For some, Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they see only once a year and then decide once a year is way too often. For others, it is a day of relaxation and feasting with people they love. If you are hosting the big day and stressing about wine, here are a few simple suggestions.
The Wine Institute’s consumer website, www.DiscoverCaliforniaWines.com is a good resource for wine lovers. The site offers information on California’s wine regions with maps, a winery finder and calendar of events in the state and around the world, wine and food pairings, seasonal recipes and more. The Institute recently translated the website for its top export markets, including the European Union’s 28 member countries, accounting for $617 million in annual sales; followed by Canada, $454 million; Japan, $102 million; Hong Kong, $78 million; China, $77 million; Mexico, $22 million and South Korea, $18 million.
One of the most common mistakes people make when tasting wine is to confuse the fruitiness of a wine with sweetness. Sweetness in wine means only one thing; the amount of sugar left in the juice after the fermentation stops. It is referred to as residual sugar or R.S. When tasting wine, your tongue really can only taste sweet (sugar), sour (acids) and bitter (tannins). Fruitiness is the tendency of wine to taste and smell of fruit. When the fruit is sweet, like cherries or plums, tasters often mistake the fruitiness for sweetness.
In my last column I mentioned the wineries along Route 116 and the great deals available for wine tasters (if you missed the column you can find it online). Visiting wine country has become very exclusive and expensive and it really shouldn’t be. No, I’m not against reasonable tasting fees and of course they should be waived with purchase. That said, here are some smart wine deals that I’ve discovered and hopefully they’ll keep you going back to the wine country.
I have finally found a solution to my “Novinophobia,” a condition manifested by a fear of running out of wine. Two Target Wine Cubes now fit neatly on the top shelf of my garage refrigerator, once occupied by a bowl of moldy chili beans and a half-empty jar of pickled something.
In the 1970s, one of the best-selling white wines was Charles Krug Chenin Blanc. It was so popular it sold out every year and had to be allocated to restaurants. In 1996, the winery quit producing it. . What happened? The 1976 Paris Tasting made chardonnay the new white wine star; a new sweet white zinfandel hit the streets; and the rapidly growing wine industry pushed chenin blanc to the lowest shelf . Fortunately, there are a few wineries out there who still believe in the noble grape from the Loire region of France.
In the seven years of writing this column, I have witnessed an amazing increase in the number of wine-tasting rooms springing up. I’ve written about the urban wine trail in Santa Barbara, the Surf City winemakers of Santa Cruz, the nearly two dozen tasting rooms in Murphys and the easy strolls through towns like Paso Robles, Lodi, Sonoma and Carmel. Here’s another one to add to the list: Sutter Creek.
Boxed wines sales are up. Just visit the wine wall in your local supermarket and count the number of boxed wine brands available. The reason is simple. Wine drinkers have discovered the wine in the box today is not at all like the sweet-blush-swill they drank in the 1980s. Over the past five years, the quality of the wine put into boxes has increased dramatically.
The Wine Institute has released a new book called “Down to Earth: A Seasonal Tour of Sustainable Winegrowing in California.” Fifteen vintners and growers are profiled throughout the year as they follow the guidelines of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.
One of the first wineries the Navigator and I visited in the early 1970s was Buena Vista. The ivy-covered stone buildings were beautiful and the shade from huge eucalyptus trees provided the perfect picnic spot.
In the Jan. 22 Wine Line, I listed five rules that help me keep this column consumer friendly. I received several comments from readers who agreed that wine should be fun. Here are a few of those reader comments.
On a recent trip to Bakersfield, we decided we needed an ocean fix. We headed to Morro Bay. When we arrived, we discovered the sky was blue and the air was fresh, a real treat. Remember how yucky the San Joaquin Valley was in December and January? Morro Bay was the perfect antidote: blue sky, clean air, great seafood and (of course) wine. There are seven winery/tasting rooms on the Pacific Coast from Cayucos to San Simeon. Tasting fees are $5 and refunded upon purchase. If interested, check www.pacificcoastwine
The biggest story of 2013 was the harvest. The vintage was perfect, maybe even better than the excellent 2012 harvest. The Wine Institute praised the harvest in a recent press release, stating that winemakers throughout California reported outstanding quality and yield. Make a mental note to self: 2012 and 2013, yum.