Well hello there 2012!

Baby StellaLooking here at the calendar I’m a little embarrassed to be telling you all Happy New Year on March 6th that said I do have some valid reasons. First off I took on some additional responsibilities at the day job, for those that didn’t know I don’t write for a living ;-), in early November and have been hard at work integrating those into my daily schedule. But perhaps more importantly we were going through the final month of our third pregnancy which ended on January 22nd when our daughter Stella joined us. And boy did I have high aspirations for what I was going to write about during my two weeks of paternity leave but as you can see that didn’t happen…

So that leaves us here. I usually begin each New Year (see here, here and here) with some thought and reflections. All in all, 2011 was certainly my least enjoyable year of the five I have been blogging. First and foremost getting my site hacked what seemed like a hundred times and continually working through that madness drained a lot of energy and enthusiasm that I would have rather focused on writing. 2005 Sandler Sonoma Coast Pinot NoirSo a sincere apology to the many commenters I left hanging! I owe you all in 2012. And as for the writing itself I wasn’t able to overcome my biggest flaw which is writing about things I deeply enjoy. Like this 2005 Sandler Pinot Noir (which I opened the night of Stella’s birth) or my visits to wineries like Domaine Spiropoulos and Gentilini. For whatever reason it paralyzes my tongue and/or fingers. I don’t think I can find the words (or sometimes I blame it on not having the time) to truly convey my appreciation of these experiences…

After I published the Top 10 list in early December I had grand visions of doing the 12 days of Christmas to help those wondering what to buy the wine geeks in their lives. Making this list is as far as I got and it included things like orange wine, Savoie, Gamay, Gruner, Riesling and Rioja. Further I want to spend more time writing about new wineries I discover, long time favorites and new regions that excite me (like Core, Unti and the wines of Mt. Etna). So here is to 2012 and making sure I write about those things. My plan is to kick start this effort with my annual A to Z list soon; fingers crossed that is…

2010: The Year in Review from A to Z

2010: The Year in Review from A to Z

I know I’ve been gone for a while. Apologies as life has been a bit hectic between my day job, buying a house, organizing a charity event (more on #Wines4JapanSF to come) and trying to launch a side business. I also know that 2010 is squarely in the rear view mirror for most. Q1 is over, 2010 tax season is behind us and most (me) are already behind on their New Year’s resolutions. That said given yesterday was the four year “birthday” of Jason’s Wine Blog I was feeling a bit retrospective and decided a sequel to the 2009 recap was in order. So first a quick nod once again to Tommy Oldre for the idea and then without further ado let’s get to it…

A is for an old flame; the Alsace. I’ve expressed my love here and here but have yet to dive in further. Changing that is one of my goals for 2011 and started with this 2009 Meyer-Fonne Riesling Reserve which was a certain winner. Also stay tuned as I plan (and already have been) exploring Assyrtiko (A seer’ tee ko) as well!

B is for… well it was tough to decide between Blue Danube Wines and Bonny Doon Vineyard. Blue Danube has introduced me to a plethora new and interesting varietals in the wines of eastern Europe. Where as Bonny Doon has rocked my palate with many fine and better yet value oriented wines (the Grenache is my favorite to date). I ultimately decided that since Randall Grahm and I both attended the Port4lio Tasting and agreed that the Patricius Yellow Muscat was the wine of the day that I would call it a tie. And Randall makes a nice Muscat of his own to boot…

C is for Cellar Tracker. This was the year I had finally made my leap from a little, personal system I used to becoming an active user of CellarTracker and I love it. I’ve posted over 200 notes in my first year onboard and have enjoyed reading others thoughts on wines I have stashed in my cellar. If you haven’t joined I highly recommend it! And if you do be sure to “friend” me so I can see what you are drinking…

D is for December. December 2010 to be exact. A season of festivities and I certainly celebrated by drinking some fine wines. Many of which I’ve yet to chronicle here. Two of my favorites were the Broadside Cabernet and Pierre Gonon Vin de Pays de l’Ardeche. Both were discovered via Jon Bonne’s No Stress Holiday Guide. Look for more on the palate matcher series I intend to delve into this year. In short the more I spend $12+ per bottle the more I am keeping score on who is steering me in the right direction for my palate. +2 for Jon and more to come.

