Archive for April, 2011

Vacuum Concentrator

April 28, 2011

Made in Italy, secretly used in exalted Bordeaux, perfected in California, I introduce you to the Reda CM 400 Low Temperature Evaporation Device!Does your vineyard location get too much rain?  Does your vineyard management not allow for proper air circulation to dry out your overly wet harvest?  Do you not want to wait a few days for your rain soaked grapes to dry out before picking them?  Is your harvest screwed because the ratio of water to grape sugar is out of wack?  Or do you just want super concentrated, viscous wines without having to lower your yields?

The CM 400 takes in grape juice, somehow boils it below atmospheric pressure at a temperature of 70 degrees, water is carried off in vapor but also takes away important things like lactic acid and ethanol (these and other compounds can be put back in). Nanofiltration membrane technology keeps all the good stuff in (tannin, color).  What is left is a more balanced, syrupy wine.  It is also fully automated!

Most winemakers don’t like to admit to using machines like these.  Some might call it cheating, some might say it is a way to save a poor crop.  You will not really find them used on cheap wines because these gizmos are EXPENSIVE!

Is the wine you are drinking really an artisanal product of responsible land stewardship?

Murder In Marcillac

April 24, 2011

I loved you so much I had to kill you.  

2010 Marcillac “Lo Sang del Païs,” Domaine du Cros , $12.  Imported by Wine Traditions

Already wrote about the big brother a few months back.  “Lo Sang del Païs” which translates into “BLOOD OF THE COUNTRY” is Philippe Teulier’s entry level, everyday wine.  It hits a few notes less than the “Cuvée Vieilles Vignes” but boy are those notes spot on.  Tight, peppery fruit wrapped around an implacable structure.  The new vintage is out, stock up, it will taste even better 3 months from now.

How to Decipher German Wine Labels

April 21, 2011

“I don’t read German!  How the hell am I supposed to know what I’m drinking?”

The Germans produce some of the best wines in the world and the language of their labels can give you a pretty good indication of what’s in the bottle.  It can be complicated and confusing but also endlessly fascinating, a wine region so vast and varied cannot be generalized by some kind of simplification.

For the most part you will encounter two categories of wines…

Qualitätsweine mit Prädikat (QMP)

“Quality wines with special attributes”

This refers to ripeness levels in grapes, or at what stage the grapes are picked.

Kabinett-lightest wines, first picked from the main harvest.

Spätlesea bit fuller bodied, means “late Harvest”.

Auslese-very ripe, “select harvest”,sometimes the grapes have the noble rot-super concentrated sugars (botrytis).

Beerenauslese (BA)-grapes are affected with botrytis, made into dessert wines.

Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA)-“dry berry selection”, overly ripe, dried up raisony grapes reserved for powerful dessert wines.

Eiswein-made from grapes of at least a Beerenauslese ripeness that have been naturally frozen on the vine.

Within this category you will see…

Trocken-meaning “dry” meaning all of the sugar has been fermented into alcohol.

Halbtrocken-meaning “Half dry” or not all of the sugar has been fermented into alcohol.

So you might see a “Kabinett Trocken” label indicating it is light and dry.  Or “Spätlese Halbtrocken” meaning full bodied and rich.  Sometimes you will come across “Auslese Trocken”, bone dry, tart and steely.

Qualitätsweine mit Prädikat (QMP) wines cannot have the artificial addition of sugar (chaptalization).

The other category…

Qualitätswein (QBA)

“Quality wine”

The wines are from a specific wine-growing region with approved grape types.  These wines may be chaptalized (the good producers don’t).  Generally meant for everyday enjoyment.  Trocken and Halbtrocken appear on these labels as well.

Finally got that all figured out but… “What about all that VDP nonsense?  What do those letters mean?  I don’t see the above stuff on those labels as much?”

Verband Deutscher Qualitäts- und Prädikatsweingüter (V D P)

“The Association of German Quality and Prädikat Wine Estates”

The wine growers associated with this group must practice organic and sustainable farming, only use grapes associated with the area, must farm low yields, cannot chaptalize, and can only use natural wine making techniques.  They are all about the preservation and acknowledgement of Germany’s finest vineyard sites.

You will find three catagories here…

Gutsweine (house wines), labeled with a proprietary, village or regional name.

Klassifizierte Lagenweine (wines from a classified/superior vineyard site), labeled with a vineyard site name.

Erste Lage (wines from a top site-Grosses Gewächs-“Great Growth or Grand Cru” look for the “GG”), labeled with a vineyard site name and the super vineyard site logo…

either in print or embossed on the bottle.

