Monday, November 30, 2009

Tasting palette and

“Temperance, like chastity, is its own punishment.”

As any one reading this page knows, we all have very different palettes. There’s an interesting, informative, and fun way to determine where your palette resides on the palette continuum.

Go to and take the simple quiz to get some interesting feedback. It’s known that some people have 10 times the number of taste buds of some of us. Interestingly, those most sensitive palettes, the top 25%, often prefer sweet wines and those in the bottom 25% of tasters prefer the bold, Robert Parker style of wine. My supposition is that “sweet” is one of the major tasting categories so with 10 times the number of buds, there is probably a plethora of data to sift through and “sweet” would stand out. But that’s just my opinion. I sometimes need a big, bold, wine that hits me over the head with a hammer, to make a lasting impression. Or is that a scar?

I am on the cusp of the bottom 25% and the middle 50%, which I suspected. When I read a wine description and it says something like, “hints of cherry, chocolate, leather, smoke on the front, with walnuts and smores on the middle palette, and nuances of artichoke on the finish,” I am totally lost. I usually get no more than two “hints” unless someone else describes their sensation and then I may also get it, but I need the nudge.

Anyway, go to (not to be confused with butt and take the quiz. It not only describes your category of tasting but it also provides a list of the types of wines you might enjoy.

Have some fun with it!

Tom Da Wine Guy

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Wine Suggestions

One week until Thanksgiving when we sit down with family and friends to enjoy a turkey with all the trimmings. Of course, some wine will be desired, if not required. My offerings are simple, affordable, and will pair favorably with turkey.

A favorite RED for turkey is Pinot Noir and there are two Castle Rock wines that will work. First is the "Mendecino County" version and the other is the "California Cuvee." If poured side by side, the Cuvee is lighter in color, softer in the mouth and more fruity, with strawberry aromas and taste. The Mendecino is darker, has more mouth feel and is less fruity, but still offers raspberry and cherry flavors. I like both but prefer the Mendecino. Both are $9.99 a bottle.

For WHITE wines, Chardonnay always works well with turkey. Even "buttery" Chard goes well with the Butterball turkey, the buttered green beans, and the mashed potatoes. Several of the buttery Chards are Wild Horse at $11.99, Markham at $11.99, and Bonterra at $10.99. Bogle and Sterling each at $8.99 are crisper, cleaner and more acidic, and J Lohr at $10.99 is also clean and crisp. The French White Burgundy, Macon-Villages, is a great Chardonnay at $11.99 and is very typical of a white Burgundy; very crisp and clean with heightened acidity, which is excellent when paired with food.

If Sauvignon Blanc is more to your liking then try a lighter Fume Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc) such as Ferrari-Carano at $12.99 or the Castoro Cellars at $5.99.For those of you who prefer some sweetness, try the French Lacheteau Vouvray, which is Chenin Blanc, and offers mild sweetness at $5.99.

Have a great Thanksgiving!!! And enjoy the wine, whatever you may select.

Tom Da Wine Guy

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Livermore Wine Country-What a Surprise!!!

Livermore Wine Country: The Often Forgotten and Overlooked Wine Region

(With apologies to Edgar Allen Poe)

What is this wine-land overlooked and forsaken, and tastings not taken?
Tell me, tell me, I implore!
Quoth the Raven, “Livermore!”

This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining-
In the distance I see men a-vining and in the wineries, wine a-fining,
What is this land oft omitted and forsaken, with visits not taken?
Tell me, tell me, I implore!
Quoth the Raven, “Livermore!”

At Concannon, we meet Jim and Jane
Nothing here plain or mundane-
And what of Patti at Steven Kent?
An abundance of pleasure caused a need to repent.
Then over hill, over dale,
To greet the lovely Heather at McGrail.
Then Jennifer at Wente.
And Greg at Murrieta’s Well?
Perhaps too long, on these musings I dwell...

Surely, this is a place for sojourn,
To surely visit and then return.
What is this place? Tell me, tell me, I implore!
Quoth the Raven, “Livermore!”

Okay, now back to my usual uncomplicated prose. Like most of you reading this, I have passed through Livermore on several occasions driving to Napa and Sonoma without thought or hint of what I was missing. It’s about 1-1/2 hours before Napa, if you’re driving from the south. On a round-trip, that gives you three more hours of pleasure.

