Saturday, September 6, 2014

Is It a Sin to Drink Wine?

Your wine guy has always viewed wine as a major component of a meal.  Like meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables I consider wine a major food group.  The many health benefits of wine, especially red wine, have been well documented. I may on occasion feel the effects of the wine I drink but I can’t recall (and not because of a blackout) the last time I was actually drunk.   For me and most other wine people it is about the experience not the alcohol.

I have many friends and relatives that don’t drink wine for health reasons.  I feel bad for them but obviously health comes first.  I also have friends that seem to equate drinking wine with lying, cheating and stealing and as a sure ticket on a pathway to hell.  When I am with them and I have a glass of wine they are either visibly uncomfortable or find ways to communicate their disapproval.  It may not be fair but many times I don’t bother ordering wine when I am because the stress diminishes the enjoyment I would get from the wine. 

You can probably make a case for drunkenness to be sinful.  Doing something to excess that impairs your judgment and can cause potential harm to yourself and others may not be the best way to live your life.  But you can make the same case for gluttony.   Eating too much food is also too much of a good thing.  It impacts your health and because of the burden it causes on the health system causes a financial hardship on society because everyone helps subsides the additional health costs.  But I doubt my friends that object to me having a glass of wine would think twice about me have 3 pieces of devil’s food cake a la mode at the same dinner.

My father, the most honorable and honest man I have ever met in my life made and drank wine.  I never once saw him drunk.  When he passed away I am quite confident he took the up elevator.   

What about the Wedding at Cana when Jesus turned water into wine?  Was it a test of morality or was his hope that people would enjoy the wine? There are other bible quotes that support wind drinking Ecclesiastes 9:7  states “Drink your wine with a merry heart.”Psalm 104:14-15 states that God gives wine “that makes glad the heart of men. 

Also if you look at the history of wine one of it's main purposes was to provide something to drink during meals.  The water supply was not safe to drink so people drank wine with their food instead.  Often times wines were developed to pair with the foods of the region.  Wine was considered essential to meals much like a loaf of bread.  People needed it to survive.  How can this be sinful?

So to answer the question, in my view,  it is probably sinful to try and deny others the enjoyment of wine then it is to drink wine in moderation.  Everyone has the right to decide for themselves what the right path for them is but they need to give others the same freedom.   Just because something can be abused is not a reason to punish/deny those that exercise good judgment.   

Thanks for reading I feel better now.

Agree?  Disagree?  Post a comment I’d like to hear what you think.  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Buying wine for the Bridal Shower

Mrs. Wine Guy was throwing a bridal shower for the future daughter in law recently.  My hope was that I would get to go visit one of my buddies or head over to the sports bar and watch a game on TV, or do some other manly pursuit.  That hope was short lived when the Mrs. WG asked “would you mind being the bartender”.  Knowing that no was not an option I lied and said “I’d be happy to honey.” 

So there I was, committed to using up a perfectly good Sunday afternoon serving wine to 14 ladies.  I did not know about half of the ladies attending and I knew that at least four of them did not drink at all.  So I was selecting wine for at most 10 ladies.  Two were Mrs. Wine Guy and the bride’s mother both of which who have fairly sophisticated palates.  I have a niece that is a fan of Pinot Noir, and the bride to be that will only drink sweet wine, but the rest of them were uncharted territory. 

I had to put my wine guy skills to the test using part of what I had written about in "Choosing wine for the entire table", and "Wine toserve your cousin Guido".  I needed to serve wine that would work with the more knowledgeable attendees but at price points where I would not feel bad if the wines went unappreciated.  

I headed off to Total Wine. 

The day of the shower was going to be a hot summer day.  The meal would consist of a light lunch featuring various fruit and vegetable salads, and chicken salad. I would focus on whites but would find something light for the Red wine drinkers. I had settled on a Pinot Noir for the red and was looking for one that would not break the bank.  At the tasting bar they were pouring a Mount Warren Pinot ($7.99) from Southwest France.  It was not memorable but it was very drinkable.  I have had good luck with Pinot from France grown outside of Burgundy.  They are a good value and always drink better than their price point.  An easy way to identify them is simply finding French wines called “Pinot Noir”.  Burgundy Pinot’s have the name of the region or just be called “Burgundy”.   The wine proved very popular as nearly two bottles were consumed.

