We love it when readers send us their nagging questions. They show what is on the minds of consumers, but questions also reveal to us a level of curiosity that is so different today than it was decades ago. Here are several of the questions we recently received:
I have noticed on the back of bottles various notations such as vinted, bottled, produced, etc. Could you explain how that relates to a vineyard and production?
Federal regulations require wine labels to have a name and address of the bottler or importer. Domestic wines also may include the name of the producer, if at least 75 percent of the wine is fermented at the address stated. “Vinted” means the wines were given cellar treatment at that address.
If you see “vinted by” and not “produced by,” the wine was likely made elsewhere and only aged at the stated address.
In some cases, the grapes are grown in one state and the wine bottled in another. In California, a producer may not have a bottling facility or vineyards. Thus, grapes could be grown in Calistoga, and the wine could be bottled at a custom crush facility in another city. Whether any of this matters to you is another thing. We suspect that reading the fine print of a label is a result of boredom.
Government-mandated label language drives us nuts. While we appreciate knowing the alcohol content, we are annoyed by the lengthy passage about the dangers of alcohol and that the wine contains sulphites. One line that says “Government warning: this beverage contains alcohol and sulphites” would be enough.
Consumers would be more informed if they knew the grape varieties used in the wine or whether oak chips or flavoring were used.
Why can’t I find the wines you recommend?
We are sympathetic to those of you drive to several stores in search of a recommended wine. Pain in the butt and often without results, right?
We come across wines in a variety of ways: restaurants, stores, dinner parties, suggestions from friends, samples. Our column is distributed to newspapers in several states, so it’s useless information to provide the name of a store if our readers live in another state.
Most wine stores will order you a wine, but, unfortunately, you have to buy a case. Another option is wine.com, wineaccess.com, wine-searcher.com, or similar web sites that will ship as few as one bottle.
We recently heard from a woman who was desperate to find a bottle she enjoyed at a restaurant. and did we know where she could find it? All of our sources didn’t carry it. We suggested to her that the distributor probably dropped the wine or the producer wasn’t good at keeping up with the demand. This happens a lot. A distributor will try out a new product but drop it if the wine just doesn’t sell.
I love Menage e Trois wines. What do you think?
We do a lot of wine tastings in our communities and invariably someone asks us for a second opinion on a wine they enjoy. It’s not just the popular Menage e Trois wines; it’s Yellow Tail, Cupcake, Woodbridge, Apothic, Josh Cellars, and others.
Many of them we don’t like because of their sweetness, but we don’t want to reject them and sound snobbish. The best answer we have found is that it doesn’t matter what we think. If you like the wine, who are we to tell you differently?
In the inexpensive category, we like Josh Cellars, Columbia Crest, Chateau Ste. Michelle, and Robert Mondavi to name a few easy-to-find, American wines.
Duckhorn Vineyards in Napa Valley is probably known best for its merlots, and that's not easy at a time when merlot is still struggling to undo an unfair rap portrayed in the movie "Sideways." But those familiar with the name know that Duckhorn, which has been making merlot since 1978, is loyal to this grape and consistently produces some of the best (and most expensive) merlots in California. Our favorite is Duckhorn Atlas Peak Merlot 2015 ($75). The mountain-grown grapes in this version give concentration and heft to a wine made entirely from merlot grapes. Intense plum and raspberry notes blend with intriguing hints of cocoa powder and licorice.
GAME OF THRONES
Now that HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones has won an Emmy, isn’t it time to celebrate? You can celebrate or binge watch the show with the 2016 Game of Thrones Pinot Noir ($20). The wine is made from grapes grown in the Willamette Valley and is full of ripe red berry fruit flavors.
Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Merlot 2014 ($25). We loved the plush and generous black cherry and plum flavors in this delicious merlot. Hints of licorice and vanilla.
Concannon Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($40). Generous aromas with plum and cassis notes, firm tannins, sweet vanillin oak and long finish make this powerful, age-worthy cab a treat. This iconic producer is celebrating its 135th anniversary.
Dutton Estate Kyndall’s Reserve-Dutton Ranch Chardonnay 2016 ($42). We liked the balance in this delicious chardonnay. It has lots of lush and ripe tropical fruit and apple flavors, thanks in part to whole-cluster pressing and malolatic fermentation. Hints of butterscotch and toasted oak.
Fort Ross Mother of Pearl Chardonnay 2015 ($60). The fact that this chardonnay isn’t fined or filtered provides a pure fruit quality. Balanced, full-bodied and loaded with layers of fruit, including white peach and pear. The minerality in the background gives the wine a nice finish.
J. McClelland Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($45). Wow, what a mouthful. This great wine – a cross between elegance and power – is loaded with forward red berry flavors, a dash of tobacco and spice.
Chehalem Three Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 ($30). A great value from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, this gem has violet aromas with ripe black cherry flavors and a hint of spice.