E is for my evolving palate. It’s been five plus years since I’ve started seriously tracking my tasting notes and it is interesting to see how my perspective has changed over that time. Certainly in my earlier days I was much more a fan of rich, opulent wines like this 2004 Rosenblum “Heritage Clone” San Francisco Bay Petite Sirah which I still have two plus cases of in my cellar to more restrained offerings. I’m not sticking a branch into the beehive around balanced wines as it is just my take and I still enjoy a “bigger” wine on occasion. I’ll be interested to see how my palate continues to evolve in the next five years to come. Still so much to learn and try…

F is for Fronton. Fronton? Say what? Fronton is the the local wine of Toulouse and Negrette is the primary varietal these wines are composed of. And while I really enjoyed the Domaine Le Roc Classique this is more an ode to all of the other discoveries out there that are awaiting me. If I can find something like this from just outside France’s fourth largest city it speaks volumes to the amount of exploring I have left to do.

G is for Grüner Veltliner. I had my first deep dive into this native Austrian varietal at the aforementioned (see “B”) Port4lio tasting where I learned a great deal. I always appreciate the snappy, refreshing minerality they deliver and look forward to the differing complexities (floral notes, smoky, spice, etc.) that each brings to bear. My favorite of the year? The Graf Hardegg which made it to the final four of my summer wine extravaganza (75+ wines) last year. With warmer weather upon us I look forward to picking up my studies where I left off.

H is for Haiti. For those that don’t remember Haiti was struck by a major earthquake in January of last year. As part of this the wine community banded together to help support the relief efforts. The Wines for Haiti auction held on Palate Press was chief amongst these efforts. With the tragedy in Japan fresh on all of our minds I look forward to banding together as a community to once again support those in need. For those in the bay area stay tuned as we are in the midst of organizing a “Wines for Japan” tasting event.

I is for Israel and the wines of the Middle East. Not the first place that springs to mind when you think of wine but certainly somewhere the history runs deep. My first wine from Israel was the Golan Heights Cabernet Sauvignon which showed very well and encouraged me to explore further. And don’t even get me started on Lebanon. Learning the ins and outs (if there are any) of Chateau Musar is certainly on my agenda.

J is for Jadot, as in Louis Jadot who is just one of the producers mentioned in the best piece of wine writing I’ve likely ever read. If you haven’t yet stop reading now and click on over to Keith Levenberg’s Cellar-Book. That said be forewarned I have been on a relentless search for each (see Assyrtiko mention above) and every one of these wines. Wallet be damned. As for the Jadot I’ve yet to try it but I’m almost certain I‘ll love it. Stay tuned!

K is for K&L Wines. Those in the San Francisco area (and more recently LA) will surely recognize the name of one of my favorite retailers. Their email newsletters are well worth the subscription (if you can handle the temptation) and their selection is outstanding across all price points. My favorites range from the 2001 Château Larmande ($40) to QPR gems like the Urbanite Cellars Redart, Skouras White and Domaine Guillemarine Picpoul-de-Pinet. I’m looking forward to new discoveries in 2011!

L is for La Clarine Farm. 2010 was the year my interest piqued in “natural” wine. While the definition is widely debated I fall on the side of what’s in the bottle and I can tell you that I have yet to be disappointed. La Clarine delivers in spades with their Grenache Blanc and Syrah both interesting to the last drop and leaving you longing for the next bottle (need to get some of that Home Vineyard Red Blend). If interested in learning more about La Clarine Farms check out this interview with Hank Beckmeyer which was filmed as part of a documentary on natural wines in California called Wine from Here. Click on through to check the trailer. Great wine geek stuff!

