SWE’s Bourbon Mini-Conference Re-cap: Day Two!

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Day 2 of the Society of Wine Educators’ Bourbon Mini-Conference in Louisville, Kentucky was filled with another group of inspiring speakers, tours, and delicious food and cocktail pairings.  The seminars kicked off with Albert Schmid, CSS, CSW. Albert is Director of the Hotel Management and Hospitality departments at Sullivan University in Louisville.  Additionally, he’s written several books on the history of cocktails and other beverages as well as the much acclaimed “The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook,” a copy of which all attendees were able to take home compliments of SWE.

Albert woke us all up by explaining that we were being historically accurate by drinking cocktails in the morning—a line some of us might want to use in the future—as cocktails were originally enjoyed for their ability to “stimulate” the mind and body.  He then went on to focus on teaching classic cocktails by returning to one of the oldest definitions: a base, a modifying agent, a flavoring agent, and water (historically, ice was “too valuable” to be used in drinks).  We learned to analyze the “build” of a cocktail and how to judge the balance of the various components of a drink.

Eric Gregory of the KDA

Eric Gregory of the KDA

We topped off the seminars with an essential topic—the business of Bourbon.  Eric Gregory, President of the Kentucky Distillery Association (KDA), and Adam Johnson, Director of the Bourbon Trail, put the scope of the industry in perspective for us.  Eric laid out the complex layers of the taxing scheme, how the KDA has been fighting to keep the industry sustainable, and how they strive to attract and include small distillers in Kentucky.  Adam described the development of the tourism industry, which is of increasing importance in many segments of the adult beverage industry.

After a wonderful Southwestern lunch, we took off for two more distillery tours—Wild Turkey and Four Roses.  At Wild Turkey, Bubba guided us through all the facilities, entertained us with stories of the 101 White Label, and lead us to the tasting room where Jimmy Russell himself was signing bottles!  Jimmy, who as been making Bourbon for over 60 years, is the most tenured distiller in the world!  At Four Roses, we saw an operation on a smaller scale and how a distillery can make a wide variety of products using different mash bills.  Four Roses is also utilizing unique wooden fermentation tanks and some one-story rickhouses (while 7-9 stories is the norm).

Jimmy Russels signs his handiwork

Jimmy Russels signs his handiwork

The evening’s dinner was held at the Bristol Bar and Grill, where Master Sommelier and CWE Scott Harper led us through an incredibly innovative pairing dinner.  We checked off a handful of other Bourbons that we didn’t get to cover in the seminars or tours, Buffalo Trace and Willet to name a few.  Scott also talked about the terroir of the rickhouse and what it is like to maintain one of the top wine programs in Bourbon country.

Shields Hood, General Manager of SWE, delivered the thank you and farewell and alluded to next year’s Spirits Mini-Conference possibly taking place in Denver.  All attendees were eager to start planning for next year as well as the wine-focused Finger Lakes conference in Rochester, June 9th and 10th, and the SWE main conference in Washington DC, August 11th-13th.  We hope to see you at one of these upcoming events!

Click here to read the re-cap of Day 1 of SWE’s Bourbon Mini-Conference.

Bourbon Four Roses

SWE’s Bourbon Mini-Conference Recap—Day 1!

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Click here for a recap of SWE’s Bourbon Mini-Conference, Day 2

Last week, April 7th and 8th, the Society of Wine Educators hosted their first spirits-focused mini-conference in Louisville, KY with Bourbon as the centerpiece.  It was a full house at the Brown Hotel, and the Bourbon conversations started to buzz at the welcoming happy hour.  Attendees had traveled from all over the US as well as a few folks coming from Hong Kong and Shanghai to learn about America’s favorite spirit.  It might have been the location—after all, 95% of Bourbon is produced in Kentucky—and every speaker and tour guide boasted that there are more Bourbon barrels ageing in the state than residents.

We kicked off the seminars early in the morning with Chris Morris, master distiller from Woodford Reserve.  He gave us the foundation for the next couple days with an in-depth analysis of the distillation process and how Woodford Reserve does things slightly different.  Longer than usual fermentations (5 days as opposed to the normal 3 days), a developed “double barrel” program, sour and sweet mashes, and a particular attention to the “five sources of flavor” (fruit and floral, spice, grain, sweet aromatics, and wood) are some of the tools that Chris uses in crafting delicious Bourbons.

