Friday, December 14, 2007

Mailers, Emails & Direct Marketing In The Wine Industry

So you walk into your local wine specialty store, liquor store or the depot of liquor that is attached to your local grocery store. You look around the aisles at the plethora of choices, some familiar but mostly foreign (literally, since many wines are produced overseas) and mostly unknown to you as a consumer.

Let's assume that you choose wisely (or is that blind luck that puts that good bottle in your hands) or take the advice of an employee of a store and wind up with a winner that you loved. Chances are, you will remember the name and begin to include that wine in the rotation of wines that you purchase when you go to the store looking to make wine purchases. If you are like over 90% of the wine-purchasing public, you will actually forget the name of the wine, or the vintage and wind up asking for another recommendation or trying to hit paydirt on a total stranger again. Just think about how poor the odds become after you actually picked a good bottle!!! You'd have better odds of safely walking through an open field with an umbrella in a lightning storm!

Before my recent trip to Napa, Ca, I would have never thought to look up the websites of the wines that I have drank and/or enjoyed. Even more unlikely would have been my desire to join an email list of a winery who makes wines that I like. For what purpose??? If I want the wine again, I'll just go back to the store and ask for it. However, you assume that the store will have the wine you like, OR that the winery distributes all of its menu of wines to your local store. In fact, most wineries have some wines that are only available at the tasting room or via its mailing list.

Yes, most if not all wineries maintain an email list of their customers. They use this list to communicate with you, their customers, about things such as new releases or re-releases of their Library Selections (which are older wines that had previously been released and are now available for sale). Some wineries offer recipes or food and wine pairing recommendations for their specific wines, so that you would know to have grilled sirloin with horseradish smashed potatoes with a mango/balsamic culee with their 2002 Mt. Veeder Estate-Grown Cabernet Sauvignon. (Please note: That was NOT a real should have had the Merlot!!!)

Returning to the topic, the wineries feel that having your information helps them to market directly to their audience, rather than to the wine-buying public as a whole. Email marketing also allows the winery to project sales success for their wines, because they take your email interest and turn it into a club membership or a direct sales vehicles. Although many people would not want to be obligated to purchase a wine selection of the winery's choice, in some cases, direct mail or club membership is the ONLY way to get a wine. For example: Kosta Brown winery does not distribute their wines to distributors or liquor stores. They will only sell to customers on their list. AND, just being on the list does not guarantee you any of their wine. You see, there is such demand for their wines, especially their higher-end Pinot Noirs, that they have a hierarchy of past customers who are entitled to buy all of their wines while lesser buyers or newbies have to hope for an allocation from their wish list. It's like trying to get on the waiting list for season tickets to the Green Bay Packers!!! Also, some smaller producers just don't want to go through the effort to get distributed out of their region and want to keep things simple. That's what Rocking Horse Winery did just this year. According to them, they wanted to ratchet production down and make less wine so that they can stop and smell the roses and enjoy some needed time with family. Now all of their wine is produced and sold in and around California. What a shame, because their 2003 Cabernet was killer and when trying to get some, I was told I had to come out to see them!!! Oh well, another trip wouldn't kill me. Thanks Jeff...I'll get out there to get the wine soon.

Another way wineries get to you is the MAILER. The mailer is a postcard, or in the case of more high-end producers, a folio of wine tasting notes, viticultural reports, technical data and the like. Each mailer serves a sell you wines direct from winery to your home. Provided of course, that you live in a state that will allow direct shipping between a producing winery and your state. Here in NJ, we do not have reciprocal privileges with California Wine. The convoluted laws and rules that have been written to protect the rich and confuse the everyman, state that NJ and California don't mix like Gin and Tonic do. In fact, most Jersey residents use a NY address of a friend or relative to have wines shipped to them. I have to have wine shipped to my brother's shop and he brings them down once or twice a month.

The MAILER also keeps the winery in the forefront of your mind, because you are on the list as a lover or appreciator of their wine. They love to send you things because usually you are remember your last bottle of this great wine and think you should have more. The winery LOVES this type of repeat customer because all it costs to put the wine in their hand is a $0.41 stamp and a little postcard/mail piece. Don't get emotional about a wine. Each year, they will make more of the wine, and if it was a really good bottle, for sure it will cost you more down the road. But the MAILER can also be informative, like Jessup Cellars mailer which has info about what they are doing to improve the wine and the wine-tasting experience that they want to extend to their customers.

Either by retail, email or post-card manner, this producer of fine wines reaches out and helps you to improve your wine enjoyment. Its fun, its somewhat impersonal....until you have to whip out your credit card. The wineries can be extraordinarily friendly, and if you want to try wines which are not available to the average Joe, the mailing list offers you that chance.

Well the major downside is that not only does the winery have its "tasting room and club only wines" available to members, it also has its generally released inventory available online at a higher price (sometimes more than 25-35% more than at retail shops) and if you didn't know better you would overpay for your wines.

The other downside is that in addition to paying a higher price than retail, you also have to pay SHIPPING from out of state. That's not cheap when you are buying the club allocation of 2 bottles and paying $20 in shipping to get it.

My Suggestion: Try wines locally. There is so many different wines available that you can spend a whole year trying new things and learning the differences between wines, both domestic and imported. Save the shipping and over-charges and use that money to fund your trip to Wine Country. Once there, sample those hidden gems and buy what you can't buy back home.

Lastly, I want to wish each of my readers and friends a happy and healthy and safe holiday season. I hope you all get to take some time to enjoy the gifts of life and love that surround you each day.

I have a Reader Request tasting to post early next week and then its a week layoff before the next post. Thanks for your loyal support!!!

PS- If you like Italian Food, Italian Art, Italian Music, Italian People or if you are Italian....check out The blog is dedicated to the Italian Lifestyle in America and is well-writted by my friend, Richard Michelli. He also has a great website.... Enjoy!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Tasting, Tasting, Tasting, Tasting Notes........

This past Saturday, Wendy and I hosted our annual Holiday Party, which has morphed from a traditional family Chanukkah party into a Family, Friends & Neighbors Holiday Party. At our party, each child has gifts to open and I usually call all the kids into the room and play a quasi-Santa/Chanukkah Harry and call each kid up by name and hand them their gifts (wrapped of course) and once each kid has a gift to open.....mass chaos as 12-15 kids rip open wrapping paper and packaging to get to their gifts. We also do an Adult Gift Swap which is often entertaining and always controversial (this year, we had a penalty flag which was thrown when someone broke a rule.) During this part of the party, I am often referred to as Chanukkah Czar for my inflexible rules which are often neatly typed and are always read aloud before the exchange begins. Hopefully, everyone has a buzz going and the ribbing is good-natured and fun for all.
To get everyone buzzed, we have a full bar. However, most of my family and friends opt for the wines I have selected for the night. This night was no exception. This post to Oenophobia: A Fear Of Wine is dedicated to the tasting notes from each of the wines opened and drank. Feel free to peruse the list or click the links to the wineries websites. Remember, unless otherwise mentioned, all of these wines are available at Tinton Falls Buy-Rite on Asbury Ave. in the Tinton Falls Plaza. Please ask for Kevin or Sean Flanagan for help. You can even print out this posting and bring it with you. They can help with suggestions if something from this list is not available. FYI- in case you didn't know this (Mom) wine is ALWAYS less-expensive at your local shop than direct from the winery. When you factor in shipping, the cost is significantly less. However, many of a winery's reserve or single vineyard wines are NOT distributed and therefore you HAVE to buy them from the winery direct.

