Staff Account

by Arnie Millan

Amarone delle Valpolicella is one of Italy’s – and the world’s – greatest and most unusual wines. It is a wine of remarkable richness and complexity, but few people know about it or how it’s made. Amarone delle Valpolicella is an Italian DOCG, the highest level of appellation (Appellation Blog).

This is how the book Vino Italiano describes older Amarone from great vintages like 1983, “The aromas of these wines – a melding of cherry syrup, coffee, leather, almonds, tar, spice, and so much else – are matched only by Barolos and Barbarescos from similarly great years. The difference comes in the texture: In an older Amarone the glycerine richness created by appassimento (the drying process) continues to show through, coating the palate like a nectar.”  - Vino Italiano © 2005 by Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch

Amarone is a type of wine made from a blend of local red grapes including Corvina (45% to 95% of the blend), Corvinone (up to 50%) - these two grapes are unrelated despite their similar names - and Rondinella (5% to 30% of the blend). A limited amount of other local grapes, including Oseleta, may be added to the blend.

Amarone regulations stipulate minimum vine density, maximum yield, and vine training systems (only pergola or double pergola).  Fertilization and irrigation are prohibited (except for drought emergencies). Vineyards located on rich soils, situated on the plain or at valley floor are excluded from the Amarone appellation. The regulations also detail, by municipality, the regions eligible for Amarone and Classico designations.

Amarone is made from grapes that are usually harvested in September. The grapes are than dried for a period of at least 100 days and then fermentation begins in January or February, depending on the harvest date. Amarone regulations require that the finished wine have no less than 14% alcohol but alcohol content can range as high as 16.5% to 17%!

Check out this time lapse from Cesari.

The finished wine must be aged for a minimum of two years and Riservas require four years.

Amarone’s characteristics are also defined by the regulations:

Color: deep red, possible garnet shades with ageing.
Nose: typical, intense.
Palate: full bodied, smooth, warm.


Here are some outstanding Amarone:

Cesari 2016 Amarone $59.99

“A slightly more accessible wine from a terrific vintage, the Cesari 2016 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico has lifted or volatile aromas of dried cherry skin and red apple. This wine is released with an ample 280,000 frost-coated bottles produced. The blend is 75% Corvina Veronese, 20% Rondinella and 5% of two unknown grapes called Rossignola and Negrara. There is some heaviness to the bouquet with baked fruit and dark spice.” 91 points Parker’s Wine Advocate

Zenato 2016 Amarone $73.99

“Zesty, vibrant and exotic, the 2016 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico makes a serious impression with its unique bouquet of dried roses, lime zest, cherry sauce, plums and a dusting of crushed violet candies. It’s silky and pliant in texture, motivated by juicy acids, with a mix of ripe strawberry, pomegranate and cranberry sauce, as balsamic spices and hints of almond come forward toward the close. There is so much going on here, as the 2016 resonates on wild berry fruit and sweet inner florals. This may be a more opulent expression of the vintage, but it’s built to last, and sure to win a lot of fans.” 94 points Vinous

Allegrini 2017 Amarone $80.99

The Allegrini 2017 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico shows dark fruit and spice that all point to the hot and dry conditions of this vintage. The wine is balanced with a good amount of dark fruit intensity but no overtly jammy or baked fruit. That dense fruit wraps thickly over the palate, supported by backend aromas of charred spice and campfire embers. This is a blend of 45% Corvina Veronese, 45% Corvinone, 5% Rondinella and 5% Oseleta with 120 days of appassimento. 100,000 bottles were made. 94 points Wine Advocate

 No other wine is so positively affected by the hand of man.”
Sandro Boscaini, Technical Director at Masi

Read more →

What is an appellation?

Staff Account

Written by Arnie Millan

An Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP), also called a Denominación d’Origen Protegida (DOP) in Spain and a Denominazione d’Origine Protetta (DOP) in Italy, is a set of rules governing production of cheeses, meats, olive oil and, of course, wine. For example, Bordeaux is an appellation while an IGP (Indication Geographique Protegée) is a classification that does not comply with the strict requirements of an appellation.

