2008 Kaena Hapa

2008 Kaena Hapa
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley

Wine Rating: 93

Uncorked: 2011.07.02  Shared with friends in celebration of Barry & Mary’s 50th Anniversary and Renewal of Vows

An extraordinary wine for an extraordinary occasion — celebration of friends’ 50 years of marriage and renewal of their vows.  This wine is young and verile with layer upon layer of explosive aromas and flavors.  The Syrah and Grenache lead this wine with potent fruit and solid backbone — dark red cherry, blackberry, and ripe plum with deep earthiness.  The addition of Cabernet Sauvignon to this blend adds dimension and structure — a long finish with solid tanins.  Like a long marriage, this wine will develop, soften, and become more nuanced with time.  It is certainly “rarin’ to go” right out of the bottle and was wothy of the celebration for which it was opened.

$37.00 / $29.60 (club price)   from Mikael Sigouin (winemaker) at Kaena Wine Company

Kaena Wine Company Website

Two Summer Rosés: Kaena & Tercero

While we didn’t slice any watermelon, we had the chance last evening to enjoy and compare two of my favorite Central Coast Rosés with some discerning friends. It was a warm summer evening here in NE Ohio and the wines were well-chilled. Both wines were a hit and the differences in the two wines was appreciated.  The wines were the perfect excuse to gather some friends and neighbors on our front porch, demonstrating once again the way the wine can help bring people together and generate conversations and experiences that begin with the wine itself and then propel into deeper parts of our lives.  Simple summer wine creating community!  Love it!

 Here are the wines:

Kaena Label 

2010 Kaena Grenache Rosé

USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley

Wine Rating: 92

Uncorked: 2011.07.03   Drank with friends on the front porch

Served well-chilled on a warm summer afternoon on the porch with friends. Gorgeous salmon color with ripe raspberry and watermelon fruit in the nose. Crisp, aromatic, and layers of flavors. Fruit hints in the nose carry through the palate with added complexity of dark, juicy blackberry or ripe plum. The sensation in the mouth is wonderful — fresh fruit flavors with bright, crisp acidity, followed by a surprising plunge into an almost rich flavor and texture sensation. The wine didn’t stay at the top of my palate — it went deeper than I expected with a bright, crisp rose. Everything about this wine is balanced, textured, refreshing, bright, and wonderful. It has risen quickly to be one of my favorite summer rosés!

$18.00  Kaena Wine Company

Kaena Wine Company Website

Tercero Rose 2009

2009 Tercero Grenache|Mourvèdre Rosé

USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County

Wine Rating: 90

Uncorked: 2011.07.03  Drank with friends on the front porch

This wine is consistently one of my favorite warm summer day sippers. It is bright and beautiful in color, aromas, and flavors. Strawberries and watermelon with crisp acidity and brightness. There is subtlety in the flavors of this wine that I almost hate to mute with food pairings — I enjoy drinking this one on its own, though it is a great match with cheeses, salads, and light fish. It remains a top choice for warm summer evenings on the back deck.

$15.00 Tercero Wines

Tercero Wines Website

2007 Ampelos Pinot Noir Lambda

2007 Ampelos Pinot Noir Lambda Sta Rita Hills
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills

Wine Rating: 92

Uncorked: 2011.06.24  Dinner at home – served with grilled grass-fed tri-tip, grilled artichoke
The wine is clean and vibrant, almost ascetic or austere. It’s a “pure” tasting Pinot Noir that reflects the wine making intentions of Peter and Rebecca Work. Gorgeous fruit and balanced acidity, subtle oak and hints of SRH terroir. While the wine is a medium-bodied Pinot, it went perfectly with food off the Big Green Egg, particularly the grilled artichokes. A lovely wine and a valuable study in the essence of Pinot Noir.

I visited Rebecca Work at Ampelos again a week and a half ago.  She and her husband Peter inspire a fresh look and taste of old world wines made in a sustainable, biodynamic, and organic manner.  Eschewing more popular or market-friendly (i.e. consumer- and market-oriented or “grocery store”) styles of viticulture and wine making, they have made a commitment to gentle technique that does no harm to the wine, the vine, or the world in which we live.  The respect they demonstrate to each environment — the vineyard, the winery, the bottle, as well as the earth — is captured in the wine itself.  The wine compels reflection and respect in return.  But it’s not just an expression or an experiment — this is terrific wine made by people whose mission and vision I am honored to support.

Peter and Rebecca were both very helpful in my doctoral research.  I raise my glass this evening in thanks and with great respect for the wine making passions at Ampelos!