Chris Morris of Woodford Reserve

Chris Morris of Woodford Reserve

Beth Burrows, general manager at Down One Bourbon Bar, brought a different twist to the subject with her innovative variations of some classic cocktails.  The wine geek attendees were seduced by Beth’s use of Barolo Chinato and Cocchi di Torino to craft two variations on the Manhattan.  She used a jalapeño infused simple syrup and herbs to make one of the best Bombini cocktails I’ve ever had.  Then, the room was lit up (literally), when Beth demonstrated setting fire to some hay in order to smoke a glass in which to serve a cocktail. All this flare aside, the lesson was to match the base spirit to all the other flavors present in the drink.

Beth Burrows of the Down One Bourbon Bar

Beth Burrows of the Down One Bourbon Bar

After a lovely lunch at the hotel, we all boarded a pair of buses and took off for distillery tours at Jim Beam and Bulleit.  Beam makes 50% of all the Bourbon produced in KY, but the tour was incredibly personal and hands on.  The buses weaved through the myriad of rickhouses, where all the barrels are stored—four years for Beam White Label.  We were able to taste the fermenting mash, dip our fingers in the distillate right off the still, and smell the aged whiskeys are they headed to the bottling line.  Some attendees were able to take away a bottle with their fingerprint in the wax closure!

At the Jim Beam Distillery

At the Jim Beam Distillery

Next, the folks at Bulleit treated us to an entirely different experience. Bulleit is housed in the historic Stitzel-Weller Distillery. It is quite a bit different in that the base spirit is not distilled on site; however, they revealed plans to build a large new facility within a few years in order to consolidate operations.  Highlights of the tour included visiting the historic cooperage and hanging out for a short time in Tom Bulleit’s office.

At the Bulleit Campus

At the Bulleit Campus

The day was topped off with an incredible dinner with cocktail pairings at Proof Restaurant and Bar, located in Louisville’s 21C Museum Hotel.  The 21C is a modern art museum as well as a hotel, so we dined surrounded by art (and even hanging above us).  In between courses, Hoke Harden, CSE took us on a journey through the history of Bourbon, the various foundational families, and the events that led Bourbon to find a home in Kentucky.  Heading back to the Brown, everybody was in a state of bliss, with full bellies and inspired minds.

Bourbon Dinner at the 21C Museum and Hotel in Louisville

Bourbon Dinner at the 21C Museum and Hotel in Louisville

Guest Post: Wine Yields Knowledge (and Wonderful Things)

Our guest author - Darla Hoffmann, CSW

Our guest author – Darla Hoffmann, CSW

Today we have a guest post from Darla Hoffmann, CSW. Darla tells us about how wine has opened up the world to her in knowledge and experiences. I am sure we can all relate!
The only thing I don’t like about wine is the snobby stereotype that comes with it. The nose is far too significant in wine tasting to keep it in the air.   Yes, there are people who swagger around spewing out the names of obscure winemakers, but in my opinion there are very few experts.  I like to call myself a student because wine opens up a pathway to so many other exciting subjects.   When I read about wine, I find myself learning about art, history, food, geography, topography, and legends.  Wine has truly taken me on a journey of family and culture.

As one of the many culprits in the development of a wine’s style and character, let us sink into the soil.  Alluvial soils are materials that have been transported by river and deposited. Most alluvial soils contain silt, sand and gravel and are highly fertile.  Limestone chalk, a soft, cool, porous, brilliant white, sedimentary, alkaline rock encourages grapes with a relatively high acid level. It also allows the vine’s roots to penetrate and provides excellent drainage while at the same time retaining sufficient moisture for nourishment.  Volcanic soils are often very rich in nutrients and hold water well because of their volcanic ash content. These soils are called andisols, and they are often very young, and acidic depending on which type of volcano they come from.

The Laurence Dunham tasting room in Scottsdale

The Lawrence Dunham Winery tasting room in Scottsdale

I had the pleasure of doing a tasting at award winning Lawrence Dunham Winery in Arizona.  I learned that their vineyard sits upon land created via the volcanic explosion from the Turkey Creek Caldera over 16 million years ago.   One thousand times greater than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, the Turkey Caldera eruption laid down two thousand feet of highly silicious ash and pumice. I find it fascinating that this calamity made it possible to grow some of the world’s most elegant grapes.  Take another sip and let’s mosey over to the baking section.

My guess is that an expert baker living at 5,000 feet must be a person who enjoys a good challenge.  The Lawrence Dunham Vineyard lies at these high elevations which is perfect for grape growing but not so much for rising dough. Apparently Peggy Fiandaca, owner of LDV, makes a mean chocolate chip cookie yet struggles to master the right time and temperature. Air pressure is lower up in the hills which requires longer baking time.  Legend has it this is the reason mountain dwellers make flat bread.  A little factoid I might have never stumbled upon if it weren’t for my love of the grape!

