Tim's Wine

Tim’s Adventure Boxes

by Timothy Varan on Friday, March 27, 2020

Tim’s Boxes of Adventure

Curated Six Packs Tim’s Faves, and a big discount

    At the beginning of the year we started working on an idea to offer larger offerings of my favorite wines in a less formal way than weekly features or club selections.  We planned to launch them in April or May, but think now may be a better time to streamline ordering.  

   Each box is a collection of wines I have selected because I think they are amazing, and hopefully challenge you to try some new things as well.  Due to the nature of how we ring them up, and discount them, there is no ability to change anything out.  You have to buy all six as is.  Of course you can buy any of the wines ala carte as well for the regular price.  All discounts apply, so club members will receive an additional 10% discount if they buy 6 other bottles to make full case of 12.  

    For the first offering we have two boxes whose names are taken from deep space explorer missions, Voyager and Viking.  The Voyager box is a mix of white, rosé and red wines.  Viking is red only.  (No pun intended.)

Voyager

  • 2018 Chateau Roquefort Bordeaux Blanc ($18)
  • 2017 Boomtown Pinot Gris ($20)
  • 2017 Anheuser Scheurebe 2017 ($15)
  • 2018 Fontsainte Gris de Gris Rosé ($20)
  • 2018 Franco Serra Pinot Noir ($15)
  • 2016 Chateau Vieux Montpezat Castillon ($17)

Box value – $105

Your Cost $95 (plus tax)

Viking

  • 2017 Chateau du Campuget Costieres de Nimes ($15)
  • 2018 Dupeuble Beaujolais ($18)
  • 2014 Vallado Douro ($25)
  • 2018 Gaia Agiorgitiko Monograph ($15)
  • 2018 Mastroberardino Aglianico ($15)
  • 2018 Stephen Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa ($20)

Box value – $108

Your Cost – $95 (plus tax)

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UC Davis Releases 5 New Wine Grape Varieties

by Timothy Varan on Thursday, December 26, 2019

Source: https://www.ucdavis.edu/

December 22, 2019

For the first time since the 1980s, University of California, Davis, researchers have released new varieties of wine grapes. The five new varieties, three red and two white, are highly resistant to Pierce’s disease, which costs California grape growers more than $100 million a year. The new, traditionally bred varieties also produce high-quality fruit and wine.

“People that have tasted the wine made from these varieties are extremely excited,” said Andrew Walker, geneticist and professor of viticulture and enology at UC Davis, who developed the new Pierce’s disease resistant varieties. “They are impressed that they’re resistant but also that they make good wine.”

Pierce’s disease a growing threat

Pierce’s disease is caused by a bacterium spread by a group of insects called sharpshooters. It causes grapevine leaves to yellow or “scorch” and drop from the vine. The grape clusters also dehydrate, and infected vines soon die. While the disease has been around since the beginning of wine grape production in California, concerns have escalated with the arrival of the nonnative glassy-winged sharpshooter, which has the potential to spread the disease more rapidly. Pierce’s disease occurs most often near rivers and creeks, and around urban and rural landscaping where sharpshooter populations reside.

Pierce’s disease also threatens wine grapes in the southeastern U.S. Rising temperatures from climate change could increase the spread of the disease, which is thought to be limited by cold winters. Growers in the Southeast can usually only grow Pierce’s disease resistant varieties that don’t have the same wine quality as the European wine grape species, Vitis vinifera, which is typically grown in California.

New varieties more sustainable

To create the new varieties, Walker crossed a grapevine species from the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, Vitis arizonica, which carries a single dominant gene for resistance to Pierce’s disease and was used to cross back to Vitis vinifera over four to five generations. It’s taken about 20 years to develop the five patent-pending selections that are now being released.

“These varieties will hopefully make viticulture much more sustainable and provide a high-quality wine that the industry will welcome,” said Walker. “So far there has not been tremendous interest in new wine grape varieties, but climate change may encourage growers to reconsider wine grape breeding as we work to address future climates and diseases.”

Winemaker Adam Tolmach, owner of The Ojai Vineyard in Ojai, planted four of the new varieties as part of a 1.2-acre experimental field trial. The trial was on the same plot of land where Pierce’s disease wiped out his grapes in 1995. The vineyard then and now is organic, so spraying insecticides to fight the disease spread wasn’t an option.

“I wasn’t interested in planting in that plot again until I heard about these new Pierce’s disease resistant grape varietals,” said Tolmach. “This year was the first harvest. We’ve just begun to evaluate the wine but I’m very encouraged.”

Five varieties to suit every taste

The five new varieties of wines were evaluated by sensory tasting panels. Tasters included leading industry winemakers and enologists in prominent wine-growing regions of California and Texas as well as regions in the southeastern U.S.

