20111230

Oregon to designate new wine region

Quiet time at the Maragas Winery
CULVER, OR -- The state is on the verge of getting another official wine region.

The Oregon Wine Board will recognize Central Oregon as such, according to the founder of Maragas Winery, the first to make wine solely from grapes grown on the climate-challenged High Desert.

Doug Maragas on Thursday told KTVZ.com that he had received confirmation of the news from Charles Humble, marketing and communications director for the Oregon Wine Board.

"It was an incredible Christmas present," Maragas said.

For a decade, Maragas had been working on getting recognition for winemaking and grape-growing in the Central Oregon area.

Soon, when people contact the Oregon Wine Board, the official state representative of the Oregon wine industry, rather than have Maragas Winery listed under the "other" category, it will be listed in its own category. The region will range from Warm Springs to Bend.

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20111228

A Facebook thread on a wine review

I found this fascinating Facebook thread, prompted by a review in the Las Vegas Review-Journal of a $7.99-a-bottle Antinori Santa Cristina Sangiovese-Merlot blend, a hoot. Only the writers' surnames have been deleted.

THE REVIEW

In the glass:
Santa Cristina wine is a deep garnet-red color with a fairly dense core going out into a lightly tinged rim definition with high viscosity.

On the nose: There are indicators that the famous terroir from which this wine's fruit is sourced shines through with powerful forward stewed red fruit dominated by ripe Morello cherries and cooked sloe fruit, with underlying notes of leather, plums, earthy minerals, herbs and dried red flowers.

On the palate: It is a nicely ripe and mature mouthful of wine right off the bat with red cherries, rhubarb compote, pomegranate juice and slightly rustic undertones, but all well-balanced. The midpalate and the supple finish confirm this with soft tannins and a pleasant lingering finish. It is medium-bodied in style and highly drinkable.

THE FACEBOOK THREAD

Mike:
(His "headline") This wine costs eight bucks a bottle. How can it be this complex? What do red flowers taste like?

Mike: On the palate: It is a nicely ripe and mature mouthful of wine right off the bat with red cherries, rhubarb compote, pomegranate juice and slightly rustic undertones, but all well-balanced.

Linda: It's good stuff. My husband and I have been drinking it for years.

Mike: To be honest, I will be drinking a bottle of it in an hour. I like it a lot. But Christ..."slightly rustic undertones."

Mike: I take back the "red flowers" bit. The "red flowers" are on the nose, not on the palate.

Steve: A cheeky little wine but I perceive that you're amused by its presumption.

Mike:  There you go...

Linda: It's a good wine, and very reliable from one bottle to the next, unlike most Chardonnays, which I find can vary a lot in quality.

Mike:  Agree, Linda. And I get grossed out by bad reds...anything white is drinkable if cold enough (except Foxhorn). It's a great red for the money. But where do wine reviewers come up with this bullshit? Who has the taste of "rhubarb compote" so imprinted on their tastebuds that their palate can smoke it out in a glass of wine?

Linda: Oh, the reviews are BS, totally. And there have been studies where people doing wine tastings will claim, if they're given the prices of the various wines, that the more expensive ones taste better even if it's a cheap wine in an expensive bottle. So I always just go with what I like.

Mike: Yup. Oh, BTW, one of my friends is a beverage reviewer. He will no doubt show up here and set me straight bigtime.

Mike: Linda, I must say I agree with the viscosity angle. That's pretty obvious even to this hillbilly

Linda: Few things worse than a watery red, IMO. Another good one if you're looking for recommendations is Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. That's been our go-to red for a couple of years now, again, very reliable from one bottle to the next.

Mike: great...thanks...and a decent Zin for you: Cellar 8

Linda:  Hm. I generally avoid zins because they're too fruity, but this sounds like one I'd like: "At first, the nose didn’t strike me as distinctly zinfandel. It was was mostly smoky and subtle. Given a chance to open up the zin characteristics ...

Mike: yes...not an overpowering zin. The pepper is nice...and you can't beat the farty nose

Bill (the aforementioned "beverage reviewer"): If I'm not mistaken, Farty Nose is a registered trademark.

Charlie: Can't go wrong with a pint of Guinness or a selection from Brown's in Troy.

Mike (a different one): Mike.. chill...when purchasing wine,those of us with a discriminating palate have learned to choose a box whose corners have been glued,not stapled

Christopher: Delicious is my favorite comment. Tastes good works also. Try the Sterling Meritage. Yummy. (Yummy is a good word!)

Lynn: Red flowers taste like.. Perfume.

Dan: I know what red flowers don't taste like...blue flowers.

John: best wine description I've read--noted that the wine tasted of road tar--and that was a good thing.

Mary Ellen: I like white merlot. It tastes like the stuff my Italian grandfather made in the cellar. That's a good thing.

Tim: Whatever happened to my early teenage years: "What's the word?" "Thunderbird!" "What's the price?" "Forty twice." Then my palate developing in early adulthood to the half-gallon bottle of Gallo Burgundy. Not too complex or balanced. But, Lord, what a drunk and a hangover I can still feel all these years later.

Mike (the original one): haha..had that. big thing when i was a kid: Ripple and Boones Farm. You could make ice cream floats with ripple, but they weren't very good

Tim: Oh, yes, Ripple too. Thunderbird was our white wine, Ripple our red. I'm too old for Boones Farm. I'd moved on to Lancers or Mateus.

Mike: the wine jingle i remember clearly from TV, Tim, was for something called Kings wine...had a king of diamonds on the front..."Get Kings wine...you'll be feeling real fine...." Forget all your cares and get...Kings wine." Yeah, i bet.

Dan: Well, I've forgotten all about Kings wine...it must have worked. My favorite out here was Spañada...it only came in gallon jugs.

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20111227

Study: Draw one, mix one for health

We've been trying to keep up with the regular stream of studies suggesting wine has all sorts of magical, mystical medicinal properties that will lead to better health, longer life, etc. Now, brews and spirits are getting some extra support.

A two-decade study published in the January issue of The Journal of Studies On Alcohol and Drugs reports on connections between the moderate consumption of all types of alcohol and increased longevity.

It also supports the findings of prior studies that wine has more beneficial effects than any other alcoholic drinks. However, in a twist that always seems to pop up in any study, researchers said that may because the people who choose wine tend to be more naturally healthy anyway. Go figure.

The study of 802 men and women ages 55 to 65. Of that number, 281 "low wine drinkers" consumed less than one-third of their alcohol intake from wine, 176 "high wine drinkers" consumed two-thirds or more as wine, and 345 abstainers. The drinkers had one to two drinks per day, and researchers followed them for 20 years.

