Permalink 07:01:04 pm by main, Categories: Ben Bicais

Link: http://officialwinery.com/winestore

Author: Ben Bicais

Chardonnay has emerged as the premier white wine in California. Originating from Burgundy, France, the Chardonnay grape has enabled vintners from the Golden State to produce opulent white wines with crisp, bold flavors. A well made Chardonnay can be enjoyed in a wide array of situations; from celebrations to a quiet night in front of the fire.

Although the best known Napa wine is Cabernet Sauvignon, the Chardonnay is nipping at its heels. White wine has long been thought of as the boring counterpart of the strong, awe-inspiring red, but premium Chardonnay producers have put this stereotype to sleep.

Thankfully, the preferences of the individual wine consumer have progressed to encompass a larger range of styles and flavors. This change can be attributed to the progression of winemaking and innovative farming techniques. The use of malolactic fermentation has enabled vintners to give their wines buttery, creamy flavors.

The importance of the winemaker cannot be understated, but great wines are made in the vineyard. Because of the complexity of viticulture, there are an enormous number of variables that influence the vine, and consequently the grape. When these conditions are right, grapes can be grown with unmatched flavor.

Understanding which regions are best suited to produce the different varietals is the first step in choosing a great wine. In general, the best Chardonnay wines are produced from regions with long moderate days and cool nights. They prefer rich alluvial soils and access to a consistent water source.

Just as Oakville and Rutherford are synonymous with premium quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Carneros is unmatched in the Napa Valley as far as Chardonnay production goes. Carneros is the southernmost AVA of the Napa Valley. Its day time temperature is moderated by fog from the nearby San Pablo Bay. Additionally, because Carneros is not protected by the Mayacamas mountain range, their vineyards are heavily affected by the winds that sweep through the valley.

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Permalink 12:28:42 pm by main, Categories: Ben Bicais

Author: Ben Bicais

Over the past few decades, the Napa Valley has become synonymous with award winning Cabernet Sauvignon. Originating from the Bordeaux region in France, Cabernet Sauvignon is truly wine’s ambassador to the world. Now in the annals of wine history, this varietal put the Napa Valley on the map in the 1976 Paris Tasting.

Cab vines makeup the majority of acreage in the Napa Valley. But the diversity of soil and climate in Napa County allows for the production of almost every grape varietal. These subtle differences in microclimate and geology were the focal point of splitting Napa County up into different sub-appellations or American Viticulture Areas (AVAs).

There are fourteen AVAs in Napa, and each one grows a different mix of varietals. For example, the coastal marine influence of the San Pablo Bay makes the Carneros AVA perfectly suited for growing Pinot Noir, which thrives in cool, windy areas. Consequently, Carneros’ Acacia Winery produces exceptional Pinot Noirs, competing with some of the world’s best.

Napa’s best, however, is Cabernet Sauvignon. Because this varietal can grow in a wide array of climates and soils, every AVA in Napa boasts Cab of their own. But there is a select set of conditions which makes for world class examples of the grape. These include long, sunny days in warm climates, in conjunction with porous, well draining soils.

Having perfect growing conditions does not ensure premium quality fruit. Because they grow easily in various conditions, Cab vines can give vineyard managers fits with their sometimes wild growth. Therefore, canopy management is critical to the ripening of the grapes. Many Napa Valley vineyards have developed innovative techniques to deal with this problem, yielding grapes with unmatched flavor and intensity.

It is then in the winemakers hands to turn this tannic berry into the opulent nectar of the gods. Until recently in California, Cabernet production was primarily a single varietal wine.

Because of the high pip to pulp ratio of the Cab berry, they can have very high tannin concentrations. The result is that many single varietal Cabs are harsh in their youth. Napa vintners are recognizing this setback and beginning to blend the grape with other Bordeaux varietals to not round out its strong flavors, but also to add complexity.

One of the first vintners to use this innovative technique was Inglenook's John Daniel Jr. Daniel Jr. is one of the most influential figures in Napa's viticultural history, and is considered by many as the godfather of the Napa Valley Cabernet. Inglenook's 1941 vintage is regarded by many as the best wine ever produced in the Napa Valley.

It was not until 1976, however, that the Napa Valley Cab received world wide recognition. Warren Winairski’s Stags Leap Wine Cellars 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon won top prize at the 1976 Paris Tasting. This came as a surprise to everyone; Winairski’s Cab beat some of the best producers in Bordeaux.

This upset is now known as the vinous "shot heard round the world," and catapulted Stags Leap as well as the entire Napa Valley. Since this event, the Stags Leap AVA has been producing world class Cabs with enviable consistency.

The crème de la crème of Stags Leap also includes Shafer Vineyards. The key to their success is the rocky hillside that is home to their vineyard. This rocky soil translates into a small quantity of grapes with intense favor and complexity. The Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon is regarded by many to be the best Cab in California, and is the definition of a cult wine.

The Hillside Select is like the White Rhino; you know it exists but have never actually seen it. Unfortunately, this is characteristic of many of the most exclusive wines from Napa. A Cab that has received international acclaim and is readily available at your local grocery store is Mondavi’s Opus One.

Opus One is one of the best wines produced in the famed Oakville AVA. Due to Oakville’s unique soils and warm climate, the Cabernet Sauvignon grape vine thrives in the AVA. Because of this, the region has attracted some of the best vintners in the world. There are also several other excellent wineries from Oakville which produce award winning Cabs. Paradigm Winery, Rudd Winery and Silver Oak Winery are among the industry leaders.

Just north of Oakville, you will find another region that is famous for Cab. The Rutherford AVA may be even better known than Oakville, and has surged to the forefront of the California Cab industry.