Appellation Rules

For wine, each appellation has rules to describe the exact demarcated geographic zone where the grapes must originate and frequently where the wines must be vinified. The rules governing the vineyard may stipulate which grape varieties may be grown, minimum vine density per hectare (ha), maximum yields per ha, minimum must weight at harvest, when the harvest may commence, and even how one may train the vines – for example, in the Côtes du Rhône, Grenache must be planted as a bush vine (en gobelet), not trained on wires. In the winery, the rules may govern chaptalization (the addition of sugar to the fermenting must), acidification, ageing (how long, in oak or not, in bottle) and which closures are permitted (cork, screwcap, glass closures, etc.). Rules vary by region but often require a tasting expert(s) to approve the wine for classification.


The appellation system is usually under the auspices of the national Ministry of Agriculture. In France, the appellation system is supervised by the INAO (National Institute of Appellations of Origin) which reports to the Ministry of Agriculture. Italy and Spain have similar agencies also under their respective Ministries of Agriculture. Each appellation has a local commission to oversee and enforce the appellation rules; in France, it’s the Commission d’Agréements, in Italy, it’s the Consorzio (a consortium of producers) and in Spain, it’s the Consejo Regulador.


The origins of AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée now Protégée) date to the year 1411, when the production of blue Roquefort cheese was regulated by parliamentary decree. In 1905, due to massive and increasing fraud in the wine trade, a law was created to protect the concept of an Appellation of Origin. As a result of continuing fraud, the phylloxera crisis, and the upheavals following World War I, the first modern French wine law was passed on May 6, 1919, the Law for the Protection of the Place of Origin, specifying the region and commune in which a given product must be manufactured. In July 1935, the Comité National des Appellations d'Origine (CNAO), with representatives of the government and the major winegrowers, was created to manage the administration of the process for wines. In 1947, after World War II, the committee became the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO).

The appellation systems in Italy, Spain, and elsewhere, are largely inspired by and patterned after the French model.

Why follow appellation rules?

You can make any wine you want with any grapes you desire but you may not use any part of the appellation name on your label. Instead of, say, Bordeaux AOP, you may to call the wine a Vin de France or declassify it as an appropriate IGP. The consequence is likely lower demand and a lower market price.

Examples of Top Appellation Wines

Rioja DoCa

Rioja is one of approximately 69 DOP’s in Spain and one of only two DoCas (Denominación d’Origen Calificada or DoQ in Catalan); the other is Priorat. Grapes permitted in Rioja are Tempranillo, Grenache, Graciano, Mazuelo (Carignan) and Maturana tinta.

Rio Madre 2019 Rioja Graciano 

This Rio Madre is made from 100% Graciano. Josh Raynolds of Vinous writes, “Inky ruby. Blackberry, cherry pit, pungent flowers and a hint of olive on the fragrant nose. Gently chewy and fleshy in the mouth, offering bitter cherry and cassis flavors that take a spicy turn through the midpalate. Smooth tannins come in late to add shape to the long, smoke- and spice-tinged finish.” 90 points


Chianti Classico DOCG

Chianti Classico is one of 76 DOCGs (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita), the highest level of Italian wine classification. All Chianti is DOCG. Chianti Classico is one of 10 Chianti DOCGs. The Classico wine must consist of at least 80% Sangiovese. A maximum of 20% of other red grapes Colorino, Canaiolo Nero, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot may be used.

San Felice 2018 Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva 

This Chianti Classico is 100% Sangiovese, aged 24 moths in oak followed by another 12 months in bottle.

“San Felice's 2018 Chianti Classico Riserva Il Grigio da San Felice offers lovely brightness and energy. Fresh red fruit, spice, wild flowers and mint give this mid-weight Riserva lovely aromatic presence to match its understated personality. The 2018 is very nicely done.”  

