Category Archives: Wine

De-Mystifying Whole-Cluster Fermentation

whole clusterWhole-cluster fermentation is gaining rapid interest as a winemaking practice, but how much does the average consumer really know about this mysterious method and its effects?

“Whole-cluster fermentation is the act of using the entire bunch or cluster of grapes, including the stem, in alcoholic fermentation,” says Winemaker Eric Hickey of Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, who has used whole-cluster fermentation for about a decade. “The winemaker can vary the amount of whole clusters included in the fermentor. For example, in our case, I use anywhere from thirty to seventy percent whole clusters in a given batch.  The remaining percentage in the fermentor is made up of de-stemmed grapes.”

The use of whole-cluster fermentation began as an experiment for Hickey, who has made a career of exploring different approaches to Pinot Noir from Laetitia’s Arroyo Grande Valley AVA estate. “We have a vast array of plantings, clones, and diversity when it comes to Pinot Noir,” he said. “Not all of our lots do well with whole-cluster, but through all of our trials over the years, we’ve located the specific clones and sites that work well.”

In Burgundy, where Pinot Noir is king, whole-cluster fermentation has been used for hundreds of years, perhaps somewhat out of the convenience of tossing an entire bunch into the fermenting vessel. The hallmark of whole-cluster wines – a signature burnt tobacco note entwined with the fruit aromas and flavors – became synonymous with the Pinot Noir variety in Old World winemaking.

Eric Hickey

Eric Hickey

“It’s not always obvious, but there’s an extra layer of structure to whole-cluster Pinot Noir,” says Hickey, “and when it’s at its best, there is a dusty chalkiness to the mid-palate.”

Whole-cluster fermentation can be practiced on any variety, and is often used to tone down fruit characteristics and add another dimension to the wine. (For example, Hickey also uses whole-cluster fermentation on Grenache from the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard for the NADIA Wines label.) While New World winemakers have used this method for many years, a fruit-driven, de-stemmed Pinot Noir became popular as the variety gained a foothold in the United States market in the late 1980s and 1990s. Today, the pendulum is swinging the other direction, with many winemakers moving away from “pure-fruit” Pinot Noir by fermenting clusters whole to impart complexity, tannic grip, and a lift on the palate.

Laetitia_Pinot_Noir_Whole_ClusterWEBTo bring this style further into balance, when Hickey whole-cluster ferments Pinot Noir, he leaves the intact bunches to rest in the fermentor after harvest rather than crushing them immediately. In this anaerobic environment, fermentation then begins within each individual berry as yeast penetrates the skin wall under the pressure of carbon dioxide, a process called carbonic maceration. “When fermentation takes place inside the berry, you tend to get very high levels of delicate red fruit and floral aromas,” says Hickey. “In the case of the whole-cluster technique, the high fruit tone is a good counter balance to the earthy tobacco characters the stems provide.”

Each vintage, Hickey rounds-out the Laetitia Pinot Noir program by offering a whole-cluster Pinot Noir made from clones conducive to the practice. The most recent release is the 2012 vintage, which included Pinot Noir from clones 115 and 2A to produce a wine marked by focused flavors and a refreshing grip in mouth feel. Crisp notes of cassis, whole-leaf tobacco and black peppercorn mingle with a touch of sweet oak and sultry black tea on the nose and palate. With its heightened earthiness, the 2012 Laetitia Whole Cluster Pinot Noir pairs well with similarly earthy cuisine such as roast duck, sautéed porcini mushrooms, or eggplant lasagna.

“Consumer response [toward whole-cluster wine] has been great,” says Hickey. “It usually appeals to those who prefer a Pinot with more power, structure and less ‘pure red fruit’ on the nose.”

 

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What we learned: Wine apps

It’s never been a better time to buy the right wine. With so much content available so quickly, we’ll never again wonder what to drink with our osso buco on a Friday night (…or mac ‘n cheese on a Tuesday night!).

