Wine Blog Daily Friday 12/15/17


cannabis wineA daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

A Must Read Blog gets a taste of a soon-to-be-released, cannabis-infused Sauvignon Blanc and asks, “Is this even wine?”

In a cautionary tale about buying wine gizmos as holiday gifts, Odd Ball Grape reminisces about the self-swirling wine glasses they bought.

And while we’re on the topic of wine glasses, The Wine Curmudgeon calls a foul on the latest iteration of a specialty glass for sparkling wine, which looks like a cement mixer and is lined with dust.

Richard Hemmings points to the importance of prestige rather than intrinsic worth in music as well as wine.

At Social Vignerons, Julien Miquel provides tips on pairing Japanese food with Prosecco.

The Academic Wino reports on a study of the effects of allowing children to sip alcohol.

Blake Gray wonders why a counterfeiter would try to pass off Languedoc bulk wine as Bordeaux AOC, a designation not known for its quality.


Budget Wine Review: Sebastiani “The Crusher” Petite Sirah California 2014



the crusherThe Sebastiani brand has been through many ups and downs including a sale to the Foley Wine Group but they continue to make good, value-priced wines. Hard core fans of robust, tannic Petite Sirah might fine this a bit tame but those being introduced to the grape will enjoy the bold personality paired with a supple, mid-palate mouthfeel.

Abundant aromas of plum, blackberry, black olive, and dry fig wrapped in dusty earth leave a vibrant first impression. Broad-shouldered and firm upfront, the supple mid-palate brings up rich dark chocolate before chiseled tannins gradually assert themselves on the drying, medium-length finish. This wine has a volatile personality, brash and loud at first but showing its good nature underneath, becoming almost languid before its inner toughness reasserts itself.

There is a lot going on for a few bucks.

This blend of 81% Petite Sirah with small percentages of Merlot, Barbera, Tempranillo and Malbec sees oak for 14 months.

Pair with this tough/tender song of destructive love, This Tornado Loves You by Neko Case.

Score: 89

Price: $18 (Purchase Here) but it often sells for considerably less at the supermarket.

Alc: 13.5%

Wine Blog Daily Thursday 12/14/17

lebanonA daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

Lauren Mowery recounts her visit to Lebanon which she argues is one of the world’s greatest food and wine destinations. (Part 1 and Part 2)

Simon Wolff answers the question “How many days of maceration is necessary before a white wine becomes an orange wine?”

Did you know there is such a thing as an iconic Lambrusco? John Fodera describes the virtues of this often ignored region and style.

As Hanukkah begins, Michelle Williams brings us up to date on Kosher wines and provides pairings with traditional foods.

Wine communications expert Tom Wark unwraps his crystal ball and elaborates on the wine trends he expects to see in 2018.

The Wine Curmudgeon laments the difficulty of finding cheap wine worthy of review, but does find one that meets his standards.

Why Wine Fashions Change



fashionistaStyles in the wine world seem to change as often as styles in the world of fashion. Cabernet Sauvignon went from savory and elegant to plump and alcoholic and is now trending back toward savory and elegant, seeming to follow the trend from sagging to skinny jeans. The butter bomb Chardonnays of the early 2000s are as popular today as bell bottoms. Moscato, all the rage a few years ago, appears to be receding in popularity replaced by rosé as the go-to refresher. Somms who went gaga over wines from Jura recently now find natural wines more appealing.

Why such fascination with change?

One could argue that it’s the industry driving change ratcheting up profits by making people want something new. But it seems obvious that these changes in the wine world aren’t initiated by large companies who tend to follow trends, not set them. It wasn’t Gallo that first cut back the oak and malolactic fermentation when making Chardonnay or that started pushing out the dry rosé as everyone’s favorite porch pounder.

Alternatively, one might argue that everyone wants to be on the cutting edge of what’s cool and will jump on anything that seems new just to be perceived as “with it”. There is surely some truth in that but it doesn’t explain why being perceived as “with it” has acquired such cultural importance.

