Wine That Stands Up to Pesto

It’s officially summer. Unofficially, it’s basil season. Right now, I am overwhelmed with the stuff. Pictured to the left is one of my behemoth basil plants. Having a lot of basil isn’t exactly a problem, I admit. Who doesn’t love basil? But for wine lovers, basil can make for difficult pairings. This is one assertive herb, and you need a wine that isn’t going to clash with it, nor do you want your wine to disappear on the palate.

My usual go-to wine when strong green, herbal notes are part of a dish is Sauvignon Blanc. But New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are often quite citrusy, and US Sauvignon Blancs can be too melony and soft for basil. So I opened a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc–and it was perfect with my linguine tossed with homemade pesto and topped with some heirloom cherry tomatoes.

The 2011 Viña Carmen Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva (available for $13-$15 in the market) is made from grapes grown in the Leyda Valley. It has vibrant aromas of grass, gooseberry, and that uniquely weird smell of boxwood that I often

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The Real Reason Wine Bloggers Are Not Relevant To Advertisers

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Tim Elliott

Tim Elliott is a marketer, blogger and podcaster based in the Twin Cities. Since 2004 he has focused on the intersection between social media, mobile and wine. He has also written for Minneapolis City Pages, Vineyard Winery Management Magazine and Honest Cooking.

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Tyler wines and Chateau Your Name

tyler wines

The wines of Tyler winery get a thumbs up from me for the brilliance of the name alone–but also for what’s inside the bottle. I tasted a few of them recently at a trade tasting and was impressed with the lean, taut wines from a land known all too often for buxom chardonnay and pinot noir. (Check out this SF Chron article on some recent goings on in Sta. (!) Rita Hills.) Tasted blind, the balanced 2010 Tyler Chardonnay “Dierberg” would be difficult to place, with minerality not often associated with the Golden State, and a mouthfeel more Meursault than Marcassin. The 2010 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir exhibits a toothsome quality with red fruit and good acidity. The 2009 Pinot Noir “Dierberg” sees some whole cluster and has tingly tannins with appealing red fruit and a snap of acidity. I’ll be keeping an eye out for Justin Tyler Willett’s wines.

I joked with someone at the tasting that I was probably predisposed to like the wines because of the name since it’s also mine. He told me that he worked at a wine shop way back

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Is the fog of fraud dampening fine wine prices?

wine market fraud
The arrest of Rudy Kurniawan on March 8 coincided with the top in the fine wine market this year.

Even though Kurniawan–whose guilt or innocence on wine counterfeiting charges remains to be tried in federal court–was apprehended, wine fraud remains an easy crime: combine sky-high prices with an old collectible whose authenticity may be difficult to verify and willing buyers who may have more capital than wine know-how or may have little intention of ever opening the bottles anyway.

Wine counterfeiting has been around for decades and I’ve always been surprised that it doesn’t get priced in to the fine wine market (but wines sold directly from the producers do fetch a premium). Paul Chiu, a Burgundy fan in Hong Kong, tweeted to me the other day that there’s still surprisingly little discussion about counterfeiting there.

So, as the ArtInfo points out, the decline in the (young) Bordeaux index probably has more to do with shifting (more discriminating?) tastes to old wine and Burgundy since the broader Liv-Ex 100 has not fallen as sharply. “Lafite is out, and

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How big is that vineyard? Franzia/Bronco edition

bronco vineyard Two Buck Chuck turns ten this year.

We were reminded that Fred Franzia’s Bronco Wine Co. owns 40,000 acres of vines in the San Joaquin Valley, debt-free, which helps keep the wine price so low.

How big is a 40,000 acre vineyard? It’s about 50 times the size of Central Park, and, in fact, about three times the land area of Manhattan. So it must suck if you forget something at one end since there’s not even a subway in the Bronco vineyard.

“Evaluating the taste and cost of “Two-Buck Chuck”‘ []
“3 charged in pregnant farm worker’s death” [AP]
“Drink up: The rise of really cheap wine” []


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Bachelorettes, locavores and quality wine in America

The other day, I was speaking with someone who relayed a conversation that he had with a vintner in Temecula, an area with over 1,000 acres vineyards about an hour and a half from LA and San Diego. The guy asked the vintner why he didn’t try to make better wines. The vintner replied that he had a busload of bachelorettes coming through this weekend and one the weekend after that, implying he was already selling all his wine to locals more interested in quantity rather than quality.

It’s a problem that a lot of American wine regions confront: Long Island’s vineyards, Napa and Sonoma, the Willamette Valley, to name a few, are among all within a bachelorette bus ride from metropolitan areas. As a result, many wineries have policies banning buses and limos; free wine tastings are the rare exception, rather than the norm, in an attempt to push tourism away from quantity.

How to break out of the chug-a-lug trap and focus on quality? It’s a bit of a chicken and the egg problem: if there’s little local quality, then there’s mot much to support with your purchases; if there’s little financial reward, then there’s not going to be

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Commuter cuvee: vin de soif, American style

commuter cuvee

American wine under $15 is a difficult category. And domestic pinot can be downright dicey. And charity wines often sacrifice quality for the good of the cause.

So it was with skepticism that I tried the Grochau Cellars, “Commuter Cuvee” 2010 recently. Sold in Portland at $14 with 40 cents of each bottle going to a bicycle safety non-profit. It’s actually a gulpable pinot noir with good acidity and the bing cherry note often found in Oregon pinots. It glides in at 12.5% alcohol; if there’s a better pinot noir available in the US under $15, I have yet to try it.

I spoke with John Grochau about how he could offer a 100% pinot noir for a reasonable price. Grochau has cycled at a high level for about 20 years (he even won a race last year) but into the front-of-house in the restaurant business, which led him to make his own wine label, sourcing fruit from various sites around the state and making the wines in Portland. In 2010 he found a vineyard site with 22-year-old vines whose owner was suddenly looking to sell

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