It’s time to slow down with Slo Down wines and their producer, Brandon Allen. Brandon loved wine and began experimenting with winemaker friends while in college in CA in 2005.Thinking it would be more economical to make booze than to produce fake ID’s, they set about their experiment. He made his first barrel, and as he says, “It was a bit blurry after that, but the wines got better from there”.
Allen fell in love with wine, but he always felt the wine business was “a bit snobby”. He believes that only 1% of the wine drinking population actually wants to analyze and discuss the wine they are consuming. His lighthearted, unserious approach to his labels and titles speak to that sentiment. His commitment to taking wine (slowing it down) and making it unpretentious, has led to a seriously successful line up of creative wines. He even imprints the words “no drama” on his corks. Slo Down wines is at the forefront of a “craft wine movement” – a rejection of the pretension surrounding wine and an embrace of making wine approachable. Drink wine among friends, enjoy and Slo Down.
Slo Jams Sauvignon Blanc- delicious wine sourced from some of the best vineyards in Washington State’s Horse Heaven Hills appellation. The label depicts cassette tapes, for those old enough to remember that was how we “jammed” either on our cassette recorder/player or in the car. Slo Jams Sauvignon Blanc opens with aromas of key lime and lemongrass, followed by ripe grapefruit and stone fruit. We give it three bones.
Broken Dreams Chardonnay is 100% Chardonnay sourced from vineyards in Napa, Sonoma and Lodi. Subtle aromas of apple, pear and lemon curd, with flavors of pineapple and stone fruit, well balanced acidity. We give it two bones
Send Nudes Rose’ is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes from California’s North Coast appellation. Bursting with aromas of fresh strawberries, ripe peach and candied watermelon, and flavors of white pepper and pink grapefruit linger. We give it two bones.
Send Nudes Pinot Noir is a California Appellation wine made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. Plum and lavender and Bing cherry on the nose, with flavors of dragon fruit, pomegranate, with delicate spice on the finish. We give it three bones.
Sexual Chocolate Red Blend really has nothing to do with chocolate. Born from a bootlegging operation in a California winemaker’s garage, this wine shows ripe dark fruit and exotic spices. There is a lingering, soft silky texture from the wonderful blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, and Malbec. We give it three bones.
Love Hammer Cabernet Sauvignon is made from 100% Cab sourced from Cloverdale Peak, Pine Mountain, Sky Pine Vineyard, high elevations along the Russian River in Alexander Valley. Flaunting aromas of vanilla, black pepper, green olive and cherry pipe tobacco. The palate is dripping with flavors of rich dark cherry, ripe blackberry, and finishes with notes of cigar spice and baking chocolate. Rugged yet voluptuous! We give it three bones.
We are currently featuring Brandon Allen’s wines from Slo Down, so come on in and slow it down.
Have you ever opened a wine list at a restaurant to find a section called “Alternative Whites” or “Interesting Whites”? Many will list two or three, without straying too far from traditional- an occasional Viognier or Albarino. The category leaves much to ponder, with hundreds of wines to choose from, made in so many different styles from all over the world. Let’s explore some light, bright, clean and crisp “alternative” white wines to have by the pool, with a meal, or simply on the couch with the AC cranking.
Here is a list of wine varietals by country- with a brief description of what region they are from and taste profile.
France set the standard of nearly all winemaking rules since the 1800’s. Burgundy and Bordeaux may be the King and Queen, but Rhone, Languedoc and Provence grow a wide variety of native grapes that are exciting and “interesting”.
Rousanne (Rhone) Bright floral aromas, stone fruit flavors.
Marsanne (Northern Rhone) Notes of stone fruit and bees wax, highly regarded as a blending grape for Hermitage; also grown in CA and Australia.
Viognier (Northern Rhone) Flavors of honeysuckle, mango and peach, full bodied. Also grown and popular in CA and Australia.
Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet, Loire) Very dry with flavors of mineral, lemon, green apple and pear, with a hint of saline. Try the Chateau de la Chesnaie Muscadet.
Ugni Blanc (known as Trebbiano in Italy, grown in France, Australia and Bulgaria) Mostly used in brandy and vinegar production, you can find it bottled as a still wine from Italy; expresses white peach, green apple and herbs.
Grenache Blanc (Rhone, FR, Rioja, Spain) In Spain it is referred to as Garnacha Blanc. Flavors of pear, honeysuckle, citrus and toast. Can also exhibit unripe mango and lemon curd if the wine is aged in oak barrels.
Picpoul de Penet aka Folle Blanc (Languedoc – Roussillon) Hints of crushed rocks blend with honeydew melon and lemon flavors, with a floral nose. Try the La Chapelle du Bastion Picpoul de Penet.
Aligote (Burgundy) Apple, unripe peach, a hint of white flowers and smoke, with an herbal finish.
Chenin Blanc (Loire) Also called Pineau de la Loire. This white grape came to be recognized in France thousands of years ago and can be finished in a variety of styles, from dry and acidic still wines, to higher residual sugar wines to Fines Bulles (bubbles!). Chenin from France makes a fine sparkling wine.
A very cool climate and a long history of inconsistency has been met with government agricultural standards, or “Qualitatswein”. There are 17 Designations of Origin in Austria under the guise of the National Wine Committee. The country is in its infancy as far as production and exports, but watch for some interesting wines (including reds) for the future.
Gruner Veltliner This wine is also grown in Northern Italy, Germany and Hungary, but native to Austria, its most famous white. Lemon, lime nectarines, grapefruit, with white pepper, tarragon and honey as secondary flavors. Crisp and dry. Try the Paul Direder Gruner Veltliner.