M is once again for Mendocino and Navarro Vineyards. As mentioned last year I’m a big fan of this winery where I have been a club member for nearly a decade. I also mentioned I drink these wines far more than I review them which is a shame. In 2011 I’ll try and right that. Perhaps by tapping into a few of the verticals I’ve been building…

N is for the NPA or the Natural Process Alliance. For those that don’t remember their Sauvignon Blanc (my most consumed wine of 2010) was the winner of my Summer Stash series taking top honors amongst 50+ wines. I’ve since enjoyed their Red Hawk and Pinot Gris and love that their offerings can only be described as fun in a bottle. That is unless you give them nicknames of their own. Some of my faves are “sunshine”, “summer”, “the weekend”…

O is for older; as in older wines. I last lamented my lack of a wine sugar daddy (still accepting applications…) when talking Bordeaux earlier this year. Sadly my chances to try aged wine are few and far between. Last year I had a chance to taste the wines of Vina Valoria that spanned four decades; ’68 (my oldest), ’73, ’92, ’05, which was a unique experience. This year I recently had a 1994 Château Les Ormes de Pez. As for the rest of the year I’m hoping Musar (mentioned in “I” above) and Lopez de Heredia work their way onto my agenda (and into my cellar).

P is for palates and perspectives. This is building on my early note (see letter “D”) that the “the more I spend $12+ per bottle the more I am keeping score on who is steering me in the right direction for my palate.” My thought for 2011 is do dig deeper than the scores here. It is great that Parker gives a wine 90 points but what does my palate say. Likewise for you out there. I may love a wine you disdain or vice versa. To me this is part of the beauty of wine. That said I can’t help but try to apply a little bit of science to it ;)

Q is for QPR. I already mentioned some of my favorites from K&L Wines (see “K”) but I would be amiss not to share my a gem or two from a year of hunting the wines aisles of Trader Joe’s. My favorite of 2010? The Clos LaChance Merlot. The Picket Fence Pinot Noir was another favorite, though more polarizing, pick.

R is for Ridge Vineyards. Another case of enjoying the wines much more often than reviewing them. That said the Ridge Lytton Springs and York Creek Zinfandels are the only bottles I regularly spend $25+ per bottle on. This year I was lucky enough to join in for the 2nd version of their Wine Bloggers Tasting event. Hope I can make another one this year but either way looking forward to enjoying as many of their wines as I possibly can in 2011…

S is for the undiscovered Sherry. I have a lot of discovering to do in the realm of fortified wine and I intend to get it underway in 2011. No worries as I long ago identified my Obi Wan Kenobi in the Passionate Foodie, aka @RichardPF. My first Sherry? The Lustau Dry Amontillado “Los Arcos”. The first few nights I had this open it took some getting used to but after that I really enjoyed the bright orange rind, salty almond toast and a touch of carmel on the slightly sweet but dry finish. Looking forward to whatever my jedi master recommends next.

T is for Third Thirsty Thursday’s which is what I have preliminarily named my tasting club. I’ve long had a few friends who I’ve learned and tasted with but as we all have growing families it is time to formalize these events. First one May 19th. We also need to get a #SFWineMob up and running…

U is for Unique. Those that have been following along know that I am always on the lookout for a new experience and I’ll certainly have my eye open for any and all opportunities to explore further in 2011. Part of why I love wine so much is that there is always a new varietal or area to explore. For starters I have a trip planned later this summer to Switzerland which should offer plenty of discoveries. Excited to see what the year ahead will bring and already looking forward to your recommendations.

V is for Vinos Unico and Vinho Verde. No one was better to me in 2010 than Luis Moya and Vinos Unico. From Port4lio to Redart (see “K”) to Vina Valoria (see “O”) they delighted again and again. While the ’98 (along with a red and sparkling version of) Vinho Verde I sampled at their tasting dinner was incredibly unique I most enjoyed many warm summer afternoons on the patio with the 2009 Trajarinho Vinho Verde which is a steal at $9 and the 2009 Muralhas de Monaco Vinho Verde. Word on the street is that the 2010 Vinho Verde has arrived and is now available. Time for me to stock up!

