How did I miss Bourbon Month in September… Bourbon Curious, by Fred Minnick

FACEBOOK: Take the book closest to you, turn to page 45, read the first sentence, and that will explain your love life. Okay…

“President Franklin D. Roosevelt formed a whiskey council made up of industry executives to help the government create a distillery plan for the war efforts.”

Yeah, it would take a novel to explain this one… So, instead let’s jump to Bourbon Curious: A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker. Written by Fred Minnick, a Wall Street Journal best selling author,  is also the “bourbon authority” for the Kentucky Derby and has written other books and copious stories on bourbon. My favorite title is Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch and Irish Whiskey.

Darn, I missed Bourbon Month in September… Now, I’m regretting that one, but this is still loaded with fun information for the next 11 months.

I love books, all kinds of books, so when I’m asked if I’d review one, I’m in if it works for the wine and spirits world.  I feel blessed that books now find me in life, when I had to search for them, after Aunt Edith stopped her annual Christmas gift. I then began to live in my local library. She had set an important ball rolling.

Bourbon Curious, by Fred Minnick

A Simple Guide for the Savvy Drinker

If you don’t know anything at all, it’s best to start with the best person to explain the mysterious. In this case, a spirit… I was exposed exposed to Bourbon as a kid, because it was my mom and dad’s favorite spirit. Then, it got revisited via the culture of Mad Men’s exploits. Now, thanks to Fred Minnick, I understand so much more about bourbon and whiskey, and am looking forward to that moment when I order my next spirit, but it won’t be a Manhattan.

My last experience with Manhattans was my first wedding. It was my dad’s beverage of choice, so that’s all anyone was served.  What a mess, and I write this with all due respect. Let’s just say, my mother was in the middle of a busy main street, as we drive off to our honeymoon. She was directing traffic in the middle of the street. Oh dear…

So, I want to enjoy this next experience in a more thoughtful way. And Fred Minnick has lead me to the altar, once more, for a better view.

According to Fred, bourbon, like wine, has its own culture. If you love bourbon, this isn’t news to you. Minnick calls it the most misunderstood spirit on liquor store shelves. I’m betting that he’s right.

I’m going to give you my 10 takeaways from Fred’s book. Test yourself. See if you’re a bourbon aficionado; or like me, just learning for real…

  1. Flavors of bourbon: vanilla and caramel, with cinnamon and nutmeg notes.
  2. “All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.”
    • Whiskey = distilled beer aged in barrels.
    • Bourbon = made in USA and the grain is corn.
    • Scotch = Made in Scotland and the grain is barley.
  3. From the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s guidebook, types of bourbon:
    • Bourbon whiskey
    • Straight bourbon whiskey
    • Blended bourbon whiskey
    • Blended straight bourbon whiskey
    • Bottled-in-Bond bourbon whiskey
  4. Whiskey versus Whisky
    • With the “e” = American and Irish
    • Without the “e” = Scotch, Canadian, Japanese
  5. What you can TRUST on a whiskey label… the rest is marketing jargon
    • Proof
    • Age of whiskey
    • Type of whiskey
  6. Presidents and whiskey
  7. Tricks to getting used to bourbon
    • Hot sauce on your tongue as a training, when NOT tasting bourbon (Yeah, it burns like that.)
    • Bourbon is 80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol, so you need to learn about its “hotness,” first
  8. Sources of flavor
    • Pre-fermentation
    • Yeast
    • Distillation
    • Wood
  9. In order for whiskey to be called bourbon, it must be stored in new charred oak
  10. Forward flavors
    • Grain
    • Nutmeg
    • Caramel
    • Cinnamon

There you go. How did you do? Are you a bourbon fan and knew all of this? (If you, you must have a book, too, right?)

I’m going to put this book into my annual wine and spirits books for the year, come December. If you’ve got a family member or friend who loves bourbon, this book is “must have” in a wine and spirits library. I’ve only ever-so-briefly touched on Bourbon Curious. There’s still much to explore. This link gives you the skinny, you’ll have to read the rest. It’s also a “must have” book for anyone studying for her of his Master Sommelier’s test.




Cabernet Sauvignon,Chardonnay,Napa,Pinot Noir,Rutherford,Sauvignon Blanc,Wine,Winemaker,Winemaking

How to get a wine writer’s attention via Email ~ Josh Wine Cellars

So many wineries, so little time, really. I have personal history with many, many wineries… easily in the hundreds. When I get new queries from wine companies, I do take the time, when I can, and here’s how someone gets my attention.