Another colder climate wine growing region, over half of their production is from the Rhineland. Most noted for the Riesling grape, which can be finished in dry or sweet style. There are many nontraditional whites from Germany to explore.
Gewurztraminer This grape expresses flavors of pineapple, lychee and ruby red grapefruit. There are hints of ginger and smoke and an unmistakable floral nose. Try the Villa Wolf Gewurztraminer from the Pfalz region.
Silvaner (Rhein Hessen) or Sylvaner which is grown in Upstate NY, as well as Austria and Alsace, originated in GR. Peaches and herbs.
Scheurebe, aka Samling is a cross between Riesling and Bukettraube, created by Georg Scheu in 1916, also produced in Austria. Flavors of blackberries, tropical fruit and stone fruit. Aromatic, can be fermented sweet or dry, full bodied with flavors of peach and ripe pear with black currants.
Kerner (Rhein Hessen and Mosel) Another cross, this time Riesling and Trollinger by August Herold in 1929. Aromatic and popping with mango and tropical fruit. Also grown in Northern Italy – Alto Adige region.
Home to winemaking in every region of the country, Italy is the world’s largest producer of wine, where there is a strict Appellation system since 1963 to classify quality (similar to France) with 20 wine regions currently. Check out these snappy and vibrant whites.
Garganega known as Soave (Veneto, Bardolino) A dry white that dates back to the medieval village of Soave. Flavors of melon and peach and orange zest with a crisp finish. Try the Inama Vin Soave DOC.
Verdicchio (Marche) Cultivated for hundreds of years, was marketed in the US in a “fish bottle” as a simple table wine. Citrus flavors, mandarin orange, boasting a distinctive almond flavor on the finish.
Vermentino (Sardinia, Corsica, Piedmont and Languedoc- Roussillon, FR) Light bodied, lemon, green apple and grapefruit, with floral hints and a nutty, saline finish. Try the Antinori Tenuta Guado Al Tasso Vermentino.
Trebbiano (aka Ugni Blanc in France) Dry with flavors of white peaches, lemon, and herbs.
Fiano (Campania) Medium to full bodied with a beeswax characteristic, peach, honey and hazelnuts.
Greco (Campania) Volcanic rock oils bring out the minerality, but this wine shows peach and nectarine fruit up front.
Cortese (Piedmont) Known as a Gavi di Gavi, the Cortese grape has distinguished floral aromas, and a soft acidic finish. Try the Rosello Gavi DOCG
Falanghina (Campania) Tropical fruit flavors and a floral nose, crisp with some saline notes.
Grillo (Sicily) A cross between native grapes Catarrattto and Moscato d’ Alessandra, this grape was used almost exclusively to make Marsala, Sicily’s famous fortified wine. An aromatic Grillo shows grapefruit flavors, passionfruit and herbs. Try the Poggio Anima Grillo.
Inzolia or Insolia (Sicily) Another native Sicilian grape, it is also grown in coastal Tuscany. Meaning “of the sun” it shows mild acidity, stone fruit flavors and a mellow nutty finish.
Red and white wine from Spain is almost always a win- their quality system is similar to that of France and Italy with Denominacion de Origen. From sparkling Cava to the “Green Spain” wines of Galicia (not to mention their Garnacha and Tempranillo, but that’s another blog!) there are many whites of quality to explore.
Verdejo (Reuda) This grape originated in North Africa and was used to make very strongly oxidized wine like Sherry. Finished dry, the aromatics of citrus and melon lend toward high acid levels.
Macabeo or Viura (Rioja, Catalonia) Most often produced for Cava, the “Sparkling wine of Spain”. Dry, aromatic and cleansing, this sparkler expresses ripe peach fruit, citrus with an almond finish. Try the Juve & Camps Brut Nature.
Parellada (Catalonia) One of Spain’s three main grapes used in the production of Cava, Spain’s sparkling wine.
Xarel lo (Catalonia) One of Spain’s three main grape varieties used to make Spanish sparkling wine known as Cava.
Godello (Galicia) Grown mostly in Spain’s northern Atlantic Coastal region this white grape is known as Gouveio in Portugal where it also produces a medium bodied wine with briny lemon and grapefruit flavors and smokey minerality. Try the Avancia Godello O.
Treixadura (Ribeiro, Galicia)) One of the key varietals found in Portugal’s Vinho Verde.
Hondarribi Zuri (Basque) This varietal makes the fizzy wine Txakoli. Light, citrus tinged with herbal and mineral inflections.
Grenache Blanc (Rhone, FR, Rioja Spain) A popular varietal produced both in Spain- where it is referred to as Garnacha Blanc, and France’s Rhone region. Flavors of pear, honeysuckle, citrus and toast. Can also exhibit unripe mango and lemon curd if the wine is aged in oak barrels.
Albarino (aka Alvarinho in Portugal) Lemon zest, grapefruit, honeydew and ripe nectarine fruits, with a tingly white pepper finish on the tongue.
These days the quality and variety available in the Greek wine category is growing rapidly.
Malagousia Notes of green bell pepper, ripe peaches, basil and flowers, with a dry finish. Try the Ktima Gerovassiliou single vineyard Malagousia.
The first wine grapes were planted near Cape Town in the 17th century, brought over by the Dutch Colonials. The WO (Wine of Origin) system was implemented in 1973. South Africa has nearly 300,000 acres planted to vine, with the styles of winemaking almost a mixture of old world and new world.
