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Posts Tagged ‘wine tasting’

Wine DJ: a Fun app Combining Music & Wine!

August 7th, 2012 No comments

Wine DJ IconHave a good bottle of wine?  Need the perfect music to set the proper mood?  Have no fear; Wine DJ is here!  Wine DJ is an iPhone app designed to help you build the perfect playlist based on your desired mood, coupled with the Liberty School wine you’re drinking.  Simply enter the type of wine you’re planning to drink, use a variety of fun controls to customize and fine-tune the desired mood, and discover the perfect playlist for the occasion!

Though the wines featured are those by Liberty School, the app is still fun to use if you substitute other wines.  For example, if you’re opening a nice Cab, no matter the winery, simply select the “Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon” from the wine list.

Though other programs with “intelligent” playlist-generating features do exist, Wine DJ’s mood sliders allow you to add a more refined level of selection to generated playlists based on personal choices, in addition to your chosen wine.  (The algorithm, created by Grooveshark, has produced some compelling playlists, indeed!) And if a song appears that you don’t own (but want to), all you need to do is click the “Download on iTunes” button.  Simple!  Playlists can be saved, too, so you can relive the memories of any night, anytime.

For a free app, Wine DJ is certainly entertaining.  Wine DJ is available from the iTunes store.  It is compatible with all iPhone models, plus iPod Touch.

 

Wine DJ Screenshots

Wine DJ Screenshots

Upcoming California Wine Events

July 24th, 2012 No comments

Good morning, wine lovers! At Vintage Cellars, we know you love wine, and we’re pretty sure you love California, too (we sure do!). There are dozens of fantastic wine events in California–in fact, you could probably go to a different California wine event every day for the rest of the summer if you really wanted to. Unfortunately, if you’re anything like us, you simply don’t have the time for a wine event per day. But we’re here to help. Here’s a list of some upcoming California wine events you might want to visit.

  1. Magic & Wine: Really! On August 5 in Malibu, you can hit a wine tasting followed by a David Minkin magic performance. This unusual wine event only has a few tickets left, but other dates are available.
  2. Make a Wish: Drink wine for a good cause. On August 12 in Ventura, you can taste from a list of 100+ wines and bid in a silent auction, all to benefit the Make A Wish foundation.
  3. Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival: From August 9-12, the LA Food & Wine festival will be dishing out fabulous food and wonderful wines. Wolfgang Puck is already sold out, but there’s lots of other options available including Asian themed and caviar events. Check out the lineup–this is about 15 wine events in one!
  4. San Diego Wine Classic: Right here in San Diego, this one’s a bit further off but that just gives you time to plan! November 14-18 in San Diego, it’s billed as being the largest Southern California wine event. There’s a detailed calendar on the website, and it looks like there’s something for everyone.
  5. Cabernet: If you’re into Cabernets, this one might be for you. It’s a pre-release tasting of two 96 point Cabs: the 2009 Robert Craig Mt. Veeder and Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignons. August 29 in Carlsbad.
  6. 5 Course Dinner Tasting: Also on the 29th, Groth Vineyards is having a 5 course dinner and wine tasting in the Normal Heights area of San Diego. Also heavy on Cabernets!
  7. Foxen Winemaker Dinner: August 12 in San Diego, Wine Vault & Bistro is hosting a tasting dinner. The food and wine menu are both available and it sounds like a truly delicious evening.

If you’re looking for a great wine event in southern California, these are all great picks. There’s also an extensive calendar of SoCal wine events (as well as other regions) at this website.

Have you been to a recent wine event in California, or know of a San Diego event we missed that’s a must-drink? Tell us about it in the comments!

Dare to Drink Wine by Yourself?

July 17th, 2012 No comments
Enjoying wine alone lets you give it your full attention.

Image from Wine Online Club: wineonlineclub.com

Although there’s a stigma surrounding drinking by yourself, sometimes it can’t be helped!  What if circumstances make it so that you must dine alone?  What if your dinner companions call last-minute, sending regrets, after you’re already seated at your restaurant of choice?  Dining and drinking alone does not have to be a sad affair.  In fact, there are benefits.  You can devote your full attention to your great glass of wine, and since most restaurants now offer “wine by the glass” (as well as half bottles), with the right questions you can turn your no-show meal into a fun “wine tasting for one!”  Here’s how…

Ask for samples.  If you’re going to order a glass of wine, ask your waiter for a few samples of the wines you’re interested in.  In most cases, the response will be positive, and you’ll be able to sample some of the wines you’re considering (at no extra charge!)