I had a selection of whites.  Making sure the bride had a sweet wine she would enjoy I selected a Mallee Point Moscato ($6.99, Australia).  The wine got 87 points from Wine Spector so how bad could it be?  Not bad at all one bottle consumed. I chose our house Chardonnay, D’Autrefois  ($11.99 Southern France) knowing that Mrs. Wine Guy would enjoy it and hoping that the mother of the bride would as well. It is light and crisp, has a hint of oak and not very buttery.  Perfect of a summer meal. One bottle consumed.  

As a special treat I bought a couple of bottles of Tesoro dell Regina Prosecco ($16.99 Italy, Veneto) but no one tried it.  Mrs. WG and I will enjoy them soon. 

Bottom line is the shower was a great success everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, the bride got lots of wonderful presents, and most importantly I received several complements on my wine selections. 

That’s it for now please post a comment if you have any thoughts or questions

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Choosing wine for the entire table

My wife and I are hosting my son’s and future daughter in laws rehearsal dinner in a couple of weeks.  We are having it at one of our favorite Italian restaurants.  In addition to picking out the menu we are of course going to choose the wine.  Despite being a wine guy I still find the process of picking wines a bit intimidating.  Not that I have any problem picking out the right wine I am a wine guy after all, but it’s just so hard to make everyone happy.  I have already told you about my daughter in law to be that only drinks sweet wine (click here in case you missed it).  Her parents are wine people as well with some pretty strong views of wines they like as well.  They have never disappointed me with their wine selections.  There are also people going to the dinner with varying degrees of wine-e-ness  that ranges from I only drink white, to I only drink cabs, to wine is the devil's nectar and should be avoided lest ye risk eternal damnation.    
For this particular event I going to say the heck with ‘em.  With the exception of a sweet wine for my daughter in law to be (she is the bride after all and this is all about her) I am going to execute my vision of which wine not only goes well with that night's menu, but also give those in attendance some sense of our families Sicilian heritage.  The restaurant owner is from Sicily and imports wines directly from the island.  Because of that I am choosing from his Sicilian wines to serve with dinner. I doubt anyone attending has ever tasted any of the wines but because Mrs. Wine Guy and I really enjoy them hopefully everyone else will learn something new and grow in their understanding of wine.  Odds are some of them won’t like it but oh well they are eating for free so I won’t feel too sorry for them.  
I don’t usually take such a hard line however.  I usually take a more kumbayatic approach and do try and make everyone happy, especially when I am not bankrolling the experience.   
So how can you pick out a bottle of wine that will keep everyone happy?  How can you pick out a bottle of wine that goes well with all of the dishes everyone is ordering?  How can you select a wine that will make everyone happy giving all of biases and preconceptions people have about the wines they like?   
The secret is to not worry about ordering the perfect wine but order a wine that is good enough.
Here is what I do.  
Before your order wine make sure you know what everyone is ordering. If you are dining with just one other couple, and everyone is ordering something similar, or if two people order something similar you can use my handy food/wine pairing guide to pick the right bottle
If you have only have one person ordering something dissimilar you can order a bottle for the majority and order wine by the glass for the loaner.  
The real challenge is when you have a group of 6 or more people that you have to make happy.  I never get too creative when I try to do that.  I follow one simple rule.  I order a Pinot Noir for all the people that only drink or order food that goes with a red, and a un-oaked Chardonnay for the folks that only drink white or order foods that go better with white.   Pinot goes well with just about any meat, red sauce, and heavier fish (Salmon, Tuna) while the un-oaked Chardonnay goes with almost any seafood or chicken dish and goes reasonable well with salads.  I may not have put all my wine skills to the test but everyone is reasonably happy and you will not lose the respect of any of your fellow diners.  These may not be the perfect choices but they are good enough.
The rehearsal dinner is at the end of September I will let you know how it goes.

Please post a comment if you agree, disagree, or have any questions.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bordeaux Wines

Have not blogged in a bit because Mrs. Wine Guy and I do what wine couples do and took a River Cruise in Bordeaux.  The Mrs. went for the sites, the sounds, and the history, while I went for the wine and that is what I am going to discuss. 

The French think that they do all things better than anyone else on earth.  After almost being crushed to death trying to see the Mona Lisa and the chaos at Charles de Gaulle airport I’m not sure I agree but the French may have a point when it comes to their love of wine.  Wine is the centerpiece of most of their meals, and they take maintaining their quality standards very seriously.  Many people thing the best wines in France come from Bordeaux.