Steen or Chenin Blanc (Paarl) This grape varietal originated in France’s Loire Valley, but has been prolific in South Africa, where it is often called Steen. Bright crisp green apple, white peach, with fresh herbs and a floral nose. Try the Babylonstoren Chenin Blanc from the Western Cape.
Most famous for their dessert style ports, the country is producing some amazing still wines, both red and white. There are over 250 indigenous varietals and the country uses a DO system for defined geographical regions and quality.
Vinho Verde, which often has a blend of white grapes to create the slightly frizzante, green apple with a touch of lime zest, refreshing Portuguese wine.
Sercial (Portugal) A white grape varietal produced on the Island of Madeira used for Madeira wine production.
Alvarinho Lemon zest, grapefruit, honeydew and ripe nectarine fruits, with a tingly white pepper finish on the tongue. Try our Twin Vines Vinho Verde.
A hundred years ago the Royal Courts of Europe toasted with Hungary’s famous Tokaji (pronounced toe kye). The Monks and the Turks were growing grapes in the 1500’s with Tokaji being the country’s most prestigious region.
Furmint is a drier white grape used to make the famous exported dessert wine, Tokaji. Also grown in Austria and Slovenia, it dominates the sweet wine that has a touch of grey mold or Botrytis, often aged in neutral oak bearing lots of residual sugar. Try the Disznoko Tokaji Aszu.
While we don’t have enough space to add all of the white varietals available from all over the world, we hope this helps you explore the many wines available here at Ed’s. See you soon!
By Carolyn R Brown
Is there a shortage of wine? Certainly not by the looks of it- one walk around the aisles of the store here at Ed’s Fine Wines, and our walls are filled with labels from all over. However, recent supply chain issues and climate change have contributed to many problems in the industry, leading to shortages of wine in some regions around the world.
2020 was not a fun year for a multitude of reasons. Most of the planet endured a complete pause in operations. Economic shutdowns by governments, social distancing and isolation due to the Covid- 19 pandemic affected nearly every sector of business. Shutting down everything for nearly a year will trickle down to different levels for many years to come. We still don’t have all the final numbers, but wine consumption was actually down by 3% worldwide (not by anyone WE know!). Meanwhile, production has also been affected for the last several years. In 2020, agriculture, specifically the wine industry, was hit extremely hard. Vineyards were left to rot as pickers were unable to go to work. Extreme weather, from wildfires in California (going back to 2017 in Napa) and Oregon, to devastating frost and hail in France and Spain. In Australia, a labor exemption was put in place, as the pandemic hit just as the vineyards had been harvested. There will be plenty of Australian juice, despite the fact they endured devastating wildfires there, too. Historically, Australia has had far worse fires than California, with the 2019-2020 fires affecting about 60,000 tons. This only affects about 4% of their overall production, so Aussie wine lovers don’t fret.
In 2021 France lost nearly a third of their production to inclement weather, and subsequent disease. Here we are in 2022 – there is very little French Burgundy Rhone, and Sancerre, and prices have soared because of low production and high demand. Scientists believe climate change is responsible for heavy frost that hit much of France and Spain in the last couple years, most especially the 2020 and 2021 vintages. Too much Summer rainfall created a blight, yet another blow to the crops. France’s Champagne production was down over 30%, the lowest in 40 years. France is the second largest producer and exporter of wine (behind Italy). Last year global wine production hit an all-time record low, compared to an already smaller production from the previous year according to the Organization of Vine and Wine.
What does this mean to you, the consumer? Higher prices for French whites, and some reds from the Rhone. Increases from Spanish importers have already hit shelves, and a recent labor strike at the port of Madrid created yet another shortage. The French Ministry predicts this year’s production will be down about 25% overall in comparison to the last 5 vintages. The world will not run out of wine, but if your favorite French Chablis or Cotes du Rhone is still on the shelf, you may want to stock up.
In California, especially Napa, where wildfires affected so many vineyards, there will be no Napa Cabernet from the 2020 vintage from historically reliable producers. This means a loss of about $600 million due to smoke taint, according to the California Association of Wine Grape Growers. Grapes are a rare agricultural product that is affected by smoke, and can leave wine tasting of burnt rubber, or smokey ash. Many wineries that had vineyards survive the fires, sent their grapes off to the lab for testing, and the news was not good. These wines would hit our shelves next year in the fall. Larger production facilities that carry reserve stocks will recover, and there should still be plenty of California wine to go around. In fact, according to Forbes, the United States actually increased wine production by about 6% last year-contradicting global numbers. Australia, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, and the US have good production; we can drink plenty from these countries while Europe (and Napa in particular) recover. Stop by and check out some of our great worldly selections or grab some of your favorites that may be hard to come by in the next vintage or two! Cheers!
When you hear the name Duboeuf you probably associate it with Thanksgiving, and the slightly frizzante, light, fruity red wine released on the third Thursday in November- called Beaujolais Nouveau. Georges Duboeuf is credited with single handedly creating the Nouveau wine craze through his strategic marketing. In 1982 Georges brought the Nouveau wine to the United States, that turned into a worldwide annual celebration and release party. However, this is the story of a family and their history of French winemaking, not just one wine. Over four centuries ago the Duboeuf family was making wine in the Macon region of southern Burgundy. Georges was very young learning the family business from his father and uncle, including their passion for wine, and their secrets of production. At the age of 18 he was delivering wine off the back of his bicycle to local restaurants from his family’s winery. When his father passed away, Georges took over the business, producing ad bottling his own wines. He later formed a syndicate with over 45 local growers, but due to family squabbling, the business venture fell apart. In 1964 Georges Duboeuf started his own business as a negotiant. Les Vins Duboeuf now produces more than 2.5 million cases of wine a year. Georges passed away in 2020 at the age of 86 from a stroke, but his two sons, Franck and Georges, and grandson Adrien continue to run the family business.