90 points Antonio Galloni, Vinous



Côtes du Rhône

This was one of the very first appellations under the 1935 law and it was created in 1936 with the influence of Baron Leroy de Boiseaumarié, one of the pioneers of France’s modern appellation system, Baron Leroy owned Château Fortia, which remains a well-known Châteauneuf-du-Pape estate.

The Côtes du Rhône comprises approximately 171 villages, mostly in the Southern Rhone. Here are the minimum grape amounts for Côtes du Rhône reds:

30% Grenache, 10% Syrah and/or Mourvèdre along with a maximum of 30% local reds including a maximum 10% total of three recently authorized varieties, Marselan, Caladoc Noir and Couston Noir. A maximum of 5% white grapes are allowed in red Côtes du Rhône.

Brotte 2017 Côtes du Rhône Rouge 

The 2017 Brotte is 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. This wine is a beautiful light ruby color. The Esprit offers up plenty of bright, lively cherry, blueberry and blackberry fruit with smoky, pepper spice and other savory spice notes. There is also a tantalizing undercurrent of dark, black fruit that remains through the finish. The Esprit is medium-bodied with terrific balance and smooth, supple tannins that help to extend the remarkably satisfying finish.

91 Arnie points

Read more →

The Wine Ratings System: A peek behinds the wizard’s curtain

Staff Account
Written by: Arnie Millan

As you can guess, wine ratings (also known as points ratings) are a controversial topic. In the shop, I’m often asked the meaning of these points and who gives them. This is especially germane since I award Arnie points when there are no other review scores but I also give detailed tasting notes.

Surprisingly, only the Wine Advocate discusses their rating system in detail. Importantly, the Advocate goes on: “…scores do not reveal the important facts about a wine. The written commentary (tasting note) that accompanies the ratings is a better source of information regarding the wine's style and personality, its relative quality vis-à-vis its peers, and its value and aging potential than any score could ever indicate.”

In the U.S.A., we usually grade wines on a 100-point scale, thanks to Robert Parker who introduced this scale in his Wine Advocate. According to the Advocate, “Robert Parker believes that the various 20-point rating systems do not provide enough flexibility and often result in compressed and inflated wine ratings. Since its inception, Robert Parker’s 100-point scale has become the wine industry’s standard.” I use a 100-point scale as well. This scale is also used by the respected Austrian wine and food publication Falstaff.

Decanter, published in London, uses the 20-point system that Parker eschews. However, they now rate in half-point increments so is it then a 40-point scale? Other European critics, mostly British, also use this scale such as Jancis Robinson Master of Wine or MW, Tom Stevenson and Clive Coates MW – the latter most reluctantly. However, even Decanter uses a 100-point scale for its World Wine Awards reviews.

Clive Coates, as well as the renowned Italian Food & Wine publication, Gambero Rosso, prefer a non-numerical rating system. Gambero Rosso’s top wines receive the rating of Tre Bicchieri or Three Glasses; lesser wines get fewer glasses. Clive Coates MW, a witty, learned and stylish writer, likes to rate wines sans points. Here is his “scale”:

Poor (sometimes adding “no class”)
Not Bad
Quite Good
Very Good
Very Good Indeed
Fine Plus
Very Fine Indeed


Caveat Emptor

Before we approach the point-rating systems, we need a cold dose of reason. These points are often viewed erroneously as objective, endowed with some assumed scientific rigor since they are numerical scales. Point ratings are nevertheless subjective, assigned as a numerical representation of a reviewer’s opinion.

Thus some reviewers generally score higher (or lower) than others. Beware!


Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate Rating System

The score ranges correlate to the following assessments:

96-100 points:

An extraordinary wine of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic wine of its variety. Wines of this caliber are worth a special effort to find, purchase and consume.

90 – 95 points:

An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific wines.

80 – 89 points:

A barely above average to very good wine displaying various degrees of finesse and flavor as well as character with no noticeable flaws.