$35.00 / $29.75 (club price)   from the Ampelos Filos Wine Club

Ampelos Cellars and Vineyard Website

2006 Tercero Cuvee Christie

2006 Tercero Cuvee Christie
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County

Wine Rating: 92

Uncorked: 2011.06.19  Dinner at home – served with grilled grass-fed steak
Loved this wine with dinner tonight — it is perfectly mature and opulent. Served with grass fed beef New York strip steaks from the farmer’s market, grilled artichokes, and farm fresh corn on the cob. The food was big flavors with tender elements in each — and the wine was a perfect match. It is big, bold, juicy, peppery, and dark while at the same time elegant, layered, and mysterious. This wine is gorgeous, silky, vibrant, and rich. So glad there are several more bottles in the cellar!

$28.00  purchased from the winery

Tercero Wines Website

2006 Tercero Grenache/Mourvedre Rose

Tercero Rose 2006

2006 Tercero Grenache/Mourvedre Rose
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County

Wine Rating: 88

Uncorked: 2009.09.11 Dinner on the Deck – served with grilled salmon & shrimp
I’ve been drinking several of the wines I discovered on my visit this summer in the Santa Ynez Valley. Some of the wines won’t find their way into these reviews for several years, but at least a case of the wine that came home with me is intended to be enjoyed in these final days of summer and early fall.

So there have been several notes about Larry Schaffer’s Tercero Wines. I have to say, this is a winemaker to watch out for. He is working magic with the fruit of the Santa Ynez Valley (with is a treasure to begin with), bringing a purity and clarity to wine that is pretty unique. His wines are an extension of the vineyard — good fruit into the process, tending it carefully, and bringing to the glass a wonderful sip of the Valley itself. Seriously — I taste the Santa Ynez Valley in every sip of these wines. But it’s not old musty “terroir” — it is the freshness and life of the vineyards and valley. Combine that purity and place with a luxurious feel in the mouth, and you’ve got Larry’s wines.

This wine is one of the first two wines that Larry Schaffer made. If he weren’t so ernest and honest, I wouldn’t believe him. This wine tastes like it was made by an experienced master. Yet it is fresh in style and exudes accessibility. It’s no surprise, then, that this is the third or fourth wine from Tercero that I have written about in the past few weeks. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I REALLY like these wines! The only reason I’d tell you to not go buy every bottle you can find (mostly from the winemaker himself — they’re small production and not yet widely available), it would be because I’m selfish and want to drink it all myself. It’s also an amazing bargain. GO BUY THIS WINE. On with the tasting notes…

Soft in color. texture, and flavors. Not wimpy, but gentle with a good backbone. Very well balanced in the nose and mouth. Citrus, honey, and strawberry on the nose. Cashmere feeling in the mouth with fresh summer fruit flavors and firm acid that make for a wonderfully balanced, easy drinking, summer wine. Wonderful to drink on the deck on a warm afternooon. Went very well with grilled salmon and shrimp.

$12.00 (special pricing right now for like $10) purchased from the winery

Tercero Wines Website


Dinner Toast Styled

Wine is a luxury of being home.

Sure, I have my cellar in my home and I am writing this sitting on the front porch of my home while sipping the remains of the 2008 Tercero Grenache Blanc Camp 4 that I opened yesterday (it has only gotten better!).  We share simple family meals with a glass of wine, or have extravagant dinner parties where wine and fellowship are shared in abundance.  But that’s not my point.

Wine is not the product of nomads.  It takes years for a newly planted grapevine to produce enough fruit to make wine.  The vines need tending, the fruit needs harvesting, and the juice needs a place to undergo its transformation into wine.  Fermentation, racking, aging, bottling, storing — these are all activities that require settlement.  One of the markers that researchers and archeologists use to determine when bands of people moved from wandering to being settled is the presence of viticulture and winemaking.

20090730-021 Vineyard

Certainly wine (of sorts) can be made by nomads who find fruit, pick it, crush it, and allow natural fermentation to happen as they continue along their journey.  But viticulture, growing grapes to produce wine, simply can’t be done on the move.

In the Biblical story of the flood (with Noah and the ark), one of the first things Noah was instructed to do when the water receded was to plant a vineyard.  Those vines were a strong symbol that Noah and his kin were no longer displaced; they were now home.

The implications of wine being a product of settlement, security, having a “place” and land, are many and rich.

While I will no doubt wax on profusely about all of this at another time, I want to end here by suggesting a connection between this concept and one of my newest favorite wineries:  Saarloos & Sons.  They are making some wonderful wines and serve them in this home built in 1886 which they call simply, “House.”

Saarloos & Sons House

Each of the wines that Keith Saarloos (son) makes is connected to stories of home — stories from the vineyards where the wines had their birth as well as stories of family and ancestors whose memories and legacies are captured and honored in the naming of their bottlings.  Their family creed says it all:  “We live to honor those that have come before us, and to prepare the way for those yet to come.”  An example of their somewhat odd wine naming is their “Purper Hart.”  Not a misspelling.  It’s the Dutch translation of “Purple Heart.”  The wine (an amazing Syrah) honors John Saarloos, a member of their family who received the Purple Heart for his service in WWII.