The Gamay grape varietal, the only red grown in Beaujolais, is believed to be a cousin of Pinot Noir- a cross between Pinot Noir and the ancient varietal Gouais, thought to have been brought to the region by the Romans. Gamay has more floral notes and a bit more acid and minerality than Pinot Noir. The Beaujolais Crus tend to produce more concentrated and worthy wines, than say, the Villages wines. How do you know which label to choose for which style you prefer? Let’s explore.
The Beaujolais Cru regions from north to south are
Moulin A Vent
Cote de Brouilly
The Beaujolais appellation is bordered by Burgundy to the north, the Saone River to the east, and Lyon to the south. Most of the wines are produced using a method of semi carbonic maceration. This method highlights the fruit flavors of the grape. The grapes are harvested, then whole clusters are placed in the vat or tank. The weight of the grapes themselves then lead to juice extraction. When the juice comes into contact with the native yeast on the skins (from the whole clusters) the juice starts to ferment causing carbon dioxide, CO2. The vat is then covered and the grapes pop, or explode due to lack of oxygen! After a few days of maceration the juice is separated (first press, or “free run juice”) and then the skins are pressed, and the juice is combined. This is the basic winemaking formula for all of Beaujolais. Remember, French labels show the region and not the grape variety, we offer a few of Duboeuf’s wines here at Ed’s.
Beaujolais Village AOP is a “Protected” appellation, the wines exhibit a mineral flavor with red fruits, strawberry and currants. Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais is deliciously fruity with an aromatic nose of red berries. Lovely and fresh.
Morgon is one of the ten Cru Beaujolais, and the wines here tend to be denser with dark cherry fruit flavors. Often an extended maceration period gives the wine more body.
Fleurie offers an intense crimson color and expresses a range of fruity and floral characteristics.
Moulin A Vent gives off a color from dark garnet to deep ruby red. The fruit and floral flavors are intense, dominated by violets, with dark cherries. The wine is tannic, yet subtly spicy, with a complex, velvety finish.
Cote de Brouilly is a lovely garnet color with delicious apricot and plum flavors. The soils are made up of dark blue green schist, giving the wines great finesse. Cote de Brouilly wines are earthy and tannic, yet elegant and soft.
Unrelated to the Beaujolais region but here in our store, Georges Duboeuf makes a beautiful Pouilly Fuisse from Burgundy, where Georges family began. They still have property there as well as decades long relationships and contracts with growers. The Duboeuf Pouilly is made from 100% Chardonnay sourced from four different vineyard sites. 10% of the wine is aged in new French oak for 8 months before bottling. Flavors of apple and lemon with a touch of stone, the 2019 (current) vintage received a 90 Point rating from Wine Spectator. France has had a rough couple of years with weather, hail storms took out much of the white grapes from Burgundy to Loire. Expect to see very little French white wine in the next couple of years and many price increases- truly due to weather and low production. We still have some, so let’s raise a glass to the wonderful wines of Georges Duboeuf!
We conclude our virtual tour of the world of wine right here in the US. Did you know that every state in the Union makes wine of some kind? Even here in tropical Florida, fruit wines are made. Since the 1500’s some form of viticulture has taken place in all 50 states, commercially beginning in New Mexico in the 1620’s marketing and selling their wine to other states.
There are several native species of Vitis Lambrusca or the “Fox Grape”, native to North America. These flowering plants produce the Concord, Catawba and Niagara grapes, among others, and are quite different from the European grape varieties from Vitis Vinifera. Wild grapes have been harvested by foragers for thousands of years, used for medicinal as well as nutritional value. Grapes date back to 6000 BC, and the earliest written reference to grapes and wine dates to ancient Egypt and hieroglyphics. Greek philosophers praised wine’s healing powers, and recently wine storage jars dating back 7,000 years were found in Iran. Wine has been a part of the human food chain for centuries, but it wasn’t until the latter part of the 20th century that more scientific techniques overtook traditional techniques. In 2007 Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) suggested that two extremely rare red grape varietal genes produced a single white grapevine that became the parent of almost all of the world’s white wine varietals.
One of our favorite wineries from New Mexico actually make traditional French Methode Champenoise sparkling wine. A Frenchman, Gilbert Gruet, born in Bethon, France in 1931, became a world leader in sparkling wine making. Gilbert inherited land from his father where he made fine Champagne in Bethon at Gruet et Fils since 1952. In the early 1980’s Gilbert and his wife Danielle were on a tour of the United States, where they met other European winemakers in New Mexico. The vineyards he toured, some 170 miles south of Albuquerque, had been producing grapes since the early 1700’s. Gilbert decided to make the move to the US with two of his four children, Laurent and Nathalie, and began his New Mexico winemaking venture in 1984. Gruet grows Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and makes stunning non-vintage Gruet Blanc de Noir. Pale salmon in color with a nose of berries and pear followed by a rich, creamy, toasty finish. We give it three bones.
Another European with a strong wine history who helped build the industry her in the US is Dr. Konstantin Frank. Frank arrived in Upstate NY from Germany and introduced the Vinis Vinifera varietals from his native Europe to the Finger Lakes Region in 1957. We love the sweet and sour complex flavors of the Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling with flavors of lemon and peach. This wine rates two bones.
