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Drinking wine is a social activity, so it’s no surprise that social media-focused wine tasting apps have cropped up to connect wine lovers with one another and their latest discoveries. After all, any time you open a bottle, there is probably someone out there trying the same wine and wanting to talk about it too!
Delectable has fast become my go-to wine app. Admittedly, it took a few updates for me to come around, but Delectable version 3.3 is quite a useful tool. On the surface, this is a photo sharing app specifically for wine (although the odd beer does show up). What makes this so useful is the label recognition software within the app — it recognizes everything, from an obscure Santa Barbara winery with tiny production of Syrah to a crazy Chilean wine that’s not even imported in the U.S. It recognizes all pertinent information from the label: place of origin, producer, vintage, name of wine and grape variety. So you will never forget that killer wine, wherever you are. You don’t even have to write a tasting note (although you can), as there is a little slide rule with different degrees of happy faces for grading your wine. You can follow sommeliers and winemakers from across the country, like San Francisco-based Raj Parr or the guy who made talking about wine online cool, Gary Vaynerchuk, and see what they’re drinking. Also, if you see a wine you like, you can buy it within the app! There are an impressive 300,000+ members already, so join up and start snapping those pics. Free for iPhone and soon for Android.
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Wine with Friends isn’t the most original of names, but the app itself takes an innovative approach to tasting notes. Again, this is a photo sharing app, and once you’ve taken a pic of your latest wine discovery, you’re led to a tasting note page. This is the brilliant bit: Rather than a notepad, you have a wheel on your screen with different flavors you’ll find in wine. It’s divided into general subcategories, like berry and floral. Once you’ve clicked on that you can choose more specific flavors, like raspberry and rose. The next time you find a vino you like, simply whip out your phone, snap a photo and wheel through your tasting notes. There are more than 50 Western flavors and even more Asian flavors that are referenced (a little wine insight — wine experts in Asian countries tend to refer to fruits, spices and teas found in the East, like jasmine, lemongrass and star fruit) and it’s easy enough to switch between the two. You can also forgo the whole tasting note and just rate the wine with stars. Logistically speaking, this app could be a godsend — you can swirl with one hand while spinning through the wheel with the other. The idea behind the app is that you can share these notes with friends (who also have the app, of course), and try the wines your friends suggest. However, for me it’s all about the tasting wheel. Free for iPhone and soon for Android — with in-app $3.99 purchase of 150+ flavors.
These apps are perfect to use when you’re in a restaurant trying something you like, in a shop wanting to remember a recommended wine, or even at home opening a bottle from your own rack. I find it’s good practice to always take a picture with either app and do a quick rating with the happy face or stars. That way, you’ll have some sort of record. Happy tasting and snapping!
Top picture: Screen shots from Wine with Friends. Credit: Courtesy of Wine with Friends
The clock is ticking for Christmas gift-buyers. But don’t fear, a great new book on shifting tides among California’s winemakers and updated versions of two classics are the perfect presents for the wine lover on your list.
There’s a new breed of winemakers cropping up in California, and they’re aiming to overthrow the old guard, says Jon Bonné, wine editor of the San Francisco Chronicle in his book, “The New California Wine.”
Sometime in the mid-1980s, California’s wine style shifted from mirroring the Old World to the more ripe, full bodied and extracted wines that are popular today. Some believe this shift was California defining its own style. Others, however, attribute the shift to the preferences of certain influential wine writers and magazines.
Whatever the reasoning, a new change is now taking shape. Traveling all over California and visiting niche vignerons and grape growers, Bonné describes what he calls a “revolution of taste.” By taking dead aim at the style he refers to as “big flavor,” Bonné introduces producers who are more focused on subtlety and sense of place than huge flavor and ripeness.
The artisan producers discussed are just as comfortable kicking the dirt between the vines as they are drinking some of Europe’s most sought-after wine. They are not only making exceptional wine, but doing so with a deep understanding of what their brethren create across the pond. These women and men are just as much wine geeks as they are creators of a style.