Among the findings: Wine drinkers lived longer than abstainers, and high-wine drinkers lived longer than low-wine drinkers.

Charles Holahan, a psychologist at the University of Texas and lead author of the article, said there may be benefits for older moderate drinkers no matter what kind of alcohol they consume. But, he cautioned, "The study does not encourage initiating wine consumption as a pathway to better health."

Ya gotta love those disclaimers.

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NJ direct-ship wine battle heats up

From the Asbury Park Press

A trio of towheads scoot around the gnarly vineyards and country-chic tasting room of Wagonhouse Winery, giving chase to their parents, Dan and Heather Brown, as they tend to grapes on their 11 acres and customers stopping by for a bottle of pinot gris.

When Dower, Dawson and Dallas, ages 3 to 7, dash into the large structure designed for shipping and distribution, the Browns fret less: It’s more of a playroom for the boys than the busy commercial operation imagined when built earlier this year in South Harrison, Gloucester County.

Unless a much-debated, much-delayed bill allowing direct shipping of wines in and out of New Jersey is passed by the Legislature in January and signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie, the distribution center will remain an oversize playroom for the Brown boys.

The battle between boosters of direct shipping, who believe it will help fuel economic growth, and the retail alcoholic beverage industry which believes it will cut its profits, has been termed a “David vs. Goliath” fight that once again will go to the mats in the Statehouse.

[Go here for the full story.]

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20111223

Direct-ship wine possible in Massachusetts

Gov. Deval Patrick
From the Boston Herald

BOSTON -- Christmas may have arrived early for Bay State oenophiles.

Gov. Deval Patrick on Thursday may have inadvertently revived an issue that has flummoxed Bay State policymakers for years, lending support to a bill that would permit Massachusetts consumers to order direct wine shipments from out of state.

“I would sign that bill if it came,” he said during an appearance on WTKK in response to a question from a caller who identified himself as "Dan from Franklin" and said he was frustrated by restrictions on commerce.

Although in 2006 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state laws that bar consumers from ordering wine shipments, Massachusetts is one of 12 states that have yet to comply. In fact, a Bay State effort to amend its laws in response to the decision was itself struck down in January 2010, the result of restrictions that lawmakers built into the law to protect local wineries from competition.

[Go here for the full story.]

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California grape harvest drops again

In a California vineyard.
The California grape harvest this year was 3.3 million tons, 9% below the 2010 crop, according to a report just released by the California Department of Food & Agriculture.

That decline is attributed to a second year of a wet spring and unseasonably cool temperatures. And the 2010 harvest wasn't any great shakes compared to the 3.7 million ton harvest of 2009.

This year, many grapes were picked at lower sugar levels, so the alcohol content for wines is likely to be on the moderate side. Higher acids are predicted.

"Surprisingly enough, the quality came out pretty good," Victor Alvarez, owner of Miraflores Winery in El Dorado County, told the Sacramento Bee.

"We lost 40% to 50% of the whites, but fortunately the end of the season was very mild and there was only one rain, which didn't affect things. Everything was well matured and balanced, but the acidity is a little high. The cabernet and zinfandel is looking excellent."

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20111209

Dom Pérignon 2003 debuts via satellite

The French champagne Moët & Chandon on Thursday released its Dom Pérignon’s 2003 vintage in a ceremony linking events in New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Via satellite, chef de cave Richard Geoffroy unveiled the wine in a hologram.

"It was a risk, which may be rewarded now," he said of the 2003 vintage "It's at the heart of the house's values -- we're committed to vintage Champagne. My wish is for Dom Pérignon 2003 to remain one of the greatest examples of the vintage in the history of Champagne."

Dom Pérignon 2003 will be available at abut $190.

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20111202

New wine books top the holiday gift list

I've been trying to climb out from under a deluge of wine-centric books released in time for the holiday gift-giving frenzy.

It's an annual effort, and takes a little time away from shilling my own non-wine book now on sale. (Glad you asked. It's "Barrels & Drams: The History of Whisk(e)y in Jiggers and Shots.")

Nevertheless, I've made the sacrifice to cull a trio of good books to top the list. Herewith, my capsulized views of each.

UNQUENCHABLE: A Tipsy Quest for the World's Best Bargain Wines. By Natalie MacLean. Perigee. Hardcover. $24.

First, the title. I have a strong antipathy to labeling any work about wines or spirits "tipsy" or any other euphemism for inebriation. In my view, it cheapens the effort. That said, Natalie MacLean is an excellent guide for the newbie or the experienced wine buyer.

In "Unquenchable," she mixes humor with advice, taking us on a global quest for the best. Her wordsmithing is impeccable, as seen in these examples selected from among many: "The next day, approaching Featherstone Winery, I can see a pepper storm of starlings flying over the vineyard." And, "Even though Sicilian winemaking has improved considerably over the past decade, marsala's former image still sticks to it. Poorly made wines are like a crime-ridden neighborhood, tarnising the reputation of an entire city."

Whether it be during stops in France, Italy, the Finger Lakes or anywhere else, MacLean sweeps the reader along with her on her sometimes-bumpy, always-entertaining jaunt, helping explain the why's and why not's of winemaking, marketing and drinking. She's an excellent travel companion.

THE FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE TO WINE. By Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. Little, Brown & Co. Hardcover. $35.

Sommelier interviews, encyclopedic listings of grapes and their many twisted vines of heritage, a history of key periods in wine, trivia and tried-and-true wines ... all this and a lot more goes into this latest effort by the writing team of Page and Dornenburg.

This is not the sort of book you'll curl up with in front of the fireplace, a nice Cab in hand. It is, however, a very useful book, something not always a property of a Christmas gift .

If you want to look at tried-and-true food and wine pairings, or check out a bit of wine trivia, then pop the book back on the shelf until the next time you absolutely have to find something in a hurry, this is THE book to have.

THE BIG RED WINE BOOK 2010/11. BY Campbell Mattinson and Gary Walsh. Hardie Grant Books. $25.

Wine has become so ubiquitous on American dinner tables and in restaurants seeking to find the next-best-thing before their competition does that the average consumer can be excused for retreating into a cloud of confusion.

So, this guide to 1,000 red wines should help clear the air while someone else probably is working on a white wine companion tome. It is the third edition of "The Big Red ... " by a pair of Australian writers who like to refer to themselves as regular blokes who like wine.