Out to our northwest, the Hedges family are pioneering legends in the American wine industry, too. In 1976, Tom Hedges, of Richland, Washington State, married his sweetheart, Anne-Marie Liegeois in her hometown in Champagne, France. Tom’s career had them zig zagging the country for years, but after eleven moves and two children, the couple settled in Washington State and started planting vines. The French influence is apparent as their wines (made by daughter Sarah Hedges Goedhart) express an old world style. This family put the Red Mountain AVA and Washington State’s Columbia Valley on the national wine map. We can’t get enough of the Hedges CMS Red a blend of C (Cabernet Sauvignon) M (Merlot) and S (Syrah), red cherry, cola and coffee come through immediately, with some hints of spice and lingering cocoa finish. We give it three bones.
We hope you have enjoyed our virtual tour around the globe learning a little about varietals from everywhere, as we have been on the bench for the last couple of years with the Pandemic. Travel restrictions are easing, but if you aren’t able to get on a plane and travel around the world to enjoy some great wines, we are always here for you. Travel up and down our aisles and we’re sure to help you find some wines you’ll enjoy, close your eyes and take you to the beautiful place it was made.
By Carolyn R Brown
Brunello the dog, who “writes” this blog with my help, and has such for the past ten years, has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. He died peacefully with all the love and support of his family, and dad, Ed Giancola on March 21, 2022.
On a warn, sunny, day during an outdoor Zinfandel wine tasting event, (Saints and Zinners) Suncoast Dog Rescue had some pups up for adoption. I spotted a white, fluffy pup, and was dying to go see it. When I was able to break away from my table, I walked in the store and there was the white pup, in the arms of Ed Giancola. “You’re adopting him?” I asked, a little disappointed. “Yes I am!” declared Ed. Brunello became a fixture in the store, greeting guests, and making friends everywhere he went. Over the course of time, Brunello became part of the store’s website; after all, he attended most tastings and events, and many loyal customers would come in just to see him and bring him a dog cookie. I had been writing blogs on wine for an Albany, NY tv station website, so when Perry and I discussed the blog, writing it under the guise of Brunello seemed a perfect fit. The system of “awarding” bones for ratings was a fun way to say this wine rates great! If it got “two bones” or “three bones” on the Brunello scale, it was above average. To keep Brunello’s memory a part of the store, we will continue Brunello’s blog about wine on the website monthly.
My love affair continued with Brunello weekly when I came to the store to call on Ed and Perry- mostly I stooped on the floor and rubbed Brunello’s belly, I made him homemade doggie treats, and Ed used to say his tail would start wagging when I pulled into the parking lot (well, me and the UPS driver). I was thrilled to publish my first wine book, Brunello’s Book of Blogs, born out of a furlough during the pandemic; it was a good time to organize the near decade of 500 word blogs by Brunello. In honor of Brunello, I am going to repost my all time favorite wine blog, that Brunello had a big part in. He was a very big part of my life, and a really awesome dog.
BRUNELLO’S NOSE KNOWS…
I know I’m a “hot” dog, especially this time of year, and who doesn’t love a good dog off the grill in the summertime? But wine with hot dogs? What kind of wine pairs with the all-beef frank? natural casing, of course, though it kind of depends on the toppings. I love hot dogs- salty, fatty, and oozing with flavors, like a sausage. Franks can be served on a bun or naked, with relish, ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, mayo, even chili. The wine pairing should probably go with the accoutrements, but in this case, nearly anything goes. Our number one rule here at Ed’s is to drink what you like with whatever you like. Hot dogs sing of the summer, easy to throw on the grill with a bun, served with some potato salad and baked beans, YUM. My mouth is watering! Hot dogs originated from Frankfurt, Germany, often referred to as the Frankfurter sausage, and can be made with pork, beef, chicken, or a combination of all. They became popular after being imported into the United States as a food cart snack, and then by baseball. Today, hot dogs can be dipped in breading and fried on a stick- the corn dog! or served on bread or rolls, toasted or grilled, or even fresh out of the bag. I can eat a whole package without any rolls, but that’s me, being a dog.
Corn dogs don’t need a roll around them, and are great with a glass of Chardonnay, the bigger and more buttery the Chard, the better, especially if you put a swish of mustard on the corn dog. I recommend Bogle Chardonnay from CA. It will also be delicious served with your picnic side dishes of pasta and potato or even fruit salads. The wine has just enough oak flavor, with hints of banana and apples. I give it two bones.
There are a few other options to go with the dog as far as choosing a wine, perhaps a Pinot Grigio on the lighter white side, as it is non-offensive and won’t interfere with the meaty flavors. Or you could go with a hearty red Zinfandel, big bold fruit with touch of spice. I recommend the Danzante Pinot Grigio from Italy. It is clean and crisp, with subtle flavors of citrus. I give it two bones.
Alexander Valley Vineyards makes “Sin Zin”, a red Zinfandel with just enough zip to stand up to the fat and spice, and enough fruit to balance the meal. I give it two bones. If Zinfandel is too spicy, you could go with a nice light Pinot Noir; red fruit flavors that won’t interrupt the tomato ketchup, and might pair nicely with French mustard? I might go with the Laetitia Pinot Noir, from CA; the Arroyo Secco region is producing some remarkable Pinot in the French Burgundy style, yet with a bit deeper red fruit, cherry and mushroom flavors. That gets three bones!
