Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Last weeks tasting

Last Friday we tasted sparkling wines and champagnes. I am gratified with the response we have had for our focus on sparklers in our store. We sold a good amount of wine from the tasting, which is not always the case. I also opened some fun bonus pours including a Beringer Bancroft Ranch Vineyard Merlot 2004. This wine was gorgeous, with silky chocolate notes and and a rich lingering finish. Best if all, though still pricey, this ready to go wines is $51.99 down from $79.99. That is 35% off. Yes still expensive and yes it is a Merlot, but this wine rivals more expensive Cabernet's and is ready to drink today for those special occasions that always pop up.
We also opened a Mumm Napa Pinot Noir 2008 that was great for summer time sipping. This light red wine has more body than your average pinot noir and there is a certain richness, that cab drinkers can appreciate. Unfortunately I missed an opportunity to by more of this great value. I do have a few bottles left however at $17.99. This wine was originally $37.99. This is a great deal for the summer. Though, I may be out of this wine soon, I am sure there are many other retailers in the greater Cincinnati area who bought more of this great Pinot.
I am looking forward to our Riesling tasting this Friday and Saturday, where we will try to debunk the idea that all Riesling is unsophisticated and sweet. We will be pairing these wines with some Thai inspired dishes, which will show how magical a good pairing can be. I will also likely open some fun reds, for those who just can not tolerate white wines. These will be available by the glass for a modest fee.
I am working on a fun idea for a tasting in August, where it will be a round table tasting. I will offer several dozen wines for tasting, where all will be limited inventory and when the wines is sold out we will move on tho another wine. This tasting will feature a wide variety of wines and price points and should have something for everyone. Since this tasting will feature more wines than our usual tastings, we will likely be charging $20 and pouring smaller amounts of wine than usual. Look for more information on our web site calendar section and www.localwineevents.com.
For those of you who red this blog mention it when shopping and receive a discount on you tasting!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The argument for lower alcohol levels in wine

I have been railing against the rising alcohol levels in all new world wines, over the last fifteen some odd years, for some time now. After reading an interesting post on "the gray market report", about Siduri Pinot Noirs and the perceived high alcohol levels, I felt moved to post a comment on that site. This post also has moved me to make the argument for lower alcohol levels on my own blog. So here goes!

I have been either a wine consumer or retailer for almost twenty years and have noticed alcohol levels climb from a high of 13 to 14 percent at the high end for Zinfandel to those percentages serving as the floor for most all new world wines, including whites. Some on the production end of the wine business have plead that this because the grapes must be ripe to make good wine. This may be true, although we are most likely in line for climate change from global warming, I do not think that the effect can be cited for the dramatic change over the past dozen years or so. These increases largely parallel the growing strength of the wine writer to move the market through their ratings. How does this effect alcohol in wine? Well one way of creating a high scoring wine and thus more sales is to make a big ie: high alcohol wine.

I have had some high alcohol wines which I considered to be exceptionally good, so what is my beef with high alcohol wines? Well simply put, in this day and age of greater attention to drunk driving and drinking during pregnancy, these elevated alcohol levels have reduced the enjoyment of a night out or a simple glass of wine after a hard day. I have repeatedly seen couples come to our wine tasting and one will restrict their consumption to remain sober enough to drive home. I am not saying they should drive drunk, but that an increase of 2 to 3 percent reduces the amount of wine a small person can consume without fear. The simple fact that a wine may not taste "hot", as is the argument made in the post cited above, does not let these well made wines off the hook. In many ways this is even worse because most people do not check alcohol levels on the wine they consume, so if it tastes good it becomes much easier to finish that bottle and in the process become legally impaired. If the wine tastes "hot" at least the consumer is forewarned.

What is the answer to this? I am not a wine maker and I realize that there will be years when grapes will be exceptionally ripe, whether the wine maker wants them that way or not. I recently had the opportunity to meet Dan Phillips, owner of importer Grateful Palate, and I asked him about high alcohol levels in the bulk of their wines. His response was in part surprising. He said that the grapes dictated the high alcohol levels in order to ripen. This argument is certainly more understandable than his follow up reason. To my surprise, he said somewhat defensively that people drink wine for the alcohol. I find this to be largely absurd. I have run into a few people who do drink wine for the alcohol, but by and large these people have not been wine drinkers, but were alcoholics. I have recounted this conversation with a number of my wine drinking friends and all have shared my incredulity.

I do not see anything changing anytime soon and perhaps the winemakers are correct and the grapes require the high alcohol levels. It would be interesting though, if the bulk of the wine writers started to call for lower levels of alcohol and if they started rating those few wines higher, would we then see levels decrease? Until then I will continue to advocate for more reasonable alcohol levels.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Guest Post on My wWine Education

