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Here’s a selection of holiday wine for entertaining, Seattle Times

Nov 22, 2010
Posted in News Coverage

CLICK HERE to read the full article. Here come the holidays, and with them the yin-yang of stress and celebration. Putting great food on the table is a big part of the fun, but finding wines to go with the food — that’s where the stress begins. So let’s make it easy. Here are 10 great wine ideas for all your holiday entertaining.

Wines for casual entertaining

Riesling is the universal white wine, especially when done in a dry style. Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 2009 Dry Riesling is listed at $10 but often sells for less. It’s loaded with tart fruit flavors of apple, pear, grapefruit and lemon, and it is versatile enough for a wide range of appetizers and snack foods.

Castle Rock is a California-based producer that makes a number of wines from both Oregon and Washington grapes. My favorite is the Castle Rock 2008 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Selling for around $10, it is a dark, tannic, earthy wine with black cherry fruit and highlights of licorice and black tea. It will take on anything hearty, from burgers to prime rib.

Get the party started wines

Nothing says “party” like a bottle of bubbly. Champagnes and Champagne-style wines are also quite versatile, and especially good with salty appetizers from chips to caviar. My favorite budget bubblies this year come from Cupcake Vineyards — a Blanc de Blanc Chardonnay and a Brut Rosé Pinot Noir, both sourced from the Lacheteau winery in France’s Loire valley. These are non-vintage wines, made by the Champagne method, and priced at $15.

For your splurge Champagne ask your retailer to recommend a grower Champagne, preferably from a Grand Cru vineyard. These are small production wines, produced and bottled by the family that grows the grapes, rather than by a huge Champagne house. Importers Terry Theise and Robert Kacher bring in some very fine examples. I most recently enjoyed a 2004 A. Margaine “Special Club” Brut (imported by Theise) and a pair of Kacher Selections — the Lamiable 2004 Les Meslaines Grand Cru Brut and the Pascal Doquet NV Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc. Expect to pay $35 to $75 for most grower Champagnes, though during the holiday season you’ll often find the best deals.

Main course white wines

If you are drinking white wine with your main course, it is probably turkey. Why not push the envelope by opening a dry and peppery/spicy Grüner Veltliner from Austria? Look for the word Kamptal on the label — a prime growing region, with the hot day/cold night climate that gives our Washington wines their spark. The 2009 Brundlmayer “Kamptaler Terrassen” Grüner Veltliner is priced just over $20 and worth it, but you can find other good examples for less. Don’t worry about older vintages. If stored properly, they can improve for up to a decade.

For an equally delicious local offering, grab Willow Crest’s 2009 Pinot Gris. This is estate-grown from some of the oldest Pinot Gris vines in Washington, with vivid fruit flavors of pear and apple, emphasized with racy acidity. It retails for around $10.

Main course red wines

The third Thursday of November is when the Beaujolais Nouveau arrives from France. My advice is to skip the Nouveau and grab a bottle of Beaujolais from the 2009 vintage. This is the vintage that 77-year-old Georges Duboeuf called “the vintage of a lifetime.” Look for a Beaujolais-Villages from Duboeuf or almost any producer in 2009. An especially fine value is the 2009 Beaujolais-Villages from Paul Etienne ($10).


Oregon Pinot Noir is generally a budget-buster, but there is a surplus of grapes and wineries are scrambling to offer at least one wine under $20. King Estate has introduced a brand called Acrobat, and the 2009 Acrobat Pinot Noir, list-priced at $18, has clean varietal flavors and a pleasing finish with dusty, chocolate undertones. This is a wine you will want to decant as it is quite young and needs oxygen to open up the flavors.

Decadent dessert wines

Washington’s Pacific Rim winery specializes in Rieslings, in every style, but they also make a little-known Framboise. This fortified raspberry dessert wine comes in half bottles and sells for around $15. The raspberries are grown at a Mount Vernon berry farm; this is like a sip of summer. Drink Framboise from your smallest wine glasses, and serve it with vanilla ice cream or chocolate truffles.

The best value in a dessert wine that I’ve tasted this year is Forgeron’s 2008 Late Harvest Sémillon ($14 for a half bottle). A perfect ending to any holiday celebration.

