Central Coast Wine Insider Blog

A California Dynasty :Malolactic Fermentation and Chardonnay

Dynasty memeDuring the 80’s the US fell in love with oaky, buttery Chardonnay. We loved it the same way we loved the family intrigues and endless catfights on mainstream soap operas like Dynasty and Falcon Crest. It was a decade of big shoulder pads, big hair, and even bigger wines. How exactly do winemakers craft the big buttery Chardonnays? It’s called malolactic fermentation.

The buttery flavor found in specific Chardonnays (California Chardonnays in particular) is due to the presence of diacetyl, a naturally occurring organic compound found in wines that have gone through malolactic fermentation, and it’s the very same compound added to artificially flavored movie theater popcorn and margarine. Yup. Chew on that for a minute.  Of course, this begs the question, what is malolactic fermentation?

Often referred to by winemakers as secondary fermentation, malolactic fermentation (MLF) follows on the heels of primary fermentation and, for the most part, will start spontaneously in oak-aged red and white wines. Unlike primary fermentation, which is the conversion of the natural sugar in grapes to alcohol and CO2 by yeast, MLF is a bacterial fermentation. Specifically it’s lactic acid bacteria (LAB), and like in primary fermentation, CO2 is liberated in the process. The main action of malolactic fermentation, why we do it, is the conversion of malic acid to lactic acid.

Perhaps the easiest way to understand the effects of MLF is by visualizing malic acid as the acidity found in a tart green Granny Smith apple. Then think of lactic acid, the acid found in dairy productsChard glass like cultured buttermilk or butter. In red wines, butteriness is not quite so apparent, or if it is, it’s perceived as butterscotch; though it’s important to note that many commercial strains of malolactic bacteria exhibit no buttery aromas and flavors at all. MLF is prized for the softening effect it has on wines; MLF has the ability to reduce harsh acidity and astringency in young red wines in exchange for richness and body and has the ability to deliver the perception of silkiness and even creaminess. Winemakers will also argue that secondary fermentation also helps to better integrate oak into wine’s overall character.

It’s safe to assume that the vast majority of red wines undergo a secondary fermentation, an exception to this rule is Beaujolais Nouveau – and that’s an entirely separate post. It’s also safe to assume that wines that haven’t gone through MLF have retained their malic acid—think of crisp whites fermented in stainless steel.

If you want to explore the difference first hand, try a tart crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a white Bordeaux. The Bordeaux Blanc is typically barrel aged while the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is not. Then pick up a Napa Valley Chardonnay. Mind – blown. If you have the opportunity, I highly suggest wine festivals like The Chardonnay Symposium or Paso Wine Fest. It will give you the chance to try various wines side by side and speak to winemakers and tasting room staff and hear their take on MLF.

As for Chardonnay, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction in favor of non-buttery Chardonnays. But still, California Chardonnay is crafted in a range of styles. Some of those early, classically-styled butter bombs still exist and are still quite popular, all in thanks to malolactic fermentation!


Heat Things up or Keep it Cool with your Syrah

How do YOU like your Syrah?

 grapes

Syrah Grapes

You can buy a Gala apple from Chile, New Zealand, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S. and each will taste pretty much the same. That’s the idea.

Not so with wine grapes. Fruits they may be, but where and how they grow (terroir) has a huge impact on grapes and the wine made from them , even within the same country or region. Sangiovese from the cool Tuscan coast, for example, offers wine that tastes of fresh red cherries; sangiovese from Montepulciano, a bit inland and warmer, tastes more like cherry cough drops. Splitting hairs? You be the judge. Get out in the field on a  Breakaway Tours wine tour, and let your senses guide you!

It’s mainly climate that affects the difference. Cool climates matter in ways warm climates don’t, and vice versa. That’s becoming clearer with each vintage, from many places around the globe, notably with the red wine grape syrah. It was a conversation with a friend that piqued my curiosity about this specific varietal and why the cool climate/warm climate syrah debate is so polarizing.

Cool-climate syrah (sometimes called shiraz) smells, tastes, even feels different as a wine than that from warmer vineyard areas. And wine tasters, once they put them side by side (in place or memory), might well prefer one to the other precisely for these differences.

Most of these differences are accounted for by how this grape ripens, a function of climate if ever there was one. Four processes occur simultaneously as red grapes ripen, but each not always at the same pace.

Syrah

Ripening Graph

Sugar accumulates in the grapes; acidity lowers; pigments and other phenolic matter (the stuff that floats in the juice and makes red wine red) thicken and darken; tannins mature and soften. Winemakers, in concert with vineyard workers, aim to have these four processes synchronize through the summer and reach their peaks together at harvest time.

In warm climates, however, quickly rising sugar levels (and concomitant falling acidity) often outpace the other two processes and a winemaker simply must pick the grapes, though they be phenolically immature, else the resulting wine be overly high in alcohol and dull from low acidity.

Cool climates, on the other hand, may on occasion be too cool, and these processes won’t team well together or sometimes one or another just never reaches the finish line, rendering a wine out of balance.

That explains any vineyard’s most sought-after descriptor: warm days and cool nights — warm days to enrich and mature the grapes; cool nights to retain acidity and maintain an even pace, like a conductor waving his baton.

