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Video Wine Review

Are box wines really that bad?

Monthaven Winery Chardonnay Boxed Wine

Monthaven Winery Chardonnay Boxed Wine

Years of poor quality wine in cardboard boxes have made even the most frugal wine shopper pass them by. However, recent quality improvements as well as a focus on “greener” delivery methods have brought the box back to bearable. With Memorial Day just a few weeks away, in the short video below, I bring four options to CBS12 and chat with Kara Kostanich about them.

What’s good about boxed wine?

  • Boxed wines are affordable. They typically come in boxes that hold three liters, or the equivalent of four regular 750 ml bottles of wine.  You usually pay 1/2 to 2/3 price of the four bottles.
  • Box wines last longer after opening. Boxed wines typically last about four to six weeks after opening, allowing you to not worry about spoilage if you are just pouring one glass from a bottle.
  • Box wines are more eco-friendly. The packaging for boxed wines is not only cheaper than the packaging for the equivalent four bottles, it’s also lighter. That allows delivery to be more “green”, using less carbon emissions to transport them.

What’s Bad About Boxed Wine

  • The quality is still low. While the wines I brought to the show are fine for drinking, they won’t win any awards.  They are definitely steps in the right direction, but for me, they’ll be relegated for big parties where the budget is the focus.
  • They have a shorter shelf life than bottles. Talking with a number of retailers, they all agree that boxes don’t last more than six months. The new Octavin wines, such as the Monthaven in the video, say they last over a year. I’ve not put that to the test, yet.
  • They are a bit more difficult to keep at serving temperature. The producers of Monthaven say the reds should be served at 57 degrees, the whites about 50. That means having them outside in the summer time requires some thought as to how you’ll keep them cool. Ice may cause the cardboard to soften and break, and you’ll have basically a plastic bag in the ice chest.

In the video I talk about

  • How to store boxed wine
  • How to serve boxed wine
  • A bit about how the wines taste
  • The prices of the box wines we tried

My next post will talk about each of the wines in a little more detail. Be sure to come back and see what I have to say about the Double Dog Dare and Monthaven box wines, which were purchased from Total Wine and More here in Florida..

WBW68 Domaine Ruet Chiroubles – Cru Beaujolais

Domaine Ruet Chiroubles - Cru Beaujolais

Domaine Ruet Chiroubles - Cru Beaujolais

I had mixed emotions when I saw Frank from Drink What You Like announce that Wine Blogging Wednesday 68′s topic would be “Got Gamay”! While I am a huge fan of Wine Blogging Wednesday, an idea started in 2004 by Lenn Thompson from New York Cork Report to help bring wine bloggers together on one united topic monthly, Gamay really is not my favorite grape. However, I approached the topic from an educational standpoint, hoping to help at least one person understand not only what wines Gamay will produce, but help them identify where it can come from and what to expect. To do so, I popped open a bottle of Cru Beaujolais from Domaine Ruet ($17), and did this short wine tasting and discussion.

As I pointed out in my Gamay discussion, the grape is most commonly recognized when it comes from Beaujolais, an AOC or appellation in France. There are several different areas within Beaujolais that produce wines of varying quality. The first level,  Beaujolais, produces the most Gamay wine, most which is bottled as Beaujolais Nouveau. Beaujolais Nouveau is that marketing ploy developed in the 1980s, where young Gamay is bottled and distributed quickly as a light, overy fruity, almost fake wine. I’ve not tried the past three vintage of BN, and really don’t feel like I’m missing out. Beaujolais usually cost around $12. That brings us to the second tier of vineyards, or Beaujolais-Villages. That isn’t pronunced Village like like Village People. It’s Vih-lah-zges, Anyway, these wines are still light and fruity, but typically a tad more intense and structured. You can find these for about $15. Finally,  the third and highest tier of Beaujolais, Cru Beaujolais, which may cost around $17.

Cru Beaujolais, which is made up of 10 distinct areas as discussed in that other post, and produces a but more refined and intense wine. While Beaujolais is is typically consumed within the year after bottling, and Beaujolais-Villages perhaps within 2 years, Cru Beaujolais often needs a year of aging to be approachable, and can age for 5 to 10 years, depending on the vintage. That brings us to the topic of the post, the Cru Beaujolais from Domaine Ruet – Chiroubles.

The video above touches on the 84 year old Ruet Family estate, which is located on the remarkable terroir of Voujoin in Cercie-en-Beaujolais, at the foot of Mount Brouilly. They produce wines from 6 of the 12 Beaojolais appellations, Brouilly, Morgon, Côte de Brouilly, Régnié,Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages. I’ll leave you to the short video for tasting notes on the wine. I will say two followup comments – it was very nice with the roast chicken, though I found it a tad more dry and tannic than I expected. Finally, it opened up nicely over night, showing a bit more cherry on the nose, and on the palate. I would probably grab another bottle of this and give it a bit to decant, and see how it compares to the pop-and-pour I did in the video.

In retrospect, I owe Frank a big thank you for his Wine Blogging Wednesday 68 topic. While I am not much fonder of Gamay, I enjoyed reviewing, discussing, and trying this wine. It’s piqued my curiosity to try their other Cru’s, and perhaps a few other Beaujolais in comparison. It’s been quite a while, perhaps two years, since I seriously considered Gamay.  Well done Frank!

Delicious White Wines From France

As the weather warms up, I wanted to highlight three cool, crisp wines that you can enjoy all spring and summer long. Often, my friends avoid wines from France, for fear of butchering the pronunciation of their names. While the names are often difficult to pronounce, a little information will have you ordering delicious French wines in no time.

Chardonnay from Chablis, France

The first wine we tried was Gilbert Picq (gill-bay peek) Chablis (sha-blee). It’s made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, and has a crisp minerality that isn’t typical of New World Chardonnay. I enjoy sipping on Chablis with oysters and other fish and shellfish. I also enjoy it very much with goat cheese.

Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux, France

Next, we enjoyed Chateau la Rame Sauvignon Blanc. A blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Semillion grapes, this is a delicious French white wine. Flavors of pink grapefruit and lemon are followed by a big wave of acidity on the finish that makes this a great food wine. Pair it with fish and shellfish, grilled chicken, or cheeses, especially goat!

Chenin Blanc from Vouvray, France

Chenin Blanc is the predominant grape grown in the Vouvray region of France. The La Craie Vouvray is a slightly sweet medium bodied wine with tame floral aromas and a thick, honeyed fruit or even honeydew palate. It’s great to sip on around the pool, or with a cheese and fruit plate at a party. It pairs with charcuterie, and goes well with a host of cheeses like Camembert, Crottin, Derby, Aged Gouda, Havarti, Monterey Jack, Saint-Nectaire, and you can even try Cheesecake!

What’s your take on white wines from France? Leave a comment below, and let me know if you’ve had any of the wines I’ve discussed, or similar ones. And, as always, I love constructive criticism of the blog and tv segments. How can I make it a good time with wine for you?

Cheers!

New Year New Grape – Viognier from Lange Twins

Lange Twins Viognier 2008

Lange Twins Viognier 2008

My mission this year is to help you discover new and fun wines to try, as well as continuing to make wine less intimidating, more approachable, and ultimately, more enjoyable! You’ve given me some great feedback on the first post of 2010, where I introduced some of you to Albarino and Carmenere. Today, we take a trip to Clarksburg, CA and talk about a white wine from Lange Twins, their 2008 Viognier.

New Grapes in the New Year – Carmenere and Albarino

Happy New Year!

Though I didn’t make many resolutions this year, one of my goals is to finish my journey into the Wine Century Club, as each member has drank 100 different wine varietals. I started logging the wines I drank, cataloging each different grape the wines were made from, back in October 2008. Sadly, I stopped recording names and just focused on reviewing, writing, and discussing them. I have 50 written down so far, so there’s only another 50 to go. While I won’t blog about each grape I try, I may mention them, such as the Greek wine made from the Assyrtiko grape I had at the Epcot Food & Wine festival. I hope you come with me on the journey, and discover new and fun wines with me.

