Tag Archive for california wine

Review: 2012 Hahn Winery GSM

This blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourevedre is fruit-forward with a long, dry finish. The grenache makes it bold and the meaty mourevedre sews it all together. I tasted dark fruits–blackberries and blueberries–in this deep ruby-colored wine.



I enjoyed it a lot with some meaty pasta at one of my Favorite Italian joints, Fritto Misto, which lets you BYOB for just a $2 cork charge. Not bad.

This is a solid blend and I would recommend a buy.

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Hahn Winery
  • Type: GSM (Grenache, 67%, Syrah, 28%, Mourevedre, 5%)
  • Origin: Napa
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $10-$20, according to wine-searcher.com
  • Alcohol content: Forgot to write it down, shame on me!
  • When to drink: I think this is a solid everyday red wine. Always a good idea to have one in house when you need a bottle.

Review: 2011 Edna Valley Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2011 Edna Valley Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is soft on the way down. It’s oaky, fruity–blackberries, mostly– spicy and has a hint of coffee. It’s a solid Cabernet Suavignon. Drinking this at a party, a friend of mine said it’s a perfect red to loosen up a crowd. I totally agree.


Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Edna Valley Vineyard
  • Type: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Origin: Central Coast; Paso Robles
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Price: $9.99
  • Alcohol content: 13%
  • When to drink: At a business mixer when you need to loosen up the crowd.

Review: 2009 Kunin Roussanne

Kunin Wines is small on production, but big on quality. I stopped by the bungalow that houses the winery on the Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara when I was there this summer. The tasting room is fresh and airy, a perfect locale to sip a flight of whites.

My favorite Kunin was the 2009 Roussanne, so I brought a bottle home with me. I finally had a chance to open it a few months later.


The wine smells grassy, but there’s honey there, as well. When you sip it, it’s tart. Pineapple is there, too.  It’s crisp and kind of oily, so the flavors stick with you, even after you’ve swallowed. This isn’t a gulpable wine. It’s complex–it’s got a lot of layers to it, but it’s not chewy. In fact, this French grape makes for a quite thin drink. It’s lean and mean, but honestly, it’s not for everyone. This wine is not for the flowery white wine lovers.

Kunin makes their Roussanne in stainless steel, while traditional winemakers put this Rhone varietal in oak. Roussanne is often blended, but Kunin lets it stand on its own. The winery only produced 210 cases of the 2009, so it’s definitely a special find. Oh, and it’s a screw top!


Seth Kunin opened his namesake winery in 1998 and believes in letting the wine speak for itself, rather than manipulating it with fancy vintner tricks. His message on kuninwines.com is clear: let Mother Nature do the heavy lifting:

If the weather was a bit warmer one year, and the wine from that vintage shows more ripe fruit and less acid, then this is an accurate representation of the fruit and its terroir. If the next vintage is cooler, with more earthy flavors and tart acidity, then so be it. That is what Mother Nature intended for you to taste. The process should not be blurred by invasive winemaking techniques.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Kunin
  • Type: Roussanne
  • Origin: Central Coast
  • Vintage: 2009
  • Price: $28
  • Alcohol content: 14.2%
  • When to drink: When you want to have a deep discussion of philosophy and literature with a dear friend, you know like the French do.

No hangover wines: Do they really exist?

The Daily Beast posted a story this week that claims to have found the holy grail: wine that won’t give you a hangover.

The writer, Jordan Salcito of Momofuku, talks about drinking three bottles of wine at dinner with a friend and waking up the next morning without feeling icky. In fact, both diners felt so great one dominated at a tennis match the next morning and the other at a spin class.

I know what it’s like to exercise the morning after a couple bottles of wine and for me, it’s hard enough to get out of bed, let alone actually move my body around to burn calories. I kind of look like #hangovercat.



Salcito says that his secret is natural wines, ones “made from ripe grapes and not much else.”

With that in mind, I decided to ask a nutritionist why that would be the case.

Roger Clemens, an adjunct professor of Pharmacology & Pharmaceutical Science at University of Southern California and a nutrition expert, said there is no scientific evidence to back up the claim that there will be a difference in hangover impact if you grab a bottle of natural wine rather than a conventional one.

None of the elements of conventional wine Salcito mentions in his article–supplementary sugar,sulfur dioxide, nitrogen, tartaric and malic acid, oak essence, etc–has been directly linked to hangovers, Clemens said, adding:

Hangovers, other than over indulgence, reflect the body’s response to excess alcohol (the liver is rate-limiting in alcohol metabolism) and possibly minor compounds often referred to as congeners. Congeners are natural products of fermentation and distillation. Even those who study the pathology of alcohol hangover suggest that other factors may subject vulnerable individuals to hangovers. Some of those factors include degree of hydration, immune status, health status, genetics and ultimately, individual variations.

Now, Salcito admits that his belief is based on anecdotes and not science and he warns not all natural wines are just dandy:

While natural wines have a host of merits, some can be a game of Russian Roulette if you aren’t familiar with labels. The term, which is nebulous and unregulated, can apply to any wine made without very few winery manipulations.  Some wines that fall under the natural wine umbrella are lambasted for trying to pawn off technically flawed wines. Some of them have the tannic composition of splintering plywood, and others have the aromatic make-up of fermenting dill pickles, nail polish remover, and unwashed feet.  Plenty of wines seem to get a free-pass on wine lists and retail shelves simply because they are “natural.” But like all wines, some are good, some are bad, and some are truly extraordinary.

So what did Salcito drink that magical night that led to a magical morning sans hangover? Eric Pfifferling’s l’Anglore Tavel rosé and two others of similar style. He also recommends:

  • Stella di Campalto, Tuscany, Italy
  • Arnot-Roberts, Sonoma, CA
  • Van Volxem, Mosel, Germany

Check out the article for more about natural wines and other recommendations. Buyer beware, though, most of those recommendations will cost you a pretty penny. I checked wine-searcher.com for prices and most are over $30.

Wine boom!

The number of wineries in California has more than doubled since 2000. Check out this visual I made using government data that hits home the point:

And California wine is a $61.5 billion industry. That’s billion with a B.

Yet, at the same time, California’s share of the U.S. wine market is slipping, down to 61% from 77% in 2000, according to winebusiness.com.

David Freed, chairman of a vineyard investment firm called Silverado Group, told industry insiders iand winebusiness.com in September that he thinks on top of the tumbling market share, there won’t be much new planting in California as Sonoma County is built out, Santa Barbara has regulatory issues, the Central Coast is sputtering, etc.

What do you think of the situation? Has the California wine industry reached its limits or is there still room to grow?

California losing ground

As more wineries have popped up in other states, California is no longer home to more than half the wineries in the nation. In 1993, the Golden State claimed 52% of the wineries in the United States. In 2012, it clocked in at about 43%. Here’s an infographic I made that visually shows the change between 2000 and 2012:

[advanced_iframe securitykey=”da39a3ee5e6b4b0d3255bfef95601890afd80709″]

Surprising, huh?

I’ve only been wine tasting in California, Oregon and abroad (Spain and Italy). I’ve been told I need to head to Finger Lakes, NY. Where else outside my home state makes for good wine tasting? Tell me in the comments.