My brother-in-law, Glenn, suggested that we spend a day in Livermore. The only wineries that I knew of in Livermore were Wente Vineyards and Concannon, but I had never visited their wineries, so my wife, Jacquie, and I were more than receptive to his suggestion.

Our first stop was Concannon Vineyard at 4590 Tesla Road. Concannon, established in 1883, is one of the oldest continuously operated wineries in the country, and produced America’s first Petit Sirah. When we entered the tasting room, we let out a collective “wow!” They'd completely renovated the interior of what used to be their barrel room. It reopened in August of 2009 with brick and wood walls, marble floor, a beautiful tin ceiling with embossed designs. In the back of the tasting room, work continues on a wine bar where visitors will be able to buy a glass of wine while sitting and relaxing.

Jim and Jane were gracious and knowledgeable hosts. They took us through their wine flight and we were particularly taken with the Assemblage Blanc, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, which is the classic Bordeaux white wine.

I’ve mentioned that Jim and Jane were wonderful hosts. Get this; another winery called to ask for some help because something had gone awry and they had three busses of 45 people each that needed a winery to visit. That’s 135 people! But on a moment’s notice, Jim and Jane said, “Send them over.” They were desperately trying to call staff to help but were having little luck on short notice.

Most wineries, want notification if more than a party of six is coming. We departed before the busses descended but trust that their hospitality and efforts were appreciated. We left carrying eight bottles of the Assemblage.

Next, we headed for The Steven Kent Winery at 5443 Tesla Road. Why? Because it was close to Concannon. Again, we had another happy moment. The tasting room, while smaller and cozier than Concannon, was immaculately decorated with lovely original artworks and had an attractive ambience. Patti let us select our table, a small round table, where we stood for our tasting.

The wines were very, very good. We especially liked the “Insieme” red blend and their cabernets. The wines were served with tastings of Marcona almonds, dried cranberries and cheeses.

Patti couldn’t have been nicer, friendlier nor more pleasant. She was also very informative regarding the wines, and totally gracious. We’ll return on our next visit.

Next door to Steven Kent’s is their sibling winery, La Rochelle. Pinot Noirs are featured here but they also have a very nice Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. It’s a sit-down affair in the tasting room and the wines are served with crackers, cheese, and pate. The food and four wines were very attractively presented, and out host, Brad, couldn’t have been better.

Next on the agenda was Murrietta Well at 3005 Mines Road. This small winery is owned by Wente and the wines were good and the tasting room and grounds are exceptionally beautiful - well worth a visit. And our tasting room host, Greg, was very friendly, and helpful regarding the wines.

Off to Wente Vineyards at 5565 Tesla Road. While the tasting room is large and attractive, it’s surrounded by a construction site.

Wente is upgrading, remodeling, expanding their existing tasting room, and adding a picnic area for visitors. Our hostess, Jennifer, wore a sunshine smile.

Wente, founded in 1883 is the oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery in the country. They are into their 5th generation of family winemakers. If you drink any Chardonnay, you most likely are impacted by Wente, as their clones now are a part of 74% of all Chardonnay’s produced in the country. Yup, 74%. In the entire country.

Wente, while one of the largest wineries in Livermore, has a reputation for being a good neighbor and assisting the entire Livermore wine industry. That says a lot for their culture.

Wente offers three tiers of wine: the Estate Wines=sold everywhere, Small Lots=hand harvested fruit, and available only to Wine Club members and at the winery. The Nth Degree Wines=hand-picked fruit, hand crafted wines, very small lots are available to Nth Degree Wine Club members only. A long waiting list kept us from joining the Nth Wine Club.

Last but not least was McGrail Vineyards. Opened in 2008, this winery is located at 5600 Greenville Road. What a surprise! We were initially motivated to visit due to recommendations from other tasting room hosts and hostesses. The tasting room wasn’t technically open to the public when we arrived, but Heather McGrail happily let us visit and taste the Cabernets, their specialty. The McGrail Cabernets were our favorite Cabs amongst the Livermore wineries we visited. Yes, I said, "amongst."

Not only are the Cabs of exceptional quality, so was Heather. What a delight she was, all smiles and laughter and cute as a button! If you visit, she’ll make your day.

So, wine readers, that’s our Livermore adventure. I recommend that you give the region a visit. You won’t be sorry.

For more information on the approximately 50 wineries in the region, go to (

Will we pass through again without stopping? Quoth the Raven - Nevermore!