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Central Coast Wine Insider Blog

Central Coast Wine Insider Blog

The Shape of Things – which is the best Wine Glass?

Your WINE GLASS really can make a big difference in how your wine tastes!various shaped wine glass stemware

In principle, you can use anything to drink wine out of and depending on the situation, the vessel you employ to help the nectar reach your lips may not make much difference. But enthusiasts will tell you, you should pick your wine glass with care and attention; the more care you give to buying and tasting wine, the more care you should give to having the right wine glass, just ask Riedel Glassware.

Wine Glass Best Color

Although the color of a wine glass seems like it should be irrelevant to how wine tastes, it does impact how the wine appears when you look at it. Because proper enjoyment of wine begins with appreciating the wine’s appearance. To understand its color, clarity, and consistency, then we need a wine glass that doesn’t  alter the wine’s color.

What this means is that some of the most visually appealing wine glasses are also some of the worst wine glasses for wine tasting. Colored glasses will completely alter the wine’s color. Etched glasses or glasses with any sort of pattern will interfere with your ability to get an accurate picture of what the wine looks like. Angles around the wine glass aren’t quite as bad, but they should also be avoided for the same reasons. The best glasses for tasting wine are therefore completely clear, round glasses — wine glasses with no coloring, no designs, not angles, and no patterns. Plain, boring wine glasses are the best wine glasses.

Wine Glass Best Material

Although it might seem like nothing more than an excuse for snobbery, experience has shown over and over that higher quality glasses can have a big impact on how wine tastes. Apparently, it’s possible for the exact same wine to taste completely different to people if simply served in wine glasses made from different material.

No one has been able to determine if this is merely a matter of aesthetics or if there is an actual physical reaction between wine and quality glass that doesn’t occur with wine and plastic or wine and lower quality glass. The best explanation offered so far is that crystal is rougher than regular glass and this roughness creates turbulence in the wine which, in turn, causes more of the aromatic compounds in the wine to be released.

You may need to use plastic glasses in some situations, like picnics, but otherwise you want to stick with genuine glass — and, preferably, higher quality crystal glasses if possible. You want to avoid lead crystal, though, because research has shown that wine can leech the lead out of the glass very quickly. Lead crystal glass is especially ill-suited for decanters and other containers which will hold wine for any length of time.

Although you will certainly have a better wine tasting experience with the highest quality, thin crystal glasses, they probably cost too much for most consumers — and that’s before taking into account that their fragility almost guarantees that they will break regularly.

Fortunately, you can find good, quality wine glasses at reasonable prices — and this includes crystal glasses as well. They’ll cost more than the average drinking glass and even more than wine glasses at discount retailers, but it’s worth a little extra expense to get the most out of every bottle. You should be prepared to spend around $50 per dozen for standard glasses and perhaps $75 per dozen for crystal glasses. If you’re looking for the best wine glasses, though, you’ll be spending between $50 and $100 each.

Wine Glass Best Thickness

It’s a lot easier to appreciate what your wine looks like if you use thin glasses. Even if the qualify of the crystal is very good, there’s no avoiding the fact that a thicker wine glass creates distortions which will impact what you see when looking for color and clarity. The thinner the glass, the less you’ll have between you and your new best friend.

Additionally, thinner glass helps create a finer stream of wine to run across the taste buds on your tongue. A finer stream means more mixing with the air in your mouth and also interacting with your taste buds. Taken together, these factors ensure that you’ll get the most out of what you’re drinking.

Wine Glass Best Size

Yes, even the size of the wine glass plays an important role in what your wine tastes like. Whatever you’re drinking, don’t use small glasses. You want larger glasses because you want to be able to only fill them a third to half way and still have room to swirl. If you try to do this with a small wine glass, you’ll barely have a sip to drink before having to refill. Small glasses should be used only for sherry, port, and desert wines.

