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Wednesday
Aug032011

From Behind the Tasting Bar - August 2011

Iberian Wines: Deliciously Different

By Cynthia Bournellis

Quinta Cruz donates wines for the TAPAS Grand Wine Tasting Silent Auction. From left to right: 2009 Verdelho, 2008 Tempranillo, 2007 Concertina (Touriga-based blend), 2008 Graciano, 2008 Touriga, and 2006 Rabelo (Port-style wine). (Cynthia Bournellis)My love affair with Iberian wines began two years ago—not in Portugal or Spain, but here in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and I’ve been pouring them ever since. The flavors and aromas of Iberian wines are distinctly different from those of say French wines. Bold, juicy fruit; earth; spice; and floral give these wines their luscious edge. They are like hedonists in their ability to pleasure most palates and pair with virtually any cuisine—from basic meat and potatoes to Spanish, Mexican, Thai, Chinese, even Indian.

I am fortunate to live in a state that is increasingly growing grapes indigenous to Spain and Portugal. California is not the Rioja, La Mancha or Ribera del Duero regions of Spain or the Douro Valley in Portugal. Therefore, a Tempranillo, for instance, grown in a mix of the calcareous rock, broken shale and clay terrior of the Lockwood area in the San Antonio Valley AVA—the southern-most tip of Monterey County—will not resemble that grown on the slopes of Rioja. Even Tempranillo-based reds from the Iberian Peninsula vary.

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Thursday
Apr072011

From Behind the Tasting Bar – April / May 2011

Tartrate Crystals: Uncovering the Mystery of “Wine Diamonds”

By Cynthia Bournellis

You are enjoying a nice day of wine tasting when the next thing you notice is a cluster of grainy deposits resting at the bottom of your glass or clinging to the inside of the bowl. Often referred to as “wine diamonds” (although they do not sparkle), these solids are actually called tartrates—crystal-like particles that often get the “Yuck! What’s that in my glass?” response when I pour wine, especially to novice wine tasters. If you are like me and have been around wine for some time, tartrate crystals register nary a blip on my “yuck” radar. I’d say sulfur dioxide or “smoke taint” is more likely to make my nose curl than are some harmless tartrate crystals.

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Wednesday
Feb022011

From Behind the Tasting Bar - February/March 2011

Blind Date

By Cynthia Bournellis

I’m not a fan of blind dates; I can count the number I’ve had on one hand. I prefer the type of blind date that involves wine – blind tastings, that is. I attended a blind tasting at a wine bar in Santa Cruz. The star grape was Sangiovese, and the wines were a combination of 100 percent Sangiovese or a Sangiovese-based blend.

When doing a blind tasting, you must curb your enthusiasm to sip right away. A certain protocol is involved, one that requires patience, analysis and conventions. The basic conventions include scoring the wines from one to five in the following order: appearance, aroma, body, taste and finish.

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Wednesday
Dec082010

From Behind the Tasting Bar for December 2010/January 2011

2010 Harvest: Santa Cruz Mountains Growers and Winemakers Weigh In

By Cynthia Bournellis

Jeff Emery, winemaker, Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, looks through a refractometer to check the degree of Brix in Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Luchessi Vineyard in Cupertino. (Cynthia Bournellis)The 2010 harvest in California has been the question on the minds of tasting room customers asking how this year’s crop will fair. To keep them abreast, I spent most of October talking to winemakers and grape growers in the Santa Cruz Mountains to get their take on things. Their consensus: the 2010 vintage is not doomed. In fact, the vintage holds much promise: acids are high and sugar levels are good, so the wines should be nicely balanced.

Cooler temperatures this year are one reason acids are up. Cooler weather, however, had growers and winemakers dancing around harvest, as temperatures fluctuated erratically. Winter rains lingered into spring, and brisk temps dominated summer. Fall was a mix of hot and cold snaps, with heat spikes in late September and mid-October, followed by intermittent rains through Halloween.

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Monday
Oct042010

From Behind the Tasting Bar

New Uses for Used Wine Paraphernalia

 By Cynthia Bournellis

Large lobby wreath made from 300 used wine corks. Artists: Cindy and Robert Marton, owners, Corks & More LLC ,Mount Dora, FloridaWaste is an ongoing problem in any industry. In mine, it’s empty wine bottles and used corks, shipping boxes and paper wine bags, to name some. While wineries do recycle these products, they also consume them like water. For example, no sooner is wine bottled and most stored for a few months or so prior to release, only to be consumed shortly thereafter.

This leads me to a mantra that you’ve probably heard ad nauseam: reduce, reuse and recycle. While I’m not encouraging you to reduce your wine budget, I am encouraging you to reuse or recycle your used wine materials. So, allow me to share with you some creative and smart ways to get the most mileage from your spent wine paraphernalia.

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