Some examples and some further notes…

“Selbach-Oster” is the wine estate. “Zeltinger” is the town, “Schlossberg” is a single vineyard site.  “Riesling” is the grape.  “Kabinett” is the level of ripeness.  You can see that it is a “Qualitätsweine mit Prädikat (QMP)” wine. “Gutsabfüllung” is a very important word, it means “Estate Bottled”.  “Weingut” means winegrower, also important. “D-54492 Zeltingen” is the address of the estate.  “L-AP. NR 2 606 319 011 07” is the official tasting number that indicates where the wine was approved, what village the producer comes from, the code number of the wine grower, the wine growers application number and what year it was approved. Then under that you see some shit about sulfites.  “Mosel-Saar-Ruwer” is the wine growing region where this wine comes from, Mosel is the main river, Saar and Ruwer are tributaries.  The “9,5 % vol” tells us there is some residual sugar in the bottle (a fully fermented dry wine will be around 11-12 %).

You can see the same language on Peter Lauer’s bottle.  “Steillage” means steep vineyard sights, “Handverlesen” means handpicked.  You won’t see these terms on many wine labels.  Peter Lauer happens to be a super star.  Notice “Qualitätswein”.  The “alc 12% vol” means this wine is not going to have much residual sugar.

“QMP”.  Müller-Catoir has been growing wines since 1744.  They are part of the VPD business.  This wine is labeled with a superior site name.

Emrich-Schönleber is also part of the VPD.  This is one of their entry level “house wines”.  “Trocken” means dry. “Nahe” is the region.

“Ratzenberger” is the estate.  “Steeger St. Jost” is a single vineyard site, “Spätlese” ripeness, “Trocken”, fermented dry.

“Feinherb”????  -A term that means the wine is trapped between Halbtrocken and Trocken.  You don’t see it very often.  Basically the wine has some sugar but the acidity is very prevalent.
Just for fun here is a Riesling from the French side (It’s all the same wine growing area).  “Alsace” is the place, in Alsace they alway label the grape varietal.  “Herrenweg” is a single vineyard site.  “Mis en bouteille au Domaine” or “Estate Bottled”, is super important in French wines, it means that the same person grew the grapes and made the wine.  You can also see Barmes’s address.  A real couple of people are responsible for this wine!

This wine comes from a place, “Rheinhessen” and has some guys name on it.  It tells you that it is “Refreshing Crisp” and “White”.  It doesn’t tell you much else.  What does “Sichels Superiour Vinification” mean?  What are they vinifying?  How are they vinifying it?  Blue Nun is sold in over 100 countries around the world.  The United Kingdom alone consumes 5 million bottles of the stuff a year.  This brand and several others like it have helped hurt Germany’s wine image.  Stay away from Blue Nun.

German wines are meant for people with higher IQ’s.  It is a fact.  Smart people drink them and by drinking them you become smarter.  When reading German wine labels– or any region’s wine labels– the most important thing to look for is who grew the grapes and where, and who turned the grapes into wine.

Richmond’s First Ever Riesling Crawl!

April 14, 2011

Real Riesling from the Rheinland/Rhénanie.  Riesling is not a sugary syrup, this is an old myth that needs to finally be debunked. Most of it is bone dry.  Come taste some examples…

Richmond’s First Ever Riesling Crawl. On Tuesday, April 19th, four of Carytown’s top wine haunts will each feature a different wine to showcase the variety’s versatility. Both Amour and Secco will be offering a special food pairing as well. Details below:

5:30 pm – Ellwood’s Cafe 10 South Thompson Street
NV Wegeler Riesling Brut, Mosel, Germany

6:15 pm – Amour Wine Bistro 3129 West Cary Street
2008 Trimbach Riesling, Alsace, France

7:00 pm – Can Can Brasserie 3120 West Cary Street
2008 Heimberger Riesling Reserve Particulaire, Alsace, France

7:45 pm – Secco Wine Bar 2933 West Cary St
2008 Von Beulwitz Kaseler Nies’chen Riesling Spatlese Alte Reben, Mosel, Germany


April 13, 2011

Acid in wine is essential if you want balance.  Acid means body in wine, the stuffing that holds it all together.  Healthy ripe grapes mean acids develop slowly and fully and are balanced out by an acceptable amount of sugar.  Sugar gets turned into alcohol during the fermentation process.  Grapes that are overly ripe with way too much sugar can not develop good acidity, leading to an unbalanced, flabby wine.  Too  much hang time on the vine, too much sunshine.

Grapes that are not fully ripe haven’t developed much acidity and not enough sugar leading to a tart, high toned wine.  Not enough hang time, not enough sun(or rain, or warmth, or whatever it is that makes fruit ripe).

Acidity is necessary to give a wine freshness, it also protects the wine from bacterial infection.  When people talk about acidity in wine it does not mean you are about to suck on a lemon.