70 – 79 points:

An average wine with little distinction except that it is a soundly made. In essence, a straightforward, innocuous wine.

60 – 69 points:

A below average wine containing noticeable deficiencies, such as excessive acidity and/or tannin, an absence of flavor or possibly dirty aromas or flavors.

50 – 59 points:

A wine deemed to be unacceptable.


Wine Spectator's 100-Point Scale

95 - 100 points Classic

90 - 94 points Outstanding

85 - 89 points Very Good

80 - 84 points Good

75 - 79 points Mediocre

50 - 74 points Not Recommended

Read more →

Climate Change- stamping is mark upon the global wine industry

Staff Account
Created by Arnie Millan


Here is a recent update on the most recent effects of climate change in France and Germany

Germany, July 13, 2021:

Catastrophic floods devastated the Ahr region, famous for its Pinot Noir. Most of Germany’s flood deaths and flood devastation occurred in the Ahrweiler district (In the center of the Ahr River Valley). Of an estimated 180 deaths in Germany, at least 112 occurred in the Ahrweiler, as of July 20th*.

According to the German Wine Institute (DWI), “The economic devastation that accompanied the floods was particularly hard felt by the region’s more than 38 wineries, many of whom lost their facilities, cellars, machinery, wine barrels, cellared inventory and more, destroying entire wine-producing businesses and livelihoods. It will likely take weeks to quantify the number of wine-growing businesses affected as well as the severity and extent to which the disaster will affect the entire Ahr region and its 563 hectares of vineyards.1

Why was the severity of the flooding attributed to climate change? The flooding was the worst in at least 100 years and maybe in recorded history. “For years, scientists have warned climate change will mean more flooding in Europe and elsewhere. Warmer air holds more moisture, which can translate into heavier rainfall. A warming climate that can supercharge rainstorms and European disaster plans that focused on major rivers, rather than the lower volume tributaries hit hardest by the storms2.” The July storms arrived seemingly suddenly catching most victims by surprise, dumping 6” of rain in 24 hours.


France, April 5, 2021

An early frost has destroyed an estimated 30% of the 2021 harvest was lost. In Northern Burgundy, losses have been as high as 80%. Still, prices are not expected to rise much, if at all, because of reduced worldwide demand due to the ripple effects of the COVID virus.

“With temperatures in early April as low as 22°F, and following an unseasonably warm March, this year’s frost damage may be the worst in history for French winegrowers. Every corner of France reports considerable losses, from Champagne to Provence, and Côtes de Gascogne to Alsace. As a result, there will likely be very little French wine from the 2021 vintage reaching U.S. shores. In fact, “this year’s frost damage may be the worst in history for French winegrowers.3

How has global warming contributed to frost damage in April? March (and February, too) was unusually warm. The growth cycle in the vines sped up leading to an early budbreak. “At the time these frosts hit, the buds had already burst,” says Friederike Otto, associate director of the University of Oxford's Environmental Change Institute. “And so the frost did damage the vegetation quite a lot.4

According to Euronews, “The result was an estimated €2 billion in economic damage described by French officials as ‘probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.4’”

France, 2021

In 2018, The National Institute of Appellations of Origin (INAO) considered changes to the appellation rules for the large Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur appellations (AOC). For years, growers in Bordeaux have petitioned both their local Commission d’Agreements and the INAO to allow the planting of new varieties better suited to warmer climates. Finally, on March 22, 2021, the INAO announced an major change in the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur AOCs formalized on March 30 with the publication of the official Cahiers des Charges6 or AOC rules.

“One particularly newsworthy approach to adapting to warmer climates is the region’s recent authorization of new grape varieties allowed within Bordeaux AOC. Concerns like the quick ripening of core Bordeaux varieties like Merlot have urged the region to approve these new plants, and allow growers to plant a range of grape varieties for their blends that have different ripening periods spread over time. There have been several criteria for expanding the authorized varieties while still keeping an eye to preserving the typicity of the fruit quality and finished wines.