Describe in one paragraph, if possible, what you’d like


  • Doing it in as few words as possible, gets much quicker attention
  • You MUST be a writer’s writer. By writer’s writer I mean, write to inspire.
  • Have already defined your brand’s unique story.

Now, you got your first foot in the door.

Here’s a great example of an Email that got immediate attention. I’m also in a time warp, where I can’t do something for someone else immediately. So, although summer is now over – I got the email before it was – and I saved this one. (At this point in time, I get so many inquiries that writing for clients understandably comes first. Blog is next, so, people have to be patient with me.

Josh Wine Cellars is located in Rutherford, California.

Hi Jo,

Labor Day usually marks the end to grilling season and while many have perfected the art of the BBQ by this time, the rest of the menu can leave some scratching their heads.  Whether the dish is simple and light or rich and flavorful, pairing the right wine is essential for successful summer soirees.  Below are a variety of offerings from Josh Cellars Wine with suggested pairings for your favorite summertime foods.

Please let me know if you are interested in receiving samples or more information.



That was direct and to the point, in one simple paragraph. I responded:

Hi, Lindsay,

Yes, samples, more info, and what do you believe is Josh Wine Cellars’ unique point of view?

Thanks for reaching out.


I decided to begin the blog in preparation for the future: And, as always, I went looking for the Web address, to create the link. I was immediately sucked in:

My Dad’s name was Joseph, as is mine, but his friends just called him Josh. He was an Army veteran and volunteer firefighter. He was a lumberjack, he enjoyed rebuilding and racing stock cars, and he eventually became the mayor of our small town. Most of all, Josh was a devoted husband, father, and my personal hero.

Just by going to the site and reading the home page, I got the point of differentiation. Let me condense above and state it as I see it, as a publicist: Uniqueness: As I daily create my honest, hard work, I honor the man I most admire… My namesake, my father.

Then, the samples arrived, and they really did over deliver. I got more than the promise, in my opinion.

2014 Josh Cellars Estate Sauvignon Blanc

Josh Cellars Sauvignon Blanc… What a wow! The luscious tropical fruit and citrus bouquet was really wonderful. Those aromas also harmoniously became the tasting experience. When you make a great wine, it just speaks for itself, and it’s now clear to me that that’s exactly what Josh… Delivering the commitment he was inspired to do, via his father as his hero.

2013 Josh Cellars Legacy

This Legacy Wine is captivating wine blend with rich aromas and flavors. Josh describes this one as “Big, bold and unforgettable, like my dad.”  I wish I had also met his father after tasting this one. It kept screaming Pinot Noir to me, with its blueberry flavors. But I don’t have the breakdown, just the personal experience; which really, is good enough for me.

I highly recommend the Josh Cellar wines. They’re delicious, and their marketing is quick and to the point. We can all borrow a page from this playbook, if we also have to send wines to wine writers. The relationships will follow.

Here’s a video created for this wine. Enjoy:



Top 10 intriguing things about Germany and its wines

Germany and its wines

  1.  How elders are treated is fascinating. Here’s the link to the story, in its entirety. No sense trying to reinvent this one.
    1. LISTVERSE: FAKE BUS STOPS; Noticing that seniors tended to stray toward public transportation as a way of returning home, the homes teamed up with local organizations to erect fake bus stops. Escapees are rounded up peacefully; when a staff member sees one of their patients waiting at the stop, they approach and let him know that the bus is going to be late. Then the patient is invited inside to wait more comfortably. Minutes later, the entire incident is forgotten.
  2. The scenery, where the Rhine meets the Moselle, is spectacular and worth sharing. The picture above is where the Rhein and the Mosel meet, in Koblenz.
  3. The 13 major wine regions (Anbaugebiete), as listed on Wikipedia: Ahr, Baden, Franconia, Hessische Bergstraße, Mittelrhein, Mosel, Nahe, Palatinate, Rheingau, Rheinhessen, Saale-Unstrut, Saxony, and Württemberg.
  4. While 11 of the regions are in the west, two of them are in the eastern part of Germany.
  5. I incorrectly thought that Gewürztraminer is a German grape variety, until just now.
    1. Don’t you also be fooled by the German name.
    2. It comes from the ancient Traminer wine grape variety, and takes its name from the village of Tramin. This town is located in South Tyrol, a German speaking province in northern Italy.
  6. Most of the wines coming from Germany are white wines… Due to its terroir. Even though most of us know this, it’s still fascinating.
  7. Wine has been produced in Germany since the Romans introduced it, approximately 2000 years ago.
    1. Those Romans really got around, and have left their aqueducts all over Europe. This is a picture I took of one in Portugal. Roman Aqueducts are also found in Croatia, Spain, France, Rome and Italy (of course), Germany and Portugal (as mentioned), Cyprus, Turkey, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Israel, Algeria, Greece, Jordan, and Romania.
  8. The rich tradition of winemaking at Johannisberg Palace goes back 1200 years.
    1. As of 1716, Schloss Johannisberg belonged to the prince abbot of Fulda, who had a grand, three-winged palace built in line with the taste of the times. [From their Website]
  9. For almost 600 years, every fall in the village of Bad Dürkheim, one of the world’s largest wine festivals happens. Over 150 different wines are available to taste. It’s called “Dürkheimer Wurstmarkt.”
  10. Germany’s 13 primary wine regions produce approximately 1-million cases a year of wine.


