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September 2008

Wine of the month for September is Blackjack Ranch 2004 Harmonie. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. An outstanding blend and a bargain dollar for dollar. The Blackjack website describes it as being dramatically underpriced. The notes state it will drink well for the next 10-20 years. On the Blackjack ranch website the 2004 Harmonie is priced at $35.00, however, I purchased it locally a bit less. The wine was aged in 100% French oak or as the notes state, ‘French oak all the way”. These bordeaux style blends of Harmonie wine have all scored 90+ points from Robert Parker. The 2004 is not yet rated. Previous blends are selling for up to $100.00 per bottle. Funny how a good rating can play a part in the price. Anyway, another interesting tidbit about Blackjack Ranch winery is that it was featured in the movie Sideways. It was the second winery of six that Jack and Miles visited. Pick up a bottle today!

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Napa Harvest

I’m back…I know it has been quite a while, sorry I just decided to take the rest of the summer off after our great trip. I did as promised finish this years Napa report, so give me a break. As summer rapidly comes to an end I will tell you it was great, although it did seem to pass by quickly. Much went on from the marriage of my youngest son, to the big engagement party for my older son who will marry next year. Not to mention all the barbecues and weekend parties, as you can see we were pretty busy. Now the fall season begins with nice cooler weather, fantastic fall smells in the air and harvest. Yes, Napa harvest has begun with the early white grapes like Sauvignon Blanc already coming in. The early reds will be next with the big bold Cabernets left for as much hang time as possible depending on the weather as well as the brix of the grape. Some Napa growers were picking Cabernet grapes in the middle of October last year. While harvest is hectic for the vineyard workers and owners, it is also a special time to visit Napa. The pace of the entire valley picks up, anticipation is in the air, harvest parties are a regular event. Just a fun time if you can tolerate the crowds.
If you can go visit the valley in the next few weeks and witness it for yourself, go for it, if not stop back we will try to update you on the progress. In the mean time I am going to say a little prayer that the extreme weather conditions this past year have not hurt the grapes and another fantastic vintage will be born.

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The world of wine

I feel like I say this so often in Wine Babble, but the world of wine is huge. It is so big that the average consumer could never learn as much as they would like to know, or try as many wines as they’d like to. I think you would have to have a job in the wine industry in order to call yourself an expert. I was just thinking about how many wines in the Napa Valley when we visit that are winery exlcusive, combine that with that amount of wines you can purchase at the local wine shop and it is amazing. I am also finding recently a lot of wines not previously distributed, or hard to find are showing up in more stores. Frank Family is a good example of that. When we first visited Napa you could not purchase it anywhere in NJ. We were able to get some through Liquor Outlet in Boonton, NJ and now I recently noticed it on another retailers shelf. I then wonder to myself, are they producing more in order to be distributing to more locations? Will the wine be as good? Gosh, the magic could be gone because it isn’t special anymore, everyone can buy it. I think not, I still love the wine and it is just as good as ever. My other thought is forget the tiny portion of the wine world I am looking at in my local wine shop, how about all the other states and countries producing wine that just have a small spot on the shelf. In other areas of the country and world the wines I am looking at are just a small spot on thier shelf. Just allow your mind to wander a minute and realize just how really big it is. It is a bit overwhelming. I once considered myself to know a thing or two about wine, but I am really just a newbie with a lot more to experience. I hope to continue sharing my love of wine and what I learn with you. Stay tuned. I know I always talk about California wine, but I was recently given a bottle from a Delaware winery, Nassau Valley Vineyards produced from the Chambourcin grape. I will let you know next time I write what I think of it, and continue to work at expanding my knowledge of the never ending world of wine.

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The Fall season

The end of another great summer, yes, the fall season has arrived. Not officially though, that occurs on September 22nd, yet the return to school and college always tends to announce the end of summer. The weather may not agree with my thoughts as hot humid days are still upon us, but there is a feeling of finality to summer when the new school year begins.
As I get older, I love the fall season almost as much as I do the summer. We love sitting outside on cool nights by our fireplace listening to sounds and enjoy the crisp smells that fall has to offer. We live close to our local high school and many evenings we are serenaded by the school marching band practice. Football is another favorite and we have a television set up to view from the patio by our fireplace, what more can you ask for….. some good wine? Everything just tends to slow down a little from the hectic summer schedule of vacations, barbeques, yard work and such. Fall is really a time to relax and enjoy the outdoors. It is also harvest season and as wine lovers we always look forward to and anticipate the arrival of a new vintage. Although we enjoy a lot of different wines our hearts are really with the Napa Valley wines and this year I find myself wondering what the 2008 vintage will bring. After all this was a really troubling year for the Napa area weather wise. Remember back to early spring, Napa experienced some of the worst frost since back in 1972. Some growers lost their entire crops while others lost a high percentage. Most agree now that the overall crop will likely be down about 10 percent. A very hot summer arrived, with very little rainfall, not at all good growing conditions. Many vineyards had water shortages and had to truck in water. From what I have read some growers and wine makers are optimistic that the lower yield caused by frost will actually be a good thing. Lower production and smaller berry clusters could lead to exceptional wines. No one will really know until the finished product is ready. The other unknown is the effect of the many wild fires in the area this summer which caused heavy smoke and soot conditions. This may have affected the grapes negatively, or a positive spin by some is that the invisible cover of soot over the vines may have protected them from harsh conditions and diffused scorching sun. I guess we can only sit back and wait for the 2008 vintage reports. I am sure there are some very concerned winemakers in the Napa Valley this year praying for the best.