Syrah used to be raised in warm-climate vineyards only, the thinking being that this specific grape required a generosity of climate.  But not only do grapes mature over time, so do vineyard and winemaking practices. Helped along by global warming (getting our science on here, folks) , winemakers learned how to extract even more from syrah than ever before. The result was syrah wine high in alcohol, port-like, with fruit cooked in flavor and of lackluster acidity.

However, many of those same vineyard and winemaking skills, put to work in cool-climate vineyards and wineries, brought forth wines that were coated in other colors. The French in the northern Rhone had enjoyed these sorts of syrah for eons, but the rest of the world has been leaning toward them only of late.

Outside of our more local California offerings, syrahs arrive from Chile and Washington state now, both rather spectacularly, and from cooler pockets of our West Coast, some Australian vineyards, even New Zealand and Argentina.

Here in California, in the Bien Nacido area of Santa Barbara County, boasts a specific climate quote suited to the more cool climate syrah. Climates have been called ‘pinot noir cool’ in the summer. Winemakers can leave the grapes to hang until late October. This late harvest time has become the norm in this region.

qupe

Qupe Vineyards

Take Qupe Vineyards Syrah,  a good example of cool-climate growing — ebullient, energetic fruit with low alcohol and tangy acidity — it illustrates the aging capability that such wines have over many warm-climate syrah, with notable vintages dating to the 1991 vintage.

Here’s something awesome – you can experience the difference between cool- and warm-climate syrah if you can get your hands on a pair of Andrew Murray Vineyards syrahs and taste them side by side. The 2010 syrah, Watch Hill Vineyard ($30), comes from a cool pocket in the Santa Ynez Valley of the south Central Coast of California. It’s “refreshing,” with aromas and flavors of “bright red fruits (such as) cherries, raspberries, currants and cranberries,” according to Murray. He fashioned his 2009 syrah, Terra Bella Vineyard ($36), from vineyards in Paso Robles, Calif., to showcase “warm days and cool Paso Robles nights” as he makes “the darkest wine in the cellar … (from) Australian shiraz-style grapes with profound hedonistic flavor.”

So, whatever your preference – Warm or Cool, grab a bottle of Central Coast Syrah today and reflect on the amazing diversity of this varietal. Better yet, let Breakaway Tours introduce you to the wines where they are made. Give us a call today.

Below are some local recommendations for amazing Syrah. Cheers!

Be Cool

2011 Odonata Wines Coastview Syrah, Monterey County / $32

2012 Sinor-Lavallee Bassi Vineyard Syrah, Central Coast / $28

2013 Melville Estate Syrah, Santa Rits Hills, Santa Barbara County/ $32

2011 Qupe Sawyer Lindquist Valley Syrah, Edna Valley / $35

 

Keep Warm

2002 TH Estate Wines The Hedge, Paso Robles/ $60

2013 Calcareous Estate Syrah /$49

2007 Stanger Library Reserve Syrah / $48

2014 Wild Coyote Adelaida District Syrah / $25

 

 

 


Wine Festival Season hits the Central Coast!

One of the absolute most exciting things about Spring on the Central Coast? That’s right, its Wine Festival Season! Not sure which one is right for you? Check out the options below, grab your sandals and sunscreen and celebrate the vine with these amazing events.

Hospice du Rhone

HDR

Hospice du Rhone

Hospice du Rhone is An international vintners’ association that provides promotional and educational opportunities to the wine industry, trade and Rhône enthusiasts. Each year over 1,200 Rhône lovers converge in Paso Robles, California USA for the annual Hospice du Rhône Festival. The group is a mix of Rhône producers and importers, wine industry representatives, restaurateurs, Sommeliers and enthusiasts who possess an unwavering passion for the 22 Rhône varieties. The event hosts upwards of 160 Rhône wine producers and importers, from throughout the world at the Friday Rhône Rendezvous and the Saturday Grand Tasting. These worldly Rhône wine producers and imports gathered from France, South Africa, Australia, Spain, Chile and the USA. The states represented from the USA are Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington.

Tickets to attend the Paso Robles installment are now on-sale through the organizations website!  This weekend, dedicated to nothing but Rhônes, will include four in-depth educational seminars, two spirited tastings and three lively meals. Attendees should gear up for a weekend of serious Rhône fun brimming with Rhône wines, Rhône zealots and Rhône producers from throughout the world. Passes are currently on sale for the Paso Robles Installment of Hospice du Rhône taking place April 14 – 16, 2016 at the Paso Robles Event Center in Paso Robles, California. Event and Seminar passes begin at $100. To purchase passes and to learn more visit www.hospicedurhone.org.

CAB’s of Distinction Media, Trade & Sommelier Events

CAB collwective

CAB Collective

If you’re ready to get your CAB on, here the Festival for you! With Seminars like :Know Your Cab Clones: Learn how to differentiate the different clones of Cabernet in Paso, and how choices in the vineyard are elevating Paso Robles wines. Join this session for an opportunity to taste and compare five different Cabernet Sauvignon clones and discuss vineyard and winery practices with the winemaker panel.

And there’s a bot o’ the ol’ competish here as well. Take the final seminar – The Judgment of Paso. Just as the Judgment of Paris proved that California Napa Valley Cabernet and Chardonnay were on a level playing field with Bordeaux in 1976, we aim to show that Paso Robles has risen to a global stage along with celebrated appellations like Napa and Bordeaux in producing superior Cabernet Sauvignon. Join this session for an opportunity to blind-taste and compare eight different Cabernet Sauvignons along with a panel of top sommeliers. After each wine is tasted, and its region strategically analyzed and guessed, it will be revealed!

