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Wine Review: Delta Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007 ($23)

Friday, August 22, 2008 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Delta Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007 $23

As the most widely planted red grape in New Zealand, Pinot Noir is a major focus for winemakers in the country. Delta Vineyard in the Marlborough region planted the fickle grape on clay soils in the south of the valley and used top French clones. Winemakers Matt Thomson and David Gleave say they found the perfect Pinot spot in the “delta” of a triangular hill near Blenheim.

This week’s wine, the Delta Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007 ($23), is a top-notch wine. The price tag may sound steep for the bargain hunter, but it’s worth dropping an extra few bucks for a taste of a fine New Zealand red. Most of the New Zealand Pinots I’ve tried to date have been too fruity and too dense.

Under good light, the Delta is the color of candy apple, and I get a hit of candy apple on the nose as well, along with wine gums, but there are also some classic Pinot earthy elements to the aroma. The mid-palette brings out dark cherry juice and some mushroom. A joy to sip.

Quaffability Rating: 90


How to Order Wine in a Restaurant

Monday, August 18, 2008 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

As the Wall Street Journal points out in this article, wine pricing in restaurants is a complicated business. You may find the same bottle at three different eateries marked at three wildly different prices. Also, the markup may not be consistent. Sometimes, pricier wines may have less of a markup.

So how does the wine lover find the best deal in a restaurant? There are six good tips here, courtesy of A Food and Wine Blog, including:

3. Order from the middle of the wine list. Price wise, you’re getting your best
value in the middle of the list. There are cases where wines at either end of
the spectrum offer outstanding bang for the buck, but you’re also more likely to
get a bad wine or something that’s a major let down (higher end of the

And this:

5. Don’t buy wine. I’m serious here. If the wine markups are ridiculous
($15 bottle retail is $65), enjoy a glass of water, a beer, or a cheap wine
by the glass. Mention to the manager on the way out that the markup is
insane and despite having good food and service, you won’t be back because
of the outrageous wine pricing! If enough people speak up and let
restaurants know that a 3-4 X markup will not be tolerated, you can bet that
most places would lower prices rather than lose business.

The WSJ article suggests using mobile technology to access the true price of the
wines on the list to get an idea of the markup. This might be fun, but it seems
a bit obsessive. The markup is there for a reason: you’re paying for the
location and the service. If you’re eating in a beautiful restaurant with
impeccable wait staff, the extra cash is funding this luxury.

I took a cooking course a while back and the chef taught us how to make “The $7 Cucumber Salad,” which was a big hit at a fancy restaurant where he worked as the head chef. The $7 salad consisted of peeled, sliced cucumbers, sea salt, and that's it. That, my quaffing friends, is a big markup. Next time you feel cheated by a 300 percent premium on that bottle of wine you order in a restaurant, remember that the markup is likely even higher for people chugging beer and guzzling mixed drinks – often up to 500 percent above cost. Markups can be tough to swallow, but sometimes it’s just better to sit back, relax, and enjoy the wine, your company and the surroundings. You’re paying for it – you might as well soak it in.


Just Unscrew It: The Cork vs. Screw Cap Debate

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

The emergence of screw tops in some age-worthy wines may soon have wine collectors standing up bottles in their cellars rather than laying them down. The jury is still out on how well screw tops perform in long-term wine aging, but the results of one winemaker’s test are promising.

In 1997, the Napa winery Plumpjack took a huge gamble by bottling half of its prestigious reserve Cabernet in with plastic-lined screw caps and the other half with traditional cork. Plumpjack general manager John Conover was fed with seeing his wine spoiled by tainted cork, so he decided to perform a test on his fine wine, which sells for up to $200 a bottle, to see if the screw caps passed the test of time. At the beginning of this year, Plumpjack did a taste test of the 1997 wines and found no difference between the screw cap and cork.

George M. Taber wrote an entire book on the subject, To Cork or Not to Cork, which sounds like a great read. You may remember George Taber from my recent post about the upcoming film, Judgment of Paris, based on his book. According to this review of To Cork, Taber provides a fascinating description of the cork industry, but concludes that we still haven’t found the perfect way to enclose a wine bottle.

Over the next few years, it’ll be interesting to see how many more producers convert to screw caps for their best wines. An incredible 90 percent of New Zealand wines are already sealed with screw tops, and Australia’s up there too at 60 percent. While we shouldn't be too quick to pop cork off the bottling line for fine wine, at least we’re at the point where many casual wine drinkers know that a twist-off bottle isn't a sign of plonk.

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Wine Review: Bodegas Lan Rioja Riserva 2001

Friday, August 8, 2008 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Wine Review: Lan Rioja Riserva ($22)

Spain’s Rioja region underwent a revolution in the last eight years, as gnarly, old-style dinosaurs were replaced by higher-quality, well-rounded reds. Rioja winemakers of the 21st century modernized their equipment and coaxed more fruit and other interesting flavors out of the Tempranillo grape.

This week’s wine is a good showcase of the Rioja revolution. The Bodegas Lan Rioja Riverva 2001 ($22) is aged in oak for a year in new American oak and then spends another two years in the bottle. It’s dominated by Tempranillo (80%), but is also blended with Mazuelo and Garnacha grapes (10% each). The nose is quite tight, but I get some powdered cocoa and a tinge of mint leaf. The wine really opens up on the palette, which strikes a balance of woodsy flavors and ripe fruit. This is a medium-bodied wine, but has great depth of flavor, some well-integrated oak, cinnamon stick, oregano and other exotic spices. It’s rounded out with a pleasingly long finish.

Quaffability Rating: 89

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Bottle Shock vs. Judgement of Paris

Wednesday, August 6, 2008 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Despite mixed reviews at Sundance and a bad review on SFGate, I still plan to see 'Bottle Shock,' the first of two films due this year about the so-called Judgement of Paris, a 1976 wine competition in which French judges named Californian wines the winners in blind tastings.

'Bottle Shock' looks entertaining, but a little loose on historical accuracy. A second film about the same event, 'Judgement of Paris,' is set for release later this year. This one is based on the book by George Taber, the writer for Time magazine who was the only journalist to cover the Judgement. I'll check out both movies and report back with non-blind reviews.

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Michal Kapral has been enjoying wine at home since way before he was of legal age. The editor-in-chief of Canadian Running magazine runs marathons to burn off all the calories he consumes on wine and cheese. Kapral spent some time living in Italy as a teenager, solidifying his appreciation for all things wine-related. In his days as a journalism student, he was likely one of the youngest – and poorest – subscribers to Wine Spectator magazine. In 1999, Kapral turned down a job at a winery to work at Captivate, where he spent 11 years as a news editor.


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The Quaffer

Highlighting the best new wines from around the world, in the price range of $10-40, Michal "The Quaffer" Kapral reminds viewers some of the finer things in life are most definitely within their reach. This feature focuses on North American wines and includes reviews, food pairings and news from the world of wine.