Foxen Winery Santa Maria

Foxen 7200


New Foxen Tasting Room.jpg

Foxen 7600 

"New Tasting Room"

Foxen Winery was formed in 1985 by Bill Wathen and Dick Dore.  The winery is named in memory of Dore's great-great grandfather, Benjamin Foxen, who was an English sea captain that came to the Santa Barbara area in the early 1800's.  In 1837 Benjamin purchased Rancho Tinaquaic with a Mexican land grant consisting of 9000 acres which is now a large part of Foxen Canyon. The anchor that is displayed at the winery and on the wine bottles is the trademark of the winery paying homage to the sea captain. When visiting Foxen Winery you have an option of three different wine tasting flights at two different locations or tasting rooms.  The original and oldest tasting room is known as the "Shack" named Foxen 7200. This tasting room offers one wine tasting flight consisting of Bordeaux and Italian styles that are bottled with a new and unique label that says, "foxen 7200".

In 2009 Foxen built a new winery and tasting room just up the road from the "Shack" where they offer two wine tasting flights which focus on Burgundy and Rhone style wines.

Tracy and I stopped at the newest tasting room located at 7600 Foxen Canyon Road after missing and driving past the original "Shack" located at 7200 Foxen Canyon Road.  Yes, they are just a stone throw from each other but even our GPS failed to find the Shack.  Entering the tasting room we were greeted by Jonathan Lynn who explained the three different tastings that are available and proceeded to go into details of the two offered at this site.   

Jonathan started us off with a Chardonnay that I really enjoyed. The profile was between French and American in style by not being overly buttery or oaky with a nice sharp acid crispness.  It is not difficult to see why this wine received a rating of 90-92 points by Wine Spectator and 92 points by Wine Enthusiast. This chardonnay was excellent.  Next was the Rose of Mouvedre which as the Foxen brochure says, "Bandol inspired Rose".  Bandol is located in Southern France where most of the grapes grown are Mouvedre.  Bandol is renown for their rose wines.  Kudos to Foxen.  This rose was light on the palate with beautiful acid balance and a subtle fruit profile of Mouvedre.  If you were blind tasted on this rose you would probably conclude that it was a French rose from Bandol. Foxen also has a Syrah from Tinaquaic Vineyards that displayed a little bit of Old World on the nose with subtle notes of barnyard. But once on the palate you are met with beautiful fruits and spice notes. Foxen's Syrah adds 8% Viognier which produces floral notes and rounds out the mouth feel providing further complexity to this wine. This practice is used in Northern France in Cote Rotie wines where up to 20% (co-fermented) Viognier can be added to the Syrah. 

Now for their Grand Finale, "PINOT NOIR"!  If you love Pinots like my wife does, this is the place to go.  This region produces some of the finest examples you could ever hope for from light delicate Burgundian styles to full bodied heavy weights that the Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers will enjoy. Johnathan provided us with a unique adventure through Santa Maria Valley and Santa Rita Hills where he showcased some fantastic examples that are produced by Foxen.  He was very knowledgeable about the terroir and vinification processes providing details for each wine making this tour informative and fun.  Here is a list of the Pinot Noirs sampled and there were many more available on wine list.

  • 2013 Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley

  • 2012 Sebastian Vineyard 

  • 2012 Fe Ciega Vineyard 

  • 2012 Block 43 Bien Nacido Vineyard

  • 2012 Block 8 Bien Nacido Vineyard

After completing our first stop at Foxen we thanked Jonathan and proceeded to their original winery/tasting room the "Shack" to taste Foxen's Bordeaux and Italian style wines.  Entering the old tasting room it is not difficult to see why it is called the "Shack", it definitely shows the age of time and nostalgia of early wineries.  Inside there was an ambiance of cheer as people sampled the wines, talked and laughed.  Listening to the conversations you soon realize that this old tasting room has its share of regulars.  We were greeted by Heather and Mo and asked if we would like to taste the wines. Bellying up to the bar Heather and Mo set out glasses and started us off with a 2013 Sauvignon Blanc.  Being a typical hot California summer day the bright acid crispness with beautiful citrus flavor of this wine was very refreshing.  

Next we sampled the 2012 Pajarito from Happy Camp Santa Barbara. This wine is a Bordeaux/Meritage blend consisting of 45% Petite Verdot (Vogelzang Vineyard) and 55% Merlot (Vogelzang and Grassini Vineyard).  This wine is gorgeous with the powerful rustic flavors of the Petite Verdot that are softened by the added Merlot.  Great example of showing how Petite Verdot, which is generally less than 20% in most French Bordeaux wines, can offer so much and be so good.

Moving down their wine list our hostesses poured a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Vogelzang Vineyard.  This wine uses 10% Merlot which is not uncommon for a Cabernet Sauvignon.  Taste was very good and it is definitely a drink now style of wine.  A very unique wine on their list was their 2012 Range 30 West. Where did they ever come up with a name like 30 West for a wine?  It just so happens that this is the US Geographical Survey designation for the area of Happy Camp that the Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes are sourced from for this wine. Excellent wine with a big and bold profile with a lot of dark fruits in harmony with a good balance of acidity.  

I stated earlier that the shack was for serving Foxen's Bordeaux and Italian wines.  One Italian wine we tried was the 2012 Guillermo Grosso which consists of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Very nice example of an Italian style wine.  Tracy and I both commented that it would highly accent the flavors of pasta or any other such Italian dishes.  This wine is all about food.  Heather and Mo poured a wine at the end of our tasting that I and a close friend of mine share a passion for, Cabernet Franc.  I wish he could have been with us to taste this wonderful version of this unique wine.  One of my many favorites at Foxen.

Foxen Winery was a big surprise for me.  I have had Pinot Noirs from their winery but never knew how dedicated they are at making this very challenging wine.  They have definitely showcased the beauty and diversity of this varietal from the various terroirs of this region.  My hats off to them as all of their wines were excellent and displayed creativity and uniqueness that both Tracy and I enjoyed.  You can bet that we will return.


Rusty Sly


To Age or Not To Age ... That is the Question

Knowing the length of time to age a wine can be difficult.  I have seen many friends with Napa Valley Cabs that they had aged for too long and were forced to pour them down the drain.  Deciding the point at which to consume is many times like going to Las Vegas and placing a bet at the roulette table.  Why is there so much emphasis from wine connoisseurs and collectors to find that point at which the wine is reaching its peak of development within the bottle before opening?  What are the benefits?  How do we define the amount of time to age wines and not risk a loss?

