Accessories: Coravin, wine preservation system.

The wine world has no shortage of gimmicks and poorly executed half-baked ideas based on pseudo-science. As such, I always approach any wine accessories with a healthy dose of skepticism. Those that truly prove to be effective and demonstrate their value over and over ultimately make it on here.

The Coravin wine preservation system is the most recent of these. This is an essential tool for any wine enthusiast. Before I had a Coravin I would take a chance on some of my most prized bottles of wine – half the time only to realize that I should have let the wine age longer. This is especially frustrating because a lot of my reserve wines are no longer in production as they were very small production batch wines, made by artisan wine makers who have since retired or left the wine making business all together. Some of them I bought when they were young, a bargain and if they are still available they have likely multiplied in price.

The Coravin system in fairly self explanatory. It has an Argon gas injection needle attached to a plunger. The needle effortlessly pierces the cork and allows you to extract a little wine while replacing it with inert gas, all the while without disturbing the cork. If you have a collection anything like mine, a Coravin would pay for itself in 2-3 uses easily and this is not an exaggeration by any stretch.

I have been evaluating a Coravin from one of my fellow winesnobs for over a year and finally decided to add one to my cellar. Here are some of my thoughts for your consideration:

  • You must always keep the needle clean and sanitized. I rinsed/flushed the Coravin after every use. Before use, I took the needle off and dipped it in alcohol or SO2 solution (yes I used to make wine). If you keep using it without properly cleaning the needle, your wine will end up spoiling (turning to vinegar) as you introduce external contaminants and bacterial cultures.
  • The gas cans do last a while. I used maybe two over a the course of a year. However it’s a good idea to keep extra handy.
  • Don’t waste your Coravin serving out wine. Use it for checking up on a bottle. If you are going to be pouring multiple glasses of wine, you should consider opening and drinking the whole bottle or use a Vacuvin stopper to preserve it for a few more days or week.
  • It is a well engineered, high quality product that should last a very long time. The one seen here is the Limited Edition II purchased off Amazon. There is a slightly lower priced model, however they all perform the same. No mater the model, I feel they are all worth having in your wine tool set. I have provided a link for you below if you are interested. If you use my links, I may get a small commission.

CORAVIN (via Amazon.com)
Coravin Limited Edition II Advanced Wine Preservation System and Bottle Opener, Includes 4 Argon Capsules and Display Base, Starry Night

Reserve: 2011 L’Autre by Terre Rouge.

Tonight’s occasion: 2011 L’Autre by Terre Rouge. This is a GSM – Grenache, Syrah, Mauvedre. A red blend from one of our favorite winemakers. Warm rich nose, with lots of cherry and plum wrapped in just the right amount of oak. Earthy mineral terroir is nicely expressed. Body is all business. Very structured, complex and balanced. Just the right amount of acid, tannin, fruit, oak, and terroir. A vibrant finish plays back and forth with tannin and spice, finally relenting to long lasting tannic grip. Once opened up, the tannins begin to spread from the finish to the back of the body, slowly dominating the entire experience reminding you that even though this is the 2011 vintage, it is still young and nowhere near it’s fullest expression.

We opened a 1992 GSM by this winemaker earlier this year. It was a true honor to partake in such a well built well preserved wine. So tonight we continue to explore this winemaker’s craft and how it evolves. There are moments where we feel fortunate to indulge in such art in a bottle. This would be one of them.

Reserve: 2008 Red Label Pinot Noir by Roessler

Tonight’s occasion: 2008 Red Label Pinot Noir, Sonoma County by Roger Roessler of Roger Roessler Wines. After opening up for at least 15 minutes it reveals a well balanced nose with that signature Sonoma earth, a little oak and berry. The body remains vibrant with a hint of fruit, good acidity and ever so faint spice heading into the finish which fades away into the sunset from there on.

I am down to just one of these Red Labels. It amazes me every time how his Pinot ages oh so gracefully all the while remaining so approachable over such an unusually long life span. This vintner’s wines may be drinkable now, but the real reward is years or even a decade later. This is a bittersweet occasion but one I’m so grateful for.

Wine Review: 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon by Altue, Chile

Tonight’s occasion: 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon by Altue, Chile.

We are truly living in a golden age for wines in general. I am sitting here contemplating the finer points of a great little wine from lesser known corner of the world in Chile and thinking to myself, not only is the wine well made, it is one hell of a steal. Mere decades ago, such a moment would have been highly unlikely.

Pleasant nose with plum, cherry, oak, earth, and at least one other floral note that combines to create a subtle butterscotch twist (for lack of a better descriptor). Once opened I detect a hint of minerality. This all carries forward into a mild mannered body with oak and vanilla more pronounced and fruit diminished. Minerality carries forward to the body as well. The body is light and understated for a Cabernet Sauvignon. None too acidic. It reads like a big California Pinot Noir. After about an hour the body develops a noticeable buttery caramel character. The finish is graceful and quickly fades away with a suggestion of tannin. Once opened, the cherry is more pronounced in the finish.

Overall this is a smooth wine. I love noticing the terroir in a wine. This tells me that little has been done to the wine in the way of altering its expression. It is an honest wine. Approachable. It is not overly complex. At 13% ABV it is also not a laborious, exhausting affair either. You can open a bottle and slowly follow it through your evening without suffering from palate fatigue. This is a fantastic EDC wine (EDC = Every Day Consumption). For the price Casemates Wine is offering it presents great value for the price. This is a great way to stock up your cellar.