W is still for my son William (and daughter Cecilia). As previously mentioned I’d like to build them a little cellar of birth wines and have stashed away a few for each. Assyrtiko, Riesling, Lopez de Heredia, Chateau Musar and Renaissance Winery are all on my shopping list. If you have any reasonable, affordable additions (~$40) do let me know…

X is another repeat for Xinomavro. Blame it on Keith Levenberg (see “J”) but I must taste the Domaine Karydas this year. But first I’ll start with the 2000 Hatzimichalis Xinomavro which I mentioned last year of which I was recently able to acquire another bottle of from Wine Chateau (along with a few others). With my friend Markus Stolz as a guide I look forward to discovering some terrific wines (at affordable prices).

Y is once again for You! I know I disappear from time to time and am less than diligent about responding to comments and apologize for both. I just want you all to know how much I appreciate sharing this journey with you. I’ve learned much, been turned on to some great wines, the Kanonkop Kadette comes to mine, and appreciated all the dialogue (even dissenting opinions) over the years. Thanks again and look forward to more of the same in 2011.

Z is for Zaca Mesa. First of interest after reading Steve Heimoff take on the Grenache I set out to track that one down. Alas all K&L Wines had on hand was the Syrah so I grabbed that and boy was I glad I did. Within that post I lamented not finding the Grenache which a friend was kind enough to gift me (along with a Viognier). Couple that with the extra bottles of Syrah I picked up and I look forward to spending more time with the wines of Zaca Mesa in 2011.

So there you have it! Have you had any of these? If so, would love to hear your thoughts. If not, let me know what wines have moved you over the last few years. I certainly love to try and track them down…

2010: The Year in Blogging

Happy (belated) New Year to all! Those that have been sharing my wine journey with me over the years know that around this time I like to take a moment to step back and reflect. Ponder the year that has passed and what I learned, look towards the future with fresh eyes and jump into the year with a renewed focus. I generally take the month of January to go through this exercise. Early memories of 2010 include last year’s A to Z post , some great tasting events, a Top 10 list that wouldn’t update itself and most importantly seeing the community continue to grow and thrive here.

And on that note, I want to thank all of you! It has been an incredibly fun year. According to my friends over at Google some 120,000+ of you stopped by last year to read ~380,000 pages . Despite a hiatus (or two) 98 new posts were published and an amazing 1,134 comments were generated! An extra special thanks to my commenter in chief; the invaluable Angela. Likewise to joshiemac, JB, Danny, Don, Andy Rathbone, JerrryK and each and everyone of you that took the time to participate this year. I appreciate the time you all take to make this such an enjoyable experience and look forward to continuing the conversation throughout 2011.

And finally… Yip! Still a a sucker for a Top 10 list so I thought I’d share how you all voted with your clicks. With that I present the “Reader’s Choice” Top 10 List of Wines for 2010:

  1. 2007 Trentatre Rosso
  2. 2007 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles
  3. 2008 La Granja Tempranillo
  4. 2007 Chariot Gypsy
  5. 2008 Honey Moon Viognier
  6. 2008 Spiral Wines Cabernet Sauvignon
  7. 2007 Picket Fence Pinot Noir
  8. 2006 Chiusa Grande Tommolo Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo
  9. 2005 Epicuro Aglianico
  10. 2008 Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir

Have you had any memorable moments here on the site in 2010? Have any thoughts on what we can do different in 2011? If so do tell in the comments below…

Next up: 2010: The Year in Wine…

2009: The Year in Review from A to Z

Can’t believe it is already March, unfortunately I’m not all that surprised that I have yet to close out my “2009 Year in Wine” series. I have a few resolutions but want to focus on one here: start spending more time writing about wines (or topics) I enjoy. Upon reflection I realized there were many wines I would have liked to dedicate more time to in the year that passed. Given that I was inspired by @TommyTablas post on All Things Consumed to use the alphabet to memorialize those that I enjoyed and those that deserved more of my time and attention…

A is for unexplored, for me, Amador County and the surrounding Sierra Foothills. I paid my first visit to the area when I stopped by Sobon Estate whose wines I enjoyed throughout the year, particularly the Zins. In the sub $15 range wines like the Rocky Top deliver well beyond their price point. A family friend has also shared a number of Obscurity Cellars who finely demonstrate the unique grapes being produced in this region.

