Writing from the edge of the Russian River in Sonoma County
I’ll get to discounted wine in a minute but thought I’d let you know I’ll also be sharing info on food friendly wines; Popeyes a year later; how Trumps bad tariffs are killing wine imports and the risk of smoke damage to the harvest, a little light reading.
So dear wine drinkers I’ve been suggesting to you that there is way too much wine in the marketplace due to several great harvests and simple over production and that it would have to show up somewhere down the trail, well it’s starting and here’s my story of how I’m buying $80 wine for $13 and how you should hopefully see some deals at your local retailer in the near future.
It really begins with some expert opinion. “While grape prices have fallen, buyers still face considerable risk because the marketplace is so crowded and there are no guarantees they will be able to sell their wines at a profit. There are wineries that are selling bulk wine and they aren’t going to get their money out of it. There are wineries selling grapes and they aren’t going to get their money out of it. And there are growers selling grapes that are not going to get their money out of it and make a profit,” stated Brian Clements, a partner at Turrentine Brokerage, a bulk wine and grape dealer.
And in the face of all this “aren’t going to get” stuff comes Cameron Hughes. Cameron grew up in Modesto (Gallo) in California’s Central Valley, and worked as a cellar rat after college but quickly realized that the production side of the business was not his passion; he was much better at selling. He learned the bulk wine market and the négociant business model, he sought an opportunity to procure high end wines, bottle them, and sell them under his own label for a fraction of the cost twenty years ago and he’s still doing it.
I recently became a subscriber to Cameron’s “de Negoce” wine site. Wineries and wine brokers contact him with wine they just have too much of so he buys it at a great discount, bottles it, puts his label on it and sells it for a fraction of its original retail.
So I figured that simplest way to explain just what he’s doing is to let you one read one of his recent offerings;
Today’s release, a classically gorgeous St. Helena Merlot is sourced from the same Napa producer as our Santa Rita Hills Pinot offering. To be honest, I have no idea what they were doing with it. They do not have a St. Helena Merlot program (as far as I know) so it’s likely a blending component for their high-end Cabernet projects or potentially a new program cancelled due to marketplace or COVID-related pressures (they have several Merlot programs from $50-$85/bottle). I could have asked but really, who cares, its first-class Merlot at $13/bottle.
This St. Helena Merlot is a lush, delicious wine with a solid structure that delivers an umami experience like no other varietal. With 22-months in fine French oak, little expense was spared in its production.
Lush plum, blackberry and pretty cherry are bracketed by sexy, toasty oak, acacia florals, cedar and cocoa powder notes. As promised, it’s lush on the palate but very well supported with pretty cherry, boysenberry and chocolate toffee oak notes in a long, clean finish. Yes, it’s rich and ripe but also very well-balanced – clearly a deft hand at the wheel here.
50-60% new French oak (estimated) for 22 months
98% Merlot, 2% Rutherford Cabernet
16% alc – yes, it’s a big boy but there is no heat whatsoever on this wine.
250 cases available
I did not buy this particular wine as he seems to have at least two offerings a week, but I have purchased in the past and I’m happy so far.
What is the Meaning of a Food Friendly Wine?
When I taste a wine for the first time I often remark to anyone listening, “this is a good food wine”, meaning that I believe the wine has the potential to match with some kind of food down the line. A truly food-friendly wine plays nicely with a wide variety of foods, from sweet to savory to spicy, from meat to fish to veggies and is not really a “perfect pairing” with a specific dish.
I recently read an article that more formally reflects my thoughts as to what makes a food friendly wine and I wanted to share the thoughts of someone with a title – even though it’s mostly the same thing I’ve been telling you all along.
So I figured that you might listen to Matt Stamp, a master sommelier formally of the world famous French Laundry restaurant in Yountville Napa Valley.
He says there are two factors that make wines versatile with food. The first is acidity. A wine with pronounced acidity will cleanse your palate and leave you wanting more. A tart yet fruity rosé will cut through garlicky, briny and spicy dishes with equal aplomb.
“Food-friendly wines are those that don’t bulldoze the food,” Stamp explains.
“They tend to be thirst-quenching and they drive with acidity — a refreshing quality and brightness — instead of the weight and heat of alcohol,” he says. Think big, heavy cabs.