First one must look at the conditions that the bottle has been stored and maintained since bottling.  Once produced and distributed to the collector, the bottle should be placed into a storage facility, cellar or environment that maintains a constant cool temperature with no windows or direct light.  Maintaining a constant cool temperature of 45 - 65 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of 60% - 70% is optimum.  Key thing is to keep the environment stabile where it does not fluctuate.  Keeping the wine at a lower temperature will slow down chemical reactions within the wine and allow it to mature and develop more slowly over a longer period of time than if stored at higher temperatures.  Maintaining the humidity at 60% - 70% is also important as it helps preserve and maintain the cork.  This is crucial as the cork allows a certain amount of oxygen to reach the wine so that it can develop.  If the cork does not have enough moisture it will dry out and allow too much oxygen to enter the wine causing oxidation.  At this point the wine has been destroyed.  If the humidity is too high it will lead to development of micro-organisms and mold on the bottles, labels and corks.

Now that we have the basis of how the wine should be maintained over time let's look at the aging question.  What are the benefits of aging wines?  We also need to evaluate the overall properties of the wine and decide if it can be aged and if it will benefit from it.

Wines that have the potential to be aged will provide the consumer with a tremendous complexity.  Cellaring wines over time allows the wine to undergo many types of chemical reactions between the sugars, acids and tannins that will change the aromatics, color, mouth feel and taste so highly sought by wine connoisseurs.  The gamble or risk is that one needs to drink the wine just before or at the plateau in its aging cycle.  The plateau or peak is the point at which the wine is no longer able to remain chemical balance and begins to deteriorate loosing fruit flavors, color, etc.  The length of time for this degradation to begin varies with varietals, vintage, wine making practices and region.  As an example, Cabernet Sauvignons will generally age longer than Pinot Noirs or Zinfandels.  Old World wines from France, Italy, Spain, etc tend to age longer than wines from the New World such as California, Australia, etc.

Below are quotes by wine experts on their views of aging wines:

"Certainly inexpensive red wines, and most moderately-priced ones, can be enjoyed young and are unlikely to improve dramatically by aging in the bottle."

...Wine expert Alexis Bespaloff, Wine Enthusiast

"It's a common misconception that all wines improve with age. In fact, more than 90 percent of all the wines made in the world are meant to be consumed within one year, and less than 1 percent of the world's wines are meant to be aged for more than 5 years."

...Kevin Zraly, Windows of the World Wine School

"Balanced, harmonious red wines will stay that way [as they age in the bottle], and blustery ones will keep on blustering... A wine is not going to change its spots, even if it sits in a bottle for 10 years."

...Grape guru Bob Thompson, San Francisco Examiner

A blind tasting was performed on various varietals of younger versus older wines from $8 - $32.  The results were that six of the younger (1998) reds won, while seven of the older vintages won. Cabernet Sauvignon which are known for their ability to improve with age in the blind tasting resulted in two of the three Cab winners being younger .  In conclusion, Fred McMillian wrote, "Aging modestly-priced California reds is not worth the trouble. Buy now, drink now."

When evaluating a wine for its potential to age the wine must have enough fuel or food consisting of fruits and tannins as well as preservatives which consists of alcohol and acid for the aging process.  In simple terms, a wine with a large amount of tannins and a thick syrupy fruit profile (lots of body) will last longer than a delicate low fruit content wine with low tannins.  A wine’s aging potential is based on balance and concentration.

The four items that are required are:

  • Alcohol

  • Acid

  • Fruit

  • Tannins (red wines)      

The wine must be balanced with the above items to allow the aging process without damaging effects.  As a general rule these characteristics are found in all good wine where great balance, depth and intensity are present.

In conclusion you can see that there are many variables that come into play when deciding to age wines.  Not all will benefit as found by the blind tasting of young versus old.  Proper environmental conditions and proper wine chemistry are a must.  As I stated in the beginning, it is like going to Vegas.  You look at the odds and you place your bet.  There are ways to help mitigate some of the risk if you understand a wines chemistry and track record for aging.  Many wineries provide aging tables to help you.  My general rule of thumb is nothing over 10 years for all wines except Old World wines such as French Burgundy's and Bordeaux's from top Chateaus.  Barolos and Brunellos from Italy will also age for a long time.  Pinot Noirs, Merlots and Zinfandels from the California (New World), I usually let them go to about 7 years.  Yes, I may be conservative, but I would rather drink and enjoy these wines than pour them down the drain.  The caveat to my recommendation is that there are exceptional wines from California such as Opus, Dominus, Cain, Caymus, etc that will age for a long time.  I have also been humbled by a few select wines that were cellared by friends far beyond my expectations but were phenomenal. One was a 1974 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon that a friend opened and was spectacular.  Another was a 1995 Camelot Pinot Noir from Napa Valley California.  An inexpensive Pinot Noir that was to die for.  You can be surprised from time to time.  Gamblers in Vegas have been known to place large sums of money into a slot machine and every once in a while walk away with huge winnings.  The bottom line is that it is all about risk and proper evaluation of the wines against the criteria explained above.  If you have a case or even a few bottles of a certain wine that you feel can be aged open one at the point that you decide the wine should be approaching its prime.  From this sample you can evaluate if you want to sample a second bottle in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, etc.  The old adage of "You shall drink no wine before its time" brings on the other adage of "it's not as easy as you think."


Rusty Sly


Wine Aroma Verses Wine Bouquet

In a book written by Emile Peynaud called "The Taste of Wine", Emile writes about the science and practice of wine tasting, detailing the senses and how they function, tasting techniques, wine balance and quality, wine tasting vocabulary, and the art of drinking.  One topic that I found interesting in Emile's book was the difference between aroma and bouquet of a wine.  In our wine circles and tasting events we frequently hear these terms used, but what is meant by aroma and/or bouquet of a wine.  Aroma and bouquet are significantly different with regards to wines.  Many people confuse the two terms and really lack a true understanding of what each is describing in a wine.  There are three major categories for aromas.

  • Primary aromas (varietal aromas) which are distinct to grape varietal.  For example one would detect blueberries for Syrah or cherries for Pinot Noir.  These fruit profiles that are detected in the smelling of a wine and are indicative of a specific varietal.