That said, you ideally need larger glasses for reds than you do for whites. Reds are best served in glasses that are 12 to 16 ounces, though you can get them as large as 24 ounces. Whites are best served in glasses that are 10 to 12 ounces. Because few people can afford good crystal glasses for every sort of wine, most compromise. You can manage well with most varietals by using a wine glass around 12 ounces.

stemless wine glassesStem Glasses vs. Stemless Glasses

Stemless tumblers have become very popular in recent years and there is no denying that they can look very nice. However, there are good reasons to avoid them if you want to get the most out of your tasting experience — as opposed to simply wanting to look hip and stylish.

Stemless wine glass forces you to hold the glass by the bowl which creates two basic problems. First, the warmth of your hand will heat up the wine, changing its temperature. Your body is around 98.6 degrees F. Wine is best served around 55 degrees depending on the varietal. Do the math. No bueno. Wine glasses have stems not for the sake of looking elegant, but precisely so you can hold them by the stem. This ensures that the heat of your hand isn’t transferred and keeps the glass bowl from being smudged.

Wine Glass – Best Shapes

Although the material, color, size, and thickness of  your wine glass is all important, the single most important aspect of a proper wine glass is its shape. Different wines require different sorts of shapes to best appreciate the varietals flavor.

Hot Topic: Stem vs. Stemless glassware

Stemmed Wine Glasses vs. Stemless Glasswarestemless

Stemless wine tumblers have become very popular in recent years and there is no denying the aesthetic appeal of their design. Not to mention the countless times I’ve knocked over my top-heavy glass of vino while reaching for something across the table. However, there are good reasons to avoid them if you want to get the most out of your wine drinking experience — So, what’s more important – that perfect sip or looking hip and stylish? Ahhh….decisions.

Stemless glasses force you to hold the glass by the bowl which creates a very basic problem. First, the warmth of your hand will heat up the wine, changing its temperature. Your body is around 98.6 degrees F. Wine is best served stem glassesbetween 40- 55 degrees F depending on the varietal. Glass transfers heat very well. Do the math. No bueno.

Wine glasses have stems not for the sake of looking elegant, but precisely so you can hold them by the stem. This ensures that the heat of your hand isn’t transferred to the wine and also keeps the glass bowl from being smudged.

So – for my two cents, I have to go with function above form on this one. Stems are a necessary part of a wine glass. Tradition is born of what works, and I like my wine to stay cool. I’m okay if that means I’m not.

Here are some fun options for both stem glasses and stemless glassware: Stemless Glasses, World Market , Classic Wine Glasses, Bed, Bath & Beyond

What are your thoughts on the Stem vs. Stemless debate?

How to Store Wine like a Pro

So you bought some wine that you’re not planning on drinking right away. Now what do you do with it?winerack2

First off, it’s useful to remember that only a small percentage of fine wines on the market benefit from long-term aging. Most wines are best enjoyed within a few years of release. A vineyard worth it’s salt won’t sell you a bottle of wine you can’t drink that evening if you wanted to. If you’re looking to buy wines to mature, you should really consider investing in professional grade storage—a totally different ballgame.

For us mere mortals, however, following a few simple guidelines should keep your wines safe until you’re ready to drink them.

Keep It Cool

Heat is enemy number one for wine. Temperatures higher than 70° F will age a wine more quickly than is usually desirable. And if it gets too much hotter, your wine may get “cooked,” resulting in flat aromas and flavors. The ideal temperature range is between 45° F and 65° F (and 55° F is often cited as close to perfect), though this isn’t an exact science. Don’t fret too much if your storage runs a couple degrees warmer, as long as you’re opening the bottles within a few years of their release.

… But Not Too Cool

Keeping wines in your household refrigerator is fine for up to a couple months, but it’s not a good bet for the longer term. The average fridge temp falls well below 45° F to safely store perishable foods, and the lack of moisture could eventually dry out corks, which might allow air to seep into the bottles and damage the wine. Also, don’t keep your wine somewhere it could freeze (I have personally forgotten wine for hours in the freezer). If the liquid starts turning to ice, it could expand enough to push the cork out or break the bottle.

Steady as She Goes

More important than worrying about achieving a perfect 55°F is avoiding the landmines of rapid, extreme or frequent temperature swings. On top of cooked flavors, the expansion and contraction of the liquid inside the bottle might push the cork out or cause seepage. Aim for consistency, but don’t get paranoid about minor temperature fluctuations; wines may see worse in transit from the winery to the store. (Even if heat has caused wine to seep out past the cork, that doesn’t always mean the wine is ruined. There’s no way to know until you open it.)

