September 27, 2012
[caption id="attachment_1191" align="alignright" width="300"] Don't you just love natural cork?[/caption]
The war has been brewing for decades: Can synthetic corks topple the might, natural cork closure in a bottle of wine. Well, we’re here to settle the debate once and for all by declaring a winner in the battle for keeping wine in a bottle until you are thirsty enough to drink it.
The Case for Cork
For the longest time, natural cork’s argument had little to do with anything but tradition. It’s just how the Bordeaux houses have been sealing wine for centuries. That nostalgia wins over hordes of folks who love to romanticize over every aspect of wine. Well, we’re here to tell you that there’s a much more compelling argument. It’s green. Harvesting a cork tree — most come from Portugal and the Mediterranean — is a sustainable form of farming. Trees reach a minimum level of maturity after 25 years, and can be striped of its bark every nine to 12 years after that. These trees can live up to 250 years. Plus, cork is easily recycled (at Whole Foods for example) and turned into flooring, shoes and many other products. Or it can make for nifty arts and crafts projects. Cork taint does happen, but it’s becoming an even more rare occurrence, and these seals let in just a minute bit of oxygen, which can really help a wine age beautifully over time.
The Case for Synthetic
Man, these products are good. They never seem to have cork taint issues with the wine, for one, and are extremely affordable. Sure, they don’t feel right to traditionalists, but they are pretty darn effective, especially when used in wines that don’t need to be cellared for a dozen years. The drawback, in aging, being that the synthetic material doesn't expand with a bottle and can eliminate all oxygen seepage, which is actually a bad thing for wine’s development. The added bonus being that the ones we use are actually recyclable and can be tossed in your big purple Denver bin.
You’re not going to like our ambiguity — especially when we teased you by saying we were going to settle the debate once and for all — but we say there’s room for both (and we use both). Just like there is an occasion for just about every well-made wine, there’s a reason to use both synthetic and the natural stuff. So stop thinking about it too much, enjoy the wine and find a way to recycle whatever type of cork you wind up with on your countertop.
May 07, 2012
[caption id="attachment_1497" align="aligncenter" width="634" caption="The rules of any tasting room. "][/caption]
It's that time of year when the weather warms and people start thinking about visiting one of Colorado's nearly 100 wine tasting rooms. It's a rite of passage, almost. Make sure you are doing it right with this handy guide to the etiquette of a wine tasting room.
Ask questions of your tasting room personality. Whether it's the winemaker behind the counter or an hourly employee, these people tend to know about and love to share info. It's more fun to enjoy a product you understand, too.
Be afraid of doing something wrong. Sure, wine tasting can be done on a professional level, but for most of us, it's all about enjoyment. There is no right way to drink wine. There is no right way to feel about the flavor. It's a very personal experience, and enjoy it the way you want to. Unless that includes dirty language or otherwise lewd behavior.
Buy a bottle if your tasting is free. Now, there are exceptions. If you really do not like the wine, then do not feel obligated to purchase anything. A tasting fee — in many cases, waived with a purchase — is really meant to help a winery not lose money when a customer walks in the door. So if you pay for a flight, it's ok to leave without wine in terms of etiquette, but who would want to do a thing like that? If you are on a tour bus, it's likely the winery didn't receive any money for your visit so they are really hoping you enjoy the wine and buy a bottle or two.
Drink too much if you are driving. Spit buckets are there for a reason — to keep you sober during a tasting and your palate lively. If you are the one with the keys, use it often. If you don't want to be bothered thinking about such things, arrange for safe transportation. A 17-year-old child who really wants to take the car out with his or her friends, for example. In the absence of child labor, there are several metro-area and Colorado limo and shuttle services that cater to the wine industry.
Ask for a tour. Most small wineries will offer them on demand if they aren't organized by time. If you can get a winemaker to guide you around the operation, all the better. Tasting room employees (the good ones, anyway) will want to show you the ropes of the business. It's a fun way for them to brand the winery and teach the process of making good vino.