Ehlers Estate 1886 Cabernet Sauvignon

Front Entrance of Ehlers Estate

Front Entrance of Ehlers Estate

Just down the road from Hartwell Vineyards and Winery stands a stone winery that was built in 1886 by Barnard Ehlers. That stone winery became the cornerstone of 43.8 acres of vineyards that were pieced together by French entrepreneur and philanthropist Jean Leducq in 2001, which he had began acquiring in 1985. Jean Leducq’s vision was to put together a Napa Valley estate capable of producing Bordeaux style and quality wines.  He realized this vision when the winery’s inaugural 2000 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon was released.

How good is Hartwell

Entrance to Hartwell Vineyard and Winery

Entrance to Hartwell Vineyard and Winery

Just a hop, skip and mountain or two away from the three wineries I visited in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma lies Napa Valley. This time, my travels took me specifically to St. Helena, and my first stop was Hartwell Vineyard and Winery.  With a history of producing wine that in 2005 was given a 95 point rating by Wine Spectator, I was sure the Hartwell family would not only wow us with their wines, but offer a great visit. I was right.

Hartwell Vineyards

Hartwell Vineyards

We met with Linda LaPonza, Hartwell’s General Manager, and daughter of proprietors Bob and Blanca Hartwell, who provided us with not only a rich history of Hartwell, but a fabulous tour of their estate and tasting  of their wines. Linda also introduced us to Hartwell’s winemaker Benoit Touquette, who discussed the process of making their fantastic wine. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of their oak aging the Sauvignon Blanc, when many people age in stainless steel vats.

 We started the visit off watching a test of a new berry sorter, which worked based on computerized specifications to select the perfect grape. This test was just one part of the technology Hartwell employs to create fantastic wine.  A tour of the winery introduced us to the ceramic egg shaped vats that Hartwell recently installed. My understanding, which of course is limited, is the egg shape causes the wine to constantly be moving around in the vat, so that pump overs are less frequent. A pump over is the process to circulate fermenting juice of red wines from the bottom of the tank over the skin cap that forms during fermentation to ensure optimal extraction of color and flavor and prevent bacterial spoilage. Hartwell does also have several regular vats, and Benoit was doing a pump over and punch down while we chatted.

The last part of wine geekery I’ll mention is the racks that Hartwell uses. I believe they were called oxo racks, but that could be wrong. These racks allow the barrels to be turned during the aging process using rollers, rather than having to lift and turn the racks using brute force.  All of these advancements in wine making technology are used by Hartwell to continue to make delicious wines for you to enjoy. So, lets go to the video of my tasting the Hartwell Estate Reserve 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

Hartwell Vineyards 2006 Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Matthew Scott Horbund on Vimeo.

View from top of Hartwell Estate

View from top of Hartwell Estate

The Hartwell Tasting Room manager gave us a phenomenal walk through of the wines, food pairings, and made the experience quite elegant. He advised that when you plan on visiting, call for availability and reservation. You can reach Hartwell toll free at (800) 366-6516 to find out about tours, tastings and options.

After the tasting, Linda took us on a tour of the estate. I was enamored with the beautiful views from the hill atop which Hartwell is perched. Linda’s ability to make the land come alive, as she grew up on it, was spectacular. We had the opportunity to see where Bob and Blanca Hartwell live on the estate, as well as drive around the water reservoir, and through the vineyards.

Tasting Hartwell Grapes
Tasting Hartwell Grapes

No visit to a winery would be complete without walking through the grape vines. I’ve had the opportunity to visit vineyards during winter, when the leaves (canopy) are cut back and only the vine itself is there to see, and it’s a wonderful visit. However, being able to pluck a grape from the vine,during harvest of course, and taste the fruit as always a special treat. I would say there’s never a bad time to visit a winery, but the best time is definitely harvest in my mind. Of course, there’s something to be said of the gorgeous colors you’ll see on the grape leaves after harvest, during autumn. So what are you waiting for, get on the phone and call the great folks at Hartwell. I assure you, it’ll be a good time with wine.

