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hodges funeral home at naples memorial gardens offer wine cellar experience with funeral services

A Toast, To Absent Friends

Marketing seems to be all around me. It’s part of what I do to earn a living, and of course it’s in every message we see on TV, in the movies, and at the funeral home. Wait, did I just say funeral home? Yes, yes, I did. See, as I was leaving the office yesterday, a coworker told me about this new concept of a funeral home wine bar. I mentioned it on the way to dinner last night, and my son did a Google search from the back of the car. It turns out that Hodges Funeral Home at Naples Memorial Gardens is indeed offering a wine cellar experience while grieving your loved one.

I’m sure you’ve heard of an Irish Funeral. The story goes the Irish celebrate the life of the deceased, and have a beer, or thirty, to toast to the dearly departed. So, I’m not terribly shocked or awed by the fact that Hodges Funeral Home is providing the service of wine for people who are mourning the dead. It gives the family and friends the opportunity to gather, pay their respects, and then find a way to celebrate the life and memory of those who have passed on. It also allows people a slightly more relaxed and comfortable way to pay their respects. If you’ve ever been to a funeral service, you know it’s not exactly easy to say anything other than “I’m so sorry for your loss.” The idea of having a semi-social setting to help pay your respects seems somewhat comforting.

Celebratory services are something that Hodges seems to have already focused on. So, it’s not a big leap from those already offered services to something with a wine focus. The Drinks Business reports that Hodges Funeral Home will continue to offer traditional funeral services for those not interested in the wine cellar option.

So, what do you think? Is Hodges Funeral Home offering wine while paying respects tacky? Or, is it just another way to remember the life of those who have passed on? Or, is it just a marketing trick? Comment below and let me know your thoughts!

Is A $100 Wine Better Than A $10 Wine?

The Pepsi Challenge

The Pepsi Challenge

Upon finding out I was a wine writer and Sommelier, a new coworker turned to me saying “I have to ask, is a $100 wine really better than a $10 wine?” I smiled and start to answer, when a friend, who is my new boss says “Well, do you like Coke, or Pepsi?” Stay with me now, I knew where he was going.

The first consideration that goes into picking a $100 bottle over a $10 bottle of wine is the ability to taste the difference. If you fail the “Pepsi Challenge”, chances are you probably won’t appreciate the flavor difference in the two price ranges. However, once we discern you can tell the taste difference between the two, the question becomes is the price difference worth it to you. Everyone has a different threshold for luxury. Thus, it depends on what your “wine luxury” threshold is set to.

If you’re a mountain bike enthusiast, you can ride the trails on a $250 Huffy, or a $9,153 Santa Cruz Tallboy 2 Carbon XX1 Enev. You’ll still ride the same trails, but one ride is on a carbon fiber body and wheel assembly, and the other is on plain old metal. You may start and stop at the same place, but you certainly did it on a different level. If biking isn’t your thing, think Luxury cars, as Rob did. You can buy the $40,000 Nissan 370Z, or the $2 Million Pagani Huayra. Is there really a $1,960,000 difference in the way the car gets you from the house to the office? Probably not, but your luxury threshold causes you to buy one over the other. Luxury and taste aside, there are a few other factors that go into the pricing of wine to consider. And here’s where I got to geek out a little.

Grapevines at Trefethen in Napa, CA

Grapevines at Trefethen in Napa, CA

I have grapes growing in my backyard. They’re muscadine grapes, fairly common in Florida. They can be made into wine, and in fact, they are made into wine in parts of Florida. The wine tastes a little like cotton candy, and sells for about $10 a bottle. I wouldn’t drink it, but I could. Now, there are vines planted in Napa Valley, exposed to the perfect amount of sun, benefiting from diurnal temperature changes to maximize the ripening of the grapes. They are on premium land, and there has been generations of study invested in ensuring they are the perfect winemaking grape. They create wines that offer layers of taste, complex creatures that evolve over time in a bottle or in a glass. They sell for $100 a bottle, and I would and do drink them. So, while I would never consider buying a $9,153 mountain bike, my threshold for luxury related to wine is much higher than $10 cotton candy in a bottle.

Did I really answer the question of “Is a $100 wine really better than a $10 wine?” Probably not as completely as you’d like. In the end, it’s not that there are no drinkable $10 wines, and you have to pop $100 or more to get something worth drinking. That said, in my opinion, there is a definite quality difference between the two. There are complexities and facets of the $100 wine that make it fetch the higher price. However, I can point you to a killer Pinot Noir for $10 that’ll knock your socks off. So, in the end, it’s really a question of “what’s your wine luxury threshold?” Would you drink the Pagani of wines?

Funk

Wine Music and Funk

Wine Music and Funk

Funk is all around us. It’s in music, as a funky bass line. It’s in wine, as the funky, barnyard scent found in some wines. And of course, it’s in our head. We all get into a funk from time to time. For some, it’s mere moments in a day, while for others, it can last weeks, months, even years. Some would say “Pick yourself up by the bootstraps and get on with it.” Yeah, thanks for that sage advice. Remind me to put you on the next suicide prevention call rotation. I don’t know if there is a sure fire way to break yourself out of a funk, but I’ll explain how I broke out of mine. However, before I talk about my funk, and why there’s been no content on the site for a while, I’m going to talk about the funk in wine.

There is no doubt that some wines just smell like funk. The wet band-aid or even barnyard scent can be subtle or strong, and you can love it, or hate it. I’m in the later camp, and really do not enjoy the scent when sipping wine.  The technical term for that funky smell is Brettanomyces, or Brett. It’s considered a flaw in wine, and while some people will hardly notice it, others, like me, are very sensitive to it and can smell it in a bottle is uncorked across the room. (Ok, slight exaggeration!) People can enjoy it, of course, feeling it adds complexity and a certain nuance of terroir (tehr-wah, French for the earth or where the wine is from, the locale and it’s essence). However, I’ve experienced first hand that funk is not always considered good.

Chateau Cantin in Saint Emilion, Bordeaux

Chateau Cantin in Saint Emilion, Bordeaux

I was in Bordeaux in April, and had the most amazing two days visiting the vineyards and a chateau or three. The last stop was Chateau Cantin, where my wife Robin and I met the winemaker, Mr. Vincent Cachau. Sipping on some of his wine, and enjoying small talk, I started to compliment him on the wine. I had said a number of complimentary things, but added the word “barnyard” to my notes. The winemaker’s reaction to the mention of “barnyard” is forever ingrained in my mind. He looked aghast, and took a sharp breath in. He said “No, really?” I said “Oh, not that funky barnyard, but more like an earthy, organic scent.” With relief, he said “Ah good, because the term for that barnyard is…” and he thought of how to say the word in English. “Brett, or Brettanomyces, and it’s terrible.” I offered. Smiling, he said “Brett, Yes. It’s a flaw. I hope you never experience it in my wines.” And we continued to sip happily.

Now, I am sure some people will disagree, stating that Bret is not a flaw, or they find it charming or interesting in a wine. And, I can clearly remember a tasting of some wine from St Joseph where the “barnyard” was tame, and it indeed was an interesting trait of the wine. However, as controlling the level of Brett produced making the wine is difficult, and guaranteeing those low levels is near impossible, Brett in wine is typically considered a flaw. All of that leads up to this: The next time you’re sipping on a wine, and you think you’re rolling around in Trigger’s barn stall after a wet day, don’t be ashamed to say the wine isn’t for you, and ask for something different. You don’t need to like that Funk!

In a Funk

In a Funk

Now, the funk in our head, that’s a flaw as well. Things can set us off, whether a life altering event or a minor change in our routine that throws us off. I have definitely been in a funk for the last year or so. My funk came about due to a number of odd factors, none terribly bad. My sister, who had been in the hospital since May 2011 and near death a few times, was finally doing well and getting ready to leave the hospital and go “home”. A good thing, you say – except family for me is sometimes stressful. While I was overjoyed with her health returning, the stress from logistically situating her was a bit overwhelming, especially regarding our extended family. Additionally, while work was good, I knew there was trouble brewing. A project or two was postponed or cancelled, ultimately ending in a 60 person layoff, which I was part of. Those factors, with a few other small things going on, added up to a funk that kept me from doing the things I enjoy, and just grinding day after day away.

So, how did I break out of the funk? I think getting laid off was part of it. After getting my resume together, and focusing on new opportunities, I started to get excited for the possibilities ahead of me. I started doing some more consulting in the wine field, which I absolutely love. I began networking with some great people, who helped me stay focused on the positive things. I also started to donate my time to a few charities that need my help, helping those who couldn’t help me. And, finally, after being together for eight years, Robin and I were able to get married, since we no longer worked together due to my layoff! All very little things that helped me get out of my own way and get back on track.