Adjusting acid in wine is best done before and during the fermentation process.  It allows better integration of flavor and aroma and is easier to control the integration.  Tartaric acid (which is naturally present in grapes) is best added at the beginning stage because it  does not become susceptible to lactic acid (the milk, dairy, creamy textured acid) easily and will not lower the quality as much to a finished wine.  Too much tartaric acid will crystalize and separate from the wine anyway, leaving it split and hollow.  Citric acid is the cheapest and most prone to bacterial infection.  It can be added at the end of fermentation and stabilization to give the wine  a perceived “zippiness”.  Malic acid (also one of the natural acids found in grapes) is rarely added because for one it is expensive and it can easily become infected with dirty microbes.  Malic acid is very tart on the tongue but is desirable for wines that have plans to incorporate an inoculation of a bacteria to transform it into lactic acid (the milk, dairy, creamy textured acid) this gives the wine a round, buttery, soft mouth feel.

In a perfect world, in a perfect climate, in a perfect soil; responsible, healthy, fanatical farming will produce healthy ripe grapes and a wine grower will not have to deal with all this acid business.

Strawberry Street Vineyard Gets a Makeover

April 10, 2011

Strawberry Street is perhaps the cutest little street in Richmond and it just got a little bit cuter.  Strawberry Street Vineyard has been on the block for many years and served as great drop in spot to pick up a bottle for evening dinner.  The shop recently changed ownership and underwent a little renovation and updating.

The redecorated space still focusses on value wines from all over the world with an emphasis on California and France.  There are a few gems in here to take note of.


2010 Cheverny, Le Petit Chambord, François Cazin, $16. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.

2009 Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie “Clos des Allées” Vieilles Vignes, Pierre Luneau-Papin, $15.  Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.

Two great, chuggable Loire Valley whites that offer freshness and versatility.

2003 Chateau Camplazens “La Garrigue”, $17. Imported by Boutique Vineyards.

La Garrigue is a typical blend of Syrah and Grenache and comes from the top of La Clape, a sub-appellation of Coteaux du Languedoc which overlooks the Mediterranean sea.  This wine has some bottle age and offers some relaxed, mineral laden fruit and a earthy, herbal bouquet.  A good value from a solid producer.

The Burgundy section is small but has a few home runs.

2009 Thierry & Pascale Matrot Bourgogne Blanc, $19.  Imported by Vineyard Brands

This pure and focussed white Burgundy comes from 30 years old vines just right outside of Meursault.  Meant for early consumption.

2009 Domaine Hubert Chavy-Chouet “Les Saussots” Bourgogne Blanc, $22. Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils.

Also from outside Meursalt, a bit broader and richer than the Matrot.  Again this is a wine to drink early but can stand some years in a cool cellar.

I picked up some fresh blush wine hoping to get over the winter.

2010 Domaine Bellevue Touraine Rose. $10, Imported by Elite Wines.

The 2010 Rose’s are starting to hit our shelves.  Domaine Bellevue is pretty Loire Valley classic, offering up that charming green pepper tartness that is commonly associated with the region.  I think this wine and other new pink releases can probably benefit from a few more weeks of relaxation before they completely come together.

Strawberry Street Vineyard still has a solid cheese program and they also carry the famous “Billy Bread”.  A great spot to stop in after a Fan sidewalk stroll, grab a flick from Fan Video and a meatball sub from 8 1/2.  The wine shop doesn’t seem to be temperature controlled and the fancier, age worthy wines of Barolo, Barbaresco, Burgundy, Brunello di Montalcino, Bordeaux are all stored upright.  I would stick to the fresh stuff that is displayed on the floor in wood crates.  Join their mailing list to find out about tastings and wine events.

Strawberry Street Vineyard

407 Strawberry St.

Richmond, VA 23220


Strawberry Street Vineyard is now owned by Emily Jones and her mother Maria.  Emily was employed by Belmont Butchery before purchasing the wine shop.

The shop which used to be run by Henry Reidy has just joined forces (by marriage) with Tanya Cauthen of Belmont Butchery. Together they are starting up a mobile food service business that will bring grass fed burgers and other meat products to the masses.  You can follow them at First Fridays, look for them next to Quirk Gallery.