If you’re sitting around a camp fire with a dog on a stick, making the prefect chili topping, or simply boiling up the frankfurters on the stove, it doesn’t have to be beer that you serve with your meal. Oh, and make one for me, too!
Brunello will always be a part of the fabric that is the family that makes up Ed’s Fine Wines; employees, vendors, delivery drivers, customers and friends. Yes, wine DOES go with hot dogs. So cheers to Brunello, fly free, sweet pup, you were so fortunate to be loved, and to have touched so many lives. I’m sure you’re hanging out with Grandma Jane.
Carolyn R Brown
Continuing our virtual wine tour around the globe, this month we fly into Spain. The country is approximately the size of Texas, with about double the population, and is the largest country in southern Europe, a part of the Iberian Peninsula. Spain has many diverse wine growing regions (over 138 to date) controlled by government regulations and guidelines for labeling and production. Situated between Portugal to the west and France’s Basque country to the northwest. Like most European countries, Spain is rich in history, with historic castles, and ancient ruins; grape growing historically dates back to Roman monks. Originally conquered by the ancient Romans, the country is lush with vineyards- nearly 2 ½ million acres planted to vine. Spanish wine is considered “economical” as much of the wine produced there is sold for bulk. Over 900 million gallons of wine is made and sold in Spain per year on average, and the cost remains low because much of the 600 indigenous varietals grown there do not command world attention. However, the regions are diverse, and many wines do command higher prices as their quality, and value on the world wine stage increases.
The Northern Mediterranean Coast features Cava, Priorat, and Montsant regions, with varietals such as Carignan, Garnacha, Macabeau, and Xarello. Cava is Spain’s sparkling wine, produced with in-bottle fermentation, similar to Champagne.
If you fly into Barcelona, Catalonia wine country is only 90 miles from the city center. A high speed train, the AVE can get you to Madrid in under three hours, which makes navigating the wine country a bit easier. The Northwest wine regions include, Rias Baixas, Ribeira Sacra, Bierzo, and Txakolina. The preeminent grapes here are Tempranillo, Mencia, Albarino and Godello. In the famous Ebro and Duero River valleys (north of Madrid) are Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Toro, Rueda and Carinena, with more common varietals such as Tempranillo, Garnacha, Verdejo and Viura. Toward the south are the popular Jumilla and Yecla (closer to Valencia) regions with Monastral and Malvasia grapes grown there.
If you’re not up on your Spanish geography, that’s okay, the key points you should know on reading a wine label from Spain include the government guidelines to aging:
A Crianza is a wine aged 1 year with at least 6 months in oak barrel.
A Reserva is aged for at least 2 years with 12 months in oak.
Grand Reserva is aged 4 years with at least 12 months in oak.
White varietals to be on the look out for and try are Albarino, Godello, Verdejo, and Garnacha Blanc. A few red varietals to seek out are Tempranillo, Garnacha, Carignan, Monastral, and Mencia.
Finally, the government classifications are from top to bottom, as follows:
VP – Vina de Pago, only 17 sub regions qualify for this special delineation, the word Pago meaning “estate”.
DOCa – Denominacion de Origen Calificada, this is the next highest level wine appellation, the region must have been a DO for at least ten years. Currently only Rioja and Priorat carry this delineation.
DO – Denominacion de Origen, the most wineries fall under this category, and a number of quality standards must be met to achieve DO status, including the use of authorized grape varieties. There are currently 67 DO regions.
VC – Vino de Calidad con Indicacion Geografica, this designation is on the ladder to the DO status, an area must have VC status for at least 5 years before they can apply for DO status.
VT -Vino de la Tierra, this is the only label under the European Union’s “Protected” status of Protected Geographic Indication category, and represent wines produced with certain characteristics inherent to a certain region.
Vino de Espana, these are wines produced without any specific indication, but are authorized to list country of origin, grape varietal, and harvest year.
We must mention The Canary Islands, home to Malvasia grapes and Andalusia (part of the famous “Sherry Triangle” -that’s another blog!) to the south, where Manzanilla and Amontillado produce sherry, an aged sweet wine that is Spain’s most famous!
Come try some Spanish bargains, or even a great DO from our selections.
Bodegas Avancia Godello From the Valdeorras DO, this historic white wine varietal has aromas of pear and white flowers, with a crisp minerality. I give it three bones.
Bodegas Gardina Garnacha Located in the village of Borja in the Zaragoza region, the grapes are hand picked and spent 15 to 22 months aging in French oak barrels. Elegant with aromas of spice and licorice, flavors of dark plum and cocoa. I give it three bones.
Juan Gil Red Blend From the region of Jumilla, this winery was built in 1916 by Juan Jiminez, now run by grandson, Juan Gil Gonzalez. A rich fruity nose with blackberry fruit, dark cherry and smoke. The wine is mostly made from the Monastral grape, with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. I give it two bones.
There’s so much to explore, you can travel the world by walking around the aisles of the store here at Ed’s. Don’t forget to give me a pat on the head, or bring a cookie to my cousin Miles, the black Poodle who has been coming in lately. We love dog biscuits! See you soon.
By Brunello Giancola as told to CRBrown
Portugal is a southern European country in the Iberian Peninsula bordering Spain and the Atlantic Ocean. It has many indigenous grape varietals as well as different climates, regions and ways of producing both still and fortified wines. From the islands of Madeira to Porto, in Northern Portugal, there are grapes growing aplenty. The Isles of Madeira boast spectacular ocean views from mountain ranges, and offer up its namesake, the fortified wine Madeira. Madeira is comprised of 4 islands off the northwest coast of Africa and was claimed by Portugal in the early 1400’s. Madeira can be sweet or dry with concentrated flavors and aromas. It undergoes a unique process that heats and oxidizes the wine. These fortified wines are under the Madeira DOC and non-fortified or table wines are sold under the VR, Vinho Regional distinction.