Amenities, Supplies, Services,Education,Wine

Vinomaster ~ Corkscrew for easy access to your delicious wines

I watched a brain surgeon once open a bottle of wine and I couldn’t help but think, “Thank God that’s not my brain.” If you’re also intimidated about opening a bottle of wine with a cork, head on over to Wine Turtle. It’s a wine site for handy and fun learning about wines, and in this case, it will make an expert wine bottle opener out of you, once and for all.

Opening a bottle, for those of us who’ve opened thousands of bottles, looks easy. For us, it is; but, we’ve made tons of mistakes in the process… Broken corks, floating cork particles. Been there, done that.

For those who haven’t opened thousands of corks, because your business life is outside of the wine business, there’s efficient help for you. My favorite rabbit style wine opener is Vinomaster’s Rabbit-style Wine Opener. It makes opening a bottle of wine completely easy, and takes the fear of failure away from any novice as you approach that bottle with sweaty hands. Using it takes very little force to open a bottle.  I keep mine in the box that it came in, so I can easily tuck it away; otherwise the shape is awkward for fitting into any of your wine accessory draws. (Save your box!)

There’s a great Website for learning about wine. It’s called Wine Turtle. You can easily read and learn anything you’d like about wine. When it comes to how to how to use one of these Rabbit-style wine openers, or any other opener, just click here. This link covers the following: I’m not going to reinvent any of these wheels they’ve already covered…

  • Rabbit Style Wine Openers (in three easy steps…)
  • Wine Key or Waiter’s Friend Style Wine Openers
  • Ah-So, Butler’s Thief, or Two Pronged Wine Opener
  • Traditional or Winged Corkscrew
  • Travel Corkscrew (Never have TSA take one of your favorite cork screws again…)
  • The Electric Wine Opener

The Vinomaster (Rabbit Style) set that I have is beautiful, and will be making a great gift for one of my favorite (non business) wine people… If you have family, friends, wine connoisseurs or those just beginning their wine experiences, anyone will love having a Wine Rabbit as a favorite gadget, as part of the experiences that go along with his or her wine culture.

Vinomaster is also a great addition to anyone’s wine party. For me, it means that I can walk away from opening bottles and someone else can take over, including anyone who’s had very little exposure to opening many bottles at one time. The set comes with a foil cutter, and an additional cork screw (worm), and the corkscrew itself. It’s the total package…

Just a thought for each of you, because once October hits, we begin to make those lists for December gift giving, special moments. It’s just what we do, right?


Marketing,Wine,Wine tasting

Variety versus Varietal

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

Variety versus varietal

University of California at Davis, if you care about precious credential:

  • Variety is a noun.
  • Varietal is an adjective.
  • Example, I love the varietal characteristic of this variety.

It’s that simple.




Wines, motorcycles, cars, and planes – How did it all come together

How did it all come together? Social media, people meeting people every single day, in the most unusual of circumstances… But, there they are, cultures of all kinds intermingling every day in our global world.

Wines, motorcycles, cars, and planes


A Q&A snippet from Jo Diaz‘ Wine Blog ~ 2/2014, BC (before cancer) “[Q] For what would you like to be remembered?

[A] I want to be apocryphal. When I am gone from the scene, literally or figuratively, people will say what they want about me. I just hope the fabrications that people tell about me are even remotely consistent with who I really was.


Wow… back to that interview. Very interesting. I’m sure you wouldn’t change a thing.


