Posts filed under Wine Discoveries

Ben Franklin Beer Myth Busted

By all accounts, Benjamin Franklin was a very social guy.

He enjoyed spending time with friends. He preached temperance but couldn't seem to lay off the Claret. It's even rumored that he had quite a good time while serving as the first U.S. ambassador to France.

Like so many party-animals, the myth has outgrown the man. Here's one piece of Franklin lore that is seemingly everywhere:

It's on signs...

Source: Flickr,  Jim G

Source: Flickr, Jim G

Pint glasses...

Source: Flickr,  Reclamation Revolution

Source: Flickr, Reclamation Revolution

And even t-shirts...

Source: Flickr,  Rhys A .

Source: Flickr, Rhys A.

The truth is Franklin never said this. Some enterprising sign/pint glass/t-shirt salesperson slapped the quote on a few tchotchkes and pulled the wool over the eyes of beer drinkers everywhere.

So, what did Franklin really say?

Here's the original quote, taken from a 1779 letter to his friend Andre Morellet:

Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy!

Yep. Franklin was really talking about wine.

On the next rainy day, open a nice bottle of wine and raise a glass to Ben Franklin: inventor, statesman, and wine lover.

Posted on December 18, 2014 and filed under Wine Discoveries.

How the Drought Might Bring us More Good Wine

The severe drought that San Diego and much of California is experiencing might have a happy side effect: more good wine.

How we’ll get there takes a bit of a detour through our local farmlands. Here are some fun facts from the San Diego County Farm Bureau:

  • Farming is a $5.1 billion industry
  • It’s the 12th largest county for agriculture in the US
  • San Diego County has more farms than any other county in the US
  • The county is the #1 producer of nursery crops
  • The county is the #1 producer of avocados

That last number is feeling the heat so to speak from a lack of water. 

Avocados are a very water-intensive crop. It takes 74 gallons of water to grow a pound of avocados. Faced with water shortages, many farmers have fallowed or replaced their avocado groves. The 2013 San Diego County crop report shows a 21 percent decline in avocado acreage in just five years. 

So, how does all this lead to wine?

Some farmers are planting grape vines in place of avocados. A few, like Chris Broomell, are dry farming their grapes, which means they aren’t using any irrigation at all.

We read this article in UT San Diego about how Broomell and his wife, Alysha Stehly, were helping to adapt their family farms to the drought by growing grapes. Then, we read this article in the San Francisco Chronicle about how they were winemakers to watch in 2014. 

We had to pay their Vesper Vineyards winery a visit.

Their urban tasting room is located in Escondido, just north of San Diego. We arrived shortly after they opened on a Sunday morning and were lucky enough to have Alysha Stehly as our host. 

It quickly became apparent that Alysha and her husband are mad scientists at Vesper Vineyards. They sell wine in refillable growlers. They use acacia casks to ferment some of their wine. They make California wine with minimal manipulation.

It also turns out to be some pretty good wine. We are currently on a strict no wine purchases embargo due to some space limitations (that’s an entirely different story), but we still wound up buying a few bottles.

Posted on November 18, 2014 and filed under Tasting Experiences, Wine Discoveries.

Total Wine is Totally Awesome!

We often reference Total Wine in this blog, but until recently neither of us had ever been.

I had a chance to visit the Total Wine in Dallas, Texas while on a recent business trip. My first thought was this place is awesome! My second thought was I wish we had one in San Diego.

Total Wine is a wine, beer, and liquor super store. It’s very similar to BevMo and Specs. They are predominantly located in the South, but do have a few stores in California. We frequently refer to them when they carry wines we recommend on this blog because we know many of our friends have a Total Wine nearby.

The visit to Total Wine resulted in sharing a few bottles which made it perfect.

My brother-in-law Mark and his family live in Dallas. I was heading over to their place for dinner and drinks and wanted to bring a bottle of wine to share. As luck would have it, Total Wine was on the way to their home.

The funny part came when I was shopping and I got a call from Mark.

“Are you on your way over?”

“Yes, but I made a stop,” I said a little evasively, not wanting to reveal I was buying wine to bring to the house.

“I was thinking of stopping by Total Wine to pick up half a case and could use your help.”

Ooops, cover blown! 

We had a good laugh when I told him I was already there. Mark arrived a few minutes later and we wandered the aisles like kids in a candy store.

They have great selection, a huge inventory, and outstanding prices. In fact, Total Wine usually has lower prices than BevMo and Specs, as evidenced by a post on sparkling wine recommendations for your Oscar party.

The wine was sectioned off by varietal and country of origin. I could get lost in their French section alone. That's section as in area of the store, not section of one aisle. It was huge.