Made in the Shade

Light, especially sunlight, can pose a potential problem for long-term storage. The sun’s UV rays can degrade and prematurely age wine. One of the reasons why vintners use colored glass bottles? They’re like sunglasses for wine. Light from household bulbs probably won’t damage the wine itself, but can fade your labels in the long run. Incandescent bulbs may be a bit safer than fluorescent bulbs, which do emit very small amounts of ultraviolet light.

winerack1Lay Down the Law…er, Bottle

Traditionally, bottles have been stored on their sides in order to keep the liquid up against the cork, which theoretically should keep the cork from drying out. If you’re planning on drinking these bottles in the near- to mid-term, or if the bottles have alternative closures (screw caps, glass or plastic corks), this is not necessary. We will say this, however: Horizontal racking is a space-efficient way to store your bottles, and it definitely can’t harm your wines.

Handle with Care

There are theories that vibration could damage wine in the long term by speeding up the chemical reactions in the liquid. Some serious collectors fret about even the subtle vibrations caused by electronic appliances, though there’s little evidence documenting the impacts of this. Significant vibrations could possibly disturb the sediment in older wines and keep them from settling, potentially making them unpleasantly gritty. Unless you live above a train station or are hosting rock concerts, is this likely to be a problem for your short-term storage? No.

So… Where Should I Keep My Bottles?

If you haven’t been blessed with a cool, not-too-damp basement that can double as a cellar, you can improvise with some simple racks in a safe place. Rule out your kitchen, laundry room, or porch, if possible. Hot temperatures can affect your wines, and look for a location not directly in line with light pouring in from a window. You could also buy a small wine cooler and follow the same guidelines: If you keep your wine fridge in a cool place, it won’t have to work so hard, keeping your energy bill down.

Perhaps there is a little-used closet or other vacant storage area that could be re-purposed to store wine? (my sister keeps her’s in the closet in their spare bedroom) If you have a suitable dark, stable space that’s not too damp or dry, but it is too warm, you might consider investing in a home wine cooler. There are some inexpensive systems for small spaces, but in most cases, this is getting into professional wine storage.

When is it time to upgrade your storage conditions? Ask yourself this: How much did you spend last year on your wine habit? If a $300 cooling unit represents less than 25 percent of your annual wine-buying budget, it’s time to think about it more carefully. Might as well protect your investment.

One other piece of advice from collectors: Whatever number you’re thinking of when it comes to bottle capacity, double it. Once you’ve started accumulating wines to drink later, it’s hard to stop. And really, would you want to?



Tasting Treks 101

TRsignThe image of the wine country visitor sidling confidently up to the wine bar, her swirling technique down pat, is an iconic one. But the reality is, it’s not always clear what to do, and – perhaps more critically – what not to do once you’ve arrived at the tasting room. Herein, tips on how to ace this vinous activity.

The Itinerary
The majority of wineries on the Central Coast are open to the general public 5-7 days a week depending on the season, but some are only open on weekends or by appointment; call ahead to ensure you’re able to go where you want.

This goes for groups, especially. Most wineries need to make special arrangements for groups of 6 or more, and some are not able to accommodate groups at all. Special arrangements may be needed for large vehicles such as limousines and tour buses, too.

Tours are offered at many wineries, and reservations for these activities are often strongly advised or even required. Especially on busy weekends, calling ahead to reserve tours or private tastings is essential.

Touring wine country with kids can be a fun family activity, and kid-friendly wineries abound, but call first to make sure the spots where you plan to stop fit this category. Same goes for your four-legged fuzzy kids.

Be Prepared    TR1
Wearing comfortable and casually elegant clothing to tasting rooms sets the tone for a sophisticated outing and is a sign of respect for wineries. You should always be comfortable,

Be sure to take weather-appropriate gear (e.g. jackets and sturdy shoes during the rainy season; lighter clothing, hats and sunscreen in peak summer periods), especially if outdoor activities like vineyard treks and picnics are on your agenda.