Because Rutherford is slightly North of Oakville, it is affected less by the coastal influence of the San Pablo Bay. Warm temperatures dry and heat the ground, which leads to riper grapes with more developed tannins. Cabs from Rutherford tend to be more complex than those from Oakville, but need to be aged longer because of their tannic nature.

Caymus Vineyards is located in Rutherford and has been producing Cab since their inception in 1973. Their 1990 Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon was declared, "Wine of the Year," by Wine Spectator. Not long after receiving this award, they were given the title of, "The Best Winery for Cabernet Sauvignon in California."

Whether Caymus is the best Cab producing winery in California is a matter of opinion, but it is fact that the Napa Valley is California’s epicenter for Cabernet Sauvignon. This delectable red has changed the way the world views California wine, and anyone who has experienced one can attest to its brilliance.

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Permalink 02:51:19 pm by main, Categories: Ben Bicais

Link: http://officialwinery.com/articles/winecolumnists.html

Author: by Ben Bicais
Correct wine etiquette makes the tasting experience much more enjoyable. Like most interests, there is a set of protocol that most wine lovers adhere to. Good taste dictates that tasting at wineries, ordering wine at restaurants, and hosting a dinner party all require certain formalities.

Tasting Room Etiquette

In a winery's tasting room, white wines are generally tasted first, followed by reds, and then dessert wines. Within these categories, lighter-bodied wines precede fuller-bodied ones. Water and crackers may be offered to cleanse the palate between each wine. Correct wine etiquette does not dictate that you must finish every glass. Winery tasting rooms provide jars to dispose of excess wine. Do not feel that you need to sample every wine offered- taste what appeals to you.

If you ask for a second tasting of a particular wine, it is in good taste to buy a bottle. Many wineries charge tasting fees which are generally applied to any purchase. It is not mandatory that you buy wine; purchase only what you desire. That being said, if you have made an appointment at a small winery, it is in good taste to make a purchase. Proper wine etiquette dictates that you not bring children to a tasting room.

General Restaurant Wine Etiquette

Wine service at a nice restaurant can be an unnecessarily difficult ordeal. The following tips will allow you to follow the customs of wine service with ease and confidence.

When choosing a wine from a restaurant's wine list, the main goal is to accomplish a suitable pairing with the entrees of your party. If the food orders are too different to generalize with one wine, consider purchasing splits or ordering by the glass. Waiters and sommeliers are there to answer your questions, but availing yourself to their services and advice will be much more beneficial if your questions are relatively specific.

For example, don't ask the sommelier, "What goes well with a rack of lamb?" Rather, ask, "I'd like to balance the spiciness of the lamb with a full-bodied, Syrah-based Rhone. Do you have any favorites?" Your effort will be appreciated and service and interaction will be more seamless. I guarantee you will be more pleased with the outcome.

After ordering, the waiter/sommelier will retrieve your selection, and then present it, label forward, to the host of the party. This is merely to verify it is the correct wine. The cork is removed and placed on the table. Unless it is clearly tainted, (the waiter/sommelier should notice if it is) do not touch or smell it, as it means nothing.

A small amount will then be poured for the host. Swirl the wine in the glass, smell, then taste. This is to make sure the wine is not spoiled and proper wine etiquette dictates that this is not an opportunity to send back a sound wine that you are not crazy about. After approval, the wine will be poured clockwise to the right, ladies first. The host's glass will be topped last.

Corkage Etiquette

It is increasingly customary in many parts of the country for restaurants to extend corkage policies for patrons whom wish to bring their own wine. However, this is not the case everywhere, (especially on the East Coast), and proper wine etiquette dictates that several things should be kept in mind.

Always call the restaurant in advance to verify that corkage is allowed. Also ask what the fee is to avoid any surprises. In my experience, very few restaurants charge over $20 as a corkage fee. Some restaurants will waive this fee if an additional bottle is purchased from the wine list, but do not assume that this is always the case.

Wine brought to a restaurant should be relatively unique or rare, and definitely should not appear on the restaurant's wine list. After the waiter/sommelier opens and pours the contents, proper wine etiquette dictates that you offer them a taste. Following these guidelines will ensure that both you and the restaurant staff are happy.

The Duty of the Host at Dinner Parties

The duty of the host toward his/her guests is one of the most ancient and enduring forms of etiquette in human civilization. When serving wine, making sure that your guests are comfortable with the process should be your paramount concern.

Before serving, always allow wine time to breathe at room temperature. Never pour wine for guests immediately after opening. It is the host's responsibility to discreetly ensure that the wine is sound and unspoiled. This should be done away from company, and a small amount should be sampled.

Always serve wine to your guests in clean, spotless glasses. This may seem obvious, but it is a very mistake. Additionally, if more than one wine is served, make sure that they are poured in a logical progression.

Especially with older wines, be aware that there may be a significant amount of sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Keep this in mind when deciding the portion given to each guest. Avoid the embarrassing instance of the last person receiving an unacceptable amount of solids in their glass. If this is a concern with a particular bottle, refrain from pouring the last half glass.

It may be necessary or beneficial to decant a wine to either remove sediment or to expose it to oxygen. Be cautious with this practice, as older wines may quickly fade if left in a decanter for too long.

Wine enjoyment should be an enjoyable and unintimidating process. With these tips in mind, you are prepared for the majority of social situations that involve wine.

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Ben Bicais:
Founder of "http://Calwineries.com". He grew up in the Napa Valley and has developed an interest in wine and food over the years. He hope you find my articles useful and would love to hear any feedback that you may have. email:ben@calwineries.com



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