This love of the grape is even helping me get through this election season.  I know—never talk politics while drinking!  However, I have to imagine one of the most prestigious honors a winemaker can receive is to have their wine served at the White House.  Another local winemaker in Arizona, Sam Pillsbury of Pillsbury Wines, previous owner of Dos Cabezas Wineworks, had his wines poured twice at State Dinners.  That subject guided me through the halls of the White House, drink in hand.  Well, via the book “Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt” by Mark Will Weber.

The gardens at Monticello

The gardens at Monticello

There is actually a long history of wine drinking amongst our nation’s presidents.  George Washington, a lover of Maderia wine, made his own liquor and by 1799 his Whiskey distillery was the single most profitable part of the plantation at Mount Vernon.  Thomas Jefferson, probably the largest lover of wine amongst our leaders, spent half of his life trying to make wine without success at Monticello, his estate in Virginia.  A wine involved scandal took place during the James Monroe administration, when 1,200 bottles of Burgundy and Champagne were charged to an account earmarked for furniture.  I would love to know who kept a bottle!  Herbert Hoover had a large elaborate wine cellar, but rumor has it his wife gave it all away before the end of Hoover’s single term.  Ouch.  You may or may not be surprised to learn that Richard Nixon was known to drink the expensive stuff while serving the mediocre wines to his guests.  And, the man that gave our Grand Canyon its national monument status, Theodore Roosevelt, was a light drinker but preferred a Mint Julep or Martini.  Obama?  He likes beer.

I think it is fair to say that art and winemaking are interchangeable— a creation ending in a masterpiece.  Sprinkle a little history into the mix and you have an educational treat. Art history, my favorite elective in college, always seems to shows its face when I am reading about wine.  While devouring an article on climate change and English sparkling wine, I learned about a joint venture between French Champagne house Taittinger, and a UK distributor.  Due to global warming and similar climate they will be planting grapes in Kent by 2017.  What does this have to do with art history?  Well, this same article taught me about Marianne.  When a French Influence is mentioned in an article they always seem to give credit to their dignitaries.  Did you know, that starting in 1969, Brigitte Bardot, actress, singer, and fashion model became the official face of Marianne (who had previously been anonymous) to represent the liberty of France?  Marianne is a national symbol of the French Republic, an allegory of liberty and reason, and a portrayal of the Goddess of Liberty. Marianne is displayed in many places in France and holds a place of honor in town halls and law courts. She symbolizes the “Triumph of the Republic”, a bronze sculpture overlooking the Place de la Nation in Paris.  Dionysus would be proud!

Mount Aconcagua, Argentina

Mount Aconcagua, Argentina

Let’s fly south for a moment and talk about a place with the driest desert in the world and the highest peak in the Americas.  Chile anyone?   Wine takes me to Chile and Argentina quite often as they are up and coming regions where the wines are becoming quite notable.  The hot dry valley of Aconcaqua, one of Chile’s northern wine regions, produces impressive Cabernet Sauvignon that won’t break the bank.  Aconcagua, often referred to as the “Stone Sentinel,” is the highest peak in South America, the highest peak in the world outside of Asia, and one of the Seven Summits.  My love of the outdoors has this destination on my bucket list.  Can’t you just feel the sunshine?  Yes, I’m gone to South America in my mind.

Well, this is just a small tasting of knowledge. Wine can take you East, West, North and South from the highest of elevations to the valley floors of the world, all in one article.   I hope you learned something you didn’t already know.  If not, uncork a bottle and see where it leads you.

Our guest author, Darla S. Hoffmann, CSW is the Sole Proprietor of About Wine in Phoenix, AZ.  The focus of her business is wine education and marketing, i.e. tastings, classes and promotions. Darla is a Certified Specialist of Wine, Hospitality Beverage Specialist, and Professional Member of the Society of Wine Educators. She is a member of The Wine Century Club where membership requires having tasted 100 grapes. She is Basic Title 4 Certified under the Liquor Law Training of ABC.

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!

The New CSS is Here! The New CSS is Here!

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The 2016 version of the CSS Study Guide has been received in the SWE home office and as of  April 11, 2016 is now being shipped! Any new purchase of the CSS Exam will be accompanied by the 2016 Study Guide, and candidates will receive an exam authorization code for the 2016 exam – which is now available at Pearson Vue testing centers.

A CSS Workbook to accompany the 2016 version of the CSS Study Guide is in the final phases of publication and should be available by June 1st.

If you have already purchased the CSS Exam and received the 2015 Study Guide, your authorization code is for the 2015 exam. In other words, when you purchase the exam, you receive an authorization code based on the version of the Study Guide you received. CSS exams based on the 2015 version of the Study Guide will be available at Pearson Vue Centers until June 1 of 2017.

