Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Sherman Cellars Groupon

In September I purchased a $25 for Wine-and-Chocolate Pairing for Two and $25 Toward a Bottle of Wine ($55 Value) groupon for Sherman Cellars in downtown San Jose. We had never been to Creekview Vineyards and it was just a good enough deal to prod me to go. Besides, how can you go wrong with a wine and chocolate pairing?

Sherman Cellars, a tasting room exclusively for Creekview Vineyards, was easy enough to find, located a block from San Jose's downtown park just 15 minutes from our house. On the way we realized that the groupon said we needed reservations. Sue gave them a ring and luckily they said to come on in.

Tim Gallant, the cellar manager, met us at the door and guided us through the tasting. He told us all about the winery, wine, and chocolate. He was very approachable and we had a pleasant conversation with him. Tim told us that a high percentage of their business comes from the downtown convention centers and hotels.

Our tasting was paired with Brix Chocolate, chocolate created by a pulmonologist specifically to pair with wine. The story is: Dr. Nick Proia would meet with friends monthly to drink wine and eat cheese. The doctor didn't think the cheese was very healthy, so he created the chocolate, which was healthier. The chocolate enhanced the tasting quite nicely. Chocolate or cheese both work for me, health benefits or detriments aside.

The tasting room was a tad small, with room for two, or three couples tops at the bar. It was nicely decorated, with even a Charlie Brown Christmas tree up. Local artists had jewelry, glass infusion, and even some grandma's gardens wine aprons on display, ready for purchase. The front door of the place was open which made it a little cold, on the brisk autumn day.

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

The tasting started with a nice sparkling wine, which was too sweet for me, but Sue gladly enjoyed both of our pours. The Pinot was a little bland, but I liked it. We tasted a very nice old vine Zinfandel, from vines at least 150 years old., which I thought Jose might enjoy. We also tried an old vine Mourvedre, which Tim said he had to decant for 48 hours to get all the flavors out of, while writing tasting notes. All in all we tried 7 wines, most of which were very nice.

After spending a good hour enjoying the tasting, we purchased a selection of wine and a pack of chocolate to enjoy in the future. Sherman Cellars is a nice place to visit if you can't take the time to get out of the city.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dirty Cabs, Done Dirt Cheap

After the $20 Dry Creek won the last Cab tasting, I thought maybe we should try to taste some of the inexpensive cabs. I called up John, the residential two buck chuck expert, and he said he was in; he would save a bottle from a good batch. Of the Usuals, only Bob and Carolyn were able to attend.

John had previously never been to a tasting, but has always suggested I throw in a Two Buck Chuck. I've always suspected this was less about keeping it honest and more about making fun of enthusiasts. I've considered it, but it didn't seem to fit the mood of the tastings, nor did it seem honest. John usually drinks 4 ounces a night for medicinal purposes, whereas I usually drink a glass or two a night for enjoyment.

We had some cheese left over from Sue's day care party earlier that day. I went to Whole Foods to fill in the gaps. I brought back three triple creams: a cow brie, a goat brie, and a truffle cow's brie that I've been warming up to since encountering it at Ted and Shannon's a couple of times. It was easy to choose a triple cream, but I wasn't sure on any of the others. In the end I over filled just the one gap.

I wasn't really looking forward to tasting inexpensive wine. I've had some experience trying to find a cheap Pinot in the past, and it was pretty frustrating. I threw in a more expensive wine to wet my appetite and add a bit of mystery to the event.

I informed everyone that the tasting included a Dry Creek, a Two Buck Chuck, and a bottle over $20. We poured the wines 3 at a time, allowing for some comparing; we didn't have enough glassware to handle a glass per wine, which would have been 35 glasses.

After tasting and enjoying cheese, some great bread Bob brought from the baker at Oracle, and each other's company, we tallied the ratings.


Top to Bottom from Left to Right

G - 2010 Charles Shaw, California aka Two Buck Chuck came in first place with an average rating of 3.14. It cost $2. John brought this. It was saved from a good batch.

E - 2007 Conn Creek, Napa Valley came in second place with an average rating of 2.84. It cost $17. Sue and I brought this. I found it on K&L, it was the Top Pick! of the Cabernet category.