Don’t wear perfume or heavily scented cologne to tasting rooms; the scents can overwhelm the subtle aromas in wine – and interfere with your own and others’ experience.

Quick note on decorum: Wineries are wineries, not bars. Although alcohol is being served, it’s a relaxed and conversational environment. Save loud banter and raucous activities for later!
The Nitty Gritty 
Fees to taste are standard operating procedure at most wineries, though some still offer complimentary or very low-cost tastes. Many will waive tasting fees with a wine purchase (which takes some of the sting out of higher fees), so be sure to inquire about such incentives.

Splitting a tasting with a companion is acceptable, especially in light of ever-higher fees and a need to avoid becoming overly inebriated. It’s also a great way to stoke debate about the wines between you and your pal.

Splurge for a reserve tasting – when available, an optional sampling of a winery’s higher-end or limited production wines – if you’re interested in getting to know a spot’s more rare and exclusive offerings.
TR2The Technique
It goes without saying that tasting is largely about having fun. But for those looking to glean the most from the wines on pour, swirling is a great way to stoke (read: aerate) wine’s myriad aromas. For maximum control, place your glass on a flat surface and swirl while grasping the stem.

When tasting, hold glasses by the stem rather than the bowl; holding them by the bowl coats glasses in greasy fingerprints and can disturb the temperature of the wine (ideally it’s been poured at just the right temp).

Inhale deeply before taking a sip; wine’s aromas comprise one of its most beguiling offerings! Upon drinking, swirl the wine around in your mouth to ensure it coats all the surfaces; we pick up different texture and flavor sensations in different parts of our mouths.

Taste white and lighter wines before heavier wines, such as bold reds, and save the sweetest wines for last. This ensures the boldest and sweetest wines don’t overwhelm the more delicate ones you sip first. Wineries know their wines best and will structure your tasting experience to present all the wines in the best light.
The Quantity  
Pacing yourself is a critical if not often talked about aspect of tasting. Build moderation into your day by selecting a manageable three or four wineries to visit. Incorporating activities like tours and a big lunch breaks up the day and ensures you do more than just drink.

When at wineries, make use of  tasting buckets (dump buckets) – ask for one if it’s not at the ready. Spitting all or a portion of the wine you taste will help you to remain alert and get the most out of your experience. Never feel obliged to finish a taste.

Keep tabs on how much you’re consuming. Typically, wineries dispense tastes in the size of one-ounce pours. As a reference point, there are four to six ounces of wine in a typical glass; know your limit and spit or stop when you’ve reached it.

Drink plenty of water to stave off dehydration

Always have a designated driver, or better yet – let Breakaway Tours take the wheel!

The Buy   
Purchasing wines you’ve enjoyed is a great way to keep the memory going once you’re back at home. Make sure you’re aware of shipping laws applyingTR4 to your state if you need to ship wine back home; if you’re flying, consult your airline about weight, quantity and liquid restrictions. Tasting rooms are well equipped to help you figure out if shipping is a viable option for you, so feel free to ask!

Again, tasting fees may be waived or reduced if you purchase wine on your visit. Be sure to inquire about such incentives; you may find that you spend the same amount or only slightly than you would for a tasting by purchasing a bottle. Tasting rooms exist to sell you wine.

Most wineries have wine clubs that offer periodic shipments of wine on an ongoing basis. Besides the wines that come with memberships, benefits and perks abound. These may include complimentary tastings, release parties, access to limited release wines,  and discounts on wine purchases.  Don’t hesitate to ask about membership price, quantities shipped, when they’re shipped, and any other perks that might be included.

Following these tips should ensure a smooth wine country visit and – even better – afford you the ability to focus on making memories rather than sweating the details.


Cheers to that!

The Coravin: a tool, a trick, or a triumph?

Coravin in useThe Coravin has arrived! Ordering wine by the glass at many restaurants can sometimes be frustrating. Pedestrian selections at high markups have generally made it more economical to order an entire bottle rather than two or three glasses, but that’s the point. Restaurants want to sell you a bottle, not a glass.