Paper and Pencil (Scantron) versions of the CSS exam are offered in some cases for large groups, at the discretion of the SWE General Manager. From April 1 to August 1, 2016 paper-and-pencil CSS exams will be transitional, that is, based on material that is covered equally in both the 2015 and 2016 books – either version of the Study Guide may be used for preparation. After August 2, 2016, paper-and-pencil versions of the exam will be based on the 2016 book only.

CSS Exams: CSS Exams are available, by appointment, at Pearson Vue Testing Centers. For more information on scheduling and taking your exam at a Pearson Vue Center, please click here.

eBook:  The 2016 edition of the CSS Study Guide will be available soon – a release date is forthcoming. The 2015 version is now available as an ebook on Amazon.com, and iTunes – however, before you purchase the ebook, please make sure you intended to buy the 2015 version.

Online Prep Course: SWE now offers an online CSS Prep Course, led by our Director of Education. Our next CSS Prep Course will begin in July of 2016. This course will use the 2016 version of the CSS Study Guide as well as the 2016 CSS Workbook. This course aims to get attendees “as prepared as humanly possible” for a successful sitting of the CSS Exam. Online prep courses are available, free-of-charge, to Professional members of SWE who have a valid CSS Exam attendance credit. Click on the above link for start dates and further information.

Addendum: Click here for an Addendum for the 2016 CSS Study Guide. This document details the updates and differences between the 2015 and the 2016 CSS Study Guide.

For more information on the CSS, please contact Jane Nickles at jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org .

 

Don Pedro Verdad on Authentic Sherry

Original cover of "A Book about Sherry" via Google Books

Original cover of “A Book about Sherry” via Google Books

We hear a lot about natural wine these days—just turn to the internet and you can easily find numerous discussions both pro and con the subject, as well as long lists of disgusting-sounding “approved wine additives” meant to turn the stomach and enrage the mind.

As for the “natural wine movement” – however satisfying it might be to claim generational credit for reviving the cry for traditionalism, apologists for all things natural are nothing new. As a matter of fact, one of the loudest cries for authentic, non-spoofulated wine was first heard in 1876, as written by the pen of a London-based wine merchant.

The merchant in question was writing under the name “Don Pedro Verdad.” Translated loosely to “Sir Peter Truth,” the nom de plume belonged to a London wine merchant named Sir William McGee. Beginning in 1876, McGee published four editions of a short (115-page) book entitled “From Vineyard to Decanter: A Book about Sherry with a Map of the Jerez District.” The book is dedicated to the President of the London Co-operative Wine Association

In his book, McGee starts by attacking the “crass ignorance” of British public by declaring that “the remarks one overhears show how little is known about Sherry.” He then goes on to blame the British wine merchants, stating that all that is known about Sherry is that which can be seen in England, and the merchants (and therefore, their customers) known nothing about how Sherry is produced in Spain—they are instead content to think of the wine as a “mysterious compound.”

McGee’s book then begins a surprisingly detailed discussion of the different styles of Sherry and their production methods—from the harvest to foot trodding to aging in soleras. McGee is obviously a big fan of authentic Spanish Sherry.

Frontispiece from "A Book about Sherry" via Google Books

Frontispiece from “A Book about Sherry” via Google Books

However, the truth—as in Verdad—is not far behind, and starting on page 50 the author describes how cheap, imposter wines can show up in England labeled as “Sherry” and—much to their discredit—the wine merchants get duped. In regards to outrageously inauthentic “Hamburgh Sherry” (which would make modern wine aficionados reel at the very mention) McGee uses some very colorful and memorable language to describe how at night “boats glide over the Rhine freighted with a soapy substance manufactured from potatoes, and called by its owners sugar.” This potato-based substance, it seems, was fermented and made into something deemed “Hamburgh Sherry.”

After this stomach-turning discussion of inauthentic wine, McGee goes on to discuss—in rather technical terms—how wine can be analyzed for authenticity. At the beginning of the section he pointedly asks, “What guarantee is given to the public that the wine consequently sold is similar to the sample analyzed?”

It seems that at the time, much of what was being sold as “Sherry” was actually a (hopefully) wine-based concoction blended in the merchant’s office—in London. It could quite possibly have contained small amounts of actual wine, large amounts of sugar, large amounts of Aguardiente and, at least according to the book, a long list of other additives—some which might have been fermented or distilled from German potatoes.

Near the end of his book, after quite a bit of ranting about the shenanigans of certain British wine merchants and naming quite a few names, McGee states that wrote the book solely because, in his words, “I love truth and for her own sake I will fight for her.” If you’d like to read the book yourself—which I indeed recommend—it may be found in the public domain on Google Books.