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The NFL and Wine

The October issue of Wine Spectator magazine has a short article in the UpFront column reporting a new wine label to be released by Green Bay Packers corner-back Charles Woodson. Normally an article like this would not surprise me, another sports star with money and a love of wine decides to get involved in the wine industry, why not? His label, Twenty Four, a Napa Valley Stags Leap Cabernet will be released this November. The surprising part is an NFL rule passed by Commissioner Roger Goodell that forbids players from endorsing alcoholic beverages. The article states Woodson gave an interview at the release party for his wine and the league offices notified him he is not allowed to promote the wine in any way. Now, I love the NFL and spend most Sundays glued to the TV watching football, yet this policy bothers me. Is this hypocrisy on the part of the NFL? Anyone who watches NFL games on a regular basis knows that a large part of their advertising promotes beer and parties like tailgating which involves drinking alcohol. There are even commercials airing now that have ex coaches promoting beer. Yet a player who loves wine starts a wine label, a legitimate business, and he is banned from supporting it? Very perplexing to say the least. My personal opinion is it sounds like do as I say, not as I do.
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Bottle Shock

On a rainy Saturday this past weekend, we decided to hit the movies. Now, first let me begin by saying we have not been to a movie in years and what a change from the days of hard seats, sticky floors and small screens. We are probably one the last few in the world to experience stadium seating, so while we were still in awe of that we sat down in our extremely cushioned seats. I have to say it was quite nice. After settling in and watching some previews, the movie opened. Bottle Shock~in the heart of the Napa Valley. I think I heard my husband say he felt like he was home again looking at the panaromic view of the valley in the opening credits. If you are homesick for Napa it is a good movie to watch, it gives you the sense of being there again. The movie itself tells the story of the great 1976 Paris tasting where the California wines previously disregarded in the French wine world beat out some of the best French wines in a blind taste test. A 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay took first prize in the white category. The movie focuses mostly on Chateau Montelena and the making of the winning vintage. I do not want to go into too much detail about the movie and ruin it for you, but if you are a wine lover it is a must see. The movie offers some wine education, lots of beautiful vineyard scenes and some quirky comedy too.

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A new season

Well, Sunday started a new season of the NFL Sunday games and it brought quite a few unexpected wins for the day. It seems as though that is another indication of a new season, football brings fall even though the calendar still tells us it is summer until later on in September. Sunday was also a day for wine while watching the games. We missed some of the early games but sampled some great white wines while attending a late day party and catching the late afternoon games. As you know we are truly red wine fans who occasionally drink white, well, we decided with cool weather arriving we needed to drink some of the fantastic whites we have in the cellar. White wine typically does not store as long as most reds and we had shipped back some pretty big whites from Napa that we wanted to try again. I know with red wine you “graduate” from Pinot Noir to Merlot to Cabernet as each varietal usually gets a bit bolder, but a strange thing happened with the whites. The white wines we selected were all Chardonnay varietals, but each one was so uniquely different and while they were all outstanding in their own way we almost felt we drank them out of order as the first one seemed the biggest and boldest of all. Yes, I said boldest in describing a Chardonnay, almost beefy as in describing a Cabernet. Possibly we should have allowed this one to rest a bit longer in the cellar, but as I said all were outstanding. We sampled a Frank Family Reserve Chardonnay which was the first bold wine. The two others were a Bremer Family Chardonnay and a Regusci Chardonnay. We had so much fun picking out the flavors in the whites such as green apple, carmel apple, grass, grapefruit and others. I think mixing it up once in a while from what your favorite varietal is helps to keep the palate in check. If you are a white drinker, try some reds for a change and see if you can improve your senses and expand your palate.

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Wine Times

Although I love summer, fall is one of the most fantastic times of the year. Better than spring as it tends to be rainy and cooler in the spring. Fall features nice, warm, sunny days and cool nights. In the fall you can feel the warmth of the suns rays and still be cool enough that you can tolerate being outside without necessarily feeling the need to jump in the pool or run back into the airconditioning. I also love fall for it’s wine factor, thus my title “wine times”. I know I drink wine all summer long and actually throughout all of the seasons, but I am really looking forward to the cool fall nights when I can pour some of those big bold reds, sit outdoors with a light sweatshirt and smell the scents of the season. Somehow it makes the wine taste better than sitting inside the house with the air and fans running in order to drink the reds I am so fond of. I will miss the hot afternoons by the pool with a nice crisp white chilled to perfection, but the positives of the fall far out weigh the negatives. Besides I am not ruling out white altogether, I have become much more a fan of whites this year and will continue to drink them… just not on the cool nights by the fire!

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Fifty States of Wine

Just read a great article written by Joel Stein in the September 8th issue of Time Magazine. In the article Mr Stein relates how after finding out that all fifty U.S. states make wine, he set out to try a wine from each state “to see if, as I increasingly suspected, good wine can be made anywhere.” I don’t think I personally agree with that statement but Mr Stein does make some good points. One of which is how many wine regions have trouble gaining respect for their wines as the Europeans, and Californians of late push the fact that their vineyards sit on specific soils which give their wines distinctive flavors that can only come from that region. While I do agree with that belief, I also believe that good winemakers can make great wine in many other areas as well. One question not clearly answered in the article is how many of the fifty states are actually growing their own grapes, he does mention Alaska uses grapes from other states and that finding the right grapes for your region is key. However, there is no actual mention if the grapes selected for each state were grown within the state boundaries. That is a big factor in my mind. If using grapes from California can a winemaker in New Jersey make a great Cabernet? I would contend they can having tasted a few good ones, yet, can that same winemaker grow Cabernet grapes in New Jersey and make a good wine? I think not, but would love to be proved wrong. I hope someone does a take off on this article and researches just how many of the fifty states grow their own grapes, the type of grape, and an evaluation of the wines they made with those grapes.
Regardless the article makes for some good reading so I suggest you pick up a copy, he even personally rates wine from each state. You can also visit time.com/wine for reviews of all fifty wines and a video of a blind tasting.