“Spotlight on Bloggers” Author Rob Bralow

Nov 1, 2010
Posted in Media Center, News Coverage

The Center for Wine Origins is pleased to present this week’s author on“Spotlight on Bloggers,” Rob Bralow editor of Wine PostEach week we will feature a new wine blogger committed to sharing with readers their passion and knowledge of wine. If you are a wine blogger and are interested in being featured on our website please email us at

Digging Deeper into Chile

By Rob Bralow

Editor at the Wine Post and Wine Buyer for Blue Streak Wines & Spirits

What a year it has been for Chile. Between earthquakes and collapsed mines, there has been more worldwide attention focused on Chile than ever before. Round the clock coverage has been the norm as images were brought back of toppled buildings, cracked roads, miners playing cards, and then the crescendo of a miner just brought to the surface after spending months underground and starting the country’s soccer chant with those watching the spectacle. With all of that attention, the US wine drinker has become inundated with the word “Chile” and as a result has taken a greater interest in Chilean wines.

Chile has always been known as cheap and cheerful; wines which are sure to please and just as sure to be easy on the wallet. In today’s market, the quality of Chilean wines has increased tenfold over the past thirty years, and the wines are still known as having great value at inexpensive prices. That reputation has placed Chile in a perfect position during the recession as a source to supply the demand for inexpensive wine.

There are also plenty of wines at higher prices coming out of Chile, but there has yet to be a movement towards those wines as a category comparing with Napa Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux. At the higher prices, consumers tend towards the more prestige mainstream regions, even though the quality of the wines might be comparable.

In 2000, there was a huge increase in the number of hectares under vine, corresponding to beginning of the Millennial generation’s early introduction to wine. According to Chile’s Agriculture and Livestock Service, between 1999 and 2000 an additional 18,500 hectares (nearly 46,000 acres) of grape vines were planted, more than half of which consisted of Cabernet Sauvignon clones. During this intense period of planting, winemakers showed more concern with plot selection and the different valleys in Chile began to develop a reputation.

Cachapoal, Colchagua, Maipo and Maule have always been part of the core group of sub-valleys that were considered the Central Valley. Cachapoal and Colchagua also have a joint designation as the Rapel Valley. These valleys made a name for themselves on the back of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet based red blends.

Carmenère has also found its home in the Central Valley, more specifically in Colchagua where many of the best examples can be found. Carmenère’s story is a good one, with all the intrigue of mistaken identity with Merlot. Just under sixteen years ago it was ‘rediscovered’ and has become Chile’s rallying point for whenever the question comes up about ‘What’s new?’ Compared to events that change the direction of winemaking in Europe for centuries, the rediscovery of Carmenère is an extremely recent discovery and has undeniably changed how Chile makes wine.

Sauvignon Blanc is another very important part of Chilean viticulture. As US wine drinkers have begun to embrace an anti-oak world, Sauvignon Blanc has made its ascendance and more consumers are looking for the value that Chile can offer. A move to make more and better Sauvignon Blanc led to the exploration of the coastal regions in Chile, the Casablanca and San Antonio Valleys. Both valleys have produced exceptional wines from Sauvignon Blanc and other varieties that seek cooler climates such as Pinot Noir.

Chilean Syrah is also a wine that has begun to gain popularity, especially from cooler climates such as Limari or San Antonio. Good examples of these wines have a silky texture to them and can be quite spicy.

Over 50% of the wine coming into the US out of Chile comes from only the top 10 producers, out of a few hundred. They are easily found at your local wine stores. The other producers are smaller boutique wineries, making a fraction of as much wine as the bigger producers. That does not mean that the larger wineries are not making quality products, nor does it mean that the smaller producers are making better products. I suggest you try as many as you can find and pick the ones you like the best.

Here are some of my favorites from blind tastings over several weeks:

Sauvignon Blanc

Kingston Family Vineyards Cariblanco 2009, Casablanca Valley – This is a steely style of wine, with lots of lemon, lime, and crisp minerality.

Veramonte Reserva 2009, Casablanca Valley – A staple for enjoyable Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. Clean and crisp lemon citrus turns into a smooth grapefruit.

Luis Felipe Edwards Family Selection 2009, Leyda Valley – Fleshy and herbaceous style, this wine is rich and smooth with floral and lemon drop notes.

Montes Limited Selection 2010, Leyda Valley – Clearly the best of the tasting, this wine had exquisite balance and length. Flavors of grapefruit citrus, rich grassy minerality, and flower blossoms came through beautifully.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Root 1 2008, Colchagua Valley – This was one of the biggest surprises of the tasting. With a reputation for being a cheap wine, most people forget to add that everyone also loves this wine. Smooth and rich spices combine with black fruits and tea leaves, making a very pleasant and inexpensive wine.