In restaurants that are more serious about wine, though, by-the-glass programs have evolved significantly in the last decade, offering customers many more choices than the ubiquitous chardonnay or pinot noir.

While wines by the glass are almost never worth the markup in a straight up monetary sense, sommeliers have sought different ways to add value to the purchase. More and more restaurants now offer keg wines, for example, which can help preserve young wines that may otherwise begin to decay if left in open bottles.

Now a new device, the Coravin, has arrived that may revolutionize the sorts of wines that restaurants can make available by the glass. The Coravin seems to solve a problem that has bedeviled humanity since the first wine was stored in urns, namely, how do you preserve wine once a container is opened, exposing it to oxygen, its archenemy?

The keg system addresses this issue, though in an ungainly way. It uses a gas like nitrogen to both push the wine from the keg to the tap and then to occupy the empty space within the keg, thereby preventing oxidation.

But this is good only for relatively simple wines that are meant to be consumed young and can be packaged in kegs by the producers. What about fine wines that benefit from extended bottle aging?

Over the years, many systems have been tried, from the simple VacuVin, a device for pumping air out of an opened wine bottle, to complex refrigeration and preservation systems meant to extend the life of bottles once the corks have been popped. For one reason or another, none have succeeded.

A long, thin, hollow needle is inserted through the foil and cork into the bottle. Then, argon (an odorless, tasteless, harmless inert gas) is pumped coravin1through the needle, creating pressure within the bottle that pushies wine back out through the needle. When the desired amount is poured, the needle is withdrawn, leaving the argon in place of the wine, which prevents oxidation. The cork reseals itself, much like skin and tissue after an acupuncture needle is removed. It will not work on a bottle sealed by screw cap or an artificial cork (duh).

Through the use of the Coravin, many restaurants and wine bars have gained the ability to offer high end wine by the glass without the fear of wasting the remaining wine in the bottle if only one glass is ordered in a night.

Does the Coravin have its drawbacks? Yes. It’s not cheap. At $299 retail for the device alone, it’s an investment for true wine enthusiasts or those who will use it for professional reasons. And the cost doesn’t stop there: the nitro capsules used by the Coravin run around $8 apiece, with each capsule capable of supporting around fifteen 5 ounce pours. Does it have its benefits? Oh, yes. Aching to pair an amazing Borolo with your steak, but everyone else at your table is looking at the Chardonnay? If your restaurant has a Coravin program, you likely can! That bottle of 2004 Napa Cab you’ve been saving for a group dinner to open? Have a glass by yourself tonight. No waiting. And the rest of the wine will remain safe until you need it.

In conclusion, the Coravin opens up many possibilities for the wine world, all without ‘opening’ a single bottle of wine. So pour yourself an amazing glass tonight. You deserve it. I know I do.

Wine Label Wins!

Wine label

Wine Label

The Best of the Best Wine Label

Wine Label News: It’s not often that I scoop Forbes. Alright, it’s never happened…..til now. Congrats to our local winery Tooth & Nail for being featured in this article in Forbes about their super cool wine label and the impact it can have on wine purchasing. I wrote about their imaginative labeling in my post on the winery last month. Check out the full spread in Forbes for this local mention along with some other creative gems!

Never underestimate the powerful impact an amazing label can have. Along with incredible wines, this winery consistently produces labeling that will be as fun to discuss as it is to drink!


Why We Oak: The Whys of Wine and Wood for Wine

Why We Oak: The Whys of Wine and Wood for Wine (How’s THAT for alliteration?)

When you picture in your mind a working winery,  you likely envision stacks of barrels containing that magical potential of the next vintage of wine. But why barrels? Where do they come from? What do they do for the wine?

A Brief History

Why we Oak

Clay Amphorae

Over two millennia ago, when the Romans began to spread their empire across the globe, they not only wanted to take with them weapons and food, but also wine. Wine was safer to drink than water, it provided calories to malnourished troops, and of course it provided its imbiber with an intoxicating buzz. For a few thousand years, starting with the ancient Egyptians, clay amphorae were the way armies (and traders) transported wine over long distances. There were other civilizations, primarily in the Mesopotamian region, who used palm wood barrels, but this was the exception, not the rule. While palm wood barrels weighed far less than clay amphorae, palm wood was quite difficult to bend.