Just got back from Galesburg, Ill … the Stearman National fky in … I counted 82 … in one place …WOW …got to fly one … YA HOO …. .. UPSIDE DOWN ,,, WING OVERS , HAMMER HEAD STALLS … wish I had that on film …what a great pilot to give me his stearman and do anything I wanted … WHAT A GUY …. never forget Friday … PHEW … I can fly !!!!!




Peter Nowack, I have a brother Peter, and he obviously just did something on his bucket list. Our dad was a pilot and we grew up with a “plane” in our family. I had flying lessons as a kid. My dad said to Pete Clarke, “Someday, son, you’re gonna to learn how to fly.” Pete said, “There ain’t no way I’m ever gonna fly a plane.” To that I said, “I wanna fly a plane,” four years older than Pete, and already having the bug.


No wonder I was confused.


So, Dad took me to the airport and the lessons began. It was great and our little secret. It didn’t take my mom long, though, to figure out what was going on.

And my wings were clipped. Sigh. I had to content myself with being a passenger. Then, it hit my bro… “Hey, I wanna fly, too!” So, he built himself a plane, while learning to fly, because that’s what he does… He’s a mechanical tinkerer. He’s tinkered himself a couple of Harleys. The first one was 1,000 cc’s, The new one, I believe, 1,500 cc’s. He restores gas station memorabilia – including the old pumps, getting the right globes… interesting stuff.


Interesting story. Indeed.


I’ve seen him take older cars and restore them into mint condition, where they go into museums. I got his restored pumps placed in an Elegant Auto exhibit at the Portland Maine Museum of Art.

He’s so underground in what he’s doing that only the inner circle knows him. He does everything almost singlehandedly, but that’s another story. Meanwhile, he got his wings, and he’s flying a plane that he restored. This may be his second… I’m not sure.

As I said, a mechanical tinkerer. And, it appears that this was the day that will also have a significant significance.

I got to introduce you, two. Peter Nowack, one of my California wine friends, please meet my brother, Pete Clarke… Pete Clarke meet Peter Nowack. Peter, Pete’s my best and only brother. You’re both in two different worlds, my brother in the Maine woods and you out in the Bay Area. Still, as different as you each are, you’re both rebels.

It’s also interesting to note that our great uncle Harold Clarke invented two things:

  1.  The automatic transmission
    1. General Motors claims the invention, after Uncle Harold brought his great idea to them as a “look/see.”
    2. No, he hadn’t yet patterned it.
  2. The foot sizing apparatus (we’ve all used in a shoe store)
    1. This was during World War II.
    2. Yes, he did – this time – have a patent.
    3. The US Military presented a medal of honor to Harold Clarke. It was because his innovative way to measure feet, as soldiers were slamming into WW II, became much more efficient. Because it was at a time of great peril, it was acknowledged as such for him.


New Zealand,Wine

Top 10 intriguing things about New Zealand and its wines

Top 10 intriguing things about New Zealand Wines

  1.  Did you ever notice that New Zealand is an upside down boot?
    • A boot and a leg warmer, to be exact; not contiguous, like Italy is.
    • Thanks to social media being launched, I launched the story above in 2010, and became listed on Google as the first place holder for this concept. (This will now be my on-line claim to fame… I’ll take it.)
  2. The Maori were the first inhabitants (Polynesian people) of New Zealand or Aotearoa, which means “Land of the Long White Cloud,” arriving before 1,300 A.D..
    • They were (and still are) people people, on the islands. Hunters, gatherers, weavers… And, today they are vintners and shepherds.
    • Perhaps this is makes them the Young Adverturess
  3. New Zealand is like Europe, in that you have to ask for your bill in a restaurant.
    • This is so unlike the US, where the greed of the restaurateurs is front and center:  “That table can bring in four to five parties a night, so I’m going to grab your plate just as you take that last bite and it’s headed for your mouth.”
  4. Because of the length of New Zealand, it has a variety of climates and landscapes from top to bottom. The north is subtropical, and can be wet during the colder months. The south, being close to Antarctica, is extremely cold in winter.
  5. Planned Celebrations ~ Get ready:
    • Sauvignon 2016, The International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration New Zealand • Monday, February 1, 2016 though Wednesday, February 3, 2016
    • Pinot Noir NZ 2017,  New Zealand • Tuesday 31 January 2017 – Thursday 2 February 2017
  6.  New Zealand is 1,000 miles, from 36° S longitude, to the world’s most southerly grape growing region Central Otago (46° S).
  7. No vineyard is more than 80 miles from the ocean and has long daylight hours with sunshine, and at night is cooled by sea breezes.
  8. Sustainable vineyards… sheep, ducks, Guinea hens, cattle, horse-drawn tractor machines, dogs, bee hives and free birds…
  9. My hero, James Milton, founder, viticulturist, winemaker for Milton Estates, Gisborne. In a video produced for sustainability… He stated what I’ve also always said:
    • “The interesting thing about when you move to sustainable, you start thinking about what you’re doing. And when you start thinking about it deeply, you then see that you have an impact on the land. We didn’t want to use soluble fertilizers, because soluble fertilizers don’t give a shit about what goes on in the soil. They just pop it in there, into the plant. And, when it goes into the plant, it goes into the grape. When it goes into the grape, it goes into the juice. When it goes into the juice, it goes into the wine. And, when it’s in the wine, it’s in the glass. When it’s in the glass, it goes into here [pointing to the process of from mouth to stomach]. So, be careful…”
  10. In New Zealand, sustainability is just responsibility and integrity, getting along with their neighbors, getting in front of other people in the world and proud to say that they’re not diluting nature. “It’s doing the right thing when no one is looking… It’s like leaving some wood in the hearth, after you’ve left.” — Rex Butt, Wither Hill, Marlborough
    • It’s simply of a way of life.


