From the rock band Train to almost every significant Newspaper in the United States (New York Times, Wall Street Journal and just this past week, the Chicago Tribune) companies from all over are starting wine clubs. There are also a range of family owned and operated wine clubs like Uncorked Ventures and others which provide much the same service. To start your selection, which ask yourself type of company do I want to support? How much can I realistically spend per month on a bottle of wine? How good do I want the wine to be? How often do I want it delivered? Many clubs give you a choice between receiving wine on a monthly or on a quarterly basis.
You’d think that a winery owned by former bankers sitting next to the Napa Valley’s old faithful geiser in Calistoga would be among the most interesting wineries around. The differences don’t stop there though, with twenty thousand cases of production on a yearly basis and an interesting mix of varietals from the standard Merlot to the more interesting Zinfandel and finally the weird Carbono. With a recent Cabernet Sauvignon rated in the mid ninety point range, Summers Estate Winery is one to continue to watch as time goes by if you’re a seasoned wine collector or simply interested in receiving a wine club as a gift from time to time. The Zinfandel is also typically well scored, reaching the low ninety point range for many vintages, putting it near the top of the California ratings scale for that varietal. Given smaller production and a nice tasting room environment, this is an easy stop on any trip through Napa Valley.
Only the French could classify their wineries well over 150 years ago (creating the most expensive class of wine gift choices that the wine world will ever know) and never beyond that same classification, at least that is the case with the wineries of Bordeaux. At the time the classification was entirely difficult to complete and I’d imagine that attempting something similar today would be frankly impossible. Ok, so what was the 1855 classification? Basically the French wine authorities ranked wineries in Bordeaux based on both their quality at the time and frankly speaking how politically connected they happened to be. In fact, only one winery has been able to change classifications during all the years since the initial rulings. Adding even more difficulty is the fact that most wineries are not listed at all and unless your winery existed that long ago, you can’t sell wine based solely on reputation like many of your competitors.
Perhaps no name in American wine reminds us more of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay than the famous Russian River Valley in Sonoma, California. According to this wine club Sonoma shouldn’t ever be thought of as Napa’s poor neighbor anymore, in fact for cooler skinned grapes Sonoma is often a preferable choice.
The grapes of the Russian River are cooled both by the temperature of the river itself, but also by the nearby Pacific Ocean. These cooling trends help keep temperatures reasonable during the long summer growing months during the day, but also allow temperatures to drop precipitously at night. These lower nighttime temperatures allow the grapes to regain much of the acidity they lose during the day. When combined with an interesting mix of soil types, much of which has been deposited over centuries by the river itself, you get one of the best wine growing regions in the entire world.
So here’s the thing-cork does ruin a small percentage of wine. The percentage is up for some debate, but that is partially dependent on the person opening the wine. The more you drink, the more likely you are to notice something wrong with a bottle. Strange huh?
Have you given any thought to why wineries so often choose cork closures instead of something else? Personally, I think screw tops offer an interesting choice, if for no other reason than they save an awful lot of time for people ever day and of course, a screw top closure doesn’t run the risk of ruining the wine like a typical cork closure does!
Easter comes this Sunday! Also, we’re celebrating a happy spring here in the Bay Area!