Behind the Cork™ - Artezin Old Vine Zinfandel


2017 Artezin Old Vine Zinfandel ($16)

This handcrafted Old Vine Zinfandel from winemaker Randle Johnson comes from northern California’s Mendocino County.

Johnson has been the man behind Artezin’s wines since their inception in 2002. The vision behind Artezin is to honor the art of crafting Zinfandel from old vine plantings and to work with family owned, sustainable farms throughout Mendocino and Sonoma Counties.

This Zinfandel is blended with 15% Petite Sirah to yield a wine with nice fruit and subtle pepper notes. It is 100% barrel aged in one to two year old French oak. This results in soft tannin, and an easy finish.

The Hess Family Wine Estates portfolio is comprised of The Hess Collection, Hess Select, Artezin, Lion’s Head Collection all of which are from California as well as Colomé and Amalaya from Argentina.

This Artezin Old Vine Zinfandel fits right in with the Behind the Cork™ featured wines that are affordable and attainable. Look for this this one in your favorite wine shop and enjoy! Cheers!

Disclosure of Wine Sample Submission: I received this wine at no cost for review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Sample Provided by Donna White Communications

Ever Wonder What Those Tiny Crystals are on the Bottom of the Wine Cork?


In a recent blog, I wrote about sediment in wine. Those are the particle that are left in your wine glass or inside the wine bottle from tiny particles of grape skins, seeds and stems that are a natural part of wine making. And, other than being an unexpected texture in your mouth, they are harmless.

But then I recently pulled the cork on a really nice bottle of wine that had been laying on its side in my wine refrigerator for little over a year. Upon examination I found a bunch of sparkly red crystals on the bottom of the cork (photo). It was obvious this wasn’t sediment because it had defined crystalline structure. So then, what is it?

Well, without getting too much into the chemistry (and there’s a lot of chemistry in wine making), these are indeed crystals that are sometime referred to as “wine diamonds.”

These crystals are formed in a bottle of wine due to the presence of tartaric acid which, along with malic acid and citric acid, naturally appear in wine. Again, all these little crystals are harmless but the crunch you’d experience in your mouth would certainly be unexpected from a glass of wine.

These crystals can form in both white wine and red wine. While some wine makers will put their wine through additional processing (e.g., cold stabilization) for a few weeks to force these crystals to form and drop out, other wine makers prefer to do as little additional processing as possible to their wines which can result in some crystal formation.

So, if you happen to see these little “wine diamonds” either on your cork or in your glass, don’t be concerned. This is a normal and natural phenomenon. Your wine is just fine! Cheers!

Behind the Cork™ - Robert Young Cabernet Franc


Robert Young Alexander Valley ‘Big Rock Block’ Cabernet Franc ($65)

This one’s a real treat. Alexander Valley is a favorite of mine and this Cabernet Franc from Robert Young Estate Winery is an exceptional example of the Alexander Valley wines.

I picked this one up during my 2018 visit to Alexander Valley. I was familiar with the wineries along the main road. But, for my final stop of the trip, I decided to go off the main road and check out Robert Young. I didn’t know anything about their wines so I went in with no expectations. Then, I was blown away.

Along with this delicious Cabernet Franc, I also tried their Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Verdot. They were all outstanding and I brought home one of each!

This ‘Big Rock Block’ Cabernet Franc is rich and complex with wonderful dark fruit flavors and oak aging that makes for an amazing wine with low tannin and a long smooth finish.

While my “Behind the Cork™” features are often wines that are easily affordable and easily attainable, this Robert Young Cabernet Franc is a bit pricier and you’ll probably only find it at the winery, but it’s a tremendous find that will be featured in the “Great Wines” page of the website.

If you get the opportunity to be in Alexander Valley, take the short trip off the main road and visit Robert Young Estate. It’s well worth the visit! Cheers!

Ever Wonder? Should You Chill a Bottle of Wine in the Freezer?

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It’s a common problem. You buy a bottle of wine that you want to server that same day. And you want it chilled. So, is the freezer a good option for quickly chilling a bottle of wine?

Well, chilling a bottle of wine in the freezer is one method. But, it has a couple of issues.

First, a freezer by definition is an environment that is below freezing. Right? So, that’s 32 degrees F or below. And, assuming you are trying to chill a bottle of white wine, rosé or sparkling wine, the best serving temperatures for those are going to be somewhere in the range of 38 to 55 degree F range, depending of the type of wine. Thus, a freezer is going to be too cold if the bottle remains in the freezing environment too long.

And, you run the risk of actually damaging the bottle. Depending on the alcohol content of the wine, it will freezer somewhere in the 15 to 20 degree F range. Because wine is mostly water, it’s going to expand when it freezes which can either push the cork out of the bottle (see photo) or, even worse, break the bottle!

The second issue with using a freezer to quickly chill a bottle of wine is that it’s really not that quick. It will still take quite a while to get that bottle to your ideal serving temperature.

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So, what’s the best way to quickly chill a bottle of wine? Well, find a container that’s a bit larger than the bottle or bottles, fill it with ice and then fill it with water. The ice-cold water will then fully surround your bottle and it’ll be chilled rapidly. And, you don’t need to worry about it freezing!


Behind the Cork™ - González Byass La Copa Vermouths


González Byass La Copa Vermouth — Extra Seco & Rojo - ($24.99 each)

While Vermouth can be the perfect addition to any cocktail, these Vermouth offerings from González Byass really shine on their own.

Vermouth, as described in a recent blog, is actually a fortified wine. A highly aromatic fortified wine with botanicals that include herbs, bark, roots, citrus and spices with the Wormwood plant being the classic ingredient.

The González Byass La Copa (meaning the cup) Extra Seco Vermouth is a white extra dry version (28 g/L residual sugar) produced from 100% Palomino grape that is aged for an average of three years in the traditional Solera System of American oak casks. It exhibits a clean and elegant intensity with concentrated citrus aromas along with the bitter touches of Wormwood. It’s an ideal aperitif, served over ice, but can also be blended with soda or used as part of many classic cocktails.

The González Byass La Copa Rojo Vermouth is a red version produced with 75% Palomino grape and 25% Pedro Ximénez grape that is aged for more than eight years in Soleras. With Wormwood again playing a staring role, this Rojo Vermouth also includes botanicals such as clove, orange peel, nutmeg and cinnamon. The resulting bitter-sweet (141 g/L residual sugar) and savory flavors of this Vermouth include classic cola flavors to go along with all the spiciness. It too is an ideal aperitif, served over ice, but can also be blended with soda or used as part of many classic cocktails.

Both of these La Copa Vermouth offerings from González Byass are delicious either on their own or as part of your favorite cocktail. Cheers!

Disclosure of Wine Sample Submission: I received this wine at no cost for review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Samples provided by Rebekah Polster of Donna White Communications