I think fashions change because in matters of taste we crave difference. We are insatiable when it comes to avoiding boredom; through constant differentiation we slay the demon of monotony.

Perhaps this is just the curse of modernity but I doubt it. People in the past may have been more satisfied with tradition because they had fewer resources to create change.

At any rate, if there is there a limit on how much change we can accommodate we’re about to discover what that limit is. And we have changes in style to mark that acceleration.

Wine Blog Daily 12/13/2017

junk food wines

A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

Louisa at The Grape Geeks answers a question we’ve all asked from time to time: Which wines pair with junk food?

Madeline Puckette at Wine Folly picks the best champagnes for any budget.

And while we’re on the topic, Jameson Fink reminds us of the quality of Crémant when looking for affordable bubbly.

Mike Madiao at Palate Press asks plaintively,  “Is it wrong to love inexpensive wine?”

Douglas Hillstrom describes the 12 most important Finger Lakes Wines of 2017.

The Wine Economist has some gift ideas for the wine book lovers on your holiday list.

And here are more gift ideas from Alder Yarrow.

Home Cooking with Bittersweet

sunsetToday we arrived home in San Diego after 6 months on the road, just in time to see the sunset over San Diego Bay out our back window. After 10,000 miles, over 100 winery visits, several regional cuisines explored, a few extraordinary fine dining experiences,  two wine-related conferences, and lots of poking about in unfamiliar places, I’m craving some home cooking.

Of course, I carry my kitchen with me when I travel along with a deeply appreciative food and wine companion (my wife Lynn). I’m never far from my pots and pans. But when traveling, cooking takes a back seat to exploration and managing the logistics of mobility. Only when stationary does the time for preparation, planning, and availability of ingredients conspire with the presence of a wider network of friends and family to make cooking the most important activity of the week. Home cooking is not about where your kitchen is; it’s about whom you share your food with. I’m really looking forward to a few months of stasis.

The paradox is that while I long for home when we’re traveling, when at home I can’t wait to hit the road again.

Dissatisfaction is the spice of life, which is at its best when bittersweet.


Wine Blog Daily 12/12/17

A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

Hawk Wakawaka shares her impressions from 9 days in the Willamette Valley. it’s an outstanding snapshot.willamette valley

Randy Caparoso at the Lodi Wine Grape Commission lists the 12 most interesting Lodi wines of 2017. It’s not standard fare. Dornfelder is on the list.

There is interesting wine being made in almost every state in the U.S. Dave Nershi summarizes New Jersey’s recent success.

Meg Houston Maker describes the terroir of our newest AVA, Petaluma Gap.

The Wine Curmudgeon wonders why Cava gets no respect.

Caroline Henry at Wine Searcher has the latest news on the controversial herbicide Glyphosate.

Wine Review: Arché Winery and Vineyard Syrah Montague County 2015



Arche-Syrah-2015Texas’ deserved reputation for big—big steaks, big hats, big territory (and yes sometimes a big head)—is belied by their wines which are often elegant and full of finesse.The parched, hot, gently rolling hills in North Texas near the Oklahoma border might seem an unlikely place to grow quality wine grapes. But this award-winning Arché Syrah made from estate grown grapes is delicious, juicy but with considerable old-world delicacy reminiscent of modern Cote Rotie, including the 5% Viognier in the blend.

Assertive florality, backed up by smoke meats, ripe blackberry with cranberry nuances and rose-inflected cinnamon make a heady aromatic concoction all replicated on the palate. Lively and juicy in the mouth, a glycerin sheen yields a lovely satin-like mouthfeel giving way to a marriage of fine-grained, prickly tannins and brittle, crystalline acidity on the high-toned finish, which features, as it fades, the return of resonant, sweet fruit. Exquisite, subtle use of oak. The fruit really shines.

The wine is uplifting and lyrical but with a bit of fire and irreverence. Coldplay’s Viva La Vida matches the mood.

Score: 92

Price: $34 (Purchase here)

Alc: 14.2%

Wine Blog Daily Monday 12/11/17

heitzA daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

At a wine tasting event to benefit victims of the fires in Napa/Sonoma, Alder Yarrow tastes some iconic California wines, some from the 1960’s.