“What I think is exciting is that they’re stand-alone varieties independent of whether they have Pierce’s disease resistance,” said Doug Fletcher, former vice president of winemaking for Terlato Family Wine Group.

The three new red varieties are camminare noir, paseante noir and errante noir.

Camminare noir has characteristics of both cabernet sauvignon and petite sirah. The selection has ranked highly at numerous tastings of fruit grown in both Napa and Davis. Tasting comments: dark-red purple color, bright red fruit, raspberry, cherry, ripe, tannic, elegant rather than dense. The variety is 50 percent petite sirah and 25 percent cabernet sauvignon.

Paseante noir is similar to zinfandel. It has also been ranked highly at tastings. Tasting comments: medium dark red with purple; berry pie, cassis, black olive, herbal, dried hay, coffee, vegetal like cabernet sauvignon, licorice, round, moderate tannins, soft finish. The variety is 50 percent zinfandel, 25 percent petite sirah and 12.5 percent cabernet sauvignon.

Errante noir is a red wine grape most similar to a cabernet sauvignon and has great blending potential. Tasting comments: dark-red purple color; complex fruit with herbs and earth, plum, big wine, dense, rich middle, tannic yet balanced. The variety is 50 percent sylvaner and 12.5 percent each of cabernet sauvignon, carignane and chardonnay.

The two new white grape varieties are ambulo blanc and caminante blanc.

Ambulo blanc is similar to sauvignon blanc and has been tested in Temecula, Sonoma and along the Napa River. Tasting comments: light straw to clear color, citrus, lime, tropical, gooseberry, golden delicious apple flavors; bright fruit, slightly bitter, textured. The variety is 62.5 percent cabernet sauvignon, 12.5 percent carignane and 12.5 percent chardonnay.

Caminante blanc has characteristics of sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. Wines have been made from Davis fruit and ranked well. Field trials are underway at Pierce’s disease hot spots in Ojai and Napa. Tasting comments: light straw-gold color, apple-melon, lychee, floral aromas, pineapple, green apple, juicy, harmonious, well-balanced. The variety is 62.5 percent cabernet sauvignon, 12.5 percent chardonnay and 12.5 percent carignane.

These five varieties are ready for patenting and release. There will be limited amounts of plant material available for propagation in 2020 as only a few of the grape nurseries participated in a pre-release multiplication program. Much more will be available in 2021. The Pierce’s disease resistance breeding program continues, and more selections are approaching release.

‘In the name of science’: Twelve bottles of wine are sent to the International Space Station so effects of microgravity on the aging process can be studied

by Timothy Varan on Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Reposted from the www.dailymail.co.uk/ Written by: By STACY LIBERATORE

Astronauts aboard the International Space just received a case of wine that is out of this world. A Luxembourg-based wine company launched 12 bottles of red wine to the craft that will be aged for an entire year ‘in the name of science’. Researchers are set to study how weightlessness and space radiation affect the aging process, with the hopes of developing new flavors and properties for the food industry.  The wine will not be consumed by the crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS), but will be used in an experiment into how microgravity affects wine’s aging process, Techcrunch reported.

While there are 12 bottles in space, the wine company has donated another 12 bottles for researchers to study on Earth – allowing them to compare the batches after the year. Both the samples on the ISS and on Earth will remain sealed and kept at 64 degrees Fahrenheit. And the researchers have predicted that the two batches will taste different at the end of the experiment.

The red wine was just one of a few odd items launched to the space station on Saturday from Allops Island, Virginia, U.S., by aerospace company Northrop Grumman by the European startup Space Cargo Unlimited. The care package, weighing about four tons, also includes sports car parts and a baking oven and cookie dough to make chocolate chip cookies. Astronauts aboard the ISS will test the ‘Zero-G’ oven by baking chocolate chip cookies from dough that was sent into space by Hilton Double Tree earlier this year.  Astronauts have never baked before aboard the ISS, only warming food with an existing ‘oven’ – they usually avoid food that produces crumbs that may float around the cabin and cause problems. Typical ovens rely on the convection of hot air to evenly warm the food, meaning adaptations must be made for the ISS’s microgravity kitchen.

Hilton, which created the oven in partnership with New York company Zero G Kitchen, said: ‘In a typical convection oven on Earth, there is a continuous cycle of hot air rising and cool air moving in to replace it, setting up a constant flow of air in the oven called a convection current that allows for even cooking. However, the International Space Station (and space in general) is a microgravity environment, so there is no “up” direction for the hot air to float towards – meaning, we can only depend on heat being conducted through the air.’

A NASA ground controller called it a ‘good launch all the way around’ on Saturday. Other newly arriving equipment will be used in a series of NASA spacewalks later this month to fix a key particle physics detector.