These wines, and all wines, are connected to the land, to the people who make them, and to those who delight in drinking them.

You see… it’s about home.

A Lesson on Bias: Fess Parker Winery

Fess Parker

I confess that I have had a bias against Fess Parker wines for many years. The winery itself is gorgeous, nestled in the midst of mature vineyards along a picturesque winding road in the Santa Ynez Valley. On one of my early visits to the winery (early 1990s) we met Fess Parker himself, and were pleased to have “Davy Crocket” (or “Daniel Boone” if you prefer) autograph one of his bottles of Pinot Noir for us. It was quaint, though the facade of a skilled Hollywood production was obvious. This guy knew how to market wine… even wine that was quite unremarkable. Over the next few years, the number of tour buses visiting the winery increased, the array of products available in the tasting room eclipsed the varieties of wines, and the wines themselves… well, they remained unremarkable. So I stopped visiting Fess Parker Winery, and probably raised my nose a bit every time I drove by on my way to one of the lesser known wineries up the road.

Fess Parker Winery sm

That was until last week. One of the area’s most interesting new wine makers, Larry Schaffer, met us for a private tasting of his Tercero Wines (see yesterday’s review of his Outlier Gewurtztraminer). I came to find out that Larry is on the wine making staff of Fess Parker Winery. That got my interest. Larry spoke very highly of Blair Fox, the head winemaker at Fess Parker, and gave me a different prespective on the resources that are available to the wine making team as part of a larger enterprise. They have the luxury of selecting only certain barrels to include in their finest wines — a reality not available to the smallest producers. They have the resources to have a wine making staff, not just one winemaker and one palate shaping the wine.

Still, what made me visit Fess Parker Winery again was its accessibility to less well-trained wine consumers… I took my mother-in-law. She likes wine out of a box. White Zinfandel is her wine of choice. She wouldn’t like Tercero’s complex flavors or the big flavors in Beckmen’s juice. Of all the wineries in the valley, the one bearing the mark of the ‘coon skin cap is the one she’ll like the best.

I had set up a private tasting at Fess Parker with Larry Schaffer, assistant winemaker, to guide our experience. The first wine was a Santa Barbara County Chardonnay. I almost skipped the pour. Larry’s expressive face told me to try it. The wine had a clean, elegant aroma that got my attention. THIS is Fess Parker’s wine? I sipped and was instantly humbled. This is a new kind of wine from Fess Parker. Thinking it might be a fluke, I was still reluctant as we continued the tasting. Boy was I wrong. This team of winemakers is doing something really interesting — they are exploiting the resources available to them to create some really fine wine.

We bought two bottles — I’d have bought more if we weren’t restricted by our need to take it home on an airplane. The chardonnay would be a gift for the couple taking care of my mother-in-law’s dog (nice gift!), and I’d keep the wine that changed my mind about this winery — the 2005 Syrah “The Big Easy.” They have captured some of Santa Ynez Valley’s finest Syrah character in that bottle. See some of my impressions in the review below.

Oh, and fortunately I’ve still got that autographed bottle on display in my wine cellar at home.

Fess Parker Winery Website

2008 Tercero Wines “The Outlier” Santa Barbara County

This is the first of many coming posts from an amazing three days in the Santa Ynez Valley.  I had the privilege to share wine and conversation with several amazing wine makers, including a few of whom I think are THE up-and-coming wine makers of the region.

It was a long drive home through LA traffic, but I’m now sitting on my Favorite Mother-in-Law’s back patio overlooking Long Beach and out over the Pacific Ocean.  It is night time, and the city lights twinkle right up to the coastline.  Next to me is my wonderful wife (who lovingly endured my endless conversations and wine passion of the last three days), and in my hand is an amazing glass of wine.  It, my friends, will be the first review from this extraordinary excursion…


Tercero 2008 The Outlier

2008 Tercero Wines “The Outlier” Santa Barbara County (Gewurztraminer)
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County

Wine Rating: 91

Uncorked: 2009.08.01
Sitting on the Davis patio after a great wine tasting adventure

Unusual dry Gewurztraminer. On the nose there is a nice balance of tart fruit, minerals, and floral aromas. It is a surprise in the mouth — very bright and clean, crisp and tart fruit flavors, hints of spice, subtle floral notes, and lots of minerals and earthiness. The flavors open up in the middle of the mouth with a wash of opulence – almost suede-like in the feel. Much more body in the mouth than expected. The finish continues through the bright finish. Excellent acid and clean tanins. Balance and elegance are the words forthis surprisingly delicious wine. I didn’t expect this from a Gewurztraminer. Will easily become a summer favorite.