Tasting and Talking about Quivira – 2007 Grenache

Quivira

Quivira

I wasn’t fortunate enough to join my fellow wine writers for the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference, where many had the opportunity to walk the Quivira Vineyards. I was, however, fortunate enough to visit Quivira and two other wineries as part of a Visit Dry Creek series of wine segments for Daytime, a nationally syndicated morning show. We had a great time visiting first Michel-Schlumberger, and then Montemaggiore, and knew that our time at Quivia would be equally as enjoyable.

Quivira Waterfall

Quivira Waterfall

Upon arriving at Quivira Vineyards & Winery, you are greeted by a beautiful landscape, and a very serene waterfall. This sets the stage for your visit, where you’ll learn about their biodynamic farming practices, take a self guided tour through their organic garden, and of course sample their wines made from their biodynamically grown grapes.  Check out the short video of my discussing Quivira and their 2007 Grenache, then continue down to more information about my visit.

Quivira Vineyards & Winery 2007 Grenache from Matthew Scott Horbund on Vimeo.

Though they have many wines to sample, from Sauvignon Blanc to Zinfandel, Syrah, and Mourvedre, Quivira is one of only a handful of wineries in Dry Creek making Grenache, which is why I wanted to discuss it with you. Grenache, or Garnacha as it’s called in Spain, typically has flavors of berries with a nice spicy component that lingers on the finish. As I mentioned in the video, I noticed a nice dark but still red berry bouquet and palate, and the spice on the finish was beautiful. We had some of the wine left over the next day, and it’s palate smoothed a bit, the tannins that dried my mouth during the video tasting weren’t as firm, and it was drinking wonderfully. The 2007 Grenache was aged 15 months in 90% neutral oak, 10% new oak, and boasts a hefty 14.9% ABV (Alcohol by volume).

In the video I mentioned the typical fatty meat pairings for this wine, as the Grenache would pair well with lamb, veal, and beef. I also wouldn’t hesitate to put this with a nice smoked or bbq rib or pork, or game birds. It’s a fairly versatile wine that doesn’t need a lot of fanfare to drink. While I believe it would benefit from some time decanting, it was quite fine right out of the bottle with no air.

Peter Kight at the sorter

Peter Kight at the sorter

When we visited Quivira, proprietor Pete Kight was sorting through the grapes, working hard to ensure that the quality of grapes going into his wine was up to standards. We didn’t have the opportunity to chat with Pete, but did have a chance to sit with winemaker Steven Cantor as well as farm manager Andrew Beedy. From Andrew, we learned about the organic garden and farming practices, the various livestock on the property, and his thoughts on Biodynamic farming. Biodynamic farming is a step above organic farming in terms of caring for the land, farming sustainably, and not using chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. However, Andrew makes it sound easy, saying “Basically, I give plants water. That’s what I do. The plants do all the hard work, we just make sure their environment is as healthy as it can be.”

Quivira Grapes

Quivira Grapes

Winemaker Steven Cantor was more than happy to discuss not only the wines he makes, but many other thoughts on winemaking, biodynamic farming, and life. Dubbed the “Philosopher Winemaker”, it was very interesting to hear his passion for the grape, and the wines he makes. He wasn’t able to single out any one Quivira wine that he’d call his Baby, despite my proding, loving each one of them for an individual characteristic.

There’s so much to see and do at Quivira, my video and post don’t scratch the surface. From their olive oils and preserves from their garden, to the farm to table dinners they do once a quarter, there’s always something new and enjoyable available at Quivira. Be sure to check out the Daytime segment which airs on Wednesday November 18th. If you can’t find Daytime in your viewing area, the segment will be online shortly at tweetmetv.com.

*Disclaimer – the wine tasted in this segment was provided by Quivira during the visit.

*Credit – the photo of Wine Creek in the video was ‘borrowed’ from Frank Morgan at drinkwhatyoulike.com .. hope the link back to your Quivia post makes up for that!

Come back tomorrow, when we journey over the hill to Napa, and start our visit of three St. Helena wineries. Are you ready?