Vineyards Can Help Stop Fires

by Timothy Varan on Sunday, November 3, 2019

Many customers have asked about the effect of fires on the wineries in Sonoma County this past month. This is a repost from an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 29th, showing that the vineyards do not generally burn and actually help the fire fighting effort.

While the Kincade Fire raged through the Alexander Valley on Thursday, Ken Wilson waited anxiously to learn the fate of two wineries and a ranch he owns in the famed wine growing region.

Early Sunday morning, Wilson received devastating news: Soda Rock Winery, which he and his wife Diane have owned for 19 years, had been reduced to ash. But at Wilson’s other Alexander Valley winery, deLorimier, something amazing had happened. “The fire burned right to the edge of the winery,” said Wilson, who had gone to deLorimier on Friday to assess Kincade’s initial damage. “Just all the way to the front driveway.” Wilson knew the reason it did not spread further – his grapevines.

“Basically, it burned to the vineyards and then stopped,” he said. “The vineyards did a good job of stopping the advance of the fire.” He was observing a phenomenon that other vintners throughout California have been witnessing repeatedly over the past few years: Grapevines are natural fire breaks. And though they are not capable of stopping a fire like Kincade in its tracks, they may be saving structures and even lives. “The vineyards – if the vines are well kept and if they’re not letting grass grow underneath the vines – have been helping us as fire breaks,” said Cal Fire deputy chief Scott McLean. “It’s not night and day. Keep in mind these fires have seen dramatically strong winds. But we can definitely fight fire off of these vineyards, using them as anchor points.”

What is it about vines that helps combat fire?

“Vines are green and full of water,” said S. Kaan Kurtural, UC Davis professor of viticulture and oenology. “With the amount of water they can hold in their tissue, they become an oasis in a hot environment.” Sounds simple enough. But if all it takes to stop a fire is a living plant, then why don’t trees do the trick? “Forests have a lot of underbrush, so there’s a lot of fuel for a fire underneath the canopies,” Kurtural said.

Vineyards, by contrast, are well manicured. Aggressive pruning and leaf trimming regimens remove extraneous vegetation. By the time wildfire season hits, most grape growers have tilled their cover crop – the beneficial plants, such as rye and barley, that grow between rows of grapevines – which removes yet another burn risk. Unlike forests, most vineyards are irrigated regularly, keeping that inner tissue moist. By the time the Kincade Fire hit Alexander Valley, most of the region’s grapes had recently been picked. Farmers usually give their vines a big irrigation drip after harvest, so the valley was likely full of well-sated vines.

The layout of vineyards also helps. The typical California vineyard is densely planted and relatively uniform, acting like an infantry in tight, close formation. It’s hard for a fire to break through that army of standing water.” In this case, the monoculture is what makes them special,” Kurtural said.

So far, vineyards have seemed to be micro-breaks, not macro-breaks. They may save individual structures, but they seem unlikely to change the overall course of a large wildfire. And they’re helpless to defend when fires jump – which happens when wind carries burning material beyond the main fire, igniting a spot fire. That was the case with the Kincade Fire, which jumped early Sunday morning to the west side of Highway 128, where it met Soda Rock.” We take everything into account when we’re fighting these wildfires,” said McLean. “Natural boundaries, natural borders, natural defenses. A vineyard is one less thing that burns.”

Can vines ever burn?

It’s possible but, according to Kurtural, unlikely. What does burn are the plastic irrigation lines, which hang near the base of vines. A vine would have to be exposed to heat for a very long period of time in order to desiccate and burn, and fires often move too fast for that to happen. Kurtural suspects that vines’ firefighting capacity may be enhanced as these natural disasters occur. “We’ve taken a lot of measurements of vines during these wildfires,” finding that the plants sometimes cease to perform photosynthesis due to the excess carbon in the air and the lack of sunlight from prolonged smoke, he said. “They certainly are confused, and they can’t photosynthesize. So all the water stays in the tissue,” Kurtural said. “That might be one of the reasons they’re so good at stopping the fires.”

The Brave New World of Tariffs

by Timothy Varan on Friday, November 1, 2019

In September the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced that the US was justified in imposing $7.5 billion dollars in tariffs against some European Union countries.  This is in response to what the US argues are unjustified subsidies that the same EU countries gave to Airbus, fifteen years ago, giving them an unfair advantage against American producer Boeing.  The result is that the US government has identified a list of products, of which many are categories of wine we sell, that will be subject to new tariffs beginning on October 18th.       At the moment I believe that the effect for us will be minimal with regard to the wines we sell in 2019. Inventory at distributors and in stock are not subject retroactively, so it will only apply to wines landing in bonded warehouses after October 18th. 