Ask about “additional” wines not found on the “by-the-glass” menu.  Quite often, especially as the night progresses, there’s an open bottle of something good sitting in the kitchen.  Why?  Perhaps a decent bottle of wine was opened, but then sent back by another patron?  Perhaps someone ordered just a half bottle of wine, earlier, the other half just sitting around?  You’ll often be allowed to purchase such leftover (and usually more expensive) wine by the glass if you ask!

Order a couple full bottles and share them with other patrons!  You’ll make some happy friends very quickly, and they’ll often offer to return the favor come dessert time!  (Here we come, dessert wines!)

There’s nothing to be ashamed about enjoying wine alone.  And in a restaurant setting, you’re hardly alone; you’re surrounded by the restaurant’s wait staff and other guests!  If you must drink wine alone, relish the moment!  Try for a mini-tasting, ask about “special” wines, or share a bottle.  Some restaurants with walk-in wine rooms, similar to the Vintage Series Wine Room 2600, will even allow single diners to take a peek inside.  It never hurts to ask, and you might spot something really good!  Cheers!

Has My Wine Gone Bad?

June 19th, 2012 No comments

If you’ve been drinking wine for a while, you’ve most likely encountered a bottle that has gone bad somewhere along the line.  Unlike wines that simply taste “less-than-good,” bad bottles taste unbelievably bad!  What causes such ruined wine?  Here are a few factors…

bad wine that tastes like vinegar

Image from northof9finewine.blogspot.com

A Bad Cork: Bad corks are the number one cause of “bad” wine.  If stored improperly (upright instead of on its side, or in an environment without much humidity) a bottle’s cork can become too dry.  It can then crumble, exposing the wine to air prematurely.

Air Exposure: Premature exposure to air (often because of bad corks) makes wine go flat and taste weak.  Any air leak will quickly ruin decent wine.  Some people mistakenly think that re-corking a bottle of opened wine will enable it to be preserved as before.  Unless you’re using a wine preservation system similar to the Winekeeper Vintner 3 Bottle Wine Dispenser System, just popping the cork back on will not preserve your wine; the air remaining in the bottle will wreak havoc on your remaining wine.

Warm Storage: If wine has been stored for a lengthy period in heated conditions (direct sunlight, an uncooled storage area, a steamy car trunk, etc.) It can acquire a rubbery, burnt-like taste.  One telltale sign of a bottle that’s been exposed to heat is a cork that leaks a little bit of wine.  If you’re storing wine at home in your cellar, consider investing in a WhisperKOOL XLT 1600 cellar cooling unit that not only regulates temperature, but also humidity!

Past its Prime: If a wine ages too long after it’s reached its maturity, it will begin to taste like vinegar.  Lots of people mistakenly blame vinegar-tasting wine on something that happened during the production process.  Most of the time, however, that vinegar taste simply indicates the wine was stored way past its prime.

So, if you’re storing wine, make sure it is kept out of direct sunlight, stored on its side in a climate-controlled environment (preferably where moisture is also monitored), and consumed close to the time when it reaches its maturity.  Follow these simple steps, and the amount of bad bottles you open in your home will be minimized. Cheers!

Where Not to Have a Wine Tasting

June 19th, 2012 No comments
Allen Kelsey Grammer is Frasier Crane

In an episode of “Frasier,” Doctors Niles and Frasier Crane begin the show with a blind wine tasting…

Niles:  Now, now, let’s move on to number seven.

Frasier: [while blindfolded:] Ahhh… Touch of oak, hint of currant, whisper of…

Frasier’s father enters with his dog, Eddie, on a leash.

Frasier:  …what is that?  What is that?  Oh yes, wet dog!

While amusing in a sitcom, similar scenarios have played out in real life.  Because such a big part of wine tasting is connected with a wine’s nose, tasting wine in less-than-ideal locales can unfairly color your judgement of the soundness of a wine.  Here are some places you’d best avoid holding a wine tasting…

Where the dog sleeps, cat goes, or hamster scurries:  Strong pet odors from dog beds, litter boxes, or small mammal cages can make even the most appealing nose seem foul.  If holding a tasting in your living home, make sure there are no trace animal odors lingering in the room or on the furniture where you plan to gather.

Near a restroom:  This goes for restrooms inside restaurants, too (though most quality restaurants position their restrooms a good distance from their dining areas).  Still, save yourself and your guests embarrassment and disgust.  Never hold a tasting within flushing distance.

Near livestock: Though outdoor country wine tastings have increased, tasting wine close to cattle is usually less-than pleasant.  What is more, the scent of excrement can imbue a wine’s nose with a convincing “barnyard” aroma, masking the true nose of the wine altogether.