The practice of using amphorae continued in Greece and then the Roman Empire. As the Romans pushed north into Europe, and away from the Mediterranean, transporting the clay amphorae grew increasingly difficult. Those buggers were heavy, and more breakable than desired. While the Romans were aware of palm wood barrels, the price and difficulty of bending the wood made them a poor choice. When the Romans encountered the Gauls, they found a group of people who were using wooden barrels, often made of oak, to transport beer. The Gauls LOVED beer…. but that’s a story for another time.

The Romans quickly realized they had found a solution to their wine transportation quandry. While other woods were used, oak was popular for a number of reasons. First, the wood was much softer and easier to bend into the traditional barrel shape than palm wood, thus the oak only needed minimal toasting and a barrel could be created much faster. Second, oak was abundant in the forests of continental Europe. And finally, oak, with its tight grain, offered a waterproof storage medium. The transition to wooden barrels was swift. In less than two centuries, tens of millions of amphorae were discarded.

After the switch to barrels, the Romans and those that followed began to realize that the oak barrels imparted new, pleasant qualities to the wine. The contact with the wood made the wine softer and smoother, and with some wines, it also made it better tasting. Due to the toasting of the wood, wines developed additional scents such as cloves, cinnamon, allspice or vanilla, and when consumed they had additional flavors present, such as caramel, vanilla or even butter. As the practice of using oak barrels continued, merchants, wine producers, and armies alike, found that the longer the wine remained inside the barrels, the more qualities from the oak would be imparted into the wine, and thus began the practice of aging wine in oak.

Benefits of Oak

Oak is often described as a winemaker’s spice rack, its flavor-imparting properties meant to complement to the wine. Some wines can handle more of it and some are produced entirely without. When done right,  barrel aging can add beautiful layers to the wine further bringing out the flavors of the fruit. When in balance, it can create great depth and complexity, contributing to a wine’s longevity. As with all spice, however, a deft hand must be used so as to strike the proper balance and not over-season.

Oak barrelBarrel aging wine has benefits way beyond just imparting flavor.
-A newly pressed red wine has been sitting with skins and seeds. Think about chewing on a grape skin from a berry you just picked off the vine. The skin is dry, a velvety texture. Now imagine the wine soaking all those tannins up. It can be quite harsh at a young stage in its life. For several months, the wine will sit in barrel and actually precipitate out these solids that it has acquired from the skins and seeds, softening the wine, smoothing the tannins, making it less “chewy.”-Wine barrels are also semi-porous. They will absorb some part of the wine if new but will also allow a small amount of oxygen to reach the wine, giving it an ever-so-slight aeration. It’s similar to decanting a finished and bottled wine, but very slow motion, called oxidation. During this process, the wine develops secondary flavors and aromas. (Primary aromas are mostly from the fruit itself, tertiary aromas mostly evolve in the bottle). In barrel, they can develop flavors like tobacco, tea, and vanilla, non fruit components.Malolactic Fermentation, or a secondary fermentation after the alcoholic fermentation, is often done in barrel. This process, with the help of Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB or Oenococcus oeni or Lactobacillus or Pediococcus) converts the crisp malic acid (think about salivating after taking a bite of a Granny Smith apple) into lactic acid (creamy textured acid found in milk, yogurt). The wine then has a chance to develop more flavors while these interactions and processes happening at once.

The Main Types of Oak Barrels used in Winemaking

The most popular oak used by winemakers is French oak followed by American oak and sometimes Hungarian oak. French oak, because of its finer grains, will typically impart more delicate flavors and aromas, not to overwhelm lighter wines. American oak has a much stronger influence with powerful flavors and aromas to impart to the wine because it has larger a grain. Hungarian is the third most widely used type of oak barrels and has gained popularity recently. Its worth a note that Slovenian oak has also begun to make a world wide presence in winemaking. Cost varies with the quality and provenance of the barrel, but can run as much as $900-$1500 per barrel.