The wines in Bordeaux are not named after the grapes used to make them  but after the area where they are grown.   The grapes for wines labeled “Bordeaux” can be grown anywhere in the region while wines made from grapes grown only in a smaller sub-region use the name of that sub region.   The most famous sub regions are Pauillac, St.-Estephe, St.-Jullien , Margaux, Saint-Emillion and Pomerl.   The French focus on the region because they believe that the land and weather conditions have as much if not more to do with the quality of the wine as do the grapes and the skill of the winemaker.  All red and Rose wines in Bordeaux are made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and in rare instances Malbac.   All White wines are a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.  No other grapes are allowed.  The Gironde Estuary divides Bordeaux and the red wines are different depending on which side they are produced.  Red  wine those coming from the left side are made from a blend containing mostly Cabernet Sauvignon,  if they are from the Right side Merlot is the dominant grape.  The majority of wine produced is Red but in one region, Sauternes, they only produce a sweet white wine. 

There are about 8500 different wine producers in Bordeaux.  Your wine guy visited several wine shops in the area and found picking a wine from so many producers made my head spin.  I can only imagine the effect it has on civilians. That is why when buying Red Bordeaux is best to focus on the region and if the year the wine was grown (the vintage) had good growing conditions (the last really good year in Bordeaux was 2010).  Try wines from the different sub regions and find the one that best fits your tastes.

With the exception of Sauternes and Roses from the area your wine guy would not consider drinking a Bordeaux wine without food.  The younger reds (Less than 8 years old) simply need the fat in the meat to balance or the char of barbecued meat to complement their deep tannins.  If you insist on drinking a red without food try one from the right side (Saint –Emilion and Pomerol) that is predominately Merlot.  I am not a fan of regular white Bordeaux I find the grapefruit/lemony taste unpleasant to drink alone but perfect when I pair it with sushi, swordfish, or tuna.  If you like a dry rose try one from Bordeaux I found them surprisingly good.  I also found that, in small doses, Sauternes is the perfect way to complement or substitute for desert. 

There you have my short update on Bordeaux wine.  If you have any questions about Bordeaux wine, the river cruise, or anything at all please post your question in the comments section or email me at

Friday, July 11, 2014

How long should you age your wine?

Mr. Franklin Yost of Bocca Del Vista Florida writes:

"Hey wine guy I'm 82 years old, have been holding on to several bottles of wine for several years but I'm thinking if I don't hurry up and drink 'em they will outlive me. How long should I wait?".

Thanks for your question Franklin.  How long to age wine is one of the most frequent questions us wine guys get.  Given your age I will try and answer quickly.

Most people think that the older a wine gets the better it gets.  That is not always the case and, unlike you Franklin, even wines that improve with age at some point start to decline.  The main reason for that change is that over time the tiny amount of oxygen that the cork allows into the bottle causes the tannin in the wine (what makes your mouth pucker up when you drink some wines bite into a tea bag and you will understand) to soften making the wine smoother.  As the tannin becomes less pronounced the fruit and other flavors become more noticeable because they are not overpowered by the tannin.  At some point the oxygen also impacts the pleasant flavors in the wine as well and it eventually becomes vinegar or undrinkable. 

Wine gets much of it's tannin from grape skin, stems and from the pips (grape seeds, nothing to do with any midnight train), and from being aged in oak barrels especially if those barrels are new.  White wines have the skins, stems, and pips removed before they are fermented that is why the white wines that are stored in oak prior to being bottled, like a lot of  Chardonnay, age better then those that have not.  

Tannin also serves as a preservative allowing the wine to age longer.  Another preservative is sugar.  Wines with high sugar content age well.  That is why you can age desert wines for several years.  Wines that have a lower alcohol level (around 13% and below) and wines that have high acidity, like Chardonnay grown in cooler climates also can be aged longer.         

What follows is some basic information on aging wine.  There are always exceptions but if you follow these rules you should be pleased:  

If you store your wine in anything other than a cool dark place your wine will age faster and much of what you read below will not apply. 

Any wine that comes in anything other than a glass bottle should be used ASAP.  A box of wine or a wine bladder lets in significantly more oxygen then a glass bottle.  The more air the faster the wine ages so anything sold in something other than a glass bottle is meant to be consumed immediately.  The reverse of that is that once opened the bladder inside of boxed wine, because it compresses to fit the amount of wine inside, tends to keep the wine drinkable longer for a longer period of time then a wine stopper in a glass bottle.  That said you should not plan to age boxed wines.