I for one, wish that William McGee had still been alive in 1933 to witness the declaration of the official DO for Jerez-Xérès-Sherry. However, I am sure that in the hearts of many, Don Pedro Verdad lives on.

post authored by Jane A. Nickles…your blog administrator

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Guest Post: Field to Glass – The Re-emergence of the American Farm Distillery

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Field to Glass… The Re-emergence of the American Farm Distillery – by Elizabeth Miller, CSW, CSS

Estate-bottled.  Terroir.  In the wine world these have long been terms that evoke respect for certain bottles and fetch higher prices.  It’s significantly less typical to see an estate bottled spirit, where all the variables of production occur in the same location… until recently!  Thanks to the reemergence of the farm distillery, gazing out from the distillery tasting room on a field of grains is now a more common experience for the spirits lover.

The movement goes by many names: grain to bottle, farm to glass, field to bottle.  Whichever the term, distilleries are now embracing farming and producing real land-based products.

Every bottle starts at the beginning: the base ingredient.  If you are a distiller in the United States or a famous whiskey producing country like Scotland and Ireland, you likely do not grow your own base ingredients or even source it close to your distillery.  You say to your broker, “I need this grain, or that botanical.”  The farm distillery eliminates that degree of separation.

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However, at Coppersea Distillery in Ulster County, New York, fallow and weed-choked pastures have been reclaimed for grains that produce their corn, bourbon, rye and barley whiskey. We really shouldn’t be surprised!  The farm distillery is the natural outgrowth of the craft distilling renaissance.  It’s becoming difficult to choose from the explosion of spirits choices at your favorite bar or retailer.  Favorable state legislation plus a powerful locavore movement has produced a boom in distilling licenses throughout the country.  Of those new craft distilleries, the American Distilling Institute found over 10% now are farm distilleries that either grow their own base ingredients or source them from local farms.

While the farm distillery seems new, it’s really a return to the beginning.  Long before the first American commercial whiskey distillery was founded in 1783 in Louisville, Kentucky, farmers were finding extra profits in their grains.  European colonists had arrived to America with the practice of whiskey making, and distilling bumper crops was both profitable and efficient.  The spirits could be stored almost indefinitely and it was easier to store and transport compared to enormous bales of grain.

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Breadbasket regions became home to hundreds and hundreds of distilleries.  In New York, where more than 1 million bushels of barley were being harvested in the 19th century, over 1000 farm distilleries flourished. Prohibition, however, ended this era, and the breadbasket regions of American ran dry… until today.  The Staley Mill Farm & Distillery in New Carlisle, Ohio—family owned since 1818—ran their handmade copper still long before Prohibition.  In the next few years, their 160-acre farm will yield organic corn and rye to fully supply their resurrected distillery.

The farm distillery is not the easy street.  There are substantial time and financial investments in purchasing seeds, field conditioning and procuring equipment.  Carefully planned harvesting, drying practices, finely calibrated humidity control, storage and transportation are all crucial to the final product and the bottom line – but the risks are worth it!

A farmer distiller has complete creative control, and can introduce something previously attributed only to wine: terroir.  Dave Pickerell, formerly Master Distiller at Maker’s Mark and Whistle Pig, is currently with Hillrock Estate Distillery in the Hudson Valley Highlands where 100 estate-owned grain fields surround the craft distillery.  In the Whiskey Advocate in 2010, Pickerell wrote of the uniform expression of whiskey by most of the major distillers, who all buy commodity grain.  His vision of the future includes “new expressions of whiskey… representing a new sort of terroir, where true geographical differences in the U.S. can not only be expressed but also clearly differentiated.”

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Spirits lovers can expect a continued deeper connection to the land in their bottles, from one corner of the United States to another.  In Colorado’s North Fork Valley, the Jack Rabbit Hill and Peak Spirits farm and distillery is practicing biodynamic farming.  The Barber family celebrates six generations on their 158 year-old farm in Schoharie Valley, New York.  Their distillery turns out their 1857 Vodka from not only their own potatoes but also the property’s spring water.  Estate owned malt houses and the propagation of heirloom grains are just a few perks we should expect from the growing farm distillery movement.

The next time we open a bottle, we can expect so much more, thanks to the reemergence of farm distilleries.  We can expect the taste of history, the taste of America and true taste of fields of grain.

Elizabeth Miller is the General Manager of Vintology Wine & Spirits and the Associate Director the Westchester Wine School in Westchester County, NY.  She has very happily traveled extensively throughout New York State visiting farm and urban distilleries.  Her blog ‘Girl Meets Vine’ is found at http://www.elizabethmillerwine.com/girlmeetsvine.

 

The Numbers, in Perspective – All about that Yield

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While math might not have been your favorite subject in school, you most likely find the need to use math at least sometimes, even in the study of wine! 

