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Dear Jo,Education,Wine

Dear Abby of Wine, Please let me pick your brain

I wish I had time to just take questions and answers, and be paid handsomely. I’d spend the rest of the day eating bonbons and writing kids’ books. Alas, that extra time is spent answering a myriad of questions I never saw coming. Good ones, I’ll give them that.

I get a lot of really good questions behind the scenes through Emails. People either trust my opinion, or are curious about what I’m going to have for an answer.

That’s the best part of my life right now within the wine business. I’m surrounded by experts, who have most of the answers I don’t have, and they’re willing to take my calls… Bless all of their hearts!

Question Number 1:

I noticed that the last sentence in your message referred to ‘love for the variety.’ [sic: Petite Sirah] Did you intend it to be ‘love for the varietal?’ If variety is correct, just ignore my comments. ~ Joyce

My Answer:

The correct use of the word, if it is being precisely written (and spoken) English, is “variety.”

Variety is a noun, and varietal is an adjective… And, I don’t mind your asking, by the way.

I love this variety (noun), because I love its varietal (adjective) characteristics…

The word “varietal” is describing characteristics, in this instance.

This is probably the biggest mistake being used in wine writing… So much so that “varietal” is now being accepted by some dictionaries as a noun, but I won’t join that league, yet…. Ever, actually. I’ll go down with the sinking ship, which I know I’m on.

Question Number 2:

I stumbled across your blog entry on grape blog and I was wondering if you might be able to help me identify a grape leaf photo I have (see attached image). Please get back to me at your earliest convenience. ~ Elliot

My Answer:

I’ve Bcc:ed David Gates of Ridge, because if anyone can shed some light on your mystery leaf (on the left), it will be David.

Thanks, David, for telling us if this leaf on the right is Pinot Noir or some other variety. Based on leaves I’ve documented, this is as close as I can get – with my leaf being on the right.

Can you help us?

Elliot… check out this link and do your own comparing, too.

Variety Leaves on Wine-blog

As I look at your leaf image (left) and my blog posting that I did at least a couple of years ago (link is above), when I compare your image with the ones I’ve photographed, Pinot Noir is the closest connection.

The tips of yours are a bit more pointy than my leaf; however, look at all of the other leaves I put onto my blog posting, and I see that the Pinot Noir is the closest, structurally speaking.

All the others have a very different structure. So… the closet I can get is Pinot Noir. You’d need someone like David Gates of Ridge to help with any other thoughts. I’ve Bcc: him. He’ll let me know if I’m close or way off base; meanwhile, go to my blog link above and you give me your own thoughts.

(Thanks for your help, David.)

~ David Gates answer: I would be better able to help ID this vine if you could take a photo of its shoot tip, including the first 6 inches. A photo of the back of the leaf would help. Also, do you know what the clusters look like? Pinot noir is one of the oldest cultivated grapevines in the world, and there are many offspring/mutations of pinot that resemble it (chardonnay, auxerrois, gamay, pinot blanc, pinot gris, pinot meunier, etc). [I am going to scan the leaf’s vein system, and get it to David Gates.]

Question Number 3:

My brother and sister-in-law are one month away from having a baby…my very first niece! I would like to give my niece a bottle of wine that will age well, so that she can enjoy it with me on her 21st birthday. I’m wondering if you have any suggestions? I’d like to spend between $50-$75. ~ Shannon

My answer:

Do you like Petite Sirah? If yes, I’d get this soon-to-be-born child a bottle of Sean Thackrey’s “Sirius.”

Also, I’d only give the child a card that says you will be buying the gift in a couple of years, because you might want to wait until Sean releases his 2010 vintage. This way, both the child and the wine will be the same age, once you both enjoy its dark, inky flavors together.

I have done the same thing for my grandson Jonathan. He’s got a 2000 Sirius waiting for us to share together.

There’s another benefit to this, too, and you’ve just reminded me that it’s time for me to do this now… I need to give my grandson a book on astronomy (for his 11th birthday). I’ll highlight Sirius in the book for him, beginning to see a sprout grow from my original seed of giving him the wine two years after his birth.

Next, when he’s about 12 to 13, I’m going to give him a telescope… Letting him find Sirius on his own, and telling him about the wine that’s waiting for him.

I’ve bought him all the Harry Potters, so I need to point out the character Sirius in that book, too.

It’s amazing how this wine is “kid friendly,” and the one I’d definitely be recommending to anyone who asks… regardless of price point, but it does fall within your range.

There’s so much mythology that goes with this recommendation.

Question Number 4:

I’m a 62 year male retiree who’s trying to develop a taste for wine given its health benefits. My prior attempts have been unsuccessful, as I’ve found the wine not to be liking. Quite frankly, I find drinking a bottle of beer more satisfactory! Moreover, as I’m the sole consumer with my use consisting of at most a glass a night, after initialing opening the bottle. the wine’s taste diminishes greatly! I’m hoping you might provide me with some easy to drink wines, and how to economically store it for near future use.Thanx for your assistance. ~ Norm

My Answer:

My husband and I tend to enjoy a glass of wine each night. He prefers red; and I prefer white, when not having heavier foods. I tend to eat lighter foods at night with a lighter wine.

Neither of us want to open an expensive bottle of wine, while enjoying simple food during the week, and not with a party of people. This is an important consideration.

We don’t want – like you – to pull out a $40 bottle just to sip it through the evening news. These wines need to be shared and savored.

I’m not a beer drinker, I have to share. I’ve never been able to get past the aroma. I tried it when I was about 19 (in Georgetown DC, where it was legal drinking age at the time… What a hoot that was!), but it didn’t do anything for me.

Wine, on the other hand, I (obviously) love.

What I’ve found as my own solution is the new marketing toward boxed wines. There are four bottles in that one small box. Once they’ve been tapped open, the inside plastic bladder compresses, so air doesn’t get in and oxidize the wine, breaking it down from its flavors and vibrancy.

You’ll have to decide to either try a white wine – which stores beautifully in a fridge – or a red. Red wines fit nicely onto a kitchen counter; but during the heat of summer, I’d still store in the refrigerator and just let come back to about 55 degrees before enjoying… like a wine cellar temp.)

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