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Much like the wines he discusses, Bonné’s writing gives you a great sense of place. Through his descriptions, you can almost feel the chilly Pacific wind hurtling through the Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County, or smell the eucalyptus and bay laurel that scent the Santa Cruz Mountains in northern California.
The book is subtitled “A guide to the producers and wines behind a revolution in taste,” but that doesn’t truly define it. This is more than a guide — it’s a manifesto, drawing a line in the sand between the wines that have for a long time been the mainstay of California’s “style” and these emerging rebels.
The producers mentioned in “New California Wine” are just the avant-garde of a trend that will divide California into two camps of wine types: the big versus the refined. It can be argued that both have their place, but 10 years from now we’ll look at “New California Wine” as the first book that documented the shift.
When I moved back to a California a couple of years ago, one of the first “to do’s” on my list was to visit Kermit Lynch’s wine shop in Berkeley. Lynch is the wine merchant respected for his uncanny ability to discover some of what are now considered to be the greatest wines coming out of France and Italy. This year marks the 25th anniversary of his award-winning wine travel book, “Adventures on the Wine Route.”
This is a book for anyone who loves the French way of life — you do not have to be into wine to enjoy it. This is mostly in part to Lynch’s easygoing, yet humorous style of writing. More than any other wine book, Lynch’s “Adventures on the Wine Route” will get you going to the shop shelf to seek out the producers and regions mentioned.
It’s also a travel journal, where you’re seated in the car next to the author as he zigzags his way through the byroads of France’s countryside while explaining the nuances of its wines and the families making them.
If there only two books in your wine book collection, one should be the Oxford Companion to Wine, while the other should be the recently published 7th edition of “The World Atlas of Wine.” British wine experts Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson have again teamed up to produce what may be the most thorough collection of wine-related cartography.
Whether your exploration of wine has only just begun or you are a fully fledged oenophile, this assortment of wine maps will prove indispensable in bringing any level of knowledge to the next stage.
Wine, more than any other beverage, is all about its origin — producers from the French sub-region of Maury in the Roussillon to Walker Bay in South Africa’s Southern Coast of the Cape all love to talk about their vineyard sites. With this book, you are able to delve further into what’s in your glass, pinpointing the exact location of the source.
The new edition boasts revamped maps of Australia and South Africa as well as new American viticultural areas (AVAs) in many of the United States’ major grape-growing regions. There is also a new section highlighting Asia’s wine regions, not to mention the hundreds of winery recommendations and specific regional descriptions. Consider this tome indispensable in furthering your understanding of wine.
Top photo: Top wine books for the gift-giving season. Credit: Louis Villard
Charles de Gaulle famously asked, “How can you govern a country that has 246 varieties of fromage?” Not only that, one might add, but how on earth can you find the right wine to bring out the best in each of them?
Most people tend to play it safe and reach for the classic reds, but for some cheeses, I’m inclined to go for a white. The richness and fat content of many cheeses is perfectly suited to more acidic, less tannic whites, and my top pick would be a nice crisp Chardonnay, ideally from Burgundy.
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The Chaource made a fine match with a chilled glass of Macon-Villages, a white Burgundy, and I was reminded of my bow-tied and aproned sommelier days. I would try to coax diners who had ordered cheese away from the port, tempting them instead with a little taste of Chablis — one of my favorite combinations.
If this is whetting your appetite, just bear in mind that Chaource can be a bit tricky to track down in stores. Brillat-Savarin would be a delicious alternative, a bit more buttery in flavor; or perhaps a tasty Camembert; or even the failsafe Brie. As a rule of thumb, the softer the cheese, the crisper the wine — to cut through the creaminess.
