Tag Archives: winemaking

What Do You Think of This Wine: “O’Lillo!”?

O’LILLO Baracchi Toscana, 2014

Not often do you find a red wine that has spent 22 days in maceration in cone-shaped oak casksimg_0010 and has then spent 6 months in stainless steel followed by 3 months in bottle before release.  Upon examination, it is as expected: a medium ruby color and shows some smokiness and char from the maceration in oak, adding complexity from the oak cooperage.  The fruit is bright red berries and cherries and is not covered up or dulled by the treatment.

The unusual winemaking procedure makes for a wine that needs to be experienced.  The tannins are soft and well integrated.  One must say that it has elegance, and ratings have soared to 94! 

What do you think?  Is it outstanding or is such a rating too technically driven.  Does the taste and emotion’s appeal suggest a lower rating?  I think the latter.  Although the wine is very well balanced and elegant, because of its lack of depth I would rate it an 89.  A wine needs to make a statement and this one falls short on that count.  It seems a little empty.  The maceration in oak certainly brings out some definite oak character but without the richness of a deep and rewarding complexity.

Rating:  89

Emotional rating: 85

How Wine Got to France


Provence, France

Provence, France

There are many theories about how wine came to France, all of which lack enough evidence to put them beyond dispute except the carefully phrased statement that wine first came to France via the Middle East, Greece, Phonecia and the spread of the Roman Empire.  Provence was one of the early targets for the Ancient World’s expansion and settlement.  It’s success necessitated the planting of the vine.  Soon viticulture was expanded beyond the coast and up the Rhone Valley via the Rhone River.

It is here in Provence, the oldest vineyard area in France, that we will begin our vinous journey through France.  Winemaking has been reinvented here over the last few decades.  From rather ordinary stuff to wines that command respect, these wines now compete with their own character and individualism against wines from anywhere in the world.  The reds are certainly worth your study and the Rosés should own your leisure moments, adding their tantalizing pleasures.  From the coast to the hinterlands, wineries are demonstrating that they are gearing up to take on the serious challenge of the New World.  Rosés from this region are already well known.

Within Provence, the Palette, Cassis, Bellet, and Bandol appellations are of special interest.  Arid soils seem to produce complexity and a notable distinctiveness to the wines.  The arid, terraced slopes facing south to the sun and the sea are common vineyard sights.  Just a description of the topography and soils suggests a viticulture heaven.

Bandol is such an area.  The dominant grape of note is Mourvedre, which can offer us wines with distinctive bouquets and a smoothness that belies their dark and deep character.  They can be hard to vinify because they can develop reductive smells that also remind of tar (not a negative if not dominant).

For our first French wine in this series, we will choose La Bastide Blanche from the Appellation Bandol Controlee, 2012 (14.5% ABV).  However, let’s also choose a Mourvedre from the New World (US or Australia) and taste it first.  We’ll have its character firmly in mind before we note the differences in the French counterpart.  I have chosen Cline Family Cellars Ancient Vines Mourvedre, 2014 (15% ABV).

Mourvedre from Cline, Contra Costa County, California:  We have a very smooth and well balanced wine — so much so as to be harmonious throughout with a soft cedar overtone on the nose.  Dark cherry and plum notes with no mineral notes but an attractive touch of chocolate ride on smooth tannins and acids.  This wine is truly varietal and a soft, easy drink.  It is a good example of the attempt by many New World wines to be fruit-forward and velvety smooth.

I hope you’ll taste the wines in this series along with me.  In the next blog a comparison with Bandol will give us a great introduction to this area of France, so you might want to wait and compare the two wines at the same time.

In Celebration of COLORADO WINE WEEK!


Book entertains, educates, and entices readers to experience Colorado wine

DENVER, CO — August 28, 2013 — Though few Colorado residents are aware of it, Colorado wines have won awards for “Best in the World” and even Robert M. Parker, Jr. tweeted in October 2012 that his taste of two Colorado wines “opened his eyes to Colorado wine.”  We’ve come a long way in this industry, yet relatively few of us are aware of the pleasures that are available in our own backyards.

However, one Denver-area wine writer and wine enthusiast has set out to reveal thevinifera treasures that are tucked away all over the state and just waiting to be discovered.  In his new book, C. S. Vin (a pseudonym), an Amazon bestselling author in another genre, provides nearly 400 pages to “entertain, educate, and entice readers to enjoy experiencing the exceptional elixirs” (as one reader puts it) produced by the winemakers of Colorado.

The book provides a guide to quality and styles of dry red wines available in Colorado that are made entirely from Colorado grown Vitis vinifera grapes.  (Fruits wines and and wines made from hybrid grape varieties are not included.  The white, rosé and sweet wines will be covered in subsequent volumes, scheduled for release in 2014 and 2015.)  Here’s a look at some of the information readers will receive from Experiencing Colorado Wine — Vol. 1:

  • What grape varieties are currently being grown and vinified in Colorado?
  • What distinguishes Colorado wine from those of other regions?
  • Who are the winemakers? Where are the wineries?  Where can we taste samples of the wines?
  • I’m new to drinking wine.  Teach me how to appreciate it and find the best value.
  • What challenges do grape growers face in Colorado and how are they meeting these challenges?
  • Strikingly, we do not enjoy wines with our tastebuds and olfactory senses, as we commonly think, but with our emotions!
  • How do chefs arrive at their decisions about what foods to pair with a wine.  Surprisingly, they do not pair wine with food, but food with wine.  Learn the difference and why.
  • Chefs from eleven top Colorado restaurants (think Broadmoor, Flagstaff House, The Fort, Kelly Liken, LaTour, etc.) have paired foods with selected Colorado wines and provided the recipes that are included in the book.