Their domestic Pinot Noir section took up both sides of one aisle with bottles from outstanding Pinot Noir regions such as the Willamette Valley, Russian River, and Carneros. They even had a few bottles from Santa Barbara County, including this bottle of Au Bon Climat that I picked up to bring to the house. 

Sally and I had recently shared this bottle with her Mom in Chicago, so it was nice to share it with other family members too.

Total Wine also had a comprehensive selection of beer and liquor. Mark, being related to Sally, is naturally a fan of whiskey. We had fun exploring this section too and Mark picked up a bottle of Aberfeldy Scotch to add to his liquor cabinet.

We could have spent even more time exploring if it wouldn’t have made us late for dinner. BevMo better watch out — as soon as Total Wine opens a San Diego location we’ll be there!

Posted on October 18, 2014 and filed under Wine Discoveries.

2011 Barrique Pinot Noir – a great shared bottle!

A common question we get is, “is there a wine you like best”? That’s like asking a parent to pick a favorite child…well, maybe not as extreme.  While picking a favorite varietal, or even region, is difficult to do, I can say with certainty that my favorite bottles are shared bottles. Every shared bottle has a story, and can lead to discovering a new favorite, like Herman Story and Benessere (P.F.G Zin!). 

Recently, our friends Jeff & Karin, shared with us a bottle of 2011 Barrique Pinot Noir from Sonoma County.  What a great new discovery (thank you!).  This pinot was delicate, yet full of flavor.  It has a bright cranberry color, and a nose of bright cherries and blackberries.  As typical with Pinot Noir from the area, these flavors continue to the palate but they are not over the top.  It finishes with a hint of plum and a little wood.  Very tasty all on its own ~ definitely a wine you can enjoy while you are cooking, and with the meal! 

Keep an eye out for this wine in local wine shops ~ they currently distribute to a number of states, including CA, CO, DC, GA, NJ, NY, and TX.  

Posted on August 15, 2014 and filed under Wine Discoveries.

2012 Cune Monopole – White Rioja

In our quest to discover new wines beyond California and the west coast, we have tried some really great, and for us, unusual wines.  One recent discovery was the 2012 Cune Monopole White Rioja Wine from Spain. 

Made of 100% Viura, this wine is very crisp and light in color with a fairly neutral palate. The nose is very aromatic, with notes of pear, melon and a hint of floral.  There were bright citrus flavors on the front, fading to lemon/lime, and little stone fruit on the finish.  Very refreshing, and an easy drinker.  It is nice all on its own, and paired very nicely with grilled chicken and zucchini along with a tomato salad.  A fun summer wine, and very reasonable retailing at about $12 – look for it at Specs, or other large wine retail stores near you! 

Posted on July 11, 2014 and filed under Under $20, Wine Discoveries.

Big Red Wines for Dad

sharing a few bottles with Dad

sharing a few bottles with Dad

My Dad was a fan of big, bold red wines.  He would say that he liked to know he was drinking a wine.  Meaning it was full body, rich in flavor, and strong tannins. There are a lot of red wines out there, with a wide range of flavor (light and fruity, to tannin bombs).  So, what’s an easy trick to know if it is a bold wine?  Look at the color.  Typically, the darker the wine, the bolder the flavor – and this can be linked to the skins.  Much of wine’s flavor comes from the skin of the grape. 

While color is a quick indicator, there are other factors that contribute, like mouth feel, structure, and winemaker influence.  Wine Folly has a great post defining full bodied red wines, along with a list of the “Top 10 Darkest Full-Bodied Red Wines in the World”. 

The fruit didn't fall far from the tree. Like my Dad, I am also a fan of big, red wines. Here are some of my personal favorites:

Petite Sirah

Don’t be fooled by the name.  Petite refers to the size of the grape, not the flavor.  The small grape has a high skin to juice ratio.  Typically these wines are inky in color, relatively acidic, with overtones of herb and black pepper, and flavors of blue and black fruit, and plum.

Pair with: grilled steak, game, and sausage

Personal Picks: Vincent Arroyo Greenwood Ranch, Hess Small Block Series, Elyse


This is a dark-skinned grape variety.  The style and flavor profile are influenced by the climate of the growing region. Moderate climates, like Washington, produce more medium body wines, blackberry flavors and medium-plus tannins.  Syrah from hotter climates, like Australia, have jammier fruit, little earthiness and softer tannins. 

Pair with: BBQ, any grilled meat (duck, lamb venison, steak, sausage)

Personal Picks: Cuvaison, Herman Story “White Hawk”, Bridlewood “Six Gun”


This is a thinner skinned grape, but is very deep in color and has ample tannins, and rich flavors of plum and black cherry, with a smoky finish.  While it is commonly used as a blending grape, it does quite well on its own.  This is a value priced wine, that packs a punch – if serving a group, it's an affordable substitute for cab or merlot.