Last week, Mark Rashap, CWE gave us some excellent explanations of some wine-related mathematical conversions as they pertain to area, volume, and weight. In this second installment of “The Numbers, in Perspective,” Mark will tell explain the mathematical calculation behind yields. Hold on, this won’t hurt a bit….

All about that yield: how much wine can that vineyard produce? Sometimes, it is all about yield. As every good wine student knows, yield is where we start getting into a factor of quality.  There is some evidence that the lower the yield, the higher the quality, within a certain range—and that’s a great debate for another time and place. As for the math, pure and simple, in the United States, we most often refer to vineyard yield in terms of tons per acre. In Europe, it is most often expressed as hectoliters per hectare.  As tons=weight and hectoliters=volume, it is not possible to come up with an exact conversion. However, we can find an equivalency to give us a way of comparing the two systems.

Consider this: Cornell teaches that 1 ton of grapes will yield 150 gallons of wine, or 5.67 hl.  If we consider that is per acre and convert to hectares, we have our factor: 1 ton/acre = 14 hl/ha

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Using this factor, we can have some fun comparing yields per region.  I always think of 4 tons/acre as entry into the quality realm of wine. According to Robert Craig, this is the approximate yield of the valley floor AVAs of Napa. Using our conversion factor, we can calculate that 4 tons/acre = 56 hl/ha. Considering that 55 hl/ha  is the maximum  yield for Bordeaux AOC, and the maximum for Bordeaux Superior AOC is 50 hl/ha, we can see that the two areas have very similar yields.

In the mountainous vineyards of Napa, yield is closer to 2.5 tons/ acre, an equivalent of 35 hl/ha.  On the extremes, I’ve seen yields as high as 10 tons/acre (140 hl/ha) in the Central Valleys of California and Chile, and yields as low as 5 hl/ha in the Priorat which equates to 1/3 of a ton per acre!

Here are a few more permitted yields, just for fun:

  • Bourgogne AOC (white): 68 hl/ha
  • Bourgogne AOC (red): 60 hl/ha
  • Corton-Charlemagne (Burgundy Grand Cru) AOC (white): 58 hl/ha
  • Montrachet (Burgundy Grand Cru) AOC (white): 48 hl/ha
  • Corton (Burgundy Grand Cru) AOC (white): 48 hl/ha
  • La Romanée (Burgundy Grand Cru) AOC (red): 38 hl/ha
  • Corton (Burgundy Grand Cru) AOC (red): 35 hl/ha
  • Alsace AOC (white): 80 hl/ha
  • Alsace AOC (red): 60 hl/ha
  • Sommerberg (Alsace Grand Cru) AOC (white): 55 hl/ha
  • Beaujolais AOC (red) 60 hl/ha
  • Morgon (Beaujolais Cru) AOC (red) 56 hl/ha

Sometimes, it truly is…all about that yield!

MarkPost authored by Mark Rashap, CWE. Mark has, over the past ten years, been in the wine world in a number of capacities including studying wine management in Buenos Aires, being an assistant winemaker at Nota Bene Cellars in Washington State, founding his own wine brokerage, and working for Texas-based retail giant Spec’s as an educator for the staff and public.

In August of 2015, Mark joined the team of the Society of Wine Educators as Marketing Coordinator to foster wine education across the country.

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!

Arizona Wines are gaining recognition—Imbibe and take notice!

Today we have a guest post from Darla Hoffmann, CSW. Darla tells us about a pointed conversation she had with two gentlemen in a wine shop. Well, a conversation she might have had…

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While browsing the aisles of a local wine shop, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between two overly confident men.  I heard one of them say “Arizona must be proud of their wines because they are awfully expensive.  Do they even think they compare to California?”

Being a lover of Arizona wine, I had to be sure they had the facts. So, I said “Excuse me gentlemen, allow me to enlighten you on the wines of this beautiful State…

First, you should understand that from Prohibition until the 1980s it was illegal to make wine in Arizona.   The young industry has sparked so much interest that supply fell somewhat below our demand.  After all, youth can be exciting and innovative, but it still has its struggles.

Second, Arizona needs more fruit!  Status-driven wine, winemakers’ experience, and newer equipment all take time to build, and the funding isn’t as prevalent as it is in many other regions.   However, the growing recognition, along with the incredible agricultural base and culture, is driving an enormous amount of support and investment in Arizona vineyards.  Maynard Keenan, vocalist for a Grammy Award-winning progressive metal band, has invested heavily in providing Arizona with the tools it needs to become a serious wine producing region. The University of Arizona and Yavapai College have teamed up and are quickly spearheading a strategic plan for our emerging wine industry. Wine is even playing an intricate role in Arizona’s tourism and economic development too!