$18.00 from Larry Schaffer himself

Tercero Wines Website

CTS Wine Ministry 2009 – Day 1

Wine Ministry Logo

Monday, July 6, 2009
Theme: Opening Up the Palate

Wine Ministry at CTS – a wonderful experience of community, theology, and pretty fine wine. Everyone is welcome and the circle always has room for more. As we gathered on the first evening of Wine Ministry, the selections were broad in order to open our palates for the week. But this first night also included two wines from Canada’s Niagara Peninsula in honor of Stephen, whom I knew would be attending the tastings. Here is the flight of wines for the evening:

1 – 2008 Total Depravity Riesling [Ohio/Washington] $priceless
2 – 2007 Clean Slate Riesling Shared by Stephen [Germany] $9.99
3 – 2007 Total Depravity Pinot Noir [Ohio/California] $priceless
4 – 2002 Pillitteri Estates Gamay Noir Family Reserve [Canada] $32.99
5 – 2002 Kacaba Vineyards Meritage [Canada] $36.99

For a listing of all wines from the CTS Wine Ministry 2009 tastings, click here.

CTS Wine Ministry 2009 – Overview

Wine Ministry

It was a great week at CTS with a community of friends, some good theological thoughts, and plenty of wine flowing. Thanks to all who participated in the fellowship of the overflowing chalice!

I will post a bit more information and reviews of each of the wines we tasted, but for now here is a listing of the four tastings we shared. Leave a note on this or the other postings to let me know your favorite wines as well as your memories of the week we shared. Check back soon for the wine notes…

Monday, July 6, 2009
Theme: Warming Up the Palates

1 – 2008 Total Depravity Riesling [Ohio/Washington] $priceless
2 – 2007 Clean Slate Riesling Shared by Stephen [Germany] $9.99
3 – 2007 Total Depravity Pinot Noir [Ohio/California] $priceless
4 – 2002 Pillitteri Estates Gamay Noir Family Reserve [Canada] $32.99
5 – 2002 Kacaba Vineyards Meritage [Canada] $36.99

Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Theme: Vertical Tasting of California Rhone Varietals

1 – 2005 Zaca Mesa Syrah [California] $23.00
2 – 2004 Zaca Mesa Syrah [California] $23.00
3 – 2006 Gainey Vineyard Syrah [California] $24.00
4 – 2005 Gainey Vineyard Syrah [California] $24.00
5 – 2004 Gainey Vineyard Syrah Limited Selection [California] $38.00
6 – 2002 Gainey Vineyard Syrah [California] $22.00

Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Theme: The Variety of White Wines – Find One for Your Palate

1 – 2008 Black Mountain Pinot Grigio Shared by Stephen [California] $5.99
2 – 2008 Greenhough Sauvignon Blanc [New Zealand] $15.99
3 – 2007 Shoo Fly Buzz Cut (white blend) Shared by Lisa [Australia] $10.99
4 – 2006 Sonoma Vineyards Chardonnay (unoaked) [California] $14.99
5 – 2007 Newton Chardonnay Napa/Sonoma Counties [California] $18.99
6 – 2007 Domaine Pichot Vouvray Domaine Le Peu de la Moriette [France] $14.99
7 – NV Botter Prosecco Vino Spumante [Italy] $14.99
8 – 2008 Ceretto I Vignaioli Santo Stefano Moscato d’Asti [Italy] $24.99

Bonus Wine:
9 – 2008 Project Happiness Chardonnay Shared by Bryan [California] $5.99

Preview of Thursday’s blending seminar:
10 – 2003 Clos du Bois Marlstone (Bordeaux style blend) [California] $39.99

Thursday, July 9, 2009
Theme: Bordeaux-Style Blending Seminar

1 – 2008 Total Depravity Riesling [Ohio/Washington] $priceless
2 – 2008 Muga Rioja Rose [Spain] $12.99
3 – 2005 Celler de Capçanes Montsant Mas Donis Barrica Shared by ??? [Spain] $12.99
4 – 2006 Domaine “la Garrigue” Côtes du Rhône [France] $15.99
5 – 2007 Layer Cake Primitivo Zinfandel Shared by Lisa [Italy] $13.99
6 – 2006 Santa Rita Merlot Reserva Shared by ??? [Chile] $9.99

Samples of Bordeaux-Style Blends from Around the World
7 – 2001 Rosemount Traditional [Australia] $29.99
8 – 2001 Creekside Laura’s Blend Meritage [Canada] $18.99
9 – 2002 Chateau Peyre-Lebade (Rothchild) Bordeaux Haut-Medoc [France] $24.99
10 – 2006 Steltzner Claret [California] $16.99

