Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sommelier Says

January 25, 2010
The Sommelier Says….

Hello and welcome to the newsletter for

Some Wine Tasting Tips

When wine tasting, do you go with the mindset in buying more wines for your cellar, or are you just going out there to see what’s new. Either way, I have a few tips for you.

1) First do some research on the various wineries in the area you are visiting. Find those that have what you are looking for. Do you like Italian varietals? Whites only? Sweet wines or big red wines? Every winery has a different expertise in wine-making styles. Find the ones that make what you might be looking for.

2) When visiting wineries, take notes. Every winery has a sheet with tasting notes or a price list. Use those lists to make a few notes on the nose, and taste of the wines as you taste them. You can use this information when you finish tasting the 7 or 8 wines to decide what you liked and did not like. (I actually keep those as my records of the wines I have enjoyed and not enjoyed).

3) Give yourself a budget- by this I mean figure out what wines you need and how much you want to spend on each type. For example, after the Summer time heat, I am usually low on white wines, so I spend some time restocking those varietals.

4) Buy what you like, but look at what you might be eating while wine tasting and how that affects the taste of the wines. For example a few years back a few of us went wine tasting and we wandered upon a little winery, the wines were not anything to write home about, until the wife of the winemaker brought out of BBQ meatballs to have with the wines. Four of us ended up walking out of there with cases of wines. Later, at home, opening the wines, I ended up using most of them for cooking.

5) If you find wines you enjoy at a winery, ask someone there who else in the area makes wines in that style- I have been very pleasantly surprised when a winery refers me to another local winery, one that might not have been on my radar.

6) While wine-tasting it is okay to dump your wine if you do not like it… or spit (your wine) into the dump bucket. No one will think anything less of you.

Café Firenza- Redo
We had not been back to Café Firenza since ‘the boys’ left and we thought we would give them a try. So one recent Friday afternoon I gave them a call to get reservations for that night (something that was impossible to do a few months ago) and I got in at the time I requested- no problems.

We were seated in the old deli area, which they have turned into a nice dining room, and our waiter gave us the menus and wine lists and I selected a wine. The waiter then said they might be out of it and that he would have to check. Ten minutes later he came back (had not taken our diner order yet) with the bottle of wine and I asked for it to be decanted, as it was an older bottle. He then said he wasn’t sure if they had any decanters… apparently they had a large party the week before and they broke a number of them. About 10 minutes after he told us that, he came back with the decanter and opened the bottle of wine to pour into the decanter. At this point he took our order.

We then waited for 35 minutes for our salads to arrive, during that time he never came back to check on us or pour any wine from the decanter. When the salads arrived they were very good. Shortly they’re after our main courses arrived. The food was excellent- something that I had always expected from Café Firenza.

Following the meal we decided on dessert- looking at the menu we both decided – since we were getting the true Italian 3-hour dining experience, we decided upon a glass of Lemonchello. A typical after dinner drink in an Italian restaurant. Unfortunately the waiter told us that they were out of it, even though it was on the wine list. That was the third time during the 3-hour meal that he apologized to us.

So my overall impression, the food was great, service not so much. I had come to expect a certain level of personal service from Café Firenza, that was totally lacking on this recent visit. How has your experience been there recently? Drop me a note and let me know if my experience was a fluke or the standard now.

Camarillo Crush Wine Tasting Weekends
This past weekend a few of us ventured out to a new wine tasting location in the Ventura County- The Camarillo Crush. Located just over the bridge on Lewis (Lewis exit off the 101). At the light, turn into the Imitation Business Complex. Unit C.

The Camarillo Crush has over 40 wine labels that come from this location, many of them are very small production, and some are becoming cult classics in wine collecting circles.

Every weekend they will be open for wine tasting from 11-5pm, and they will offer up to three of the wineries selections for tasting. This list will change every weekend. The weekend we went, they were pouring Zuma, Graystarr, and Consensio Cellars. I ended up buying a bottle from each!

Give them a try and let me know what wines you discover there!

Upcoming Events:
March 6/7- 32nd annual Barrel Tasting along the Wine Road! 100+ Wineries! To taste at any of the participating wineries these weekends, you will need to purchase the Barrel Tasting ticket ($20 available online on January 18).

My current plans are to fly up, Burbank to Oakland on Southwest airlines on Early Saturday morning the 6th of March.

March 6- Southwest Flight 888, Departs Burbank @ 7:10am, Arrives in Oakland @ 8:25. “Wanna get away fare” $59
March 7- Southwest Flight 1046, Departs Oakland @ 8:00pm, Arrives in Burbank @ 9:05- Web Fare $82.

Total cost airfare per person: $141

March 6- Travel Lodge Healdsburg, 178 Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA, 95448
$150 a night

Let me know your thoughts and drop me a note by January 25th if you are serious about coming along.

April- Two new wineries are coming to our area!

The first is Magnavino Cellars, the work of Robert and Barbara Wagner. I have tasted their wines and it looks like we have some exciting things coming soon. You can signup for the grand opening at:

The second is Four Brix Winery, Their release party is on April 24th 2010 at Lost Canyons in Simi Valley. Check their website for upcoming news and events.



Thursday, January 14, 2010

Edward Sellers Found some 2004 Cognito!

Edward Sellers Found some 2004 Cognito!

