November 20, 2017

Hops by the Zentner

European countries, prior to the development of the metric system, used an interesting array of measures to quantify daily life. One of my favorites is the zentner. A zentner is an old unit of measurement used in Northern European countries from Germany through Scandinavia which was tied to agricultural products. A zentner is 100 units, where the base unit can vary widely, but was commonly associated with the old German pound, or pfund. The one agricultural product most often associated with the zentner was hops. Since hops really only have two commercial uses, beer and decoration, the zentner is therefore…

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Spring Pilgrimage

Life tends to get so hectic that one often does not have the chance to slow down and enjoy the simple things. Fortunately, I was able to take some time this month and go exploring with a trip to the San Francisco Bay including a few jaunts up to Napa Valley. I’ve not been to Napa wine country in some time, so it was nice to visit a few colleagues, relax with the scenic views and beautiful spring weather, and of course enjoy a few glasses of excellent wine along with a bevy of foodie’s delights. For this month’s topic,…

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Blind and in the Dark

I’ve seen a few stories recently about trendy gimmicks in the dining world. My favorites are the restaurants that serve dinner in the dark or make patrons wear blindfolds as part of the meal. While I don’t advocate eating with the lights off, as it’s a recipe for spilling and slopping all over yourself, it does emphasize a key concept in the world of sensory perception. People in general are extremely visually dominant when it comes to the five senses. After sight comes hearing. That leaves the senses of  smell, taste and touch lagging behind. The average person is quite…

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Old World Heritage – Bordeaux . . . by Joel Mann

When one talks about winemaking in locations such as the United States, Australia and New Zealand, South American, or South Africa, those locations are called the new world. They’re the regions which developed winemaking traditions as European settlers ventured around the globe with grape vine cuttings in hand to stake their own piece of land that reminded them of back home. A poor immigrant had little hope of becoming landed vineyard owners in their native France, Italy, Germany, etc. But wide open frontiers in other places didn’t come with titles, family crests, and other barriers to that dream. A common…

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Spoiled and Sullied . . . by Joel Mann

My whole family hails from Wisconsin. As such, we’re all Green Bay Packer fans. Prior to writing this, I had to watch in stunned disbelief as my team choked on a near certain trip to the Superbowl, going down in inglorious defeat after they had outplayed Seattle all afternoon. It’s quite the humbling end to potentially great year. Why do I bring this up? It reminded me of the all the ways that Mother Nature attempts to spoil and sully a perfectly good glass of wine, sending an otherwise valuable vintage year down the drain. So in honor of my…

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The Andalusian Horse . . . by Joel Mann, Staff Wine (And Beer) Tasting Guy

The image that comes to mind for many Americans when you say Madeira, Marsala, or Sherry is a bottle of cheap, sweet wine tucked away in a corner of the liquor department that you buy for occasional use when mushrooms, chicken, or some other such food needs a sauce or marinade. Each of these wines though is a distinct beverage with a traditional home. Each has a pedigree from the everyday to the elegant premium. The wine I want to examine this month is Sherry, a fortified beverage from Andalusian Spain. The word Sherry is actually the anglicized version of…

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The Puttonyo . . . by Joel Mann, Staff Wine (And Beer) Tasting Guy

Many people tend to shun dessert wines as they’re usually intensely sweet and often forbiddingly expensive. A well made dessert wine is truly an otherworldly experience though. Yes, they’re exceptionally sweet, but surprisingly never cloying. A good dessert wine has an equally concentrated acidity that offsets the sugariness, making it light and refreshing. And the strong aromas and flavors of many dessert wines are just heavenly to any hardcore foodie. Plus, the cold winter months are often the best time to splurge a little on the higher price and enjoy such a treat. This month, I wanted to delve a…

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It’s In The Glass . . . by Joel Mann, Staff Wine (And Beer) Tasting Guy

Beverage producers spend a great deal of thought and effort into making the best tasting drink possible. Brewers source just the right hops. Winemakers fuss over the proper ripeness in the vineyard. Distillers concern themselves with the proper moment to cut the heads and tails coming off the still. There’s aging, blending, packaging decisions, and even fussing about the proper temperature to store and serve everything. One of the least emphasized aspects of the final flavor, but one that has a noticeable impact, is the glass itself. The size, shape, and general condition of the glassware used to serve your…

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Butter and Cream . . . by Joel Mann, Staff Wine (And Beer) Tasting Guy