If you’re in the mood to sip more than study, there’s the En Primeur & Current Vintage Tasting: Be the first to sample the latest vintages from both the barrel and just-released bottle from all 22 member wineries.

Info can be found at the Paso Robles Cab Collective’s website www.pasoroblescab.com

Earth day

Earth Day Food and Wine Festival

Earth Day Food and Wine Festival

The Earth Day Food & Wine Main event delivers a top quality food and wine experience paired with a casual, low-key atmosphere, all while celebrating the passionate people behind a sustainable food movement. Nestled under the oaks at Castoro Cellars in Templeton, California on April 23, premiere entry begins at 1pm, with general admission at 2pm.  Wear your boots, wear your flip-flops. Relax at VIP tables, or enjoy yourself picnic style. Event proceeds benefit educational scholarships for relatives of farmworkers and Spanish education programs of the Vineyard Team.

Borne from the desire to share sustainable wine and food with hungry eaters and caring connoisseurs, Earth Day Food and Wine has become the acclaimed culinary experience of the season. Forget the carrot sticks—these chefs, farmers and winemakers are serving up sustainable fare that dares to be delicious.

For ten years Earth Day Food and Wine Festival has set the bar for top quality food and wine experiences, with the added bonus of celebrating a sustainable food culture. Tickets begin at $75 for the Main Event. From twenty-somethings to seventy-somethings,  the goal is to connect like minded folks all for the greater good!

Additional info and tickets here: www.earthdayfoodandwine.com

 

These amazing Events are only the beginning of a season of incredible Wine Exploration. Stay tuned to the Breakaway Blog for the latest on Wine Festival happenings around the Central Coast!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


California Zinfandel : What you Need to Know!

The Scoop on Zinfandel

Zinfandel Grapes

As we gear up for Vintage Paso: Zinfandel Weekend  March 18-20th 2016, I got a little curious as to the origins of this prolific Paso Robles varietal. Zin and the Paso Robles AVA have gone hand in hand for some time, so I had to wonder: How did this perfect match come about?

The Science

Until relatively recently, Zinfandel was California’s “mystery grape” because its origins were unknown. DNA testing has confirmed that Italy’s Primitivo and Crljenak Kastelanski, an ancient Croatian varietal, are genetically identical to Zin grapes. However, differences in vine vigor and cluster size separate the new world grape from its genetic twins, and further differences in cultivation, terroir, and winemaking techniques combine to give it it’s own particular flavor profile with a truly American name, history and style. On wine labels, U.S. regulations require that Zinfandel and Primitivo be identified separately.

Zinfandel Varietal

The History

Studies indicate that the grape used for making California Zinfandel probably originated in Croatia. Researchers believe that in the 1820s a nursery owner brought vine cuttings that were Croatian in origin to the United States from an Austrian collection. The Zinfandel name, however, is truly American—the earliest and only documented use of the name is in America where a Boston nursery owner advertised Zin cuttings for sale in 1832.

The Stats

Zinfandel was introduced to California during the Gold Rush somewhere between 1852 and 1857 and became widely planted because it thrived so well in the state’s climate and soil. Today, it’s the third-leading wine grape variety in California, with more than 47,000 acres planted and 355,599 tons crushed in 2014, according to California Department of Food and Agriculture. It is grown in 45 of California’s 58 counties. Promoted to the world by the state’s vintners for more than 130 years, it has grown beyond cult status and is now internationally recognized due to the unique character and high quality wines that are produced only in the Golden State!

Popular descriptors for this varietal include blackberry, raspberry, boysenberry, cherry, as well as black pepper, cloves, anise and herbs.

Local Recommendations

For a Zin that has silky tannins and a bit of spice, try Stienbeck Wines 2012 Zinfandel $43,  Fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged in neutral French oak, Paydirt’s 2014 Zinfandel $25, shows notes of smoke, dark fruit and anise. If you’re looking to splurge, try Turley’s 2013 Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel $75  Cherry compote, cocoa powder and molasses balanced by a nice acidity.

 


Using All Your Senses: The 5 S’s of Tasting Wine Like a Pro

People have been tasting wine for thousands of years.

People have been making money as wine tasters for hundreds of years. Sounds like an awesome gig, huh? What do they know that you don’t?

When it comes to tasting wine and understanding how to evaluate a wine for its qualities and note its faults, by the time you are finished reading this page, not too much. Of course they will have a greater understanding on the history of the wine, the grape, the appellation the wine came from, as well as the chemistry behind things, but knowing those types of interesting information are not going to make you a better taster. Reading this page, and tasting wine again, and again are going to turn you into a better taster.

Remember, wine tasting, wine drinking, or evaluating wine are related, but they are different skill sets. Tasting wine is more for education to help you understand the wine and let you know if you like the wine, or not. Evaluating wine is for a deeper, more critical look at the wine, or wines in question. Evaluating wine is often done in peer groups letting you know how a wine, or group of wine compares to other wines in the same peer group. Drinking wine is for pleasure. Hopefully, you will be be spending a lot more time drinking wine than evaluating or tasting wine. The best wines in the world are meant to be enjoyed with friends and family over a meal. Or with me. You can absolutely enjoy them with me.