Gary Farrell, Russian River Valley

Gary Farrell was my first stop as I wandered through Russian River Valley in search for Pinot Noir that I felt was representative of the region.  Before I continue, I feel I must inform you that their tasting is by appointment only. This creates an atmosphere of calm and serenity devoid of any noisy crowds and distractions. Combined with the hilltop view of the valley below it creates an environment ideal for focus and reflection on what you are tasting. I think for the discerning palate this presents good value as you explore this region and what it has to offer. I will surely make an appointment on my next visit to this region.

The grounds were impeccably maintained, minimalist architecture and clean balanced interior decor really complemented the overall energy and experience. The staff were very warm and courteous and although I did not have an appointment they did go out of their way to at least get me a sampling of two of their Pinot Noirs from the region. They also offered to add me to their up-coming wine tour/tasting session however I was pressed for time. Very gracious indeed.

That being said, I was perfectly content sampling two of their Pinot Noirs as this would give me and quick idea of the caliber of the wines on offer. I must say, I was not disappointed. I instantly thought to myself, “this is what I came here for”. Rich, layered, complex, structured Pinot Noir. Further review of their menu revealed more Pinot Noirs from some of the most coveted vineyards all up and down the West Coast. I selected one of their Pinot Noirs from the Russian River Valley which I will be reviewing tonight and will post my thoughts.

Have you visited this winery? What did you think?

Gracianna Winery, Russian River Valley

This weekend I finally got around to exploring the Russian River region. After a weekend of camping in Bodega Bay with friends it seemed only fitting that we make a slight detour through Russian River on our way back to Sacramento.

I have had some amazing Pinot Noir from this region and I was eager get out there and get a sense of what it is about. I wanted to personally see what it is about this region that produces such great Pinot Noir.

As I meandered through the winding back roads sometimes almost getting lost, I wished for something off the beaten path. Small, family owned and operated wineries. No sooner than the thought crossed my mind, I noticed the sign to Gracianna Winery. I did not recognize the name. It did not show up on my google map search. I thought to myself, this could be precisely what I was looking for.

The grounds were neat, uncluttered, minimalist and generally understated. The Winery sits lower in the valley and is very easy to completely overlook. As I pulled up I had no expectations whatsoever. I merely wanted to taste some Russian River Pinot. The tasting room is one of the more interesting ones (read cool) I’ve seen in a while. It is and indoor/outdoor setup, welcoming you in one side and leading you to a terrace/patio and into the vineyards where your detailed tasting happens among the vineyards.

On the tasting menu were the following wines with some of my initial notes.

  • 2018 Arozza Rosé – Rose was delicate, smooth and buttery.
  • 2018 Sauvignon Blanc – Oakey, smooth, mild acid, hint of citrus, gentle overall.
  • 2015 Chardonnay – Beautiful, delicate, buttery great floral notes, complex.
  • 2016 Pinot Noir – More Burgundian style, crisp clean nose, subtle oak, subtle acid, hint of spice, delicate balance. What I was looking for.
  • 2014 Pinot Noir – More of a big California style Pinot albeit restrained. Once opened huge earth/terrior dominates the nose, beautiful, perfect balance of jammy fruit, berry, bold tannin for a Pinot especially from this region. Rich. Should lay down a little more to fully develop. I will have to revisit this.

It is difficult to do an in-depth tasting on site while tasting other wines. So I picked up a bottle each of the Pinot Noir, one of which will be tonight’s occation and will post my thoughts shortly.

The Tasting was conducted by staff with extensive knowledge on the wines and the region at large. This really helped guide the tasting and added great perspective. The tasting was occasionally punctuated by the owner Trini who’s warm lively energy I found very reassuring as he shared the history of the winery going back generations. Equally impressive was his son’s ventures into viticulture and enology. This family is truly all about the love and passion for making great wines. It was a truly special and personal experience.

Thank you Trini, Fernando and the entire Gracianna Family. I look forward to seeing you all gain.

Accessories: Stemless Aerating Wine Glasses

Hi Folks! I’d like to say a little about this not so little accessory I have been using for a while now (at least 6 months). I want to talk about the Stemless Aerating Wine Glass by Chevalier. I’m extremely skeptical when it comes to wine accessories as I generally find them wholly ineffective and unnecessary. They very often come across to me as expensive gimmicks designed to fool your better judgement and generally take advantage of inexperienced wine enthusiasts.

Well that was the perspective I took when I first spotted this particular accessory over a year go. I held off for at least 6 months before ordering one myself. The short version of this story is: it is way more more effective than it looks. For once I found a wine accessory that actually lives up to and exceeds it’s promise.

Over the last 6 months I have done side-by-side tests with all manner of wine aerators and decanters. The best case scenario has been, this glass gets you an hour head start out of the bottle. The worst case scenario is still a 15 minute head start compared to decanting. I am not exaggerating my estimates. At first blush it looks ridiculous, over-the-top and unbelievable. Then you pour your first glass an it hits you.

This has become an indispensable tool in my wine evaluations and reviews, instantly unlocking all the flavors and layers hidden within each vintage on demand. I highly recommend this wine glass for anyone who has any appreciation for wine no matter how sophisticated or unsophisticated.

You can find this accessory on Amazon.com. Just follow the links below: