Goodbye Bottletalks.wordpress.com, Hello Bottle-Talks.com!

Happy Friday!

We are writing to say that sadly, this will be our last post on bottletalks.wordpress.com. BUT we have some really exciting news to share with you: Our website, http://Bottle-Talks.com is LIVE!  So come on down and see us there. Bare with us though, it will be a long-term work in progress as we build a community, resource and podcast for the global wine industry.

If you’ve subscribed in WordPress’ reader, and still want to receive our posts and updates, please visit the new Bottle Talks and enter your email at the bottom right corner.
If you’ve already subscribed via entering your email on bottletalks.wordpress.com, not to worry, we’ll transfer your email to our new site. You can always unsubscribe at the bottom of our newsletter.
Anytime you want to revisit one of our old posts, they have all been transferred to the new site so you can check them out there!
THANK YOU SO MUCH for being a part of our blogging journey. We hope you’ll join our soon-to-be worldwide wine community at Bottle Talks.
Bottle Talks
Cheers!
Johannes & Jenny
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Four Reds We Cant. Stop. Drinking.

It’s Winter, or at least, in California, we pretend like it is. We all know we need more than a couple really hard rainstorms (every day, until the end of next month) to keep the snow pack, which feeds our streams, which feed our crops and vines, not to mention us! In hoping for a cool and wet March, here are some reds we love to drink when its cold to keep us warm! Best of all they’re all around 20 bucks, so you can save while you sip.

2012 Elio Grasso Nebbiolo Gavarini $20

We’re on a Nebbiolo kick and having a blast exploring the huge differences varietal. In Piedmont, Nebbiolo is widely planted but rare to find in the ground elsewhere. Many Pinot Noir fanatics don’t even know they’d love this varietal, plus, you can find a great bottle of Langhe for under $20, a rarity with Pinot Noir. Now if you want to experience something with even more complexity and depth, pick up a Barbaresco or Barolo (starting around $30-$40), but for a Thursday? Elio Grasso’s Nebbiolo will stand out and leave you questioning the mystery of this fascinating grape. To give you an idea of the flavor profile you’re getting yourself into, prepare for red roses, cherry and spice. Forget the wood notes because this wine is all done in stainless. If you like Pinot, but want to venture outside of your comfort zone, pick up a Nebbiolo next time you’re making a seafood dish that’s on the richer side. You’ll be very surprised.

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2013 Domaine de l’Hortus 2013 Bergerie de l’Hortus, Pic St Loup

(60% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre) We’ve got to admit, we really weren’t prepared for just how much we’d get for $15. This wine defines value. It sounds like a pretty intimidating, potentially very large and unrestrained wine. The Domaine de l’Hortus was definitely not a delicate wine, but was by no means over the top. Grenache and Mourvedre can pack a big punch, but with the majority being Syrah, the wine is fruity with depths of wild herbs and nicely restrained.The Bergerie goes through a nice long maceration of  The estate is owned by a former professor of Agriculture and his wife who started the business, with their first bottling in the 90s. It has passed along to their four children, who now run the property.

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2012 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County

A balanced California Pinot Noir as the goal, ABC’s 2013 Pinot Noir is a blend from six different vineyard sites, and just a touch (5%) of Mourvedre. The sites are mostly fermented separately and when the characters are defined, the blending starts. At around $22, this wine is a steal for Pinot Noir, lively and fresh with red fruit and a touch of spice components. Diverse and balanced, this Pinot is ready to go or can be stored away for a couple years to allow it to develop tertiary flavors. As the entry level wine for this estate, this Pinot Noir is wonderfully versatile and will empty the bottle wanting to give the other wines a try.

Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir

2007 La Rioja Alta Rioja Reserva Vina Alberdi

There’s no argument that Spanish wines are still a great value, even when they come from one of the leading quality producers in the Rioja region Keeping a traditional Rioja style, including the use of American Oak, these wines are drinkable now but built to age. They undergo fermentation in warm temperatures in stainless, followed by malolactic in very old, large casks, and finally a bit of aging and periodic racking in American barriques. The exposure to air during racking releases some of the flavors and aromas for early drinking, however preserving the tannins character to Tempranillo’s longevity. 07 was a cooler vintage brings about a beautifully floral and pithy citrus fruit framed by barrel complements vanilla and clove and with a little age, this wine is beautiful now

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Chasing Verasion: How to Work Wine Harvest in New Zealand

The first thing to know for Chasing New Zealand Verasion is that harvest is in the spring, or is it fall? Ok let’s keep this universal and say ‘New Zealand’s wine harvest happens in or around February-May.’