TerraNoble Gran Reserva 2008, Colchagua Valley – This is a classic Cabernet, with cassic notes of cassis and blackberry. The tannins are ripe and there is a beautiful balance with oaky notes.

Santa Rita Casa Real 2005, Maipo Valley – Maipo has a very distinct minty characteristic and it comes out very well in Santa Rita’s flagship Cabernet Sauvignon. Combined with blackberry and tobacco, making this a beautiful wine. Also tasted and enjoyed was the Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon.

Concha y Toro Don Melchor 2006, Puente Alto (Maipo Valley) – If there was a wine to show that Chile can make wines that deserve an expensive price tag, this is it. The Don Melchor is one of the most expressive and delicious wines that comes out of Chile. Soft and subtle flavors and tannins built to last makes this wine cellar worthy.


Porta Gran Reserva 2008, Aconcagua Valley – A great diamond in the rough. This wine has a nose of sweet cinnamon, lavender, clove, and tea leaves, all wrapped in smoky blackberries. More chocolate comes out on the taste.

Montes Alpha 2008, Colchagua Valley – This wine kept expressing new notes throughout the tasting. Rich carmalized cherry moved into chocolate and coffee flavors with a hint of mint at the finish.

Tabali Reserva 2008, Limiari Valley – A dark and fleshy wine, it appealed to me with its smoky pepper and smooth balance that had an incredibly long finish.

Matetic EQ 2008, San Antonio Valley – A completely organic wine, there are more rustic and meaty notes in this wine that the others. Lots of ripe black fruits balance out the pepper and tobacco background.

Red Blends

Vina el Principal Calicanto 2008, Maipo Valley – I was surprised at the reception of this wine. The flavor is bright cherry and raspberry, with fresh licorice and anise, balanced and easy to enjoy.

Haras Albis 2004. Maipo Valley – Really strong on the Cabernet Sauvignon notes in this blend, as cassis and blackberry dominate the fruits, rubbed with black pepper and some vanilla. A very tasty wine that has come together with age.

Antiyal 2007, Maipo Valley – Made by Chile’s biodynamic godfather, Alvero Espinoza, this wine shows what a master blender can do, no matter what part of the world they are in. There is a beautiful balance in all parts of this wine that make it very enjoyable. Concentrated blackberry and tobacco leaf combine with cinnamon and cracked pepper in a delicious experience. I also tasted the Kuyen, which was equally as impressive.

Emiliana Coyam 2006, Colchagua Valley – Another organic wine from Chile that bested the competition. The nose held concentrated flavors of tobacco and black cherry with toast. The flavors showed more earthy flavors and currants.


Montes Purple Angel 2007, Colchagua Valley – My favorite of the tasting, this wine is very well polished and complete. Lots of toasty vanilla and rich black fruits work there way in a smooth and complex flavor.

Arboleda 2008, Colchagua Valley – Encased in classic herbal notes are black cherries and licorice. More red fruits appear on the flavor with an interesting spicy note.

Santa Rita Pehuen 2005, Colchagua Valley – Another excellent wine that shows Carmenère as a wine that can compete on the international scene. A strong note of violets on the nose gives this wine a smooth and almost sweet flavor. Clove, smoked meats and blackberries dominate the taste.

Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo 2009, Rapel Valley – There is a reason why Concha y Toro is the largest winery in Chile. They make great products in huge quantities. The Casillero del Diablo line is one of the best values on the market and the Carmenère shows why. There is very smooth black cherry that comes out of this wine, complimented by clove and tobacco notes that go for a long time. I also tasted the Terrunyo Carmenère, and it is a treat, with more complexity and a finer polish.

The intriguing history of Port makes the delicious dessert wine taste even sweeter

Oct 15, 2010
Posted in Media Center, News Coverage

It looks different, it tastes different, its even bottled differently. So non-oenophiles often assume it isn’t wine. Let’s start with that Port is, in fact a wine. It’s just a fortified wine. To get more technical, it is wine produced from grapes grown in the Douro valley, official regions of Portugal, that has been fortified with brandy.