The seven varieties recently approved for planting in Bordeaux AOC and Bordeaux Supérieur AOC are red varieties Arinarnoa, Castets, Marselan, and Touriga Nacional, and white varieties Alvarinho, Liliorila, and Petit Manseng. These varieties have been chosen specifically to give winegrowers more options when adapting to climate change, but they’re limited to 5% of the planted vineyard area, and they cannot constitute more than 10% of the final blend. Also, keeping with the legal regulations for labeling, wineries may not list these varieties on their wine labels.5


  1. German Wine Institute, “The Terrible Flooding in Germany’s Ahr Wine Region and Help for its Wineries,” July 20, 2021
  2. Science, Warren Cornwall, “Europe’s deadly floods leave scientists stunned,” July 20, 2021
  3. Beverage Industry Enthusiast, Nils Bernstein, “French Winemakers Try to Save 2021 Vintage From Late Frost” April 12, 2021
  4. Euronews, “Climate change 'a factor' in frost that decimated France's vineyards, say scientists,” June 15, 2021
  5. Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) or Bordeaux Wine Council, “How Bordeaux is Adapting to Climate Change” May 6, 2020 
  1. INAO “Cahiers des Charges” Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur, March 30, 2021

**Picture was taken by Arnie Millan in Bernkstel on the Mosel on April 1, 2011.  Ernie Loosen is pointing out the marker from a historic flood on the 2nd floor from 1784.**

Read more →

Finding Good Deals in Pinot Noir Burgundy

Staff Account

Created by Arnie Millan

Burgundy prices have skyrocketed over the past 10 years due to the reputation of top Burgundy as one of the world’s greatest wines, resulting high demand, low production/scarcity and a succession of excellent, if not great, vintages.

Burgundy is the birthplace the planet‘s finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It all comes at a great cost, however. Today associating the word “value” with Burgundy is becoming an oxymoron. Excellent village level Pinot Noir was $30-$40/bottle in 2014; now it’s $70-$100!

So where do you look for value? Happily, there is a rich hunting ground at the basic communal or Bourgogne Rouge level. The fruit sources for these wines can come from anywhere in the greater Burgundy region. There are also great finds in Bourgogne (Burgundy) Hautes- Côtes (upper slopes) de Beaune or Hautes- Côtes de Nuits.

The Hautes Côtes or upper hillsides are planted at higher altitudes than their famous cousins below. It’s cooler here than in the famous appellations below with cooling winds rolling down from the top of the slope where there is forest. In the past, this region had – and still has - a reputation for Cassis and sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne. Pinot Noir is also planted throughout the Hautes Côtes. Shrewd buyers know that these Pinots can be terrific bargains in warm vintages and they have been blessed with a succession of warm vintages recently from 2014 to 2020.

Chitry is located immediately South of Chablis, in the cooler Northern climate of the Auxerre. Like the Hautes Côtes, these Pinots can offer killer values in warm vintages.

These Pinot Noirs shine and hold their own against more expensive Oregon and California Pinots. Check these recommendations out below:

Domaine du Prieuré 2018 Hautes Côtes de Beaune Rouge $21.99/bottle or $20.89/bottle by the case
Beautiful strawberry to cherry color. Aromas of tobacco leaf spice and hints of clove, nutmeg, anise, cherry and strawberry. I was not prepared for my first sip – I expected a much lighter wine but its first impression was intense. It was a “wow” moment. The Prieuré is prodigious and expansive with bright strawberry and raspberry fruit. Lots of mineral and fresh acidity pulls the whole thing together. This Burgundy has exceptional balance and is a killer value.
91 points Arnie Millan


Giraudon 2019 Bourgogne Chitry $21.99/bottle or $20.89/bottle by the case
Vibrant, lively raspberry and strawberry fruit washes effortlessly over the palate with highly discreet tannins leading the way from the mid-palate on to the finish. We were impressed by how well it trumpeted its presence on the first sip. This wine is all about rich fruit, minerality, and refreshing acidity. The 2019 Chitry carries its 14.1% alcohol with aplomb, just like its neighbors to the South. We just loved this wine! It’s a terrific bargain for Burgundy.
92 Arnie points