Their work concentrates on red wines because, the authors reason, they are the most popular and probably the most confusing. Also, Australia puts out a bazilllion of them, and the U.S. markets laps up many.

The book supplies tasting notes on 1,000 or so wines in all price ranges, and talks about value for money, variety of styles and notes on past vintages.

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20111127

Wine Spectator makes a Pinot Noir its No. 1

The winning wine.
Wine Spectator magazine has selected a California Pinot Noir as its "Wine of the Year" for 2011.

The Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2009 was chosen from among the more than 16,000 wines reviewed in blind tastings this year.

"Part of Kosta Browne's appeal is its unique history," explains Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Wine Spectator. "This small Sonoma winery was founded just over a decade ago by two waiters who pooled their tips so they could make wine.

"Since 2002, Dan Kosta and Michael Browne have made 66 wines that have earned 90 points or higher -- though they don't own a single vine and make wine in a rented warehouse. In 2009, the greatest vintage yet for California Pinot, the team made 11 outstanding Pinots, including our Wine of the Year for 2011, which scored 95 points and was released at $52."

The full list of the Top 100 will be published in the December 31-January 15, 2012, issue of the magazine, available on newsstands beginning December. 6.

Meanwhile, we can reveal the top 10 selections:

1. Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2009 (95 points, $52, 5,818 cases made)

2. Hall Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Kathryn Hall 2008 (96 points, $90, 2,450 cases made)

3. Domaine Huet Vouvray Moelleux Clos du Bourg Premiere Trie 2009 (96 points, $69, 760 cases made)

4. Campogiovanni Brunello di Montalcino 2006 (96 points, $50, 7,000 cases made)

5. Dehlinger Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2008 (95 points, $50, 1,050 cases made)

6. Baer Ursa Columbia Valley 2008 (95 points, $35, 1,095 cases made)

7. Quinta do Vallado Touriga Nacional Douro 2008 (95 points, $55, 2,188 cases made)

8. Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra 2006 (96 points, $90, 1,500 cases made)

9. Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage La Guiraude 2009 (94 points, $55, 650 cases made)

10. Chateau de St.-Cosme Gigondas Valbelle 2009 (94 points, $58, 1,175 cases made)

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20111126

Yao's first wine to aid 2 charities

The entrepreneur and his charity wine.
Meet the latest celebrity who hopes success in the wine business is a slam dunk.

Yao Ming, 31, the pro basketball star forced into retirement last summer because of lingering injuries, has a 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon produced by his own Yao Family Wines company.

“Basketball gave me the opportunity to live in the United States and discover many wonderful things in America. Now I look forward to bringing great wines from California back to the Chinese people,” Yao said in a statement.

There are only 1,200 bottles of this particular wine. The wine is to be auctioned this Sunday at a starting price of US$9,429 as a fundraiser for the Special Olympics and for the Shanghai Special Care Foundation, a charity for special-needs children.

Yao is a global ambassador for the Special Olympics. He also is involved in variety of philanthropic work through his Yao Ming Foundation. His winery is located in California's Napa Valley.

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20111119

NY, California lead Wine Society competition

ROCHESTER -- Twenty-one wines, two-thirds of them from New York and California producers, earned double-gold honors in the recwnt American Wine Society competition held here.

To earn double gold, a wine must be unanimously selected by the judges on the panel initially tasting it.

Double gold winners are listed on the chart below. To access the full list of winners in all levels -- gold, silver and bronze -- click here.



The American Wine Society is the oldest and largest consumer-based wine organization in the country, It is for anyone interested in wine and wants to learn more about it. Its mission is the "appreciation of wine through education" and its membership includes wine lovers from novice to expert, amateur and professional winemakers, and people in all aspects of the wine trade. It has 120 chapters with members in 41 states.

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20111116

Picking THE holiday wines from memory

A lineup of sauternes wines.
When I was growing up, wine was something served in our house only on holidays. Cocktails were the order of the day, and to this moment they remain my preference. But, when it comes to mealtimes, I delight in pairing wines and foods. I find the variety available in these days of global cuisine makes it less of a chore than it had been long ago.

The first "holiday wine" I recall being poured at our dinner table was a chilled sauternes, a French sweet wine from the Sauternais region of Bordeaux. I didn't know it was a blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes that have been affected by Botrytis cinerea -- also known as "noble rot" -- that causes the grapes to contract and concentrate their juice to raise the flavor level. I did know it tasted great with turkey.

As I grew older, my tastes ran toward drier wines, a fairly natural progression that has led me to regularly imbibe Rieslings, the Alsatian style white that has become a huge seller in the U.S. There are several varieties of Riesling, from dry to semi-dry to sweet to ice wine. Its vintage-after-vintage improvement has helped it reach elite status at domestic and international wine competitions in a comparatively short time.

The strong consumer acceptance of Rieslings has come as Finger Lakes Rieslings have taken the lead in quality and consistency. Australia's Canberra International Riesling Challenge is arguably the top such competition in the world. Sheldrake Point, a Finger Lakes stalwart, in October saw its 2010 Riesling Ice Wine win the "USA Perpetual Trophy for Best American Riesling," just a year after its 2008 Late Harvest Riesling was named "Best Sweet Wine in the World" at the same event.

Another Finger Lakes winemaker, Dr. Konstantin Frank, took home "Best Varietal" honors in the prestigious International Eastern Wine Competition with its 2008 Riesling, Bunch Select Late Harvest.

But, lest we think Rieslings are the only good picks to go with such a mish-mash of flavors and textures for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals as turkey or ham, root vegetables or green beans, roasted yams or mashed potatoes, apple sauce or cranberry sauce, pumpkin or lemon meringue pies ... Think again.

There are several other wines that trace their heritage to the same Alsace region that over the years has belonged first to France, then to Germany, then back to France, and so on, and have become standards in U.S. vineyards, particularly in New York, Oregon, Washington, Virginia and Texas. They all share a clean bite, can range from sweet to bone dry, and work well with a variety of foods so common to our holiday tables. A few examples:

Gewurtztraminer --
Very Riesling-like, but spicier and something that will stand up to herb-infused birds, stuffing and the like.

Pinot Gris -- Especially good as a first-course wine with citrusy or even creamy salad dressings, or with cheese platters.

Zinfandel -- This is a key building block in California's wine industry and has been for more than a century and a half. It originally appeared in Croatia but has become a New World darling. It is available in every shade from pure white to golden yellow to pink to reddish hues. Goes great with virtually any kind of meat and isn't so robust it overpowers lighter side dishes.