B is for 2006 Boekenhoutskloof Syrah which I was lucky enough to taste as part of the Hospice Du Rhone Ready, Set, Syrah! Taste Live event which featured 3 Shiraz offerings from Australia and 3 Syrahs from South Africa. This was my favorite of the bunch; my notes: “Bottle looks of quality, worried it won’t deliver but it does. Nice herbs on top of cherries delivered on a smooth, dry, chalky backbone. Shame to drink this now, would have loved to lay it down for 3 years or so”. Recently learned they are behind the Wolftrap label as well, need to try those. With World Cup 2010 on the horizon this is a region that is going to get a lot of attention soon.

C is for Wines of Chile. Not once, but twice I had the pleasure of joining their fantastic online tasting events. The first was covered here. The second, consisting of 8 Carmeneres, still languishes on the pages of my tasting notebook. Of the 8, the 2007 Cono Sur Vision Carmenere was my standout wine. My notes: “Beautiful nose of tobacco and chocolate. Silky smooth in the mouth with bursts of blackberry. A meaty, smoky component emerges on the mid palate leading to a tart, lasting finish”. The most important learning of the year? Carmenère is pronounced Car-men-YAIR not Car-men-are-a like I have been saying for years…

D is for 2006 Don David Cabernet Sauvignon which is made by Michel Torino and was tasted as part of a series of wine during the Salta, Argentina Taste Live event. My notes: “Nose like a cigar shop, loaded with cedar and cherries. The same cherries start the palate. This one is perfectly balanced and finishes with a tart, spicy backbone that lasts & lasts. Still seems a bit young but there are a multitude of layers here. Could taste this one all night and not “figure” it out. At $14 retail this represents a superb value”. I meant to get more of this one and never did, just added it to the to-do list!

E is a shout-out to the Trader Joe’s Epicuro offerings which deliver a series of unique Italian varietal offerings that have been on my value list for years. That said, hoping in 2010 E is for Tablas Creek’s Esprit de Beaucastel.

F is for the master of disaster in the wine world; Fred Franzia of Bronco Winery fame. 2009 saw him unleash the Blue Fin label, which included a $4 Pinot Noir and the $3 Crane Lake Down Under Chardonnay. Given the economic environment I am expecting a lot of activity from Fred in 2010, it will be interesting to see what he comes up with!

G is for Greece. My single, biggest regret of the year is not continuing my series of posts on my visit to Greece last year. I had wonderful visits with Apostolos at Domaine Spiropoulos and Petros at Gentilini Wines that are still stuck on paper (actually in ¾ done Microsoft word form). This is one thing I still hope to rectify in 2010, I’ve refused to drink any of their wines I brought back home until I do so. I have some tremendous experiences to share.

H is for Paul Hobbs and his Viña Cobos label. You can pay ~$100 for his California offerings (which, for the record, I’ve never had) or <$20 for the Cocodrilo Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina. I stocked a case of the ’06 in the cellar. As a young’en this one was big and it has only ever so slightly smoothed out. Looking forward to watching how this wine continues to evolve over the next few years…

I is for Irsai Oliver, a Hungarian grape that calls Gewurztraminer and Muscat Mom & Dad. At the recommendation of Blue Danube Wine I gave the 2008 Szöke Irsai Oliver a try. Here’s my notes: “Nose of mineral/oils. Showed ripe, pollinated floral notes on a tight acidic, mineral, stony backbone. This one started off challenging but look forward to giving this varietal another go”. I love trying new grapes and look forward to getting introduced to many more in 2010. So bummed I’ll be missing the 25 grapes tasting at Solano Cellars!

J is for Jim Neal, the winemaker responsible for the one and only (in my mind) Trader Joe’s cult wine the Chariot Gypsy. As matter of fact I am sipping some as I write this post. That said, let’s move on as the post on the ’08 vintage is next in the queue…

K is for 2005 Kaesler Stonehorse GSM which I brought home from my trip to Australia a few years back. I loved that trip and this wine. Here were my notes: “Deep purple in color, nose shows dark fruit. The palate shows loads of blackberry that are restrained and balanced by a firm tannic, acidic backbone which leads to a long, rich, dusty chocolate finish”. Wish I could get more!