The Douro Wine region came to be much later, around the 1750’s, but phylloxera affected wine production and the region was not again fully commercial until the 19th Century. The Douro River Valley separates Spain from Portugal for nearly 70 miles. There are 14 government recognized wine regions in Portugal. The Peninsula de Setubal is known for its Setubal Moscatel, often called “sun in a bottle”, another popular Portuguese fortified wine, and is similar in style to that of Sherry which is produced in Spain. Portuguese Setubal Moscatel tastes of lychee, candied orange, lemon and raisin.
Casal Garcia Vinho Verde- One of the most popular white wines of Portugal, with its own DOC “Denominaceo de Origem Controlada” originating in the historic Minho Province in the far north. Vinho Verde literally means “green wine” however, it does not refer to the color, but to the age- as it is usually consumed within 3 to 4 months after bottling. The Vinho Verde region was created by law in 1908, even though grape growing there dates back to Roman times. Alvarinho is the main varietal used to make this light, refreshing white, along with Loureiro, which is often blended in. The wine can have a frizzante’ characteristic with flavors of tropical fruit and melon. I give it two bones.
Quinta de Chocapalpha Vino Tinto- A family estate since 1987 by the Tavares de Silva family, just north of Libson in the Lisboa wine region. This property has been growing grapes since the Romans 2nd Century BC. Maritime influences and chalky clay soils with a limestone predominance make for wines of interest. Indigenous grapes like Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Castelao, Syrah, Touriga Franca, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot are all grown on the 60 hectare estate. This Vino Tinto is a blend of Tinta Roris, Touriga Nacional and Syrah aged for twenty months in French oak. Black fruit and some floral notes, with rich, ripe tannins. The wine has a long, fruit filled cocoa finish. I give it three bones.
Herdade Do Rocim Amphorae- Located in the lower half of Portugal in the Alentejo Region, between Cuba and Vidiguera lies the estate of Herdade Do Rocim, on almost 200 hectares. The climate is continental with hot summers and cold winters, but grapes do well amid cork trees, olive groves and wheat, the most important crop in the area. This wine is aged in Amphorae, a clay pot, after the grapes are picked, then placed in the clay vessel with skins and stalks, then sealed to ferment naturally with the wild yeasts. The clay allows for subtle amounts of oxygen and a neutral environment (unlike aging in wood barrels, no flavors are imparted) less Sulphur is needed and the wine is more “natural”. This red blend is made of mostly Tempranillo, (known as Aragonez in Portugal) Trincadeira, Moreto and Tinta Grossa. Flavors of blackberries, dark juicy plums and sour jam. These grapes are naturally acidic and the wine ends with fresh minerality balanced by a velvety finish. This is one to try- I give it three bones.
Maynard’s Late Bottle Vintage 2016 Porto- Port is a fortified wine, made in many different styles, including red, white, rose’ and even aged Tawny. Made from indigenous Portuguese varietals, each grape adds it’s own unique flavor and style. Port is made by adding a distilled spirit – usually grape based, such as brandy, to the wine; a process known as fortifying. Port comes from the Douro Valley, in Oporto, a DOC, and not unlike Champagne, only wines produced there can declare “Porto” on the label.
Walter Maynard was known to be the oldest wine merchant to ship Port across the ocean back in the 1600’s; an illustrious ancestor of the Van Zeller’s who own the company that produces Maynard’s today. Their 2016 LBV has aged gracefully, with an auburn tint to the caramel color, it is quite robust with black fruit flavors and an endless finish of tobacco and wood. I give it three bones.
Izidro Madeira Full Rich NV- Made with a blend of young grapes such as Sercial, Tinta Negra Mole, and Verdelho, then submitted to the unique heating process known as Estufagem, with strict traditional methods. This Madeira is aged in oak casks and has great acidity. Most often thought of as an after dinner drink, this one pairs with cheeses and nuts, and is definitely full and rich, with aromas of coffee and caramel. I give it two bones.
Portugal has so many varietals, regions and flavor profiles there’s so much to explore- come by the store and we will happily show you the many wines available from this distinctive and interesting country. See you soon!
By Brunello Giancola as told to CRBrown
We have been winding our way around the globe virtually on a wine tour this last year. This month we land in another world, that of New Zealand, on the bottom of the globe, famous for their Sauvignon Blanc for the white wines, and Pinot Noir for the reds.
New Zealanders have been known as “Kiwis” since World War I when Australian soldiers referred to the natives as “Kiwis”. The word is derived from a native, flightless bird, called the Kiwi, and is not considered offensive. The only link between kiwi and wine is there could possibly be a slight flavor of the kiwi fruit in New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc- along with grapefruit and grass! The first Sauvignon Blanc was planted in the early 1970’s and grew prolifically in the Marlborough region, which has become the most famous area for grape growing there. While New Zealand wine roots can be traced back to the Colonial era, it’s major export popularity has only recently grown- with an increase of almost 20% in the last 20 years. In the late 1850’s French missionaries established vineyards in the region of Hawkes Bay. The Central Otago area is known for growing exceptional Pinot Noir grapes. By the mid 1980’s New Zealand had garnered national attention of its Sauvignon Blanc on the world wine stage, when wine critic Oz Clark famously wrote that New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was “arguably the best in the world”. With that press, Sauvignon Blanc vineyards take up over 60% of viticulture grown in New Zealand, with several areas known as GI or “Geographical Indication” similar to a protected area in the European Union. Northland, Auckland, Kumea, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay and Nelson, Marlborough and Canterbury are most notable.