Harvest in New Zealand, or anywhere in the southern hemisphere, is another way to get great experience and a different perspective, especially if you had worked harvest in the northern hemisphere exactly prior to that. Hopefully you’ve saved up enough money to travel and get to your destination, sold your car to afford your next plane ticket and you’re off to another adventure, new land, different wines, more great friends to make.

There are a couple ways to go about working harvest. If you want to do more than “pick,” the best thing to do is, as early as possible send applications to wineries. Some wineries book interns up to a year in advance. Study the regions. Know where you want to work and why and say so in your letter. Do send a letter.

Getting Started

Wine Jobs Online will get you going in the right direction of how to apply, job listings as well as provide general news on New Zealand’s wine industry.

Regions – There are eight (major regions). They are, relatively, from north to south

North Island:

Auckland
Gisborne
Hawkes Bay
Wairarapa

South Island:

Marlborough
Nelson
Canterbury
Central Otago

Do a little research and find out which area interests you. New Zealand grows a lot of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but did you also know they grow Syrah, Cabernet and Viognier? The latitude and climate in the Northland wine region, the very top of the North Island, is ideal for these warm weather varietals. Conversely, Central Otago, at the southern tip of the South Island, is much cooler and known for Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay. If you’d like to focus on certain varietals rather than others, find out on which side of the islands you need to be. A great resource is New Zealand Wine website http://www.nzwine.com/

Planning – Central Otago is the southernmost winegrowing region in the world. With a cooler climate, they grow the according varietals. The northern part of the North Island starts harvest much earlier as the climate is much warmer. Know when you need to be there and plan your in-between adventures accordingly.

Types of Visas

New Zealand is pretty flexible when it comes to work visas, especially if you’re under 30. Start here at the New Zealand Immigration website. Regardless of your age, you can apply online, for a 12-month visa. There are some restrictions so check the requirements to be sure you qualify and you can do a quick check here. If you’re between 18 and 30 years old and want to work there, you can apply and then find a harvest gig. This visa is great because it doesn’t limit you to that one job. You can come and go from different places of work without worrying about running out of cash while you travel.

Make sure to allow time for visa processing. Our’s took about a month.

Cost

The cost to apply and receive a visa depends on your country of origin. You can check the costs here.

Application 

At the NZ Immigration website, you can create a user name and password to apply online

Once you’re registered, you can access all forms necessary online.

Almost Done!

Make sure you have a good chunk of change before you head there, around $4200 NZ dollars to cover living costs, car to share if needed, etc.

You’ll be prompted, by your employer probably, to fill out a form to receive an IRD number from New Zealand Inland Revenue Department (which is essentially a Social Security Number for you Americans reading this). You may get this form at your place of work or find it at the Post Office, where we were also able to open a bank account. You’ll receive your IRD number in a little over a week. This is your tax number as well, so your employer will also need it asap. If you’re on a working holiday in New Zealand, they’ll collect taxes as you work, so at the end, or the next year, there shouldn’t be a refund (darn!), nor should you owe anything. But this is convenient if you’re country-hopping.

Well, as they say, Bob’s your uncle so grab your gumboots and jandals, travel safe, and when you get there be sure to fill your chillybin with some savvy, throw it in the boot and head to the beach so you can enjoy the beach before the hard work beings. See ya later.

Chasing-Verasion-NZ

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A Nostalgic Take on the World of Pinot Noir 2015

It’s the first week of March, 2010, midnight, my 14th hour of the day and the last day in the World of Pinot Noir office before the event starts tomorrow in Shell Beach. It will be the first of four days total, hosting over 12 individual events, 220 wineries, and expecting over 2000 guests. I’m looking at the program with my name under the ‘Event Coordinator’ title, my 22-year old paper-cut hands shaking from nerves and caffeine withdrawls, WOPN board member Mike Sinor’s words to the effect of, if you girls pull this off, you can do anything. The questions running through my head: did I confirm the rooms for the wineries attending from France, Italy and Austria? Did I send the schedule for the sommeliers and who’s pouring where? Are all of Fred Dame’s wines safely stored in the right place for his Vintage Burgundy Seminar? Are all names placed correctly for the two gala dinners?

That was five years ago, but I swear it could have been yesterday

To keep a long story short, and to get to the point of this post, the weekend went off with out (any large) hitches. I remember receiving an incredibly generous (and probably undeserved) email from Mrs. Meadows, aka Mrs. Allen “Burghound” Meadows and that made the last six weeks completely worthwhile.