When it comes to the after-dinner drink, here we get into the realm of individual preference. There are no wrongs or rights. Everything from a syrupy Frangelico liqueur to a less viscous port wine will work, often depending upon the ethnicity of the imbiber and what customs the household observes.

And, of course, there always is sauternes. Really? Yes, the more mature vintages that tend toward a heavier viscosity make excellent postprandial treats. Ah yes, I remember it well.

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A beer drinker's guide to holiday Champagne

From the "Dowd On Drinks" archives, updated:

Flash forward to December 26. There you sit, in your latest ugly Christmas sweater that already has a splotch of holiday gravy on the front, wondering how to avoid looking like a schlub when you uncork the champagne you've been assigned to purchase for the next family inquisition commonly known as New Year's Eve.

You like your bubbly, of course, if it says Bud Lite on the label. What do you know about that frou-frou French stuff, and who wants to spend that kind of money on something that tickles your nose and tastes sour anyway?

If you know champagne is French, you may be farther ahead than you realize. The rest is a simple matter of getting educated. Quickly. So, let's take you back in time to just before Thanksgiving 2011 -- like today, maybe. Sit up straight and pay attention.

True champagne comes from the Champagne region in the northeastern part of France which jealously protects the name "Champagne'' worldwide. That's why the phrases "Champagne style'' and "methode champenoise'' appear on a lot of non-French labels. (See how much you've learned already?)

Champagne doesn't taste sour. Crappy Champagne does. However, it does have quite a range from tart to sweet.

There is something called "liqueur d'expedition'' which is used to top off bottles after the sediment has been removed. Because it contains varying amounts of sugar and some reserve wine, the sweetness of the finished product will vary and determines the style of the Champagne.

The most common style is brut -- there is an extra or ultra brut, but you'll rarely see it, especially in the U.S. Brut has 0 to 15 grams of sugar per liter. Then comes extra sec with 12-20 grams, sec at 17-35, demi-sec at 35-50, doux at more than 50 and also extremely rare. You're usually dealing with brut style in this country, and it's a versatile wine for meals, desserts or just quaffing.

Champagne prices range all over the place, such as $15-$22 for a palatable low-end wine to $30-$60 for the better ones without having to sell your first-born to pay for even more expensive ones. My favorites are Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin ($39.95) and Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Brut ($30) among the affordable imports and Chateau Frank 2000 Blanc de Noirs from the Finger Lakes ($29.99) among the "methode champenoise'' domestics.

What should determine the price is what's in the bottle. A non-vintage wine, usually denoted by the letters NV on the label instead of a vintage year, is a blend from several different years. Vintage wines are produced from a single year. Most Champagne houses will designate a vintage only if they think the grape crop from that year was special. Otherwise, they blend their product to meet a certain standard. Vintages are more expensive.

Some of the other top-tier French Champagnes are Taittinger, Moet et Chandon, Bollinger, Cristal, Pol Roger and Dom Perignon. The French-owned Roederer Estate winery in California also produces some nice bubblies.

Champagnes do not have to be golden, as the movies would have you believe. There are Champagnes ranging in color from nearly white to deep gold to rose or bright pink. It all depends on the manufacturing process.

There are Champagnes made entirely from black grapes (blanc de noir) such as pinot noir and pinot meunier and Champagnes made entirely from white grapes (blanc de blanc) such as chardonnay. The rose wines are made by allowing a little more contact with the red grape skins than usual or, in a few cases, even introducing a touch of red wine to the process.

Champagne is best served as cold as you can get it without putting it in the freezer, although that can be strictly a matter of individual taste. The coldness helps maintain the bubbles after opening.

And, speaking of opening, a bad job of doing that can ruin the whole thing. Just keep a few things in mind:

• Remove the wire cage and foil covering the cork.

• Point the bottle away from everyone, including yourself. It is under tremendous pressure, so it can be a dangerous missile.

• Put a dish towel over the top of the bottle and, with your hand under the towel, grasp the cork firmly.

• Hold the cork steady and turn the bottle. The cork will slowly disengage.

• When the cork comes out, keep the towel over the bottle opening for a moment to preserve the gas and the Champagne.

• Pour into Champagne flutes and enjoy.

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20111115

In court of public opinion, Champagne reigns

Marlene Dietrich quaffs Champagne.
The French are a people long known for their skills with food and drink. They often are observed, when anything French isn't praised highly enough for them, to fly into fits of pique. Pique, a French word by way of Latin meaning anger, annoyance, conniption, snit. All aptly descriptive.

Take Champagne, for example. The lovely bubblies made in that region of northern France have, by most laws even beyond La Belle France, been ascertained as the only true Champagne. Made anywhere else and they are mere pretenders to the throne.

Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992), the influential German-born movie star (shown above in a 1959 Paris restaurant), wrote that she loved Champagne because "It gives the impression that it is Sunday and that the best days will soon be upon us.''

Today's wine world largely goes along with the legal aspects as well as that attitude toward Champagne, but it is not a recent conceit. Throughout history the world has known of the French reverence for the wine. Even an Austrian like Johann Strauss the Younger kept it as a major part of his opera "Die Fledermaus'' ("The Bat'') which he adapted from the French vaudeville production "Le Reveillon'' in 1874. In the finale, all sing in praise of Champagne, the king of all the wines.

The French Enlightenment philosopher Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, writing in 1736, noted "the sparkling froth of these fresh wines is the sparkling image of us, the French.''

The French master of fiction Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) said he always put a glass of Champagne beside his inkwell to give his pen a sparkling inspiration.

So, here we are mere days from that hideously commercialized, yet still nice to have, holiday known as Thanksgiving Day, and just beyond it we have Christmas and New Year's Eve. Days when Champagne enters into the consciousness of many who ignore it the rest of the year.

I was never impressed by the recent years' wave of anti-French sentiment that resulted in such foolishness as "Freedom fries,'' but I do advocate -- as a longtime journalist and defender of free speech in all situations -- saying that Champagne is recherche, French for excellent, delicious, discriminating, pleasing, splendid, superb. All aptly descriptive.

Tomorrow, I'll be presenting, in time for all those aforementioned holidays, my annual guide, "A beer drinker's guide to holiday champagne." See you then.

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20111114

Mmmm, wine from a polluted canal area

Joseph Mariano
BROOKLYN, NY -- New vineyards and wineries keep popping up around New York State with great regularity. So, not every venture is a major news item. This one is different.