Boring Wines: Wines to Avoid

April 7, 2011
Chateau Ste. Michelle is Washington state’s oldest winery.
Chateau Ste. Michelle sources grapes from 3500 acres.
Chateau Ste. Michelle  produces 2.5 million cases a year.
Chateau Ste. Michelle hired German weine consultant Dr. Ernst Loosen to make Riesling for them.
Chateau Ste. Michelle “invented” Riesling.
Chateau Ste. Michelle can be found in every single grocery store in the country (how special is that?)
Chateau Ste. Michelle can be found on some really uninspired wine lists in this city.
Chateau Ste. Michelle produces wines, be it their Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah, Shiraz, Chardonnay, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc,Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Tannat (just kidding), Gewurtztraminer, that all taste the same: flat and homogenized.
Chateau Ste. Michelle is owned by Altria (use to be Phillip Morris)
Altria owns…
A little bit of everything.
A shitload of tobacco and…
  • Chateau Ste Michelle
  • Columbia Crest (their reserve Cabernet was Wine Spectators #1 wine of the year last year)
  • Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (Napa Valleys FIRST first growth!)
  • Conn Creek
  • Red Diamond
  • Snoqualmie
  • Spring Valley
  • Villa Mt Eden
  • Erath
  • Col Solare
  • Northstar
  • Villa Antinori (An evil Tuscan empire dating back to the year 1385)
  • Tormaresca
  • Tignanello
  • Antica Napa Valley
  • Solaia
  • Santa Cristina
  • Haras di Pirque
  • La Bracessca
  • Montenisa
  • Hawk Crest
  • Fourteen Hands
  • Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte
  • Palmes d’Or (Instant luxury!)

Many people enjoy processed foods, or big-studio processed movies, or all-inclusive, processed vacations where you never leave the hotel’s grounds: just because people enjoy these things doesn’t mean they’re healthful, or artful, or inspiring or good. The same holds true for wine. A lot of people like the processed stuff, but this doesn’t mean it’s authentic. It doesn’t mean this wine is good.

You are allowed to drink differently.

All Natural Bargain

April 4, 2011

Heads up: If you have $9 or $14 or all together $23 then here is one bottle or another bottle or two bottles that you should not pass up this month…  Got that?

2008 Château d’Oupia Les Hérétiques Vin de Pays de Herault, $9.  Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.

2009 Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie Clos des Briords, $14.  Louis/Dressner Selections.

Château d’Oupia is located in Minervois, a wine region that is part of the larger Languedoc-Roussillon located in the south of France.  Château d’Oupia is situated much higher than most of the flat, mass-producing wasteland of the Languedoc.  The higher elevation and cool winds from the Mediterranean helps give their wines a freshness that backs up the big style fruit most associated with the area at large. André Iché of the Family Iché (it says so on the bottle) has always bottled wine that he grew himself from old vines.  He used to sell his finished wine to a local négociant who would in return slap his own label on it and sell it off in bulk.  Back in the 80’s André was convinced to start selling his own wine under his own label and has since become one of the leading wine growers of Minervois.

Les Hérétiques (named after some part of the Crusades) is the perfect any night of the week wine.  On the table is it extremely versatile but shows best next to olive oil, tomato sauces, wild aromatic herbs and grilled meats.  Try it with boeuf à la gardiane.  Comprised mostly of Carignan and Syrah, the wine is full bodied, earthy and rustic.

You can find it at J. Emerson Fine Wines for $9.  A steal.

Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine is located in the Loire Valley of western, central France.  The Loire river that runs east and west through the valley splits off into two tributaries, one is called Sèvre Nantaise and the other La Maine, that is where this wine comes from.  Clos des Briords comes from a patch of vines that were planted in 1930.  The soil is deeper than most of the other vinyard sites and is composed of well draining clay and silica over a subsoil of granite.  The Muscadet area as a whole sees a lot of rain which can bring on rot, so unless you want to employ fungicide spray against mildew, good drainage is critical for grapes to reach optimal ripeness.   The vinification happens two hours after harvest in cool, stainless steel tanks.  The wine then ages on its lees (residual yeasts, leftover yeasts, spent yeasts, what Sur Lie means) for eight months before being bottled.  Drunk young it is very mineral and tight but with a few years aging it can really blossom, gaining power, weight and a floral bouquet.  It is showing lovely now. Of course Muscadet is the choice wine for oysters and all kinds of sea food.  The crisp, bright acidity also matches up nice with cream and butter based dishes.

You can find it at J. Emerson Fine Wines for $14.  Also a steal.

Check out the back labels, a sign of quality, if you are into that kind of thing.

Restaurant Week Participants Announced

April 3, 2011

The Spring 2011 Richmond Restaurant Week is Monday, April 25 – Sunday, May 1 and each three-course meal is $25.11 per person, with $2.11 going to FeedMore.

Check out for all the featured menus.

I wonder who will be doing wine pairings?  


Learn All About Sheep Cheese

April 3, 2011

Dany’s Cheese Class at …


Ellwood Thompson’s Cafe


Monday, April 4th, 2011

6-7 pm

5 dollars