The World of Pinot Noir has really evolved. I cant remember who told me this, possibly Brian Talley or Kent Torrey from The Cheese Shop in Carmel, but when WOPN first started back in 2001, Brian had told Kent something like “were throwing a Pinot event, wanna bring some cheese?” I’ll never forget that. Fifteen years later, World of Pinot has since outgrown it’s original location, quaint and sleepy beachside town of Shell Beach, just south of San Luis Obispo on the Central Coast of California. It’s now moved 90 miles south to Santa Barbara, where Bacara, a beautifully luxurious Spanish style resort. Of course, WOPN wouldn’t be the same if we weren’t sipping Pinot by the sea and Bacara lies right on the cliffs.

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This year, get ready for in-depth seminars and dinners featuring seminars on food and featured producers, “foodie frenzy” seminars and a focus on latitude and longitude, elaborate dinners and grand
tastings on both Friday and Saturday. Not to name names, but we will anyway, moderators to include Jancis Robinson, Donald Kinnan, Nick Poletto, Bob Cummings, and Stephanie Mutz. In addition to  not to mention a team of sommeliers including Fred Dame, who leads a Vintage Burgundy dinner. Chefs come locally, Frank Ostini of the Hitching Post, David Rosner (Wine Cask),  David Reardon (Bacara), Johan Denizot (Miro), and bringing their large supply of cheese, Michael and Kathryn Graham of C’est Cheese! Each year there’s a Featured Burgundian producer, a guest star, if you will and this year’s is Alexandrine Roy, a ‘fourth generation winegrower’ of Domaine Marc Roy. In addition to Burgundy, Pinot Noir producers come from all over the world in past WOPNs and future, potentially including Italy, Austria, Switzerland, New Zealand, Chile, and more…

Jitters aside from what has now been five years since my stint at WOPN, I am thrilled to not only be attending as a guest, but also see how this great event has become so much more than just a glass of Pinot at the beach and my moment in time with it, but is now a world class event not to be missed for any fan of the varietal.
Sparked your interest? More details can be found at the WOPN website or for ticket sales, here

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A Mini Restaurant Post on Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch

Mini la quercia ham sandwiches with pepper jelly, LMR grass-fed steak tartare with farm egg, capers, cornichons, tabasco and toast, 2 Glasses of Sparkling, 2 more after that and call it a lunch!

That’s what it was anyway on Superbowl Sunday, for us. With me being neither a New England nor Seattle fan, and Johannes a European football fan, we day-tripped it up to St. Helena to enjoy lunch on the patio of Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, your legitimate from our farm to our table set for you restaurant in the middle of Rutherford. Many menu items including grass-fed beef, eggs, olive oil, veggies and fruit (not to mention beekeeping), in addition to their wines, come from the short drive away on the 650-acre ranch settled in the Mayacamas. Everything is done by the CCOF standards.
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La Quercias

While everyone was inside chowing down on guacamole and jalapeno poppers and beer, we soaked up the sun and the quiet scenery at Farmstead.
Rustic wooden tables paired with old farm equipment accents makes the modern farmhouse look to LMR immediately comforting and homey. While based at a Rutherford winery during a previous we often met friends of the winery’s owner there. This is a true Napa Valley locals hangout, but right on hwy 29 so tourists are not to miss it. And it is something not to be missed!
Not much more I can say about Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch except the service is fabulous, the setting is cozy in summer or winter and the raw egg yolk on the steak tartare is the yellowest you’ve ever seen.
When you’re done with lunch, stroll about 20 yards over to the tasting room for a coffee on the house and some great wines.
lmr

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Mustard: A Vineyard Friend with Benefits

Johannes and I found ourselves in the middle of Napa on my birthday last weekend bickering over whether the mustard had always been there (me, the idealist) or rather planted (Johannes, the realist, but also the one with much more experience working in vineyards). Well, after some research, we determined we were both right.

If you’ve ever driven through Napa on a winter day, you’re probably familiar with the vibrant yellow mustard that spreads over the valley like a blanket, contrasting with the green hillsides and old, dark brown vines. It brings cheerful color to the normally gray skies that winter brings.

The belief is that mustard is newly native to the Napa Valley, and quite honestly, an invasive weed. It is thought to have perhaps brought up by the Spanish missionaries in the 1800s. Either way, mustard has taken root and is here to stay. Hard to argue with it’s beautiful and bright color it contributes to the landscape though.

But mustard is so much more complex than just a pretty weed. It is first and foremost a very beneficial cover crop. The seeds are spread easily by wind, plant themselves and Voila!, a beautiful bright yellow mustard plant springs up after only a little rain. We are lucky that it springs up all over the valley though because it has a number of highly beneficial responsibilities that contribute to the great wines that are made in the vineyards

Erosion – Mustard’s root system holds the ground in place during heavy rain or wind, preventing the soil from washing away and disturbing the complex underground system.