So, you just got a bit of History, a bit of Craftsmanship, and about as much Chemistry as I can be expected to remember. You’ve officially earned that next glass of wine!


A Rosé by any Other Name…

rose2 Rosé wine.

Take it on a picnic. Pair it with your favorite dish. Share with friends…or keep it all for yourself. I’m loving the amazing rosés coming out of the Central Coast Wine Regions. But what makes a rosé a rosé? Is it a red wine or a white? And how does it get that beautiful color?

A rosé (from French rosérosado in Portugal and Spanish-speaking countries; rosato in Italy) is a type of wine made from red grape varietals that incorporates some of the color from the grape skins, but not enough to qualify it as a red wine. It may be the oldest known type of wine, as it is the most straightforward to make with the skin contact method. The pink color can range from a pale orange to a deeper near-purple, depending on the grapes used and winemaking techniques. There are three major ways to produce rosé wine: skin contact, saignée (pronounced san-yay) and blending. Rosé wines can be made still, semi-sparkling or sparkling and with a wide range of sweetness levels from bone-dry to sweet. Rosé wines are made from a wide variety of grapes and can be found all around the globe. Here on the Central Coast winemakers favor Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Grenache for their rosés, but I’ve seen Zinfandel, Sangiovese and even Malbec rosés. For some local favorites check out our local Edible SLO Magazine for their top picks.  The possibilities are endless!

When a winemaker sets out with the goal to make a Rosé it is usually produced with the skin contact method. Black-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period, usually one to three days. The must (skins and juice) is then pressed, and the skins are discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation, as is common in red wine making. The final color of the Rosé depend on how long the juice has contact with the skins. Longer contact = deeper color.

Saignée occurs when a winemaker uses the pink juice removed from red wine during the winemaking process. In French Saignée means ‘to bleed’. To impart more tannin and color to a red wine, winemakers remove (or bleed off) some of the pink juice from the must as a way of concentrating the red wine. The red wine remaining in the vats is intensified as a result of the bleeding, because the volume of juice in the must is reduced, and the must involved in the maceration becomes more concentrated. The pink juice that is removed can be fermented separately to produce Rosé.

In other parts of the world, blending, the simple mixing of red wine to a white to impart color, is uncommon. This method is discouraged in most wine rose1growing regions, especially in France, where it is forbidden by law, except for Champagne. Even in Champagne, several high-end producers do not use this method but rather the Saignée method.

So, now you’re officially versed in the basics of rosé! The next time you’re in your favorite tasting room sampling a glass o’ the pink, ask your pourer whether their winemaker prefers the skin contact method, or if its a Saignée you’re sipping.  You will learnn a lot about winemaking techniques and look super savvy in front of your friends!

I recommend swinging by Beckmen Vineyards in Santa Ynez for their  2014 Grenache Rosé $25, Claiborne & Churchill Winery in Edna Valley for their 2012 Cuvee Elizabeth Rosé $24 (I actually bribe my sister with bottles of this wine) or Tablas Creek Winery in Paso Robles for their 2014 Dianthus Rosé $27.

To Cork or not to Cork?


To Cork or Not to Cork…..

That is the Question!

The lively debate of cork vs. synthetic vs. screw top closures is all around us! Vintners, Distributors, Farmers, Sommeliers, Consumers….everyone seems to have an opinion on the subject, and the reasons behind them are as varied as my wine group’s taste in Pinot Noirs.  Here’s a quick rundown of the merits and drawbacks of different wine closures:

Corktree   Wine Corks: Tradition and Ritual

Pros: Cork has a long history; it has been used as the sealing method of choice in winemaking for over 400 years. Cork is a renewable resource (the trees are not killed when the bark is stripped to make cork). They’ are natural   and readily biodegradable.  Cork production and use supports an entire industry of corkscrews and other cork-removal products, not to mention those who farm the trees and make the actual corks. Plus you have the style factor – proper wine service in a restaurant setting is a delightful experience, which may lose some of its magic with a screw cap.

Cons: Wine Corks go bad, more often than you may believe. Estimates vary depending on which figures you credit, but the fact is that as little as 1% or as much as 20% of all wine sold is ““corked”,” which is to say, damaged by a problematic cork. Wine corks can be difficult to remove, and sometimes break off into the bottle. Also, cork is not cheap. You’re paying upwards of $1 per bottle for that cork.

