11/28/13 – Thanksgiving wines (a better Beaujolais, numéro six)

It’s that time of the year everyone.  When you get to sit down with people you care about, catch up, and kick back a couple of glasses of wine before your stuck with your crazy Uncle Ed for an entire Thanksgiving dinner.  That’s right, it’s the Young Winos’ annual Beaujolais tasting.

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10/17/13 – Syrah vs. Shiraz

Ahhhh Syrah.  The big, bold, often tannic beast hailing originally from the famed northern part of the Cote du Rhone region in the southwest of France.  Syrah can produce incredibly high-caliber wines, worthy of aging for decades, but can also express explosively fruit-forward characteristics in less expensive representations that make them pleasant to drink younger. Pair with anything being pulled off a grill.  Especially meat.

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10/03/13 – Full-bodied whites for the beginning of fall

I think the theme for this meeting was initially suggested by Vanessa, which works out well because that’s where we’ll be holding the tasting this week.

The summer has, unfortunately, drawn to a close.  While we will certainly be presented the opportunity to drink some heartier wines to nourish our hearths during the freezing Los Angeles winter, I thought that a gradual transition away from the light, crisp, refreshing wines that are so often associated with summer could be had with a line-up of somewhat heavier whites.

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09/18/13 – South African Wines

To RSVP, click here.

Jesse compared the last winos meeting to Van Halen’s last concert with David Lee Roth before Sammy Hagar took over. But, as a staunch Van Halen fan, I can’t help but feel that equivocating YoungWinos 2.0 to Van Hagar is akin to ditching our bottles of wine aside to chug a liter of Cabo Wabo, also known as Sammy Hagar’s personal brand tequila (which he presumably created to have a constant source of booze to forget how he could never live up to David Lee Roth). Actually, that sounds pretty good. We should have a tequila tasting soon. But Van Hagar still sucks. I digress.

Filling in for Jesse, who has profound knowledge of wine and an exceptionally discerning palate, is no small task. However, just as he learned over the last several years through regular tastings I hope to learn and grow my knowledge of wine with you all as well. In spirit of starting entirely anew, for the first tasting that I’ll moderate I’ve picked a “New World” region that I am very unfamiliar with: South Africa.

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08/21/13 – Piedmontese grapes, from Piedmont and elsewhere

Consider this week’s meeting the Winos version of Van Halen’s final concert with David Lee Roth on lead vocals before Sammy Hagar took over. As we announced at our Vins du Sud-Ouest meeting two weeks ago, I’ll be scaling back my involvement with the LA Winos and turning over day-to-day responsibilities to the eminently capable Xander Snyder, who will henceforth be moderating all of our weeknight meetings. Xander’s out of town for a few weeks this month, however, so I thought I’d sneak in one last night of hosting duties before officially passing the baton.

As I’ve found myself particularly enamored of Italian wines lately, I thought it might make sense to hold a tasting of bottles hailing from one of Italy’s premiere wine regions, Piedmont (or Piemonte), a mountainous province in the northwest of the country which borders France and Switzerland. Piedmont is home to numerous esteemed grape varieties, and many of these have been adopted by New World producers as well. To add an international dimension to Wednesday night’s tasting, we’ll be including both Piedmontese wines and wines made in the Western Hemisphere using Piedmontese grapes. (more…)

08/07/13 – Vins du Sud-Ouest

Hey guys, remember us? We’re the Young Winos of LA, a wine-tasting group for twenty-somethings. Earlier this year, we explained how we were transitioning away from the weekly and/or bi-weekly tastings that used to be our modus operandi, and opting instead for a schedule in which meetings would be a little more infrequent. And we’ve certainly made good on that promise: as of August, we haven’t had any Winos meetings at all in 2013. But that’s about to change when we gather this Wednesday night to taste wines from Sud-Ouest (Southwest) France.