Nematode growth – Mustard has a surprisingly high level of biofumigants, a natural gas released from plant tissue, that prevents population growth in nematodes, or roundworms that populate soil and can potentially be parasitic and damaging to vines, especially in a young vineyard.

Nitrogen Replacement – When planted next to other cover crops such as legumes, like fava and bell beans, the naturally occurring Nitrogen-fixing bacteria can break them down and distribute it to the appropriate places.

Water Restriction – Vines thrive off restricted water allocation during their rapid growth months, and as you know, our rainy season can continue well into Spring. Without getting too into it, vines need to be stressed and not given abundant water in order to produce high quality fruit. This way, they will put all of their effort to making sure the offspring, the clusters. Too much water will make a vine lazy and the wine dull. No one wants lazy, dull wines. Getting to the point, mustard and other cover crops will soak up some of the excess water so the struggling effect occurs.

On the other hand, in a year of drought, or several years of drought like now in 2015, the thick mustard sprouts up only in patches. With abundant rain, mustard will thrive, but during droughts, it is actually competing with the vines for what limited supply of water we receive. In this case, the dry soil is unfortunately very likely to experience erosion if large storms do finally head our way.

The good news about any mustard at all is that it attracts beneficial insects, which will in turn take care of the harmful insects. If you’ve got the right combination of these different plants, amounting to a diverse cover crop, pesticides will not be needed, vineyards and their environment will be healthier and visitors to the valley will have something beautiful to look at.

PS – Check out our full website at Bottle-Talks.com for all our blog posts and more — thank you!

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Wine’s DND (Do Not Disturb) Phase

We opened a bottle of ’97 Auslese with our tasting group last night, producer to remain nameless, and the reactions were mostly negative to the effect of ‘it’s too dry’ ‘it’s spritzy’ ‘it tastes flat.’ No one was able to pinpoint the exact problem.  It was clearly not corked and it didn’t taste old, which are typically two of the first accusations, but something was surely not correct. Normally, Auslese can age for years developing tons of complexity over time; what’s going on?

After several years in bottle, wine can dip into a ‘dumb phase.’  This wine was probably fruit forward, round on the palate, full of minerality and expressive of all beautiful traits that define classic Riesling, but are now muted, and the wine seems uninteresting and dull. Sometimes, decanting can help bring the wine to life, but typically, this is a phase that can go on for months to a few years. From the times that the wines begin fermenting, primary aromas (like apple, cherry) can be detected, while secondary flavors and aromas (like oak, vanilla)  develop from alcoholic and malolactic fermentation, whether or not aging is sur lie, in a barrel or other vessel. Tertiary flavors are what develop in the bottle, (or any other airtight aging vessel) also preventing the wine from oxidizing.
The first awkward phase wine goes through is ‘Bottle Shock,’ in which the wine adjusts for the oxygen and sulfur used during the bottling process. (In order to divert the sulfur argument: sulfur is a very important part of bottling as it’s a preservative not only for wine but for lettuce, dried fruit and many other foods we eat daily). Bottle shock can also be a result from movement or transit of the wines, from vibrations and temperature variation. Bottling can be quite rough on the wines molecularly, so it can take some time for the wine to put itself back together. They might seem disjointed when tasted right after bottling.
The next awkward phase, if any occurs, will happen in age worthy wines and there’s no telling when it might come as some wines will age slower than others depending on the vintage, vineyard site, winemaking process, and so on. After bottling, wine continues to develop these flavors and aromas, called tertiaries. You may have heard of Volatile Acidity, or acetic acid, the smell of vinegar in a wine due to rogue yeast, unsanitary winemaking process, or unwelcome bacteria. The truth is, volatile compounds are being released all the time as wine matures, releasing the tertiary aromas. Along that path, a wine can shut down, and when it’s opened, it may be in an awkward phase between the lively fruitiness of it’s youth and the complex elegance of its adulthood. Steven Spurrier noticed in his research that this was more common in wines with more tannins. Red Rhone wines and Bordeaux seem to be more prone to experiencing this phase than say a Pinot Noir.
So you like big, bold and tannic reds. In fact, you prefer them to their lighter cousins. I’m not speaking for everyone but if you’re in that boat, my suggestion is to buy these wines in multiples. If you are getting into collecting, a good rule in general to follow is collecting in at least threes for age-able wines. Spread out the dates in which you open them. At the end of the third bottle you’ll have a more personal connection with and deeper understanding of the life of the wine.

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