Blending Wines (components of Bordeaux/Meritage):
11 – 2007 Dry Creek Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (barrel sample) [California] $23.00 (prerelease)
12 – 2007 Dry Creek Vineyards Merlot (barrel sample) [California] $19.00 (prerelease)
13 – 2007 Dry Creek Vineyards Cabernet Franc (barrel sample) [California] not sold retail
14 – 2007 Dry Creek Vineyards Malbec (barrel sample) [California] not sold retail
15 – 2007 Dry Creek Vineyards Petit Verdot (barrel sample) [California] not sold retail

Prize Wine & Finale Tasting:
16 – 2001 Le Sillage de Malartic Bordeaux Pessac-Léognan [France] $29.99

Extra – Just for Fun
17 – NV Riondo Prosecco (with a sliced strawberry in the glass!) [Italy] $12.99

2008 Vintage – Let the Adventure Begin!

The cellar is alive again!  27 gallons of California juice is now starting its magical journey toward becoming the “2008 vintage.”  It joins last year’s wine that is awaiting bottling as it ages with French oak (using these really cool infusion spirals made by a wine barrel maker).

27 gallons will make about 10 cases (120 bottles) of finished wine.  Vintage 2007 started with 22 gallons and, after multiple “rackings” is down to about 19 gallons of finished wine.  I decided to increase the cellar’s output this year because, well, the 2007 tastes pretty good!  Since I learned a lot along the way, I’m hopeful that 2008 will be even better.

While I have no illusions of creating world-class wine to compete with the Pegau Chateneuf du Pape or Saxum Broken Stones and James Berry laying in the cellar racks, I expect that it will be pretty good “table wine.”  I’ll probably be able to convince friends to give it a taste, too!

Currently undergoing primary fermentation are:

  • 8 gallons Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 7 gallons Merlot
  • 6 gallons Cabernet Franc
  • 6 gallons Pinot Noir

The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc will eventually become both single varietal wines AND be blended into my own custom “Bordeaux style” wine.  That will be a fun experiment!  I’m hoping that by following the blending traditions of Old World winemakers I will create a finished wine that is better than its individual components.  An “artist’s palate” approach.

The Pinot Noir will fly solo in the end.

So here we go again!  The cellar (and whole basement) is starting to smell a bit like a winery.  I prefer “yeasty” to describe the aroma rather than “stinky.”  My spouse my disagree.  But it does take me back to the fermentation tanks and barrel rooms of Zaca Mesa and Firestone Vineyards that I first visited as a teenager.  My love of wine that started so many years ago is tied to these smells.  It’s a fun adventure to recreate some of that in my own home!

Wish me luck and make your plans now to come to the 2008 release party in about two years!

Wine Blog Paralysis & Wine as Sabbath Enactment

I love to write.  I’m in a profession that writes a lot.  I write for work, I write for leisure, I write for introspection, I write to stay connected wtih people, I write to provoke thought and conversation.  I like a good computer keyboard and excellent fountain pens — tools for this practice of writing.  So blogging is a natural thing.

But sometimes I get paralyzed by the backlog of things I need to blog about and I end up not writing at all.  I’ve got a bunch of wine reviews from my Wine Ministry tastings at CTS that still need to get posted.  It takes a while to do those — reviewing my notes, carefully writing the review, formatting the entry, finding the label or bottle image, etc.  Sometimes it just doesn’t feel right to write other things with the task list undone.

So I was thinking…  I don’t drink wine everyday, but usually at least two or three nights a week I’ll enjoy a glass — with a meal or just sipping while unwinding from the day.  The “to do list” certainly isn’t done, but the glass of wine is almost an enactment of sabbath.  There is always work to be done, but sabbath is an intentional break from work and opportunity for attentiveness to things other than work.  For some of us the enjoyment and experience of wine is both a symbol and practice of sabbath.

Blogging, wine, and sabbath.  Here’s the connection:  the “need to do” things will always be there.  For most of us, particularly if we have slightest bit of compulsivity in our personalities, those things will get done.  But allowing for the gift of sabbath, a break from the routine of work, will nurture our souls, our minds, our bodies.  So I’ll get the reviews posted, but I’ll also take time to write other ideas, reflections, and musings.  I’ll open that “special occasion” wine just because it’s sabbath.  I’ll also extend the invitation to you to consider sabbath practices in the midst of your worlds of work, tasks, and things needing to get done.  Cheers!

CTS Wine Ministry – Week 1, Day 7

Sunday at the seminary. For most of us it was a day of church, reading, and writing for our doctoral seminars. It wasn’t bad, then, to gather in the early evening for a fairly light wine tasting. A smaller group still, so we only opened four bottles. The evening was rich with both wine and conversation as our friendships deepen… Friendships with the wine and with each other!

Sunday, July 6, 2008 (week 1, day 7)

CTS Wine Ministry – Week 1, Day 6

The “faithful remnant” that remained at the seminary over the Fourth of July weekend were treated to some pretty nice wines on this Saturday evening tasting. The hospitality and generosity were overflowing as both Paul and Lisa provided extra wines for the tasting.