Bubbly Wine,Wine,Wine Business,Wine Making,Winemaker,Winemaking,Winery

The class of Jennifer Wall, winemaker for Barefoot Wines

Very uptown, that’s Ms. Jennifer Wall.

And so are the companies for which she’s worked.

I first met Jennifer in one of my transitions: from my working at Belvedere Winery, as Belvedere’s communications coordinator and district sales position. I was at a crossroads; did I want to continue with communications, or did I want to completely segue into sales?

When I left Belvedere (1998), I went to work for Barefoot Cellars, ever so briefly. What Barefoot had to offer was another sales management position. This led to realizing that I really had to follow my PR dream. I came away with deep respect for many people at Barefoot, and one of them is Jennifer Wall, who was kind, generous, and had landed the dream job of her lifetime.

I was reminded of this on Facebook… that she’s rolled with the waves and still is on top of The Mavericks; so much so that this quirky, funny brand is now the number one selling wine brand in the world.

Imagine ~ Barefoot Wines

What Michael Hollihan and Bonnie Harvey started in 1986, which was extremely popular when they sold it to Gallo Wines, was taken from riding high on the waves to being launched into The Mavericks. When Barefoot was sold to Gallo Wines, Jennifer was allowed to stay on her surfboard, and swim out to even greater waters. What an accomplishment for everyone on this Barefoot beach…

In 1995, Jennifer was given the winemaking title, and there she’s been ever since. Making fun wine for people who love a great ride…

What follows is what Jennifer wrote on her Facebook page. I asked if I could share this with you all, and she said, “Yes!!” Great.

Before I go there, one more thing. She began to list the people with whom she worked, over the years. As I saw that I thought, “I was only there for three months,” so… you know my next thought, right? Why would she even remember? Well, I was wrong. Imagine listing everyone that comes to mind in your last 20 years? Good Lord, she’s great.

Jennifer Wall’s Own Barefoot Wines Story

A study in expert sales techniques

20 years ago today, September 18, 1995, was my first day as the Barefoot Winemaker. This 20 year milestone comes with a multitude of other milestones that have occurred for Barefoot this year.

It is the ‪#‎50YearAnniversary‬ of the Barefoot brand, when Davis Bynum made his wines in his garage in Alameda County and decided to name the wine Barefoot in honor of the way grapes were originally stomped and wines originally made.

It is the ‪#‎30YearAnniversary‬ of David Bynum selling the Barefoot brand to Michael Houlihan, who with his partner Bonnie Harvey, re-launched Barefoot in magnum sized bottles (Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.) They thought of the foot on the label differently, as a lifestyle image, rather than a tribute to old style winemaking. They loved to “Get Barefoot & Have a Great Time!”

It is the ‪#‎25YearAnniversary‬ of Randy Arnold, also known as ‘The Barefoot Guy.’ Randy created our very untraditional and still current go to market strategy: donating wines to non profits and letting people naturally fall in love with our wines (by tasting them!) We now have thousands of not for profit friends around the world who we love to support. Randy is still dedicated to making the world a better place through wine. Thank you Randy for all that you do and for always keeping it ‘Fun and Barefoot Quirky!”