Beautiful ruby color, The Potel boasts aromas of pepper/tobacco leaf spice and dried herbs along with red and black berries. Lively fruits wash over the palate like raspberry, strawberry fruit and pomegranate. The fruit becomes darker as the mid-palate fills out. The Potel is medium-bodied but tastes rich in spite of its 12.5% alcohol. The tannins are soft, almost caressing, leading to a delightful, dry finish.
This Burgundy is made from parcels in the villages of Santenay, Pommard, Volnay, Chambolle-Musigny and Vosne-Romanée (80%) as well as declassified village appellations of Auxey-Duresses and Maranges (20%). Getting fruit of this pedigree for $21.99 is a nearly unheard-of accomplishment.
90-91 Arnie points

Read more →

Cadence Winery...Our March Winery of the Month!

Alisha Gosline
 Cadence makes wine that speaks of place; of elegance and power, perfume and structure in combinations only possible from three world class vineyards on Red Mountain: Ciel du Cheval, Taptiel and its own estate Cara Mia Vineyard.

Read more →

8 Of Our Favorite Rose Wines Under $25

Mad Wine
These pinks are easy going down and easy on the wallet. When it comes to warm-weather drinking, rose is the new go-to. In 2015, the volume of rose sales was up more than 44% year over year. With rose being such a popular wine we thought we’d give you our recommendations for some amazing rose that won’t break the bank. These rose wines vary in hue from a pale blush too vibrant salmon, from the Provence region of France to Horse Heaven Hills in Washington.
  1. Baron De Funes Rosado 2017: Made from 100% Garnacha, this is a lean pink wine loaded with cut strawberry and fresh mint accents. For under $10, this wine is a tasty, screaming deal. $6.99
  2. Regaleali Rosato 2017: Thousands of roses, brought in from all over the world, thrive on the Regaleali estate. The name of this wine has changed to reflect these incredible flowers. Unchanged, however, are the Nerello Mascalese grapes which give Le Rose di Regaleali its class and elegant fragrance. Deep salmon-pink in color, offers delicate aromas of cherry, raspberry, blackberry, and-appropriate to its name-rose petals. Rich on the palate with refreshing acidity and a long, flavorful finish, this is what Sicilians enjoy in the summertime. Perfect for tuna, salmon, poultry, pork, and flavorful pasta dishes, this wine is universally food-friendly. $9.99
  3. Michel Lynch Rose 2017: Candy pink in color, this is a soft wine. Its caramel and spice are balanced with the red-currant fruits to give an easy, open wine that is ready to drink. $10.99
  4. Librandi Circo Rosato 2017: The vineyards that dot the countryside of the small town of Ciro Marina overlook the Ionian Sea and benefit from cool ocean breezes, thus producing grapes with spicy and floral aromas. Ciro Rosato is made from 100% Gaglioppo, Calabria's signature variety, selectively harvested in late September into early October. $11.99
  5. Commanderie de la Bargemone Coteaux D’Aix en Provence Rose 2017: Bargemone is among the foremost estates of the Coteaux d'Aix appellation of Provence. A benchmark producer of the delicious, dry rose for which Provence is famous. Offers classic aromas of wild strawberries and red currants, with a light, floral character and a crisp, bone dry palate. $14.99
  6. AIX Rose 2017: This is a smooth, beautifully ripe wine. It is well balanced, with crisp red and orange fruits adding a refreshing background to the spice and acidity. This finely made wine is ready to drink. $17.99
  7. Whispering Angel Rose 2017: The Rose that put Provence on the map! Very French in style, loads of minerality, light peach, fresh strawberries, and a hint of rosewater. The bright acid makes this the perfect rose to pair with grilled Sea Scallops wrapped in fresh watermelon. Perfect for that patio dinner. 91 POINTS DECANTER. $19.99
  8. Julia’s Dazzle Rose 2016: Though the highest price on this list, this unique Rose of Pinot Gris is named after Allen's granddaughter, Julia, and is sourced from a special block from The Benches Vineyard at Wallula in Horse Heaven Hills. The grapes were left to hang until they developed a bright tint, then gently pressed and the clarified juice slowly fermented at cool temperatures to retain the wine's intensely vibrant aromatics and flavors. Fresh and lively with bright aromas and flavors of ripe strawberries and melon complimented by a racy acidity that lingers across a clean, off dry finish. $22.99


