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  • December 12, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

    Bonterra Chardonnay Picmonkey

    2013 Chardonnay



    Mendocino County

    Alcohol: 13.5%

    Suggested Retail: $16


    “We liked this wine more a day after first opening it. As this organic Chard 'opened up' it showed a very floral aroma. Lots of orange blossom in the nose. Both the aroma and subsequent tastes revealed a rich, creamy personality. Some vanilla from from aging in relatively small percentage of new oak. Evokes memories of a frozen treat that was variously packaged as Creamsicles or Dreamsicles. These had a vanilla ice cream center enveloped by an icy orange coating, and were a staple of the reviewer's childhood.”

    Food Affinity: “Create a dish using chicken breasts marinated in white wine and orange juice, then prepared with mushrooms, some cream and finished with a dusting of hazel nuts.”

  • December 12, 2014 Beer Pick of the Week

    The Abyss 2014 Reserve Picmonkey

    The Abyss 2014 Reserve


    Deschutes Brewery

    Bend, Oregon

    Style: Imperial Stout

    Alcohol: 11.1%

    IBUs: 70

    Serving style: 22-ounce bottles

    Availability: Seasonal beginning in November and found in much of the western U.S.


    Appearance:  “Dark, very dark. Oatmeal head. Not a lot of lacing.”

    Aroma:  “Sample had been refrigerated and took about 20-minutes at room temperature to open up. At that point it definitely began to smell like a Bourbon barrel.”

    Taste:  “You'd never guess it was 70 IBUs. It's really nicely balanced. Molasses and vanilla (from the barrel) are apparent in the mid-palate, where you can taste more of the effects of the Bourbon barrel. A creamy mouth feel.”

    Food Affinity:  “Difficult pairing. This powerful layer of scents and flavors would overwhelm most dishes. Maybe sipped with an after-dinner brownie or poured as an accompaniment to some dish incorporating a Mexican mole made with just a little chocolate?”

    Steve Graham Picmonkey


    Reviewed by Steve Graham, CSW

  • Gallo Survey Charts Consumer Wine Preferences

    Stephanie GalloStephanie Gallo

    TASTE News Service December 9, 2014 — E. & J. Gallo Winery, the world’s largest family–owned winery, recently commissioned its inaugural Gallo Consumer Wine Trends Survey to capture the current state of Americans’ wine drinking attitudes and behaviors. The survey posed a series of questions to 1,001 frequent wine drinkers in the US, which resulted in a better understanding of exactly where, when and how Americans are enjoying wine.

    “We are committed to capturing an annual snapshot to help us continue producing wines that meet America’s evolving tastes and reflect today’s growing number of different wine occasions,” said Vice President of Marketing and third generation Gallo family member Stephanie Gallo. “For over 80 years, Gallo has been committed to excellence, and in today’s wine market that means we must remain at the forefront of innovation by crafting wines that reflect wine behavior at the dinner table and beyond.”

    As a whole, the survey told us that Americans are enjoying wine more often than ever before by bringing it into dining, entertaining and even the most casual experiences — all while demonstrating an eagerness to experiment with various flavors and formats. These changes are part of an exciting transition in the wine industry as wineries focus more on catering to customers rather than asking them to conform.

    Everyone Is Now a Wine Critic
    gallo wine survey slide Younger drinkers PicmonkeyAmong frequent wine drinkers, those in the younger 25–40 age group are increasingly turning to social media to talk about and discover new wines, with more than half (54 percent) participating in conversations about wine on social media and nearly half (49 percent) posting and sharing wine photos. Every wine drinker now possesses a platform to be both critic and influencer through the seemingly limitless reach of this medium. In this same respect, they are using the internet as a trusted resource for wine knowledge, with nearly half (49 percent) of younger drinkers saying that they respect bloggers’ opinions.

    Sweet and Bubbly Are in Style
    When asked about specific varietals they typically purchase, Moscato and Champagne were popular choices among the younger set. In fact, frequent wine drinkers under 40 are more than twice as likely to purchase Moscato (22 percent) when compared to 26 other popular varietals (11 percent on average) as well as when compared to older wine drinkers — 22 percent of younger drinkers versus 10 percent of older.

    These younger wine drinkers are also shedding the preconception that sparkling wines are just for special occasions. Many reported that they are popping bottles for everyday moments and nearly all of them (93 percent) would pair sparkling wine and Champagne with the foods they’re enjoying.