Alfonso Cevola, On the Wine Trail in Italy, celebrates the young,the old, and those who never quite made it.

TripAdvisor was scammed recently by fake reviews for a fake restaurant in Italy. Tom Wark wonders if it could happen to wine-related peer review sites.

Here’s a blast from the past. Christie Brinkley owns a winery making sparkling wine and Prosecco. Here’s a review of their sparkling rosé.

With his inimitable humor, the Hosemaster of Wine presents his Christmas wish list for the wine industry.

Michelle Williams at Rockin’ Red Blog has some helpful tips on giving wine as a Christmas gift.

Don Kavanaugh seeks out the wines that have provided the best investment returns over the past five years. The list is surprising.

Kansas City Barbecue


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joes-buildingAlthough they have many fine restaurants, Kansas City is best known for its distinctive barbecue–they take it very seriously. Real smokehouses, a tomato-based sauce thickened with molasses, and featuring burnt ends as their specialty, KC is one of a handful of places in the U.S. where you can earn a barbecue Ph.D. if you’re so inclined. Is there a higher aspiration? Truth be told you can really find lots of different styles of barbecue here, from Carolina pulled pork to Texas brisket, but why eat those interlopers when you can have the real deal?

During my recent visit to KC, after a hard day of wine tasting, I would seek to earn credits toward my degree by seeking the best barbecue in Kansas City with a special focus on burnt ends. But it turns out there are really two styles of KC barbecue and several sauce options. Some restaurants serve a traditional style that apparently hasn’t changed much in 50 years. Others serve what is known as competition barbecue which grew out of barbecue competitions where creativity scores points.

The birth of the Kansas City barbecue scene is usually traced to Henry Perry who served smoked meats to garment district workers in the early 20th Century. Perry’s sauce was likely made of vinegar and pepper and was described as “harsh and peppery”, not the thick, sweet sauce we now associate with Kansas City. Arthur and Charlie Bryant took over the business when Perry died in the 1940’s  and added tomato to the sauce to sweeten it, and the rest is history, as Arthur Bryant’s has become the best-known KC barbecue brand. In 1972 renowned writer Calvin Trillin, a native of Kansas City, wrote in an article for Playboy that Bryant’s was the best restaurant in the U.S. in part because that gave away the charred edges of the smoked brisket:

The counterman just pushes them over to the side and anyone who wants them helps himself. I dream of those burned edges. Sometimes, when I’m in some awful, overpriced restaurant in some strange town, trying to choke down some three-dollar hamburger that tastes like a burned sponge, a blank look comes over me: I have just realized that at that very moment, someone in Kansas City is being given those burned edges free.

Trillin was an influential food writer, so the endorsement of burnt ends as a delicacy was sufficient to make it Kansas City’s iconic dish and putting Kansas City on the food map. Needless to say, the burnt ends are no longer free.  For the uninitiated, burnt ends are the crisp, charred, fatty ends of the brisket, too short for slicing, that are chopped into chunks and doused in sauce, returned to the smoker for more flavor,  and usually served on bread slices. Truth be told, the demand for burnt ends is so great they are no longer made exclusively from the well-marbled “point” muscle but are cut from the whole brisket. The key is they must be both crusty and fatty—it’s a texture thing.

But burnt ends aside, Kansas City is one of those places in the U.S. where the differences between grilled meats and barbeque is a catechism. You grill if you cook meat quickly over a direct flame. By contrast, barbecued meat is cooked very, very  slowly over an indirect, wood-stoked fire, allowing that wood smoke to deeply penetrate the meat. If it’s not smoked, it’s not barbecue. Any restaurant that doesn’t get the difference will be laughed out of town. It is alleged that Kansas City’s 100 or so barbecue joints in the Metro area constitute the largest concentration of barbecue in the country, although locations in Texas or Kentucky might dispute that.