Buttery, creamy tastes in wines are quite popular, particularly when it when it comes to Chardonnay. The flavor adds a richness to wines, and generally is a pleasing and comforting taste sensation for many people. There are numerous instances where buttery flavor is highly undesired though. Brewers consider the flavor a defect in most beers. Whether sought after or cursed as a flaw, the buttery, creamy flavor of fermented beverages all come from the same source – diacetyl. This month I wanted to delve a little deeper into diacetyl and better explain what the buttery flavor is, and where it…

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The World’s Most Popular White Wine . . . by Joel Mann

Wine is often described in terms of masculinity or femininity. In that regard, Cabernet Sauvignon is considered the king as the world’s most popular red variety. The queen is undoubtedly the world’s most popular white wine, Chardonnay. The popularity of Chardonnay is a relatively recent event, dating back to the beginnings of post-World War II viticulture in new world locales such as California and Australia. Its true dominance came recently, as modern palates fell in love with the wide range of flavors the grape provides, and the malleability for winemakers to alter those tastes in the cellar. While a few…

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The Washington Wine Road – Part II. . . by Joel Mann, Staff Wine Tasting Guy

Last month, I reviewed of a handful of Woodinville wineries from a recent spring break trip to Seattle. That was just a small taste of the potential that Woodinville holds for visitors. The region has a number of respected wineries and tasting rooms from the Washington wine scene, which provides a wide range of taste options given the state’s various growing regions and the fact that Washington produces everything from cool climate Rieslings to hot and dry GSM blends. This month, I present additional highlights from the trip, and share a bit more of what Washington wine has to offer….

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Let The Fests Begin. . . by Joel Mann, Staff Wine Tasting Guy

Springtime kicks off the beer festival season in Arizona. It almost marches in lockstep with the words “pitchers and catchers” to open spring training. While some fests may change, there are several throughout the year one can count on. It begins with the Strong Beer Festival which occurred just last weekend as I write this. The Great Arizona Beer Festival is of course the big event during the season, usually in March. When the weather is blazing hot, action shifts to the cool climes of Flagstaff and the summertime Made in the Shade Festival. The year wraps-up come fall down…

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Let The Fests Begin. . . by Joel Mann, Staff Wine Tasting Guy

Springtime kicks off the beer festival season in Arizona. It almost marches in lockstep with the words “pitchers and catchers” to open spring training. While some fests may change, there are several throughout the year one can count on. It begins with the Strong Beer Festival which occurred just last weekend as I write this. The Great Arizona Beer Festival is of course the big event during the season, usually in March. When the weather is blazing hot, action shifts to the cool climes of Flagstaff and the summertime Made in the Shade Festival. The year wraps-up come fall down…

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The Color Of Red (Or Purple) . . . by Joel Mann

One of the least understood aspects of wine, even by industry professionals, is the science of wine color. Whether it’s the crystal clear of a light white wine, the pale garnet of Burgundy, or the inky dark of Petite Sirah, the physics behind wine color are not straightforward, and often confusing without an understanding of biochemistry. I want to give a few ABC’s on wine color. I’ll try to keep the advanced chemistry to a minimum. One aspect of wine color that novices don’t understand is that for the most part wine color comes from the grape’s skin. It’s the…

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Italian Bubbles . . . by Joel Mann, Staff Wine Tasting Guy

The holiday months from Halloween through Valentine’s Day and to a lesser extent Easter are prime seasons for sparkling wines. The last few years have witnessed the rise in popularity of one sparkler in particular, Italian Prosecco. The combination of improved quality, value for the price, and savvy marketing have positioned this wine style as the latest trend in many consumers drinking choices. So to toast a new year, I’ll delve a little deeper into the world of Prosecco. Prosecco hails from the Trieste region of Italy in the far northeast of the country along the Alpine borders of Austria…

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What’s On Tap . . . by Joel Mann, Staff Wine Tasting Guy

Over the years, one of the traditional benefits of beer versus wine during an evening out is the freshness of beer served from draft keg systems. Wine by the glass on the other hand was usually poured from the bottle, and chances were that bottle remained open for several days, resulting in wine of less than optimum quality. A positive trend has hit the wine industry of late though as the bar and restaurant business discovered the magic of kegged wine. Numerous bars now have a dedicated bank of taps just for wines by the glass, and many wineries are…

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“Prove” It . . . by Joel Mann, Staff Wine Tasting Guy

We presently enjoy a well regulated consumer goods market where manufacturers are required to truthfully label the contents within the package. Producers are not allowed to make a claim that something contains X, when it in fact contains Y. That hasn’t always been the case. Alcoholic spirits pose a challenge in distinguishing relative volumes of ethanol to water as both liquids are clear with a fairly neutral flavor profile that does not allow one to distinguish perceptible differences as concentrations of ethanol versus water increase or decrease. The flavor profile and physical properties of a spirit will change significantly over…

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