We’re talking, of course, about wine apps. At the recent Wine Bloggers’ Conference we polled our fellow wine folks about which apps they use to make buying and tasting decisions. Here are the big winners:

298_298_cor-kz-top-apps-for-wineCor.kz: Powered by CellarTracker.com, Cor.kz allows you to type in the name of the wine you’re considering (or even scan the bar code!) and gain access to over 2,000,000 notes and ratings from experts and from the huge CellarTracker community of wine drinkers. $1.99, available for iOS and Android.

47f1aadf-d960-48dd-8611-fbcddf1eb54cVivino: “Never pick another bad wine.” So says this app that identifies wine labels from a photo snapped on your device and immediately accesses reviews, rankings and price comparisons – right there in the grocery aisle or wine shop. Vivino also claims to be “the world’s largest community for everyone who enjoys wine.” Free, available for iOS and Android.

icon_256Delectable: Like Vivino, this app immediately recognizes whatever wine label you snap with your camera and offers reviews and buying info, but has a social side that allows your own personal friends to weigh-in along with leading winemakers, critics, and sommeliers.

icon_256 (1)Guurgle: While Guurgle is still very California-centric, they benefit from being powered by people who really know and love wine. This app is terrific for touring California wineries and includes maps and events listings to inform your next excursion.

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Singer-songwriter A.J. Croce comes to Wine Country

salon roux logoWe at Parker Sanpei have always loved the people and service at Salon Roux in Paso Robles – but now we love them even more.

This full-service salon and spa located in the heart of wine country recently announced a special benefit concert to celebrate its fifth anniversary featuring singer-songwriter, A.J. Croce, with special guests, The Janks, to benefit Studios on the Park’s “Kids Art Smart” program. Presented under the stars at Castoro Cellars Winery, the concert will be held Saturday, August 23. The event begins at 6:30 p.m.

ajcroce_salon_roux_concert

Croce, son of legendary singer-songwriter Jim Croce, began his career at age 18 opening for B.B. King, and has since spanned genres from jazz to Americana to blues to pop. He has been seen and heard on national television including Jay Leno, David Letterman, and MTV, and received glowing press from The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone and People Magazine. Croce’s eighth studio album, “Twelve Tales,” was released by Compass Records and recorded with six legendary producers including: Allen Toussaint (Dr. John, Eric Clapton); the late “Cowboy” Jack Clement (Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash); Mitchell Froom (Crowded House, Los Lobos); Tony Berg (Fiona Apple, Bob Dylan); Kevin Killen (Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel), and Greg Cohen (Tom Waits, John Zorn). Additionally, “Twelve Tales” includes a song Croce wrote with legendary songwriter and musician, Leon Russell.

Croce’s last performance in Paso Robles was in support of Jon Anderson of YES. He’s received stellar reviews including a sentiment by Willie Nelson who said “The future of entertainment is in good hands.” Salon Roux Proprietor and Concert Coordinator, Jacque Leonard, calls Croce’s music, “jaw-droppingly, amazingly great.”

A. J. Croce

A. J. Croce

“Salon Roux holds a party every year to celebrate our anniversary,” said Leonard. “For our fifth year, though, I wanted to do something that gives back to our community that has supported us. The ‘Kids Art Smart’ program brings children to Studios on the Park to paint, draw and get creative, Monday through Friday. I know that if I hadn’t been in art classes through school, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Our goal is to raise enough support for “Kids Art Smart” through this benefit concert to cover their costs for the coming school year.”

“Kids Art Smart” brings local elementary students to Studios on the Park in Paso Robles, directly utilizing the artists studio setting for unique art education studying and creating works of art in mediums such as ceramics, collage, oil pastels, printmaking, and watercolor. Since 2011, more than 4,000 public elementary students have visited Studios on the Park for hands-on professional art classes completely free of charge and during school hours. Ordinarily these students (47 percent of whom are considered low-income and at-risk) receive no formal arts education.