It is my ‪#‎20YearAnniversary‬ as the Barefoot Winemaker. 20 years ago, in 1995 we had 4 types of wine and sold 140,000 cases per year. We were a medium-small winery with a big heart and big vision. It was then when I started making Barefoot Wines varietally correct, fruit forward and food friendly.

It is the ‪#‎10YearAnniversary‬ of Barefoot being a part of the E&J Gallo winery. The biggest milestone in my opinion, ten years ago this past January it was announced that Barefoot was purchased by Gallo. It was so exciting for Barefoot to be so warmly welcomed into and join this tremendous organization filled with exceptional professionals who really cared about nurturing and growing Barefoot to its full potential. No one really knew what it would do, and we continue to be in awe of its growth and strength in the market worldwide. I’m so thankful that the Gallo’s took a risk on a crazy lifestyle brand with a foot on the label when so many other wineries were investing in ‘critter’ brands.

I have a few notes of very special thanks: Thanks to ‘ARCH Support’ for ‘Always Believin!’’ Thanks to the ‘Big TOE’ for saying YES when he was asked to run this ‘new’ brand with a foot on it. Thanks to ‘The Barefoot Guy’ for being ‘inclusive’ and inviting all folks (21 and over) to enjoy our wines. Thanks to “Lead FOOT’ for being so passionate about Barefoot and spreading the love worldwide. Thanks to Mos-CAL-TOE for being the best, most collaborative partner for the last 10 years. Last, but not least, thanks to my family and friends for understanding and always supporting my passion for my work.

Barefoot is a very special brand in so many ways. I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t have a “Barefoot story.” Many of these stories are about the first time they “Got Barefoot,” an occasion made special because of Barefoot, or a special occasion where they celebrated with Barefoot. These stories always make me smile.

We have folks around the world dedicated to partnering with local charities to ‘love locally’ and help them raise money for their worthy causes. These “Barefooters,” in addition to our FOOT-tastic marketing team, make up the “Barefoot Team.” However, the reality is that now, the entire Gallo organization is the “Barefoot Team,” in addition to our distributors, sole patrollers, and agency partners.

I thought it would only be appropriate, for my ‪#‎20YearsBarefoot‬ anniversary, to write the biggest note of Gra-TOE-tude to EVERYONE who has EVER worked on Barefoot. THERE HAVE BEEN SO MANY PEOPLE THAT HAVE TOUCHED BAREFOOT, AND IN TURN, BAREFOOT HAS TOUCHED SO MANY PEOPLE ALONG THE WAY…

If you currently work on Barefoot, have worked on Barefoot in the past, or know of someone who has worked on Barefoot, I’m hoping you are tagged below. If not, please help me and TAG them below in this post. This should be the biggest list of past and present Barefooters ever!!!

THANK YOU for helping make Barefoot the MOST LOVED wine brand in the WORLD!

It has been my honor to work with you!


Pinky TOE



Adega de Redondo,Alentejo,Portugal,Wine,Wine Appreciation,Wine Business,Wine Making,Wine Travel,Winemaking

Adega Coop de Redondo in the Alentejo Region of Portugal

If you get a chance, you’ll be doing yourself a tremendous favor, when you discover the Wines of Portugal.

As my host, Enoforum Wines introduced me to winemaker Pedro Hipólito of Adega Coop de Redondo (established in 1956). Based in the town of Redondo, in Portugal’s Alentejo district, this is a municipality of the Évora District, in Portugal. As I’ve written earlier this week, to understand the people and their culture helps to understand the wines.

This old, medieval hill-top town, like all the other areas where I’ve visited, has many points of historical interest. Renowned for its pottery and fine Alentejo wines, it’s situated 21 miles due east of Évora on the Vila Viçosa road. It’s a delightful little town that’s also based around an imposing castle. There are many examples of wrought-iron balconies (indigenous to all of Portugal) and window boxes decorating their white-washed homes.

When we arrived at the winery, Pedro Hipólito was there to great us. We first toured the winery’s production area, which is massive. (“We” being Delfim Costa, GM of Enoforum; Luís Ribeiro, Enoforum’s management; Jóse Fonseca, winemaker for Enoforum; Gwendolyn Alley, wine blog winner of Enoforum’s contest, and I).

The reason all of the wineries that we visited are so large, is that in the Alentejo region, most of the adegas are operated as coops.