For our first meeting in over eight months, I wanted to pick a really exciting topic, and I think Sud-Ouest France is going to fit the bill nicely, for several important reasons:

1) We’ve never done it before. After seven years of extremely frequent tastings, there are few major wine topics (i.e. grapes, regions, trends) that haven’t formed the subject of a Young Winos meeting. We’re happy to welcome Sud-Ouest France to that illustrious lineup.
2) It’s a great value. Since our inception, the Winos have always been about seeking out inexpensive bottles that over-deliver on quality.  Much of Sud-Ouest France is largely unknown to the casual wine-drinking public, and it’s therefore possible to find really tasty bottles at similarly tasty prices.
3) It’s kind of confusing. To me, this is the most compelling motivator of all.  While discovering value bottles is a big part of the Winos ethos, the core essential point of our organization has always been to illuminate wine’s mysteries, to clarify its complexities — to edutoxicate, if you will.  And Sud-Ouest France is a region that’s ripe for edutoxication. (more…)

11/21/12 – a better Beaujolais, numéro cinq

Yes, that’s right, numéro cinq. As incroyable as it may seem, this is our fifth annual Beaujolais tasting in November. We also had one in November of 2005, our first year of nascent existence, and we held a  mid-summer Beaujolais tasting last year as well. We sure do love our Beaujolais — and by “we” I mean “I, and a few other members.” Sadly, not all of the members of the Wino cult are drinking the Kool-Aid (or the Beaujolais) just yet, but it’s my personal mission to change that, a charge that reinvigorates me with the coming of every Thanksgiving season.

And why wouldn’t I want to make converts out of all of you? After all, Beaujolais is one of those rare wines that’s as beloved as it is reviled. Usually a wine is either extolled by basically everyone (i.e. Napa Cabernet) or has a pervasively bad reputation (i.e. Lambrusco or White Zin), but Beaujolais has healthy collections of both fans and haters. On the positive side, Beaujolais has several worthy champions in the wine press, like Eric Asimov of The New York Times and Mike Steinberger, formerly of Slate. Perhaps my favorite wine scribe, the legendary importer Kermit Lynch, includes the following passage in his masterful book Adventures on the Wine Route: “Beaujolais must be the most inspired invention in the history of wine. What a concept, downing a newborn wine that has barely left the grape, a wine that retains the cornucopian spirit of the harvest past. It even serves to remind us of the first time man tasted fermented grape juice and decided it was an accident of nature worth pursuing.” (more…)

11/08/12 – Harvest Whites, part 2 (a touch of sweetness)

Two weeks ago, we met at Adra’s place for part one of our two-part “Harvest Wines” tasting series, in which we assembled a lineup of full-bodied whites to pair with cooling fall temperatures.  Admittedly, a couple of the bottles missed the “full-bodied” mandate by a few pounds: an Italian Verdicchio proved light and limey but distinctly un-heavy, while Santa Ynez Grenache Blanc that I contributed was lithe and acidic — a solid food wine, perhaps, but a poor choice for drinking solo while watching college football on a chilly fall afternoon.  Once we got into the Viognier, the Rhone-style blends, and the California Chardonnays, however, we definitely began to hit that rich, aromatic, full-bodied sweet spot.  (The QPR winner of the night was the 2011 F. Stephen Miller “Angel’s Reserve” Viognier from Lodi, which retails for only six bucks.)

Speaking of sweet spots, we’re turning our attention this week to the other side of the “harvest whites” coin: wines that satisfy the sweet tooth.  Whether it’s an unctuous dessert wine to wrap up a perfect Thanksgiving dinner, a serviceable German Riesling to share with someone special in front of a roaring fire, or a really excellent German Riesling to drink by yourself in front of a roaring fire, sweet wines — especially when paired with cool temperatures — are a welcome change of pace from the acid-driven, thirst-quenching dry wines that we crave during the summertime.  This week, in what’s become something of an annual tradition, we’re breaking from our usual habit of meeting in member apartments and instead descending on the tasting bar at Vendome Wines & Spirits in Studio City.  I’ve picked out all of the wines from Vendome’s selection, so no need to contribute any wines of your own this week.  (Additionally, all of the wines featured in the tasting will be available for purchase at a 10% discounted rate off the regular price.) (more…)

10/24/12 – Harvest Whites, part 1 (full-bodied blanc)

Thanks to everyone who came out to the delicious tasting of local wines from Santa Barbara we held two weeks ago.  “Go local” was one of the strategies I plugged two years ago in a blog post entitied “Wines for a SoCal autumn,” in which I suggested a few seasonal wine themes to pair with the slightly-lower temperatures we get to enjoy this time of year.  (Read the piece here.)  It’ll be getting down to 50 degrees in Sherman Oaks this week, and no matter what the rest of the country thinks about the finicky manner in which Angelenos react to what would elsewhere in the country be considered extremely typical fall weather, one thing that winos everywhere can agree on is that a thermometer reading of 50°F isn’t going to inspire anyone to seek out a thirst-quenching white.  We’re in the mood for a white that drinks a bit more like a red.