The problem most people have with wine is “oenophobia,” a fear of wine. The fear comes from the a variety of factors starting with unfamiliarity with wine and how to talk about wine and explain what you’re tasting. This dictionary of wine terms will help you with that: ABC of Wine, A Glossary of Important Wine Terms.

The first step in understanding how to taste is wine is get over your fear. There is no right or wrong in your taste. You are always going to like what you like because you like it. Do not pay attention to the geek at the winery next to you, with his fancy vocabulary. He may taste a lot more wine than you do, but he cannot decide what wine is best for your palate, only you can. Sadly, too many people make wine overly complicated. Wine is a unique beverage and it’s complexity is why many of us find it so fascinating, but at the end of the day….wine is meant to be enjoyed. If you’re enjoying the wine, you’re doing it right.

For now, let’s cover the basics of how to taste wine. To be a good wine tasters, all you need are your normal senses, sight, smell, taste and touch. With a little practice, you’ll see how easy it is to taste like a pro!

TR2See

Just like food, your initial taste a wine starts with your eyes. The color of a wine can tell you a lot about the wine. One helpful hint is, when looking at a wine, hold out the glass and tilt it a bit. Try to hold the wine over a white surface like a white table cloth, plain white plate, napkin or other blank surface. At this point, you need to notice the depth of color from the rim to the center of the glass. To fully understand the ramifications of the color, in this case, it helps to have a minor understanding of how a wine should look for its grape varietal, age and growing season. For now, we are going to focus on Bordeaux wine, which is most often a blend dominated by either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. For a young Bordeaux wine, the wine should be dark, displaying a depth of color from the rim to the center of the glass. The color can feature purple or dark blue, often shiny accents. Deeper and richer colors let the taster know this is a concentrated wine. For my palate, concentration and depth of flavor is a good thing. Young wines that lack good color are going to be lighter less ripe and more acidic in style. That is natural for wines made from Pinot Noir. But for young wines produced using Bordeaux varieties, you want to see a good, rich, deep color. The depth of color is also a good, beginning indicator of a wines style. An inky, dark hued Bordeaux is probably going to be intense, mouth filling lower in acid and long. Young Bordeaux or young Bordeaux styled wines with light colors are going to be lighter in flavor, with more red fruits than black and brighter in acidity.

Swirl

Next in your visual evaluation of the wine is the legs or tears on the side of the glass. You do this by swirling the wine in your glass and observing the ‘legs’ or ‘tears’ that remain after the wine settles.

The size of the tears or legs and the length of time they remain in the glass give a glimpse into the wines potential alcohol level and sweetness, as well as the viscosity of the wine. Thin legs that dissipate quickly are usually found in lighter, less concentrated wines. While fatter, or should I say more athletic legs that remain on the glass foretell of a rich, concentrated wine with lots of fruit, sweetness and length. Again, it’s important to note, the legs and tears of wine are related to the grape variety and the country the wine was made in. For Bordeaux styled wines, we want large tears that stay in the glass. Legs and tears will let you know a little about the alcoholic content and level of sweetness in the wine, they are not an indicator that you will like the wine, or not.

Swirling also helps open the wine up. Think of it like decanting a wine inside your glass. Swirling introduces Oxygen and helps mellow tannins, while accessing aromas and flavors.

Smell

Tasting

Smell

It’s said that as much as 85% of taste is derived from your sense of smell. But you cannot smell the wine without first swirling your glass gently. If you’re a beginner, to avoid smelling the wine once its drenched your clothes, swirl the glass, but keep the stem of the glass firmly planted on the table. You will not spill the wine if you keep the glass anchored to the table. The action of swirling your glass allows oxygen to enter into the wine, which allows the wine to release its scents into the air while coating the glass at the same time.

Wine Tasting

Aroma Wheel

After swirling your wine, you can use whatever technique that works best for you, when nosing the wines aromatics. However, one little trick that could help is, keep your mouth slightly open when inhaling and exhaling the scents from the wine. That little secret will allow you to discern more aromatic complexities in your wine. Next, do not simply inhale the aromas. Sniff them, more than once. You will inhale more of the wines aromatics using that technique. But at the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way to nose a wine. Use what works for you. Some tasters inhale deeply, others take small, short sniffs, while others practice a combination of both techniques. Find the technique that works best for you. To help understand the aromas that are correct for the grape varietal characteristics of the wine, please see our page on the Davis Wine Aroma Wheel

Generally speaking, if a wine smells good, meaning there are no off odors such as scents of wet dogs, old news papers, mold, vinegar or generally unclean scents, the wine is sound. The next step is to note how complex the wine smells and what scents make up its complex, aromatic profile. The key to being a good wine taster is understanding that we all have different levels of olfactory capabilities. Some people are going to be more sensitive overall than others. Select tasters will also sense some, specific fragrances better than others. Sense memory, or perhaps it should be scents memory” is the key here. Most of the scents found in wine are common to us. The lack of fear in trying to recall, recognize and communicate our sensations is all that is required here. It’s important to note that wines and the grapes they are made from are quite complex and that once your fear of sharing what you smell and taste subsides, wine will no longer simply smell like red wine or white wine. You’ll find a vast array of scents and flavors are present in your wine. Again, please refer to the Davis Aroma Wheel to get you started. It’s a great tool that will help you be a better wine taster.