When you are having a hard cheese, a more full-bodied white wine will be appropriate. Something like extra-sharp Cheddar is a great match for the peachy mango flavors often associated with a Californian Viognier, whereas the creaminess in the semi-hard Gouda goes brilliantly with minerally driven and peachy dry Riesling. However, considering that Gouda is traditionally eaten at breakfast in the Netherlands, it won’t go amiss with an aged vintage Champagne, something with brioche like characteristics.
As for specific wines to try, I’ve suggested a few styles, most of which are on the medium to lighter side. Just remember: Go for crisp wines with minerality but enough weight to handle cheese’s tendency (for instance Sancerre over New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc) to overwhelm the palate. Chardonnay is ideal; however, others like Viognier and even the rare Marsanne have proven worthy.
So next time you’re preparing that cheese board, pour a soupçon of white on the side. It could thoroughly change your perspective.
Top left: 2011 Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon, Macon-Villages
A classic Chardonnay from the southern Burgundian region, with a slight appley richness in the mid-palate that gives this wine weight and makes it perfect for cheese pairing.
Around $20, widely available
Top right: 2012 Two Shepherds, Marsanne, Saralee’s Vineyard
Usually Marsanne is blended with Viognier and Rousanne; by itself, there is a remarkably rich mouthfeel, like honey, and elegant marzipan flavor.
$30, contact winery for availability: twoshepherdsvineyards.com
Center, top and bottom: Chaource cheese
Bottom left: 2012 Baker Lane, Viognier, Sonoma Coast, Estate Vineyard
Viognier in California tends to be overwhelming and flabby, but this one is as clean as they come, and quite floral as well. The vineyard is perfectly placed in a tiny cool-climate valley deep in Sonoma.
Contact winery for availability: www.bakerlanevineyards.com
Bottom right: 2011 Lioco, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma
A crisp and direct Chardonnay with brilliant stone fruit flavors.
$20, contact winery for availability: www.liocowine.com
Top photo: Cheese trolley. Credit: Louis Villard
The Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, California, is turning 30 this year, and there’s going to be a big party to celebrate. Although that seems like a major milestone, its grape-growing tradition is older than it seems.
Russian River gets its name from the colony of Russians who built Fort Ross. The river’s mouth is about 12 miles south of that, in the tiny beach town of Jenner. Although the valley was named an American Viticulture Area, or AVA, in 1983 (a designation first given to Augusta, Mo., in 1980), grapes for wine have been cultivated there since the 1840s, making it closer to 170 years old. It was in the early ’70s, though, that winemakers took note of the cool climate, plus the daily flooding of fog, and started planting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
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Nowadays, the Russian River region is synonymous with Burgundian varietals. Trailblazers such as Joseph Swan, Dutton Goldfield and a handful of others are now sharing their region with some 120 other wineries.
It’s not only the wines that make the region so famous: The sheer beauty of the rugged, almost wild land is a draw as well. There’s even a redwood forest in the middle (redwoods love damp weather).
Grape to Glass is the annual celebration of this region and its wines, timed before the harvest of the year’s grape bounty. This year’s event is dubbed Back to Our Roots and will celebrate the founding members, many of whom will be in attendance.
It all starts at 4 p.m. Aug. 17 when 50 wineries will be pouring some of the region’s most sought-after wines. These will be paired with treats and amuse-bouches made by local eateries. Soon thereafter, you might want to stuff a napkin in the top of your shirt and prepare for a full-on barbecue. There’s going to be live music as well.
If you plan to attend, here are five wineries to checkout:
Joseph Swan is now run by Rod Berglund, Swan’s son-in-law (Swan passed away in 1989). Well known for its excellent Pinot Noir, the winery also makes a pretty impressive Zinfandel. Their vines are some of the oldest in the region.
Two Sheperds‘ owner-winemaker and ex-blogger, William Allen, is the black-sheep Rhône grape producer amongst the Burgundians. He makes some excellent red Grenache blends and a rightfully popular Grenache Blanc.
I haven’t yet tried Thomas George Estates, but the winery is receiving some very impressive accolades from loads of wine folk. It’s a relatively new winery that is making a lot of different Pinots, as well Viognier.
I’ve always been a fan of DeLoach Vineyards; they use a lot of biodynamic procedures in the vineyard and winery. In fact, I am quite sure they have chickens running around among the vines, eating bugs. They make a few different styles of wine, but it’s really all about the Pinot.
Williams Selyem is so famous now; it’s quite a treat to see their wines being poured at an event. Started in the late ’70s by Ed Selyem and Burt Williams, they sold it in the late ’90s after winning just about every wine award known to humanity. Although now made in a different style, by Bob Cabral, the wines are still as popular.
Tickets for Grape to Glass start at $85. For more information, go to the Grape to Glass website.
Top photo: Wine table at Grape to Glass festival. Credit: Derrick Story
It’s summertime and in the wine world that means one thing: Rosé!
With so many Rosé choices out there, picking one can be as daunting as choosing a white or red. So, for the sake of the Zester Daily faithful, I took it upon myself to go through a plethora of pink, to present to you some of the best out there now.
For those starting out on the pink path, here are some tips:
- Don’t judge a rosé by its color — dark or pale says nothing about the quality or how fresh or dry the wine tastes. Most important, dark color doesn’t mean sweet.
- Speaking of sweet, the days of cotton-candy cloyingness are almost over (though there are still some around). Dry is definitely the way to go, especially with food.
- Rosé is great by itself … but don’t forget it to have it with meals. Not just salad and salmon, either, but charcuterie, BBQ and a huge variety of seafood. Some even say it’s the best wine for Thanksgiving.
There’s no real order to the following list as all are good for a certain occasion, some are easy to find and others are in short supply — but all are worth a tipple.
2012 Broc Cellars, Santa Ynez Valley: $20, available online, also at the Village Market in Oakland and many restaurants throughout the Bay Area.
Broc Cellars is making some very interesting wines out of Berkeley. This rosé uses Counoise and Cinsault grapes and is one of the lighter styles. It would go great with a BLT!
2012 Brooks, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley: $20, widely available
Brooks is the only Oregonian in this motley crew of rosés. Made from Pinot Noir grapes, it is a very gentle and soft-style rosé, yet has some zip; it would go perfectly with a salade niçoise or even a lazy Sunday afternoon tuna sandwich.
2012 Campovida – Rosé di Grenache Riserva, Russian River Valley: $34, available at Campovida Tasting Room in Hopland (707) 744-8797, or at the Campovida Tasting Room in Oakland, 510-550-7273. Campovida is such an interesting project. There are 13 acres of gardens with fruits and vegetables and even beehives. This Grenache rosé is very crisp, so if you like that acidic bite, go for it. It would be sublime with a goat’s cheese or feta salad.
2012 Vallin, Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley: $30, available at The Winehound and K&L Wines. Vallin is the collaboration of three sommeliers and a winemaker. A blend of Rhône grapes, it has an amazingly fresh palate backed with lovely berry fruit and a perfect amount of acidity to cut through most dishes. This is a very food-friendly wine that will stretch the definition of a “Rosé dish.” Have it with a creamy seafood pasta dish, roast quail or even pork belly.
2012 Lieu Dit, Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley: $28, available at The Winehound and K&L Wines. A delicate Rosé, some flavors of pink grapefruit, wild strawberries and watermelon with a lovely kick of acidity keeping it fresh. It’s an homage to the Sancerre Rosé in the Loire Valley of France from winemaker Justin Willet of Tyler and sommelier Eric Railsback, formerly of RN74 in SF.