Take yourself too seriously. The snotty sommelier exists in the wine world, but he/she is the exception, not the rule. Most people in the industry have fun. It's booze, after all. Sipping samples of Colorado Cabernet Franc should be nothing if not a relaxing way to explore the state.
Tell the world — via word of mouth, social media or any other avenues that you maintain — about your Colorado wine tasting room experience. It helps small-businesses with small budgets get the word out. What's that they say about karma?
Our tasting room is open 11–5 p.m., Thursday–Saturday at 4640 Pecos St., Unit I.
April 02, 2012
[caption id="attachment_1270" align="alignright" width="199" caption="Learn the taste wine like a pro. This is serious business."][/caption]
Wine experts often look a little perhaps stuck up when tasting a wine. They swirl, sniff and make funny sounds. Each step, however, has an actual point, and if you learn the basics, it’ll be that much easier to start enjoying wine on a whole new level while learning to understand what it is you actually love.
Here are the simple steps to tasting wine like a pro:
Look at it
With a little bit of knowledge, you can learn a lot of about a wine by a simple sight evaluation. For instance, wine does not hide age well. In reds, the wine will start to fade in color, switching to brown and orange hues. In whites, the color will actually deepen to a bronze/gold look over time. Then, of course, each variety of wine has its own look. A Cabernet Sauvingon is way darker than a Pinot Noir, for example. The easiest way to get a true look at the wine is by pouring an ounce or so in the glass, tilting it and looking at it over a white piece of paper. Look for deepness of color, debris and any other signals of note. Start to remember the characteristics of each wine type and over time, a simple look in your glass will begin to tell you a lot about the wine. By the way, the so-called legs in a wine (the lines of wine that form on the glass) tell you nothing about the quality of a wine.
Our nose can pick up endless aromas and contribute, in large part, to how we actually taste wine. A seasoned wine drinker can often pick the wine type by just a sniff. The key is to make the smell count. Swirl your glass, using your wrist to get the wine whipping around the rim for 10 seconds or so. Then stick your nose deep in the glass while it’s on a tilt and inhale. Don’t be embarrassed if you snort wine. It happens to the best of us. When your nose is at the bottom of the glass’ opening, the aromas will be indicative of the fruit. If you move your nose to the top of the glass while it’s still tilted, you can pick up the aromas added by a winemaker. Think along the lines of smoke, chocolate and leather from oaking. Everyone will smell something a little different, so look for general clues. Does it smell boozey, fruity, earthy, floral, nutty, spicy? These are traits that are easier to relate to than looking for obscure stone fruits. If you want to impress friends with details of fruit aromas, train your nose by smelling everything in the produce isle when you go grocery shopping.
Now the fun part: tasting. It’s a simple task, really. Open your mouth, pour a little wine in, let it sit for a few seconds and think about it. Do you start to salivate (a sign of acidic background)? Does the wine feel like rough sandpaper over your tongue, zapping the moisture right out of your mouth (big tannins)? Is it fruit forward (as in, do you taste cherries and berries and the like)? Is it sweet? Is it dry? Sweet wines will coat your tongue with a sugary viscosity. Dry wines can showcase fruit flavors without that. How long does the flavor stay in your mouth? How big is the body in the wine (as in how heavy or light does it feel in your mouth)? These are the main questions you should answer when evaluating a wine. Professionals never say whether they like it or not, rather is it properly made. You have the luxury of just saying yummy if you’d like.
The tasting room, at 4640 Pecos Unit I in Denver, is open 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. We're happy to help with any of these basics when you stop in.
January 23, 2012
[caption id="attachment_1274" align="aligncenter" width="520" caption="Which one of these Roberta's Chocolates would taste good with wine?"][/caption]
Wine and chocolate go together like, well, wine and chocolate. Two indulgent flavors simply deserve one another, which is why there isn’t a better analogy in our mind. And when it comes time to pick chocolates, it only makes sense to check out the artisan chocolate around the corner.