Here's The List........

2005 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($22) - From one of the best known wineries in the world, Robert Mondavi consistently produces high-quality varietally correct wines. Their 2005 Napa Valley Cab is no exception. A blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (85%), with 5% each of Cab. Franc and Merlot and 2% each of Petit Verdot and Malbec and 1% Syrah this wine rocks! Mondavi produces high-rating single vineyard wines that often reach triple-digits in price and score in the mid 9o's consistently. The 2005 Napa Valley Cab is a little cousin to those wines and this wine is deep and dense and full of strong fruit extraction. The wine has oak and supple tannins and brings a bright vibrancy to the glass of wine. I loved this wine for its class and flavor. In this price range, it is the best wine I can recommend. I personally score the wine 91+ and have seen it getting amazing reviews. Buy a case because this wine will age to improve.
2005 Ferrari-Carano Cabernet Sauvignon - Sonoma - ($25) - Another really excellent example of the varietal of Cabernet Sauvignon, the FC Cabernet is really well-crafted and flavorful wine. The wine is a product of Sonoma County, where the warmer climates and low-lying morning fog shroud the grapes and vines allowing maximum concentration of the fruit. The wine is mountain-grown and full of complex flavors of black cherry, blackberries, toffee, caramel and dirt, yes, dirt. Its an amazing combination and at the price, a BIG QPR scorer. In future years, we're all going to remember the 2005 vintage of wines like these the way 1997 and 1982 are often remembered as perfect for the varietal of Cabernet. The FC cab is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cab. Franc and Petit Verdot. I give it a 90+ score, just below the Mondavi, almost its equal, but not as complex. Still a wine to ABSOLUTELY own. If you go out to eat at a decent restaurant, you will find this bottle of wine at a shocking $50+ on the wine list. I say shocking because this wine is in a category of wines that you MUST have at home in at least 3 bottle quantity to open when you have company or when you want a special accompaniment to dinner. At home, its a $22-$25 do the math.

2004 Rusden "Christine's Vineyard" Grenache - South Australia ($38) -The Rusden vineyard in Barrossa are among some of the best varietal-designated vineyards in the area. In 1979, Christine and Dennis Canute purchase 40 acres in which this Grenache is grown. This wine is deep red in color with a bright, red berry nose, with complicating notes of tobacco, anise and subtle mint. Sweet and luscious, the raspberry and wild strawberry flavors appear providing a silky texture to the wine. There's a boatload of sweet, almost jammy red berry fruit, as well as lingering notes of musky earth and mocha. More than simply a fruit bomb, and long on the aftertaste. This wine scored 92 pts. from Josh Reynolds of Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar in July 2006. This is a stunning example of how Grenache is supposed to be made, without the excessive heat and alcohol that occurs when chasing the elusive balance between the sweetness and the luxurious flavor of well-integrated alcohol content.

2003 Ken Wright Cellars Freedom Hill Pinot Noir - Oregon ($55) This wine, from one of the best producers of Pinot Noir that I have ever had the pleasure to taste, is big on flavor, mouthfeel and finish. The wine was recommended by Kevin Flanagan as a $22 bottle and was so highly recommended, it is selling for more than double that today at auction. The wine is sourced from the Freedom Hill Vineyard which is located in Dallas, Oregon from a Pommard grape clone, planted in 1980. This wine had an amazing 2003 vintage and 2006 has been projected as a comparable year to the 2003. The wine has a medium-deep ruby color; earthy, black fruits on nose; big full and toasty on palate with balance and black cherry flavors. This wine scored big with our guests, most likely because the wine's flavor profile is similar to some of the wines we had already opened which were Cabernets. I'm looking forward to trying the 2006 vintage of this great Pinot producer. FYI- Ken Wright's Pinots need cellar ageing before they are ready to drink. If you purchase any of the several Pinots he makes, go to their website at where they have a chart of when to drink each of their wines. COOL!!!

2005 Jardin Bradgate Syrah - Stellenbosch, South Africa ($10) At a recent industry tasting, Kevin and I stopped in at the South Africa table where we met Gary Jordan from Jordan Winery in Stellenbosch, SA. I previously wrote about Gary and his wines, but tonight, I opened a Bradgate Syrah of his. Gary's wines are marketed under the JARDIN label here in the US. The wine was subtle when appropriate and big in flavor and mouth-feel as expected....not a lot of heat or too much extracted fruit. A really nice wine with a light approach to Syrah but a long finish of rich flavor. However, this night, Bradgate did not appeal to many in the crowd. In fact, it was the only bottle that was opened that was NOT FINISHED. I asked around, and was told that it was not as full-flavored as some of the bigger Cabs that were opened. BUT, I also got RAVE reviews for the Ken Wright Cellars Pinot Noir. So my thought is that the Bradgate just didn't appeal to the crowd's palate, which is what wine tasting is ALL ABOUT! I personally still like the Bradgate Syrah when tasted alone, and I can see how the subtle tastes of this wine can get lost in the big, tannic, extracted-fruit of the Cabernets.

2005 Caravan Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa ($35) I almost DON'T want to tell you about this wine, for fear that word will get out and it will become more expensive and harder to get. As it is now, I have to reserve a six-pack as soon as it is released because it sells out quickly and once its gotta wait till next year. Here's why it is so scarce: The wine is made from Cabernet Powerhouse, Darioush who makes one of the premiere Cabernets in the Napa Valley. The same fruit that goes into their Signature Cabernet goes into the Caravan, at a fraction of the price. The wine's profile is as good as its pedigree, with big ripe black fruits and currant on the front and mid palate and a long finish with tobacco, dirt and blackberries on the finish. The nose is ripe and filthy and the wine has NEVER disappointed. Now, $35 is NOT cheap for a bottle of wine. But I have had wines that are more than twice this price that would never hold water in a blind tasting. I love Caravan, and have made converts of many, many friends who have also enjoyed the nectar of Caravan....right Patty???? This is a 93 pt. wine, compared to 94 pts. for the Darioush Signature Cabernet.

2005 Peltier Station Petite Syrah ($17) This wine is produced in the Lodi appellation in California, near Elk Grove. This region benefits from a cooler climate, which allows the grapes to stay on the vine longer, allowing for better concentration of flavors, without the fear of over-exposure of the fruit. The only bottle I have had by this producer is the Petite Syrah, which was recently awarded "Best in Class" and "Best of Region" at the 2006 California State Fair. Their website has some particulars about this and their other offerings. check it out to read about their lineup. The wine we tasted has a LOT of fruit-forward flavors. The nose on the wine was not as forward as the flavor in the mouth. We got chocolate, plum and spice during tasting, with a healthy bit of oak and astringency. The tannins were not overly impressive in their integration to the flavor, but also not intolerable. With aging, this wine will probably taste even better than it did at our party. If we drink it again, and I'm sure we will, I'll decant for a few hours to get the flavor out. A good wine at a great price point.
At the end of the night, we bid adieu to our loved ones and discarded the bottles in the recycling bin and counted our blessings as another year begins for us and for the special people in our lives who are there in good times and bad. We look forward to continuing our trek in the world of wine, with you as our faithful co-pilots.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Last Night's Tasting - Southern Living Style.....

Last night, we held a tasting at a Southern Living Party in Oceanport, NJ. The tasting went very well, with a smallish, yet interested crowd. There were a few ladies who really seemed to catch on with the Tasting Theme, while others mostly ignored "The Wine Guy" as I was introduced!

Here was last night's LINEUP OF WINES:

2003 Three Trees Pinot Noir ($16US) - The first wine served was the 2005 Three Trees Pinot Noir, Victoria Australia. The "three trees" depicted on the label of the bottle are the Eucalyptus and Bunya Pine trees (indigenous to Australia) flanking the Oak tree which is the quintessential wine tree. The wine is an intriguing mix of subtle fruits and then strawberries with very little of typical pinot noir "terroir" on the nose. This wine was very nice; subtle with a nose of violets and spiderwebs. The taste was mild and enjoyable. A light drinking, enjoyable wine.

2005 El Toqui Chardonnay ($12US) - 2005 El Toqui Chardonnay Riserva, Chile ($12) The Casas del Toqui brand is from the Chacapoal Valley region of Chile, and is produced by the winemaker of Cru Bourgeois from Medoc along with local winemakers and extremely unique terroir at the foot of the Andes Mountains. The house also makes Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz/Syrah, Carmenere, Merlot, Semillion and some late harvest wines. The Chardonnay is aged in oak barrels and blend tropical fruits with very mild oak flavorings. Not too buttery; this is a more clear and refined version of the Chardonnay grape and has little acidity but not overwhelming fruit.

2004 Pitch Cabernet Washington State ($17US) - This is the prototypical QPR (Quality-Price-Ratio) wine! At a ridiculously low price for its quality, the wine's flavors and well-constructed profiles are more often associated with wines in the $35-$40 price range than the $17 range that you can buy the Pitch for. Pitch is also a great example that Cabernet Sauvignon can be produced in regions other than Napa and be among the better wines at a gathering. Smooth and vibrant, this wine extracts the finer elements of fruit and tannins and resonates on the palate. A great wine for its price+.

2003 Cheyanna Zinfandel Napa, Calif. ($16) - There is a distinctive taste of the Cheyanna Zinfandel that is unusual to Napa Zins. Perhaps the grapes, grown in the Chiles Valley, east of Napa along Catacula Lake are more exposed to more heat during the days and more cool air off the lake in the evenings. Whatever the reason, the fruit is bright...think strawberries with a bit of mild spice, but jammy enough to remind you that it’s Zinfandel that you’re drinking. Taste plums and slight white pepper on the finish. In this price range, this is another QPR winner!

As the party wore on, I was approached and asked if I did in-home private tastings. OF COURSE was the answer, and I have 3 parties coming in the near future, including one that is a surprise X-mas gift to a spouse. Lucky guy.......

If you are interested in in-home tastings or would like to give a gift of a tasting to a friend, loved one or someone who is celebrating a milestone, email me at or call at (732)-804-3690. This is an affordable and really fun way to spend an evening with wine lovers of all categories, from novice to connoisseur.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Oenophobia's Got A Gig!!!

As many of you know, in addition to writing about wine and things related to wine, I have aspirations of opening a winebar in the Monmouth County, NJ area. The beginning stages of that dream are slow in progressing, mostly because liquor licenses are hard to come by and are extremely expensive. In Monmouth County, you can expect to pay over $500,000 for a license to sell liquor.

The winebar is one-half of the Oenophobia business model. The second half is In-Home Wine Tasting And Education. You may be wondering, "What exactly is this and how does it work?"

It's quite simple, and can be a lot of fun and informational for all participants especially for the hosts. How is works is: I (or one of the Oenophobia associates) would come to your home on a night you have planned a dinner party or cocktail party. We would bring wines to the party, the selection of which is the result of a consultation with you regarding price, varietal, theme, etc. We would talk about the wines, allow you to do tastings on each, explaining to you and your guests about what you are tasting and why. We would show you different ways to appreciate wines and how to discern the difference between well-crafted and poorly-crafted wines. We can do blind tastings for more educated wine drinkers and beginners alike. Oenophobia can help someone build a wine inventory for a cellar and can assist in travel planning for trips to Napa and Sonoma. At each tasting, we will provide tasting notes that you can save in a binder or journal to make it easy to remember the wines you are tasting.

In-home wine tastings have been growing steadily in popularity with the Gen X & Y sets as an alternative to entertaining or just going out with friends. As this generation begins having children, time is limited for entertaining or socializing. Oenophobia allows a group of friends to have a social night learning about different wines and how to taste and appreciate wine. In today's wine and liquor marketplace, the 27-40 year old demographic is buying more wine than any other group. People find something in wine that grounds them and we think it is because wine is a natural product, bringing good cheer when so much of the world has become artificial, and impersonal. Wine appreciation is not about getting drunk. At most tastings, we recommend a spit bowl so that tasters can enjoy the flavor of the wines without fear of over-consumption. Realistically, who wants to spit such a flavorful nectar....but someone has to drive home!

So, this Thursday November 29th, we have our first a Southern Living At Home party. For those of you who have never attended a Southern Living At Home party, it is a hostess party, where Person A invites lots of her friends for wine and cheese and to peruse a catalogue of high-quality housewares and foods and they can purchase these items at the party for delivery a short while later. The hostess also receives a credit for use in the catalogue, based on how much her friends buy. This is very similar to many other Hostess Parties, including Tupperware (which I don't even think is being done anymore....what am I, stuck in the 70's!!!??) or Sensaria Natural Bodycare or jewelry parties.

Our Hostess on this night is also a Southern Living distributor, and a friend of ours. When we received her invitation, I thought this would be a great way to launch Oenophobia: The Wine Tasting on a trial basis. On this night, I will be acting as a sales consultant to Tinton Falls Buy Rite and will be pouring 4 wines for tasting. After each tasting, we will discuss the wine and then I will tell the party attendees that they can purchase these wines through me on that night (it they liked them) and we deliver the wine to their home at no additional charge. I will also explain the Oenophobia concept and can take reservations for us to present wines at dinner or wine tasting parties for the attendees.

For me, personally, I want to get the word out that Oenophobia: A Fear Of Wine is alive and well. I want to get more blog subscribers and spread the word of my interest in Wine Education and hopefully create a customer base for the opening of the winebar, Oenophobia.

If you are interested in attending the Southern Living party on November 29th and you are in the Jersey Shore area, it is being held in Oceanport and you can email me at and I will forward the details to you .

Monday, November 26, 2007

Post-Holiday Post

Well, I hope you all had a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday. I hope you ate a little too much, drank a little too much and laughed a little too much during the long weekend. I had a battle with some low-lying fog at am on the Merritt Parkway, but once I arrived and slept a few hours, I was ready for some Turkey, Football & Wine....not particularly in that order!

The 1st wine of the day (1pm) was a dry Italian red wine from Tuscany. Unfortunately, I can't recall the name of the wine, but it was delicious, with sour cherries and licorice and violets. I wish we had had some Parmigiano Reggiano to go with it, but since it was early Thanksgiving day, we just drank it till it was gone. A big game of "May I, Oh Shit" broke out amongst the family and we opened another bottle, this time it was a 2005 Cameron Hughes Lot 38 Barrossa Valley Shiraz, and it was as good that day as the other two times we drank it. The wine was heavy, deep purple and had a looooong finish. This is not a trifling wine....this baby has some guns! At $14/bottle, it is the best value of the three Cameron Hughes wines we have has so far. Buy some if it is not all gone already at

For the uninitiated, "May I, Oh Shit" is a game played like Gin Rummy, but with up to 8 players and 4 decks going at one time. The game itself is a series of 7 games where you have to have different combinations of cards. Lots of good fun and competitive as hell. Don't sit next to Shari....she's a shark.

We got word that the Birds were ready to come out....yes, I said BIRD-S, as in plural. One traditional and one Cajun. Interesting.... I opened a bottle of Red and a bottle of White and served around the table. Here's what I served:

2005 Titus Zinfandel - Napa Valley $22 - This is the best Zinfandel I have ever had, because the taste of the wine is very un-zinfandel-like while still having some of the characteristics of the varietal that I like. This is not a "HOT" wine, with the alcohol content being so high and the fruit being somewhat thinner, leading people to think that Zinfandel is a wine that needs pairings to be best enjoyed. Once you drink the Titus Zinfandel, you would understand what I mean. I had written about it in the pre-Thanksgiving post, so I won't spend too much time on the wine's attributes. I will say that the wine is a classic example of excellent grapes, grown carefully and harvested at the perfect time and then crafted by someone who KNOWS how to integrate the fruit and alcohol to achieve a melody rather than a two-part harmony. Check out their website at:

2006 Chateau St. Michelle Eroica Riesling $24 - I am not a white wine lover. I am, however, someone who can appreciate the fine attributes of a well-made white wine, when I am forced at gunpoint to drink one. Just kidding....I love me some BIG RED WINE, but I have found a few white wines that are just really, really good. This is one of them. The Erioca is a joint effort of Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Ernst Loosen, one of the famed Riesling producers in Germany. Dr. Loosen collaborated with the winemakers of Chateau St. Michelle to produce a wine with both Sonoma and Columbia Valley, Wa. grapes which bring the medium-dry wines melon and stone characteristics to the table. Named after Ludwig Von Beethoven's masterpiece symphony, the Eroica is a very fine wine, earning 90 pts. for the 2006 vintage from Wine Spectator.

One interesting note: at the end of dinner, I asked a few people to take small pieces of white meat turkey and place them in their mouth. Then I had them sip the Eroica and let the food and wine pair in their mouths. Everyone was amazed that the wine made the dry, bland turkey sing in their mouths when paired with the Eroica. That was a fun end of our food orgy.

Back to the card table and we dranks some special, favorite wines. I brought a bottle of the 2004 Elizabeth Spencer Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon which has been raved about ad nauseum on this blog. It was a first tasting for some of the family members, and let me tell you how much they LOVED this wine. My sister, Karen, who loves wine and writes down all of the wines we partake of together in her journal, tasted this wine and went bonkers at how full-bodied yet, well-structured and fruit forward the wine was. She was in awe, as were the rest of the table.

The second bottle was one of Wendy's favorite bottles from our July trip to Napa, Ca. We visited the Beaulieu Vineyards (BV) tasting room, and somehow wound up in their Reserve tasting room being served an amazing menu of current and library releases. I won't divulge how this happened, but if you come to Napa with me in the future, you'll surely find out! The wine we drank that night was the 2003 BV Tapestry Reserve which is available for around $50 if it can be found. For all of the boldness and fruit-forward taste that the Eliz. Spencer wine had, the BV Tapestry is a classic, like a '57 Chevy or a '67 Corvette. It is smooth, strong, structured, flavorful with a well-honed finish that was neither sharp nor flabby. It was a masterpiece and it was drank in NO TIME. This wine didn't last a single hand of MAY I!
Now that Thanksgiving 2007 is in the books, I'd like to think that all that I am thankful for and all that I am hopeful for in the next year will be mine. I'd like to have you all along for the ride as I embark on a new wine venture. I'm glad you will be there to enjoy the process.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Happy (Surprise!) Birthday to ME!

This past Saturday, I had the incredible pleasure of being the recipient of a SURPRISE 40th birthday party, held at The Renaissance catering facility in Ocean, NJ. The Renaissance is a beautiful catering hall which can accommodate small and large (250+) parties. The catering is done by my very good friends, Stephen & Joey Falco. They outdid themselves on Saturday night, I will always remember the "extra mile" they went to make my party special. Thanks, guys. I have always told my wife Wendy that I NEVER, EVER want to have a surprise party for any birthday other than my 100th. I figured that at 100 years old, I would walk in, everyone would say, SURPRISE! and I would keel over from a heart attack and die, with a big smile on my face. Who the hell expects to reach 100??!!
But Wendy decided not to listen to my objections and held the party this past Saturday, over 1 month before my actual birthday. I was totally surprised and awe-struck! Even though I did NOT want a party, and even though I was embarrassed at the thought that so many people took such time and effort on my behalf, I have to say it was the best birthday experience of my life. Thanks to so many people, most importantly Wendy, I had a fantastic time with my best friends and my family. I will remember the night's moments forever and will always be grateful to each and every person who was there to share the night with me.

You might wonder why I am posting about the party and my birthday on a blog dedicated to WINE! Well, as many of you can tell, wine is a central component of our lives. Wine appreciation is a very popular topic within my group of family and friends and wine is usually not far from any organized activity we engage in. In fact, the party was supposed to be for my sister-in-law, Stacey and to hide the party from her, we told her it was going to be a wine tasting party held by another friend.

For the party, Wendy consulted with Kevin Flanagan of Buy-Rite Tinton Falls, our resident wine expert and guru. He suggested some wines which are not among our usual rotation of good QPR wines. However, Kevin's picks were, of course, on the money and the wines that were served were so popular, we have only two of 18 left! Here is the roundup:

2005 El Toqui Chardonnay Riserva, Chile ($12) The Casas del Toqui brand is from the Chacapoal Valley region of Chile, and is produced by the winemaker of Cru Bourgeois from Medoc along with local winemakers and extremely unique terroir at the foot of the Andes Mountains. The house also makes Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz/Syrah, Carmenere, Merlot, Semillion and some late harvest wines. The Chardonnay is aged in oak barrels and blend tropical fruits with oak flavorings. Not too buttery, more clear and refined flavors come through. A very good white wine.

2004 Bradgate Syrah, So. Africa ($11) The next wine was Bradgate Syrah, a product of the Stellenbosch region of South Africa. I had written of the Bradgate wines in an earlier post from the Winebow Fall Harvest Tasting in NYC as one of the wines produced by Gary and Kathy Jordan of Jardin Cabernet. The Bradgate Syrah was an interesting wine as it had a very muted, nondescript nose. The wine was not a "Aussie, New World" fruit bomb of a Syrah. It was more refined with plum and spice and a lot of wood, almost like kindling-flavor. The wine also had some chocolate, but not deep chocolate flavor....more like a low-calorie chocolate candy. It was a wine that may develop more in the bottle or with more air time.

2004 Pitch Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, WA ($15) The Pitch was the familiar wine in the bunch at Saturday's party, as it has been enjoyed by my friends and I on more than a few occasions. This is the prototypical QPR wine in my opinion. The wine's flavors and well-constructed profiles are more often associated with wines in the $35-$40 price range than in the $15 range that you can buy the Pitch for. Pitch is also a great example that Cabernet Sauvignon can be produced in regions other than Napa and be among the better wines at a gathering. Smooth and vibrant, this wine extracts the finer elements of fruit and tannins and resonates on the palate. A great wine for its price+.

The final wine served was the 2005 3 Trees Pinot Noir, Victoria Australia ($ 14) The three trees on the label of the bottle are the Eucalyptus and Bunya Pine trees (indigenous to Australia) flanking the Oak tree which is the quintessential wine tree. The wine is an intriguing mix of subtle fruits and then strawberries with very little of the "pinot noir" terroir that seems to bray, "BARNYARD" to me when I drink it. I love my wine with a little STANK on reminds me that the wine I am drinking is a product of farming and the land. However, some Cali Pinots are too overcome with terrior and sour cherries that they turn me off. This wine was a very nice, subtle wine with a nose of violets and spiderwebs (my brother, Eric called it ATTIC", which I love as a descriptive word for wine!) Upon tasting, the 3 Trees elevated itself as a great wine to take your time with....the glass lasted much longer than some of my more treasured Cabernets usually do. I liked this wine on my limited engagement with it and look forward to more time with it again in the future.

I want to again say how amazing it was to be feted by my closest friends who mean more to me than they could ever know and I loved all of the gifts and will be reviewing them one at a time here on Oenophobia. Thanks & Happy Holiday to all of you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thanksgiving is Right Around The Bend.....

Thanksgiving Wines

Recently, I received an unsolicited email from Natalie MacLean, who very kindly introduced herself to me with some really good Thanksgiving and Holiday recommendations for wine and food pairings. I contacted her back and thanked her for the recommendations and we have since become email friends! Apparently, Natalie read Oenophobia: A Fear of Wine when internet surfing and liked what she saw enough to reach out with some information that might just help all of our holidays along......

Quick background on Natalie MacLean: Natalie is an accredited sommelier, a wine writer and judge and she is the author of Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey From Grape to Glass. This book is a chronicle of three years of intensive travel throughout the world with wine as the main focus. It makes for a good read, and an even better Holiday Gift. You can buy the book on her website: which is also a great resource for all things wine.
On to the recommendations............

So you're at your In-Laws house, and the game is getting boring and how many Black Friday sale circulars can you flip through??? Its time for WINE. Who cares that its only 1pm and dinner is not for a few hours!? It's time to crack open that first bottle to get you in the mood for the rest of your day. What do you start with and why?

I like to begin the drinking with something that can stand on its own two feet without complementary food. A big wine that has structure, chewy tannins and lots of round fruit components. Not too heavy on the alcohol, but something that you can work with for a few hours to get yourself into Turkey Time. My pick: 2004 Beckmen Vinyards Purisima Mountain Syrah from Santa Ynez in the Central Coast of California. 93 Pts. Robert Parker. $39 US at Wine Library and other local wine shops. The alcohol is a little high at 14.8%, but the fruit is amazinly integrated with the tannins and the alcohol to the point that you forget about the heat when appreciating the flavor. Take your time enjoying this big, bold, flavorful wine.

Now on to the Dinner Table.......

I'm going to use Natalie MacLean's email to me as a guide here, and will provide some personal commentary along the way. She DID win several James Beard Awards for Wine and Food Writing, so who am I to try to one-up her????

Five Quick Tips for Picking the Ultimate Thanksgiving

Wine Author/Sommelier Natalie MacLean suggests gobbling good wines at

New York (October 24, 2007) - "No other holiday celebrates the gift of wine like Thanksgiving," says Natalie MacLean, author of the bestselling book Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. "Wine is a taste of the harvest along with all the delicious dishes on the table. But actually choosing a bottle can feel like a thankless task, especially with so many flavors to match." Relax. Have a drink. And try some of Natalie's suggestions for great wines to pair with Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings.

In Red, White and Drunk All Over, which has just been published in paperback, Natalie discusses wine and food pairing for Thanksgiving dinner. A new chapter in the book also addresses the five toughest matches for wine: vegetables, spicy dishes, chocolate, cheese, and fast food.

Natalie's free online matching tool at complements her in-depth discussion in the book by allowing you to click on "turkey holiday dinner" to find wines that accompany all kinds of dishes, from roast turkey to turducken, from creamed corn to pecan pie.

Natalie also offers five quick tips for choosing a terrific Thanksgiving wine:

1. Start with bubbly. Sparkling wine is a great aperitif to sip while you wait for the turkey to finish cooking. It adds a celebratory note to the meal and goes well with starters like soup and salad.

2. Consider the turkey. Unlike most poultry and game birds, turkey meat is very dry in texture. So you need a mouth-watering wine to complement it. Good options are crisp whites like riesling and pinot grigio. And yes you can drink red wine with white meat: pinot noir, beaujolais and zinfandel all have juicy, berry-ripe flavors that go well with turkey.

3. Look beyond the bird. The range of side dishes means that you don't have to match your wine just to the turkey. Since Thanksgiving dinner is often a banquet-style meal, with everyone choosing the trimmings, why not do the same with your wines? Offer both red and white, and possibly more than one depending on the size of your group.

4. Complement or contrast. A big, buttery chardonnay from California or Chile can complement the roasted, smoky flavors of squash, chestnuts and pecan stuffing. But if you'd rather have a contrast to the richness of cream sauces and dressings, try a crisp New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

5. End on a sweet note. If anyone still has room left when it's time for pumpkin or pecan pie, offer a late harvest wine or icewine. If you're a chocolate fan, try serving a liqueur with complementary flavors such as raspberry or blackcurrant.

Natalie MacLean has won four James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award; and she was named the World's Best Drink Writer at the World Food Media Awards. Rex Pickett, author of Sideways, says that Natalie "writes about wine with a sensuous obsession" and is "often laugh-out-loud funny." Eric Asimov of The New York Times notes, "Ms. MacLean is the disarming Everywoman . she loves wine, loves drinking . a winning formula." The Financial Times observes: "Natalie MacLean is a new force in the wine writing world-a feisty North American answer to Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson."

So there you have my new friend, Natalie MacLean's recommendations for how to pick your Thanksgiving wine. Thanks to Natalie, for helping to make Oenophobia: A Fear Of Wine a little less irreverent and a little more relevant.

My picks for Thanksgiving dinner: 2005 Titus Zinfandel ($22), Napa Valley Estate Grown to go with the bird. Lots of jammy fruit and oak spice with chocolate on the finish. Not at all what you'd expect when drinking.

Also, I recommend a white wine to finish dinner. After all of that heavy food, a Sauvignon Blanc with minerality and crispness is a nice alternative to a heavier wine. 2005 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($12 US) I chose this wine for its diverse fruit flavors, more tropical, less grapefruit and grass. The crispness comes from the minerality and lime, balanced against the acidity on the finish.

Here's hoping you all have a happy, safe and healthy Thanksgiving. I know I have a lot to be thankful for and I'm sure going to let all of the people who I love and care for know how much I appreciate them.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Primus Tasting Notes

Sorry for the delay in the tasting notes, but I wanted to get the previous Reader Request Tasting done first.

Last Sunday we drank a wine we had never had before, based on my challenge to you, eager readers and future Oenophiles, to drink something you have never had before and forward us your results and comments. I'm still waiting!

Here's our notes and info on a very interesting wine, Veramonte Primus. The wine is a blend of 36% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Carmenere produced in the Casablanca Valley appellation in Chile. The wine boasts 14.5% alcohol and 16,500 cases were produced.

There has been much discussed about the wines from Chile, South America. The wines are big and bold and many varietals from Bordeaux are presently being grown in the Casablanca Valley as well as other regions such as Maipo Valley, Colchagua and Cachapol Valley among more than 8 other diverse appellation districts. Red wine is king (76% 0f planted hectacres) in Chile, and Cabernet is king of the reds there. However, there is a significant percentage of Carmenere grape planted in Chile. Carmenere is sometimes called the "Lost Bordeaux" grape because it is rarely found in France's Bordeaux region, even though it is one of the six noble grape varietals that make up the Bordeaux family of grapes. Carmenere is also found in Italy in the eastern provinces and has a distinctly different taste than the Chilean version. The grape's juice is used as a blending grape, similar to how Petit Verdot is used in many bordeaux blend wines throughout the US and France.

The wine is a very deep dark color of reddish black that fills the glass with splashes of dark brooding. The wine was also extremely aromatic, with a distinct earthy nose, smelling of forest floor and peat. The nose also exhibited some menthol and spices and was extremely enticing even before the first sip. On the front palate, the dirt and spice were prevelent, leading to a plummy jam flavor with pine accents in the mid and rear palate. The finish was bold and bright, with more fruit than spice but a lingering of the terrior that was so forward when tasting the wine. We loved its complexity and the different flavors that the three varietals in similar ration brought to the wine. Definately not for every drinker, especially a new wine lover who might not know to wait for the development of the flavors. We look forward to introducing this wine to some adventurous drinkers to see if they see the varied and interesting layers in this wine.

Veramonte Primus, Product of Chile: $16 retail

Friday, November 2, 2007

Reader Request Tasting: The Show Cabernet Sauvignon

A Recent Request Tasting is when one of my readers or friends asks me if I have ever had a wine, that they had and loved, before. When I hear the request, it reminds me of the reasons I love wine and the whole wine world for various reasons. First, there are just so many wines out there to try and although I am more red-centric, there are some amazing whites as well. I just seem to gravitate to the larger flavored Reds. Gosh, as an avowed Capitalist in my earlier years, it seems difficult to align myself with the Red crowd! The second reason I love to hear about wines is that it reminds me NOT to be a snob about wine, that I should listen to the proletariat (damn, there I go again!) and hear what other people like to drink. I always ask what they like about a certain wine, and they usually just say that they love the flavor. So to become more in tune to various people's flavor preferences, I want to try the wines that they like. Third, when I hear that someone LOVES a certain wine, I like to be able to expand their experience with wine by introducing them to similarly priced wines of the same varietal or region of production and have them compare. Some of my favorite wine memories relate around going to dinner with friends and bringing wines for them to experience an enjoy. Wine tasting can be such a communal experience, where you share your insights of your five senses being triggered by a small glass of opaque fluid. It is truly an experience best shared with others, even though I have been guilty of flying solo from time to time.

So Friends, click on the GUEST BOOK at the bottom of the page, introduce yourself and tell me about a wine you love and want to have us taste and share. Last week I challenged you to go outside the box and pick a wine you did not have before, and one you normally wouldn't buy. I got two responses: Don G. of St. Simons Island, Ga. wrote: "You put down the gauntlet, and here is my response to your challenge: I opened a bottle of "The Novelist", a Meritage of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion. A refreshing wine with fruity nose and smooth finish. A good buy for about $20" and Rita A. of St. Simons Island, Ga.(do these people know each other?!?!?) wrote: "Last night after dinner at Bennie's Red Barn, our favorite local steakhouse on St. Simons Island, we cracked a bottle of 2005 Estate Bottled Brucatao Zinfandel Port. Black Cherry,currant, chocolate and spice make this a fantastic dessert wine. Try it!"

Before I get to my review of The Show Cabernet, please remember to forward this blog to all of your friends and family who love wine or just want to know more about wine. The more people who read this blog and send in suggestions, the more wine I wait, I mean the more knowledge and information YOU receive. Thanks!

REVIEW TIME..........

So I'm at this party the other night, and my friend's dad Steve and I are having an animated chat about the world and all of our places within it. We finally stopped talking nonsense and started talking WINE. Steve is the Yellowtail drinker from my last post. He told me he went to a friend's house and had a glass of an amazing wine called The Show. He said its a California Cabernet Sauvignon and he went right out to buy a few bottles of it to have for himself, because he was told it was priced around $13 and it was immensely better than the $8 Yellow appendage that he was accustomed to buying. He bought the last three bottles in the store and there hasn't been any more there since. My first reaction is that the store owner is doing a poor job of inventory control, and the second was: Let's go taste that wine!

So Wendy and I are at dinner the other night, and see The Show behind the bar as the "wine by the glass" wine. Not bad wine by the glass, but then again, this was a classy place! I asked the bartender to bring me the bottle so I can read about the wine before I drink it. He hands it over and right away I notice that the bottle has names above the title of the wine, and one of them is GOTT.

Instinctively, I think of Joel Gott who is a Jack-Of-All-Trades, Master-Of-All-Trades in the Napa area. Joel has a few labels of wine that he produces. He also is the owner-chef of Taylors Automatic Refresher restaurant in Napa on Hwy. 29 in St. Helena and San Fransisco. Taylors Refresher is a legendary landmark and has received the 2006 James Beard Award in the America's Classics Restaurant category. Additionally, the restaurant has received tons of publicity including a spot on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives program on The Food Network. When visiting Napa, don't miss the place, they specialize in Burgers and Shakes, but this ain't your backyard bbq grill burger. Check the menu section on their website above and be amazed at the artistry one can concoct between two pieces of bread!

Back to the SHOW: The Show 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon is crafted by three winemakers who don't take themselves too seriously, which is a benefit to most average wine drinkers. Their wine company is Rebel Wine Co., which is a 50/50 partnership with Trinchero Family Winery. The goal of Rebel Wine is to peel back the notion that all good wine is expensive, and that wine for the masses can be flavorful, complex and be crafted to appeal to drinkers of all budgets. They call themselves The Three Thieves, and have an interesting little website: Three Thieves is also a label of wine that they produce that is bringing JUG WINE back....hey, if Justin is bringin' Sexy back, then these guys are entitled to whatever they want to do....just don't produce wine that comes in its own burlap sack....that's hopefully died and gone to heaven.

The Three Thieves have produced some other wines individually, and you can check them out on your own. Here's the product details on The Show:

The Show 2005 Cab is 80% Cabernet from Monterrey, Paso Robles and Napa, plus 8% Merlot from Monterrey, 6% Cab Franc from Napa, 3% Petite Sirah from Dry Creek and 3% Petite Verdot from Napa. The 10,000 cases produced saw French and American oak prior to bottling.
Alcohol content: 13.9%.

Here's my impression: In the glass, the wine is deep garnet coloring, almost blackish, but not quite that dark. It had a really interesting nose. I sat there sniffing it for about 5 minutes trying to wrap my nose around the interesting smells that were coming from the wine. There was terrior which I love on the nose of a wine, plus some black cherry and plum and some menthol. It was intoxicating. Then, came disappointment. That nose set me up for a big flavorful wine with layers and layers of fruit which never came. I found the wine to be little fake in the flavor, almost more like a candy than a beverage. And then I got OAKED. Smacked in the head with a big oaky mouth after swallowing the wine. I tried it a few more times, with more swirling and sniffing and still the same let down. I think if I didn't spend so much time smelling the nose of the wine, I might have liked it a bit better, but the wine did not live up to its SEXY nose. Sadly, I finished the glass and asked for a glass of 2004 Napa Cellars Cabernet which I have had and LOVED. This is a $19 bottle of wine which is significantly better than The Show, but only a few dollars more. Wendy LOVED The Show Cabernet when we were tasting it, and was calling me a wine-snob (is there actually a worse insult!?!?) until she tasted the Napa Cellars and went, "WOW, that is really excellent!"

So for me, The Show wasn't "lights out." It didn't live up to the expectations. I want you to know that I think this wine was good, and on the 100-point scale, I'd give it an 88. I think maybe more time in the bottle will settle the oak down and let the fruit develop and improve. I don't think this wine is a long-term cellar project. Just a year or more might help it. One thing's for sure...... It is A LONG WAY BETTER than Yellow Tail, and Steve: Thanks for the Suggestion!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What The Hell Do You Mean By FEAR OF WINE???

I've been asked this a couple of times in the past few weeks since Oenophobia: A Fear Of Wine was born. What does it mean and where does it come from?? Well, Oenophobia itself is a real disorder where a person has an unexplained and paralyzing fear of wine, wine bottles or spilled wine. That's the extreme of the Fear of Wine, the clinical definition, if you will. My definition of Oenophobia pertains to the fear of overpaying for an inferior wine that you might blindly select from a shelf, display or rack at your local wine shop. It also manifests itself when someone from the store asks you if you need any help selecting a wine, and you just blurt out: "Not Yet!" or "Just Looking" or worse yet, grab a familiar looking bottle because you know the name on it or the bottle has a little jumping kangaroo and you heard Aussie wine is getting really good!

This, to me, is the more troubling version of Oenophobia, and I am hoping to help you overcome this irrational fear by suggesting some easy moves that will make you a more confident wine buyer/enthusiast. A couple of important things for you to remember as you embark on wine appreciation:

1. Not all good wines are expensive, and conversely, all expensive wines are not always good. - If you have asked me for a wine recommendation, you will get the same answer each time: How much do you want to spend? I can recommend wines that stand out from the crowd at all different prices. In each price-range, there are good and bad wines. It is true, however, that expensive good wines will probably be as good or better than less expensive good wines. You have to remember that wine prices are a factor of the winemaker's marketing efforts, not the quality of the wine.

2. The people who work in the wine shops GENERALLY know what is good, because they taste a lot of wines and have developed a discerning palate. In NJ, wine stores almost ALWAYS will have a bottle or three that are open and will allow you to taste a wine, for free, that you probably have never had before. You just have to ask, or better yet, check to see if they post a weekly tasting time and day and get there for a free tasting. Once the wine staff has you tasting, they can tell what you like by your reaction to the wines. Now they can become personal shoppers for you and your likes and dislikes.

3. Wine is as good ALL OVER THE WORLD, not just in France or Italy or California. While it is true that certain districts in certain countries have a reputation of having the best of a certain varietal of grape, rarely is one region the only place a grape is grown. For example: Sangoivese is a wine that is produced in the Tuscany region of Italy. Tuscany is known for it's Sangiovese but not all Tuscan Sangiovese is drop-dead good nor is all of it better than some Sangiovese grown right here in the US. Same thing with Pinot Noir and other varieties of wine produced in the Rhone Valley in France. Winemaking is a craft, being done by people who are sometimes good at it and sometimes not. The grapes are not always the determining factor in the production of good wine. You should try wines from all over the world to see how Cabernet tastes from California, Washington State, Italy or France, Spain or Chile.

4. My last tip is probably the best: Never stop seeking out wines to try. Ask people who drink wine what are they drinking right now? Go to BYOB restaurants and bring an extra bottle of something you like and ask the people at the table next to you if they want to try yours for a taste of theirs. Read about wines on discussion groups and then try to find and drink wines that are agreed by a large number of drinkers on the site to be good. I recommend two great forums to read at the bottom of my Blog: Wine Lovers Discussion Forum and Wine Library Forum. I hear about new wines all the time from these sites and have rarely been disappointed.

I want to finish this post with a challenge to each of the readers of this Blog. I want you to make a trip to the wine store of your choice. Seek out someone who is working in the store and tell them that you are looking for a new wine to try, something you haven't had before. Give them a price range, and tell them what you like in a wine or give them the name of a bottle you have had that you liked. Ask if there are any suggestions to improve the drinking experience (time in a decanter, chilled, etc.) and then go home and enjoy it. At the end of this post, you will see a small mail envelope. Click on it and tell us the wine you were sold, how much you paid and what you thought of it. Share your experience with our readers so that we can all live vicariously through your experience, and then enjoy ours.
I started with a bottle of 2004 Veramonte Primus from Chile. It is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Carmenere. We are drinking it on Sat. and I will post on Sunday.

Happy Drinking and Learning..........

Sunday, October 21, 2007

It's Been A Busy Week!!! Lots Of Drinking Too!

Wow! Where did that week go??? It was just Tuesday when I wrote the last segment of Oenophobia and so much has taken place since then. Here's a recap of my interesting week, followed by a drinking log:

1. I sent an email to Gary Vaynerchuk of the Wine Library to introduce him to Fear of Wine and also to let him read the post. On Thursday, I got an email back from him stating how happy he was with the post and that he liked what he saw. I extended back an invite to come drink some of the smaller, interesting wines I am encountering and although I haven't heard back from him yet, I'm sure we'll be Bringing The Thunder to Tinton Falls. Again, if you haven't taken 10 minutes from your day to see any of the WLTV episodes or to check Gary and Conan O'Brien, you HAVE to do it. You will laugh like crazy, because the two of them play off each other perfectly. Actually, here's a link: Gary V. on Conan.

2. I also received an email from Cameron Hughes of Cameron Hughes Wine ( Cameron also read the post about his company on Oenophobia. He was very complimentary about my writeup of his company and his business model. He told me that the 2005 Barrossa Valley Shiraz is even better than the wine that went into Lot 38 which we drank last week and LOVED. So check out his site and register to be informed when new Lot series have been added. Of course I will keep you all informed as well, because I believe Cameron and his team have the ability to introduce us all to great wines in a more approachable manner. Oh, and Cameron was so pleased with the writeup, he put a link on his homepage stating that "Oenophobia Gives It's Two Cents...." with a direct link to our Blog right there on the homepage.....NICE!

3. Wendy and I decided to drink a little this week, so check out the Tasting Notes on the right side of the Blog. Some of our favorites have made their way to the tasting table. On the topic of tastings, you might look at the notes and notice that I haven't drank anything I didn't like in the past few weeks. The reason for that, is that I usually try a wine before I buy it, at the Tinton Falls Buy-Rite. Kevin is mostly the conduit for my tasting experiences. I'm going to start suggesting that we try some things that are new to us for the experience and opportunity to tell you when something is NOT GOOD. There are WAY too many good wines in the world to have to make a mistake and drink a wine that is not good. That is really why I think people FEAR WINE. They go towards something that is safe, if not very tasty, to avoid the risk of buying something really awful for more money than they wanted to spend. I'm hoping to introduce you to wines that will save you the trouble and FEAR when you walk into your favorite wine shop. All of the wines I drink and tout here on the Blog are readily available, unless noted.

4. Cynthus - I got an email from the James Murphy of the winery that makes the Cynthus Cabernet. He emailed me to tell me who distributes his wines in NJ. It is a company that Kevin deals with, but they have never introduced him to the wine, and he has never had it at a distributor's tasting. More details come forward about Cynthus and I thank James for the details. Seems they only make 320 cases of the Cynthus with grapes grown at the famous Stagecoach Vineyard in Napa. Stagecoach is a vineyard that supplies grapes to some of the best names in wine, names like Altamura, Pahlmeyer, Quintessa and Paul Hobbs. These winemakers select Stagecoach due to their attention to detail and their ability to get the very best out of the vines and into the hands of the winemakers. So Cynthus is now on its way to me. I bought a case because it is so good! I can't wait until Friday when it comes in.

5. Friday Night Wines - This past Friday I stopped in to hang with Kevin and drink some wine with him. It was his birthday this week. and I haven't gotten sotted with him since we were in NYC a month ago. I had stopped in the store last weekend to order Cynthus Cabernet and he told me it would be in the store on Friday night. Kevin had not had Cynthus, so I grabbed a bottle from my case and opened it out back. We started evaluating the wine with Steve B., who is a regular, a good friend of Kevin's, and one of the most SOLID GUYS you will meet! Steve's been a guest at a few tastings here at our house, and he always adds to the experience. Steve also has been a collector and has experience with some of the best wines in the world. Anyway, the latest copy of Wine Spectator is open in the back of the store, and we start poring over the issue's evaluations of wines. We are shocked at some of the scoring, and I will dedicate a complete future post to the issue. But as we are discussing how ridiculous some of the scoring is, Kevin opens a bottle of 2005 Caymus Cabernet - $50, and both Steve and I raise eyebrows.... We look up the Caymus on the list of Wine Spectator's top Cabs. and the 2005 is not yet reviewed, but the 2004 gets a 92 pt score. For those of you who drink wine, you've heard of Caymus, the product of the Waggoner family. They make a wine that is ALWAYS highly reviewed, and their version of "cult wine" is the Special Selection, made from the best barrels from their yield. The wine we drink is EXCEPTIONAL. I have had both Caymus Cab and Special Selection. The Camus Cab has been up and down in my opinion, with a lack of consistency from year to year. This wine, however, is one of the best wines I have ever had. The wine is young, 2005 vintage. However, it is an amazingly developed and flavorful wine, I would not feel obligated to cellar it for years. Kevin and Steve agree, and Kevin predicts a 94 from Spectator for the 2005 vintage, and a 96 for the Special Selection. I loved the wine and that one tasting has completely changed my opinion of Caymus. The bottles I have had were just ok, and I have one bottle of 2003 sitting in my bar that Wendy and I will get after this week, just to compare to the 2005 vintage. Keep posted to those Tasting Notes.

6. Saturday night we went to celebrate the 4oth birthday of two very good friends... Happy Birthday David and Stephen! At the party, I made conversation with several people about wine. One of them is a very astute collector of wines another is the father of this astute collector who told me about his personal quest to overcome his FEAR OF WINE. During the conversations with them and others, several names of wines were thrown out to me to see if I have had the wines. In most cases, I hadn't, but wanted to taste them and review them for you here. SO this is a call to EACH OF YOU WHO READS THIS: send a message via the Guestbook or at the end of this post. Tell us your FAVORITE wine and I will get it and review it here. Any other guests or members of the Blog can do the same, and then we can compare tasting notes with each other. I'd like the blog to be more interactive, and your participation is appreciated!!!

Please feel free to forward this to your friends who like to drink wine. And if you are reading the blog and enjoy it, make sure to subscribe to it, and all new posts will be emailed DIRECTLY to your email address each time I post. How easy is that????

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Do YOU know Gary Vaynerchuk????

If you have, until now, avoided Gary Vaynerchuk, you must not be paying attention. Who is Gary Vaynerchuk? He is a wine expert....a nutty, and extremely knowledgeable, young wine expert. I haven't seen his CV, and I don't know his formal education but he's been drinking wine long before he was legal. His dad owned a liquor store in Springfield, NJ and Gary learned about wine from his Dad and from the sales guys, wine reps, winery owners and others who came to their store when Gary was cutting his teeth in the biz. He tasted 1st growth Bordeaux and Old Vine Zinfandels and Riojas and developed an amazingly accurate palate. There is some debate in the wine world where some people will claim that a palate is as individual as the person who is tasting. However, an accurate palate is one that can discern good from bad or complex from one-dimensional. An accurate palate also can discern wines it has tasted before and can identify wines already tasted. Gary Vaynerchuk has an accurate palate.

Anyway, back to Gary V. as he is known. Gary started buying the wines for Wine Library about 10 years or so ago, and he also started selling the wines and getting a reputation for his recommendations. He is the Director of Operations at the family shop, The Wine Library on Morris Ave. in Springfield, NJ. Being a man of not-so-many years, he is a technophile and wanted to expand his reach to customers across the country. How did he do it???? He and some friends started a video blog about wine called: Wine Library TV. In WLTV, Gary sets up in an in-house studio with some wines and he pours and tastes and gives his impressions. Gary's about 32 years old and has some great Gen-Y references and uses them sometimes to express himself and describe the wines he is drinking. His references will crack you up, as will his delivery. Gary is nuts, to put is simply. But he's a lovable lunkhead who has something to say and we listen to him because, he is usually.......DEAD ON. I listened to an episode of WLTV where he tasted four 94+ pt. cult wines (I had also tried three of the four he tried) and he hit the nail on the head, even taking a shot at the one who has more reputation than taste. He still carries the wine, he just doesn't agree with the "experts" all the time. He is also a burgeoning mass-media star, having gone mainstream with a memorable appearance on Conan O'brien's late night show this past August. Go to and search for Gary Vaynerchuk and Conan and you will laugh your ass off! Gary's episodes of WLTV can be downloaded from the website, saved as podcasts on iTunes or watched online. Any way you get to see Gary V. do his thing, you will be more informed, more educated, perfectly entertained and more enthused about wine. He ends each podcast with the phrase, "Because YOU, with a little bit of ME, we're changing the wine world." His followers are called Vayniacs and they have their own T-shirts, wristbands and they throw around phrases like, "Oak Monster", "Bringin' the Thunder", "Old World vs. New World", "10 Bones, U.S." (which is a reference to the cost of a wine) and many, many, MANY NY Jets references as Gary is a HUGE J-E-T-S fan!

Do yourself a favor and get to and check out a few episodes. You will be hooked on Gary's enthusiasm and desire to change the wine world. His website HAS changed the wine industry. He makes available, each wine he tastes, as well as thousands in the warehouse and retail store on his website. Internet sales make up over 40% of his company's business, and that is a claim almost NONE of his competitors could have dreamed about in the past. Internet Sales for WINE??? How could people buy a bottle without looking at it, hefting it in the store to read the label and ask the salesperson about it, or read a shelf-talker??? Well, Gary's done it by an equal measure of salesmanship, hucksterism and solid, honest information. On WLTV, he'll tell you if a wine tastes bad and he won't be shy about it. He's changed the wine industry because he decided that snobby wine sommeliers and so-called "experts" and collectors...all not-so-affectionately referred to as WineSnobs, all thought they knew more about wine than some guy who loves to drink it and talk about it and tell his friends about it. He may have even inspired someone to decide to write a blog about wine, to share what he is drinking, what he is getting exposed to and learning and ......oh crap! I'm a Vanyniac!

Its true. I love the episodes. Can't wait to meet this guy and drink some wine with him. I've looked around at the recent industry events I've gone to...but to no avail. He wasn't there at Winebow, Not at Michael Skurnik, not even at T. Edward. He's elusive. He's on my computer, or traveling the world or even hosting some Vayniacs at a recent trip to Napa to sample some early releases and see the production side of the industry. You know where he's not???? He's not hanging in my bar at home, drinking some wines that BRING THE THUNDER with my loyal cadre of winos who taste blind with me and have a blast doing it. If it happens that Gary V. stops by here in Tinton, my friends, will be the 1st to know! Until then, check out the site and prepare to be educated and entertained.

Oh, by the way. His prices are: IN-SANE!!!! (A little 1980's marketing reference for ya Gary, cause you're not so far off!)