Wines with screw caps get no benefit from aging.   A screw cap lets in no air at all therefor there is no change to the wine inside.  That is why screw caps are used for wines that are not meant to be aged.  If you have a wine with a screw cap feel free to drink it as soon as you want.

If you store your wine in anything other than a cool dark place your wine will age faster and much of what you read below will not apply.

Some basic guidelines for aging various wines:  

Drink immediately but age for no longer then 3 years (use the year on the bottle as the start date).

Red: Gamay/Beaujolais, Lambrusco

White: Albarino, Cava, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Prosecco, dry Riesling, California Sauvignon Blanc, unoaked domestic Chardonnay, Viognier.

Rose: All

Age at least 3 years and drink within 6 years.

White:  Off Dry (semi sweet) Riesling, Oaked Chardonnay, New Zealand Sauvingnon Blanc

Red:  Barbara, Cotes du Rhone, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Valpolicella, Zinfandel

Age at least 5 years and drink within 10 years

White: Sweet Riesling, white burgundy/Chablis (French Chardonnay)

Red: Carbernet Franc, Syrah/Shiraz, Merlot, Grenach, Temparnillo, Sangiovese, Chianti, Valpolicella Ripasso,  Super Tuscan.

Age at least 8 years and drink within 20 years

White: Sauternes, late harvest, ice wine, other desert wines.

Red: Amarone, Brunello, Barolo, Barbarsco, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Nebbiolo

Hope this answers your question Franklin and at your age if you are not sure just drink it.  Don't leave it for your kids. They probably won't appreciate it just like they haven't appreciated anything else you have ever done for them. 

If you have any questions about a wine not listed or you have any question at all please leave a comment. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Is it wrong to drink sweet wine?

My older son is getting married this fall and I have never seen him happier.  He is always in a good mood, I have never seen him dress and groom himself better, and it is obvious whenever they are together how much they care about each other.  That said I was conflicted about their pending union and had considered standing up and objecting when the minister got to that part of the ceremony.

The issue I was having with my future daughter in law was the fact that she only drinks sweet wines!

When I explained my dilemma to my fellow wine guys and gals I could see look of shock and concern on their faces.  They were united in their advice that I should urge my son to dump her, the sooner the better.  I could see their point but what could I do?  He seemed so happy but could that happiness last without being able to share the deep full black cherry, peppery, licorice flavor of a Cabernet Sauvignon?  Can they survive the rough spots without savoring the burst of cranberry, vanilla, and tobacco found in a glass of Pinot Noir?  What hope is there that any children they may have will grow up to be well adjusted if their mom and dad have never experienced the joy of a dry French rose?  Oh the torment. 

I was about to get in my car, pick up some of my fellow wine guys and gals and drive over to their house and do an intervention.  If that did not go well I was prepared to kidnap my son.  Then I thought to myself “What if she is right and sweet wines are not all that bad?” I called my friends told them to stand down, put on a disguise, and went down to the wine shop to buy a few sweet wines. 

I tried a 2012 Urban German Riesling from the Mosel region.  I hate to admit it but it was wonderful.  It had a ripe floral aroma, just the right amount of sweetness, and had rich fruit flavors. Yum!  All this and it was only $12.  I tried a Luisi Moscato d’Asti from the Piedmont region of Italy.  Again it was sweet but not clawing.  I could taste peach and melon, and enjoyed the floral flavors and aroma.  $12.  I then tried a bottle of “The Fluffer” a sparkling wine that I had purchased from Arizona Hops and Vines on a wine tasting trip I had made to the Sonoita region of Arizona.  I originally bought it to serve to my daughter in law to be but not knowing if I would ever see her again I decided to open it up.  Again I was pleasantly surprised.  It is a sparkling wine with a lot of character.  It was refreshing, fruity, had a wonderful aroma and not overly sweet.  $25.

It was me not her that was transformed.  When going out for spicy oriental food I proudly and openly order a sweet wine with my meal, and don't care if the waiter gives me that look.  At home, when I just want to enjoy a glass of wine by itself, I will occasionally open sweeter wine.  Even though they won’t say so in public some other wine guys and gals have sent me encrypted emails telling me that they occasionally sneak out for a sweet one as well.  It was about time our group started to embrace diversity.

Needless to say the wedding is still on.  Even though I won’t stop trying to expand my future daughter in laws wine horizons, I have learned to accept her, and dare say love her, and thank her for helping me grow not only in my appreciation of wine, but in my appreciation of those that are different.  