D - 2007 Dry Creek, Dry Creek Valley came in third place with an average rating of 2.66. It cost $19. Sue and I also brought this. It was the cornerstone of the tasting since it won the last Cab tasting.

B - 2007 Kendall-Jackson, Grand Reserve, Sonoma County tied for fourth place with an average rating of 2.64, barely under the Dry Creek. It cost $20. Sue and I also brought this. Bob and I were doing some searching on K&L and somehow came across this. Believe it or not, it was given a 90-93 by Parker, 91 by Wine Enthusiast, and a 90 by Wine & Spirits.

C - 2008 Simi, Alexander Valley also tied for fourth place with an average rating of 2.64, barely under the Dry Creek. It cost $20. Bob and Carolyn brought this. Carolyn found this at a target. It was her first wine buy ever.

F - 2010 Robert Modavi, Private Selection, California came in sixth place with an average rating of 2.5. It cost $9. Bob and Carolyn also brought this. Bob referred to it as Hubba Bubba.

H - Oak Creek, California came in seventh place with an average rating of 2.38. It cost $3. John also brought this. He picked it up at CVS, because it was on sale for $2.50, which was close enough to $2 for him.

A - 2007 Kathryn Kennedy, Small Lot Cab, Santa Cruz Mountains came in last place with an average rating of 2. It cost $34. Sue and I also brought this. I rotated it in when I saw it at Whole Foods before the tasting. I'd had it before and always liked it.

The Results in Ted's Trademarked Format


Two Buck Chuck came out on top, while Kathryn Kennedy came in last. It was both surprising and depressing. What does this say? Your guess is as good as mine.

The only wine I rated above a 3, which mean I liked it, was the Dry Creek, which was sweet and chocolaty. The last 3 wines I tasted various forms of cigarette butt, though this left the Two Buck Chuck when it warmed up.

John's wines were easily identifiable, since they were very cold; he kept them in the refrigerator. You would think this would have had a detrimental effect on the scores, but it may have done the opposite.

Afterwards, Sue treated us to some wonderful chili and cornbread. Unfortunately, the salad ended up on the floor in a refrigerator accident.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Friday Night's Alright for Cabing

The Usuals came over Friday night to kick off the weekend with our bi-monthly large group blind tasting. This time we were tasting Cabernet Sauvignon. Unfortunately, Ted and Shannon were not available to defend their UN-DE-FEAT-ED (boom, boom, boom-boom-boom) blind tasting record. On the plus side, Jose would be able to make it. You would think by now I would have had enough blind tastings, but I've yet to come to that point. Actually, I wanted to meet more frequently with the Usuals, but they thought once every couple of months was fine. What LameOs! Don't Cry for Me Argentina, there are always intimate tastings.

Since we were tasting cabs, I wanted to make certain each wine had at least an hour in the decanter to open up. I told everyone to either be there by 6 or arrange to get me their bottle and decanter before then. Everyone but Paul agreed to be there by 6; he brought his wine and decanter in to work on Friday.

We had been experiencing high winds that blew a number of the snowflakes lights on to the roof. Park and I fixed these before everyone arrived.

The house was nicely decorated, thanks to Sue's and the kid's handiwork.

Bob and Carolyn brought a wonderful cheese plate. Michel brought some yummy salmon.

Bob and Michel prepare their dishes

Since it was cold outside, we set up in the family room. It wasn't ideal, but it seemed to work. We set about the task of tasting the 8 offerings, all the while enjoying each other's company, coupled with cheese and salmon.

We tallied the results and ripped open the bags.

Afterward, Sue served us some lovely steak, with shrimp, potatoes, and salad.


Ratings Using Averages

Top to Bottom from Left to Right

C - 2007 Dry Creek, Dry Creek Valley came in first place with an average rating of 3.66. Bob and CJ brought this. It cost $20. Bob wanted to pick up a $20 Kendall Jackson at BevMo after we had chanced on its low cost and high rating, but they didn't have it; the Dry Creek was on sale for $20 with a 95 from Wilford Wong, which seemed like a no-brainer to him.