Individual tickets to the benefit concert are $50 each. VIP tables include wine and dinner, and are $250 for two people, $500 for four people and $750 for six people. Tickets are available for purchase at Salon Roux by calling 805.239.9499 or by emailing info@salonroux.com.

Additionally, Thomas Hill Organics Bistro will be serving a dinner consisting of Paella accompanied by organic mixed greens, roasted seasonal vegetable and date flan tartlets for $15. Castoro Cellars wine will also be available for purchase.

For more information on this must-see concert, please visit http://www.salonroux.com/concert.html See you there!

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What we learned: The Digital Divide

We had intended to give frequent updates on what we learned at the Wine Bloggers’ Conference this year, but that proved nearly impossible, so copious the information and quick the format. Here, we’ll present our take-aways by category. Today, it’s about the so-called “digital divide” between wine producers and their patrons in the digital age.

A breakout session entitled “The Business of Wine” led by  Tim Hanni, MW, and Paul Mabray of Vintank reminded us how critical it is to provide digital media to our winery clients with ambitious, personal, and creative connections to their customers.  Some notes:

Tim Hanni, MW

Tim Hanni, MW

Notes from Tim Hanni, MW

  • “Sixty to eighty percent of consumers are mystified by wine. We have to ask ourselves: are we going out of our way to mystify consumers about wine?”
  • “Anybody can make very expensive, highly-extracted, new-French-oak wine. It’s never been easier for people to make good wine. But nobody’s putting any thought into the market itself. We’re devoting too much thought to the product, not enough to the consumer.”

Tim Hanni, MW is an internationally-recognized wine expert and professionally-trained chef. He is one of two Americans to first earn the title Master of Wine and is recognized around the globe for his groundbreaking “Vinotyping” – making wine drinkers more confident about their personal wine preferences. 

Paul Mabray

Paul Mabray

Notes from Paul Mabray, Vintank

  • “[The modern wine market] is the most competitive market in human history. [In 2013] there were 200,000 wine products in the U.S. But it’s also hard because everybody makes great wine.”
  • “Everyone is telling the same story: Family-owned. Artisan. Terroir. Service is the only differentiator.”
  • The wine industry’s biggest challenge right now is the internet. “Digital Darwinism” means if you’re not designing your website/blog mobile-friendly, you’re already getting left behind.
  • “The old critic everyone listened to was Robert Parker, Jr. The new critic everyone listens to is the stupid ‘like’ button.”
  • “It’s like Hollywood: everyone wants to work in wine. And it sounds so sexy until you have to put it in your gas tank. The wine industry pays [poorly], and we’re losing our best people because of it.”

Paul Mabray is Chief Strategy Officer at Vintank, the world’s largest software solution for social media management for the wine and restaurant industry. A more in-depth exploration of Paul’s ideas can be found in a transcribed lecture he recently presented here.

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Wine Bloggers’ Conference kicks off!

imageOnly for the love of wine would we ever get up this early on a Saturday morning. No, not to drink wine – to blog about it!

Paul Mabray of Vintank discussing the intersection of wine and tech.

Paul Mabray of Vintank discussing the intersection of wine and tech.

We are privileged to participate in this year’s Wine Bloggers’ Conference in the Santa Ynez Valley. We’ve already shaken Paul Mabray’s hand and talked about the digital divide in the wine industry. Heaven! Stay tuned here for more updates on the conference and what we’ve learned.

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Our favorite “little rascal.”

2013-ArneisOur friends at Burbank Ranch Winery recently received gold medals for their 2013 “Little Rascal” Arneis from two prestigious competitions: the 2014 Orange County Fair Commercial Wine Competition and the 2014 Central Coast Wine Competition, Five County Fairs.

Despite its floral aromatics and appealingly full body, Arneis is a white wine that is too rarely found in New World winemaking. In fact, Burbank Ranch is one of only two known producers of Arneis in the Paso Robles American Viticulture Area (AVA).