Outside near fast food restaurants:  Exhaust from the kitchens of fast food joints, in particular, can be extremely overpowering.  It’s hard to get a decent sniff of wine if your nose is bombarded by the scents of big burgers and fries.

Near pools:  Almost all pools utilize chlorinated water.  Because our sense of smell and taste are connected, having a wine tasting next to a heavily-chlorinated pool can color the wine with a chemical taste.  This is very apparent when tasting Zinfandels.  Just try taking a sip next to the pool, then take another sip 10 feet away; you’ll be amazed by the difference.

Near smokers:  Cigarette smoke can greatly kill the nose of many wines, and can add an artificial “tobacco” hint to some wines.

Within wind distance of a garbage dump:  Refer to “Near a restroom,” above.

In a heavily perfumed area:  Unplug your whole-room air freshener before you taste.  Strong scents of pine, violet, vanilla, etc., will unfairly impact the perceived scent of your wine.

In a moldy room:  Aside from obvious health hazards, tasting wine in a pungent, moldy room will not boost its rating.

…You get the idea!  To learn more about the nuances of wine and wine tasting, visit our Wine Storage Education Center.  The next time you host a wine tasting, be sure to take a good whiff and ask yourself “Is there anything in here that really smells?”

Some Dry Red Wines

June 5th, 2012 No comments

Are you new to the world of wine?  Unsure what wines are considered to be “dry?”  Read on!

Quite simply, dry wines have the greatest alcohol content; their juice ferments until almost all of the grape’s sugar is utilized.  Thus, dry wines contain little residual sugar and are not “sweet.”  What common wines are considered dry?  Here’s a little list for the eager wine student:

Host your own wine tasting event with a WineKeeper 4-Bottle Showcase preservation system.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Pinot Noir (the wine that “goes well with everything”)
  • Merlot
  • Sangiovese
  • Shiraz
  • Tempranillo
  • Red Zinfandel (it’s the White Zinfandel that’s the sweet stuff!)

Keep in mind that some of these wines may taste “fruity,” but do not confuse a wine’s fruitiness with its “sweetness.”  Fruit flavors often naturally balance a wine’s absence of sugar.  Also, don’t confuse a wine’s tannins with how dry it is.  Tannins can give sweet wines a “drier mouth feel,” but their abundance does not make a wine dry.  Remember: it’s all about the sugar!  Curious about how these wines taste?  Why not buy a bottle of each and host a few mini tastings, yourself?  You can easily save any leftover wine with the WineKeeper 4-Bottle Showcase preservation system. Cheers!

How to Swirl and Sniff Wine Like a Pro

May 29th, 2012 1 comment

At tastings, many newcomers to the world of wine are unsure about the proper etiquette surrounding swirling and sniffing wine.  Is there a right way to do it?  Or is it a little like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup slogan: there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s?

wines lined up and ready to taste in proper wine glasses

Wines lined up and ready to taste! (Image from Wikipedia)

Since wine’s scent and taste are both key elements of any tasting, swirling and sniffing are encouraged in order to get the best overall sense of a wine.  While most newcomers think taking a single long, drawn out sniff from their glass completes the process, that’s only a beginning part!  Before even smelling your wine, you should be swirling it.  Swirling aerates wine, opening it up so that its inherent scents and flavors are brought to the fore.  You can swirl your glass while it is on the table, or you can hold your glass by the base or stem to swirl it.  What matters most is that you actually do swirl your wine!

Once your wine is swirled a bit, put your nose into the glass as far as it will go. (Don’t submerge your nose in the wine!)  Inhale deeply for a couple of seconds.  Use your diaphragm (your “belly”) to take in a full whiff of the wine’s aroma.  Swirl your glass a little more, then inhale again, smelling the wine a second time.  Swirl, sniff, swirl, sniff, etc.  See if you can identify the scents you are smelling.  Do you smell the wine’s fruitiness?  Do you smell berries, cherries, or figs?  Do you smell lemon, grapefruit, peach, or mango?  Observe how swirling and aerating your wine helps bring out a variety of curious scents hidden, before, in your wine.

While there are several quality wine glasses to choose from, wine glasses made specifically for the types of wine you’re tasting often allow you to perceive that wine’s aromas to the fullest.  For red wine tasting, consider using Riedel “O” stemless glasses, available as a mixed set, designed to enhance the main red varietals.  For white wines, consider a glass designed for your specific varietal, like a Riedel Vinum Classic Sauvignon Blanc wine glass for tasting Blanc fumé, Fumé blanc, Rotgipfler, Sancerre, Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon, Spätrot-Rotgipfler, and Zierfandler.  Breathe in, and enjoy the experience!  Cheers!