    Wine Drinkers Are Mixing It Up
    Generational differences were on prominent display with younger drinkers between the ages of 25 and 40 seemingly unbound by traditions that have often governed wine. Unlike previous generations, they are experimenting with different ways to enjoy wine and are unapologetic about their choices. Of those surveyed:

    • 66% mix wine with fruit or fruit juice

    • 51% make a wine cocktail

    • 48% mix wine with other cocktail mixers like club soda

    • 46% drink wine over ice

    • 27% occasionally even drink wine in a cup with a straw

    Convenience Is Keygallo wine survey slide 187ml bottles Picmonkey
    Though there were many notable differences between the younger and older age groups, the survey also revealed key thoughts and behaviors shared by almost all frequent wine drinkers. Of these, the most noticeable common ground was convenience. Recognizing that this has become a key factor for many consumers, wine aisles have seen dramatic transitions across the country – from the traditional ‘sea of glass’ to a place of much more varied offerings.

    Between premium and value box wine, tetra paks, screw tops, and portable 187ml bottles, there are many different and convenient ways to enjoy wine today. In fact, retailers are beginning to dedicate entire sections of the wine aisle to single-serve packaging or other convenient options such as box. Box wine is particularly more relevant in today's wine culture than ever before, with 58 percent of wine drinkers indicating that they have purchased it.

    Whtat's On The Inside Counts
    While two–thirds (66 percent) of American wine drinkers admit to buying a wine based on its label, it may not be enough to make a lasting impact. Unsurprisingly, 76 percent say that taste is the most important factor that will keep them coming back for more. The varietals that continue to enjoy the most popularity were Merlot, Cabertnet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio, which rounded out the top five choices of survey respondents.

    About The Survey

    The 2014 Gallo Consumer Wine Trends Survey was conducted by Libran Research & Consulting (www.libranresearch.com) among 1,001 nationally representative U.S. wine-drinking adults* ranging in age from 25 to 64. The survey was conducted using an email invitation and online survey between the dates of June 20th and June 24th, 2014. More information about E. & J. Gallo Winery can be found at www.gallo.com and additional findings from the 2014 Gallo Consumer Wine Trends Survey are available at www.GalloWineTrends.com.

    * Wine-drinking adults are defined as those who drink wine on more than one occasion per month and at least one glass of wine per week.

  • Vulture au Vin

    Vulture au Vin cover Picmonkey

    by Lisa King


    2014 The Permanent Press, Sag Harbor, NY

    ISBN 978-1-57962-357-9

    Hardcover, 320 pages $29.95


    While protagonist Jean Applequist does not have a private investigator's license, the Wine Digest writer has a talent for solving murders. A lot of them.

    Miss Applequist is not the only character solving mysteries around the wine business. She's not even the only woman doing so, as Nadia Gordon's Sunny McCoskey has also plied this beat.

    Vulture au Vin might be enjoyed by readers knowing nothing about wine. It has appealing characters—and some decidedly unappealing and dangerous ones. There's enough of the formula (murders, an outsider helping or outsmarting the police and, of course, sex) that a broader appeal may be there. However, wine plays a big role in Vulture au Vin and it will intrigue those whose interest lies there. When Jean gets the plum assignment of covering a magnificent tasting of Sauternes convened by a very wealthy man, bodies start falling.

    Jean's employer is a San Francisco-based magazine whose circulation can't be hurt by featuring an exclusive on this historic tasting of Chateau d'Yquem, with vintages dating back over 100 years. The tasting is to be held at Phoenix Garden, the retreat in rural San Diego County owned by Ted Lyon and his Chinese-born wife. Ego and vanity must be served and Lyon's invitation requires both a writer and photographer attend. As circumstances tangential to the tasting begin to take on a dark tone, Jean is encouraged by her boyfriend to give Roman, a gay pal who's a martial arts expert, a crash course in photography and pass him off as her journalistic colleague assigned to shoot the tasting.

    Author Lisa King obviously knows wine. She has written for Wine Spectator and Wine Country Living and includes enough vinous details to make the setting more credible than far fetched. Though not formally invited to the tasting, vultures add an appropriately creepy tone to the story.


    --reviewed by B.J. Shepherd