L is for Lang & Reed and Cabernet Franc too! Vinography turned me on to the 2007 North Coast Cabernet Franc which solidified my connection with Viva la Wino! who drinks loads of Chinon. I’ve been stocking up on some of his recommendations and can’t wait to dive in and starting tasting those.

M is for Mendocino and Navarro Vineyards my long-time favorite winery. I drink their wines much more often then I review them, Just got the mailer that my Spring shipment will be here soon. Can’t wait!

N is for 2007 Bodega Norton Malbec the reigning champion of the controversy filled 2009 Grape Madness Tournament. By the way, the 2010 version is right around the corner, you in? Stay tuned for more details soon…

O is for Owen Roe. I have long been a fan of their Abbot’s Table red blend. Realized two things over the previous year; 1) didn’t taste/buy the latest version and 2) only had one bottle all year long. What a shame! While I look to make up for that in 2010 please check out RJ’s series of post to learn more about Owen Roe.

P is for Pinot Noir. Specifically, a multitude of value offerings under $15 highlighted by the Davis Bynum. It started with the Castle Rock, then the Caretaker followed by the Sebastopol Hills and MacMurray Ranch. Guessing there are more headed are way in 2010, can’t wait to see what is on offer!

Q is for QPR. From K&L Wines to the treasure hunt that is the Trader Joe’s wine aisle there is nothing I love more than finding a QPR gem. My favorite gem of 2009? The 2007 Trentatre Rosso.

R is for Riesling. Last year I was lucky enough to both visit the Mosel and partake in the Riesling Wold Tour 2009 tasting. This is a region and varietal that I became much better educated on. From recognizing the extremely low alcohol percentages (7.5-9.5%) of these well made wines to learning about Silvaner and Scheurebe it was a “fruitful” year.

S is for samples, the first of which I received this year. Some good, some bad but best of all the doors have opened up to many tremendous tasting experiences. Not only have I immensely enjoyed these events but I have grown as a wine drinker because of them. In 2010 I am hoping to find a way to share these more directly with you my readers. Be on the lookout for my first attempt here very shortly!

T is for Taste Live. Craig Drollett and crew have put together a great platform that has attracted top notch wineries. Beyond the great wines I’ve met and engaged with a number of great people. Look forward to watching the platform evolve and participating in more events in the year ahead…

U is for Urbano Cellars. Urbano Cellars is a small local winery that reached out and offered to send me some samples. With expectations low, I drank one after another and was more impressed each time. Then I checked their price sheet and was blown away. Here are my notes on their Petite Verdot: “Violet notes and stewed plums on the nose, delicious fruit on the palate that shows both restraint and elegance. Rich and velvety throughout with hints of cedar on a nice, soft tannic finish. Some heavy sediment in the bottle.” And thus I present my 2nd biggest regret of the year. The good news is they are local, I need to swing by and grab some more of their wine. And this time I need to be sure to share that experience with you all!

V is for Veramonte, specifically their Sauvignon Blanc which has been my summer wine of choice for years. Haven’t had it yet? Wait for the mercury to rise and grab a bottle! Can’t wait for the seasons to turn…

W is for my son William and my continual search for his birth year wine. He was born in 2006 and I have long been seeking a few cases to stash away for him until he reaches legal drinking age (or at least close). That said, haven’t pulled the trigger yet, I guess I’m having commitment issues. Thinking 2010 is the year, the favorite heading in? The Chateau Cantemerle Bordeaux. My notes: “restrained, showing great structure. Nice acidity & cranberry notes on the palate lead to a dry, lingering finish.” This one showed some promise, need to get another bottle soon! Anyone out there have any other recommendations?

X is for Xinomavro which is another new grape I tried in 2009. Markus Stolz just wrote this great article describing Xinomavro. I tried the 2000 Hatzimichalis Xinomavro Naoussa, here were my notes: “An offering from Macedonia, this one was super dry and light (12%) and slightly on the thin side. Showed some earthy components with a green aspect as well. Coats the palate nice on the finish.” Looking forward to drinking more Greek wine soon!