It’s not all bad news

Luckily all Italian, Greek, Portuguese and Austrian wines are excluded as well as any over 14% alcohol, regardless of country of origin.      Twenty years ago this would have been a bigger issue, but thanks to climate change, today most of the European reds we buy are at or near this threshold.  As wines under 15% alcohol are allowed to state their content with a variance of 1.5%, importers I have spoken with will simply relabel them above the minimum to avoid the tariffs.  However, many white wines from Europe fall well below this level and so they will likely be subject to tariffs.  This includes most Loire white wines, including Sancerre, many Rosé from France, Albarino and most Spanish white wines, and virtually all German white wines.  If you love those wines, you may want to consider stocking up.     

We have been here before, sort of…

For those of us who love European wines, there is a precedence for rapid price increases, and we managed to get through.  In 2008 the Euro spiked to 1.59 against a very weak American dollar, and stayed above 1.3 for several years.  Currently the dollar is very strong, trading at 1.09 against the Euro.  Even with a 25% tariff the real value of the wines is below the ten year historic high.  During that period many producers were forced to lower prices, and many importers also cut their margins, to offset the increases.  There are also many great wines from Italy and Portugal, to say nothing of the ever increasing quality of South America, that are also available to fill the void as they are not subject to the tariffs.  Never fear, we will get through this, it may just mean discovering many great new wines to fill the voids!

Seven new grapes approved in historic Bordeaux AOC vote

by timswine on Tuesday, July 2, 2019

As a national heatwave loosened its grip for a few hours Friday morning, the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur wine producers’ syndicate unanimously approved the use of seven new grape varieties.

The move can be seen as an historic climate change adaptation step for the Bordeaux wine industry, although there is agreement that greater measures are still needed.

The new varieties approved at the syndicate’s annual general meeting were four reds, Arinarnoa, Touriga Nacional, Marselan and Castets, and three whites, Alvarinho, Petit Manseng and Liliorila.

The vines were chosen primarily for their reduced susceptibility (but not resistance) to disease, later harvesting potential and ability to maintain acidity and volume in the face of climate change’s warmer weather and unseasonal frosts. All while maintaining existing flavour, aroma, production and quality levels.

Growers will be allowed to plant the new vine types on up to 5% of their vineyard area, and to add up to 10% of their production to final blends, all within existing controlled origin (AOC) rules.

Planting rights for the new grape types – still subject to a final approval by INAO, the French wines of origin quality oversight body – will last 10 years, with an option for one renewal. The first new vines should be planted during the 2020/2021 season.

Bordeaux et Bordeaux Supérieur grower, Christophe Piat of Château Couronneau, said the vote for the new grape types was an excellent first step but more was needed. ‘‘We are still a long way from planting the polygenetic, disease-resistant, hybrid varieties we need,’’ he said.

He added that Bordeaux was reaching the limits of what it could do within existing rules. ‘‘We can’t keep making Merlot at 16 degrees. Anyone who works in international markets will say that,’’ Piat said.

The Bordeaux Supérieur union’s press release alluded to the same need. It said its next move will be to consider the integration of resistant hybrid grape varieties for AOC wine production.

Contextualising the current situation it said ‘‘hybrid varieties can only be planted’’ for protected geographical indication (IGP) wines, or wines without geographical indication. Their use ‘‘will therefore only be possible with an amendment’’ to EU legislation via ‘‘the rewriting of the Common Agricultural Policy.’’

The new grape types in more detail

Arinarnoa: a Tannat/Cabernet Sauvignon cross that is less susceptible to grey rot damage, with low sugar levels and good acidity. Wines are well-structured, colourful and tannic with complex and persistent aromas.

Touriga Nacional: a late ripening grape that can reduce the risk of frost or heat damage and is less susceptible to most fungal diseases apart from excoriose (dead arm). Wines are complex, aromatic, full-bodied, structured, colourful and suitable for ageing.

Castets: a forgotten Bordeaux grape variety that is less susceptible to grey rot, powdery mildew and mildew. Wines are colourful and suitable for ageing.

Marselan: a late ripening Cabernet Sauvignon/Grenache cross that is at lower risk of spring frost, heat, grey rot, powdery mildew and mite damage. Wines are colourful, distinctive and suitable for ageing.

Alvarinho: an aromatic grape that can compensate for flavours lost due to hot weather, at lower risk of grey rot damage, lower sugar levels and good acidity. Wines are aromatic with good acidity.

Petit Manseng: a late ripening, aromatic variety that is at much lower risk of grey rot damage. Wines are soft with sustained aromas.

Liliorila: a Baroque and Chardonnay cross that, like Alvarhino, offers highly aromatic qualities that can be used to compensate for other aromas lost to heat. It is less at risk of grey rot damage. Wines are aromatic wines, powerful and flowery.

Sophie Kevany – Meininger’s Wine Business International