A year of research and writing, including the “difficult tasks” of tasting all the dry red wines currently available in Colorado (and some that only exists as library wines in the winemakers’ cellars) and sampling  extraordinary cuisine created by some outstanding Colorado Executive Chefs, has produced the first-of-its-kind book on Colorado wines.  If you are a wine lover or want to learn about wine, this book must be in your library.  If you love this state and want to know more about it, you’ll find some interesting tidbits here about that too.

C. S. Vin, who was trained in French, German and Italian wines, has relied on his  background as a state wine retail manager and 30 years as a wine enthusiast to produce a valuable asset to those interested in wine in Colorado.  Written in a warm, entertaining and conversational style, Experiencing Colorado Wine — Vol. 1 ($24.95, 5.5 x 8.5, 396 pages, ISBN 978-0-9835718-6-5) is available from “Experiencing Wine” on Square Market, at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and wherever fine books are sold.  For more information, visit http://www.experiencingwine.com.

Another Look at Ruby Trust — Age-Worthy?

wine cellarClaudius Galenus (commonly known as Galen) was a Greek turned Roman.  He lived c130-201 AD.  He was not only a noted physician, having compiled the medical wisdom of his time, being also referenced for centuries as a source of medical information, he was an expert observer of the temperaments of people.  Add to this his interest in wine, and we have a person to remember.

Galen talked about, among other things, the aging of wines.  Wine was known to undergo remarkable changes as it aged.  Even Luke, the Gospel writer, realized that wines can age and that their age improved them.  The ancients were very much aware of wine’s improvements with age — not in a bottle, but in amphora.

Galen also draws out attention to the ancients’ knowledge of aging wines prematurely by smoking or heating them.  Smoky aromas were all the rage at one time in Greece and Rome.  Today we want them aged by the winemaker to save us time and patience.  Some wines are made to drink now, while some with tannic bite to await development in the bottle, and others to drink now but appreciate more as the years pass.

The 2010 Gunslinger, about which I have written in Experiencing Colorado Wine, Vol. 1:The Dry Red Wines, is worth another look.  What has the winemaker done in regard to preparing this wine to age and what are the results?  This wine is 47% Syrah, 20% Petit Verdot, 18% Cabernet Franc, and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon — made totally from Colorado grapes.  At 14.9% alcohol, he has given it plenty of this vital aging ingredient.  Without adequate alcohol, it doesn’t have much chance of a long life.  The grapes were ripe and the fruit is solid and foundational.  Tannic acid is firm, already integrated, and the other acids are in place.  It is dry, so no sugar adds to the aging potential.

On tasting this wine for aging, I find it is still vibrant and full of power — a monster.  Its fleshy fruit is balanced beautifully with the acids, oak and tannin promising an exciting marriage in the bottle.  Just a glance at its depth of color — a true red-black — and I ruminate as I drink it of its decadent maturity.  I see this wine as a wine to drink young, but one that is also made to age, and it will do so nobly.  No smoking or heating necessary, just a glass and an appreciative palate.

Enjoy this wine with substantial food and ponder the coming of age of Colorado wine.


You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in my book, “Experiencing Colorado Wine,” and you’ll find the description of the pairing of several of them with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.  Order your autographed copyExperiencing Colorado Wine at Square Market.

Winemaker: Artist or Technician?


Technically Correct or Artistically Correct

Is a winemaker an artist or a technician?  Both.  But can great wines be made with technical skills alone?  Consider these factors:

  • Every harvest is a new experience.
  • Nature does not act with consistency.
  • Rains come at unpredictable times.
  • Winds close down the vine’s systems.
  • Temperatures vary and sunlight can be interrupted by clouds, lowering the temperatures and slowing the all-important ripening of the grapes.
  • The targeted numbers for brix and acids are seldom achieved perfectly or consistently at harvest.

For these reasons, the grapes that arrive at the winery often hide their surprises.

Can the same technical formula produce a great wine year to year?  One thing seems sure in modern winemaking: a technical expert can make consistently good wines even if the grapes are imperfect, but not if they are lousy.  The limits of technical competency are evident.

A great wine is the result of more than chemical expertise.  It is the art of producing a wine that expresses its place and has a character that only a specific vineyard can claim as its own — or only that vineyard combined with that winemaker can produce.  Finding that distinctive expression is the result of art and experience.  Experience improves art if the artist is fixed on learning.  A true artist is ever improving and finding the maestro’s magic touch that reveals nature’s uniqueness.

I tasted a vertical of Cabernet Sauvignons recently at Holy Cross Winery on the grounds of a magnificent Abbey in Canon City, Colorado.  It illustrated the artistry of the winemaker as he searched for the holy grail.  The oldest vintage, although a very good wine, was looking for its true identity.  It could have been from many places.   The next was full and rich, showing the strength of the fruit and indicating the process of discovery was already under way.  The third was more refined with power and finesse both finding their places.  The fourth showed the winemaker had found something and not ceased looking for the next step to an even better wine that should show a developing complexity so loved in cabernet sauvignons.  All vintages were excellent expressions of the cabernet in a new world style.  Nothing but the touch of the artist in the winemaker can pursue greatness like this.