A - 2005 Duckhorn, Napa Valley came in second place with an average rating of 3.43. Bob and CJ also brought this. It cost $65. Bob picked this up at a liquor store on Ralston that had a good selection of pricey cabs. The Duckhorn had a decent rating of 90 from Wine Spectator and cost below $100.

H - 2007 Stonestreet, Monument Ridge, Alexander Mountain Estate came in third place with an average rating of 3.09. Jose brought this because it was rated 96 from Wine Enthusiast and 95 from Parker. It cost $40 from K&L.

D - 2006 Picchetti, Leslie's Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains came in fourth place with an average rating of 3.06, .03 from third. Sue and I brought this. I believe it cost $40 club case price. We had this in our cellar and figured it would be fun to compare another wine from Monte Bello road.

G - 2009 Caton, Upper Bench, Sonoma Valley came in fifth place with an average rating of 2.89. Michel brought this. It cost $48. He picked this up while tasting at the winery.

F - 2006 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, S.L.V., Estate, Napa Valley came in sixth place with an average rating of 2.84, .05 from fifth. Paul and Jennifer brought this. It cost $110.

E - 2006 Ridge, Monte Bello came in seventh place with an average rating of 2.74. Sue and I brought this. I believe it cost $90 on a great 30% off all wine before noon sale at Whole Foods. K&L sells it for $115, noting Parker gave it a 94+. I've always wanted to try one of these and the sale encouraged me to go crazy. I bought this 3 months ago, knowing we would eventually get to cabs.

B - 2005 Kathryn Kennedy came in last place with an average rating of 2.71. Sue and I brought this. I believe it cost $90 at the same sale I picked up the Monte Bello at. I've seen these bottles go from $120 to $150. Jose and I have indulged in one of these twice: His 50th and Lili's 50th. I don't care what the ratings say, this is a great bottle of wine.

The Results in Ted's Trademarked Format

The Aftermath

Bob and CJ brought #1, and #2! Congratulations!, you rats. :)

After the ratings came out, I was a little shocked. I couldn't believe a Dry Creek was even in the game. It had won two previous Zin tastings. I didn't even know they made a Cab. And wow, a $20 wine wins. Just wow!

I was a little disappointed as well. I was hoping to share some wonderful bottles with my friends. I'm glad I brought what I did, but you have to wonder how wonderful they were when they came in last. In fairness they claim a Monte Bello should be cellars for at least 8 years. We'll see how the one Bob and CJ gave me for my 40th tastes when I'm 50.

Paul was not happy that Jose had given his bottle a 1. They experimented with throwing out the lowest and highest scores before averaging, but this only moved the Stag's Leap up to 5th. It can be frustrating to have a wine you love rated lower than you would like.

Ratings Using Ave Removing Min & Max


Again we proved that cost of a wine doesn't necessarily matter. A mitigating factor here was that we drank some of the more expensive wine probably years before they were at their peak. That said it's hard to argue with a $20 bottle of wine that's ready to drink today, versus a $100 bottle of wine that needs 10 years of cellaring.


After everyone but Jose and Michel had left, I pulled out a couple of Zins from Nicholson I had picked up with Jose in mind on the Windy Oaks trip, which Jose could unfortunately not attend. We split on which one's we liked. He preferred the more jammy one. I sent them both home with Jose.

We also finally got to try out the Palo Alto I had picked up at the BevMo 5 cent sale. This is a wine Jose and I have fond memories of. I'm a little fuzzy on it, but Jose remembers no one liking it. I still have another bottle. I'll open it some time I haven't already tasted 12 bottles.

Wine Read : The Million-Dollar Nose

I was reading thoughts on Parker no longer rating California wine, which I know is old news, and ran across a comment that they ran him out of Burgandy. I googled parker was run out of burgandy? and found The Million-Dollar Nose. I thought it was a great read.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Made in America Christmas, Does Wine Count?

ABC World News has been running a series entitled Made in America Christmas. It's premise is that "if each of us spent just $64 on American made goods during our holiday shopping, the result would be 200,000 new jobs." I know I've spent many times that on local wines. Does that count? If so, shouldn't the local wine producers be trying to get in on this sentiment?