2012 Clendenen Family Vineyards, Mondeuse Rosé, Bien Nacido Estate Plantings, Santa Maria Valley: $15, available online and at the Au Bon Climat tasting room in Santa Barbara, 805-963-7999. Jim Clendenen has been making wines under his Au Bon Climat label, seemingly since the dawn of time. Here, he’s using the not so common variety of Mondeuse. This wine was probably the most delicate of all the wines tasted, so elegant and soft yet with some bite of acidity, a very approachable wine, perfect with the classic prosciutto and melon pairing.
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NV Blason de Bourgogne, Crémant de Bourgogne, Burgundy: about $8.99. If you don’t want to splurge on sparkling wine from France, find this guy at Trader Joe’s. It’s an easygoing bubbly that’s refreshing and a great bargain.
2012 Curtis Heritage Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley: $22, available at the winery’s site. Fresh and aromatic Rhône variety rosé, fresh berries, cotton candy (but it’s a dry wine!) and zippy acidity. Have it at your next BBQ with some grilled chicken, or give a tip of the hat to South African winemaker Ernst Storm and try it with some South African sausage, boerewors.
2012 Gioia, Castello di Amorosa, Napa Valley: $24, available at the winery’s site
If you like the heavier style rosé, go for this one made by Castello di Amorosa, a quite jolly mid-summer tipple, that would be perfect with an insalata tricolore, with extra creamy buffalo mozzarella and an extra lashing of olive oil.
2012 Idlewild, Grenache Gris, Gibson Ranch: $28, available at the winery, also at Little Vine in San Francisco. Strong flavors of orange peel backed by Fernet Branca-like bitterness, made from over 100-year-old vines in Mendocino County, a rare wine. Medium bodied but very concentrated flavors could put this wine with heavier dishes like rigatoni and sausage — or if you’re up for it, some boudin noir.
2012 Miraval, Côtes de Provence: around $23, widely available.
If you have not yet heard of Château Miraval, you soon will: This is the Brangelina wine, made at their winery in Provence with help from the family of famous Rhône winemakers, Perrin. The presentation here is exquisite, the bottle itself is almost as memorable as that now-famous Jolie Oscar leg shot. The wine too is very nice indeed, soft fruit flavors and despite the initial hype is now widely available. Have it with a showing of Mr. & Mrs. Smith — without that movie, this wine would not exist.
2012 Mounts Family Winery, Grenache Rosé, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County: $16, available at the winery. Such a light color but with such a fragrant nose, it’s like smelling a bowl of freshly washed red berries. Very well balanced and delicate at the same time, a perfect wine to have with a watermelon salad.
2012 Cameron Hughes Lot 349, Napa Valley: $9.99 available in most Southern California Costco stores. Cameron Hughes‘ Rosé is sourced from Napa and uses mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape not always used for pink. This is quite a juicy little number and has enough backbone to have it with your next barbecue. It would go perfectly with grilled shrimp and, if you’re up for it, lobster!
2012 Piedrassi, PS Rosé, Santa Barbara County: $18, available at the winery. Made from the Chianti grape, Sangiovese, but in the fresh Beaujolais style, this wine is walking the line of light red, color-wise, but don’t let that fool you. It is full of crunchy cherry flavors and very vibrant on the palate – it’s also made with no sulfur additions. Have it with Margherita pizza, but it could handle a spicy salsiccia as well.
2012 Bonny Doon, Vin Gris de Cigare, Santa Cruz: $16, widely available. Randall Grahm, owner and winemaker at Bonny Doon, has been making this Rosé for a while now, using a mix of Southern Rhône varieties. Made in Santa Cruz, this wine should be popped into your bag (dutifully chilled) for your next beach trip. It’ll go great with the lovely sea air and the picnic goodies you bring.
NV Croft Pink, Porto, Douro Valley: about $19, widely available in the U.S. Here’s something completely different, a Rosé Port. The wine has quite a bit of body, with caramel and raisin flavors. Don’t let the high alcohol fool you, this wine is quite refreshing. Perfect by itself, it’s just as good on ice with sparkling water as a spritzer!