Joseph Mariano, 73, a Brooklyn resident who has been an amateur winemaker since 1994, is cultivating a 50-foot grapevine a few blocks from the Gowanus Canal, widely regarded as one of the world's most polluted waterways. Thus, the local water table is very suspect.

From it, he has produced a wine he calls Vinum Nostrum, Latin for "our wine," a product he says is totally safe to drink.

You can get more details on his project from an interview with the New York Post.

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UK inventor comes up with paper wine bottle

The recyclable paper wine bottle.
I recently reported on my Spirits Notebook blog details of a new product -- Scotch whisky in a can. Today, it's wine in a paper bottle.

No, not a paper bag, a la homeless winos. This is an actual paper bottle, called GreenBottle. It's trumpeted as the world's first such wine package.

GreenBottle is the brainchild of Suffolk, England, inventor Martin Myerscough who based it on a paper milk bottle he created and that has sold 100,000 units since it went on sale in the UK earlier this year.

The wine bottle combines a paper outer layer and a thin plastic lining. The idea is to have a recyclable container rather than fill up landfills with empty bottles.

GreenBottle is in the process of holding talks with supermarkets and wine producers with an eye toward making the paper contaienrs available to consumers as early as next year.

Myerscough told the UK Press Association, "The best thing about GreenBottle is that consumers just get it. We've found that if you offer them the choice of a paper bottle or a plastic one they'll choose paper every time. ... All you would need to do [to recycle] is rip out the plastic lining and put the paper outer-casing in the bin or on the compost heap."

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20111107

NZ ratcheting up its U.S. market push

A vineyard in the Marlborough region.
From The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch.com

CHRISTCHURCH -- New Zealand believes it has the 21st Century palate figured out. The New Zealand winemakers’ flagship export -- Marlborough sauvignon blanc -- has blossomed over the last two decades. Now it is pushing the fresh white to find greater favor in high-growth markets.

The industry wants to double the value of its US$877 million wine exports by 2020. Deeper penetration into North America and China are crucial to achieving that goal.

“Our No. 1 market focus is the United States,” said Philip Gregan, chief executive of New Zealand Winegrowers. “Stylistically, we are in the right place to meet expectations of what wine should taste like in a modern lifestyle.”

Gregan says Americans “love New Zealand, even if they haven’t been here.” He hopes that hook -- combined with the unique taste of Kiwi wines -- is enough tighten its grip on the world’s biggest wine consumer.

But, saddled with a high dollar, market-access barriers and uncertainty over evolving Asian wine appetites, the tiny island nation faces stiff headwinds as it seeks to expand its global presence.

[Go here for the full story.]

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China's increasing thirst attracting foreign wine

From The Associated Press

HONG KONG -- As growth slows in their traditional markets winemakers from around the world are eager to tap demand in China, but industry players say the increased competition and a lack of wine-drinking culture mean it won't be easy money.

Thousands of people attending a major wine and spirits trade fair here last week sipped and spat countless vintages made by producers ranging from boutique vineyards in New Zealand to famed chateaux from France's Bordeaux region. Others were in town to attend a wine conference that featured speakers including Hollywood director [and California winemaker] Francis Ford Coppola.

Many are keen to get a foothold in China's wine market, which has taken off in recent years, particularly at the high end, as newly-wealthy collectors splurge for bottles of fine French wines at auctions in Hong Kong. The southern Chinese city abolished wine import duties in 2008 in a bid to become a regional wine center and imports surged by nearly 60 percent in the first nine months of 2011 to $940 million. ...


• Year's biggest wine auction nets $14.5 million in Hong Kong.


China is the world's fastest growing market for still light wine and is forecast this year to overtake Britain as the fifth biggest market, according to a September report by UK-based International Wine and Spirit Research. The report forecast that China's wine consumption will double to 250 million 12-bottle cases by 2016, from 125 million in 2010.

[Go here for the full story.]

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20111028

Getting the lowdown on high quality sake

From Esquire magazine

By DAVID WONDRICH

Sake is different from what we're used to drinking on an almost genetic level. That difference has to do with fermentation, the process whereby yeast eats sugars and excretes them as alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Anything that has sugar in it can be induced to ferment with no trouble at all. To get any grain to ferment, however, be it the barley used in beer and whiskey or the rice used in sake, you have to first convert that grain's starch, which yeast can't eat, to sugar. In the West, we've always done that by malting -- allowing the grain to sprout, which releases enzymes that turn starch to sugar, and then toasting the sprouts to kill them to keep that sugar from being consumed in growth. In Asia, however, they found quite a different way of doing things. A moldy way.

There is, it turns out, a strain of fungus (Aspergillus oryzae, if you want to get technical) that feeds on starch, releasing enzymes in the process that accomplish the necessary starch-to-sugar transformation. Asian brewers domesticated it millennia ago, and indeed, its use forms the basis of most Japanese, Chinese, and Korean brewing.

While very efficient at producing alcohol, particularly when turned loose on as pure a starch as polished white rice -- at 14% to 20%, sake has the highest percentage of alcohol of any fermented beverage -- it does have a strong tendency to impart a characteristic musty, funky fragrance to the finished product. Properly handled, that can be pleasing even to the untrained Western palate -- a good sake has a unique balance of refreshment and savoriness, with the sweet, clean graininess of a German lager and the palate-cleansing minerality of a good pinot noir. But finding one that fits your comfort level ain't easy.

The classification system is dazzlingly complex. Is it, like most cheap sakes, blended with alcohol, sugar, and various edible acids, or is it pure (junmai; the good stuff)? Or is it basically pure with just a little alcohol added during fermentation (honjozo; also the good stuff, pretty much)?

[Go here for the full story.]

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Finger Lakes winery takes label competition

The winning artwork.
The Lamoreaux Landing entry in the 2011 International Wine Label Design Contest has emerged as the grand prize winner.

The Volunteer Center of Napa Valley, CA, sponsor of the contest, announced the results today. The Finger Lakes, NY, winery's design by Veronica Martin won the Overall Award.

Entries were judged on overall originality and creativity, use of typography, and use of graphics.

Says Paul Wagner, one of the judges and co-author of "Wine Marketing & Sales" and wine marketing instructor at Napa Valley College, "The single most important interface between the winery and the customer is the label, on the shelf or in the restaurant. This competition brings attention to the people who are breaking new ground, and developing the most successful designs in the world. The winning labels were fun, dramatic, creative, and most of all, effective."

A call for entries for the next competition will go out in spring 2012. The proceeds of the competition, which are in the form of submission fees, go directly to benefit the Volunteer Center of Napa Valley.