Noting what you smell in a wine can tell you a lot about the wine and its potential character. For example, when examining wines from Bordeaux varietals, as well as some Rhone wines, the scents of dark fruit like blackberries and plum tell the taster the wine is made from ripe berries, The darker the fruits, the riper the wine and the higher level of sugar and alcohol. The scents of blueberries are the sign of an even riper wine. Jam flavors or scents in a wine can offer a sought after complexity in the right amount. Too much jammyness and the wine could be over ripe and too high in alcohol. Prune and raisin scents are more often caused by over ripe fruit, which is usually lacking in freshness. When looking at a wine, when you encounter cherries, raspberries or other red berries, that is often the sign of fruit that did not achieve full, phenolic ripeness. Those wines will be brighter in their palate profile and higher in acid as well. A light, balanced sense of oak is to be expected in young wines. This is reflected by odors of vanilla, coffee or toast aromas. But when those smells become the dominant characteristic in a wine, it is a potential sign that the wine will be oaky later in life as well. Regardless of the wine being white or red, remember, the fruit needs to smell clean and fresh. While earth and other mineral odors or sensations are a sought after complexity in wine, dirt in the fruit is not.

Part of being a good wine taster is also being able to recognize flaws in wine, especially corked wines. The biggest fault in a wine that a wine taster needs to be able to identify takes place due to TCA, which causes a wine to smell like a wet dog, or old, wet newspapers.

So far, we have dealt with primary scents in young wine as well as faults in wine, which can be found in young or old wine. Older, mature wines also need to retain a freshness to their aromatic profile. But when wines age and mature, they exchange their primary fruit aroma for more complex, secondary scents. In red wine, smells of earth, truffle, tobacco, spice, cigar box and forest floor and common aromas. White wines develop more notes of honey, flowers, spice, butter, popcorn, caramel and minerals with time.

 

Sip

Now that you have a good understanding of how to look at a wine, and smell a wine, all that’s left is to taste a wine. Right? Basically, yes. Note I said basically, because while your personal like or dislike of the wine is all that counts, understanding how to look for a few quality indicators will help you with being a better wine taster. More important than quality indicators is understanding why you like a certain wine, or not. Remember, there is no right or wrong when it comes to personal taste. The Davis Aroma Wine Wheel is going to help you find the aromas and scents you were thinking of, but could not find the words for. Our wine glossary gives you the language you might be seeking to help express what you are tasting and feeling in the wine on your palate.

Finally, we are at the good part in learning how to taste wine. We are actually tasting the wine! There are three, easy, secret tips on learning how to taste wine. Tasting a wine involves more than just your sense of taste, which focuses on the primary sensations of sweet, salt, bitter, sour and Umami, which are experienced on the top of your tongue through your taste-buds, there is also the texture of the wine and the length of the experience that you need to pay attention to. Remember, you are going to become a better wine taster the more you taste. You would not be reading this page, at least not this far into the page if you were not interested in learning how to taste wine. So go ahead, pour a glass of wine and let’s move to final and most fun part of this article.

tasting wine

Sip

Like I mentioned earlier, wine is for drinking, right? Wine tasting tip number 1, decanting wines. Young wines are almost always better with decanting. Decanting in advance allows the wine to breathe, which means the wine is going to soften in texture and develop more complex aromas in the glass. Decanting coupled with correct temperatures will improve your tasting experience with young wines. Your wine tasting tip #2 is, taste wines at the right temperature and try to always taste wine with a decent wine glass. For temperatures, red wine likes to be served at cooler temperatures. 60 to 65 degrees is about right. When red wines become too warm, the become flabby, lacking freshness and a lively, refreshing quality. White wines should be served 55 to 60 degrees. White wines become much less interesting as they warm in the glass. As for glasses, there are more makers of wine glasses today than I can count. I use Riedel. Schott and Zalto are quality producers. There are countless stemware manufactures to chose from. This is only a short list.

When buying glasses, it’s much easier than you think to decide on what you want, even considering the plethora of glasses available in the market place. Buy glasses that are clear. You must be able to see the wine. Avoid cut or colored glass. Buy glasses with bowls large enough to allow for a decent pour, yet not spill when being swirled. Glasses with stems are better for tasting. I know they do not go in the dishwasher. But the stems allow you to avoid fingerprints so you can see the wine, and they keep the wine at a lower temperature, as you are not handling the bowl while tasting. Reasonably thin lips on the glass allow the wine to fall more gracefully on your palate. The glass should be wider at the bottom than it is at the top to allow for ease in swirling, which helps develop in the wines aromatic complexities.

Some tasters find the perfumed aspect of a wine to be the most interesting. Others seek the experience of the wine on the palate. Count me in as a member of the second group. I like smelling a wine. I love felling the texture and reveling in the flavor of wine on my palate. There is no right or right. It’s a personal choice.

Keep in mind, there is a big difference between tasting a wine and drinking wine. Tasting is more like giving a wine its final exam. When tasting wine, you asses the wines balance, structure, palate feel, level of sweetness, acidity, complexity and length of the finish.