I see nothing but happiness in their future.  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Wine to serve your cousin Guido

We Wine Guys and Gals have a sacred duty to spread our love and deep knowledge of wine with those around us.  There is nothing we like more when sharing a glass of fine wine with a neophyte then seeing that look of delight in their eyes and you know you have just helped them understand that wine is more about the art than it is about the alcohol. 

But I have also come to realize no matter how hard I try I will never see that look in the eyes of some people.  

I love my cousin Guido.  We shared some great memories growing up playing army, shooting hoops, and getting into several varieties of trouble not appropriate to mention on a family oriented wine blog.  He helped me get through some rough patches in my life, and I in his.  He is one of the most important relationships in my life and there is no one I would rather share my love of wine with. 

I got transferred to another town and had not seen Guido for a couple of years.  It was during those couple of years that I made my transformation from civilian to “Wine Guy”.  One day I got a call from Guido that he was driving out west and wanted to stop  by for a couple of days.  I was excited to catch up, show him Arizona, and share some of my best wine  The day he arrived it was a typical early summer day in Arizona, it was 100 something degrees but the humidity had not kicked in so it was comfortable to sit on the patio in the shade.  Soon after he arrived we took our seats on the patio and started catching up.  After a few minutes I told him about how I had started studying wine.  I told him about Tavel Rose from the Rhone wine region in France.  I went on about how it was darker and a bit more intense than other Rose’s and that it was the perfect  wine for this hot summer day and that I was going to open a bottle and let him give it a try.  Instead of giving me a look of eager anticipation he looked at me as if I was talking to him in Klingon, and after questioning my commitment to heterosexuality, he blurted out “whatever”.  

I viewed this as a temporary setback. Surely after tasting the Tavel he would understand what I was talking about and he too would be transformed! I ran into the house grabbed a couple of specially made Riedel wine glasses and the bottle of Tavel.   I poured some wine in each of our classes and marveled at the translucent ruby red color.  I moved the glass to my nose and experienced an aroma that alternated between raspberry, strawberry, and my mother’s homemade jam.   I took a sip and tasted hints of strawberries, cherries, with a long flinty/spicy finish.  Amazing!  I looked over at Guido to see if he was enjoying it as much as I was. What I saw was that he already had finished his glass and had turned it upside down on the table.  He then looked up at me and asked if I had any more of this “Kool Aid”, because he was thirsty.  I was devastated. 

Well the Tavel didn’t work but we were going to have pork loin seasoned with garlic and rosemary for dinner.  It would be a great meal made even better by pairing it with a glass of Pinot Noir.  But if I was going to see any change in Guido’s relationship with wine it couldn’t be just any Pinot Noir, I felt I needed to pull out one of the big guns.  I decided on a $95 bottle of Kosta Browne that I had been saving for a special occasion.  Surely that would do the trick!  I put the Riedel Burgundy glass next to his plate of pork loin, brussels sprouts, and mashed potatoes.   I then poured him about a quarter glass and waited for him to give it a taste.  He gave it a gulp, and then finished the glass with a second gulp.  He then grabbed the bottle poured another half a glass, grabbed a 7-Up out of the refrigerator and filled the rest of  his glass with the 7-Up, looked up at me and said “Do they still make wine coolers?”.  I almost started to cry. 

This experience in addition to reinforcing the fact that you need to love the family that you have not the family that you want, taught me that it can get expensive to share your wine with people that want to drink wine but have no interest in tasting it. Each one of the bottles in my collection holds a special place in my heart and when the day comes for it to be opened,  I want it to be enjoyed and appreciated not guzzled.  Because of that I always stock a few bottles of “Guido” wines.  “Guido” wines are dirt cheap but drinkable wines that won’t set me back a fortune if my house guest prefers to gulp, swig, or use their wine as a mixer.  There are probably hundreds of acceptable “Guido” wines out there but topping my list are :

La Ferme Julian Rose (Vintoux-Rhone) - $6.00
Mendoza Station Torontes  ( Mendoza-Argentina) - $6.00
Malee Point Shiraz (South Eastern Australia) - $7.00
Ravenswood Vintners Zinfandel - $6.00

So if you too have a cousin like I do, and you have a wine collection that you treasure, make sure that you have some “Guido” wines on hand and save your treasured wine for those that will appreciate it.