During an annual audit they found a pallet (56 cases), unaccounted for, of the extremely popular 2004 Cognito, and this beautiful wine is ready to drink today! With a little CO2 left from the original bottling, decant this wine and enjoy it with your favorite grilled meats, spicy pastas or just by itself!

Robert Parker said enjoy it through 2011, so now is the perfect time! All 56 cases have to go, and we are re-releasing our 2004 Cognito at the unbelievable price of:

$99.00 per case (regularly $312.00 per case)

Call the Tasting Room at 805-239-8915. This won't last a week...!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sommelier Says

January 11, 2010

The Sommelier Says….

Hello and welcome to the newsletter for

Happy New Year! 2010!! 2010- What is going to happen in the wine world this year

1. Prices will continue to drop across the board, from the priciest of Bordeaux and Burgundy to cult California wines that were once available only by subscription. This goes, too, for those Italian, Spanish and Chilean producers who thought that they could easily get the same kind of money those age-old French estates used to command.

2. More people will buy online. Consumers can go to sites like, or and compare prices for the same wine not just around the U.S., where many states now allow cross-state shipping, but in the U.K., Germany, and other countries. The spread can be amazing: a wine costing $40 in one store may be $75 in another. Wine stores will stock more inexpensive wines, which account for most of their profits.

3. Wine blogging will increase, mostly among those contending they’ve found spectacular bottles that will “blow your doors off” for under $15 a bottle.

4. California, alas, will fail to back away from big, high alcohol, oaky reds and whites, because the producers believe that is the style most Americans prefer over subtlety and complexity. The problem is that cheaper wines of this style are so often dreadful, out of balance and undrinkable after one glass. California wineries talk a good game about finesse, but then they overripen their grapes and stick them in new oak for too long.

5. The tsunami of new wines from South America and Eastern Europe will ebb as the market overflows. Greek, Portuguese, and Brazilian wines have had good press in recent years, but unless they keep prices down, they won’t make much headway.

6. New Zealand wineries will be in trouble. The country’s recent prodigious harvests have glutted the market for their overly fruity punch-like style, and many fans want to move up in quality.

7. Champagne will be in serious trouble. It’s not just that prices have gotten way out of whack, with too many selling above $100 a bottle, but other sparkling-wine producers have been canny about getting their bubblies well-positioned, well-priced and well-reviewed. Champagne is reducing output and holding back product already bottled to get some balance, but it’s going to be a struggle to win revelers back from Italian prosecco, Californian sparklers and Spanish cavas. There are just too many Champagne labels out there.

8. Fine-dining restaurants will buy nominal numbers of expensive wines after trimmed expense accounts caused them to sit on their previous big capital purchases. They’ll wait until guests are telling sommeliers, “Money is no object.” Good luck with that. Fewer top-end restaurants will even open, and more modest new eateries will build wine lists with interesting, small labels from around the world and sell them at reasonable mark-ups.

9. More producers will switch to screwtops from cork stoppers in an effort to stem damage to the wines in the bottle from corkiness and oxidation as well as to make wine more accessible to the average consumer. The dirty secret is that most winemakers I talk to say they’d love to switch to screwcaps but fear buyers will think them cheap!

10. Americans will buy more wine at the $10-and-under level. The best bet for an expanding market is China, which is thirsty for good, inexpensive wine. And, like everything else, they’ll soon be producing that themselves.

When to open a bottle of wine?

One question that I have been asked recently is, when is okay to open a newly bottled wine?

While most wineries do not release their wines until they have had some time in the bottle, some release their wines as soon as the bottling process is competed.

While it's tempting to start consuming your wine right after bottling it, and in fact, there are many wines that can be consumed right after bottling and be everything you want them to be. But if you really want to maximize your wine's potential, a little time left alone in the bottle can make the difference.

With age, most red wines which begin life with obvious fruity aromas and some degree of astringency ('bite') will develop softer, gentler, more complex aromas and flavors. The wines become richer, as the fruit mellows and the astringent tannins relax and contribute to the body and character. Many white wines also benefit with age. Whites intended for aging may display exceedingly high acid levels which will soften over time, uncovering wonderful textures and flavors. Components of wines differ by variety or blend, and thus react differently to aging. Some wines require longer ageing periods than others.

For example:
More Aging - Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Barbara, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. Whites: Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling. As a general rule for California wines, I would wait at least 3 - 6 months after bottling before opening the wine. If you can hold yourself off longer, then do so; you can’t hurt the wine as long as it is stored properly.

Upcoming Events:

March 6/7- 32nd annual Barrel Tasting along the Wine Road! 100+ Wineries! To taste at any of the participating wineries these weekends, you will need to purchase the Barrel Tasting ticket ($20 available online on January 18).

My current plans are to fly up, Burbank to Oakland on Southwest airlines on Early Saturday morning the 6th of March. I am currently looking into hotels for the evening as well. Depending on how many of you want to join us, we can get a van or limo for the two days. Let me know your thoughts and drop me a note by January 25th if you are serious about coming along.

Cheers- Tim

My Wine Blog!

Welcome to The Sommelier Says Wine Blog.

My plans are for this to eventually replace my month/weekly newsletter. Hopefully I will be able to attract more readers and educate more individuals in the wonderful world of wine, and announce upcoming wine tastings and events in a more timely manner.

So there will be no schedule to my postings, when I find a nice wine, have a nice dinner or have some random thoughts that I need to share with you, I will be posting.

In addition if you have any wine related questions, drop me a note and I will do my best to answer them here.