“They can work well with a broad range of dishes because acid in wine gives life to the palate, much like a spritz of lemon gives life to a dish.”
Along with rosé, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Barbera (red wine in the Zinfandel style) are wines noted for their acidity and versatility with food. This can result in surprising pairings. Beef braised in Riesling is a traditional German dish, and pinot noir makes an exciting partner to sushi, roast chicken, pork or grilled salmon or spicy Asian food.
The second characteristic that defines food-friendly wines is – Scrubbing Bubbles – the effervescence of a sparkling wine with its refreshingly acidity, effectively scrubs your mouth and readies you for the next bite of food or sip of wine. We do ourselves an injustice by relegating champagne and other bubblies, such as Italian prosecco or Spanish cava, to celebratory toasts or pre-meal aperitifs.
For years I’ve suggested to you dear readers that fried foods such as chicken and potato chips work well with champagne or other bubbles.
Brown advises, as do I, “Stay curious.” You might find something new and unexpected.
On the First Anniversary of Their Chicken Sandwich, Popeyes Eyes 2021
Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen is getting a jump on the New Year as it celebrates the one-year anniversary of launching its popular chicken sandwich (that we sampled and gave big thumbs up to in a Whine last winter) and debuts a new advertising campaign. The company has credited the sandwich with helping it weather the coronavirus pandemic with large same-store sales gains of a “remarkable” 29.9%
Aug. 19 marked the day when Popeye’s ignited the chicken sandwich craze by tweeting “Y’all good?” at Chick-fil-A. Playing off that celebrated Tweet, the brand is now asking: “2020 – Y’all Good?”
The brand has sold 203 million chicken sandwiches in the past year, Popeyes said. The division’s same-store sales in the second quarter rose 24.8% despite COVID-19 restrictions.
National Restaurant News
No Relief for U S Wine Consumers Trump Administration Keeps Tariffs on European Wines in Place
Trade Representative says 25 percent duties will remain in place for most French, Spanish and German wines; importers and merchants say the tariffs are killing American jobs
“If the administration is serious about helping American businesses recover from the pandemic, they will end the absolute lunacy of these job-killing tariffs,” Ben Aneff, managing partner of Tribeca Wine Merchants and current president of the U.S. Wine Trade Alliance, told Wine Spectator. “The tariffs have utterly failed to move the E.U., and do nothing but hurt hard-working Americans.”
Smoke Damage is a Threat to Wine Producers and Consumers.
The recent and ongoing fires in California are going to create the possibility of a smoke taint issue for the wine industry that will be much more widespread in 2020 than in previous years. Part of it is the timing: the horrible fires of 2017 happened after most of the crop had been harvested. That’s not the case now; relatively few grapes had been harvested before the lightning storm that started this. And part of it is the statewide reach of this catastrophe.
There will be wine made in California this year but there will be a lot less wine made, especially red wine. The bad news is, red wine is what California is most famous for, and through most of the state it’s at risk.
Notes from one of the wine growers associations
“Many vineyard sites in Sonoma County are clearly too affected to pick’. And of course many are not
“Napa, Paso Robles, and the Central Coast have all had terrible fires and extensive smoke damage as well. Some of my winemaker friends in Napa are telling me that they do not expect to pick a single grape in 2020 in Napa. We will, as a region, be facing a material fruit shortage this year. So far our Mendocino and Lake County vineyards are clean.”
An interesting development, directly related to my bulk wine seller, is that the 2019 bulk wine that had been sitting on the market during what looked like a grape glut has suddenly become desirable, said Jeff Bitter, president of Allied Grape Growers.
“There’s a little bit of a push by proactive vintners in case we have to go to plan B,” Bitter told Wine-Searcher. “Plan B is to make the 2019 vintage last a little longer. “You might want to consider that advice for your own wine cellar when 2019 California red wines come to your local wine shop, and act accordingly.
That’s my Whine and I could be wrong…
My recipes for Shrimp Poached with Louisiana Style Remoulade Sauce and Meatballs with Ground Beef and Mortadella in Tomato Sauce are in fact right here, enjoy!
Woody Mosgers, cooks, caters, writes, drinks and matches wine and food in Santa Rosa Sonoma at www.woodythewineguy.com