Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends

There is Just Lots Happening in our Wine World

by Monty and Sara Preiser

Preisers’ Reserve:  Our wine for today will only appeal to you if you like a lot of forest floor. Come to think of it, if you don’t think that is your style, try this one anyway, as you might change your mind. The 2001 Remelluri Rioja ($34) is a dark, concentrated wine with spices and plum fruit throughout. Best described as medium bodied, it maintains its elegance in the face of a host of competing tastes, and provides a wonderful finish.


More and More Screw Cap Closures: Some may say that the recent surge in screw cap closures in this country means we are becoming less and less sophisticated. We, on the other hand, might argue that it means the drinking public is showing off its awareness. Yes, the debate is still open as to whether aging is affected, but there cannot be much disagreement that screw caps do not affect the quality of wines designed to be consumed within a year or so. So why not use them? They are easy, eliminate loss to cork taint, and usually allow you to store the leftover wine in the refrigerator.

According to research recently released by ACNieslen, and announced by Paige Poulos, founder of the Alliance for Innovative Wine Packaging (AIWP) at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento, California, U.S. wine sales under screw cap increased 24.6% in 2006 – a hefty jump in anybody’s book.

“The burgeoning market for innovative closures is not about direct competition with natural cork,” said Poulos. “This is about diversification and convenience, creating new opportunities for the enjoyment of wine as an everyday beverage, and expanding the market. In the immediate future, we see traditional packaging continuing to thrive, with screw caps and other innovative closures seeing widespread consumer acceptance. This is a very healthy market dynamic.”


And the Cork People Answer: Concerned about the move to screw top enclosures, APCOR, the Portuguese Cork Association, has published a pamphlet trumpeting the following assets of using cork:

-Consumers prefer cork over any other wine enclosure.

-Cork is made from the bark of the cork oak tree – no trees are lost for cork production.

-Cork is natural, recyclable, renewable, and reusable.

-Real cork is the one proven stopper capable of withstanding the pressure of Champagne.

-Corks expand to fit the neck of the bottle perfectly.

-Every vintage wine successfully laid down has been closed with natural cork.

-The cork industry has spent millions of dollars over the last decade to improve cork.


Our Tasting Panel Strikes Again: Our readers know we are fond of hosting blind tasting panels to evaluate the many samples of wine sent to us. Interestingly, whether the participant is professional or amateur, more often than not s/he agrees with the majority of the group [not always, mind you, and sometimes we substitute our own judgment in our reviews – but the frequency of agreement is surprising].

Recent results were not kind to Martini and Rossi’s $14 entry into the Sparkling market, nor to the 2004 Chalk Hill Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($25), which was uncharacteristically over-oaked and out of balance. Fairing better was a group of value wines that did not knock anyone’s socks off standing alone, but impressed us all with their price. These included the 2005 Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc ($13.50); the Raymond 2004 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve ($14); the 2004 R Collection (by Raymond) Merlot ($14); and the 2004 MonteVina Terra d’Oro Amador Zinfandel ($18).

The 2002 Clos du Val Merlot at $25 maintained the reliability of this mid price level producer, as did the 2004 Rodney Strong Knotty Vines Zinfandel ($20). On the more expensive side, it was perhaps no revelation that the following four wines were scored highly: 2003 Pride Merlot ($50) – though it’s time to drink it already; 2002 Frank Family Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) – not their best Cab, but at the price point a nice choice; 2001 Rodney Strong Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) – no pun intended, but still going strong; and 2000 Robert Biale Monte Rosso Zinfandel ($40) – maybe a touch too highly priced. The clear winner for the night? A delicious 2004 Frank Family Zinfandel ($32.50) that is only available by ordering from the winery.


Other Writers are Good Too: One of the nice guys in Napa Valley is Napa Valley Register wine writer Jack Heeger. He finds “stuff” that few other do. We loved an article published in mid March so much that we quote it here in full:

BevWizard is an invention by Dr. Pat Farrell that claims to soften tannins in wine and make it more drinkable through the use of magnetic fields. Farrell, a medical doctor and a Master of Wine, has met with much skepticism as he has tried to market his invention.

An organization in Florida is so skeptical that it is offering a $1 million prize to anyone who can prove that the device works. “We will pay $1 million to anyone who can tell the difference between wine that has been treated with any of the so-called wine magnet devices, and the same wine not so treated,” the announcement said.

One person is going for it, according to decanter.com — James Cluer, an MW candidate who is conducting research on the device for his dissertation, the final step toward the MW designation. The topic was approved by the Institute of Masters of Wine, and he’s conducting tests at the ETS lab, which has an office in St. Helena. He holds randomized blind tastings and is surveying wine retailers around the world. “Many of the world’s leading winemakers and retailers are currently testing the BevWizard,” he said.

(If he wins the $1 million, he’ll become a chick magnet.)


There is Always Something New:  Appliance giant Oster is marketing a new electronic wine opener. Sleek and rechargeable, the device may well be the easiest way to remove a cork that has yet been invented. Simply place the cylinder (shape of the wine opener) over the cork (after removing the foil with the foil cutter provided), press the bottom of the only button, and the screw lowers into the cork and then brings it out with ease. Reversing the process perfectly re-corks the wine. This handy gadget sells for about $17.


If You are Visiting Napa this Summer:  In the many years we have traveled to, and spent our summers in, the Napa Valley, we have never known so many people who plan to trek West during one particular summer. In the next 5 months, various California wine areas promise to be teeming with visitors, which we interpret as further proof that wine has become the beverage of choice in this country. Wherever we go, young people and sophisticated couples alike have a great interest in discovering the differences and nuances of wine enjoyment. Like any endeavor, savoring wine is much more fun when you know what you are doing.

Our advice to those traveling: During the summer there is almost always some special event in one wine area or the other, especially on weekends. It can be as small and charming as one or two wineries celebrating a release of a wine by offering BBQ and other treats, to full blown fests, such as The Napa Valley Wine Auction, The Central Coast Classic, or the Jewish Vintners’ Weekend. Anyone traveling to any of the numerous wine areas should check out what is happening. The following site is the best we have ever seen when it comes to describing every wine event in the nation. It’s not well known, but whether you are pro, rookie, or in between, we think you will thank us for putting you onto it.



Wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser divide their time between Palm Beach County, Florida and the Napa Valley in California. They publish the world's most comprehensive guide to Napa Valley wineries and restaurants titled, appropriately, The Preiser Key to Napa Valley.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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