Inaugural Napa Valley Tweetup #NVTweetup at Mondavi

Napa Valley TweetupI’m very fortunate in that I get the opportunity to go to a large number of high quality wine events.   The vast majority of the time, I know what to expect for each event, not that it affects my ability to completely enjoy myself, mind you!  But every once in a while, a wine event sneaks onto my calendar that provides a whole lot more than expected, upon arrival.  The inaugural Napa Valley Tweetup (Twitter), organized by Gabriel Carrejo (Twitter) and Bonfire Interactive…was one of these events.

Inaugural Napa Valley TweetupI arrived via the ride roundup technology that only VinTank (Twitter) and Cruvee (Twitter) can provide: I met up with James Jory of Cruvee and Clay Wallin (Twitter) from VinTank through Twitter DM’s with the Kung Fu Master himself, Paul Mabray (Twitter).  We made our way upvalley and after entering the gates of Robert Mondavi Winery (Twitter, Blog) at nightfall, we had a candlelit walk to their new barrel room that I had yet to see, the To Kalon Fermentation Cellar.  We were greeted by a surprisingly calm Gabriel and directed to the further spotlit and candlelit barrel room and handed a glass of the 2008 Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Fumé Blanc.

Inaugural Napa Valley Tweetup @ Robert Mondavi WineryI was completely taken aback by the production quality of the event.  Multiple, social media-driven wine stations featuring reserve and limited production Mondavi wines, two sensory stations, a live art installation, lounge areas all around and live, stand-up bass led quartet.  It was clear that a ton of thought and heart went into this almost “re-introduction” of Mondavi to the new wine-drinking public…and they just totally nailed it!  Proceeds from the ticket sales for the event went to the Napa Valley Education Foundation, which hit home for me, proud as I am of my sister who teaches 5th grade at Philips Charter School in south Napa as a highly decorated veteran teacher. Almost every single digital mover and shaker attended that night, many were some that I had never had the pleasure of meeting IRL and by the end, it felt like a very elegant reunion of vinopanions that I’ve admired and worked with over the last few years.

Gabriel Carrejo @ NVTweetupThe list of wines that I tasted from the layout that night is given below.  The level of quality in these wines was extremely high across the board and I was very thankful to have a chance to taste these limited release wines.  A huge thank you to Gabriel et al, Jocelyn at Mondavi and everyone else that had a hand in this tremendous and historic night.

All of these wines have been tagged with “NVTweetup1Mondavi“, if you’d like to list them in your own WineLog. All of the photos from that night are on my Flickr. Cheers!

Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Fumé Blanc 2008

Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Chardonnay 2008

Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Reserve Chardonnay 2006

Robert Mondavi Winery Oakville To Kalon Vineyard I-Block 2006

Robert Mondavi Winery Carneros Reserve Pinot Noir 2008

Robert Mondavi Winery Carneros Pinot Noir 2008

Robert Mondavi Winery Carneros District Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Hello Vino & @drXeNo!

Hello Vino iPhone AppFollowing a dizzying string of new partnerships between WineLog, myself and other fine and fun wine partners, we are now part of a very cool and useful iPhone app that has been newly relaunched.  Hello Vino takes the hard part out of picking a wine while on the go to whole ‘nother level.  Choose a pairing based on the food on the menu in front of you, choose the food for the glass you just ordered at the wine bar or just search for a distinct wine style or producer…all taken care of very quickly.  It’s also all dialed in to your favorite social networks (their on Twitter themselves) so that you can brag to educate all of your friends about your synergistic food and wine choice.  If you pairing is a match made in digestive heaven, you can even buy the wine straight from your iPhone.

Hello Vino Vinopanion Wine Review Screen CaptureThe innovative folks at Hello Vino have launched a new feature on the app which features wine reviews and blog posts about many of the favorite wines in their database.  I have a number of wine reviews up there already, as do many of my superbly talented vinopanions, such as Notes From the Cellar‘s Steve Paulo (Twitter), Luscious Lush Thea Dwelle (Twitter) and 1WineDude’s Joe Roberts (Twitter, Twitter2).  The Chicago Tribune’s Bill Daley (Twitter) also has a number of reviews on the site.  I highly recommend downloading this intuitive wine app and adding it to your arsenal of iPhone apps.

Let me know what you think about the new features in the comments below!

WineLog and Ward on Wine Biz Radio!

Wine Biz RadioThis afternoon, deep within the bowels of biotech in my secret hidden laboratory, I will Skype in and delight the fine listeners of Wine Biz Radio in the Sonoma Valley with tales about wine exploits with my fellow Vinopanions!  From 4-5pm PST, you can catch “this episode…” on KVSY-FM 91.3.  Herein, we chat about the harrowing exploits of the Napa River Terroir Project, Le Wine Buff‘s, Bordeaux and it’s attack by surprisingly lazy wine writing, Brixr and their Tiny Bottles and of course, WineLog (Twitter, Twitter2)!

Links to the archive and iTunes podcast will be posted soon, in the meantime, check out the UStream of Randy Hall (Twitter) and Boy (Twitter), Kaz-less (Twitter) in the Kaz Winery penthouse studio below!

Wine Biz Radio 05/21/10

Wine Aerator Air-Off

Wine Aerator Airoff - The contenders!As a certifiable (different from certified, mine requires a psychiatrist!) wine geek, I get a lot of questions about serving and preparing wine so that it can be happily sipped.  One of the biggest questions concerns the aeration of wine…how do I like to aerate my wine, whether young or old and what do I like to use to do so?  For the most part, I tend to decant my wines, but that isn’t always the easiest thing to do every time I open a new bottle.  Sometimes I might only want part of a bottle and then the wine is hard to store once decanted.  Or, I might just have more than one bottle open at a time and I’m pouring like crazy because I have some thirsty friends, ready to partake.  In that case, I find that a wine aerator tends to do the trick, i.e. a wine gadget that actually works on a per glass basis and usually by being inserted into the bottle.  The larger question looms…which one is the best??  This article is here to try and tackle that vinoquery!

The Contenders:

Centellino Areadivino1. Centellino Areadivino (sample courtesy of the U.S. distributor) $50

This contestant hails from Italy and has a beautiful design of carved wood and hand-blown glass.  Just sitting alone, it makes for a very artistic addition to the room or dining table.  Replete with two globes and a spout, topped with the wood, it has beautiful form.  Conveniently, it also has single-handed operation, being placed in the bottle for use.  This particular aerator has had a big push into the US market over the last 6 months, including some very cool social and multimedia campaigns.  One of the videos is particularly helpful to learn how to use this aerator and a good watch.

Wine Soirée2. Wine Soirée (Twitter) (sample courtesy of the company) $25

The Wine Soirée is another great single-hand operated wine aerator.  Featuring an easy in-bottle design and stylized main bulb for the oxygenation of the wine, this is the easiest of the three to operate.  There are two different rubber seals depending on the type of bottle that will be opened.  The packaging also contains a handy stand with which to dry the aerator when done and after rinsing.  Their website also features a handy video where you can learn the easy methods of the WS.  The Wine Soirée is widely available in the US and can be found at many wineries in California, proving that the winemakers themselves must think highly of this aerator!

Vinturi3. Vinturi (Twitter) $40

The Vinturi comes in two different flavors, red and white but I was only able to test the red iteration.  The white version is described as having different dimensions and flow rate to better suit white wine.   This patent pending design is possibly the most dramatic, merely because as the wine travels through the device a distinct sucking sound punches through the air…definitely getting you noticed at the your friends’ wine and cheese party!  A drawback in my setup is that it requires a two-handed operation, where the Vinturi actually blocks your view of the wine glass to see how much has been poured.  They do offer stand to solve this issue as well as a steel filter for sediment and cork bits, but they cost extra.  Your purchase of either of the aerators includes a stand to contain drips and/or hold it upright while drying, as well as a velvet carrying pouch.

The Process:

I decided to take (not surprisingly) something of a scientific approach to tackle this comparison.    The wine I chose was one in which I had a fair amount of familiarity from past vintages so that it was something that I could recognize stylistically to neutralize another variable, that of an unknown wine.  My wine for the evening was the 2007 Alexander Valley Vineyards Alexander Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, a very solid, balanced and high QPR Cab.

The weigh-in! - Wine AeratorsI then poured four glasses of wine, 1 as a control with no aeration and the other three with the exact same amount in each one, properly utilizing each of the aerators.  In retrospect, it would have been great to pour one additional bottle into a decanter for the same amount of time as each glass as another, somewhat positive control. Each aerator’s glass was poured and left to sit for 2 minutes before evaluation, just as I did with the control straight from the bottle.  I used my typical three component tasting structure of Color, Nose and Palate, with the Color the same across all glasses, of course.  With the tasting method now elucidated, let’s launch into the tasting notes!