Y is for You! More than anything I look forward to sharing another year of adventures with all of you. We have a great community here and I appreciate all your comments, recommendations and support. Looking forward to more of the same in 2010.

Z is for Zinfandel, specifically Ridge. I still remember the 2003 York Creek that ignited my passion for field blended wines. I’ve since appreciate many more but never as much as the Ridge offerings. It so happens they are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Eric Asimov penned a great retrospective on the half century that has passed. Let’s hope the next half century delivers more of the same!

So there you have it! Have you had any of these? If so, would love to hear your thoughts. If not, let me know what wines you enjoyed over the past year that you would like to see get a little more attention…

2009: The Year in Wine

2009: The Year in Wine
I kicked off the 2009 year in review by giving thanks to all of you that are reading this today! For the second part of this series I wanted to, much as I did in 2008, take a look across all of the wines I tasted during the year. As much as I would like to use a tool like Cellar Tracker or VinCellar on Vinfolio (who, by the way, just declared pseudo-bankruptcy) I am still chugging away with my little home grown (Microsoft Access) tool that could. That said, it allows me to take a good look into the rear view mirror so let’s get to the tale of the tape…

For the year I tasted 318 wines with an average cost per bottle of $10.18 which brought me back in line with my numbers from 2007 when I averaged $10.03 (versus $8.93 in ’08). This can be certainly attributed to the drop to 56% (avg. cost: $6.18), from 72% in ‘08, of purchases being made at Trader Joe’s. Winery direct at 14% (avg. cost: $17.86) and K&L Wines with 12% (avg. cost: $11.29) round out the top three in the purchasing category. 2007 (33%) replaced 2005 as the most prevalent vintage consumed with 2008 (23%) jumping past 2006 into second. Wonder how those ‘06’s are missing my cart… My oldest wine of the year was a ’94 Vintage Cava from Segura Viudas that I opened on New Year’s Eve.

As many of you know, what draws me to wine is the proxy it provides for physically traveling the world. First and foremost on my mind is always the opportunity to try a new grape or a new region. With that, in 2009, I samples wine spanning 44 grapes from 13 countries representing 54 different wine regions. The US led the way at 57% with Italy, France and Chile filling the next 3 spots. Red Blends were once again the dominant choice with Zinfandel moving into the 2nd spot and Pinot Noir the 3rd. I attribute Pinot being 3rd to the incredible offerings Trader Joe’s has had over the last six months that brought this varietal into a comfortable spending range from me.

Six wineries crossed into the 10+ bottle category this year. Three, Navarro, Rosenblum and Epicuro, are repeats from last year. Of the three to join the ranks one is a new favorite in Sobon Estates where I have tried many of the offerings and never been disappointed. Another is Central Coast Wine Warehouse who has been placing a number of private label offerings in Trader Joe’s. My personal favorite being the Franc Merlot which I am hoping to see a new vintage of soon. And the last is Jim Neal Wines, maker of the Chariot Gypsy which purely based on my consumption of that single wine…

To round out this segment the let’s take a look at both ends of the price spectrum. On the lower end I had 2 offerings at $3, the 2008 Down Under Chardonnay and 2008 Il Valore Sangiovese. Against the odds, I was a fan, and have repurchased, both! As I found this of interest I took a quick look at the $4 lot and was surprised to find that I found 25% (5 of 20) to my liking. Might dig further into the QPR aspects in a further post. As for the most expensive, for Open That Bottle Night I picked the 2003 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at $55 which, while it didn’t disappoint, failed to excite me.

By the way Open That Bottle Night takes place on the last Saturday of every February. That means it is just around the corner. Start thinking about what you might want to pull out of that special hiding spot for the evening! While you’re thinking stay tuned for the last in this “2009 Year in Review” series where I plan to cover highlights of what I learned about wine, my most interesting wines of the year and some thoughts for where I see myself headed in 2010. Hope everyone’s New Year if off to a great start!