“Arneis is called a ‘little rascal’ in Italy’s Piedmont region for being challenging to grow,” says Fred Burbank, proprietor of Burbank Ranch. “In Paso Robles, however, Arneis grows like a weed. It’s surprising that we don’t see more of it here, considering how well it does in this climate and what a terrific wine it produces.”

Typically a medium- to full-bodied white wine, Arneis is upstaged by Piedmont’s more famous red wines, namely Barolo. But many consumers don’t realize that a small portion of Arneis has historically been used to soften the tannins and concentration of Nebbiolo grapes in Barolo, much like Viognier seasons Syrah in traditional Côte-Rôtie wines from the Northern Rhône. Since the 1990s, varietal Arneis has gained a following for its often gregarious aromas of ripe pear and white blossoms, plush texture and generous weight.

PiedmontGrapes for the 2013 Burbank Ranch Arneis were harvested from the estate early, in September, and fermented in stainless steel to preserve focus and acidity. The result is a dry, full-bodied white wine with aromas and flavors of bright pear, apple, honeysuckle, and white peach, with a structured, mineral finish.

A perfect transition wine between seasons, Arneis pairs well with a wide variety of dishes, including, notably, the cheese plate at Burbank Ranch Bistro in downtown Paso Robles. The “Little Rascal” Arneis would also beautifully complement a simple pasta with butter and fine white truffle shavings or any number of delicate seafood dishes.

For more information about Burbank Ranch Winery and Bistro, please visit http://www.BurbankRanch.com.

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Trend: SAKE MIXOLOGY

THO_HR-157Our friends over at Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Bar are taking their commitment to vibrantly original farm-to-table cuisine behind the bar with a new cocktail menu featuring alternatives to spirits like sake and sherry. We were lucky enough to attend their recent cocktail kick-off party to taste the lineup, and let’s just say Thomas Hill Organics is the place to be this summer.

Developed by innovative mixologist, Matthew Hanson, the new cocktail menu puts a twist on classic cocktails like The Margarita and The Old Fashioned using fresh produce from Thomas Hill Organics’ diverse network of local farms. And, just as THO dishes offer a “melting pot” of global inspiration, each cocktail boasts flavors from across the world that complement one another for a taste experience unlike any on the Central Coast.

Debbie Thomas

Debbie Thomas

“We had been experimenting with creative mixology by offering Mimosas and Bellinis made with Cava and fresh squeezed juices, and the response was overwhelmingly positive,” said Debbie Thomas, proprietor. “The new cocktails blend seamlessly with our approach to food: fresh, seasonal, local, and inventive. We can’t wait to share them.”

The star ingredient of the new THO cocktail menu is definitely sake, the Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. “Sake is an amazingly versatile medium with as rich and diverse a history as wine,” said Hanson, who enjoys anchoring cocktails in sake for its pleasant brothy or savory qualities.

“While sake, and the cocktails we have derived from its use, pair well with many foods, specifically those high in acidity that benefit from the rounding capabilities of its umami characteristics, sake itself does not have the same tradition of food pairing in Japan that wine enjoys in the Western world,” said Hanson. “In many instances, the best sakes are those which don’t interfere with the food. What I’ve done is attempt to bring it to the foreground, both in the cocktail itself, and what those cocktails complement on the Thomas Hill Organics menu.”

Examples of fresh sake cocktails at THO include The Lemon Drop, The Margarita, The Mojito and The Ginger Grant, an elegant concoction of Momokawa Diamond Sake, fresh ginger, lychee purée, Cava, and candied ginger.