Maynard James Keenan - Don't mess with Arizona Winemakers. photo by deep_schismic

Maynard James Keenan – Don’t mess with Arizona Winemakers. photo by deep_schismic

There are three main wine growing regions, all lying in the majestic hills of the northern and southern parts of Arizona at elevations of 3,800-6,000 feet.  Sonoita-Elgin is the oldest producing area and the only official AVA. These vineyards produce white, blush, and some of the spiciest, full-bodied robust reds in all of Arizona!  The high desert mountain plateau enjoys a climate and growing season similar to Rioja, Spain.  Furthermore, expert vintners have compared the soil to that of Burgundy, France.

The Willcox region produces reds, whites, sweet wines and dessert wines. Syrah and Sangiovese are popular varietals cultivated in the soil rich with ash from ancient volcanoes. The soils and the climate resemble the viticultural areas of both the Rhone Valley in France and Mendoza, Argentina.

Finally, the Verde Valley, north of Phoenix, is bursting with vineyard growth, fine restaurants, tasting rooms, and hotels.  The volcanic past of the Verde Valley and the drainage of the Verde River has created a mineralized, slightly alkaline soil just challenging enough to produce distinctive flavors in grapes.  Italian varietals like Malvasia, and Nebbiolo are just some of the grapes that experience excellence here.  Long warm summers, cool nights and an old world style of winemaking make some of the finest rich full bodied wines.   Similar to the South of France, Spain and Italy, the growing season temperatures can reach 100 degrees during the day but drop substantially at night.

With 942 acres under vine, growers use altitude to exploit the benefits of these sizeable diurnal temperature changes.  It’s equally interesting to know that Arizona shares a similar latitude and range of microclimate, as that of Israel and Syria, which are growing tremendously as some of the most exciting wine producing countries in the world!

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Arizona now enjoys 83 bonded wineries some of which are gaining national recognition.  Some recent accomplishments include 2 wines earning 90 points by Wine Spectator: 2010 Page Springs Cellar’s Colibri Syrah Clone 174, and 2010 “The Burning Tree” Syrah from Colibri Vineyards. Both of these wineries are located in Southern Arizona.

Arizona Stronghold was also awarded the Class Champion Double Gold at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ 2013 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition for its 2010 Mangus, a Sangiovese blend.

So yes, Arizona is quite proud of their wines!  However, like I said the industry does need more support.  My hubbie and I adopted our own little Grenache vine at the Southwest Wine Teaching School to show our support.  Go to southwestwinecenter.org to check it out.   Lastly, since Arizona wines are quite young, we are not for certain how the wines will mature.  This is a project for us all!   I recently purchased 2 bottles each of Rancho Rossa Grenache 2008, Dos Cabezas El Norte 2011, Fire Mountain Erath 2011 and Pillsbury Diva 2013. My plan is to drink one bottle of each this year, and wait 5 years to drink the second bottle.  Well, I’ll probably drink the 2008 in 2 years! Having shared that, I urge you to taste Arizona wines now, lay some down for later and explore all of the possible changes the future might bring to these wines!”

Darla Hoffman, CSW

Darla Hoffmann, CSW

Whew. Ok, so I never really said any of this to the gentlemen in the wine shop.  But thank you for letting me get it off of my chest!

Darla S. Hoffmann, CSW is the Sole Proprietor of About Wine in Phoenix, AZ.  The focus of her business is wine education and marketing, i.e. tastings, classes and promotions. Darla is a Certified Specialist of Wine, Hospitality Beverage Specialist, and Professional Member of the Society of Wine Educators. She is a member of The Wine Century Club where membership requires having tasted 100 grapes. She is Basic Title 4 Certified under the Liquor Law Training of ABC.

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Little Leaps and Tiny Bounds: Expansion of the Willamette Valley AVA

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Oregon’s Willamette Valley AVA, first established in 1983, just got a little bit bigger. Actually, it just got a teeny-tiny bit bigger, having been expanded by 29 square miles—from approximately 5,360 square miles to approximately 5,389 square miles (even the TTB calls this an approximation). This represents an increase of 0.5%. The TTB approved the rule expanding the AVA on March 3, 2016, and it will become official on April 4th.

The expansion area is located at is southern end of the established AVA. The newly designated areas fill in some of the viticultural “no-man’s-land” located between the southern end of the Willamette Valley AVA and the north/northeast boundary of the Umpqua Valley AVA.

While 29 square miles out of a total 5,389 might not sound very significant, it is highly significant to two wineries that own vineyards in newest section of the AVA. These two wineries, King Estate and Iris Vineyards, can now bottle a good deal of their wine under the Willamette Valley AVA—an obvious benefit to the reputation (and likely price point) of the wine.