oktoberfest-pumpkin.jpgI was reminded recently of an LA Times article from a few years ago which dealt with autumn-appropriate white wines, and one passage in particular struck me as very relevant.  Whites for fall weather, the writer Patrick Comiskey suggested, ought to make an impression “not with energy but with weight … not so much to cleanse your palate as to envelop it like a blanket.”  It’s in the spirit of that directive that we seek out some full-bodied whites for this week’s meeting. (more…)

10/11/12 – local wines from Santa Barbara

Two years ago, I wrote a blog post called “Wines for a SoCal autumn” in which I suggested a few seasonal wine themes to pair with the slightly-lower temperatures we get to enjoy this time of year.  (Read the piece here.)  Over the next few weeks, we’re going to have a series of tastings in which we revisit several of these themes: we’re going to rock the rosé, we’re going to rethink Riesling, and we’re going to discover a better Beaujolais (for the fifth time in our young history).  This week, however, we’re going local and popping some bottles hailing from our laid-back neighbor to the north, Santa Barbara.

As I wrote in 2010: “a weekend trip up to Santa Barbara County is an ideal way to introduce yourself to a whole new lineup of wine options; the region is teeming with small-production winemakers whose unique and delicious bottles, which probably aren’t available at your local supermarket, are definitely worth a try.  Download a regional wine map and venture down the windy country roads, where each sharp turn seems to reveal another vineyard –- or simply spend your afternoon in a village (i.e. Solvang or Los Olivos) where tasting rooms line both sides of the main drag.  You’ll not only enjoy a bucolic weekend away, you’ll be supporting local agriculture in the process, which will make you feel better about all the gas you burned driving up there.” (more…)

08/08/12 – seeking a white for the end of the week

white-wine.jpgTemperatures are getting a bit Venusian this week, and many of us will presumably be celebrating the arrival of the weekend by opening a delicious bottle of refreshing white wine.  But how can we ensure that this bottle will quench not only the physical thirst but also the wino’s internal, insatiable drive for vinous stimulation, for excitement, for uniqueness?  One way, certainly, is to test-drive a new and unusual grape variety.  The last thing you want when you’re trying to make your taste buds dance is to seek solace in a nice glass of white wine and discover it’s the same grape variety you’ve encountered at every other party, on every other wine list, etc.  This week, let’s break out of those repetitive patterns by tasting some of the more obscure white grapes.

What wine should I bring? You can bring any white wine, as long as it’s not one of the following eight extremely common white grapes:

1.) Sauvignon Blanc
2.) Riesling
3.) Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio
4.) Viognier
5.) Sémillon
6.) Gewurztraminer
7.) Muscat
8.) …and the most common of all, Chardonnay (more…)

07/11/12 – rosé for rising temperatures

The weather’s heating up this week, which means it’s the perfect time to bust open some rosé. As stalwart and dedicated Winos, we of course never need an “excuse” to drink any particular kind of wine. However, the tradition of consuming rosé during the hot summer months is a time-honored one, and it’s certainly true that crisp, refreshing rosé pairs exquisitely with summer staples such as picnics, beaches, poolsides, and light meals. We may be iconoclasts here at the Winos, but far be it from us to thumb our nose at tradition — particularly a tradition that mandates the consumption of delicious pink wine.

By now you’ll probably have discovered that rosé is much more than the White Zinfandel that your aunt Myrtle likes to serve at her barbecues. (By the way, if anybody actually has an aunt named Myrtle, that’s awesome — please inform us of such at the meeting.) Rosé comes from all over the world, and it’s made with many different grape types, but the vast majority of decent rosés share one common characteristic: they’re made from red grapes, the juice of which has been drained off quickly so that the skins didn’t have time to impart more than a slight bit of pigmentation, resulting in a pink hue (as opposed to a full dark red one). (more…)

06/20/12 – Open That Bottle night

Everybody’s got that dusty old bottle of wine lying around that they’ve been putting off drinking for months now. In the event that the unknown special occasion for which you’re subconsciously saving it doesn’t come around for a while, the Winos are giving you an excuse to open it right now! This Wednesday, we’re celebrating “Open That Bottle night.”