Pouring shot-sized samples of sake and sherry cocktails for the kick-off party

Pouring shot-sized samples of sake and sherry cocktails for the kick-off party

Sherry, Spain’s dry fortified wine, has enjoyed periods of extreme popularity in the United States, and is trending high in eateries and bars across the country. “Sherry shares a bit of that umami with sake,” said Hanson, “but carries with it a subtle salinity and nuttiness and the benefit of oak barrel-ageing, making it an excellent lower-alcohol substitution for whiskey in many circumstances.” The current THO sherry cocktail offerings include The Sherry Julep, made with Sangre y Trabajadero Oloroso sherry, fresh mint, orange bitters, raw sugar, and topped up with a splash of Cava.

For more information about the new cocktail menu or to make a reservation, please visit ThomasHillOrganics.com.

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A Perfect Three-Day Weekend, Four Ways

Still making plans for Memorial Day? Haven’t even started? Don’t let the holiday find you splayed out on the couch bingeing on Game of Thrones and eating Cool Ranch Doritos. Get out there! Eat something special!

Easy for us to say, eh? Here, we asked each member of the Parker Sanpei Team to share how they want to spend this Memorial Day Weekend.

Elissa WieseElissa Wiese, Account Manager
Cocktails With Girlfriends

My weekend plans somehow always include: bathing suits, baseball caps or big hats, the beach, Ray Bans, and cocktails with my girlfriends.  We rarely all drink the same thing, so here are three ideas that would please a group.

Memorial Day Cocktails

Aloha Sparkle

  • 1 oz. Skinnygirl White Cherry Vodka
  • 4 oz. sparkling water
  • 1 oz. pineapple juice
  • Garnish: pineapple wedge, cherry, mint sprig

Combine all ingredients in a glass filled with ice and stir. Garnish with a cherry and mint sprig.

Mister Three Step

  • 1½ oz. Campari
  • 1½ oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 oz. bourbon
  • 1 dash celery bitters
  • lager beer

Combine all ingredients except beer in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with lager beer.

Red, White, & Boom

  • 1¾ oz. SVEDKA Stars & Stripes
  • ¾ oz. lemonade
  • ½ oz. triple sec
  • 1 oz. cranberry juice
  • 6 limes, juiced
  • 12 c. ice
  • Garnish: blueberries and strawberries

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher filled with ice. Garnish with blueberries and strawberries.

Kyndal KennedyKyndal Kennedy, Acct Manager
Leisurely Staycation

Long weekends call for time in the kitchen (and the beach, of course) cooking up something special for me and my man. Here’s my ideal menu that is simple enough to save time from slaving over a stove, but gourmet enough to know you’re doing something right:

 

Breakfast
Strawberry Shortcake, hold the whip cream…or not.
Eggs Benedict
Mimosas

salmon-asparagus-salad-cl-lLunch (Picnic on the Beach)
Shrimp and Beef Skewers with Soy and Scallion Butter. Add skewers of fresh veggies and you’re set!
Sun Tea
Prep everything at home and take along with a small charcoal grill to the beach.
(Don’t forget shelter from the sun!)

 

Dinner
Keep dinner light and simple after a day of sun, fun and food!
Grilled Salmon and Asparagus Salad
Parrish Family Sauvignon Blanc

Jaime LewisJaime Lewis, Copywriter
Family Chill Time

A long, sunny weekend with kids calls for plenty of time poolside with friends, a date at the drive-in for mom and dad, and at least one glorious dinner from the grill.

Delicious poolside snack to share: Chimichurri Popcorn

  • ¼ cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix together  first seven ingredients for chimichurri and let rest. Pop popcorn kernels in vegetable oil. Once popcorn is popped, mix the chimichurri sauce into the popcorn to evenly coat. Spread out onto a baking sheet and let cool. Pair with Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale.
sunset-drive-in-theatrePerfect Mommy/Daddy Date: Time with kids is awesome, but Mommy and Daddy need to be able to look each other in the eye and finish a sentence every now and then. For this, adouble feature at the drive-in, Indian food, and a bottle of dry German Riesling or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has been our go-to date since time immemorial. It’s cheap, it’s fun, and it’s tasty.