Unlike Texas, where barbecue sauce is often optional if not frowned upon, the sauce is essential to Kansas City barbecue. The traditional dry rub tends to be simple—pepper, salt, sugar, and garlic—with stylistic differences focused on the sauce. Most folks of the carnivore persuasion know about Kansas City Barbecue Sauce thanks to the ubiquity of Kansas City Masterpiece found everywhere on supermarket shelves. But genuine Kansas City sauce is more complex. Most restaurants offer a sweet, thick, tomato and molasses-based sauce. But Arthur Bryant’s original sauce was vinegar-based and less viscous as was the original sauce from another iconic brand, Gates Barbecue. It’s the thinner more savory sauce that is historically more authentic. Today, most restaurants offer several styles ranging from thin, sour, and spicy to sweet and sticky.

As to current trends, for the past several decades, the barbecue scene has been influenced by competitions where chefs try to present something distinct and innovative in order to attract the attention of judges. Better cuts of meat, the use of babyback ribs, more complex spice rubs, and new sauce recipes have made Kansas City a genuinely eclectic barbecue town incorporating influences from the other U.S. barbecue styles.

gates-ends2I didn’t visit all 100 barbecue joints in the week I spent in KC, but eight isn’t bad. (Yes. I did get tired of barbecue, a condition that lasted about a week.) Here’s the list in roughly my order of preference.

Gates Bar-B-Q

You come to KC for the burnt ends, and Gates’ burnt ends top my list. They had the best ratio of crispy burnt pieces and soft, fatty, succulent pieces, all well distributed on the hoagie roll. Their traditional sauce was savory, not too sweet, and also among my favorites. The only problem was their ribs are overly salty.

Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue

Housed at the end of an old gas station (pictured above), Joe’s has acquired a great reputation with a line out the door if you go at lunch or dinner. I went at 4:30 to avoid the crowds. They made their reputation by winning competitions, so Joe’s represents the new school of KC barbecue. Burnt ends are served only at lunch on Tuesday and Saturday so I didn’t get the opportunity to try them. The brisket was very smoky and tender with a layer of fat to keep it moist. Fall-off-the-bone ribs with great bark and a complex rub with sweet and savory elements make them stand out. Joe’s original sauce was sweet and spicy, very well balanced, and they offer several unusual menu items such as the Z-man sandwich ( brisket, provolone cheese, and onion rings with sauce on a Kaiser roll)and Kansas caviar, a tangy salsa of fresh vegetables. Yup. Health food at a barbecue joint. Go figure.

lc's oven

LC’s Bar-B-Q

We’re back to old school here. You enter this dark, smoke-filled den wondering if there might a fire in the backroom that the staff hasn’t notice. The burnt ends were thick hunks of meat, some fatty, some dry, with a little bark that lacked crunch. That’s probably because they open the door of their smoker occasionally and spray it with a garden hose. The sauce was a balance of sweet and peppery and the beans were outstanding with bits of burnt ends in the mix.

Arthur Bryant’s bryants-building2

The icon is still going strong with their original downtown location and one at the Speedway. Their burnt ends have plenty of flavor but are too dry. I love their paprika-laced original sauce, and the fries are to die for—I imagine they’re cooked in lard.


Upscale, competition Barbecue with full table service, and a complete bar. The bar is a feature for me since the only beverage that really, really works with sweet barbecue sauce is Kentucky Bourbon. The brisket and burnt ends were fine but didn’t jump out as extraordinary. They have an interesting menu; I regret I wasn’t able to try their smoked, fried chicken.

Woodyard Bar-B-Que

Out back is a wood yard that supplies wood for other barbecue joints in town. This place has a great funky vibe, a nice rub on their ribs, and great house made sausage.woodyard-building

Tin Kitchen

I include Tin Kitchen on the list because it’s outside the city near the airport in the charming, small town of Weston. Very good barbeque if you’re north of the city.

Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue

With several locations around Kansas City, this full service restaurant has a corporate feel but the barbeque is quite competent. The offer pork and lamb ribs, “sausage burnt ends”, and have a mail order service if you live in the diaspora.