2007 Alexander Valley Vineyards Alexander Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - BevMo!Aerator Tasting Notes (Color: Dark garnet core with garnet edges):

No Aeration (-):

N: Black fruit that is slightly muted, some toast oak underneath and some char.
P: Full and all black fruit, with oak underneath, firm grip and some charred earth in the juicier, good acid black fruit finish.

Centellino Areadivino:

N: Bigger oak, underneath, with dark berry fruit and some newly wet earth at the end.
P: Full and sinuous with good grip, all black fruit and chalky, dusty tannins.

Wine Soirée:

N: Bright black and red fruit here with some charred earth.
P: Plush black berry fruit here, still with good brightness and good acid in the chalky black fruit finish.

Vinturi:

N: Drier black fruit with dusty oak under.
P: Blackberry fruit here as well, with some of that firm grip and good acid. Oak in the juicy finish of ripe currants.

Discussion and Results:

I think the most interesting finding of this comparison was the number of differences and similarities that I found across all of them.  Each aerator was noticeably different from the other: more oak in the Centellino glass, bright black and red fruit in the Soirée and a juiciness to the fruit in the palate using the Vinturi, all different from the more muted nose and oakier palate of the control glass.  Alternately, all four glasses showed a depth of black fruit and a good balance of tannins, acidity, mouthfeel (though a different style in each glass) and fruit; typical of this fine Alexander Valley producer.

Aeration Complete!The fact that the oak was more prominent in both the Centellino and the control glass along with the less plush fruit in the palate in both leads to think that there was less aeration in the Centellino in comparison to the Soirée and Vinturi…which isn’t necessarily a bad or good thing, it’s just different from the other two.  The more integrated oak of the two latter aerators, along with the more complex fruit that exhibited greater depth shows a more opened glass of wine in both glasses.

Taking all of this together, I’m actually apt to recommend all three aerators, each with their own specialty.  Let’s say you have a more delicate styled wine that still requires some air to open up and your guests are set to arrive within minutes…grab your Centellino and wait until they knock on your door!  That young Pinot will open right up and not be overly oxygenated and look freaking awesome in front of your friends as you pour them their first glass, right after they walk into your home.

Alexander Valley VineyardsDo you have a more burly, full-bodied wine that still needs a bit of age to be ready to drink right from the bottle?  Grab your Soirée or Vinturi and aerate that sucker right into its optimal drinking state with either one of those two nifty items. Either one of them will be able to handle the mad oxygenation that is needed to let that lumberjack of a wine sing a Monty Python number!

Have you had a good or bad experience with any of the aerators discussed above?  Let me know in the comments, I’m very interested to hear what you’ve found with your own wines!

Le Wine Buff Returns

Le Wine Buff - Enjoy BordeauxMany of you delightful readers may remember a very cool pilot project that I worked on late last year called Le Wine Buff, part of Enjoy Bordeaux (Twitter, Facebook).  Sponsored by the Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB), it was an innovative re-introduction of affordable Bordeaux wine to the American public.  As one of the six original “Le Wine Buff’s”, I helped spread the word about the great value and QPR that can be found in red, white and dessert Bordeaux wines at all price points below $25 via email, FAQ and live video chat.  The program took a winter break to expand and get even better and we’re now ready to relaunch our BDX mission!

Look for an expanded schedule of live video chat from our team of six ‘Buffs.  I’ll be starting off the new program 05/03/10 with my time slot every Monday night, 7-10pm PST.  If you need a refresher, check out this great intro by new Le Wine Buff Megan.  Simply sign up and become a member to participate in any of our video chat sessions.  You can follow the Twitter feed of with the hash tag #LeWineBuff.

Enjoy BordeauxThe team at Enjoy Bordeaux has also been hard at work to greatly improve the wine search engine on the site, where you can now search by wine name, region or key term and find where to buy those tasty wines near you or online.  In addition, we’ve also teamed up with the Bordeaux Wine Council to film short tasting videos of every single one of the Today’s Bordeaux 100 Top Affordable Bordeaux wines for 2010. Our Events section has also been expanded to include all of the many events featuring Bordeaux wine across the US.  If you have an event that you’d like to post to the site, feel free to contact me and I can help get it posted.

Lastly, but maybe personally most excitingly, all of Le Wine Buff’s will be traveling to Bordeaux for a week in June to become fully immersed in the Bordeaux wine culture.  We’ll be filming new video and live chats, interviewing winemakers, sommeliers and other Bordeaux wine phenoms in order to best be able to help you find the Bordeaux wines and info that you need!  I look forward to chatting with you live online…cheers!