Behind the Cork™ - Wine of the Week

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2015 Foggy Veil Hillside Selection Santa Barbera County Red Blend ($13)

This red blend is 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, in a traditional Rhone style. And the California Central Coast, Paso Robles and Santa Barbera, are doing tremendous Rhone blends.  This one is full-bodied with big fruit flavors of plum, fig and blueberry. It needed a bit of time to breathe in the decanter, but smoothed-out and was quiet enjoyable. This appears to be a Trader Joe's wine and a great value worthy of being featured in Behind the Cork™ - Wine of the Week. Cheers!

Ever Wonder About the Life Cycle of a Wine Grape?

Well, maybe you haven't ever wondered about the life cycle of a wine grape. Wine making is typically the process that gets all of the attention. And, yes, it's amazing that grapes can be turned into such complex wines. The process of growing the grapes tends to take a backseat to the wine making process. But, it's an equally fascinating process that should not be overlooked. So, let take a look at the farming side of wine making.

Grapes are perennials. You only plant them once and they sprout, grow, bloom and produce fruit. And, they repeat that cycle year after year. 

Bare rapevines that are dormant

Bare rapevines that are dormant

So, let's jump into the cycle and start with Winter. This is the point where all the fruit has been harvested and all the leaves drop. The grape vine is bare.  This is the time when pruning is done. The canes, which are 'branches' that extend from the crown of the trunk, are cut back in order to ensure the best ones remain for the growing cycle. Not surprisingly, this is a very labor-intensive process.

Bud Break

Bud Break

In the Spring, buds begin to form on the canes. "Bud Break" is a very exciting time for grape growers as it's the first indication of the health of the coming crop. And, again, some pruning is done to ensure the vines are growing properly.

Flowering

Flowering

Then, Spring flowering occurs. And what's amazing is that grape vines are self-pollinating! No need for bees! I'll leave that topic for another time, but it's quite interesting how this came about.

Summer with vines full of leaves and grapes

Summer with vines full of leaves and grapes

By Summer, the flowers have become berries. Yes, grapes are berries! Now you begin to see the first signs of grape clusters. In late Summer, the green grapes being to start changing color and ripen. This is called Veraison (Verre-ray-shun). Now, the bunches of grapes take on those wonderful colors of yellow, pink, and purple.

Finally, Fall comes around and it's harvest time. Grape growers and wine makers become very focused on the sugar levels of the grapes (Brix) as they ripen. Once the grapes reach just the right level of ripeness, they are quickly harvested. Unlike other fruits, grapes don't continue to ripen once picked. So, you have to get it right.

Then, Winter comes around again, the vines lose all their leaves and the vines go dormant. And, the cycle starts all over again.

So, next time you focus your attention on a particularly wonderful wine, remember that a lot of things must have gone very well in the vineyard to produce the grapes that became the wine. Cheers!

Behind the Cork™ - Wine of the Week

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Vilarnau Brut Reserva Cava NV ($15)

Vilarnau is a small artisanal handcrafted Cava house located just outside Barcelona Spain.

This Cava is made the traditional way with 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada and 15% Xarello. It is a dry Cava with soft fruity flavors. It is classified as a "Reserva" because it was aged for 15 months.

The bottle art honors the winery's Catalon roots with avant-garde imagery of Antoni Gaudi.

Vilarnau is one of several family-owned wineries of Gonzáles Byass. Established in 1835, their wineries span across most of the important wine producing regions of Spain.

This Vilarnau Brut Reserva Cava is a perfect bubbly for the any occassion and goes well with most any food or snack (works really well with popcorn!).

Give it a try. It's a really nice Cava and, as with all Behind the Cork™ - Wine of the Week features, a great value.

Look at Your Wine Before You Drink it

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Last time we asked "Why do people look so closely at their glass of wine?" and learned that flaws, such as sediment and dis-colorization can be seen in a wine glass.

But, the color of a wine can also tell you about how it will taste and its age.

With white wines, pale yellow-green color generally indicates a light bodied wine that will have bright, crisp fruit flavors and higher acidity (e.g., Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc). A deep golden colored wine will tend to be full bodied, bolder in flavor and lower in acidity (e.g., Chardonnay).

With red wine, you'll find that those that tend toward pink to light red will be light bodied and bright in flavor (e.g., Beaujolais and Pinot Noir). They may even be a little tart. As the color of a red wine gets darker towards maroon and purple, it will become more full-bodied with bolder and richer flavors (e.g., Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon).

Color can also tell you something about a wine's age.  You know that fruit eventually turns brown with age. This is also true of wines. Older white wines become dull in color and can take on orange and brown tones. This is usually an indication of a wine that is well beyond its peak and will likely have nutty flavors due to oxidation.  With red wines, they too take on brownish tones, especially around the rim of the glass. But, with red wines, this doesn't necessarily indicate that they are beyond their peak. Most older red wines (10 years +) will look this way.

So, next time you are poured a glass of wine, stop and take a moment to look at it and see if you can figure out how it will taste even before your first sip. Cheers!