By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at 12:45 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

It’s good when a wine man comes calling. A long-time friend from California wine country showed up this week with, among other things, a bottle of 2010 Myriad Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain.

Had he not made it known to me, I might never have heard of it, because Myriad distributes only by direct shipping and through California restaurants. It is produced by a young couple who learned their craft by working with some of Napa’s most prestigious wine people and who source many of their grapes from some of the Valley’s best known vineyards. Mike Smith sums up his wine-making philosophy quite simply: “Sometimes success is as simple as hearing your inner voice.”

His inner voice caused him to blend this Myriad from appellations in  Rutherford, Calistoga, St. Helena, as well as Spring Mountain to bring forth a Cabernet perfectly integrated with tannins and acidity, emitting a shiny ruby color, and releasing what he calls a “forever” finish. The 2010 Myriad I just attempted to describe is sold out, but the estate’s 2013 single vineyard Cabernets and Syrahs will be shipping during the first week of November, weather permitting.

Myriad, of course, is Greek for “Ten Thousand” or more frequently “Countless,” so I pass along a myriad thanks to my friend. You can find information about the wines and the Smiths at or reach them directly at They are worth knowing about. A myriad thanks to my friend.


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By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Saturday, October 3, 2015 at 5:29 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

Though I cut my wine teeth in Germany as a G.I. in the Occupation Army, my palate over the years gravitated to France and Italy, not without reason but also without ever losing my loyalty to German wines. I can also point to a couple of decades of life in Germany establishing friendships with many German producers and a continuing taste for specific wines. For a time in the 1970s, I, along with a great many others in my wine circle, were finding the wines from different German regions starting to taste more and more alike, losing some of the identity that we had come to appreciate.

As Germans felt the full effects of post WWII recovery and started vacationing along the beaches of Spain, Italy, and France in the 1960s and 70s, they re-discovered the joy of wine at meals, especially red wine, and market share of their home-produced wines dropped dramatically. To counter the trend, growers began vinifying increasing numbers of grapes that ripened more rapidly than their traditional king Riesling, and German laws began to prescribe just how wine should be made, causing vintners to joke about becoming chemists instead of wine makers. More and more wines were coming to market as sweet or half dry in an effort to attract younger consumers and to set themselves apart from the rest of Europe.

While those missteps have been largely corrected, our U.S. importers still insist on stocking the sweeter German wines, mostly from the spectacular Mosel River Valley and neglecting almost entirely the wines of Baden and Franken and bringing in only a few from Rheingau. I hasten to add that the Mosel wines are elegant, pleasing on the palate, and generally light bodied, but they do not represent the range of wines from Germany.

I thought much about this recently when I came across some bottles of Riesling from Schloss Vollrads, considered by some the oldest winery not only in Germany but quite possibly anywhere. The Vollrads Castle overlooking the Rhine not far from Wiesbaden is the ancestral home of the Greifenclau Barons who began producing wine commercially in the 13th century. Vollrads, in spite of all the changes in grape production in the Federal Republic, remained always true to the Riesling, the Rheingau’s signature grape. The family ownership ended in 1997 with the death of Count Ernwein, but his spirit lives on in the steely, crisp Rieslings, today made from updated equipment in a tastefully modernized thousand-year-old winery.

My wife and I were privileged to know Count Ernwein and to host him in our home and he us in his ancient castle, where we occasionally dined in a room from which it is said Charlemagne stood when he pointed out where the first snows melted in the spring and suggested that the Greiffenclaus plant vines there.  For some 800 years the Vollrads wines have been ranked among the most prestigious in Europe, but I seldom see them in our retail stores. And when I do, I take advantage of them. They are not inexpensive but not real budget busters either. Depending on the vintage and the specific Vollrads vineyard of origin, they will run from $25 to $35 a bottle.  Zum Wohl!

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By Maria McKinley   |   Wednesday, September 30, 2015 at 11:25 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

Much is being discussed in the wine literature on what’s trending for fall, 2015. Both the Wall Street Journal and Wine Spectator magazine are talking about the cabernet franc grape. Cab franc is often used in a meritage with cabernet sauvignon and merlot but, according to Lettie Teague of the WSJ, when the grape comes from the Loire Valley, “it rates a starring role.” The cab franc grape is lighter in color and taste (less tannic) when compared with cab sauvignon and is often thought of as its “sister.” In reality, the cab franc is the parent of cab sauvignon after DNA testing revealed the cab sauvignon was a cross between a cab franc and a sauvignon blanc. A cab franc is a good choice when transitioning your wine palate from summer to fall.

Last month, the Daily Mail newspaper in the U.K. reported the drought and hot weather in France will likely result in lower harvest and production in some areas this fall. Most affected are the regions of Burgundy, Beaujolais, and Champagne. The price of wine from these areas may rise due to the decrease in quantity of wine production. However, wines produced during seasons of drought are often of higher quality. Claude Chevalier, President of the Burgundy Wine Trade Body, says, “We have an excellent year… This 2015 vintage will, in my mind, enter the annals of history.”

Starbucks began serving wine and beer in August from approximately 70 locations in the U.S., none currently in Indiana. The company has plans to add another 2,000 stores within the next five years. These coffeehouses are designed to be more upscale and trendy than their usual coffee shop. Called “Starbucks Evenings,” the alcoholic beverages and small plates are served beginning at 4 pm. Menus and pricing vary by region but a peek at the online menu offers 11 wines – - one sparkling wine, a pinot gris, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, moscato, a pinot noir, malbec, cabernet sauvignon, and two red blends. Six wines are from the U.S., two from Italy, and one each from New Zealand and Argentina. While the wine list is not extraordinary, the selections are from recognizable vineyards that are above decent. Online reviews of the small plates, however, are less than stellar. Wine is sold by the glass or bottle.

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