In today’s world of supply chain issues, as well as severe weather in the recent growing season, there is going to be a shortage of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. The last two seasons saw weather conditions with wet springs, so the plants had less flowering and therefore less overall grape production. Couple that with cargo ships delayed at international ports, and we are going to see price increases and fast product depletions. Let’s see what we have currently on our shelves and what you could stock up with on the current vintage. Drink up!
Sheep Creek Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ
This special bottling was vinted specifically for Monsieur Touton Wines, which is distributed in 11 states. The grapes are hand selected and the wine rests before bottling and shipping. Flavors of lemon, lime and green apple, this wine has vibrant fruit flavor with balanced acidity. I give it three bones.
Frenzy Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ
Frenzy is made by Paua Bay wines and comes from some of the best sourced fruit in the region. Hints of peach, grapefruit, lime and melon, with a touch of cut grass. 2020 was a “classic vintage”. I give it 3 bones.
Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ
A large international drink company just recently purchased Villa Maria’s vineyards and winery, including properties in Auckland, Hawkes Bay, and Marlborough. The previous owners ran the winery from 1961, and created a well- known, popular brand. This Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from vineyards predominantly in Marlborough with aromas of gooseberry and passionfruit. Fresh herbal notes and hints of cut grass and grapefruit on the palate. I give it two bones.
The Little Sheep Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ
Another group of vintners who carefully select grapes for natural and gentle pressing; aromas of ripe peach and citrus follow up with flavors of grapefruit and a hint of lemon. I give it two bones.
The unique terroir that shows in these wines will not disappoint. Remember 2020 was considered “classic” and 2021 will be in extremely short supply. Stop by, or call in and we will package up your order for curb side pick-up. Cheers, and Happy New Year!
By Brunello Giancola as told to CRBrown
We have moved to Asia in our virtual journey around the world. Even though Japanese Sake’ is technically not wine, it is often referred to as “Rice Wine”, it is actually a brewed product more like beer. The sake’ production process is fascinating and it makes a great dinner combo with your Asian meals, or as an aperitif. Let’s explore!
Often times you will hear the expression “it’s all about the water”. Water is essential, as it is a major part of many beverages produced with alcohol. The Japanese take great care in the use of their natural springs that are protected, for the use of sake’ production. Water comprises nearly 80% of the finished product of sake’, so quality water is very important.
Rice crops are cultivated, and then the rice is prepared- the polishing process starts with ridding the rice of its brown cuticle. There are three categories after the polishing process, before the rice even begins the sake’ process, it is milled to certain percentages.
Junmai the rice is 70% polished
Ginjo the rice is 60% polished
Dai Ginjo the rice is 50% polished
This means that the rice is milled down that percentage, then it is washed and steamed. The rice is then placed in a “koshiki” a traditional rice cooking instrument.
Once cooked it is transferred to a room where heat and humidity are monitored and the “kojimuro” begins. Koji is a fungus that once spread on the rice, allows the starch to react with the enzymes and break down the natural sugars, which can then be fermented into alcohol. After three days sitting with the koji, yeast is added, allowing alcohol and alcohol ethers to form, the temperature rises and bubbles begin to form.
The rice is then placed in large fermentation tanks for three to five weeks. Water is added and sometimes more cooked rice to feed the reaction. Then the contents of the tanks are pressed. The remaining materials composed of digested rice and yeast is called “kasu” and is often used in traditional Japanese cooking.
Sake’ can then be filtered and bottled (though there are “unfiltered” products available as well) or it can be pasteurized (though some are not).
Most sake’ is aged at least six months before shipping. Letting the sake’s settle for this period allows the flavors to round out, then more purified water is added, to lower the alcohol to around 15%. It is sometimes pasteurized a second time at this stage as well, before brewing. The process has been elementarily explained above (after all I’m just a dog!) however, there are books and teachings from thousands of years on brew masters and sake’ production. It is believed that the process of polishing and fermenting rice and brewing this alcoholic beverage began in Japan as early as 300 BC. Sake’ is an important part of the Japanese lifestyle, with rice as a main staple of food in Japan. We hope you’ll explore the sake’ we have on our shelves the next time you are enjoying sushi or some amazing Asian cuisine.
Tozai is one of our favorite sake’ producers here at Ed’s.
This sake’ is named for Hanako or the “flower maiden” the most famous Japanese koi fish that lived for over 200 years in the snowy, icy waters at the foot of Japan’s Mt Ontake. Bright and fresh with a fruity rice combination, flavors of honeydew, raw pumpkin, with a creamy texture. This sake’ is Junmai. I give it two bones.
Plum Sake The Blossom of Peace
Local and all natural plums are soaked in Tozai sake’ for over three months, resulting in brilliant flavors of almonds and marzipan, and flavors of rich plum. This sake’ is Dai Ginjo, I give it three bones.
Pearls of Simplicity
The epitome of purity, this sake’ is subtle with nuances and aromatics based on the ideals of Zen Buddhism. This sake’ is Junmai Dai Ginjo and goes through a secondary brew. Flavors of white flower, lemon, and a hint of licorice. I give it three bones.
Come explore our aisles for great treats from around the world, or give us a call for curb side pick-up! Hope to see you soon.
By Brunello Giancola as told to CR Brown