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Interestingly enough, the application for the expansion of the AVA detailed the features of the expansion zone that are similar to the original AVA (whereas most AVA applications only try to differentiate themselves from the surrounding areas). Here is what the author of the petition, Steve Thomson (Executive Vice President of King Estate Winery) had to say about the area:

Topography:  The expansion area is, like the established AVA, composed of rolling hills between the Coast Range Mountains (to the west) and the Cascade Mountains (to the east) at elevations ranging from 500 feet to 1,200 feet. By contrast, the region outside the expanded AVA is much more rugged, mountainous, and at higher elevations.

Watershed: The expansion area is located within the watershed of the Willamette and Siuslaw Rivers, as is the established AVA. The region to the south of the expansion area is located in the watershed of the Umpqua River (as is the Umpqua Valley AVA).

Soils: The soils in the expansion area are mainly comprised of the same types of soils found in the established Willamette Valley AVA, including Willakenzie, Dupee, Jory, Bellpine, and Peavine. The area outside of the new boundaries of the AVA is mainly comprised of different soil types (although it does contain some Peavine soils).

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Climate: The climate of the expansion area in terms of annual mean temperature, precipitation, and degree days—while slightly cooler than the average of the established Willamette Valley AVA—is much closer to the overall climate of the Willamette Valley AVA than it is to the climate data of the Umpqua Valley AVA or its surrounding  areas.

This is a minor adjustment to the boundaries of an existing AVA—even the TTB, in its calculated legalese admits that it is “not a significant regulatory action” and “will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.” However, we are guessing that Iris Vineyards and King Estate will be doing some serious celebrating, and it is always good to have a reason for cheer.

So…we’d like to say “Welcome to the brotherhood of AVAs” to the new 29 square-mile region of the Willamette Valley AVA!

Click here to access the original documents concerning the Expansion of the Willamette Valley AVA Ruling  via the Federal Register of March 3, 2016

post authored by Jane A. Nickles…your blog administrator

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The Numbers, in Perspective

Today we have a guest post by Mark Rashap, CWE. Read on as Mark gives us some advice about the numbers…

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One of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of being a wine professional is that we must master a multitude of academic fields.  Often, in addition to “wine expert,” educator, and salesperson, we play the role of chemist, biologist, linguist, geologist, and historian. Other roles that we have to assume on a fairly regular basis include mathematician and statistician—and this does not sit well with many people!

In light of this situation, I thought it would be fun and handy to compile some of the more useful conversions that every wine professional should know and understand.  What follows includes some strict mathematical conversions, some industry averages, and some hints for their interpretation.

How big is that vineyard? One of the first steps in understanding a wine producer, estate or region is to understand just how big the vineyards are, and how they compare with others. In order to do this, it is imperative to know the following: 1 Hectare = 2.5 acre (it’s actually 2.47, but we can’t do that in our head).  To convert hectares to acres, the quick math is to double the number, then add half of the original number.  Paulliac, at an average of 1,200 Ha equates to about 3,000 acres.

  • Try it yourself: If there are 800 ha in Pomerol, and 2,000 acres in Walla Walla, which is bigger?  (The answer: they are about the same!)
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How much wine is in that container? Thankfully, most people are used to measuring wine in liters…particularly 750 ml. However, sometimes we need to deal with larger numbers, especially in terms of barrels, shipments, or tax reports! Wine professionals should keep in mind that that 1 gallon = 3.785 L, and the traditional European wine barrel (barrique) is 60 Gal or about 225 L. This equates to 300 bottles of the standard 750 ml size.

How much do those grapes weigh? In the US, we still use pounds to measure the weight of grapes coming from the vineyard.  Much of the rest of the world uses kilograms, so we should know that 1 Kilogram = 2.2 pounds (and 1 pound = 0.45 kg). If we are talking about a truckload, it will be useful to know that there are 2,000 pounds to the ton. A metric ton is 1,000 kilograms, which equals 2,200 pounds—otherwise known as a metric ton or tonne.

I am sure that is enough calculation for now. However, keep an eye on the blog – we’ll follow up with a look at calculating yield, temperature, and rainfall—in perspective.

MarkPost authored by Mark Rashap, CWE. Mark has, over the past ten years, been in the wine world in a number of capacities including studying wine management in Buenos Aires, being an assistant winemaker at Nota Bene Cellars in Washington State, founding his own wine brokerage, and working for Texas-based retail giant Spec’s as an educator for the staff and public.

In August of 2015, Mark joined the team of the Society of Wine Educators as Marketing Coordinator to foster wine education across the country.

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