I have made periodic guest posts for My Wine Education over he past year as I have embarked on Opening my own fine wine store in the Cincinnati suburb of Mt Washington. These post have been dubbed Wine Store Wednesday and have chronicled the progress of our store and the process involved in opening a new store. I have been somewhat remiss in my posts to this blog site, but I have been very active in the wine world sampling some wonderful wines with commercial reps., wines I have purchased and through the Internet, with samples provided for me through Twitter Taste Live.
Recently I participated in a late night event with TTL. This tasting started at 8:30 PM Pacific time, or 11:30 Eastern time. I sampled five wines from a new venture from the folks who make Cornerstone wines. These wines are called Stepping Stone and though not priced to the luxury market are still not bargain priced. That said, I felt they were well worth the $16 (Rose and Sauv Bl) to $35 (Cabernet Sauvignon) prices. I also tried a great Cab Franc and a Syrah. These were all lush, full bodied wines, that would please any proponent of fruit forward California wines.
The Sauv Blanc was unusual in that the citrus notes were muted and more light tangerine. The wine was almost creamy. I could recommend this wine as a great summer sipper for those who are not interested in a glass of grapefruit juice with alcohol. This wine is both food friend, with nice balance , and soft enough to be enjoyed on its own.
The next wine tasted was a full bodied Rose. I love Rose' because they are all different ands so food friendly. This wine did not disappoint. While I was sampling this wine my wife brought me a hot fudge sundae and to my surprise it was quite complementary. I have more than fifty Rose' in my wine store and this wine, when available in the state would easily fit into my inventory.
These two wines were followed , by an incredible Syrah, that was lush and full bodied. This wine was the winner from my perspective. I did like the Cabernet and the Franc a great deal, but the Syrah had just the right balance of easy drinking to food friendly acid. I was excited enough about these wines that I called the local distributor to try and get them into my store. However only one is currently in the state of Ohio, so we will have to wait for these great values to come available.
We are entering the season of Holiday trade events, so I am sure that I will have many new and exciting wines to share with you over the next months. Stay tuned and check out the stores web site at www.watertowerfinewines.com for information on our tastings and more store information.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The sixth month

We are at the beginning of our sixth month in business and somehow we appear to be on the cusp of success. I thought we had a decent December, but we almost hit December sales in January and then in February we beat December. No small feat considering December should have had a holiday bump and of course February is the shortest month and typically fairly slow. All I can say is that I am really pleased.

The store has been humming along without any major hitches now for the last couple of months. I am still fine tuning our computerized inventory and we have crept up to more than a thousand different wines in the store. I have been able to pick up some terrific buys, such as Champagne Charlie for $99.99 and Ch Lascombe Margaux 2005 for $94.99. This seems to be a great year to have entered the retail wine business, since so many wineries are discounting there top end wines. I really feel like I ma still in Kentucky with all of the discounting that is going on.

We had our first Customer Appreciation tasting last week and it was a rousing success, with nearly thirty people in attendance and almost three cases of interesting wines from my home cellar opened for tasting. The highlight for me was a 1970 Bordeaux, which I had gotten from winebid several years ago. This wine was incredibly smooth and anything but over the hill. It may be hard to beat next year.

Next week is the Cincinnati Wine Festival and we will have a chance to try some interesting wines at the trade event on Friday afternoon. We will get a rare Friday off as well, since we will not have a tasting, to allow our customers to check out the Festival. We are looking forward to some fun tastings in the coming months. Check out our web site for further info. www.watertowerfinewines.com.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Grower Champagne Tasting

Last Sunday we hosted our first Champagne Brunch featuring Grower champagnes. We ended up with a merry group of 18. We poured 8 Champagnes and a Cremante as the welcome wine. Jan outdid herself with the buffet, with more than eight items to choose from all but the meat items being vegetarian. The winner was the Pierre Peters Cuvee de Reserve Brut, which sold out. Also showing well were the Marc Hebrart Cuvee de Reserve Brut, Rene Geoffroy Cuvee Empreinte Brut and the Gaston Chiquet Tradition Brut. It was a full day witht the last couple still there after 5:00. We will be host our second Champagne/Sparkler Brunch in may and it will feature Prosecco's. Watch our web site www.watertowerfinewines.com for the date.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snow Day

Sitting in the store contemplating the snow that fell last night and this morning. We Had a good tasting last night, in spite of the snow. The main event was sparklers and rose' and all things considered they were well received. We had several bonus wine including 05 Stemmler Carneros Pinot $26.99, Don Ramos Campo de Borja $6.99, Louis Bernard 03 Lirac $10.99 and a special treat Quinta da Romaneira Vintage Port 2004, which had been over $50 and is now $26.99. It was a small, but mighty group that braved the weather. It is funny how you view the weather differently whether you are the owner of an retail establishment or and employee. Whereas as an employee. bad weather only means you might have a boring shift, as a store owner it means the loss of income. The way I look at it though is that there is nothing that I can do about the weather, so just go with it. Just as we are having bad weather now there will certainly come a time when we have unexpected good weather and will make up for the slow times.

This month we are kicking off two new regular tastings, first up is our quarterly Champagne Brunch every other quarter will be a grower champagne tasting, the others will spotlight other styles of bubbly and be more affordable for every day consumption. The other reoccurring tasting we are kicking off this month is our monthly Tuesday Premium Tasting. These tastings will allow us to focus on more esoteric wines and varietals. They will be held on Tuesday nights at 7:00. This month's will be Premium Italians and be held on the 23rd. Next month we will be featuring Beringer Luxury wines including the Private Reserve Cabernet.

We are looking forward to the coming of spring opening up the deck for use. We anticipate that will boost our business substantially. Look for more news and updates in future blog entries. Thanks for you interest and attention.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I am back again

Just a heads up to anyone who is still following me at this blog, I will soon be entering new updates about our store and wines I have come across. For those of you who may not know my wife and I opened a wine store called Water Tower Fine Wines in Mt Washington last Septmeber 22nd. We have bee trilled with the response our store has been given. We have open tastings every Friday night from 5:30 to 8:30. More information on the store can be found at our website www.watertowerfinewines.com. We hope to see some of you at the store and I will share more information on the store over the next weeks and months.