In the Alentejo region, which is now beginning to emerge as a world class player, has had a few companies create an interesting way to approach how their wines are to be marketed. Growers keep to the business of growing grapes, and wineries make the wines from grapes that are brought to the winery during harvest. Strict quality control standards must be met; consequently, the winemakers have the best quality wines with which to work, and to then offer the world.

This way, instead of flooding the market with a myriad of brands from which to choose, further confusing consumers, they’ve collectively banded together as regional growers, and are therefore producing wines under only a few labels. Each coop has very stringent rules and regulations for their growers in order for them to be part of the company. FYI, there are waiting lists for each coop.

As we entered the back of the winery, there they were again. I couldn’t help but ask, “What are those white globes?” I had seen them in many places. For a brief, uncomfortable moment, all the men squirmed a bit. Then, someone finally broke the silence… I think it was Delfim… and I was told, “We call them Brigitte Bardots.”

I loved it… and their reason for concern melted away.

Because the Alentejo heats up to about 100 degrees in the summer, and some of their storage tanks are located outside, wine inside those storage tanks would easily spoil. The answer has become these concrete, global tanks. Adega de Redondo’s tanks are lined on the inside with a ceramic, which also doesn’t allow for any evaporation, and does allow for the perfect holding of wine. A hidden benefit to the ceramic lining that was discovered, once lined, is that it also makes the inside of the tanks very easy to clean.

Meanwhile, inside the winery, all traditional methods are used for storing, including underground… as pictured above. I’m going to digress for a moment, because I have to reflect on what I know in the United States as compared to Portugal. I’m totally fascinated by California, having lived in Maine for over 40 years, and am now a CA resident. Basements on the East Coast are just a way of life. In California, that’s been replaced by garage storage. Could it be that earthquakes have kept everything above ground? I just don’t know, but in California it’s all into the caves, if a winery has that kind of hillside access. At Adega Coop de Redondo, there is a basement.. A real, honest-to-God basement. Check out the hole above, which leads to a tank below. That’s where wine is stored, until blending and bottling occurs.

Adega Coop de Redondo has a basement, where people work with the bottoms of these tanks (with the holes on ground level) to do all that must be done in the basement. And, yes, there were also glorious caves.

The sterility of Adega Coop de Redondo is impeccable and very important to everyone. Each winery that we visited is very pleased with their high level of cleanliness. Like the others, Pedro threw open his doors to show us every inch of the winery. In fact, we tasted in the lab, where the winemaker had all of this wines waiting for us after our tour. I loved this stainless steel spittoon. One would have to have a really bad aim to not hit this one. Again, cleanliness. Add a bit of water, and our presence in the lab was easily washed away. This is the best dump bucket I’ve ever seen. I cannot stress enough the cleanliness of the wineries, the people, their manicured cities, and their meandering lands.

Each winery taught me something new about Portuguese culture. At Adega Coop de Redondo, the use of ceramic tiles was everywhere. In Portugal, the use of ceramic is pervasive, period. I’ve yet to write about this aspect of Portugal, but I’ll have an entire blog (in the future) using the tiles that are not only inside of homes (as we think of them), but they’re also used on the facings of the outside of home, buildings, and offices. Portuguese tiles decorate, or are combined together to create murals, like this one of harvest. I can only imagine the artistic side of creating this kind of ceramic… the designing, firing, then lining it all up to create a complete the image. I don’t know if any of you have worked in clay or ceramics before… I worked with pottery years ago, and now I can only wonder and appreciated the artistry that went into creating this mural.

There were three defining murals, as we walked through this adega. This next one, in fact, inspired one of their wine labels. The wine companies I’ve been writing about this week, are some of the most successful wineries from the Alentejo. This means that you – with some searching – should be able to find some of these wines in the US, as they’ve established some export relationships. I’ve not gone looking yet in stores in my area, but I’ve found them on the Internet, while I’ve been doing some research.

These are the wines that were waiting for us in the lab. We tasted from left to right, beginning with the Porta da Ravessa Branca, a non-vintage wine. [That said, we were tasting the 2008 vintage… one of the last bottles in existence.] This is the brand from Adega de Redondo that has the gateway mural’s label, the doorway to the famous landmark, the Castle da Redondo. This white wine from the 2008 harvest is a completely sold out product. Winemaker Pedro Hipólito told us that this wine, the most popular white wine from Alentejo, is a non vintage wine from year to year. It’s harvested in August, bottled by November, and released by early December. To date, they just can’t keep this vintage from being immediately released after harvest, because the demand is so great. It’s been out of stock for the last two months. They just can’t make enough of it. It was a beautiful wine tasting of white grapefruit, citrus, and Fuji apples. Priced at $6.89, it’s easy to see why this wine runs out each year, and must be bottled and released so early.