In addition to our colleagues from the DMin seminar, we were joined by several family members for this tasting. Our community was enriched with spouses and offspring – though the youngest members were there for the event and conversation rather than the wine! It was a true expression of the community that forms around wine, though, as it was as much about the “community” as it was about the wine on this evening. What a gift.

Having said that, the wines were really good, too! Click the links below, or simply scroll through the blog to read about the wines in this tasting.

Saturday, July 6, 2008 (week 1, day 5)

CTS Wine Ministry – Week 1, Day 5

We truly became wine snobs today. We poured what we would later give an 87 rating down the drain. We were either arrogant about the wine, or very fatigued. I’ll stick with us just being picky on this Fourth of July!

There are just a handful of us tasting these wines as most folks are away from the seminary campus for the weekend. Their loss – there were a couple of pretty fine wines poured in our glasses this evening.

To read the wine reviews, either scroll through the blog, or click on the name of one of the wines below.

Friday, July 4, 2008 (week 1, day 5)

CTS Wine Ministry: Week 1, Day 4

Day four of our Wine Ministry wine tasting events. The practice of The Joyful Feast of Wine has really caught on and the community is enjoying the Wine Ministry. This was a good evening to be at the wine tasting!

To read the wine reviews, either scroll down through the blog, or click on the name of the wine to go to that particular wine’s tasting notes.

Thursday, July 3, 2008 (week 1, day 4)

More CTS Wine Ministry Reviews

I have just posted some more reviews from the recent Wine Ministry during my doctoral seminar at CTS. The wines reviewed were from one of the better days of our tastings…

Wednesday, July 2, 2008 (week 1, day 3)

Wine Ministry – The Wines

I’m so far behind in writing the tasting notes of these wines!  There were some really wonderful wines we shared over the past couple of weeks.  In addition to the individual wine reviews, I’ll also post a listing of the wines for that particular day.  So far I have posted reviews for the following:

Monday, June 30, 2008

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

More reviews coming soon!

Sixty-Six Bottles of Wine

Need I say more?

Not right now.  Soon there will be photos (thanks, Stephen!), eventually I’ll get all of the reviews posted, and I’ll have many reflections about our shared Wine Ministry.  The memories of our community, exquisite friendships, rich conversations, and wonderful wines — those are enough for now.  Thanks for the blessings, friends…

[yellow tail] Throwdown!

[yellow tail]. It’s everywhere. It’s extraordinarily popular. In 2005 this Australian winery produced more than 11 million cases of wine (yes, that’s more than 132,000,000 bottles of wine). There is more of this wine imported into the United States than all of the wines from France combined. More than 2 million glasses of [yellow tail] are consumed in the world every day. With this much wine being sold it simply MUST be good, right?

Wine connoisseurs (aka snobs) refer to [yellow tail] with great disdain. It is the antithesis to good wine. Its chemical aromas and overly sweet, fruity flavors should never grace the inside of a Riedel stem.

But this wine sells! Do we Americans really lack that much discrimination? We don’t really fall for sophisticated marketing, product placement, label design, price point, and market saturation, DO WE??? We would not permit our wine palates to be manipulated by engineered product, WOULD WE??? It is precisely these things as well as the sweet, fruity flavors that have lured consumers that have little or no wine expertise into the uncorking (unscrewing) of countless bottles of [yellow tail]. Did I mention that the makers of this wine add sugar to the wine to make it sweeter?

Ok, so now I’m sounding like a wine snob.

The project at this evening’s wine tasting was a [yellow tail] THROWDOWN. Since it’s the most popular wine in America, let’s see if people really like it when it is compared side by side with other wines. We did a semi-blind tasting. People knew that [yellow tail] was going to be served, they just didn’t know which wine it would be. So there were four wines each served without disclosing what it was. One was [yellow tail] Cabernet Sauvignon. As a control in the experiment, we also served a decent California Cabernet Sauvignon just to show what a Cabernet “should” taste like (which, admittedly, is very subjective). The final two wines were chosen because of their price and wide availability. They are approximately the same price as [yellow tail], but the wine snobs (me) actually drink these bargains, claiming that they are actually really good wines. So here’s the lineup in the order they were actually served:

    2007 [yellow tail] Cabernet Sauvignon
    2005 Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
    2006 Perrin & Fils Cotes du Rhone Reserve
    2006 d’Arenberg The Stump Jump Grenache – Shiraz – Mourvedre

And the winner is? In this order of preference by the esteemed panel of tasters:

    #1 – Avalon Cabernet
    #2 – The Stump Jump
    #3 – Perrin Cotes du Rhone
    #4 – [yellow tail] Cabernet

It is very important to point out, however, that [yellow tail] was the number one choice of three of our tasters. I haven’t decided whether or not they are invited back tomorrow evening. Two others preferred it over the Perrin Cotes du Rhone. It was a close race to first between the Avalon and the Stump Jump. Both were well-liked.