Synthetic: The New Wine Corksynthetic cork

Pros: Synthetics are immune to cork taint, so wine is much less likely to spoil. Depending on the material used, some synthetics are recyclable. The same cork-removal equipment can be used (though personal experience tells me that synthetic closures can be stubborn to remove).

Cons: If not recycled, plastic corks also pose a more direct impact on the environment. The material may not retain its elasticity well over time, making it unsuitable for wines meant to age for an extended time.


Screw Caps: Quick and Dirty

screw capPros: Screw caps, like synthetic closures, avoid problems of cork taint. They are less expensive than natural cork or synthetic closures, and they can be removed without any special equipment.

Cons: As with synthetics, screw caps imply environmental issues associated with the loss of cork farming as well as disposal (not all are recyclable). They are also not built for long aging wines.  An important component of proper wine service includes the removal of the foil and cork, so your tableside show may seem a bit less grand without it.


So, we’ve touched a bit on the larger points of debate (by no means all of the issues involved).

What are your thoughts? Will that incredible Edna Valley Chardonnay lose some of its it’s luster with a synthetic closure? Is a natural cork a deal breaker for your Paso Robles Zinfandel? Or do you twist off the cap of your new vintage Rosé and say ‘”screw it!”?




All the Right Elements : Tooth & Nail Winery


Tooth & Nail wines popped up on my radar a few years ago.  Their creative naming and sure handed winemaking have put them on many local shelves and wine list to be sure.

For me, it was all about the labels. Created from hand carved wood blocks, they are creative, classy, whimsical ,and  just plain fun to look at. My husband and I quickly began referring to the wines by the art on the bottles – scenes including all the major elements : Air, Fire, Earth, Water…and Dragon? I know now that its their yummy Pinot Gris, but I will always love a good glass of ‘Dragon’.force-of-nature-pinot-gris__82305_1410645738_1280_1280

Last Friday a friend and I were looking with something new and fun to do with our Friday evening when I remembered hearing about a new event at Tooth & Nail Winery. A quick google and a phone call later and we were on our way to check it out.

Newly ensconced in their imposing castle off 46 West (the barely recognizable former home of Eagle Castle Winery), Tooth & Nail is doing it right. The décor has been re-designed with a streamlined look that is both modern and a bit sumptuous. Tufted leather sofas and gilt mirrors surround a huge fireplace. Think ‘Game of Thrones’ without all the murder.


The outside space has been reworked with a mind to events and music. On Friday we were treated to a show by local band Proxima Parada. Give me a California soul band in mint green skinny jeans and I’m a happy girl.


Food is being provided by Spencer Johnston’s Danior Kitchen. As a food/wine pairing geek, I was pleased to observe the thought and consideration that went into our provisions. I know Spencer sources everything locally, and the effort shows. The flavors were complimentary to a variety of the wines offered, so we weren’t locked into one specific pairing. Our favorites included the Burger, seasonal salad (white peaches were PERFECT), and the truffle fries.

Currently Tooth & Nail is offering Food on Friday evenings 5p-8p with live music, Saturday Lunch 12p-4p, and Sunday Brunch and Lunch 10a-4p. Call or check website to confirm Tooth & Nail Winery .


We certainly lucked out with our Wine Steward Dakota. Not only knowledgeable and friendly, she was actually someone with opinions, which I love. I was able to let go of my list and be guided through wines that she obviously cared about. A few favorites include: Amor Fati Grenache 2011, Force of Nature Tempranillo 2013, Tooth & Nail ‘The Fiend’ 2012 (a T&N1Malbec/Syrah blend) and the newly released dessert Viognier Demi-Lune 2013. The tasting room is open 10-6 Weds through Monday (closed Tuesday).

Do yourself a favor and plan a visit today to check out all the wonderful things this Winery has to offer. Call breakaway-tours today to schedule your experience. And don’t forget to raise a glass of ‘Dragon’ to the Central Coast and all it has to offer!