vintagewinebottlesThe Winos held a similar tasting three years ago, entitled “It’s the economy, Wino (so drink what you have) .” The recession may be easing, but the theme still seems highly appropriate. Forget the articles that list all kinds of great values for $8 or $10 or $12… why buy something new when you can drink what you already have? In a great blog post from around the time of our last meeting, Alder Yarrow of Vinography encourages his readers to preserve their budget by drinking that bottle they’ve never gotten around to opening:

Buying wine and not drinking it is a crime nearly as severe as buying a Ferrari and not driving it or owning a great record collection and not listening to it. Yet so many wine lovers, even those who don’t consider themselves to be “collectors” can quite easily fall into the trap of finding the acquisition of wine easier to justify than its consumption. (more…)

06/06/12 – Portuguese wines for post-tournament withdrawal

The conclusion of this year’s big March Craziness tasting tournament resulted in the rough equivalent of a Winos constitutional crisis.  For the first time in the five-year history of our annual blind-tasting extravaganza, I was the winner, despite also serving as the master of ceremonies, adjudicator, official scorekeeper, etc.  In and of itself, this didn’t concern me too much — I’d won fair and square, after all, and I was long overdue for a title.  But what to do with the two “first prize” bottles from the Winos stash, which I’ve been personally cellaring for several years now?  Although it would’ve been plenty easy to simply move them over from the “communal” section to the “personal” section in my kitchen cabinet, that seemed even to me to smack of graft and insider dealing, so I decided to reinvest my trophies back into the LA chapter, basing a meeting on each one.

This week, we’ll start with the older of the two: the 2004 Azamor “Selected Vines” (Alentejo, Portugal), of which you can read our 2009 review here.  To complement this bottle, we’ll be holding our first “Portugal” meeting in over two years, one which I hope will feature bottles from across the broad spectrum that is the Portuguese wine experience.  Although you don’t encounter too much Portuguese wine on most wine lists in this country, the fact is that there’s much more to Portugal than just Port.  This week we’ll find out what, exactly. (more…)

05/23/12 – March Craziness week #6 (championship reds)

The time has come for the second half of our two-week championship finale of our fifth semi-annual March-adjacent pseudo-sports-themed blind tasting tournament. For the past four “March Craziness” meetings, we’ve clawed our ways through challenging and diverse matchups of similar and/or frequently-confused wines. Now we’re in the middle of two rounds of balls-out championship play, in which we draw on the blind-tasting skills we’ve picked up over the last few weeks (as well as the palates we’ve developed over years of drinking) in our efforts to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion. Last week, we blind-tasted white wines, and this Wednesday we move on to the reds.

OFFICIAL RULES:
The three varietals we’ll be tasting on Wednesday night are Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Every bottle must show up in a brown paper bag. (If you don’t have a brown paper bag, then hide the bottle under your shirt or something, and we’ll give you a bag when you arrive.) You’ll write your name on the bag, and you’ll stash it in thekitchen  so that no one learns what it is. We’ll pour them one at a time, taste them in silence, submit our guesses, and reveal the bottles as we go. At the end of the meeting, points will be tallied. (more…)

05/15/12 – March Craziness week #5 (championship whites)

The time has come for the two-week championship finale of our fifth semi-annual March-adjacent pseudo-sports-themed blind tasting tournament. For the past four “March Craziness” meetings, we’ve clawed our ways through challenging and diverse matchups of similar and/or frequently-confused wines. Now it’s time for two rounds of balls-out championship play, in which we draw on the blind-tasting skills we’ve picked up over the last few weeks (as well as the palates we’ve developed over years of drinking) in our efforts to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion. Next week, we’ll be tasting red wines, but this Tuesday we start with the whites.

OFFICIAL RULES:
The three varietals we’ll be tasting on Tuesday night are Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay. Every bottle must show up in a brown paper bag. (If you don’t have a brown paper bag, then hide the bottle under your shirt or something, and we’ll give you a bag when you arrive.) You’ll write your name on the bag, and you’ll stash it in the fridge so that no one learns what it is. We’ll pour them one at a time, taste them in silence, submit our guesses, and reveal the bottles as we go. At the end of the meeting, points will be tallied. (more…)

04/25/12 – March Craziness week #4 (EuroBubbles)

For the fifth non-consecutive year, the Young Winos of LA are proud to be hosting our almost-annual March blind tasting tournament. Billed as “March Madness” in its 2007, 2009 and 2010 incarnations, the tournament at one point included six weeks of variety-by-variety blind tasting (Sauvignon Blanc one week, Syrah the next, etc.), followed by a two-week “championship” series of multi-variety blind white tasting and then blind red tasting.