Read more →

National Hot Dog Day

Mad Wine
You might think wine and hot dogs make an odd pairing, but since we love wine and hot dogs, we're sure this is a winning combination. We're here to help you pair your favorite hot dog with our favorite wines. These wine pairings go well beyond just National Hot Dog Day, these would work for any summer BBQ as well! Hot dogs and sausages come in lots of varieties, but one thing they have in common is that they are salty and hearty, so they need a wine with acid. Many wines could work but stick to wines with acidity and a touch of sweetness. Our choices: Rosé, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Grenache. Starting with the Rosé: WINE: AIX Rose 2017 VARIETAL: Blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, and Counoise TASTING NOTES: This is a smooth, beautifully ripe wine. It is well balanced, with crisp red and orange fruits adding a refreshing background to the spice and acidity. This finely made wine is ready to drink. PAIRING NOTES: For hot dogs, you want a wine that has acid to cut through the fat and minerality to enhance the salty, savory flavors in the meat. Its fruitiness will pair well with the sweetness in ketchup. It’s also low in alcohol with virtually no tannins, so you can load up your dogs with spicy mustard or peppers and the wine won’t exacerbate the heat. MadWine PRICE: $17.99 WINE: Lone Birch Pinot Gris 2016 VARIETAL: 100% Pinot Gris TASTING NOTES: From 100% Estate Grown fruit, an enticing bouquet of tropical fruit leads to a well balanced, medium bodied mouthfeel with luscious flavors of pineapple, pear, and white peach. PAIRING NOTES: If your hot dog is spicy, smokey and grilled with spicy toppings, Pinot Gris is the perfect match because it tames the heat of jalapenos and makes the saltiness of any sausage disappear. While Pinot Gris is made from the same grape as Pinot Grigio, it's made in a more full-bodied, and ripe style that's heavy on the palate and cuts through the decadence of sausage to leave your palate refreshed and grease-free. MadWine PRICE: $9.99 WINE: Foris 'Rogue Valley' Pinot Noir 2016 VARIETAL: 100% Pinot Noir TASTING NOTES: Foris, organic producers since the early 1970's brand new vintage of Pinot Noir is fabulous. Soft and supple with layers of Bing cherry fruit, and has nuances of cedar and earth with super smooth tannins. PAIRING NOTES: Pinot noir creates a great contrast for hot dogs that are smoked with a traditional soft white bun with chili on top. This combination while odd, combines the earthy flavors, fruit notes, and hints of spice that match those found in the hot dog. MadWine PRICE: $13.99 WINE: Evodia Garnacha 2015 VARIETAL: Grenache TASTING NOTES: A great value Garnacha with notes of blackberries, black pepper and mocha and a long lingering finish. PAIRING NOTES: If your hot dog is steamed, grilled and served in a steamed bun topped with relish, mustard, ketchup and chopped raw onion, this is the wine to pair with. Grenache makes a great hot dog pairing because it is medium-bodied and low in tannin. This wine brings out the tang of condiments while cleansing the palate. MadWine PRICE: $9.99 So with that, Happy National Hot Dog Day and go out and buy some hot dogs and order some wine today!