Pair with: Blue cheese burgers, buffalo, beef brisket

Personal Picks: Felino, Filus Reserve, Gascon

Cabernet Sauvignon

Because this grape is grown in a wide variety of regions, it can have varied flavors.  Generally speaking, they are full bodied wines with dark fruit flavors, with notes of black pepper, and maybe a dash of vanilla.  It pairs great with food, especially dishes higher in fat.

Pair with: ribs, burgers, the ‘messy’ meats!

Personal Picks: so many… Brandlin,Cade, Ehlers “1886”

This Father’s Day, fire up the grill, open a bottle of big red wine, and say cheers to all our wonderful Dads!  

Posted on June 13, 2014 and filed under Wine Discoveries.

From the Unusual Grape Files: Pinot Meunier

Quick, name the grapes you’d typically find in Champagne.

A sparkling wine aficionado might be quick to name the two biggies: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. There’s also a lesser-known third grape, called Pinot Meunier.

I first learned about the grape when the 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro in Ocean Beach held a Domaine Chandon tasting. They were pouring their 2011 Pinot Meunier, so I bought a bottle to add to our unusual grape files. 

It’s a small, but growing list of unusual grapes including Carignane, Mourvedre, and Blaufrankisch.

Sally and I tried the wine last night. Although Pinot Meunier is commonly found in sparkling wine, the Domaine Chandon is a still red wine.

The wine was very light in color, but had a lot of earthy funk on the nose. The front palate was a mixture of bright fruits like strawberry and cherry which quickly gave way to more earthiness. A lot of these tasting notes sound right out of the Pinot Noir playbook, and they are similar, but the mix was something different. 

The wine was familiar, yet new.

It paired well with our meal of sausage, arugula salad, and Kraft macaroni and cheese. (Deluxe, if you must know.) Earthiness is a great quality when pairing with sausage, and this wine had plenty of it. 

If you see a bottle of Pinot Meunier, pick one up and try it out.

Posted on June 3, 2014 and filed under Wine Discoveries.

Pinot Noir - St. Innocent

Pinot Noir is typically a medium bodied wine, light in color with flavors of cherry, raspberry and cranberry. Depending on the region, the level of fruitiness and influence of earthiness varies.  

California pinot's typically more fruit forward with bolder flavors. Oregon Pinots tend to be more delicate in the fruit flavors with more earthiness (I call them 'dirty Pinots."). Both styles are great for different reasons. It is also nice to discover those that have a little bit of both in the bottle, like the 2010 St. Innocent Temperance Hill Pinot Noir.

We discovered this wine on a trip to Willamette Valley in 2012. Not only did we like the taste, we also rated it with a high QPR score (what's a QPR score?). This wine is darker in color than you would find with a typical Oregon Pinot. Light smokey nose, dark cherry and raspberry flavors with a touch of spice.  Just enough earthiness to round it all out, with a very smooth finish. It paired quite nicely with our flat iron steak and pork chops!  

Keep an eye out for it in restaurants, or purchase directly from the winery.  Retails $32. 

Posted on April 24, 2014 and filed under Wine Discoveries.

Discovering Spanish Granacha - Las Rocas Vinas Viejas

We always say that shared bottles are the best bottles.

Last night, we enjoyed a bottle of 2009 Las Rocas Vinas Viejas Grenacha that was given to us by our friend Alisa. It was delicious. 

Quick trick - whenever we receive a bottle of wine as a gift, we write the name of the person on the bottle with a silver marker. This way, we’ll remember who to toast when we enjoy it.

Back to the bottle.

Grencha is the Spanish name for the Granache grape. This particular wine is from the Catalyud region in Spain, where Grenache accounts for approximately 55 percent of the grapes grown. “Vinas Viejas” means “old vines.” According to the Las Rocas website, the grapes are grown on vines between 50 and 100 years old. 

We’ll be the first to admit that we’re a bit California-centric when it comes to wine. That’s not at all because we think wine from elsewhere is inferior. We just don’t know other wine regions quite as well as we know our Californians.

Thanks to Alisa, we’ve gotten to know a good Spanish wine a bit better.

This was definitely a darker Grenache. It has black cherry and plum on the nose with dark fruit continuing onto the palate along with a little earth. The finish was slightly acidic with a touch of heat, which went well with our meal of rotisserie chicken and roasted root vegetables.

Note: The "regular" Las Rocas Granacha (i.e. younger vines) received a nice recommendation on the Reverse Wine Snob blog. It sounds like either one is worth a try if you can get your hands on a bottle.

Posted on April 1, 2014 and filed under Wine Discoveries.