Tuesday, July 26, 2011
FRIENDS OF GALLERY-319 AND KATHLEEN KEIFER MAY PURCHASE VERMILLION SOCIETY TICKETS BY CLICKING THE FOLLOWING LINK:
Saturday, July 9, 2011
We're having our next great event "The Color of Wine" on Friday, August 26, 2011 at the spectacular Ocean Club on the roof of 1221 Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. To learn more and register, click here: http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Discounted-Pre-Sale-Tickets-Available-Now.html?soid=1102828641174&aid=r0FGgGckw5s
Friday, March 18, 2011
The motto of Private Wine Counsel is "Wine is a journey, not a destination". The journey can take you anywhere, and most likely, to surprising, unusual places. The campy TV show made the zip code famous, but few would expect quality wine in the 90210.
However, as we all know, the scoring system has created great controversy. Many complain that too many wineries have "Parkerized" their wines, meaning that they create wines in the heavily extracted, fruit laden style that Parker seems to score most highly. Others complain that only a small fraction of the world's wines are reviewed by the most prominent critics which affects the demand and pricing of wines reviewed and not.
And now we find ourselves in the era of the internet where anyone can become a wine critic (This author included). Scores of new and experienced wine drinkers are now paying attention to certain bloggers and wine reviewers on Cellartracker.com
For me, I try to read all that I can. I'm interested in the opinions of the amateurs and the professionals alike. But, most of all, I am interested in the opinions of my clients and friends. After all, they are the ones that matter to me most. I don't care what score a wine received if it bombs at one of my tastings.
Unfortunately, I can never quite be sure that my clients and friends are giving me a 100% complete and honest opinion of a given wine. Some people don't feel comfortable criticizing a wine or don't want to be perceived as ungrateful of my efforts. Despite my pleas to not spare me on the truth, I just can never be sure I know exactly someone's opinion. Throw in other factors like what food is being consumed with the wine, the time of day or a person's mood and who knows what score a regular consumer would offer on any particular wine.
So, I have a secret method of scoring wine. It's a crude device, very unsophisticated. But, it tells the truth. Like a blinding light on a torture subject this method gets people to tell the truth and nothing but. What is this unfailing, unflappable wine reviewer? It's the bottle of wine. Simply put, when I open a bottle, the good stuff goes quickly, the mediocre stuff slower, the lousy stuff hardly at all. Rather than score wine on a 100 point scale, I'd like to put a timer on how long it takes to get from the top of the bottle to the bottom and rate wine accordingly.
I know, I know, I can hear you from here, this method doesn't account for the the number of people drinking, their drinking habits, how festive the evening is, etc. However, I think I can control for all of those factors in my head. I know how my friends and clients drink. I can tell by the amount they drink, not only from the bottle but from the glass as to how they are enjoying the wine. I look for other non-verbal clues as well. Like bad poker players, most wine drinkers have "tells". When someone closes their eyes while sipping or smiles or nods their head after swallowing, something good is happening. Frowns, squints and quizzical looks mean the wine is in trouble.
What does this mean to you? If your the type to open wine with a loud pronouncement of a score or the price, stop! Sit back and watch your guests and how they react to the wines you serve. Watch how quickly the wine disappears and look for the non-verbal tells as they consume. Rather than trying to convert your guests to thinking your wine is great, see what is disappearing the most quickly and serve that wine repeatedly.
I'm involved in several wine groups. In one of them, most of the attendees bring very expensive French wines to each meeting. Sometimes, I make it a point to bring something which costs considerably less than the average bottle not to be cheap but to see if the wine's greatness will be appreciated despite the lower cost. I'm happy to report that when the wine has been excellent my group has said so. More importantly, my trusty barometer never fails. Despite there being much more expensive wines in the mix, my bottle is usually amongst the first to be drained.
In the end, wine is to be consumed and enjoyed. If your guests are inhaling the stuff, you've done them a bigger favor than any wine critic could ever do.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Here are a couple of clips from the show:
Roy tastes Erik, Mike and Paul on some white wines:
Roy tastes Erik, Mike and Paul on some red wines:
Thursday, July 22, 2010
A Big, Bold and Japanese take on Napa Valley
California Wine Country is loaded with wineries founded by people who have made money, and usually lots of it, in other industries and have sought to pursue their passion in wine with their particular take and vision.
