Archives for 

wine education

Do you let your kids sip beer or wine

Is it bad if kids drink booze

Is it bad if kids drink booze

Two weeks ago, my 13 year old son came home from school and told me about a special assembly he sat in on. It was about drug and alcohol use, and he said that it was geared towards scaring them away from both. He rolled his eyes and said “Like we don’t know that by now.” I reminded him that people will try to get him to do drugs all the time, and we talked a bit about peer pressure and abstaining. He told me “They said that if we have even one sip of alcohol before we’re 21, we’re 40% more likely to be alcoholics.” Now, that one really bothered me. I can name a number of kids that had their first beer around 11 years old, and none of them are alcoholics today. They are all quite successful people in business and home life. I filed this chat under “things to think about.”

The thinking came when I received an industry newsletter, and it highlighted a report on NBC News by Cory Binns on September 18, 2012. The title was “Experts Warn Parents: Offering Kids Sips of Alcohol May Backfire.” The gist was parents think introducing kids to wine will help fight off peer pressure in the future. Instead, they said “it could backfire and lead to more drinking later on.” They were basing this on research done at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which was published in a September 2012 issue of he Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine. While I’m not the only person to ever tackle the topic of kids having sips of wine, it’s relevant to me because of my being a wine writer and sommelier. I drink wine at home, my son exposed, and I want to be sure he’s not learning bad habits. I also want him to learn an appreciation for wine, both the positive aspects of what it brings to a meal, and the negative aspects of what it can do to you and your body when not consumed in moderation, responsibly. However, in this day and age where a mom can get arrested for her kids playing outside, the last thing I want is Child Protective Services showing up at my door because my son knows that merlot can taste like blueberries and sticks.

Suburban Wino Talks About Visiting Wine Country With Kids

Suburban Wino Talks About Visiting Wine Country With Kids

Just this week I saw this article about Bordeaux schools teaching wine education to children ages 6 to 10, and it made me feel a little more comfortable about the situation. It’s not news that European families are “known” for allowing children have a sip of wine with a meal. I believe in Ireland the rule is “If you can see over the bar to order, you can drink.” Maybe that’s just rumor. Anyway, I can understand the the reservation of introducing kids to booze too early. Aside from the whole concept of if they like it, they’ll be more likely to drink to excess, there’s the fact that the brain isn’t fully developed until your mid 20s, and there’s potential for harm. However, I believe that forbidding someone from doing something only entices them to want it more. Think preacher’s daughter in Footloose. I also believe that a sip of cabernet sauvignon to taste the dark cherry and Christmas spice harmonize during a steak dinner won’t send my kid into a life of despair.

While my son has never taken more than 1 sip of wine on any night, I am comfortable with it. He’s perhaps had 10 sips in his entire life, all within the last year. I believe that as with anything in a child’s upbringing, a parental influence is important. I shall not only teach my son right from wrong, but also about math, science, food and wine. The last will be a much slower, more measured education, but it will be part of his education. I’m sure I’ll get a phone call from my ex wife after this article is live. Since I’m sure to hear from her, I’d like to hear from you. I’d love your thoughts on kids drinking wine or beer, both your personal convictions as well as any facts you’d like to share!

This Week at Total Wine – Sauvignon Blanc

Matthew Horbund talks Sauvignon Blanc at Total Wine

Matthew Horbund talks Sauvignon Blanc at Total Wine

A wine store like Total Wine and More can be intimidating for the uninitiated. With thousands of bottles staring you in the face, picking out the perfect wine for your meal or party may seem daunting. Though it’s really not that difficult, I kick off a new collaboration with Total Wine to help you navigate the aisles easily with a video about sauvignon blanc, a perfect summer wine.

The short video will go through where you’ll find sauvignon blanc, the different flavors this grape offers, and even a few food and wine pairing tips with sauvginon blanc. A delicious, dry, crisp white wine,  you’ll enjoy exploring the different areas producing sauvignon blanc.


Matthew Horbund Talks Sauvignon Blanc at Total Wine

In coming weeks, we’ll talk about other delicious wines for your summer get together. In the mean time, I’d love to hear which sauvignon blanc is your favorite, and if you like sauvignon blanc alone, or with food!

Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour

The Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Pavilion at Sunfest 2011

The Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Pavilion at Sunfest 2011

The old adage of “practice makes perfect” holds true, even when it comes to tasting wine. It’s only through experience that you’ll know what you like, and be able to buy wine with confidence. Dale Cruse believes that buying the perfect bottle of wine should be one of the easiest things you do. I agree with Dale, and so does the team at Robert Mondavi Winery and Constellation Brands. To prove it, they’re taking the winery experience on the road, and bringing the Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour to a festival near you.

I sat with the team at the Discover Wine pavilion from 6 until 9, and chatted about everything under the sun. During that time, we had the opportunity to of course sip on some Robert Mondavi Winery wines, including the fume blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. We then discussed the goal of the tour, which is not just to put a bug in your ear about Mondavi wines. It’s to provide an interactive educational experience that’s fun while being informative.  The tour was kicked off in Arizona on April 9th, and made it’s way to West Palm Beach for SunFest from April 29 to May 1st. It’ll stop in Dallas, Los Angeles, Denver, Atlantic City, Lenox, Royal Oak, Chicago, and wrap up in Philadelphia. And there’s some great things to encounter.

Robert Mondavi Essence Station

Robert Mondavi Essence Station

Upon entering the pavilion there is the Robert Mondavi Essence Station to experience. Taste is 80% smell, and understanding some of the typical scents a wine will have can help correlate the taste with the scent, and make it a bit easier to articulate what is in the glass. If you’ve never sniffed cassis or lemon grass, you may not understand some of the flavors in wine. The essence station had 12 different scents, from pear and vanilla to ceder and french oak, that help broaden your sniffing horizons. There are also signs explaining some of the usual aromatics wines have, both red and white, as well as a map with some California Wine Facts. I enjoy it when wineries have scent stations, and loved the one at Ehlers Estate, since they had a “barnyard” essence can!

Robert Mondavi uses iPads for Education

Robert Mondavi uses iPads for Education

After sniffing around the Robert Mondavi Discover Wine pavilion, you can stop over at the iPad station. Capitalizing on the ease of putting multimedia on the portable device, you can not only enter a contest, you can see photos of the winery and vineyards, and even email yourself recipes that the tour uses as food and wine pairing demonstrations. I don’t believe the iPad station was ever empty during the three hours I sat at the pavilion. With three iPads, there was never more than a few minutes wait to link up and learn! After signing up, an surfing around, it’s time to belly up to the wine bar and do the most fun part of the experience, taste the wines!

Tasting Robert Mondavi Wines

Tasting Robert Mondavi Wines

The tasting bar has multiple options to sip and savor from multiple Robert Mondavi wine lines. This is where you have the opportunity to do what Dale Cruse and I recommended earlier, taste different wines to see what you enjoy. You can start with some of the Woodbridge sparkling wine, because bubbles are always appropriate! They even serve it in nifty plastic champagne flutes, which I think added to the experience. They have a number of white wines to try, including the fume blanc, chardonnay and riesling. After you’ve tried those, you can sample their reds from the pinot noir to the cabernet sauvignon to the meritage, a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, malbec, and cabernet franc.

Matthew Horbund samples some Robert Mondavi meritage red wine

Matthew Horbund samples some Robert Mondavi meritage red wine

While tasting the wines, you can sit at the provided benches and tables and sip while relaxing. There’s live music in the pavilion, as well as from the surrounding music festival that creates a fun atmosphere. Additionally, you will have the chance to watch any of three different demonstrations, from Food and Wine pairing (and tasting), to a Wine 101 discussion. All of this is designed to not only be fun, but a little educational. It’s very much the experience you’d have at a winery, sampling what they have to offer, learning about the history of the people behind the wine, and walking away with some tidbits about food and wine to enjoy in the future.

Matthew Horbund sips Mondavi wines with Jaki Palacios

Matthew Horbund sips Mondavi wines with Jaki Palacios

One of the things I love about the Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour is after you have sipped and sat a spell, you can get up and walk around to enjoy the festival! It was great to walk around Sunfest, listening to live music while enjoying the vendors and food. It was my first trip to Sunfest, but it certainly won’t be my last. And you can be sure that when I attend Sunfest 2012, I’ll be stopping by the Mondavi pavilion to have a good time with wine.


Biodynamic wine and witch doctors

Shona witch doctor Zimbabwe

Shona witch doctor Zimbabwe

When I wrote about wines that were organic, sustainable or biodynamic, I made the mistake of mentioning Voodoo and Witchcraft. After my post was read by Elizabeth Candelario, Marketing Director for Demeter USA, I’ve come to see I’m only perpetuating the wrong image of biodyanmic grape growing. It’s time to change that! Elizabeth took the time to write me a letter that puts the right focus on Biodynamic farming and grape growing. It helps point to not just the astronomical influences on the farming, but also the homeopathic influences.