We had four other wines after the blind tasting, also in the under-$10 category. There were some really enjoyable wines, including one in that new eco-friendly cartons with milk carton-like spout. I’ll write reviews of all of the wines from this evening, but to round out this posting the other wines were:

    2006 Bandit Cabernet Sauvignon (the one in the box – Thank you, Stephen!)
    2005 Poliziano Rosse di Montepulciano (yummy!!! Thanks, Cory!)
    2005 Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel Sonoma County (Pepper! Thanks, Barbara!)
    2006 Marquis Philips Shiraz (we liked it tonight!)

    With a great deal of thanks to our esteemed panel of judges, we must officially dethrone the [yellow tail] from its place of prominence (at least in terms of appeal as a wine). To be sure, some folks really like this wine. Drink it! I hope you’ll discover what you like and truly enjoy it. For those who didn’t care for the [yellow tail], we’ve given literally dozens of alternatives in the under $10 wines that are more than just drinkable – they are actually excellent wines.

    I’m working hard at getting all of the reviews done. There is a lot of wine to review… I promise I’ll get them all posted! I raise my glass to each of you – those who shared these wines tonight, and those who share with us vicariously through this blog…

A Note About Ratings

Rating wines is absolutely subjective. The points (and even the tasting notes) ascribed to a particular wine are the opinions of the reviewer and reflect the rater’s own tastes, biases, and preferences. I make no claim to be able to give wines an objective tasting, review, or rating. If your palate and tastes are similar to mine then you’ll probably agree with my reviews. If, however, you prefer a different style of wine, you’ll most likely wonder which planet I have visited in order to give a particular score.

I’m good with this diversity of experiences of wine. In fact, I cherish it. But that’s the subject of a different blog post. For now, I want to give a brief summary of what the numbers mean to me. Here is the scale I use when rating wines. It reflects the scale used by most wine reviewers and what you’ll see on store shelves. I think it’s really funny that the scale really begins at 50. But as one who has continued academic study for most of my life, I’m familiar with odd grading/scoring scales… Here it is:

Extraordinary (96-100 points)
Outstanding (90-95)
Very Good to Excellent (85-89)
Good (80-84)
Average (75-79)
Below average (70-74)
Avoid (50-70)


Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha-olam
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe,

borei p’ri hagafen (Amein)
Who creates the fruit of the vine.  (Amen)

It has been a quiet Saturday at the end of a full week. Some of the blessings of this day and the days of the past week…

  • Attentiveness to practices, particularly hospitality, blessing, and prayer
  • Coffee and a bagel, a sunny morning, and good conversation with Rob and Paul
  • Colleagues in ministry, time to study and learn, a community of inquiry
  • Katie’s giggles that send me, even when I can only hear them on the phone
  • Kerri whose love and support is boundless
  • Seeing friends from Pleasant Hill, and the good people of Gwinnett being good enough to celebrate the occasion with fabulous fireworks
  • Wine Ministry and communities that deepen around the fruit of the vine
  • The terroir of Bordeaux and the Rhone River Valley
  • The terroir that imparts taste and texture in the stories and people I have encountered this week
  • BBT’s laugh
  • Rob’s anticipation of parenthood
  • Prosecco with a slice of ripe strawberry
  • Belly laughing with Mark, Mary, David, Bekah, Matt, Chris, and Paul — the 2006 Waterwheel Memsie might have contributed to the spirit in the room
  • Time to write and things to write about
  • South Carolina peaches
  • The Dekalb Farmers Market and Sherlock’s Wine Merchant
  • Raindrops on my window that now look like shimmering diamonds with the sun shining through them
  • Paul’s Red Wine and Blues song — in process
  • Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner
  • Domaine de Perilliere Cotes du Rhone

For these and all thy gifts I give thee thanks O Lord.

Wine Ministry at Columbia Seminary – Summer 2008


It’s officially a tradition now.  I prefer to call it a practice.  But whatever we call it, this is now the third incarnation of “Wine Ministry” as part of the Doctor of Ministry program at Columbia Theological Seminary.  Last summer we inaugurated the practice, carried it on in New York City in January of this year, and now we meet again — this time in the upstairs lounge of the Harrington Center each afternoon around 5:00.  It’s not a bad way to transition from a day of study and learning into whatever the evening holds (usually more reading and/or writing).

To be sure it’s a time of drinking wine.  We put together interesting tastings — so far we’ve had big chewy reds, Spanish delights, and the terroir of the Cabernet grape.  Tonight we’ll be sauntering through the Rhone River Valley (and a few other places the lovely Syrah grape has been transplanted).  Tasting notes of each of these wines will come soon.