  • Secondary aromas (vinous aromas) are the by-products of yeast activities during both pre and post fermentation process.  During fermentation as the yeast converts the sugar into alcohol, various substances or chemical groups are developed.  These chemical groups or products vary depending on the type of yeast used as well as the temperature that the wine was fermented at.  A chemical group known as "esters", for example, are responsible for providing the fresh tropical fruit aromas in a white wine.  Reverting to my beer brewing knowledge and experience, the effects of temperature on a fermenting beer can be seen in the Hefewiezens.  If this German wheat beer is fermented at a warm temperature a phenol chemical group (4-vinyl guaiacol) is created producing aromas of bananas and cloves.  Another influence on wines is malo-lactic fermentations which induces aromas of butter, caramel, etc.  For you old world wine drinkers, that barnyard aromatic that you find in certain wines are the result of a wild yeast know as Brettanomyces that create a phenol compound known as 4-ethyl phenol.

  • Tertiary aromas are developed during post fermentation while the wine is developing (maturing) in oak barrels or bottles.  Tertiary aromas ARE the bouquet of a wine.  The bouquet is developed as a wine ages in the barrel or bottle where chemicals belonging to the chemical family known as "aldehydes" are formed.  This chemical process involves oxidation of the wine.  "Oxidation"!!!  Yes, wine is a living biosphere and requires a certain amount of oxygen to live and develop.  This is one of the reasons that I am firm on my belief that wines need to be bottled using corks.  This is different than wines that have too much oxygen and are oxidized to a point where color, fruit and flavors are lost.  The oxidation of the fruit acids and alcohol creating the aldehydes and esters during the post fermentation process add complexity and beauty to a wine.         

I found this subject quite interesting in that the primary and secondary aromas blended together along with continued development of the wine in the presence of oxygen creating what is termed as the bouquet of a wine.  The better the wine, the more complex the bouquet.  Following is Robert Parker's description of bouquet, "As a wine's aroma becomes more developed from bottle aging, the aroma is transformed into a bouquet that is hopefully more than just the smell of the grape." 


Rusty Sly

Barbieri Wine Company, Santa Ynez

Recently, Tracy and I took a road trip to Santa Ynez where we ended up in the small town of Los Olivos.  This is a beautiful quaint little town with a somewhat rustic atmosphere of days gone by.  The location of this town is in the middle of the Santa Ynez wineries which is the heart and soul the businesses in this small community.  Though they have unique boutique shops, antique shops, etc, it will not take you long realize that wines and food are the primary reason that Los Olivos flourishes.  The recognition of the quality of the wines coming out of Santa Ynez Valley has been proliferating over the past few years.

On this trip, Tracy and I discovered Barbieri Wine Company which was recommended to me by a couple of good friends.  The tasting room is located in the heart of this quaint little town.  Walking in we were given a warm greeting by owners Paolo Barbieri and Erin Kempe.  

Moving up to the tasting bar I began talking with Paolo on their wines and history as glasses were set out in front of us for the tasting.  Paolo began by telling me that he had completed and was certified as a Master Sommelier by the The Court of Master Sommeliers in 2003.  This certification is only held by 220 people in the world.  This is an extremely difficult program and if you don't believe me, go see the movie Somm, then you will gain an appreciation of the amount of work and dedication required for a person to reach this status.  

Paolo was born in Parma Italy where his love for wine began at an early age. In old world countries such as Italy, wine is a common mainstay with meals and as such provided Paolo with the desire to become involved in the wine industry. Moving to England and finally to the United States, he began developing a career in the restaurant business. His forte was establishing wine programs for various restaurants.

In 1998 he moved to Las Vegas and helped open casinos like Bellagio, Wynn and Cosmopolitan Hotel.  Erin Kempe is Paolo's fiancee whose background lies in the culinary world.  Working in restaurants in Texas she began to develop a passion for food and wine pairing and how they interact with one another. Erin pursued this passion to the bright lights of Las Vegas where she met Paolo in 2007.  Talk about a match made in heaven, Erin's career path in the culinary world and Paolo's credentials in the wine and restaurant business were perfect.  Their relationship fueled the desire to create their own wines.

Paolo became heavily involved with wines from the Santa Barbara region and with the help of Joey Tensley produced 375 cases of Syrah in 2005 from the Colson Vineyard.  This planted the seed for Paolo and Erin to produce wines from the Santa Barbara area.

                        Erin Kempe (Fiancee) and Paolo Barbieri (Master Sommelier)

                      Erin Kempe (Fiancee) and Paolo Barbieri (Master Sommelier)

In 2005, Paolo and Erin opened Barbieri Wine Company.  His specialty is Syrah varietal wines.  Most of you know that I have a soft spot for this varietal not to mention Old World Wines.  The Syrahs at Barbieri are so unique that I will have trouble explaining them to you.  None of his wines are sweet or jammy. Each have subtle nuances that provide unique characteristics of the vineyards and his skills as a vintner to entice everyone's palate.  The balance and profile is exquisite. But this was true for all of the Barbieri wines that I tasted. Here is a list of the wines that I sampled on my visit:

  • 2014 Kempe Rose of Syrah - Santa Barbara

  • 2014 Kempe Bianco - 70% Viognier, 15% Grenache Blanc & 15% Roussanne - Santa Barbara County

  • 2009 Barbieri, Colson Vineyard Syrah - Santa Barbara County

  • 2010 Barbieri Rodneys Vineyard Syrah - Santa Barbara County

  • 2011 Barbieri, Anonymvs, Syrah - Santa Barbara County

  • 2012 Barbieri Aureus, Syrah & Grenache - Central Coast

  • 2005 Three Creek Syrah - Santa Barbara (Happy Camp area)

  • 2007 Reeves Ranch Syrah - Santa Ynez

  • 2005 Barbieri KYLIX Syrah - Santa Barbara County

All of the wines that Paolo poured were fantastic.  One thing that is important to me is that the older Syrah wines were developing fantastically and they definitely had the body and acidity for further development.  My favorite wine was the 2005 KYLIX Syrah because of it's firm roots in the Old World style that I love so much.  Tracy liked the Colson Vineyard Syrah that showed a little less earthiness and more of a fruit forward profile.  But there is a caveat to this statement.  It is by no means a fruit bomb or cloyingly sweet.  It had a perfect balance and harmony between fruit, sweetness and acidity without the typical barnyard nose that is associated with Old World wines.  Both or should I say ALL of the wines are great.

                                                            Cheese Shop

                                                            Cheese Shop



Now that I have expressed my opinion on the beauty of their wines, the adventure gets better.  Step through the back of the wine tasting room and you will find yourself in a cheese lovers paradise.  They sell so many unique cheeses and munchies that it begs for you to pop a bottle of their fantastic wine and sit on their patio outback and enjoy life the way it should be.  Life could not be better.  Barbieri is a Syrah lovers mecca.  I know that I will be back.  The hospitality and quality that they put into the wines is phenomenal. I cannot wait for my next adventure with Barbieri wines when I return, but next time I am planning on enjoying lunch on their patio with a bottle of KYLIX and some of their fantastic cheeses.  Guess Tracy will need to come over to the Old World side.  I Love the KYLIX Syrah.