This year, to allow for our increasingly busy schedules and the demands of our non-wine commitments, the proceedings won’t be as lengthy and regimented as years past. In what we’re calling our first-ever “March Craziness” tournament, we’re basically just running a semi-random series of blind tastings that feature pairings or groupings of similar and/or frequently-confused wines. So far, we’ve done “Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Merlot,” “Pinot Gris vs. Pinot Blanc,” and “organic vs. non-organic.” This week, we’re blind-tasting four major sparkling wines of Europe and attempting to identify them based on their method of production. (more…)

04/18/12 – March Craziness week #3 (organic vs. non-organic wines)

For the fifth non-consecutive year, the Young Winos of LA are proud to host our almost-annual March blind tasting tournament. Billed as “March Madness” in its 2007, 2009 and 2010 incarnations, the tournament at one point included six weeks of variety-by-variety blind tasting (Sauvignon Blanc one week, Syrah the next, etc.), followed by a two-week “championship” series of multi-variety blind white tasting followed by blind red tasting. This year, to allow for our increasingly busy schedules and the demands of our non-wine commitments, the proceedings won’t be as lengthy and regimented as years past. In what we’re calling our first-ever “March Craziness” tournament, we’re basically just running a semi-random series of blind tastings that features pairings or groupings of similar and/or frequently-confused wines.

The first week, we did “Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Merlot,” and last week we did “Pinot Gris vs. Pinot Blanc.” This week, we’re moving on to another side-by-side comparison that’s prompted rancorous debate in Winos meetings past: organic wines vs. non-organic (i.e. conventionally produced) wines. (more…)

04/10/12 – March Craziness week #2 (Pinot G. vs. Pinot B.)

For the fifth non-consecutive year, the Young Winos of LA are proud to host our almost-annual March blind tasting tournament. Billed as “March Madness” in its 2007, 2009 and 2010 incarnations, the tournament at one point included six weeks of variety-by-variety blind tasting (Sauvignon Blanc one week, Syrah the next, etc.), followed by a two-week “championship” series of multi-variety blind white tasting followed by blind red tasting. This year, to allow for our increasingly busy schedules and the demands of our non-wine commitments, the proceedings won’t be as lengthy and regimented as years past. In what we’re calling our first-ever “March Craziness” tournament, we’re basically just running a semi-random series of blind tastings that features pairings or groupings of similar and/or frequently-confused wines.

Two weeks ago we did “Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Merlot,” and the results were unsurprisingly mixed — those two varietals are really difficult to tell apart sometimes. This week, we’re moving on to another side-by-side comparison that might present even our most astute tasters with a challenge: Pinot Gris (also known as Pinot Grigio) vs. Pinot Blanc. Given that both varieties are mutations of the red Pinot Noir grape, and that both are sometimes grown in the same wine regions, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc might sound problematically similar. However, there are several key differences that might help us navigate these perilous blind tasting waters. (more…)

03/21/12 – March Craziness week #1 (Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Merlot)

For the fifth non-consecutive year, the Young Winos of LA are proud to host our almost-annual March blind tasting tournament.  Billed as “March Madness” in its 2007, 2009 and 2010 incarnations, the tournament at one point included six weeks of variety-by-variety blind tasting (Sauvignon Blanc one week, Syrah the next, etc.), followed by a two-week “championship” series of multi-variety blind white tasting followed by blind red tasting.  Last year, to allow for our increasingly busy schedules and the demands of our non-wine commitments, we downsized the tournament to three weeks, called it “March Delirium” (to differentiate it from full-blown “madness”), and awarded points to the Winos who could most accurately guess the price of brown-bagged bottles.

For this year’s event, we’re returning to something closer to our roots, though the proceedings won’t be as lengthy and regimented as years past.  In what we’re calling our first-ever “March Craziness” tournament, we’re basically just running a semi-random series of tastings that features pairings or groupings of similar and/or frequently-confused wines.  Tastings will include:

–Riesling vs. Gewurztraminer
–California reds: organic vs. non-organic
–fragrant whites: Albariño vs. Torrontés vs. Grüner Veltliner
(more…)

02/21/12 – Malbec: boom goes the varietal

In terms of trendiness, wines are sort of like TV shows: there’s a fairly static number of types (i.e. cop drama, female-driven rom-com, serialized thriller with supernatural elements, etc.), any one of which can at any time become unexpectedly popular and begin to saturate the market. Wines, too, have generally enjoyed long histories of production prior to their periods of popularity; for example, Pinot Noir was a longtime favorite of oenophiles before Sideways catapulted it to “trendy” status.

