipe!

We ended the evening re-watching the movie that inspired us to do the walk in the first place, The Way.

This film from 2011 stars Martin Sheen and is written, produced and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez. Dedicated to Sheen’s father, Francisco Estevez, who hailed from Galicia, the film was inspired by a trip Sheen took with Emilio’s son on which they walked part of the Camino. A real family affair.

Although the movie tells the sad story of a dad completing the pilgrimage on behalf of his late son, it also captures the beauty, the community, and the spirit of The Way.

I highly recommend it!

And if you can get Nora to make some Two Melon Soup and paella for you – even better!!

I’ll bring the Albariño.

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Wine Tasting At Binny’s – You’ll Want To Try These Wines

Mo Wine Please

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a good old wine tasting roundup. So let’s do this!

Last night, Peter and I met up with my folks and sister-in-law, Kate, for an evening of wine tasting at the brand new Binny’s Beverage Depot in Lincolnwood.

Binny's Beverage Depot Lincolnwood

The theme for the night was “California Wines” so this was right up my alley.

Binny’s set up 7 tasting stations throughout the store with six to eight different wines being poured at each station. There were lots of fellow tasters present but it didn’t feel crowded because of the fabulous setup.

Now the wines.

Chardonnay

My step-dad who, by the way, turned 98 on the 4th of July, was in search of a new Chardonnay to add to his list of favorite wines.

Wine tasting at 98

The favorites among the Chardonnays were:

2013 DuMol Chardonnay

The 2013 DuMol Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($55) is a wonderfully complex wine with layers of flavor. It has great body and a pleasing finish. The winemaker says that the 2013 vintage is very strong in this coastal region of Sonoma County. He feels that this wine could age for five to seven years.

2014 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Another favorite was the 2014 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($45). This wine, made from grapes sourced from several of the Flowers vineyards literally right on the Pacific Coast, has a bit more minerality while still providing plenty of the honey and citrus notes that Chardonnay lovers love.

2014 Stags Leap Chardonnay If you are looking for something at a more modest price point, try the 2014 Stags Leap Napa Valley Chardonnay ($20). A bit less complex that the two wines above, the Stags Leap still provides lots of flavor and quality for the price. It is crisp and clean and quite good.

2014 Chalk Hill Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

The 2014 Chalk Hill Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($18) has a bit more of a creamy flavor but still with enough acidity to provide good balance. This could be a nice choice for a house Chardonnay.

Other White Wines

2015 Cade Sauvignon Blanc

The 2015 Cade Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($33) was a big hit. Cade is a member of the wonderful PlumpJack family of wines. I love a Sauvignon Blanc that is crisp and refreshing without being too citrusy. The Cade Sauvignon Blanc delivered this profile beautifully.

2014 Jaffurs Viognier

I was drawn to taste the 2014 Jaffurs Bien Nacido Vineyard Viognier ($27) based on two things: I love Viognier and I love any wine that comes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Barbara.

Remember what I’ve said, if you ever see a wine with “Bien Nacido Vineyard” on the label, you can be pretty certain it will be awesome.

Red Wines

Because we are experiencing a heat wave here and temperatures are hovering around a zillion degrees, we were all inclined to try more white wines than red wines.

Still, I am a red wine gal so I soldiered on.

2012 The Pairing Red Blend

The Pairing is what you might call the younger sibling of Jonata and The Hilt, two ridiculously outstanding wine producers. The same winemaker is responsible for all three members of the family and the quality shows.

While the 2012 The Pairing Red Blend ($25) contains some Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, the highest percentage of the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine tastes like a classic Napa Cabernet but at a fraction of the price.

2013 Emmolo Merlot

Merlot, unfairly criticized in the movie, Sideways, can be the perfect wine for folks who want a bold red but prefer slightly softer tanins than what is usually found in Cabernet Sauvignon.

The 2013 Emmolo Merlot ($56) comes from the Oak Knoll region of Napa Valley which has both the best soil and best climate for growing Merlot grapes. This lovely wine is smooth and has all the great flavors of luscious fruit balanced by a touch of earthiness.

By the way, Emmolo is part of the Wagner Family Wines which include Caymus and Conundrum.

2014 Cane and Fable Cabernet 373

We first discovered this wine on a trip to Solvang and Los Olivos in Santa Barbara County. Then the winery was called Cane & Fable but they have rebranded as The Fableist. Either way, the wine is quite recognizable because of the grasshopper on the label.

The 2014 The Fableist (Cane & Fable) Cabernet Sauvignon 373 ($23) is produced in Paso Robles and drinks like a Napa Cabernet at more than twice the price. This gem of a wine is a real bargain and could absolutely be a great choice for a red house wine.

I love the description by the winemaker:

“Every little sip leaves you comfortable, content and just feelin’ lucky.”

We did, indeed, feel lucky to have had the opportunity to try so many great wines at Binny’s. And, hopefully, our research will give you a few suggestions for new wines to try.

Do you have any new favorites to share with me?


Please note:

  • I received no compensation from Binny’s or the wineries. The wine tasting was complimentary for anyone with a Binny’s loyalty card.
  • The prices listed are Binny’s. You should be able to find these wines at your local stores but the price may vary.

Designated driver, Uber or cab

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