2009: The Year in Blogging

photo by littlemoresunshine

With the passing of the New Year it is always good to take a moment to step back and reflect on the year that has passed and look towards the future with fresh eyes and a clean slate. I intend to do that here throughout the month of January. For those that may have more recently discovered the site I am nearing my three year anniversary in the wine blogging arena. 2007 was the year I got my feet under me. In 2008 I transitioned to a self hosted blog and much to my delight began discussing wine with some of you all here on the site. 2009 was a remarkable year. It will be remembered for many things;
Grape Madness, receiving my first samples (more on this in another post), redesigning the site and most importantly really developing an active community to talk about wine.

And on that note, I want to thank all of you! Google tells me that over 95,000 of you stopped by to read the 119 posts that were published last year. Those 119 posts generated a remarkable 1,036 comments! An extra special thank you to Angela and Danny for being the most active commenters. Likewise to joshiemac, RJ, Jeff, DP and PeterB who were also regular contributors. I know at times I can be slow (or worse) to respond but these comments and the dialogue are what keep me going. So thanks again to all for your contributions and please let’s keep the conversation going!

And finally… Everybody knows I’m a sucker for a Top 10 list so I thought I would share how you all voted with your clicks. With that I present the “Reader’s Choice” Top 10 List of Wines for 2009:

  1. 2007 Chariot Gypsy
  2. 2007 Castle Rock Mendocino County Pinot Noir
  3. 2005 Epicuro Aglianico
  4. 2006 Chiusa Grande Tommolo Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo
  5. 2006 The California Wine Party Franc Merlot
  6. 2008 Honey Moon Viognier
  7. 2008 Blue Fin Pinot Noir
  8. 2006 Epicuro Nero d’ Avola
  9. 2005 Howell Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
  10. 2007 Pancake Cellars Big Day White

Have you had any memorable moments here on the site in 2009?  If so, I would love to hear about them in the comments…What a year it was!

Next up: 2009: The Year in Wine…

Adios 2008, Hello 2009

photo by littlemoresunshineInspired by Dr. Deb’s question “Have you taken time to review your 2008 wine habits?” in her post on Good Wines Under $20 I decided to take a peak under the hood and look back on 2008.  I have a little home grown application I use to manage and track my inventory which helped me pull together some numbers.

In 2008, I tasted 313 wines with an average cost per bottle of $8.93 which was about 11% lower than my 2007 average of $10.03.  Trying to stay ahead of the economy J.  The more likely reason was a greater focus on Trader Joe’s where I purchased 72% of mine wine up from 44% a year earlier.  K&L purchases were down 50% and BevMo and The Wine Club were removed from the shopping itinerary.

224 (72%) of the bottles were red.  Strangely this was the same exact number of bottles purchased at Trader Joe’s.  The number was a modest decrease from the 76% of ’07 likely resulting from the result of my first real summer in years after moving out of San Francisco.  2005 was again the most prevalent vintage consumed at 35% though less so than the 48% of the year before.  2006 did replace 2004 in 2nd.

These wines spanned 39 grapes from 12 countries representing 41 different major wine regions.  Surprisingly only 55% were from the US, I expected the number to be higher.  The Red Blends dominated the top spot and were followed by Cabernet and Zinfandel in the 2nd and 3rd spot.  Rosenblum, Navarro, Epicuro and Columbia Crest were the four labels exceeding 10+ bottles consumed for the year.  The cheapest was the 2005 Amaicha Bonarda at $2 and the most expensive was the 2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine de Marcoux at $45

Ah the brink of 2009, what are my wine resolutions?  Keep expanding my horizons.  I love finding new grapes and new regions.  Think I may spend a little more time searching for these unique offerings outside of Trader Joe’s.  The second is to drop some wine clubs, the economy L.  The last few are around blogging and the site.  For blogging, be more regular.  Had a great run there at the end of the year with 8 posts in 8 days.  Also took a few months off.  So I’ll try to balance it out a little better.  On site, I am going to keep on experimenting with new things.  I added Facebook Connect (bottom of the right hand column on the home page) and am in the middle of working on a new design.  Here is a sneak peek.  Let me know what features and/or functionality you would like to see added…

More than anything I look forward to sharing another year of adventures with all of you. We have a great community here and I appreciate all your comments, recommendations and support and look forward to more of the same in 2009.  Now, let me get to work on some of those new posts…