 

What Is Aged Tawny Port?

April 17th, 2012 1 comment

Aged tawny port is aged in years that are multiples of ten.

Like its younger cousin, tawny port, aged tawny port is one of the two most-popular wines aged in Portugal.  Both tawny and aged tawny port begin as ruby port, but instead of aging the wine between two to seven years to create tawny port, aged tawny port is kept at least ten years in wood.  Oftentimes, aged tawny port is held even longer.  The longer aged tawny port is allowed to age, the greater its complexity becomes.  It also tastes more smooth and mellow.

While just about any ruby port can be made into a tawny port, only the “best” blends of ruby port are utilized to make aged tawny port.  Aged tawny port is commonly aged for ten years at a time.  Therefore, you’ll find bottles indicating the wine has aged for ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years.  These numbers are good approximations of aging, since they indicate the age of the wine’s “average” blend.  (Read about how port is made here.)

The older the aged tawny port, the richer, softer, and smoother it tastes.  In addition to being a joy on the tongue, its level of complexity increases substantially with age.  Though many people try less-expensive tawny ports aged for ten years, first, I’d recommend having a twenty-year old bottle for your first taste of aged tawny port.  Why?  There will be a much more noticeable difference between your aged twenty-year bottle and a glass of regular, seven-year tawny.  Curious?  Have a glass, and see what you think!

What to Look for in Ruby Port

March 22nd, 2012 No comments

Of all the varieties of port, ruby port is arguably the smoothest.  Many wine drinkers unfamiliar with the world of port can easily enjoy glasses of this sweet, deep red wine.  Sampling ruby port is a fantastic way for wine drinkers to become familiar with port wine, and though often less complex than their tawny cousins, good ruby wines can also be appreciated by port connoisseurs.drink ruby port shortly after it is bottled

Ruby port (made from the grapes Toriga Francesca, Toriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Barrocca, and Tinto Cao) is a bright, deep red-colored wine.  Rather than being made from a blend of grapes harvested during one given season, ruby port utilizes grapes that come from many vintages.  The blend is then aged in wooden casks for around three years prior to bottling.  A sweet wine, you should expect your glass to be brimming with red cherry and fresh plum flavors.  Its finish should be long, smooth, and very warm; port is the perfect nightcap to a date on a cool, spring night!

Unlike most other wines, ruby port needs to be enjoyed shortly after it is has been bottled.  (Remember, it already spent nearly three years maturing in a wooden cask.)  Because of this, when looking for bottles of ruby port in your local wine shop, be wary of older bottles; they will almost always be disappointing.  If you’re unsure about which bottle of ruby port to take home, attend a tasting and try a few glasses of different rubies before making your selection.  If your area wine shop doesn’t offer many opportunities to taste port, consider ordering a glass of ruby with your dessert the next time you go out for dinner.  Bring a pad of paper, and take a few notes.  If you’re out with others, convince everyone in your party to order a different ruby port so you can sample and compare them.  (Now, that’s fun!)  Though less expensive than other port wines, ruby port serves as an excellent introduction to the world of port.  When you do find a bottle that suits your fancy, remember to enjoy it with appropriate glassware such as Riedel Sommeliers Vintage Port Glasses. Cheers!

Stay tuned for our next post–we’ll tell you what to look for in Tawny Port as well!

Natalie MacLean’s New book: UNQUENCHABLE

December 13th, 2011 No comments

Natalie MacLean poses for the cover of her new book UNQUENCHABLEA fascinating, fun and exciting romp through the world of wine, Natalie MacLean’s latest award-winning book UNQUENCHABLE: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines, has hit the shelves!  Named the World’s Best Drink Writer by the World Food Media Awards, and winner of four James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards, Natalie’s prose is passionate, witty, honest, and informative.  In UNQUENCHABLE, you’ll meet several intriguing real-life wine personalities, all personally interviewed by Natalie in a variety of exotic locales.  Natalie’s journey takes you to wineries across the world in search of the best value wines, and her findings are summarized conveniently at the end of each chapter.  And just as you’d expect from the inventor of “Natalie MacLean Wine Picks & Pairings”, the fabulous food and wine pairing app for smartphones and “touch” devices, the book abounds with mouth-watering recipes for you to savor as well.  Filled with history, wine history, culture, current events, tips about cooking with wine, plus food and wine pairing suggestions (and additional wine trivia), this entertaining read is a must for wine lovers.  UNQUENCHABLE: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines is published by Perigee Trade.  Available from your favorite book distributors, and even offered as an eBook, its 13-digit ISBN is 978-0399537073 (for easy searching!).  Maybe a great gift for a wine lover in your life?