By Maria McKinley   |   Thursday, May 19, 2016 at 8:37 am   |   Leave a Comment »

Have you heard the one about the brother-in-law? Brother-in-law and wife stop in for a weekend visit. The congregated family goes out for dinner and are talking about sharing a bottle of wine. I ask, “what type of wine do you like?” and he replies, “red.” With further discussion we order a Merlot which pairs nicely with our meal.

“What is it about white wine you don’t like?” he is asked. “I’ve never tried one I liked.” He doesn’t like the taste of oak or the sharp taste of grapefruit or green apple. Ah-ha! I’ve got one for him to try when we get back home. And just like Mikey from the Life cereal commercial, he liked it.

I did not serve brother-in-law a Chardonnay. Most Chardonnays are aged in oak barrels although you can find them unoaked. Climate changes in certain areas of California are affecting their methods of harvest and fermentation. Depending on the vineyard’s location, the chardonnay grape may need to spend more time in the barrel. For sure, I would not enjoy that end product. I can’t say I don’t like Chardonnay however, because I have come across some of the unoaked wines which I do enjoy.

By chance, I tried a bottle of Silver Chardonnay from the Mer Soleil Vineyard, Monterey County, California. It was a 2011 unoaked Chardonnay that came in a gray ceramic bottle (they still do). It was the bottle, sitting there on the shelf among all that glass, that caught my eye, and I liked the taste very much, although vintages since 2011 have not been as good, in my opinion. Without hesitation, a French white burgundy (chardonnay grape) will have the buttery taste of a Chardonnay but lack overwhelming oak. White burgundies are often overlooked but now you know!

I did not have an unoaked California Chardonnay nor a white burgundy in my fridge to serve brother-in-law that evening. But I did have a chilled bottle of a blend, 79% Sauvignon Blanc and 21% Semillon. Internet wine entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk says this blend goes together like peas and carrots. I suppose that’s a good thing, if you like peas and carrots. Brother-in-law went home and ordered a case of this white wine. Another satisfied recommendation.

» Back to Top «

By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Sunday, May 15, 2016 at 5:48 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

At a time when almost everything near and dear is under attack, I suppose it can only be expected that the venerable Champagne flute should also become a target. There are sommeliers and producers at the forefront of the attack, and, as one would also expect, the makers of Riedel Crystal think it’s time to retire your flutes and invest in new crystal for your sparkling wines.

I am not among those revolutionaries. I look with pride and nostalgia at my three dozen or so Champagne flutes, some designed by eminent gastronomes like Georges Blanc and the artistic glass blowers in Baccarat. I have long touted the use of the flute instead of that breast-shaped bowl too often associated with the most glamorous of wines. The flute allows for that impressive column of bubbles surging vertically in a visual dance of joy.

No more, says the new breed. They claim a broader glass enables us to explore the depth of aroma and flavor in Champagne, which, they say correctly, is more than bubbles. They prefer a more spherical glass.

OK, I say. Use it then, but don’t set your goal to render the flute obsolete. I have enjoyed Champagne in paper and plastic cups, in German Roemers, and in pedestrian-level glassware, and, as always with a class act, the class reigns. But the flute is legend, historic, beloved, and deserving of lasting respect.

I will not be among those rushing out to buy a set of new-style Champagne glasses to join those I have for Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhine, and elsewhere. My flutes will always be my coup de champagne!

» Back to Top «

By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 10:57 am   |   Leave a Comment »

“Zinfandel is a Red Wine; Zinfandel is a Red Wine” is a mantra I learned from a team from Ravenswood Winery visiting Bloomington shortly after I moved to Indiana from Europe in 1994. I was glad to meet them, because in Europe Zinfandel was only a wine I heard about once in a while and occasionally sampled on trips to the Homeland but had never really experienced. At the time, many of you will remember, White Zinfandel ruled.

This is America’s grape, I was told over and over as I began to acquaint myself with it. More specifically, “It’s California’s grape” entered the lore. Well, yes and no. Because Zinfandel was not like Cabernet or Pinot Noir or Sangiovese or any other European grape that had been studied so carefully for generations, its appearance in America happened without much of a genealogically studied background.

Now we know it got started in Croatia or southern Italy (where it’s known today as Primitivo), found its way to Vienna, then to Boston, then back to Europe and returned to the East Coast where it seemed to follow the Gold Rush to California. Zinfandel established itself as the go-to drink for miners.

Its popularity, however, relegated it to almost a “fad” status, not equal to the noble grapes coming out of Napa, Sonoma, and other California vineyards after Repeal. For the last twenty years, it has enjoyed a new respect, and while lunching on the steps of the Oakville Grocery on St. Helena Highway a couple years ago, a friend ridiculed my indifference to Zinfandel and pointed down the highway. “We’re going to one of the oldest wineries in the Valley,” he informed me.

Last night I opened one of the treasures of that foray, a 2013 100% Zinfandel from the Oakville Winery. Power from a 14.7% strength, structure from very ripe grapes, it was slightly sweet on the palate and lightly spicy on the finish. It was one of those wines that said I must make more use of Zinfandel and occasionally sip away from my long-standing preference for Old World wines.

With a rib-eye, I enjoyed chanting my beloved mantra: “Zinfandel is a Red Wine.”

» Back to Top «