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20111026

Chinese infusion rescues Aussie winery

The Ferngrove winery by the Frankland River.
• From Bloomberg News Service

Ferngrove winery, which grows Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Semillon grapes in Western Australia’s Frankland River, last year faced declining sales and the prospect of breakup if business didn’t recover.

As it sought partners, a Chinese investor visited last October and bought 14,000 bottles of wine to test on friends and associates back home, said Ferngrove Managing Director Anthony Wilkes. They liked what they tasted. In February, the winery received a $1 million investment from the investor’s private firm, which has since increased to $10 million, giving it about 60% of the winery, Wilkes said.

“If they hadn’t come in, the business would potentially have been sold, or parts of it been divested,” Wilkes said. “At the end of the day, we looked at what the alternatives were and this was definitely the best outcome.”

Australian vineyards such as Ferngrove, facing a wine glut, slumping exports and rising competition from countries including Chile and Argentina, are turning to China for salvation. Chinese buyers are proving receptive as they seek to meet surging demand among the nation’s rich, who are developing a taste for grape wine and the expression of wealth it conveys.

Vineyard values have lost as much as 50% since 2008 across Australia’s 60 wine-producing regions -- including the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale in South Australia known for their Shiraz; the cooler Yarra Valley in Victoria, famous for its fruity Chardonnays; and Western Australia’s Margaret River, renowned for its Cabernets -- according to Toby Langley, director of Adelaide-based winery broker Gaetjens Langley.

[Go here for the full story.]

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20111025

New York State winery going underground

WURTSBORO, NY -- Bashakill Vineyards, the Sullivan County winery that won "Best in Show" honors in the recent Hudson Valley Wine Competition, is going underground.

That's no reference to hiding. Rather, it's the implementation of a project owner Paul Deninno has had in mind for a while.

He's constructing a wine cave that measures 9 by 16 feet, with a 40-foot depth. That will be room enough for a tasting bar as well as 20 to 25 barrels.

Deninno plans to age some of his red wines in the cave, which should be an interesting evolution for the likes of his Black Bear Cabernet Franc that won a double gold and best red wine honors, as well as top show honors, in the aforementioned test I helped judge.

Bashakill is located at 1131 South Road, Wurtsboro. Phone: (845) 888-5858.

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20111024

'Confessions' of a wine business insider

W. Blake Gray
Getting an insider's point of view on virtually any topic can be illuminating. In the case of W. Blake Gray, I found that to be the case.

Gray is chairman of the Electoral College of the Vintners Hall of Fame. He once was wine writer/editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, and has been published in several other major publications. In a "confession" written for the online wine magazine Palate Press, he lists "10 Things I Learned in the Wine Business."

He explains that in addition to writing about wine, he "also spent a little over a year working in the wine industry, as a vice president for a startup that bought unsold wine cheaply and sold it to wine shops in the Northeast."

Among the 10 things he talks about in detail:
  • Publications like this love unusual varieties. Consumers do not.
  • Most people don’t care about wine-food pairing.
  • Nobody cares about gold medals.
  • Wine writers like to explore lesser-known regions. Consumers do not.
You can read Gray's entire "confession" by clicking here.

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20111019

Poll: Consumers want truth-in-labeling

NEW YORK -- Representatives of 15 different wine regions have issued a joint call for policymakers to move ahead with wine truth-in-labeling.

Results from a recent poll of U.S. consumers, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, released today found that Americans, in particular, have very strong feelings about the role of location in making wine-purchasing decisions. Key findings from the poll of 1,000 U.S. wine drinkers include:

• 79% say they consider the region from which a wine comes an important factor when buying a bottle of wine.

• 75% say they would be less likely to buy a wine if they learned it claimed to be from a place like Champagne, Napa Valley or Oregon, but in actuality was not.

• 84% say they think the region a wine comes from is extremely important in determining its quality.

• 96% say consumers deserve to know the location where wine grapes are grown is accurately stated on wine labels.

• 98% say they support establishing worldwide standards for all winemakers that would require they accurately state the location where wine grapes are grown on wine labels.

"In over 20 years of polling, rarely have we seen such strong feelings on an issue like this," said Rob Autry, partner of Public Opinion Strategies and the lead pollster on this project. "Consumer sentiment this strong is a clear signal that Americans care a great deal about the location a wine comes from and clearly want ready access to that information when looking at a bottle.

The poll was released by the signatories to the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin, a coalition first formed in 2005 when the initial global declaration was signed. The organization has since doubled in size, welcoming its two newest members -- Long Island and Rioja, Spain -- at this year's meeting.

Says Ron Goerler Jr., president of the Long Island Wine Council, “The signatories of the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin have worked to produce world-class wine regions and preserve the integrity of our unique vines and lands. United with Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Jerez and the many other wine regions across the globe, we are committed to educating consumers about the importance of location.”

"The 15 regions gathered here today agree that great wine is made in unique places all over the world and that these unique place names must be protected. A failure to do so undermines all of these wine-growing regions and, as the research shows, runs counter to the expectations of the consumer," said Bruno Paillard, representing the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne. "People want to know where their wines come from."

The 15 international wine regions including Long Island; Champagne, France; Chianti Classico, Italy; Jerez, Spain; Napa Valley, California; Oregon; Paso Robles, California; Porto, Portugal; Rioja, Spain; Sonoma County, California; Tokaj, Hungary; Victoria, Australia; Walla Walla Valley, Washington; Washington state; and Western Australia.

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20111018

$4.5M to help Cornell next-gen grape research

Experimental grape clusters.
GENEVA, NY -- The next generation of improved grapes grown in New York State will be nourished by $4.5 million in federal grants.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative has awarded two grans toitaling that amount to subsidize a pair or projects.

One is headed by Bruce Reisch, Cornell University grape breeder and professor of horticulture. The other is led by Tim Martinson, Extension senior associate. Both projects are taking on the question of how to make grape breeding more efficient ande come to market faster than the typical 15- to 20-year timeline.

"We are focusing on developing wine, juice, table and raisin grapes with three attributes: fruit quality, cold hardiness and resistance to powdery mildew, a fungal pathogen that is costly to control," Reisch told Farm&Dairy.com.

The website reports that "Reisch is working with 24 scientists at all six publicly funded U.S. grape breeding programs on a $2 million project to streamline genomewide DNA analysis and trait-screening methods to more efficiently identify promising progeny. His project team also includes Cornell plant pathologists, enologists, scientists with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service in Geneva and Ithaca, and experts with Cornell's Life Science Core Laboratories got genomics and computation biology.