In the past five or six years, the Malbec grape — particularly examples produced in Argentina — has seemed to explode onto the American marketplace.  The Young Winos last tasted Malbec in 2008, and much has  changed since then: sales of Malbec increased 32% last year, and Malbec represents 64% of Argentinean wine exports to America, both red and white.  This Wall Street Journal piece offers a thorough primer on the long history of Argentinean production of Malbec, a little-loved red blending variety from Bordeaux, which flourished once introduced to Argentina’s warm, high-altitude wine regions.  But that was over a century ago — why are American wine consumers only discovering Argentinean Malbec now? (more…)

01/25/12 – Wines from where you’re from

It’s the first Young Winos meeting of the new year, and what better way to usher in a new annum than by breaking free of old habits and trying something new?  In all of our 225 weeknight tastings thus far (yes, I know, I’m also pretty floored by that obscene number), we’ve never actually devoted our attention to what would seem intuitively to be a topic of great potential: wines from where people are from.  Los Angeles is a destination for young people from so many parts of the country — wouldn’t it follow that they’d all have hometown wine favorites they’d like to share with their fellow ex-pats in LA?

If we lived in Europe, that would undoubtedly be the case.  Local winemaking is a tradition that goes back hundreds of years in every part of the continent climatically amenable to viticulture.  It might’ve been the case in the US, too, were it not for Prohibition, a horribly destructive period in our nation’s cultural and culinary history.  Vines were torn up, fields replanted, wineries razed.  Following Prohibition’s repeal, cooperatives in California operated by Italian immigrants (Gallo, anyone?) flooded the market with jug wine, sweet wine, and cleverly marketed concoctions like Thunderbird and Ripple; later, the ’60s and ’70s would usher in a new breed of California wineries (Robert Mondavi, Heitz, Stag’s Leap, Jordan, etc.) devoted to achieving excellence in varietal wines, particularly Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Sadly, all of this was at the expense of nationwide local winemaking, which was slower to rebound from Prohibition and adjust to the changing palates of American consumers. (more…)

12/13/11 – Prioritizing Priorat

At the risk of alienating my French and Italian friends, I’m going to go ahead and make a pretty incendiary claim here: among the major wine-exporting nations of Europe, I think it’s fair to say that Spain offers what are arguably the best, most consistently delicious and approachable wines in the budget range.  (Sorry, Antoine… no hard feelings, Antoni.)  Spain also boasts brilliantly crafted, world-class wines for a few dollars more, but young boozehounds trying to stretch their paychecks (or unemployment checks, or pity checks from Mom) can do extremely well for themselves pouring the rich, classically-styled, relatively inexpensive wines that have made the country a critical darling in recent years.

As young winos begin their exploration of Spain, however, the number of regions producing top-quality juice can make the nation seem a bit geographically unapproachable.  Because most consumers are relatively unfamiliar with the Spanish regions and aren’t burdened with unfortunate prejudices about which ones are “best” (as is often the case with places like France, Italy, and California), wine merchants have little compunction about promoting the wines they like, whatever the region.  As a result, a trip down the Spain aisle might leave you with more questions than answers.  Where are Jumilla and Toro and Yecla?  What’s the difference between Rueda, Rías Baixas and Ribera del Duero?  How’s anybody supposed to differentiate between Cariñena, Catalunya and Calatayud?  (more…)

12/09/11 – Black is Beautiful: a curated lineup of exceptional dark beers

For the past few years, the Young Winos of LA have hosted “winter beer” tastings in December.  These were always dubious affairs in which our shameful lack of beer knowledge became increasingly apparent with each legitimate question put forth by members and each woefully untrue answer offered by us.  Besides our 2008 tasting of the Schmaltz Brewing Company offerings, the Winos have never really brought in a genuine beer expert to moderate the discussion, provide context, and edify us on the intricacies of fine brewed beverages.  It’s time to address this glaring oversight in our efforts to edutoxicate the young boozehounds of LA.  It’s time for someone to teach us about beer.