Top photo: Rosé wine picnic. iStockphoto / MarkSwallow
These app reviews will teach you to become a vegan in 21 days or to mix perfect cocktails from sight alone. There’s also a complete guide to garden herbs (perfect for a farmers market) and finally, a tool to identify the hottest peppers. Enjoy!
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Eyeball those cocktails
Clinq takes a strikingly different approach to the cocktail recipe. Instead of listing shot measures, Clinq shows you the ratio of ingredients, each represented by a different color. The idea being, whether you’re making one drink or 20, you’ll get the measures right without counting shots. The stunning yet simple visuals add to the app’s appeal. The home page gives you a choice of five different spirits (gin, vodka, whiskey, bourbon and rum) spelled out in stylish black typeface on a white background. Once you touch the screen to make your choice the screen slides to the left, revealing the outlines of four different glass shapes (highball, martini, hurricane and lowball). Choose your glass and you are given a choice of cocktails — there are over 140 listed. Once the color-coded ratio is shown, you can press the screen for a few seconds and the ingredient names are revealed, then hold it again for a few more and the cocktail making procedure is shown. It may take a few times to get used to the controls, but this has to be one the more creative apps around. Happy mixing!
99 cents on iTunes
Help for the Virgin Vegan
Just how does one become a vegan? The first step is probably the most difficult, but if you want to take it, 21-Day Vegan Kickstart might just be the app you need. Designed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the app provides you with daily food lists and recipes to help you along your vegan route. You are able to see what ingredients you’ll need a week in advance, then each day you are given a plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a snack (one I imagine you will look forward to each day). Click on the meal and the page flips, providing you with the recipe and nutritional information. All in all, a very resourceful app that is simple to use and follow. It might just change the way you eat, forever …
Free on on iTunes
How hot is that pepper?
Say you’re cooking up a vindaloo curry or making a salsa, and you want to calibrate the heat that you’ll be bringing. When you’re talking peppers, you need to know one word: Scoville. That’s the name of the scale that measures a pepper’s spiciness. Every pepper has a Scoville rating, from the slightly sweet bell (0 units) to the burn-your-head-off habanero (100,000 to 350,000 units). The scale was invented by Wilbur Scoville a century ago — and no, he didn’t assign the heat levels by chomping his way through the world’s chilis. He got other people to do it for him. Scoville the app lists pretty much every pepper in existence, its Scoville rating, and tasting notes or other background information. The “Jamaican hot,” for example, has flavors of apples, apricots and citrus (under a furnace-like heat on your palate, one presumes) and is mainly used for hot sauces in the Caribbean. In fact, after a quick browse, it seems that everything higher on the scale than the habanero has some sort of health warning and can only be eaten in the tiniest of quantities, with a pint of milk at the ready. One of the hottest peppers, the terrifyingly named Naga Viper, has a Scoville rating of up to 1,382,118 units. It is usually dabbed on food with a toothpick, so as to only use a tiny drop – that is hot to the point of pain!
$1.99 on iTunes
Apps field guide to kitchen herbs
Most of us can tell the difference between rosemary and basil … but to the untrained eye (especially my own), telling lavender from sage can sometimes prove difficult. That’s where Herbs+ fragrantly wafts in. This app would be particularly good for finding fresh herbs in the wild. The entry for each herb offers gardening tips, culinary ideas, medicinal uses and an image to help you identify the herb.
There’s also a handy link to Wikipedia, which you can access without leaving the app. In the “Herb Garden,” you’ll find basic guidelines for how to launch your garden successfully as well as sections on harvesting, preserving, propagating and winterizing your herbs. There are also useful tips — did you know dill doesn’t grow well if planted near fennel? No, neither did I. All in all, a very good app to spice up your phone and quite possibly your next dinner too!
$2.99 on iTunes
Top image, clockwise from top left: logos for Clinq, Scoville, Herbs+ and 21-Day Vegan Kickstart.