We next tasted the 2009 tank sample of the Porta da Ravessa Vihno Branca, about to be bottled. This wine was very aromatic in the nose. The fruit was bright and fresh, and I could see why it would be released very soon. It was ready to be, as young as it was. I couldn’t imagine what the flavors would be before tasting it, being so young, but this wine was not disappointing. It delivered. It will also sell for $6.89 in the United States.

2008 Porta da Ravessa Vinho Tinto: Violet red in color with firm tannins, the black fruit and blue berries gave way to toasted almonds on the finish. This wine would be great with rich foods. There was no fining of this wine, because Adega de Redondo has a new cross-flow filter that it’s using for their wines. It’s a gentle, state-of-the-art system, which now guarantees less intervention in wine making, giving the wine maker a better and more flavorful wine. $5.00 US

Anta da Serra Vino Tinto: Varieties for this wine are Trincadeira, Aragonêz, Alicante Bouschet, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Black fruit, with a hint of mint, brought forth a wine with a firm tannin structure. All of these red wines will age about five years, but are crafted to be enjoyed upon release. It’s a great value at $10.26 US

2007 Reserva ACR Vinho Tinto: This wine has made Adega Coop de Redondo the most successful company in Portugal. A wine with 13.5 percent alcohol, deliciously rich fruit had a beautiful tannin structure that will hold the wine for a few years; but like the others, this wine is ready to enjoy now with rich foods. I keep repeating rich foods, because the wines are so dry that foods with rich sauces are a beautiful complement for the wines from Alentejo. $7.64 US

2006 Syrah Vinho Regional Alentejo: This red wine is another great value wine, with a label intended to appeal to Millennials. A beautifully deep purple wine, the flavors of this wine’s rich, black fruit dominated. Saddle leather with dry spicy fruit, this wine almost reminded me of a Burgundy, but was so much drier than a Pinot… But it still had similar characteristics for me. This was another very easy drinking wine.

This day was to end our stay in Évora and the Alentejo, by-the-way. After our visit with Adega Coop de Redondo, we drove back to Lisbon. On the way out of Alentejo’s wine country, I was able to see, once more, the sheep in the meadows and the cows in the cork forests (no corn). Delfim wanted Gwendolyn and me to experience a final day devoted to learning more about the culture of Lisbon specifically, and more of Portugal in general, so we headed into the sunset, as I snapped my last shot of sheep and cork trees along the way.

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From Bordeaux with Love

I thought I’d share this one, since Bordeaux reached out. I’m not there, I haven’t seen the harvest, but the Ouellette/Bernier woman inside of my DNA loves any news from France. It’s one of my joies de vivre.

So, From Bordeaux with Love… Who wouldn’t want to journey here? [Purchased images.]

By: Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, Olivier Bernard, President…

2015: the dawn of a great vintage…

Located on the 45th parallel, the northern limit for the world’s great red wine regions, Bordeaux likes sunny summers to produce great vintages. The months of May, June, and July 2015 were among the hottest and driest on record. Water stress, so important for stopping vegetative growth and starting the ripening process, took place early, in July, and brought on a magnificent véraison (colour change) in early August. I have not seen such an early, even véraison since 2009. All our grapes were red by the 15th of August and many of them were already deeply-­‐colored.

Fortunately, the month of August was less hot and more wet, which gave a certain vigor to the vines.

Dry white wines

This month of August enabled the grapes, especially the white wine grapes, to “breathe” and retain their freshness. The first grapes were picked at the end August. Their juices were superb and the weather forecast for the next two weeks is looking excellent… We are thus quite confident this will be a great year!!!

Red wines

The Merlot grapes will be harvested the last ten days of September and the Cabernets the first two weeks of October. These are showing magnificent potential, but we still need six weeks without a major disturbance.

Sweet white wines

The Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes are slowly reaching perfect ripeness. As with every vintage, botrytis will call all the shots, but the conditions conducive to its development are all there.

[Logo from the E-Mail received.]

It has been several years since Bordeaux has seen the dawn of such a beautiful vintage…

There are still a few weeks of suspense left before this promise is fulfilled.

… Many people are waiting for this news! Here’s to all of you who are salivating.