Roberta’s Chocolates (4840 West 29th Ave., Denver) has become a mainstay on the northwest side of town over the last dozen years. Roberta Poirier, the owner, produces a wide assortment of truffles, fudges, peanut butter cups and novelty candies at her namesake shop. She’s also the go-to supplier for the annual Wine and Chocolate Weekend every Valentine’s Day weekend at Bonacquisti Wine Co.
“I just love Paul,” Poirier says, of course referring to Paul Bonacquisti, our owner/winemaker. “After his weekend, people come in saying, ‘I had this truffle,’ so they come in to see the place.”
Makes sense. If you leave the winery with a bottle of Zin-style port, your next stop should be the chocolate shop.
Owning her own (chocolate) store was always going to be where Poirier wound up. She’s been an entrepreneur since elementary school. During her grade-school days, she’d take a quarter to the corner store, buy lollipops for a nickel apiece, then turn around and sell the candy for 10 cents a pop at school. “I had my first job in the second grade,” she says. “I could double my money in second grade.”
When she moved to Colorado, she took over a candy delivery route and found out something really interesting: The candies she made sold better than the ones the company provided her. It seemed as if she had a calling. “My husband said, ‘OK, go get a shop and see what you can do,’” she recalls. “I blame my husband.”
Well, it has worked out. She marries her love of art and design with a knack for producing tasty sweets at Roberta’s. The look of the chocolate or treat is just as important as the flavors, she says. “It’s got to be fun,” she says. “Fun is good taste and look.”
That’s how she gets people hooked on her chocolates (the mountain crunch with caramel corn coated in white chocolate and almonds is her favorite, by the way). Well, maybe it’s more than that. She’s become a partner in the community (which goes beyond her frequent work with Bonacquisti) and charms her customers with a sense of humor. “They say they come for the chocolate but stay for the entertainment,” she says. “That’s putting pressure on me to always entertain.”
She’s also keeps customers' attention by inventing new tasty sweets based on feedback from the neighborhood. Things like a jalapeno powder-dusted peanut butter cups come to mind. She’s also debuting a Valentine’s Day special that’s a box of assorted chocolates that comes in an edible box. During the football season, it was all about Tebow. Turns out Tebow Fudge (in orange and blue colors, of course) sells out very quickly. “We had to make more. That was fun.”
“My goal is for each customer to laugh or smile,” she says. “You’re not making chocolate to make someone mad. It ends in a smile.”
Three tips to pairing wine and chocolate:
Since Roberta doesn’t drink all that often, we turned to Paul for his advice on chocolate and wine pairing, fresh off sampling 18 of her truffles ahead of Wine & Chocolate Weekend (Feb. 11-12).
Come smile about sweets and vino on Feb. 11-12 at Wine & Chocolate Weekend. $20 for five chocolates with wine pairings.
December 23, 2011
Wine can be a confusing thing, especially for those of us who like to crack open a bottle and just enjoy with friends. Part of the intimidation comes from the vast vernacular required to hang with certified cork dorks. We could list hundreds of words that relate to wine, but there are more important tasks in life. So we offer 33 basic terms that will make you feel comfortable talking wine with novices and experts alike.
A wine that has strong acids in it which can make your mouth water a bit. Acids are usually really good for food and wine pairings.
A known wine region defined by, depending on the country, geography, wine quality, topography and a number of other factors. In the U.S., these are simply legally defined geographic areas. Colorado has two: The West Elks and Grand Valley.
A wine with very noticeable and distinctive aromas. Often, these wines will result in people at the tasting room saying something like, "smells yummy." We couldn't agree more. Try the Riesling for a delicious pop of fragrance.
The only way to prove to your friends that Colorado wine can hang with the world. The premise is simple, line up several wines by theme (grape, region, etc.), place a brown bag or other masking agent over them, pour and enjoy without knowing which is which (but be sure to number them to keep track). Then you and your friends can talk about the wine without bias.
Some would suggest that letting a wine breath is as important as the act of breathing for humans. Introducing air to wine can open up aromas and flavors, balance the wine and make it supremely enjoyable. The beauty of wine is that it literally changes with every sip.