 

Delectable Family-Friendly Dinner…(in just one hour!): Pancetta CheeseburgersBalsamic MushroomsWhite Bean and Tomato SaladCoconut Cupcakes.

LiLindanda Parker Sanpei, Principal
In the Lap of Luxury

The kids are grown and we are free to do whatever we want! My perfect long weekend could go one of two ways:

bernardus1) Spent at Bernardus Lodge in Carmel Valley.  Bernardus is a sort of one-stop-shop for me. I love its terrific spa, super food, great shopping nearby and near-perfect year-round weather. A couple’s massage, a glass of the lodge’s proprietary Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir by the pool, shopping at The Barnyard, and a dinner of Sonoma Duck would absolutely fit the bill…

 

SARoompanorama

2) …If I wasn’t flying to Puerto Vallarta with a handful of other couples for an indulgent getaway weekend! I would reserve the 5-bedroom Villa Paraiso at Villa Amor in the tiny fishing/surfing village of Sayulita, just outside PV, and plan for plenty of communal barbecuing, stargazing, swimming, exploring, hammocking (is that a word?), and laughing into the night with a glass of something delicious in hand.

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INSIDE TRACK: Paso Robles Wine Festival

Calling one’s self an expert is both bad form and an invitation for ruin. But if we at Parker Sanpei are experts at anything, it’s navigating Paso Robles Wine Country.

PRWCAAttend the annual Paso Robles Wine Festival to celebrate the taste, tradition and triumphs of wine ambition in Paso Robles Wine Country.

 – www.PasoWine.com

The 32nd annual Paso Robles Wine Festival is May 15 through 18 this year, and events take place across Wine Enthusiast’s Wine Region of 2013, the diverse and beautiful Paso Robles AVA.

Events run the gamut from winemaker dinners to educational seminars, a Grand Tasting, and myriad open houses at over 130 wineries across the appellation. Here are a few of our must-attends:

  • Winemaker Dinners at Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Bar and Il Cortile RistoranteHow does one choose between a dinner of Grilled Quail Ras El Hanout paired with a 2012 Austin Hope Grenache and Braised Buffalo Short Ribs paired with The Farm Winery 2009 “The Big Game???” That’s exactly what you’ll have to do if you’re interested in Wine Fest’s winemaker dinners on Thursday, May 15.  Two of our favorite eateries, Thomas Hill Organics and Il Cortile will be offering sumptuous menus paired with Paso Robles wines sure to reinforce your love for all things Paso.
  • Reserve Event and Auction at City Park, Paso Robles: On Friday, May 16 from 4 to 6:30 PM, you will find us sipping reserve wines from over 40 participating wineries paired with fare from local restaurants. We think the charm of downtown’s City Park, the warm weather, and the company will push the good vibes over the edge.
  • Winery Open House: Barrel 27 and McPrice Myers: We are huge fans of these somewhat off-grid producers, and we’re pumped that they’re opening their doors throughout the weekend to share elegant wines alongside tri-tip, pinquito beans, and more cooked up by the godfathers of Santa Maria-Style BBQ, the Santa Maria Elks. Don’t expect rolling vineyard views or posh digs. These guys are young, obsessed, and legit.

For prices, tickets, and more information on any of these events and others, please visit www.PasoWine.com. See you there!

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A Great Weekend for Paso Robles CAB

PRCC_logo_FINAL-02We at Parker Sanpei are scurrying to help put the finishing touches on the Paso Robles CAB Collective‘s CABs of Distinction event. (Actually, the CAB Camp portion for sommeliers is already well underway…) Suffice it to say, we’re a bit busy this week promoting some of the world’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietal wines.

So let’s cut to the chase: You need to come to the CABs of Distinction Gala Tasting on Saturday. There will be 32 wineries pouring ace wines, and each (each!) will be paired with an international cheese or charcuterie selected by a local fromagier. That’s on top of the gourmet lunch included in each admission.

Get your tickets here. And be sure to say hello between sips!

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