This Friday, join Young Wino beer guru (and co-author of The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance) Randy Clemens as he guides us through a tasting of specially curated dark beers, including several rare and vintage offerings, with a large focus on California breweries.  Here’s Randy’s description of this highly illustrious event: (more…)

11/30/11 – Sparkling Reds

Well, even though it’s still November, I can hear those sleigh bells jingling (and ring ting tingling too).  Yes, the holiday season is finally upon us, and although I’m loathe to acquiesce to this nascent trend of dusting off the yuletide albums and holiday decorations by early November, I suppose it’s pointless to gripe now that Black Friday has passed and we’ve all begun shopping for gifts and pepper-spraying each other.  Therefore, the LA Winos are kicking off our annual series of holiday-themed tastings this Wednesday night with a unique twist on that mainstay of seasonal entertaining: sparkling wine.

Although either white or red grapes (or both) may be used in the production of Champagne and the méthode champenoise wines it’s inspired worldwide, the resulting wines are usually white, the skins of the red grapes having been separated from the juice too early to impart any pigmentation.  Other bubblies are done as rosés, wherein the red grapes are allowed to leave just a hint of their natural coloring behind.  Both white and rosé sparkling wines of a certain price point (roughly $10 and up) carry some degree of respect: not everyone’s a rabid fan, perhaps, but no one finds them odd or funny-looking.

sparkling-shiraz.jpgRed bubbly, on the other hand, has never received a whole lot of respect.  They’ve typically been shelved near the other “novelty wines” (i.e. fruit wines, wine in boxes, ChocoVine, etc.), consigned to the status of something you’d bring to the party to inspire discussion, or as a joke.  Even winemakers have been in on the jesting: according to this article, German vintners changed the spelling of their red bubbly from kalte ende (meaning “cold end,” reflecting the leftover wines from which it’s made there) to kalte ente (meaning “cold duck,” which is apparently the kind of phrase that Germans find comedic).  Well, joke no more, Klaus: this week we’re taking sparkling red seriously.  For Wednesday night’s meeting, please bring any sparkling red wine that looks interesting to you.  Here are some suggestions… (more…)

11/16/11 – Thanksgiving wines, part two (a better Beaujolais, numéro quatre)

Yes, that’s right, numéro quatre.  This is our fourth annual Beaujolais tasting in November.  We also had one in November of 2005, our first year of nascent existence, and we had one earlier this summer as well.  We sure do love our Beaujolais — and by “we” I mean “I, and a few other members.”  Sadly, not all of the members of the Wino cult are drinking the Kool-Aid (or the Beaujolais) just yet, but it’s my personal mission to change that, a charge that reinvigorates me with the coming of every Thanksgiving season.

And why wouldn’t I want to make converts out of all of you?  After all, Beaujolais is one of those rare wines that’s as beloved as it is reviled.  Usually a wine is either extolled by basically everyone (i.e. Napa Cabernet) or has a pervasively bad reputation (i.e. Lambrusco or White Zin), but Beaujolais has healthy collections of both fans and haters. On the positive side, Beaujolais has several worthy champions in the wine press, like Eric Asimov of The New York Times and Mike Steinberger, formerly of Slate.  Perhaps my favorite wine scribe, the legendary importer Kermit Lynch, includes the following passage in his masterful book Adventures on the Wine Route: “Beaujolais must be the most inspired invention in the history of wine.  What a concept, downing a newborn wine that has barely left the grape, a wine that retains the cornucopian spirit of the harvest past.  It even serves to remind us of the first time man tasted fermented grape juice and decided it was an accident of nature worth pursuing.”  (more…)

11/09/11 – Thanksgiving wines, part one (Oregon)

Each year, the Winos embark on a journey to find the perfect wine for that Thanksgiving meal — even as numerous well-spoken wine luminaries, such as Alder Yarrow at Vinography, do their best to insist that there’s no such thing.  To quote Yarrow: “most people’s Thanksgiving meals, even the most modest of them, are a vast cornucopia of flavors so diverse, contrary, and strong … that the idea of finding ‘a’ wine to match with the meal is a ridiculous proposition.”  Is it?  Or have we just not yet discovered that wine-to-end-all-wines, that meta-wine, that Everlasting Gobstopper of a wine that perfectly adjusts itself, in glass and on palate, to pair perfectly with each dish encountered, no matter how flavorful?  (Probably not.  Probably closer to what Alder said.)