But this is more than wine.  Wine is simply the practice that facilitates what is really happening.  The community being formed among doctoral students from around the country is what it’s really about.  We laugh heartily, tell stories, and connect with each others’ lives in ways that will be indelible (much like the stains of red wine in the shorts I was wearing last night).  Others bring a bottle of wine or food to share, the circle gets wider, and the feast just happens.  It’s a feast of wonderful tastes and new experiences of wine, it’s a feast of friendship, it’s a feast of lives connecting with one another.  We’re all theologians and pastors, so we talk theology and ministry.  But all that talk is more sublime and insightful when the words are blended with the flavors of Bordeaux and Malbec.

I raise my glass to this gift of time and friendship.  I toast the lives of those with whom I have shared the sacred juice of the vine.  And I even toast the Spirit of God whose presence is as flavorful, complex, and delightful as the wines we have shared.

Wine Ministry NYC

Wine Ministry Logo

Good friends, good fellowship, and plenty of good wine!  Two weeks in New York City for a doctoral seminar afforded plenty of opportunities to experience Wine Ministry and expand our palates.  We had some great ones and a couple of lousy ones, and even found a couple that Nancy liked!  Plenty of “big reds” to satisfy the stronger mouths, and several more accessible reds for everyone to enjoy.  And a couple of “party for your mouth” wines just to make us smile.

There are lots of wines to review, so I’ll start with the wines that garnered the most enthusiastic reactions from the group that gathered in 17-G…

Vintage 2007… I Hope!

Pictured below is what might become the 2007 vintage from the WineMinisty Cellar.  No kidding.  While I have done my fair share of CONSUMING wine over the years, I have never actually MADE any wine.  I’ve left the winemaking to the winemakers.  And even now I am under no illusion that I am a “wine maker.”  But I am a sucker.  Let me explain…

My friend Charley has been making wine for many years.  He buys the fresh juice from a local source (it’s actually juice from California), does some kind of voodoo chemistry in his basement, and several months later ends up with wine.  Lots of it.  And it’s actually drinkable.  That was a surprise to me.  And this part is all well and good.  I even told Charley that I’d love to join him sometime in his winemaking adventures.  Here is where the “sucker” part is about to come in…

It’s harvest time for the grapes, and the juice arrived this past week.  And it has to be purchased and fermented right away, otherwise… well, vinegar comes to mind.  Charley presented me with a printout from the webpage of the juice supplier showing me all of the available varietals.  “What do you want to get?”  I thought for a moment, and thinking the process is innocent enough, particularly since it will all happen in Charley’s basement, I gave it a thumbs-up and looked down the list.  Cabernet Saugivnon.  Pinot Noir.  Syrah.  Merlot.  Zinfandel.  On and on the list went.  I’m hooked now.  “I’m interested in the Cab and the Syrah.  What do you think, Charley?”  Here it comes…

Charley said, “I like the reds, but it doesn’t matter much to me.  Whatever they have in stock when you get there will be fine.”

You know those screeching brake sounds you hear in the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons?  That sound went through my brain.  Turns out Charley is going to be out of town for two weeks.  Right when the grape juice is here.  But if I want to get the juice, he’s got the bottles.  Oh, and here are the directions…  No, I can’t just purchase the juice and wait for Master Winemaker Charley to return.  The fermentation must begin.  The stinky, yeasty, musty, messy (and did I mention stinky?) fermentation.  He’ll be back by the time we have to get to the next step.

So here it is…  The 2007 wines from the WineMinistry Cellar:

 Pinot & Chianti  

This is the 2007 Pinot Noir (left) and the 2007 Barbera-Alicante Blend.  About 7 gallons of each.  GALLONS.



This is the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s in a bigger bottle.  There are 8 gallons of this bad boy.  GALLONS.

They are bubbling away doing their primary fermentation.  Yeast is aiding the process.  And making things smell really, well… stinky.

Did I mention that Charley is out of town?

In total we’ve got about 22 GALLONS of grape juice that is now turning into wine.  We’ll lose some as we go through the whole process, draining the clear wine off the must and sediment (that’s why there are extra jugs fermenting along side the big bottles — to be able to make full bottles after we remove the sediment).  If things go as planned, we’ll end up with more than 100 bottles of wine!  Or 100 bottles of vinegar.  We’ll see!

I’ve never done this before, but it is a total kick in the pants.  And watch out — if this stuff is even remotely drinkable, I am certain I will be hooked on this gig.  I won’t even begin to reflect on the metaphors and theological overtones in winemaking — it’s fertile territory!  Especially “fertile” right now… it stinks!  But it’s actually that pleasant “stink” of the cellar room at Zaca Mesa during their winemaking process.  But they’ve got a cool winery.  All I have is a bathroom next to the wine cellar in my basement.  And until I taste this stuff, I’ll not kid myself about being a “winemaker.”  For now I’ll stick with “sucker.”