This is done by tasting the wine. Wine tasting tip #3, tasting wine is quite simple. Take a reasonable sip of wine into your mouth. It’s important that you place enough wine in your mouth the obtain the full flavor profile and textural sensations. If you take too small of a sip, you’ll miss some of much of the impact the wine has to offer. Next, slightly open your lips and inhale some air. At that point, gently chew on the wine for a bit. Slosh the wine around your mouth if you like. When tasting several wines, feel free to spit into a bucket, if one has been provided. Else, take a small swallow and enjoy. Notice all the sensations taking place in your mouth and on your palate. Did the wine feel good when it landed on your palate? Was the wine smooth, silky, velvet like and lush in texture? Or was the wine rough, dusty or dry? Was the wine light, concentrated and full bodied? Full bodied refers to the level of alcohol in the wine, which is often felt on the palate due to the amount of glycerin in the wine. Was the wine dense and did it seem concentrated, or was it light, or shallow? Was the wine hot, which is a sign of being unbalanced due to a high level of alcohol?

What did the wine taste and feel like initially? This is known as the attack. How was the fruit, was it fresh? Fresh means lively on your palate. The freshness comes from acidity. Was the wine sweet, bitter, spicy or sour? Was the wine tart or sour, which can be from under ripe fruits or too much acid? Or was the wine sweet and balanced, the sign of a quality wine. Balance refers to the all the main elements in the wine not overshadowing each other, fruit, acid and tannin. Using the same process as we practiced with smelling the wine, was the fruit dark or red in character? Were there signs on under ripe flavors?

Those characteristics and traits are all important qualities that every great wine shares. Lastly, the length and persistence of the finish. The longer the good, enjoyable flavors remain in your mouth, the better the wine. Did the wine taste and feel good from start, (the attack) to the finish? Was the wine complex? Complex means that there were multiple flavors and sensations at once. More is often better when it comes to wine. However, more does not mean too much. The average wine delivers a finish that is often not longer than 5 to 10 seconds. Very good wines last in your mouth for 20 to 30 seconds. The world’s best wines remain on your palate for up to 1 minute, or even longer!

Savor

Now that you have thoroughly examined the wine, ask yourself, do you want to drink it? Does each sip make you want another taste? Do you want to buy the wine? Do you want your friends to buy the wine? Does tasting or even better, does drinking this wine make you want to know more about wine? Those are some of the key questions you should ask yourself to determine how much you liked the wine.

Tasting wine and drinking wine are passions many people all over the world enjoy. Using the advice in this article will help you better understand what is in your glass and why you liked a wine, or not. If you follow some or all of these steps, you will become a better wine taster.

One last tip, remembering the wines you tasted if why you liked them or not is going to help you become not only a better wine taster, but a wine better wine buyer as well! Write a few comments down to help you remember. Take pictures of the labels from the wines you really liked, or didn’t and add a comment. Sooner than later, you will be surprised how much more comfortable you have become, now that you are a better wine taster.

 

 


Give the Gift of Wine!

wie giftThe coolest gift you could have been given as a child isn’t that Lego set you played with for a few weeks before losing all the pieces, or that t-shirt you wore until there were holes in it, but a bottle of wine whose vintage – year of origin –  matches the year of your birth and is meant to be opened the day you reach twenty-one. It’s a gift many of us not only would have loved to have received but now in our adult state would also love to give – this gift also works beautifully for wedding anniversaries. But not every wine is meant to last until a child’s twenty-first birthday or a couple’s twenty-fifth anniversary. It’s a unique gift that takes a little bit of guidance to pull off, but if you do, it will be a gift the receiver never forgets.
The first rule of giving a bottle of wine to mark someone’s birth year or anniversary is that you can’t give that bottle of wine on the day of the actual birth or wedding – looks like you’ll need to stick to the registry on that one. Wine that’s age-worthy is usually released a few years following the grape harvest, and this is because high-end wine often sits for years both in barrel and in bottle developing its complex flavors – many regions even have strict restrictions on the exact time wine must sit in the barrel and bottle before it’s released. For example, right now in 2015, the most recent Bordeaux vintage that is widely available is 2012, this means this is a gift you want to give on a third or fourth birthday or anniversary. An added bonus is you’ll look super cool for giving such a unique gift on an anniversary or birthday that many people don’t make into such a big deal. In fact, I am officially declaring a child’s 4th Birthday to be the ‘Wine Bottle’ birthday. Toys R Us, your days are numbered.
The second rule is that the bottle needs to be age-worthy in the first place. Most wine on the market is not meant to be aged — it’s intended for immediate consumption — but the good news is that

winerack2

Give the Gift of Wine

it’s pretty easy to find an age-worthy wine if you stick to these general guidelines: spend over $40 on the bottle and look for a Bordeaux, Rioja, Burgundy, Barolo,  or a big Cab Sauv. Sure there are other wines you could grab, like a high-end Argentinian Malbec or a yummy Super Tuscan, but the ones initially named are your surest bet for selecting a great wine that will be stunning when it’s opened twenty-ish years down the road. If you need guidance, I recommend visiting a local wine shop. My current favorite is The Station in San Luis Obispo. Ask for Jenna, the in-house wine guru. She’s like a matchmaker for wine.

Finally, help the gift-receiver out by instructing them on how to store the gift. Make sure they know to store the bottle on its side and to keep it in a cool dark place. Fail to store it correctly, and you might wind up drinking vinegar in twenty years instead of delicious wine. The only thing you can’t really avoid is if the bottle ends up being corked, but a good way to hedge your bet in this regard is to buy two of the same bottle. That way, the gift-receiver will either have more wine to share, or, in the rare event the bottle is corked, there’s a backup bottle. Or, you can make like I do, and save the second bottle for yourself. You know….just to make sure your friend will love it. It’s the responsible thing to do!

 


Ring in 2017 with Sparkling Wine!