An Italian term for the historical or "classic" center of a wine region — often located in the heart of a Italian appellations known as DOCs. This has nothing to do with Colorado other than we dig Italian wine here on 46th and Pecos.
Wines that have a rabid following due in large part because of quality, lack of production and marketing. These wines cost a boatload and often require signing onto a wait list just to get one. We’re not there (yet), but we figure the to be gaining that status in our home neighborhood, Sunnyside.
We just told you how important breathing is in regards to a wine’s development. Decanting speeds the process by aerating the wine in an area with more room for oxygen. Decanting can also help separate sediment from wine. Decanting a red wine is almost never a bad idea.
This simple means the wine lacks sugar (sugar from grapes can be removed completely during the fermentation process at the discretion of the winemaker).
Grand Valley AVA
This Colorado appellation is the heart of the state's wine country. It's located in and around Palisade.
This American term is generally reserved for inexpensive table wine. In our case, we have fun with it by offering a growler-like refill program.
The smell of the wine basically. To truly enjoy the nose, stick your nose deep into the wine glass (and don’t fret if you sniff a little up your nose; it happens to the best of us).
A wine aficionado or connoisseur. Hopefully you classify yourself as one. If not, stop on by the tasting room, and we'll convert you.
Wine that has just a touch of sugar still in it after fermentation. It's not quite sweet nor is it bone dry.
A sweet fortified wine, which is generally produced from grapes grown and processed in the Douro region of Portugal. This term is trademarked, so we can only offer a Port-style wine. This wine is fortified with the addition of distilled grape spirits in order to boost the alcohol content and stop fermentation thus preserving some of the natural grape sugars.
In the U.S., this term means very little. It’s a term a winemaker can add for whenever he or she deems it. In places such as Spain or Italy, it has a legal definition that dictates time in oak barrels and aging minimums.
A handy term to order more wine from a tasting room without sounding like a lush (ie, “I’d like to revisit that Vinny No Neck.” Sounds like you know what you are talking about.)
The snotty person at a restaurant that knows everything about wine. Well, not everything. There are several schools of varying stature that can bestow up to three levels of Sommelier on a person, the highest distinction being Master Sommelier (the Court of Master Sommeliers is the most esteemed authority). Locally, the International Wine Guild and The International Sommelier Guild offer three levels starting with the most basic certification that follows a weekend seminar.
Any wine that bubbles. Champagne only comes from its namesake region in France.
A wine with significant sugar left in it after fermentation. This should not be confused with fruit forward. Sweet wines will coat your mouth and have a thicker viscosity than dry wines with big fruits. A wine can be fruity without being sweet.
Tannins are a compound that come from oak, and grape skins, seeds and stems. They provide structure in a wine that can help it develop for many years in bottle. If a wine is heavy on tannins, it will feel gritty, almost sandpaper-like, on the palate. In this case, the wine is either being enjoyed too young or it just needs a little air to allow the fruits and acids to come forward.
A fancy word that talks about the major factors in grape quality: mostly climate and geography.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and all those other wines made from a single-grape.
One of the best ways to understand how much a year can change things. Tasting a vertical lineup means sipping on different years of a one wine type from one winery. Bonacquisti Wine Co. wine club members periodically get invited to do this at the winery when we open up the library.
Vin, Vina, Vino, Vinho
The way the French, Spanish, Italians and Portuguese, respectively, say wine.
This is the year of the grape. If the wine says 2009, that means the grapes where harvested in 2009. If it doesn’t have year on it, then the wine may be a combination of more than one year of grapes.
West Elks AVA
A Colorado appellation located in and around Paonia. This is where the state's bomber Pinot Noir and high acid Riesling comes from.
The popular, handheld corkscrew that all self respecting wine geeks use (instead of those fancy, breakable types that look like animals).
A subterranean structure, such as your basement or the underground tunnel of your Bordeaux chateau, for storing and aging wine. You know you want one (so do we).
A micro-organism that is found in a variety of places, including the skins of grapes. Yeast reacts with sugar to start fermentation, you know, the process that turns grapes into booze!
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