For me, I enjoy wine most when I’m sharing it with people. Therefore, I plan on getting back to sharing it more often with you. I may be sharing a few shorter posts at first, giving you some of the wines I’ve had recently, along with simple tasting notes. Once I get the words flowing again, we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled ramblings.

And all that said, I leave you with some GOOD funk….. Open up a big bold red, dim the lights, and let the bass transport you!

Chilling Champagne Quickly

Celebrate on New Year's Eve

Celebrate on New Year’s Eve

With New Year’s Eve just a few days away, everyone is planning holiday parties. And, everyone is planning to serve a lot of Champagne, as well as beer, wine and other cocktails. However, you may not be exactly sure how to get all of those adult beverages cold, or keep them cold throughout the party. Here’s a nifty trick that will get your Champagne chilled quickly, and keep your sparkling wine cold.

All you need is a bucket, some tap water, ice, and table salt. And the libations to chill! Here’s a step by step guide to making a super cooler for your next party.

First, Fill a bucket about 1/3 with tap water. Obviously, if you have a lot of bottles to chill or keep cold, you’re going to need a bigger bucket. Here we’re just using a small ice bucket as an example.

How To Chill Champagne Quickly -

Fill a bucket about one third with tap water

Next add ice! I added 1 tray of ice here, but obviously you may need more, especially if you have a big bucket to fill, and keep cool all night. I would say you probably want a 10 pound bag of ice for every 3 to 6 bottles of Champagne you’re going to super chill quickly. More throughout the evening to keep it cold if necessary.

Chilling Wine Beer or Champagne fast

Add Ice to your water

For one bottle and one tray of ice, I added about three tablespoons of regular table salt. For a bag of ice in a bucket big enough to hold three or six bottles of Champagne, I would use about three-quarters of a cup of salt. Adding more won’t ruin the mixture. We’re not cooking, were chilling!

Add Salt to your iced water to chill your Champagne Fast

Add Salt to your iced water to chill your Champagne Fast

I recommend you don’t use your hand to stir the iced water. Your Super Cool Quick Champagne Chiller will be around 40 degrees in less than 1 minute. You may need mittens if you are stirring a big tub of iced water for your party!

Add Salt to your iced water to chill your Champagne Fast

Stir your salted ice water

The next step needs no comment – add the bottles!

How to Chill Wine Beer Champagne Fast

Add your Bottle(s) to your super cooled water

Obviously, with some more ice and a little more salt, this would have been colder, faster. I just did this quick experiement to show you how to chill your Champagne quickly. If I were cooling wine or beer or Champagne fast for a party, I would have a bag or two of ice in a cooler, and another in a large bucket to cool the wine first. Then, I’d add half a bag every thirty minutes or so. It never hurts to have more ice on hand, though!

Get your Champagne Cold Fast

You’re on your water to super cool

I hope your party is hot, and your Champagne is cool! Let me know if you use this tip to keep your sparkling wine, beer or even sodas cold this Holiday season!

Cheers!

 

Inspiration Through Art

Enjoying the Oregon Sky

Enjoying the Oregon Sky

Inspiration comes in many forms. It can be visual, tactile, and even olfactory. Who hasn’t smelled a delicious holiday meal and been inspired to tolerate their crazy family for that one day? And, inspiration can come to you by land, by sea, and in this case, by air. I first stumbled across the “#Flyingstuff” artwork of Belgium born designer/photographer Manon Wethly on Instagram. Her ability to capture the sights of Europe was amazing. However, it was her casual toss of everything in the air, from breakfast foods to coffee, that I really admired. I asked her if she had ever thrown wine. She said no, but would give it a whirl.

Manon Wethly Photography of Flyingstuff Wine

Manon Wethly Photography of Flyingstuff Wine

For those that have followed me on Twitter or Facebook since 2008, you know that I can’t resist a photo of the sky. I find nature to be inspiring. I am lucky to live in a state where the sunrise and sunset are almost always spectacular. And when they aren’t, a quick trip to the beach makes everything better. Additionally, if you’ve been following me for even a day, and since you’re reading this article, you know that my passion is wine. And while I love writing about wine, sometimes a little extra inspiration makes the words flow smoother than a Napa Cabernet on a cool fall evening.

Manon Wethly Photography of Flyingstuff Wine

Manon Wethly’s photography captures wine beautifully

I truly enjoy these photos. Manon has captured wine in a unique way. It seems to defy gravity while painting the sky. I enjoy looking at these photos very much. I have already spoken with Manon about making one of these photos a piece of art in my house. Everyone captures wine next to food, or in a glass. Manon captures wine in the air, gracefully.