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20111008

NY entry is 'Best American Riesling' Down Under

CANBERRA, Australia -- The folks from Sheldrake Point Vineyards know they produce a great Riesling wine, but that was underlined when their 2010 Riesling Ice Wine won the USA Perpetual Trophy for Best American Riesling at the recent Canberra International Riesling Challenge.

That came after it had earned a "Top Gold" designation in that category, en route to the big award.

The honor came just a year after Sheldrake Point's 2008 Late Harvest Riesling was named Best Sweet Wine in the World at the same event.

A gold medal went to Anthony Road Winery's 2008 Martini Reinhardt Selection Riesling Berry Selection. Other New York wineries won one silver and 10 bronze awards in this Riesling-only competition.

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20110928

OK, so wine doesmaybedoesdoesnot affect health

ORLAND, FL -- After reading a plethora of studies over the past few years that claim that red wine, consumed in moderation on a daily basis, is good for our hearts, we now have a study that says, not so fast. It might, but then again not precisely the way we've been encouraged to think.

"Our findings do not support that potential cardiovascular benefits of red wine consumption result from blood pressure lowering by polyphenols" [a form of  antioxidant], says researcher Dr. Ilse Botden, a Ph.D student at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Instead, while not suggesting red wine isn't heart-healthy, the study says it just doesn't seem to work by lowering blood pressure. Botden says the benefit of red wine and heart health "apparently occurs in a blood pressure-independent manner."

Botden is presenting the findings today at the American Heart Association's High Blood Pressure Research 2011 Scientific Sessions being held here.

[Go to WebMD for a full report on the study.]

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20110922

Snooth unveils Facebook tasting app

NEW YORK -- Facebook's ongoing changes are more than cosmetic. They also are encouraging other entities to get more creative.

One of the first to announce a new application to take advantage of the changes is Snooth Media, which today announced a new social wine tasting experience integrated with Facebook.

The app will allow users to tell their friends that they are “tasting” a specific wine from Snooth.com. It was announced at the f8 developers conference being held here.

Full details are available on Snooth and its Facebook page.  

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20110921

RIP Pennsylvania wine kiosks

HARRISBURG, PA -- The shaky year-long experiment with wine kiosk vending mchines in the commonwealth is over.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has ended the trial because of a financial dispute with the contractor. Monday was the final day to resolve the dispute with contractor Simple Brands LLC and keep the machines operating.

Board CEO Joe Conti said he cannot foresee the program being revived. The board maintains that Simple Brands owes the state about $1 million, but the company disputes that stance. Instead, it says, the liquor board had incurred unnecessary expenses and "improperly" billed the company. Simple Brands is seeking $81 million from the agency for breach of contract.

The machines began operation in several markets last summer, but ran into mechanical problems almost immediately. Both Wal-mart and Wegmans pulled out of agreements to host the machines, citing "mechanical concerns" and too many customer complaints.

"I think it was a great attempt to try to do something for the convenience of our customers," Conti said. "It didn't end up successful, but we learned a lot. We will be better for it, and listen, we had thousands of buyers who predominantly were happy with the convenience when they bought a bottle of wine through these kiosks."

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20110916

New Mason-Dixon Wine Trail unveiled

The new Mason-Dixon Wine Trail.

STEWARTSTOWN, PA -- A new bi-state wine trail has been created to help market 14 different wineries.

In a press conference held at Naylor Wine Cellars here this week, the debut of the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail was announced. It now covers 12 wineries in Pennsylvania and two in Maryland, thus straddling the famous Mason-Dixon line that forms the boundary between the two states.

It succeeds the UnCork York Wine Trail and the original Mason-Dixon Wine Trail, the katter created in the late 1980s by Pennsylvanians Dick Naylor of Naylor Wine Cellars, Mike Fiore of Fiore Winery and John Crouch of Allegro Vineyards. Boordy Vineyards in Hydes, MD, later was added.

Not everyone, however, was satisfied with the marketing ideas of the new entity. The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported that a Lancaster County business, Nissley Winery, opted out of the organization.

Owner Judith Nissley, according to the newspaper, said, "They had that first event in March (Tour de Tanks) and that one is enough to get through, and then they added the one in November (Wine Just Off The Vine. When they first had that, it was one weekend and was voluntary. Now they've increased it to two weekends and they've added that as a signature event, meaning you have to participate in that if you want to be on the wine trail.

"We have other ways of promoting our wine. But most of the wineries on that trail have only their wineries. They don't have any extension stores, they're not reaching out in other ways, and it's important that they draw people to their own winery site."

The member wineries of the new configuration:

• MARYLAND

Boordy Vineyards
12820 Long Green Pike
Hydes, MD 21082

Fiore Winery
3026 Whiteford Road
Pylesville, MD 21132

• PENNSYLVANIA

Adams County Winery
251 Peach Tree Road
Orrtanna, PA 17353

Allegro Vineyards
3475 Sechrist Road
Brogue, PA 17309

Cullari Vineyards & Winery
1251 East Chocolate Avenue
Hershey, PA 17033

Four Springs Winery
50 Main Street
Seven Valleys, PA 17360

Hauser Estate Winery
410 Cashtown Road
Biglerville, PA 17307

Hummingbird Ridge Winery
735 Kise Mill Road
York Haven, PA 17370

Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery
1282 Klines Run Road
Wrightsville, PA 17368

Naylor Wine Cellars
4069 Vineyard Road
Stewartstown, PA 17363

Reid's Orchard & Winery
2135 Buchanan Valley Road
Orrtanna, PA 17353

Tamanend Winery
759 Flory Mill Road
Lancaster, PA 17601
The Vineyards at Hershey
598 Schoolhouse Road
Middletown, PA 17057

West Hanover Winery
7646 Jonestown Road
Harrisburg, PA 17112

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20110915

Spike TV renews 'Bar Rescue' series

Consultant Jon Taffer
Gordon Ramsey had a great idea for "reality" programming when he came up with "Kitchen Nightmares." Take a failing restaurant business, give it a good shake, and, in most instances, make it a success.

The trouble is, Gordon Ramsey. The volatile, foul-mouthed celebrity chef relies too much on screams, insults, put-downs and manufactured drama to push his show along. Luckily, there is an alternative: "Restaurant Impossible," hosted by a pumped-up Brit named Robert Irvine.

While he is forceful with the owners and staff of the failing restaurants, he is rarely demeaning to them, and never foul mouthed. He's much more entertaining, his show more realistic -- except for the cliche of made-up pressure concerning deadlines -- and you don't feel as if you need a shower when you're finished watching an episode.