The story of Port is interesting. Not Mark Zuckerberg Facebook saga interesting, but interesting nonetheless…
The Portuguese have been making wine since the Romans introduced it in the first century. A lot of wine. In the beginning, its wine exports were sent down the Douro River, a tight waterway which only allowed vessels of a certain size to pass through. From there it was sold almost exclusively to the Dutch and the Brits. Along came the mid-late 17th century and Britain decided to declare war on France, blockading all French ports. British wine merchants were forced to search for non-French wine that was just as good. Hmm…they thought, “No problem. We will get wine from the Portuguese.”
Sure, Portugal had wine… average wine, drinkable. But wine that was on par with France? Unfortunately, not a prayer. If the Brits wanted good wine and not from the Frenchmen, they were going to have to oversee the whole winemaking operation, as a means of quality control. They did just that, and found darker, more acidic wines on different coasts of the Douro River and began producing very good wine that would live up to the English Standard.
Before shipping to England, wine merchants added brandy as a means of making the wines less acidic. Scotsmen and Brits had a hot/cold relationship with this new wine style. Depending on the relations between the Brits and the French ports, sales would go up or down. It’s all good between the France and Britain, NOT good for Portuguese wine. Vice versa when the Brits knickers were in a bunch at something the French did or didn’t do.
No one really knows exactly when Port, as we know it today, was created. We assume it was some time after the discovery of port-like wine made by monks in Portugal. It is said that in the late 1600’s a wine merchant in Liverpool sent his sons to Portugal for wine. Some days into this journey while staying overnight at a monastery in Lamego, they were served a wine which had brandy added during the winemaking process, thus officially introducing Britain to the joys of fortified Portuguese wine. This winemaking method stops further grape fermentation, while the wine remains strong and sweet. Slowly but surely, almost all winemakers adapted these methods and were by the early 1700s, the Port industry flourished.
Everything was fine and dandy until the Port industry was rocked. Madoff-like winemakers realized they could triple their profits by diluting down wine with elderberry juice and water. Port began to get a bad rap, interest fell drastically. So much so that in the mid-1700’s, a regulatory body known as the Old Wine Company was created to whip the Port biz into shape, weeding out the riff-raff. What the FCC is to media, the Old Wine Co. became to Portuguese wine. They also made sure that every elderberry tree and vineyards outside of the official region be uprooted and destroyed.
It’s no wonder why it’s a travesty to lovers of Port to see or hear of a “Port” made in Long Island or other areas outside of Port. The method of production might be similar, but it’s just not the same thing. Port has been through a lot, and a lot of people have gone through a lot for Port to remain as highly esteemed as it is today.
Buy your favorite port and give a Salud! L’Chiam! Cin! Cin! Cheers! To all those who have made port as we know it, to our glass.
Need a perfect Port pairing? Warre’s Vintage Port paired with milk chocolate covered fleur de sal almonds is one of my favorites.
Rose Perry, Certified Sommelier
“Embrace life. Sit back, sip and enjoy.”-Vino CaPisco
View the article ONLINE HERE.

Wine 101: How to pop Champagne like a pro

Oct 15, 2010
Posted in Media Center, News Coverage

The pop of the cork as a Champagne bottle opens is the hallmark of most celebrations. But it’s also the most telling sign of an amateur at work. Not only can a flying stopper do serious injury to a partygoer – it does happen – but when done correctly, the noise level should actually be at a “bare whisper,” according to Sebastian Allano, head sommelier of the three-star Michelin restaurant Caprice in Hong Kong. He teaches us how to silence our sparkling bottles.


Chill it well. The warmer the Champagne, the higher the chance it’ll bubble over when opened.

Cut the foil. Instead of ripping it open, use the blade of your wine opener to score around the top of the rim by turning your hand—not the bottle.

Tilt the bottle. Hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle, away from you and others.

Push down on the cork. Hold the cork down firmly with one hand, and with the other, twist open the wire cage – it is five turns every time.

Twist the bottle, not the cork. With one hand still pushing down on the cork, slowly twist the bottle with the other hand. When the bottle opens, there should be a small cloud of gas and minimal noise.

Decant older vintages. Champagnes with some age – “late 1980′s or older,” says Mr. Allano –can be decanted. Empty the entire bottle into a chilled decanter, and then serve into flutes immediately. “It will lose a bit of the effervescence,” he admits, “but the aroma blossom, and it is a worthy trade-off.”

“Of course, sometimes when you are with friends, it’s still in good fun to hear a pop,” says Mr. Allano.

Read the article ONLINE HERE.

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