Manon Wethly Photography Flyingstuff wine

Manon Wethly Photography of wine in flight

For more of Manon Wethly’s photography, you can visit her site Clique-Chique! I believe she’s in the middle of negotiating a deal for her artwork to appear in various retail stores somewhere in Europe. I’ll get to say “I knew her when….”

Art and Wine Inspire Me - Photo by Manon Wethly

Art and Wine Inspire Me – Photo by Manon Wethly

Manon has been doing design and photography work for years. She has a design company and pulls from her every day travels for inspiration. So, what inspires you?

Rodney Strong Vineyards Launches New Website

Rodney Strong Vineyards

Rodney Strong Vineyards

I’m not one to share press releases, especially verbatim. However, as a big fan of Rodney Strong Vineyards, especially the Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir for $15-20, I figured I can give their redesigned website some love.The site is clean, with a simple layout, great use of media, and chock full of information about this 53 year old California winery.

A mainstay in the Sonoma County wine region for over 50 years, Rodney Strong Vineyards unveiled a new website this summer that showcases an interactive storytelling experience, integrating social media as well as mobile responsive design for the whole site. The new website focuses on providing information through video and rich imagery that’s designed to be easy to use, whether shopping for wine, checking on winery events or simply learning more about the brand. Their address remains the same; www.rodneystrong.com.

“Every communication channel counts in today’s competitive marketplace and telling our story is more important than ever – it is what sets us apart” said Vice President of Marketing Dan Wildermuth. “Embracing social media on a deeper level as well as becoming mobile-friendly became top priorities in our marketing communications strategy.”

Over the last year, Rodney Strong has experienced steady 20% fan/follower growth on social media channels as well as a nearly 300% growth in website traffic originating from mobile devices. The brand’s successful communications campaign, “Place Matters,” launched on the brand’s YouTube channel and has received nearly 175,000 video views to date.

The enhanced visual design, storytelling photography and artfully woven videos all adapt to social media and a flexible layout that automatically resizes to accommodate mobile devices. With the changes, the winery anticipates continued growth in site traffic as well as increased interaction on their social media channels throughout the coming year. “We’re taking into account communication trends,” said Wildermuth, “where people engage and enjoy a digital brand experience in the palm of their hand.”

My only piece of constructive criticism is the placement of their social media contact information is a bit too clean and tucked away. It’s on the bottom right of the footer, and grey  until it’s moused over. With social media being so main stream, I’d make it a little more prominent.

Cheers!

Going Barefoot

Matthew Horbund with Jennifer Wall Winemaker from Barefoot Wines

Jennifer Wall, Winemaker from Barefoot Wines

When I “Met” Jennifer Wall, winemaker at Barefoot Wine on twitter, it was after tweeting about my dislike for Beaujolais Nouveau last November. So when the 16+ year veteran winemaker asked if I’d have time to meet her during her January 2012 trip to Florida, I was a bit nervous. I’ve always said I prefer my women barefoot, not my wine, and told Jen this. She told me that she’d love the chance to change my mind, and I eagerly accepted her invitation.

Jen is one of the original Barefooters, joining the winery in 1995 as their sole winemaker. She’s racked up over 2,500 medals and awards for the brand in that time, and she’s passionate about what she does. With a goal of making wines that accurately reflect their grape, are fruit forward, and affordable, Jen now makes six different Barefoot Bubbly and 13 Barefoot still wines.  She is extremely knowledgeable, about her own brand and wine as a whole, and was an absolute pleasure to talk to.

Barefoot Bubbly from Barefoot Wines with Matthew Horbund and Jennifer Wall

Barefoot Bubbly

What did I learn while interviewing winemaker Jennifer Wall? First, her quote “People talk dry, but drink sweet.” resonated with me. I had just finished a visit with my dad, who likes everything sweet. From breakfast to dinner, he wants to eat sweet and drink sweet. I am quite the opposite, preferring savory and tart, so when my dad’s habits mixed with Jen’s words, it really struck me. There are a lot more people out there who prefer sweet, or at least fruit focused wines than not. And Jennifer had the barefoot facts to back that up. In the past 52 weeks, Barefoot Wines has sold about 4 million cases of wine. And with about 60% of those cases being 1.5 liter bottles, that … well that’s a lot of bottles.

While I aim to “Make Wine Approachable”, and hope to help people find fine wines they’re comfortable with, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with picking an inexpensive bottle that you like from time to time. Frankly, I was impressed with more than one of the Barefoot wines I sampled with Jennifer and other Barefooters that day. They make a great option when you don’t want to spend a lot, but still get a sound bottle of wine. Which brings me to the next thing I learned from Jen. Barefoot likes to think there are a lot of Sunday-Thursday wine lovers, and Barefoot fits their budget.

Some Barefoot Wine Matthew Horbund taste with winemaker Jennifer Wall

Barefoot Wine Lineup

While I try to bring to the table as many wines under $15 that rock your socks as possible, Barefoot does it time and time again. As a matter of fact, I believe all of their wines, bubbly included, are under $15. Which makes it budget friendly for just about anyone, even starving college students (over 21, of course!). You may not find the next Robert Parker 99 point rated wine in their collection, but you’ll find something that works for almost every palate.

Another conversation I had during my winemaker interview with Jen was about cork versus screwcap. While I am a fan of screwcap enclosures, especially for inexpensive wine you expect to drink in the next few months after purchase, you won’t find Barefoot wines with screwcap closures anytime soon. This falls under the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” category for Barefoot, and they just don’t have people asking for them. I can understand that, though I did tell Jen that I was toe-tally not a fan of the synthetic cork. We agreed to disagree. I then asked about boxed wines. Jen feels that there would be a little something lost if they went from bottles to box, and doesn’t see it in the cards soon. I can understand, though I’m always looking for box wines that don’t suck and will continue to do so.

I enjoyed sipping some Barefoot bubbly with Jen and her team, and she really did change my view on her wines. I brought a bottle of Barefoot Chardonnay home this Saturday, and Robin and I enjoyed it while cooking outside in the Florida heat. It was very tropical fruit forward, a touch of oak, and refreshing on an 85 degree February day. Jen and I built a rapport to where when she came back a month after our first meeting, I drove down to Miami to chat with her again. In the next week, I’ll cover that meeting on my sister site Pour Me Another, and talk about some Barefoot Signature Cocktails.

So, tell me, when was the last time you went Barefoot?

The Great Debate-Cork vs Screw Cap

Corks or Screwcaps for your wine?

Corks or Screwcaps for your wine?

Two weeks ago I visited CBS12 WPEC for a segment on Cork vs Screw Cap with Suzanne Boyd and Eric Roby. I find it interesting that today my good friend Cynthia from Passaggio wines tweets out a post about cork making a comeback as the wine enclosure of choice. I find the data a tad underwhelming, and I think it remains to be seen the true volume of wineries switching back to cork from screw cap. My segment, below, discusses whether or not cork or screw caps are a better seal, and whether cheaper wines use screw caps. Check it out, and let me know your thoughts or questions.

For those without the time or ability to watch the two minute video, I’ll give you my summary below the video.

 

I don’t think cork is a better enclosure than a screw top, and neither do some very prominent wineries. Tests have shown that in the short term, meaning 10 years and under, Stelvin screw caps were as good of a seal for wine, if not better than cork. Hogue Cellars did 30 months of studies on cork versus screw cap, and Plump Jack has done similar studies, with both showing aging wine with a screw cap for 10 years fresher fruit while still showing the qualities desirable from aging.   More data needs to be done for long term aging, of course, and technology advances in the Stelvin screw caps will help with that.

As far as whether or not cheaper wines use screw top and not cork, I can settle that quite easily. I could list off the dozens, if not hundreds of wineries of high quality, and often high priced wine that are using screw tops. However, I’ll just refer to Plump Jack who has done several rounds of testing with screw cap, and offers their 2008 Cade Cabernet Sauvignon under screw cap for $72. I haven’t visited Plump Jack since 2008, however their wines have been rated in the 95+ point category by critics in recent vintages. So, if a top tier Napa Cab can be under screw cap, why shouldn’t other wines use screw caps as well?

I find it amusing that Treehugger says the wine snobs are the ones pushing wineries to use cork again. There are millions of bottles of wine produced in France alone. Add Italy, Germany, Chile, Argentina, and the United states, and you’re approaching an absurd number of bottles. And there aren’t enough wine snobs in the world to consume them all. So, can a small minority of people really dictate what enclosures the wine industry uses? I find that hard to fathom.

Additionally, much of the red wine released into the market is consumed in a relatively short time span from it’s release and purchase. This makes the need to store those wines long term unnecessary, leaving little to no difference between the cork or screw cap enclosure. So, can it be the romaticisim of the sound of a cork popping that drives people to want cork enclosures.  Maybe. For me, I’m quite happy with my screw caps.