Now, along comes Jon Taffer with "Bar Rescue." The show, which has just been picked up by Spike TV for a 10-episode second season, started off well for a cable show and has steadily gained audience. Last Sunday, against televised NFL competition, it drew 1.3 million viewers, nearly doubling the July 17 premiere viewership of 742,000.

"Bar Rescue" is a bit of a misnomer. What Taffer, a noted New York hospitality industry guru, deals with is full-service eating-and-drinking establishments. And, his shows deal with the food as well as the drinks, along with service, decor and marketing. His on-camera persona is alternately gruff, encouraging, teaching and, ultimately, decisive. Another altogether satisfactory alternative to Ramsay.

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20110904

Virginia wine sales break records



Virginia Wine Regions: Click on map to enlarge.

RICHMOND, VA — The commonwealth's rapidly-growing wine industry reached an all-time high in fiscal 2011, just ended.

Virginia has more than 190 wineries, ranking it fifth in the nation in wineries in the state.

The office of Governor Bob McDonnell announced that sales of Virginia wines reached a record 462,112 cases in fiscal 2011, an increase from the former record of 414,785 cases sold in fiscal 2010. That represents an 11.4% increase.

Virginia  collected almost $1.8 million in wine liter tax revenue, up from about $1.6 million in fiscal 2010.

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20110901

Pennsylvania audit: Wine kiosks a dud

From the Philadelphia Inquirer

HARRISBURG, PA --  - The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's oft-criticized wine kiosks have cost taxpayers more than $1 million and should be scrapped unless dramatic improvements are made, according an audit by state Auditor General Jack Wagner.

"We think the wine-kiosk program has failed, and it needs dramatic, radical changes if the program is going to continue to exist," Wagner said Tuesday at a news conference in the Capitol.
The audit found that wine-dispensing machines fell short in large part because of numerous mechanical problems late last year that, in an embarrassing move, forced the LCB to shut them down for a month.

Beyond that, the audit also found that the machines never lived up to the goal of making it more convenient for customers to buy wine, nor did they deliver on the promise of making money for the LCB and state government.

As of this summer, the LCB has spent more to operate the 32 kiosks than it took in, resulting in an operating shortfall of about $1.1 million, Wagner said.

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20110831

Final days for whiskey book discount

My new book, "Barrels & Drams: The History of Whisk(e)y In Jiggers and Shots," will officially be released on September 6.

The retail price then will be $18.95, but you can get a hefty 33% pre-release discount from Amazon.com by going here.

It is a collection I co-wrote and edited with essays from numerous writers famous in the field, from F. Paul Pacult to David Wondrich to Tom Wolfe.

You'll discover the spread of whiskey throughout the world and how it helped build countries. Read profiles of some of the most famous giants of the industry as Jack Daniel, George Smith and the Beam family.

Plus, go behind the scenes of Prohibition to check out the legendary gangsters, small-time rumrunners, a famous NASCAR champion who made his mark as a moonshine runner. And, you'll get insiders' looks at legitimate whiskey-making in such diverse spots as Scotland, Ireland, the U.S., South Africa, India and Japan.

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20110829

Massaschusetts wine industry branching out

From the Quincy (MA) Patriot-Ledger:

PLYMOUTH, MA -- Rising consumer demand for locally-grown products and a gradual relaxation of alcohol regulations are helping increase the ranks of Massachusetts wineries and launching second careers for a new generation of vintners.

There are now a record 36 wineries operating across the state, including seven that have opened since 2007. Wine production increased by 21% from 2007 to 2010, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

The industry ranges from 80-acre vineyards, such as Westport Rivers, to small "urban" wineries that buy grapes and fruit from farmers and manufacture just a few thousand bottles a year. The industry has continued to expand throughout the economic downturn as entrepreneurs used e-commerce sites, tasting rooms and farmers’ markets to introduce their products to the public.

"The interest in buying local products has been a big reason," said Scott Soares, commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture. "Another part of it is the quality. Once people try some of those local wines, they’re realize it’s some pretty good stuff."

Michael and Pam Carr of Boston acquired the 18-year-old Plymouth Bay Winery this summer from founder Tim Cherry. Fans of fruit wines in particular, the couple saw a niche product they could promote as a sweeter alternative to mainstream varieties such as merlots and cabernets.

The winery will introduce its ninth variety -- a blackberry wine -- this fall. Cranberry wine -- made with products bought from southeastern Massachusetts growers – is a perennial best-seller for the winery.

The winery has turned a profit for all of its 18 years, said Carr, a former salesman for an apparel company. Sales have increased in recent years thanks to shipments to 23 states.

[Go here for the full story.]

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20110827

?? mpg on wine and cheese at ?mpg



From San Jose Mercury.com

Imagine pulling up to a gas station, and rather than being offered the usual choice between regular or premium unleaded, the gas pump instead read "chardonnay" or "pinot noir." Not for you, of course, but for your car!

Well, if one new experimental car, called the Lotus Exige 270E Tri-Fuel, ever catches on, this scenario may not be so far-fetched. The specialized Exige is capable of running on an ethanol fuel made from wine that isn't up to drinking grade, or whey, which is a byproduct of the cheese or chocolate-making process.

It was one of several new cars showcased recently at an eco-rally sponsored in part by the Prince of Wales' environmental initiative, Start, according to the London Independent.

The car also can run on conventional gasoline (just in case you're out of fuel and still miles away from wine country), as well as methanol, a fuel that can be made by extracting CO2 directly from the atmosphere -- potentially the ultimate carbon neutral fuel. The car is also capable of reaching 60 mph in less than four seconds, making it among the fastest road-legal cars in the world.

A few of the other cars featured at the eco-rally, which began in Oxford and finished at the Mall in central London, included the Lightning GT, an electric vehicle that can run 200 miles on a 10-minute charge, and the Biobug (also lovingly called the "Dung Beetle"), which runs on methane generated from human sewage.

"Vehicles that use fuels other than petrol or diesel are no longer concept cars of the future, but production cars of today," says Andy Dingley, a spokesman for Bridgestone UK, which also sponsored the event. As the global recession continues, more and more people are looking at greener cars, he adds.

Although wine and cheese may seem like alternative fuels better suited for those with a prince's salary, the concept cars nevertheless represent a growing diversity of choice available to car buyers of the future.

This Lotus is still in the research and development phase, so it isn't available for purchase yet.

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