Read with great interest (and watched too!) your coverage of Biodynamic in a recent post on your website.  I am a really big fan of Montinore so I appreciated your mention of them as well.  For the record, if you don’t mind my making a few comments…

Vooddo!  Witchcraft!!  What the heck!!!  Your description of Biodynamic practices was terrific: no chemicals, view of the farm as a living organism, holistic natural approach, use of the preparations.  Thanks for that!  But I always have a hard time understanding how we can move from sound agronomy to adjectives like voodoo and witchcraft!

Anyway- if you are interested- check out our website where you will find lots of materials, and also the Demeter Farm Standard itself.  The important thing to remember is that the term BIODYNAMIC is held as a certification mark by Demeter in the commercial marketplace relative to agriculturally-based products and farms.  In order for a farm or product to refer to itself as BIODYNAMIC it must meet the Demeter Farm and Processing Standards and be verified though certification.

In a nutshell then the term BIODYNAMIC = The Demeter Standards.   There is mention of astronomical influences as one consideration within an extensive farming system.  The preparations are also an important part- but think homeopathic remedies- and there is some science pointing to increased microbial activity in soils that have been treated with the preps- not to mention a lot of antidotal support.   There is no mention of spiritual forces per se, although many Biodynamic practitioners will share that as part of their own personal observation.   Most importantly of all- the Farm Standard is composed of all of the other practices you described.

And the Farm Standard is historically significant because it dates back to the beginning of the sustainable agriculture movement and captures key agronomic principles not comprehensively addressed within any other agriculture certification system in the world.  It seeks to create a farm system that is minimally dependant on imported materials, instead meeting its needs from the living dynamics of the farm itself.  It is the biodiversity of the farm, organized so that the waste of one part of the farm becomes the energy for another, that results in an increase in the farm’s capacity for self-renewal and ultimately makes the farm sustainable.  Sections of the Farm Standard include soil fertility management, crop protection, greenhouse management, animal welfare, and the use of the preparations.  It’s actually a beautiful document that would align with any sustainable farmer’s understanding of good agriculture.

Anyway- hope you don’t mind my long winded note.  Just trying very hard to get away from the more sensational things being written and spoken about Biodynamic agriculture as I feel it actually isn’t accurate.  Sure do appreciate you and the work you are doing to educate wine drinkers.  Please do consider me a resource.

Warm Regards,

Elizabeth Candelario

Marketing Director, Demeter USA

Board Chair, Stellar Organic Certification Services

My response to this well written, and educational, email was:

Thank you so much for taking the time to write me. I appreciate it, sincerely. I would actually like to take your email and post it on my blog – as I think you covered some very interesting and important points.  I assure you that while my descriptors may have come across as derogatory, there were never intended to be.

During September 2009 I visited two biodynamic vineyards in CA. Both of them were very passionate about what they did, and how they were stewards of the land.  However, both of them used the terms Voodo and Witchcraft, tongue in cheek, when discussing some of the practices. I think it was their way of bridging the gap between their audiences ignorance and their heartfelt beliefs and practices of biodynamic farming.  I also think that they were able to leave a lasting impression when doing so.

While it may not be wholly accurate to use the term Voodoo when discussing Biodynamic preparation 500, it definitely made an impression on us. It was perhaps a bit outlandish, and inaccurate, of course, but it helped me remember what they do, and why they do it. I do agree, however, that we have a responsibility to help educate people accurately, and that is why I’d like to post your letter on my blog. I believe it’ll help people searching for information become more educated in terms of biodynamic farming. I found the subject of biodynamic, as well as sustainable and organic farming quite interesting. However, the average attention span of visitors to our websites lately have declined. I therefore had to take a tremendous amount of information, cut it down, and hope I didn’t leave out the good stuff.  My intention was always to go back, revisit each of the three classifications or methods of farming, and hopefully engage people on them individually. This may be a great way to do so.

Thank you again!

So, as you can see, I posted the letter. The question I have for you, is what questions do you have for me? Let me know your thoughts on Biodynamic farming, grape growing, and wines. How can I help you understand what’s in your glass?