One of the newest such wineries is Kenzo Estate. Owned by billionaire, Kenzo Tsujimoto, Kenzo Estate seeks to set the already very high bar of elite wineries in the Napa Valley a few rungs higher. Kenzo made his fortune in the video game industry as owner of Capcom, Inc. You may know some of his games: Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Monster Hunter and Lost Planet. During my tour, a few wide-eyed moms claimed to have contributed to a wing or two of the winery.
Kenzo purchased a jaw-dropping 4000 acres in Napa in 1990. Let me repeat, he purchased 4000 acres in Napa Valley. For reference sake, that’s the equivalent land size of FIVE New York’s Central Parks in one of the most expensive farming areas in the World.
From the minute you arrive at the front gate, the concept is made plain to the visitor, no expense was spared in creating this winery. By the time you make the shockingly long drive from the front gate to the winery, you begin to understand how he could have spent 100 million dollars on the property. Let me repeat, $100 million. You also begin to realize that you’ve arrived at a special place.
To quote Fitzgerald, "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me."
As we arrived at the beautiful winery, we were greeted by our very gracious hostess and immediately introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Kenzo and their helicopter pilot who politely excused himself after dropping the couple at the Estate. The very rich are different.
I was immediately drawn to Kenzo’s national origin. After all, haven’t we been lead to believe that most Asian countries believe that the wines of importance are made in France? Why would a Japanese billionaire make such a huge investment in Napa? Perhaps, it is because he believes that this region is on par with any other wine making region in the World. Or perhaps it was because Capcom’s US headquarters are in San Francisco, so near to Napa Valley. In any event, this type of high profile winery can only help elevate the status of California wine in Japan.
Like a player of one of Kenzo’s video games, at this Estate we must graduate through various levels of intrigue and difficulty to achieve success.
Kenzo's Japanese heritage is woven into the various elements of the winery. Although the architecture is modern there are elements of California, Japan, and Napa present in all that the winery does. The structure incorporates beautiful stones, woods, and glass elements. The 20,000 square foot barrel room alone is worth the visit. Although the property makes a statement that would make an American proud, it also bows in humility, grace and taste.
The line up of wines is formidable and likely destined for greatness. All of the wines have been given Japanese names which reflect the wines colors and characteristics. Asatsuyu, meaning “Morning Dew” (2008) is the Estate’s only white wine (and the only white made anywhere by Heidi Barrett). It’s a lovely Sauvignon Blanc. Only 800 cases are bottled. The wine is made in the French style and presents a full mouth feel with rounded and rich fruit. The wine avoids the predominately grassy feature found in many California Sauvignon Blancs and instead opts for lushness and subtle flavors. (91 points).
The flagship wine is called Rindo, meaning "Bell Flower". This (2006 ) is an immediately accessible Bordeaux style blend of equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Many of my visiting group of 8 picked it as their favorite. (91 points).
The preferred blend of Mr. Kenzo is the Murasaki (2006), which means “purple” in Japanese. Evidently the Japanese have several words to describe the color purple. It must be an important color in Japan. (I wondered whether many Japanese are Lakers fans? I mean the Lakers’ colors are purple and gold and their best player is named Kobe!) This wine is a nod to the right bank of Bordeaux with 52% Cabernet Sauvignon and significant amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot. This wine displays an intense and significant red fruit palate. However, the young tannins are blocking the long term potential of this wine at the moment. (92 points).
My favorite was “Ai” which means “Indigo” in Japanese. This powerhouse wine (2006) is 92% Cabernet and a cinch to improve dramatically with 5 to 7 years in the cellar. The fruit here is intense and nuanced. It sings from the glass through to a long, satisfying finish. Unfortunately, at $150 a bottle, this wine is very expensive (92 points).
No detail here is overlooked or under appreciated. The wine labels are attractive and elegant and, interestingly enough, were designed by the Benetton Family, the more traditional one by the elder generation and the more modern by the next generation.
The roll out of the wines has been methodical. The inaugural vintage, 2005, was shipped in its entirety to Japan. In fact, Kenzo maintains a tasting room in Tokyo that sounds like it would be worth a visit should you find yourself in the capitol of Japan. The 2006 in red and 2008 in white is the first vintage available in the U.S.
Only 70 acres of this massive Estate are planted to vineyards but there will be expansion. 30 more acres of vineyards are immediately planned for vineyards and a 15-bedroom guest house is scheduled to be built.
As they toast in Japan, Kampai!