Rusty Sly 

Wine Tasting


Here is an interesting topic that will generate a lot of discussion among wine drinkers.  The human's nose and palate are very unique.  When gathered at wine events, wine tastings, or even drinking a wine at home with your spouse or friend there are differences of opinions on what each of us detect in the wine that we are drinking.  It is very common for people to ask the question, "What are you getting on the nose or palate."  Some people have extremely refined senses such as a sommelier but let's step a back little further.  Senses can be trained.  Take a chef or person who cooks frequently, they have a wide spectrum of various spices and ingredients that go into food to help them describe a wine.  This is extremely valuable.  My wife can detect and relate various subtle nuances of a wine to specific detailed spices, fruits, etc that I have difficulty detecting or finding an appropriate descriptor.  I have been a homebrewer for almost 30 years and have a keen sense of balance in flavors, acids, hops, sweetness, etc.  I'm also not bad at detecting the layers of flavors that many Old World wines offer. In a nutshell we are all different in our senses and evaluation of wines.

So what is the correct way for us to approach a wine that we are reviewing?Emile Peynaud in his book, “The Taste of Wine” passes along this quote on how we should approach a wine.  “When you taste, ignore the bottle, label, and those around you; concentrate instead on yourself and on forming a clear impression of the developing sensations conveyed by the wine.  Close your eyes and use your nose, tongue and palate to see.  So recommends Pierre Poupon.  'It is the surest method of avoiding errors of judgment due to conditioning and suggestions, the two traps that can catch even the wariest taster." 

This is one of the reasons that I do not like writing notes on wines that I taste at wineries.  Even reading the vintners notes on a wine before tasting can influence your description.  I may write on balance, crispness and tannins but seldom on the the presence of various spices, fruits, etc.  This should be a personal adventure between you and the wine.  At tastings I like to develop a position before discussing my findings.  Then you can revisit and discuss them with everyone's evaluation of the wine. Power of suggestion can cloud one's own review and perception of a wine. This will prevent you from developing the senses and descriptors for the wines that you taste.

Remember, there is no right or wrong here.  We are all different and so are our perceptions of a wine.  Follow Peynaud’s recommendation and you will surprise yourself.  Dissect the many layers that a wine has to offer, look for the balance between fruits and acid and last but not least, did you like it or not and why.  This is my challenge to you.


Rusty Sly

Agua Dulce Winery

Aqua Dulce.jpg

It has always fascinated me that we take road trips to places like Santa Ynez, Paso Robles, Napa, etc to taste wine yet we never look in our own backyard. Recently, thanks to two of my best friends, I was introduced to a local winery that is a stones throw away from my house.  They are located on Sierra Hwy just north of Sand Canyon Rd.  Driving up Sierra Hwy it is beautiful seeing the vineyards on the hills of Agua Dulce.  Entering the parking lot, you will enter an era of past years seeing an old carriage in front of their wine production facility as well as a barrel in front of the tasting room that brings back memories of the I Love Lucy Show.  In one episode, Lucy was on vacation in Italy where she meets a bellhop who directs her to go to Turo where old school wine practices are still used.   One of these processes was to crush the grapes in a barrel by stomping them bare foot.  Of course, typical Lucy, she ended up getting heavily stained from the grapes.  The crushing barrel at Agua Dulce Vineyard pays tribute to Lucy as does their annual event, Stompfest.



This event has grape crushing, horseshoe games, dancing, traditional food and of course wine.  Many of the woman at the event even dress like Lucy displaying the bright red lipstick that was her trademark.  For those of us approaching retirement we grew up with Lucy and seeing the barrel marked "Our Salute to Lucy" brought back a lot of fond memories.


Stepping into the tasting room we were greeted by a very cheerful person, Sue Ann Gabriel.  The tasting room and bar is very spacious with the decor in wood and several gift items, cookbooks, etc to browse through and purchase.  Sue Ann introduced me to Steve Wizan, General Manager, who provided us with more details of the Agua Dulce Winery.  He also offered my friend a 2003 Merlot from their Library wines.  I was honored to to get a try this wine with my friend and was it ever fantastic.  Twelve years in the bottle and was aging wonderfully, still holding the magnificent fruits that one expects from a varietal such as Merlot.

Tasting Wines:

  • 2012 Chardonnay

  • 2008 & 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

  • 2008 Zinfandel

  • 2009 Syrah

  • 2009 Sangiovese

  • NV    Robusto Rojo

  • NV    Sierra Roja

  • 2006 Syrah Port

All of the wines poured were excellent.  My wife and I, as usual, had a difference of opinion on what we liked and wanted to purchase.  This led to purchasing a selection of wines to take home.  My favorites for my palate were the Syrah and Sierra Roja.  My wife loved the Robusto Rojo and Sangiovese.  We both loved the port with the added treat of chocolate bits to accompany it.  We also both enjoyed the cabs with the 2008 being the favorite. The chardonnay was unique providing a very slight lemon flavor, brilliant on the palate with crispness from a beautiful balance of acid.  Excellent choice to drink on a warm summer day. 

Bottom line, don't miss our local wineries and see what they have to offer.  I guarantee that you will be pleasantly surprised at the quality you find in our own community.  If you decide to join their wine club they keep you informed of many fun packed events at the winery and to add to the fun you even get to name of row of grapes, Lucy would have loved that!


Rusty Sly

Preservation of Open Wine

Wine preservation is a dilemma we have all faced as wine drinkers. We come home from work and decide to have a glass of wine to relax. Being that we must go to work the next day, we  only drink 1-2 glasses if our wives are not helping. Now what do you do with this wine that you opened and still have a half bottle or more left?  You don’t want to pour it down the sink as that wold be a sin. Some wines, such as big Cabs, young Bordeaux’s or some Chiantis from Spain, can survive another day after being opened and some actually taste better. However, by popping the cork and allowing the wine to come into contact with oxygen is no different than decanting the wine. The oxygen will soften the tannins and even make the wines taste better the next day in some cases cut this is only true of some.  I am sure many of you have witnessed this on your own.  By popping the cork on delicate wines, such as light Burgundies and Pinot Niors, will not taste the same the following day. These are the wines that require a process to preserve them if the are opened.  In this article I want to look at the various options to preserving a wine for 1, 2 or more days with minimal deleterious effects on the wine.  Most of us are familiar with the benefits of refrigerating food or drink products to preserve them. If you remember your high school chemistry in order to accelerate chemical reactions you must heat the solution. If you want to slow down a reaction you must cool the solution. The same is true with wine, refrigeration will slow down, or prevent, acetic bacteria (Acetobacter) from turning the wine into vinegar. The growth of Acetobacter in wine can be eliminated by circumventing access to the oxygen found in air.  This can be accomplished by proper storage and moderate amounts of sulfur dioxide in the wine as a preservative. Sulfur dioxide occurs naturally from the skins of the grape.

Using refrigeration is a key method to slow the chemical processes of the wine and keep it from spoiling. But there is still another factor that has an influence on wine that we must stop, or control, and that is oxidation. This is a heavy hitter in ruining a wine. Placing wine into the refrigerator prevents wine from spoiling, but it creates another problem as oxygen is temperature dependant. In simple terms, oxygen is more soluble in a wine that is chilled. The wine will also hold more oxygen in solution if it is cold. As an example, if a wine is cooled from 68 degrees Fahrenheit to 32 degrees Fahrenheit the percentage of oxygen in solution will double.  A solution to this new problem is to reduce the surface area over the wine (less available oxygen). This can be accomplished by transferring the wine from the standard 750 ml bottle into a 375 ml wine bottle (splits). The smaller the area above the wine, the less oxygen for the wine to absorb oxygen when or if you refrigerate it.  Another method used by some is a vacuum pump that pulls a vacuum on the bottle which theoretically should reduce the percentage of oxygen in the bottle. From a scientific point of view, once you pull a vacuum on a bottle it can cause some of the gasses, such as carbon dioxide, to come out of solution. If these gasses carry some of the more volatile aromatics of the wine with it, you could actually be degrading the aromatics of the wine.  Another method that I do like is to use nitrogen, or another inert gas, to displace the oxygen from the remaining area above the wine.

In conclusion, there are methods available for preserving wine.  For me, I like the use of 375 ml bottles stored in the refrigerator.  At a minimum, I do refrigerate my wines that are left over.  When I get home from work I remove the bottle and do what chores I need to take care of.  By then, the bottles is at about cellar temperature.  If still a little cold just pour  a small amount in your glass and cup your hands around it for a few minutes.  This process will allow you to enjoy an open bottle of wine for a few days without much change from the day you opened it.


Rusty Sly


Two chuck or not two chuck, that is the question

Two Buck Chuck 2.jpg

For years I have had comments thrown at me about the wines that I purchase and drink along with hearing the proverbial statement that, "Two-Buck Chuck is fine for me."  This statement is then followed by the comment, "...and  Two-Buck Chuck has won awards."  So what is Charles Shaw doing to produce Two-Buck Chuck to such a quality that it wins awards over some very  reputable wineries?  Are these wines that great?  It is a fact that Charles Shaw has won two awards.  The first was in 2002 at the International Eastern Wine Competition with his 2002 Shiraz receiving the double gold medal over 2,300 other wines.  His second award was at the Commercial Wine Competition at the 2007 California Exposition and State Fair with his 2005 California Chardonnay which was judged to be the Best Chardonnay from California.  Were the bottles judged at these two events really Two Buck Chuck?  Was there a problem with the judging staff at this event?  Wine judges are required to pass a rigorous test to prove they can identify several wine varietals, varietal characteristics and faults to be certified.  Judges at the California State Fair were people that are involved in the wine industry and as such considered wine experts. 

Is Two Buck Chuck really not that bad and can go toe to toe with some fairly reputable wineries?  Two Buck Chuck is produced and bottled by Bronco Wine Corp.  Bronco purchases excess grapes from vineyards where supply is exceeding demand at a rock bottom price.  The fact that they are buying cheap grapes from multiple vineyards leads to inconsistency in their wines from bottle to bottle.  We all know that terroir, harvesting and processing of grapes from vineyard to winery has a tremendous effect on a wine.  The grapes purchased by Bronco exclude high quality Napa Valley grapes as the cost per ton would be too high to allow the $2.00 (now $2.49) retail price per bottle to be maintained.  Most of the grapes for Two Buck Chuck are purchased from the California Central Coast where there is an excess of grapes and the cost is reasonably cheap.  Since the grapes are sourced from many different vineyards, the wines are actually a blend of grapes from many different vineyards.  The big problem with producing wines at this volume and price to meet consumer demands is consistency and quality.  Trader Joe Markets sells up to 5 million cases a year of Two Buck Chuck. That's a lot of wine.

So how did Two Buck Chuck win awards over wines that were being meticulously crafted by vintners? 

1. Did the judging system fail?  

2. Did the judges chosen for this wine varietal (Shiraz and Chardonnay) inexperienced with them?  I highly doubt this is the case for a certified judge.

3. Maybe the sample Identification numbers were changed by accident.  This happened to me with a beer that I had entered in competition.  I sent the same beer to two events.  One event said that the beer was contaminated and was judged poorly for clarity, aroma, etc.  The same beer at the other event was awarded second place with high accolades.  Since these beers were from the same batch and judged on the same weekend it amounted to two possibilities:  Either the judges were looking at two different beers or the judging was flawed.

To acquire a better perspective on Two Buck Chuck, I purchased a bottle of 2009 Shiraz and 2009 Chardonnay. Obviously not the same vintages that were judged 2002 and 2005 respectively.  I poured the Shiraz and my wife and I put our glasses up to our noses and just looked at each other.  There was no fruit profile but did have a very funny nose that I really cannot put into words.  Next, we tasted the wine and were met by a tart tangy sensation in our mouths.  It had no mouth feel and was thin almost like a Beaujolais Nouveau.  The flavor disappeared immediately (thank goodness).  Neither of us were capable of providing a clear description of the flavors of this wine.  Common fruit flavors for syrah/shiraz wines such as blueberry, blackberry, plum, peppery, etc. were nonexistent.  The wine lacked structure and balance in our opinions.

So what happened at the competition where these $2.00 wines put on such a great showing?  I guess there will be a few people that will find Two Buck Chuck a great deal based on the price.  For $24 you can buy a case.  To follow up with my discoveries of the Shiraz I opened a bottle of Two Buck Chuck Chardonnay which was deemed the Best Chardonnay from California in 2005. Though it is not the same vintage, it would give us a chance to see what their white wines had to offer.  I actually brown bagged it and poured it for my Grape of the Night group.  Interesting discovery was that the Chardonnay was very drinkable compared to the Shiraz.  