Sparkling Wine New Year!

Sparkling Wine New Year!

New Year’s Eve is finally here and we’ve got your how-to guide to decoding the various varieties of sparkling wine, sure to be on hand however you chose to ring in 2017!

While Champagne, France is best known for its production of the world’s most famous fermented libation, Italy and Spain offer delicious (and less expensive) alternatives with their respective prosecco and cava.

But what’s the difference between these three sparkling wines?

Sparkling Wine Lineup

Sparkling Lineup

The major difference is in the process of fermentation (the “bubble making process”). Champagne goes through a second fermentation in a sealed bottle. For prosecco and cava, the second fermentation is done in a large vat, also known as the Charmat method. The three wines are also made from different grape varietals: Champagne from chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes; cava from macabeo, parellada and xarel-lo grapes and prosecco from glera grapes.

Each wine has different amounts of fizz, either frizzante or spumante. The easiest way to determine how much fizz your bubbly will have is to simply compare the corks. If the cork has a string attached to it, you’ll have light fizz (frizzante) and if you notice a wire – traditional for Champagne – then you’ll have heavy fizz (spumante).

And in general as far as taste, Champagne is richer and more complex, while cava and prosecco are lighter and slightly fruitier.

Sparkling Wine for you

Cheers!

Now that the science is out of the way, this New Year’s enjoy a pairing of a Champagne, prosecco and cava with a simple dish that is sure to add sizzle to your sparkle.

It is said that “Champagne goes with everything.” Perhaps that is because this sparkling wine boasts notes of citrus, apple and pear balanced with crisp acidity and a soft and creamy mouth feel are a perfect pairing for cheeses, delicate fish and foul alike. One of our favorite festive pairings with Champagne is oysters. Oysters are briny, delicate and salty, complementing the rich flavor of white currant in Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve ($50). Comprised of all three Champagne grapes, this bottle is worth the price as it is from one of France’s oldest Champagne-making houses.

Italy does so many things right when it comes to food and drink, and their Prosecco and cured meats are no exception. While figgy pudding may not have made it onto your holiday menus, fresh figs and prosciutto make an easy and delicious appetizer to execute and serve at New Year’s Eve parties. Choose the subtly sweet Prosciutto di San Daniele that hails from northern Italy, and pair it with Nino Franco Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Rustico ($15). This classic, off-dry sparkling wine has notes of tropical fruit and a bone-dry finish.

Spanish Cava is growing steadily in popularity. Llopart “Leopardi” Cava Brut Rosè Reserva 2008 ($15) from the Catalonia region is made from the grapes of Mouvedre and Garnacha. This cava is a great match with a cheese course. This pink sparkling wine offers a wonderful bouquet of cranberry and wild red fruits underscored with lovely minerality. Choose a trio of cheeses from each of these countries – garrotxa (a semi-firm goat milk cheese from Spain), a hearty hunk of aged parmesan (hard cow milk cheese from Italy) with a drizzle of ten-year balsamic vinegar and a creamy brie (cow milk cheese from France).


Cookies and Wine: Perfect Holiday Pairings!

Want to add the perfect sip of wine to your Holiday cookie ritual? Breakaway Tours has got you covered!

 

butter cookiesButter Cookies and Chardonnay

The buttery cookie pairs well with the smooth oak and vanilla in the Chardonnay. It’s a deliciously rich pair!

 

Chocolate Chip  and Cabernet Sauvignonchocolate chip cookies

America’s favorite Red and Americas favorite Cookie. Use a dark chocolate chip to draw out the deep flavors in this Bordeaux bottle.

 

gingerbread cookiesGingerbread Cookies and Dry Riesling

The slightly sweet and crisp Dry Riesling balances nicely with the spice in the gingerbread.

 

Oatmeal Raisin and Syrahoatmeal raisin cookies

The savory, salty oatmeal compliments the big fruit in the Syrah.

 

pb cookiesPeanut Butter and Port

This combo is as close to an adult PB&J as you can get! The roasted salt in the Peanut Butter and the sweet, deep, dessert wine are made for each other.

 

Shortbread  and Champagneshortbread cookies

This classic British cookie is a perfect fit for classic French bubbly!

 

molasses cookiesSoft Molasses Cookies and Pinot Noir

This rich and chewy cookie goes well with the bright acidity and berry flavors in the Pinot Noir.

 

Sugar Cookies and Proseccosugar cookies

The bright, crisp effervescence of this sparkling wine balance the sugar and butter in this Holiday staple.

 

thumbprint cookiesThumbprint Cookies and Merlot

The jam in these Cookies is echoed in this smoothest of Reds.

 

Oreo and Malbecoreop cookies

Ok, so Oreo’s don’t make it onto many Holiday Cookie lists, but who doesn’t love an Oreo? The rich earthiness of this South American varietal keeps up with that big chocolate crunch.

 

A cookie and wine party sounds like the perfect gathering for kids and adults alike (with sparkling cider for the kiddos, of course!) Let us know what your favorite combo is!

 

 


Champagne Cocktails: A Festive way to Dress up your Bubbly!

Champagne Cocktails: A Festive way to Dress up your Bubbly!

champagne cocktail2An LBD for your Champagne!

 

Die hard champagne enthusiasts may consider us sacrilege to add other ingredients to such a beautiful wine, but here at Breakaway Tours, we just love to experiment. Including champagne in a recipe can make a great cocktail really spectacular, especially around the Holidays. After all, you shouldn’t be the only one dressing up for those amazing parties. Let your favorite sparkling wine in on the action!