Read more →

Hungary Royal Tokaji

Mad Wine
The other week, a small group of wine pros met at Wild Ginger to taste through an exquisite line-up of Hungary’ Royal Tokaji. Tokaji (formerly Tokay) is one of the world’s greatest dessert wines and our tasting more than lived up to expectations! Our guide was Kimberly Bowden, CSW, CSS (those initials mean she knows her topic) from Wilson Daniels, the importer of Royal Tokaji. Tokaji’s wines were renowned throughout Europe - among nobility, Czars, and clergy - 400 to 500 years ago. Tokaji was also the first wine region in Europe to be 1700. Prince Rakoczi initiated the world’s first classification of a wine region by Great First Growth, First Growth, Second Growth and Third Growth. There are 3 grape varieties permitted in production of Tokaji:
  • Furmint, 70% of plantings, very high levels of tartaric acid, very susceptible to Botrytis
  • Hárslevelú, 25% of plantings, rich in sugars and aromas
  • Muscat de Lunel, 5% of plantings, difficult to grow but important seasoning
The Tisza and Bodrogm rivers create a mist similar to the fog in Sauternes, which encourages development of botrytis cinerea and potentially, noble rot, under the right conditions. Royal Tokaji uses indigenous yeasts and grapes, traditional winemaking methods and ages wines in a 13th century underground cellar. They hand-harvest non-Botrytis bunches to ferment into dry base wine in stainless steel. About three weeks later, they hand-harvest harvest shriveled aszú berries berry by berry then grind the berries into a paste and add it to the partially fermented base wine. After stirring for two or more days, the wine is transferred to gönci, 140-liter or 37-gallon barrels and moved to the 13th century cellar for the second fermentation which may take a few months to a few years due to high sugar levels and cool cellars. The wine is so rare because each vine yields one glass of wine. Royal Tokaji is one of the region’s elite producers with holdings in all of the region’s top crus. It was founded by British wine authority Hugh Johnson, among other investors, in 1990 after the fall of communism. We were lucky to taste these rare wines. They are sensational and complex with notes of blood orange, citrus peel. As the Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin writes, “The delineation is astonishing on the nose, unfurling with entrancing scents of orange blossom, freshly sliced apricots, almond, and quince – all beautifully focused.” I might add, on the palate, stewed mandarin orange, honey, and quince. In addition to sweeter wines, we tasted a terrific, crisp dry Furmint and an elegant, mildly sweet late harvest Tokaji.

Read more →

Stoller Vineyards

Mad Wine
Stoller at Sunset Photo credit Lenny Rede
The Stoller's established the property in 1943 and the vineyard fifty years later. Using 100% estate fruit, they control every step of the process, from pruning to bottling and everything in between. The result is award-winning wines that are balanced, complex, and consistently exceptional. These are some of our favorite Oregon wines. What Melissa does is consistently create balanced wines that show off a purity of fruit and finesse too often lacking in today's wine world.
Stoller Rose Photo credit Lenny Rede
"I strive to make wine that exemplifies the uniqueness of the vineyard and reflect the vintage with balance and elegance. Our Pinot Noir characteristically expresses a combination of red to darker fruits, spice, and fine-grain tannins. The volcanic soil, elevation, exposure, and weather of our Dundee Hills site all combine to create the perfect conditions for growing cool-climate wine grapes." - Melissa Burr Melissa Burr was raised in the Willamette Valley. After completing her Bachelor of Science degree, Melissa intended to practice naturopathic medicine before discovering her true passion was in wine. She studied winemaking and fermentation science at OSU and interned during harvest for several local wineries before becoming production winemaker for Cooper Mountain. In 2003, Melissa joined Stoller Family Estate as the winery’s first dedicated winemaker. In her 14-year tenor with Stoller, Melissa has worked in concert with the vineyard team to oversee the site’s continued refinement. She has helped grow production from 1,000 cases to 60,000 while acting as a steward of Stoller’s legacy. I recently visited the winery and was as usual blown away by the wines! Visit them if you get the chance, and tell them Lenny sent you. if you can't here is a little video of what you are missing. #OregonWineMonth

Read more →