A Bit About Torrontes – A White Wine From Argentina

Information about Torrontes white wines

Bunch of Torrontes grapes

Torrontes is a crisp white wine, produced almost exclusively in Argentina. Typically, the bouquet of a Torrontes wine will be aromatic, showing floral notes, often with citrus characteristics. The palate is crisp, ranging in body from light to medium, and is considered to be high in acidity. Citrus and floral characteristics will translate to the palate, though the citrus is not as prominent as say, a Sauvignon Blanc. As with any wine, the bouquet and palate, or scent and taste,  will be different depending on where it is produced, how it is fermented, and how it is aged.  Torrontes wines are meant to be drank young, and are not typically purchased to age. Torrontes is said to be the signature white wine from Argentina. It pairs nicely with seafood, cheeses, Mexican food, Thai food, and chicken.

It’s not known how Torrontes arrived in Argentina, or how long ago. Once thought to be native to Argentina, there is a bit of speculation where the grape originated. Citations on Wikipedia state “the Torrontes grape has been recently linked, genetically, to the Malvasian grapes, which originates in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is speculated to have come from Spain, perhaps by missionaries”.  However, torrontes genetic profiling done in 2003 links it to Muscat of Alexandria, which originated in North Africa,and Criolla chica, or the Mission grape.  While I find it fascinating that the origin of the grape can not be nailed down, and the debate ranges in writings by many wine geeks, I think I’ll instead pop a cork, or unscrew a top, and tell you a little about the wines from first  hand experience.

Speaking of first hand experience, have you had a Torrontes recently? Or ever? If so, let me know what you had, and what you thought of it! Where did it come from, and would you recommend it to others?

Pork and Pinot – A Perfect Pairing

Leave a comment on the video and let me know what you want to see next!

There are some days you just don’t want to slave over a hot stove, yet yearn for a delicious, home cooked meal. Managing your time between meal prep and other tasks, work, play, whatever, couldn’t be easier once you master the art of the crock pot! Toss four ingredients in the pot, let it cook for half the day while your attention is elsewhere, and the end result is a perfectly prepared, hot meal that’s delicious. All that you have to do is pop the cork on a nice wine to make this meal fabulous. That’s where I come in, taking this crock pot pork loin recipe and pairing a delicious red wine with it, a Pinot Noir from California.

As you saw in the short video, placing a 2-3 pound pork loin in the crock pot with about 3 cups of beef broth, eight thyme sprigs, and 4 or 5 whole cloves of garlic makes an amazing meal. While we cooked it, on a low setting, for 10 hours, it would have been ready after 6-8. The meal was positively delicious, but what really set it off was the wine pairing.  Pork goes famously with white wines, like Riesling or Gewurztraminer, but we really enjoy this dish with a Pinot Noir. I selected the $30 offering from Russian Hill, their Russian River Valley 2006.

Russian Hill has been family owned and operated since 1997, and produces a number of estate Syrah offerings in addition to their estate Pinot Noir wine and an estate grown Viognier. They also offer a Chardonnay sourced from a neighboring Dutton Ranch vineyard, numerous Pinot Noirs sourced from individual neighboring vineyards, and of course, the RRV Pinot Noir discussed in the video. Winemaker Patrick Melley, who is the nephew of proprietor Ed Gomez, is largely a self taught winemaker. His online biography mentions that mouthfeel is what he loves about wine most, and that indeed translates to his wines. Silky and soft, they dance on the palate.

The Russian Hill RRV Pinot Noir is sourced from multiple vineyards, selected from several small hands-on growers who offer fruit the team at Russian Hill feel creates a wine that represents the appellation as a whole. The summer fog provides moderate temperature during the day and cool nights, which results in wines with a bright acidity and full fruit flavor as the fruit ripens slowly. I thought this wine had great fruit that was beautifully balanced with smokey and earthy notes and a wonderful acidity that finishes softly.  This Pinot Noir is aged for 10 months in 100% French oak, 25% of which was new, which contributes those toasty, earthy notes. There were 2,000 cases of this wine produced, up from 1,370 in 2005. The wine has a velvety mouth feel, rich and supple, without being flabby. While it’s wonderful to sip on it’s own, it’s great with food. The video captures the tasting notes perfectly when this wine is paired with the right meal.

Do you have a recipe you’d like for me to prepare, then pair with the perfect wine? You can email me at matt @ or leave a comment below and we can collaborate. I’d love to feature your recipe on the blog!