Champagne is a sparkling wine of great distinction – turning any occasion into something a little more special. There are various styles of champagne: for example Brut (very dry) and Demi Sec (sweeter) as well as vintage (made from grapes of one specific year) and non vintage (grapes from blends produced in various years). To earn the right to have the word champagne on the bottle label however, the liquid inside must be entirely produced from Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir grapes grown in the Champagne region of Northern France around the cities of Reims and Epernay. The champagne producers guard their exclusive name vigorously and have in the past been to court to protect it as in 1993 when they went into battle to prevent the Yves Saint Laurent company producing a perfume called “Champagne” and won their case. It is one of the few “white wines” in the world produced from red grapes – due to the way they are gently pressed so as not to bruise the champ cocktail3skins. There are also extraordinarily strict limits on the amount of juice that can be squeezed from a certain weight of grapes to maintain the highest quality of champagne produced.

Here we have selected a few of our favorite champagne cocktails for you to try out – we hope you enjoy making them. If champagne isn’t your cup of tea, feel free to use Prosecco, Cava, or your favorite California Sparkling Wine for the occasion. We recommend: Laetitia Vineyards’ NV Brut Cuvee $25, or Vina Robles Sparkling Brut NV $23. Serve all champagne/sparkling cocktails in a flute glass which allows the bubbles to move from the bottom to the top of the glass. The more space the bubbles have to move around in within the glass, the longer it will keep its fizz!

Classic Champagne Cocktail

Known as the ‘Classic Champagne Cocktail’, this libation is thought to have first originated from the winner of a New York Cocktail competition in 1899. A unique combination of ingredients – you’ll be surprised by the result. Drip 4 dashes of Angostura Bitters on a sugar cube and place in the bottom of a champagne flute. Cover the cube with cognac and top up with champagne. Perhaps what seems most strange is that as you drink it the flavor changes from dry to sweet as the sugar cube slowly dissolves.

champagne cocktail1Champagne Charlie

This cocktail recipe is believed to have been named in tribute to the original ‘Champagne Charlie’ himself – Monsieur Charles-Camille Heidsieck who first launched the champagne brand bearing his name in 1851. Through his extensive travelling around the world to promote his champagne, he became well known for his charm and his adventures. This cocktail recipe is a fruity combination of Apricot Brandy topped up with champagne.

Emma Peel

A blend of Cherry Brandy and pineapple juice and yes you’ve guessed it – topped up with champagne. The Cherry Brandy and pineapple juice mix together to make a dusky pink colour and give it an exotic fruity tang. We think it’s just like it’s namesake Emma Peel , the British spy from the 60’s classic TV romp, The Avengers!

The Kir Royale

Perhaps one of the best known champagne cocktail recipes is the Kir Royale. Named for it’s inventor Felix Kir, mayor of Dijon in post-war France. It consists of a measure of  Crème de Cassis in a flute glass topped with champagne for a subtle pink hued cocktail.


Wine Cork Crafts for the Holidays!

Upcycle those wine corks for amazing Holiday Décor!

With the Holiday Season in full swing, the timing is perfect for an amazing day in wine country with Breakaway Tours! Whether you use the trip as a way to find the perfect bottle of wine for that festive gathering you have on your calendar, you decide to take your Holiday Party on the road (no cleanup-yay!), or you simply want to escape the chaos of shopping and baking with a special someone, we have you covered!

It’s no secret that we love wine! We love tasting it, talking about it, drinking it, and remembering that special sip long after the glass is empty. But how can you treasure the memory of that amazing bottle you bought on your wine tasting trek with Breakaway AND get into the Holiday? We’re so glad you asked!

Here are some amazing DIY projects to help you turn wine corks into wreaths, jewelry, and ornaments that will impress your friends and make your home feel Merry and Bright:

Wine Cork Knives

Wine Cork Knives

Wine Cork Cheese and Canape Knives

What goes better with wine than cheese and canapes? We cant wait to use these quirky cutters at our next Coaktail Party. To make them yourself, follow the link HERE. And be sure to invite us!

 

 

Wine Cork Stamps

Wine Cork Stamps

Wine Cork Stamps

We love the versatility of these cool Cork Stamps. Whether you use them to decorate wrapping paper, or to seal your holiday cards with a flourish, they are sure to make an impression. Fun for kids and adults – just make sure you leave the cutting to the adults.

 

 

Wine Cork Pendant

Wine Cork Pendant

Wine Cork Pendants

What do you get for the wine loving gal who has everything wine-related? A custom made wine cork necklace. With a few items from your local craft store, you can easily upcycle that cork into the statement necklace of the season. Check it out HERE

 

 

Wine Cork Wreaths

Wine Cork Wreath

Wine Cork Wreath

Greet your guests in style with this Wine Cork Wreath! Some hot glue gun and a wreath frame, and you’re in business. Warning: this one requires more than a few corks, so you may have to enlist the help of some friends…or simple drink more wine yourself!

 

 

Wine Cork Ornament

Wine Cork Ornament

Wine Cork Ornaments

Have a few corks laying around? Looking for a way to gussy up your tree this year? HERE are some whimsical ideas on how to kill two birds with one stone and feel like a vino-inspired Martha Stewart in the process.