My curiosity still lingers on the question of the awards for the wines from Two Buck Chuck.  I read articles where wine judges and connoisseurs have tried to recreate the test and Two Buck Chuck does not place at the top but rather toward the bottom.  I have my own opinion of Two Buck Chuck and really do respect the opinion of those that enjoy this wine.  That being said, please do not throw the comment at me that it is a great wine based on two awards, which in my opinion are questionable. You know the saying, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder",  wine is in the taste of the beholder.  As the other saying goes, "Two Buck Chuck is just not my cup of tea".


Rusty Sly

Sculpterra Winery & Sculpture Garden

Sculpterra Winery is a fascinating place to visit if you enjoy sculptures, art and wine.  The iron gate at the entrance of the winery along with the decorative fencing on the grounds are the works of Bob Bentley, a master blacksmith specializing in renaissance creations that adorn the grounds. Within the highly ornate decorative iron fencing is a collection of beautiful sculptures that are created by two artists, Dale Evers and John Jagger.  Dale's work is very unique creating sculptures that use a variety of mediums such as glass, bronze and steel in beautiful harmony.  John Jagger has been a full time sculpture for 45 years and his work is prized by collectors all over the world.  John's work is show cased all around the grounds of Sculpterra Winery.  There are many of his pieces for sale at the winery ranging from a few thousands to well over one hundred thousand dollars.

The entrance to the tasting room is further enhanced with Bob's blacksmith skills as seen by the entrance canopy, light fixtures,  etc. that he has artistically created.  In the tasting room, your adventure continues with painted wall murals, paintings, sculptures that are accented by beautiful wood work that surround archways, ceiling, doors, etc.

Even the wine bar is enhanced with beautiful wood work.  The staff greeted us at the wine bar and explained the shared approach that made Sculpterra a place where not only wines but also art can be showcased along with history.  The winery is owned by Warren Frankel who is a medical doctor. His son, Paul Frankel, acquired his BA at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in viticulture and enology and is the winemaker for Sculpterra.  

The wines were excellent.  My favorite was a 2012 meritage called Maquette that was a blend of 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Cabernet Franc and 13% Merlot.  This wine won the San Francisco Chronicle Gold Medal and provided a beautiful balance between two of my favorite varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with just enough Merlot to soften the big bold flavors.

The 2011 Mouvedre was also a favorite with a beautiful balance of strawberry with casis and oak with beautifully balanced tannins.  Another wine on their list that was fantastic was 2011 Repousse which was heavily weighted with Rhone varietals with an added twist.  The Rhone varietals were Mouvedre, Syrah and Grenache but then they added 9% Petite Syrah for that little extra punch.  Delicious wine.

If you go to Sculpterra, I would plan to spend some time.  Looking at all of the sculptures, art and surroundings plus the very extensive and excellent wine list, time will fly by.  This winery is truly a memory and you must visit to really appreciate all that it has to offer.



Rusty Sly       

Rocks in My Wine?

During a Grape of the Night gathering, where Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc was the star, it was discovered that there was a key taste in most all of these wines. All of the bottles brought were from Southern France giving them commonality in the terroir leading one to believe that they would share some characteristics. The key feature that was found at this gathering was a taste of minerality which varied in degree and flavor between the different wines poured.  

I made a comment, which may or may not have been correct, stating that the mineral taste is the result of the terroir.  The term minerality is very often used, or misused, as a wine descriptor providing a link between a wines terroir, or region, that a wine comes from.  "The Oxford Companion To Wine", a book that is used by many of us, does not even have the term "minerality" in it.  Yet we hear many knowledgeable people comment on a wines minerality. For some wines, it is an important part of the wine's profile.

We know that there are minerals such as sulfur, magnesium, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, copper and zinc in wines but the levels are too low to be detectable by humans. So where do people come up with taste descriptors such as chalk, slate, wet rock, flint and limestone with certain wines?  

Enter chemistry!  One of the best explanations, and there are many, comes from the research by Denis Dubourdieu at the University of Bordeaux on mercaptans.  Mercaptan (thiols) is a sulfur containing organic compound.  The key word here is sulfur.  Mercaptans are formed by yeast during and after alcohol fermentation if there is a deficiency of nutrients, such as nitrogen. Due to a lack of nutrients, especially nitrogen during fermentation, the yeast uses the sulfur in amino acids (Cysteine) that are present forming what are called mercaptans.  This is what creates the mineral profile that is detected in wines. Since wines, such as Chateauneuf du Pape Blancs, are grown in soil that consists of pebbles and sand with smooth rocks on the surface, called galets, there may be a nitrogen deficiency.  Thus, giving the answer to the question on why we get a mineral flavor profile from these wines.  

In looking at my statement on the terroir being the cause of minerality, I would not say that I was incorrect.  The fact that the soil lacks nutrients can be viewed as part of the terroir making my statement correct.  It would be incorrect if the assumption is that the minerals from the pebbles and rocks are being absorbed and concentrated in the grapes.  Even today there are differences of opinion on what causes minerality.  As an engineer with a chemical background this seems to be the most valid.  


Rusty Sly

A Step Back In Time

Do you get excited when you see old establishments that have survived the test of time and allows you to get a glimpse of the past?  Try visiting an old hotel called The 1880 Union Hotel at 362 Bell St in Los Alamos California.  The hotel was built in 1880 as a Wells Fargo stagecoach stop and today continues to live on as a historic hotel Bed & Breakfast.  The hotel was built and furnished in the original Victorian style providing an ambiance of the wild west.  The building and furnishings are absolutely stunning.

So what does this have to do with wines?  The hotel has a very unique old west saloon that is a wine tasting bar.  The wines poured are from actor/producer Kurt Russell (GoGi Wine), actress Kate Hudson and Muse band member Matt Bellamy's Hudson-Bellamy label and Ampelos Cellars owned by Peter and Rebecca Work.  Peter and Rebecca Work have been instrumental in mentoring Kurt Russell with the art of wine making.  Jami Way is the Tasting Room Manager and sister of Kirk Russell. Jami is very cheerful and bubbly making sure that all of the patrons at the bar are tended to as does Gina.  

Kurt Russell's adventure into wine making started when he was on location in the Santa Rita Hills and found that he loved the Pinot Noir wines from the area.  His passion was so great that he got involved with learning and making wines.  Kurt actually took time away from acting and went to Burgundy France to learn the styles and techniques used by the French to make Burgundies.



