Archive for May, 2020

Ask Sid: Where did the Zinfandel grape originate?

May 27th, 2020
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Question: Where did the first Zinfandel grape come from? Was it in Italy?

Answer: Yes has been rather confusing. For a while it seemed that the Zinfandel grape in California was the same one as the Primitivo grape in Puglia Italy. However though they are genetically similar their wine styles are different. They are both clones of the original Crljenak Kastelanski grape variety (back to the 1300s) from Croatia. It is called Tribidrag there so that name has been used by the Lagier Meredith Vineyard for their Mt. Veeder Napa Valley Zinfandel. One of the winery principals Carole Meredith was a professor in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at University of California at Davis whose team used DNA profiling to discover the origin and decided to adopt this name for their Zin.

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May 25th, 2020

The was founded in 1934 and now represents over 1000 member wineries from every wine region of California. They have done an excellent job over the years of marketing their wines with their popular annual touring road shows that are presently on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In their place they have cleverly started some impressive wine webinars called Behind The Wines hosted by the insightful educator Elaine Chukan Brown. They have held 7 enlightening episodes so far on every Tuesday starting at 10 am Pacific time with 6 more already scheduled with details set out below. Definitely are in depth and worth tuning in to enjoy. Episode 6 featured Randall Grahm founder & winemaker at Bonny Doon Vineyard for Rhone varieties and his innovative new experimental landscape of unusual special grape varieties with his “Popelouchum” project with first fruit harvest this year. Episode 7 had the fascinating story of Paul Draper with Ridge Vineyards on Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA tasting the delightful warmer 1984 vintage (structured 1985 will age longer) with 7% merlot at traditionally low alcohol of 12.9. Both pioneers also talked about the importance of ingredient labeling on wine bottles. The good thing is that all episodes can be referenced on the You Tube Channel for California Wines with additional info on questions and answers not addressed during the live session. Outstanding wine education material! Well done series. Look forward to these upcoming sessions:

May 26, Episode 8 –
Carole Meredith and Steve Lagier, Lagier Meredith
Special guest: Anthony Truchard, Truchard Vineyards

In the eighth episode of the series, Elaine will speak with Carole Meredith and Steve Lagier, husband and wife owners of Lagier Meredith Vineyard in the Mt. Veeder AVA of Napa Valley. The two have lived there since they bought the property in 1986, first planting vines in 1994 and producing their first commercial wine in 1998. Carole and Steve have no employees and do the vineyard work and winemaking themselves.

June 2 – Ep. 9 – Zinfandel
Tegan Passalacqua, Turley and Sandlands

June 9 – Ep. 10 – Chardonnay
Stephane Vivier, Stony Hill
Michael McNeill, Hanzell Vineyards

June 16 – Ep. 11 – Pinot Noir
Sarah Wuethrich, Maggy Hawk

June 23 – Ep. 12 – Sparkling
Nicole Hitchcock, J Vineyards and Winery

June 30 – Ep. 13 – Cabernet Sauvignon
Rodrigo Soto, GM, Quintessa
Rebekah Wineburg, Winemaker, Quintessa

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Ask Sid: Will we see changes in wine bottle packaging?

May 20th, 2020
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Question: Will we see changes in wine bottle packaging?

Answer: Yes interesting question. The ongoing pressures of climate change plus now this lingering Covid-19 pandemic should result in a real stimulus to wine packaging and design changes. We are already noticing lighter weight glass being en vogue. Other materials are being used and further considered for expansion including improved technology for bag-in-the-box. This latter category is very convenient to use and suits what will be more social distancing of outdoor dining trends. Expect to see a lot of new innovative design features on labels to take advantage of a more aware conscientious consumer.

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May 18th, 2020
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Since your scribe first alerted you to the growing popularity of virtual tastings these new wine seminars have really taken off. Seems now like the old days of appointment television is back only updated. Every day features some interesting program you need to tune into to educate yourself on wine. Luckily many of them are being saved for later viewing on websites and on YouTube. Many of them are listed for your old TV Guide reference on a useful website.

One eye opener event last week was the inspiring interview of Greg Lambrecht the inventor of Coravin by Antonio Galloni on Vinous Live. Greg’s background is physics and business school with an early medical tech job in using needles under the skin for chemotherapy treatments. Greg developed an early interest in wine with “a labor of love” reason to find a way to sample some great bottles. His first Coravin was back in 1999 using a trumpet valve. Much testing with refining followed including using various needles plus different gases from nitrogen to carbon dioxide to finding the magical argon before the first Coravin was marketed in 2013. He tells good stories about some wine professionals still not believing it works until they do a blind test with at least 4 glasses of the same wine (some with and without the use of Coravin). He thinks it could be an inherent bias against “in your head as the placebo effect” until you do an actual blind test to prove validity to yourself. He has kept bottles after Coravin use for 14 years that still are in good shape. Recommends if used on cold bottles or very old ones to leave standing up to seal the hole in the cork (“like blood clotting”) before lying down for longer storage. Stresses the importance of press & release to save argon plus cleaning your Coravin when finished for the night with hot water so no cross-contamination results next time. His exciting Model Eleven (that number used because he can’t count like in “Spinal Tap”) was released last year the first of the new digital series. Overall sales are up as consumers stay home sampling their wine collections of special bottles even though restaurants which are heavy users are closed. Check it out.

For more information check out the Vinous Live interview of May 15, 2020 on YouTube and an excellent detailed article of September 16, 2019 by Evelyn Lok Deputy Editor of in their Food & Drink on Coravin founder Greg Lambrecht.

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Ask Sid: Is climate change affecting vineyards differently in the north and south hemispheres?

May 13th, 2020
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Question: Is climate change affecting vineyards differently in the north and south hemispheres?

Answer: Seems the answer is definitely yes. Virtual tastings over the last few months always ask the guest winemakers how they are being affected by climate change. All the wineries situated in the north hemispheres feel they are seeing big changes. However those in the south less so. Research at the University of Queensland Australia are monitoring greenhouse gas, bushfires, hailstorms, floods and other events on climate change. Results show there is less land mass nearer the south pole than the north and more open Southern Ocean that affect the uptakes of carbon dioxide. Last week directly from the winery Zuccardi in Argentina Sebastian Zuccardi stated “seeing less snow in the mountains over the last 10 years but is this a cycle or climate change?” He believes “Southern hemisphere is less affected because of their vast oceans so it is presently hard to know about climate change.”

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