During our visit we were greeted and tended to by Gina who asked if we would like to taste or have a glass of wine.   The tasting included wines from the group above and all were great.  However, the wine that was stunning in all respects was Kurt Russell's 2011 GoGi  "Angelbaby" Pinot Noir.  The brilliance and clarity invites you to smell and taste this fantastic Burgundian style Pinot Noir.  This wine is a class act displaying everything that is expected from a fine French Burgundy.  After tasting the wines and talking with Gina and Jami, we could not pass up enjoying a glass of "Angelbaby" in the ambiance of this old west saloon watching the sun set in the west. If you ever want to visit a piece of history and feel like you are in the wild wild west, the 1880 Union Hotel is a must.  If you don't want to worry about obtaining a designated driver just get a room, remember they are a Bed and Breakfast.




February 11,2015 DAOU Estate Soiree

George Skorka, Rust Sly & Daniel DAOU;  Photo by Chazz Roberts

George Skorka, Daniel Daou and Rusty Sly

Special thanks to Chaz Roberts for the excellent photography.

I have come to know the owners and staff of DAOU winery over the years and have learned to understand why they are so successful but most importantly how they have the respect and love of the wine community.  The heart of their success is family. The definition of family to these brothers is twofold.  One family is DAOU Vineyard which encompasses the entire winery and staff.  Multiple times I hear comments about how great it is working for DAOU Vineyard and how well the Daou brothers treat them.  But the real love and passion lies within the Daou family.  The DAOU Estate Soiree is held every year on February 11.  It is on this date in 1956 that George and Daniel's parents, Joseph and Marie, were married.  So to honor their parents and celebrate their anniversary the DAOU Estate Soiree is held. 

Upon our arrival at the tasting room on DAOU Mountain for the 2015 Estate Soiree, we were greeted by warm welcomes from staff members that were focused on tending to all of the guests.  What a beautiful setting.  Everyone was dressed to the nines in semiformal to formal attire.  Walking up to the bar, George Daou came over, and in family tradition, shook my hand and welcomed me back to the mountain for this special occasion.

The Soiree kickoff brought tears to my eyes as George Daou spoke about how much influence their parents had on their lives, raising them to be the kind and loving people that they are.  During his speech you could feel the warmth and love he had for his brother Daniel.  After George's speech, family slides were shown reflecting the  life of Joseph and Marie's marriage and life in Lebanon with their children followed by their immigration to France and the United States.  George's speech was followed by Daniel who further reinforced the bond between the two of them.  This passion of caring for people and family values can be seen not only in their intermediate family, but also their extended DAOU family.  Following the speech, Soul of the Lion, named for their father, was poured for all of the guests followed by a heartfelt toast in honor of Joseph and Marie Daou. 

The Soiree holds another level of excitement as it is also the night where all DAOU club estate members come to taste and pick up their long awaited 2012 estate wines.  These wines are the creme dela creme of DAOU Vineyards and are made in honor of George and Daniel's  parents.  Soul of the Lion, as mentioned, was named for Joseph and Mayote for Marie.  These wines are of Grand Cru quality right here in Paso Robles California.   

The evening would not be complete without delectable delights such as foie gras and octopus sliders, lamb chops, meatballs, smoked salmon just to name a few along with some unique cheeses and finger deserts.  All of the foods prepared and served were the work of DAOU'S Resident Chef, Giancalo Perez-Scolari.

Finally, a Soiree would not be complete without music and we were treated the jazz and cabaret vocals of Lebanese-American singer, Danielle Rizk. Several of the guests tripped the light fantastic.  Whether it was dancing or just conversation a great night was had by all and I am sure everyone will return next year, I know I will. 


Rusty Sly

Kaena Winery - A Diamond in the Rough

Kaena Winery Tasting Manager Chloe Yost.jpg
Chloe Yost - Tasting Room Manager

Recently Tracy and I decided to take a drive to the Santa Ynez area.  We have not been there in a while and Tracy had a couple of places that were recommended to us by a good friend of ours, Mindy Bezjian. For those of you that have not been to Los Olivos, it is a place that you need to add to your bucket list. The town is very quaint with numerous shops.  If you want to taste wines, olive oils or even eat at some very unique small restaurants you will find plenty to do.  The first stop that was recommended by Mindy was the Kaena Winery tasting room in downtown Los Olivos.  Walking in we were warmly greeted by Jennifer Lindley and asked if we would like to taste their wines.  Who could refuse such an offer. Jennifer kicked off our experience with a beautiful 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Ballard Canyon.   Soon we were joined by Chloe Yost who is the Tasting Room Manager and Marketing Specialist for Kaena Wines.  Chloe began providing details on their winery and wines as we sampled the Sauvignon Blanc .  She injected that most of the fruit used in their wines come from the Ballard Canyon.  This Sauvignon Blanc was beautiful offering aromatics and tastes of pineapple and citrus with a clean crispness from a beautiful acid balance.  What was unique is that the wine finished fairly dry.  Chloe commented that Kaena sur lie about 50% of their wines for 6 months and the Sauvignon Blanc is one of them.  This process of leaving the wine on the grapes or yeast (most common) binds proteins to tannins which will remove tannins and provide better mouthfeel.  The process also absorbs oxygen which helps protect the wine.  Sur lie adds a beautiful complexity to wines as seen in this Sauvignon blanc. Chloe also provided us with a unique tasting experience.  She poured 2 different vintages of Hapa Blanc.  The 2013 which was recently release is a blend of 60% Roussanne, 28% Grenache Blanc and 12% Riesling.  The 2012 ( prior vintage) had 60% Roussanne, 30% Grenache Blanc and 10% Viognier.  The Roussanne and Grenache Blanc  (88% in the 2013 and 90% in the 2012) in both of these wines are the backbone for Chateau neuf de pape blanc wines.  Both vintages were excellent with good body yet each had subtle difference on the palate.  Our favorite was the 2012 but as I always remind people it depends on "YOUR" palate.  Both were excellent just slightly different.   

Chloe also poured their newly released 2013 Grenache Blanc.  Wow!  What a beautiful wine with that  gorgeous mouthfeel that is characteristic of this varietal.   Grenache Blanc is one of my favorite white varietals.   One interesting characteristic with Kaena's white wines that I really loved is the fact that they finish slightly dry on the palate.  Very uncommon with most California whites.

Kaena didn't drop a beat in their red wines either.  Many years ago a good friend of mine, Victor Herstein was the manager of the All Corked Up warehouse introduced me to Kaena Grenache.  I have not forgotten that wine.  Tasting their latest vintages only brought back memories of the beauty of Kaena's fantastic Grenache.  Kaena now has three Grenaches where the grapes are sourced from different areas.  They have the 2012 Santa Ynez Valley (blend from three different vineyards), 2012 Tierra Alta Vineyard (Ballard Canyon) and 2012 Larner Grenache which is a brand new release.  All three were exactly what I remember.  Each had differences based on terroir but were fantastic Grenache's but in different ways.  My favorite personal favorite was the 2012 Larner Grenache.  Tierra Alta had a stunning profile on the nose but the brighter flavor and fantastic finish of the Tierra Alta tipped the scale for me.

Bottom line is that you must visit Kaena.  The staff and wines are fantastic.  I could write for ever on their wines and I didn't come close to covering them all.  You will just need to make a road trip and try them for yourself.



Rusty Sly

Oak Barrels for Wine Making

The use and influence of oak barrels on wine is very unique and a lot more complex than one can imagine. Not only does the chemistry of the wood influence the wine, but also the structural design of the oak barrel. In this article, I will try to approach how oak barrels influence the wines we drink based on chemistry, construction, preparation and use.

The most popular and most desired barrels are made from French oak. French barrels are also the most expensive in the wine industry. The wood used by the French come from 5 forests (Allier, Limousin, Nevers, Trancais and Vosges). These forests date back to the Napoleon era where these forests supplied wood for ship building. The process used by the French Cooper (person who builds conical woodened staved vessels) is to split the oak to make the wooden staves for the barrel. Splitting rather than cutting the staves with a saw produce a more subtle effect or influence on the wine. The staves are then seasoned by allowing them to naturally age outdoors in the elements for up to 3 years to remove harsh tannins from the wood.

American Oak barrels are produced quite differently. The Oak wood used by American Coopers is a white oak and is found in the Eastern United States as well as Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Recently, another white oak species from Oregon is starting to be used as it shares a lot of similarities to the French Oak. Aside from the differences in the woods, the American Cooper’s have a different technique for building their barrels.

The Staves are cut using a saw rather than splitting the wood like the French. This causes a drastic impact on the wine as it ruptures the xylem (tissue that transports water and nutrients) releasing vanillin aromatics and lactones responsible for the vanilla and coconut notes in a wine. I am sure that many of you have had a wine where you detect aroma and/or flavor of vanilla in a wine. The vanilla flavors are caused by phenols within the wood that interact with the wine. This can also lead to impressions of tea notes or sweetness.

The 2002 Marquis Philips Shiraz 9 was a classic example that displayed a heavy influence of American Oak. On the palate, the intense buttery vanilla flavor was very pronounced in the profile of this wine. I am sure that all of you have experienced this with various wines both red and white.

Another characteristic that effects the flavor profile in wine is the tightness of the wood grain. French oak has a very tight grain which imparts the oak profile more slowly thus not producing large notes of buttery vanilla aroma and flavor as American oak which does not have as tight a grain. With the process used by American Coopers where the staves are cut with a saw and with the looser grain profile of the oak compared to the French oak, it is very common to smell and taste the buttery vanilla. If the aroma and flavor profile is more oaky it is most likely French oak barrels that were used.

The choice of wood and construction of the barrels is only a start on how oak barrels influence wines. Another influence on the wine is controlled by how much toast is given to the inside surface of the barrel. Oak barrels once constructed, are toasted with an open flame to one of three different degrees of toast: light, medium, and heavy, depending on the desires of the winemaker to impart more or less of the oak influence on the wine.

Wines aged in heavier toasts will have softer tannins and will display an aroma/flavor profile of spice, smoke, roasted coffee, ginger, nutmeg, leather and smoked meats. Lighter toasts preserve more of the natural flavors of the wine but at the cost of having increased tannins. More oak flavors are also imparted to the wine. Wines with a medium toast display notes of clove, coconut and tea. As oak barrels are used over time, the wood will age and become neutral providing little influence to the wine. This usually occurs within 5 years.

A key point to remember is that it is up to the Cooper’s judgment during the toasting process to provide the winery with a barrel that meets the specification of the winery for the wine they are making. This is an art and you can see how a lot of variability can occur in wines from barrel to barrel.

Let’s get into the effects that a completed barrel has on a wine. An oak barrel has a certain amount of porosity to the wood. This allows for some evaporation to occur over time. As an example, wine in a typical 59 gallon barrel can lose up to 6 1/2 gallons a year. This equates to a loss of 11% of the volume. Since evaporation occurs, we must also realize that the porosity also allows a pathway for small amounts of oxygen to get in. The good thing is the evaporated liquids are primarily alcohol and water which allows the wine to concentrate. The very small amount of oxygen that gets into the barrel assist in softening the wine. The amount of oxygen getting into the barrels is too small to lead to oxidation or spoilage.   

World Cooperage in Napa Valley defines five distinct flavor categories that various kinds of oak contribute to wine:

· EARTHY: Ash, Mushroom, Shoe Box, Wet Cardboard, Musty, Leather.

· HERBACEOUS: Weedy, Dill, Mown Hay, Menthol, Grass, Tobacco.

· WOODY: Planky, Cedar, Sawdust, Pencil Shavings, Sappy, Green, Pine, Tar, Resin.

· ASTRINGENT: Harsh, Chewy, Bitter, Angular, Tannic, Drying.

· SPICY: Clove, Cinnamon, Coconut, Vanilla.

World Cooperage finds seven categories of flavor that can result from toasting the barrel:

· SWEET: Brown sugar, Bourbon, Cotton Candy, Chocolate, Maple Syrup, Butterscotch, Hot fudge, Caramel, Molasses, Honey, Toffee, Soy.

· CREAMY: Vanilla, Cream soda, Marshmallow, Lactic, Butter.

· YEASTY: Popcorn, Baked Bread, Bread stick, Cookie dough.

· NUTTY: Hazelnut, Walnut, Almond, Peanut butter, Coconut.

· ROASTED: Cedar, Graham cracker, Toasted bread, Coffee, Mocha, Cereal.

· SMOKY: Barbecue, Grilled Meat, Bacon, Sweet smoke, Burnt sugar.

· SPICY: Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Clove, Licorice, Anise.

In conclusion, we can see that it is not just the terroir or vintner that affects the final product that we so dearly enjoy. Look at the changes and additions of flavors that become a part of the wine just from the oak barrels. Things like the choice of wood (American or French), whether the wood is split or cut, the amount of toasting (light, medium or heavy), the depth of the char or even the age of the barrels all influence the final product.

The next time you sit down with a glass of wine, look beyond the fruits in the aroma and flavor and look for the aromas and flavors that result from the oak barrel that was designed specifically for the wine that you are drinking. After researching this topic, I applaud the Coopers that make the barrels. They too are artist in the production of the fine wines that we drink and enjoy so much.


Rusty Sly