Other famous winos, though, accept the challenge anew every year.  Eric Asimov of The New York Times had terrific success picking out Thanksgiving wines two years ago.  According to Eric, the perfect wines for turkey n’ trimmings “must be modest but confident wines that assert their flavors in harmony with the food rather than trying to dominate the proceedings.”  When I think moderate yet confident, assertive yet harmonious, the American region I’d think of (after all, giving thanks is a primarily American custom) would be Oregon.  Next week we’ll get into some Beaujolais for tradition’s sake  — this will be the LA chapter’s fifth November Beaujolais tasting — but first let’s explore some offerings from our neighbor to the slightly north. (more…)

11/02/11 – Syrah vs. Shiraz

Six years ago — on November 1st, 2005 to be exact — the fledgling wine group that would soon become the Young Winos of LA held its fifth meeting ever.  The topic was Syrah vs. Shiraz, and two of our most legendary and illustrious members, Jason and Andrew, made their first appearances at the Sherman Oaks home of hosts Jesse, Max and Don.  Much has changed in those six years — our appearances, the economy, etc. — but the question of what differentiates a Syrah from a Shiraz is one that still intrigues novice boozers to this day.  Come join us in North Hollywood on Wednesday to drink our way to clarity on the issue.

Strictly speaking, Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape.  Which name it goes by is a matter of geography and tradition — and, more recently, stylistic preference as well.  The ancestral homeland of the grape is France’s Rhône Valley. In the Northern Rhône districts (appellations such as Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, and Saint-Joseph), the reds are 100% Syrah, and are filled with “gamy, meaty flavors” and notes of “white pepper, forest, and leather.” (In the Southern Rhône, wines like Côtes-du-Rhône and Cheteauneuf-du-Pape are typically majority Grenache, so don’t bring one of those unless you’re absolutely sure it’s majority Syrah.) (more…)

10/06/11 – Inexperienced Winos Welcome Club (round 2)

The Young Winos of LA are hosting another “Inexperienced Winos Welcome Club” as a way for non-members to get a feel for the group in a casual and wine-soaked environment. Whether you’re a novice drinker or a seasoned boozehound, we’d love for you to stop by, taste some vino with us, and learn what the Young Winos are all about!

For our second non-members meeting this year, we’ll be tasting a lineup of eight red wines from around the world. Our Head Wino, Jesse Porter, will curate the selection of wines and moderate discussion as we drink through them. Like all Winos gatherings, you’re sure to leave feeling edutoxicated. (more…)

09/14/11 – Inexperienced Winos Welcome Club (round 1)

The Young Winos of LA are hosting our first ever “Inexperienced Winos Welcome Club” as a way for non-members to get a feel for the group in a casual and wine-soaked environment. Whether you’re a novice drinker or a seasoned boozehound, we’d love for you to stop by, taste some vino with us, and learn what the Young Winos are all about!

For our premiere non-members meeting, we’ll be tasting a lineup of white wines from around the world. (Red wines to follow in a few weeks.) Our Head Wino, Jesse Porter, will curate the selection of wines and moderate discussion as we drink through them. Like all Winos gatherings, you’re sure to leave feeling edutoxicated. (more…)

09/07/11 – Rhône blends from le monde nouveau

I recently attended a shindig at the new beach-adjacent tasting room of Dave Potter, proprietor of Municipal Winemakers, who crafts tasty and thought-provoking wines in Santa Barbara.  One of my favorite bottles of the night was his 2009 MCS — a yet-unreleased wine made up of Mourvedre, Carignan, and Syrah.  Anything about that blend strike you as a bit odd?

If you’re a seasoned Wino (or have simply spent too much time in the company of Rhône-o-philes like me and Jason), you may notice the conspicuous absence of Grenache, a wine that typically makes up the majority of blends featuring those other three grapes.  For this bottling, Dave simply decided to forgo Grenache’s berry-driven buoyancy in favor of the more earthy, heavy-handed flavors typical of the other three — and the results were delicious.  However, such a blend would never be allowed in France’s Rhône Valley, the traditional homeland of all of the above-mentioned varietals, because it’s mandated that Grenache be included in blends of this type.  Let’s celebrate American-style freedom and ingenuity by drinking Rhône-inspired wines from le monde nouveau, the new world — a.k.a. anywhere outside of Europe. (more…)

08/03/11 – German whites for summer nights

It’s been hot the past few days. It will continue to be hot for the next few days — and weeks, and months, in all likelihood. When the weather’s hot, the wine ought to be cold, and none of the world’s wines display their character so beautifully when cold than those of Germany. This Wednesday evening, let’s cool off with a few bottles of chilly German white.

Our meeting this week will be hosted by the lovely Andrea, who’s made no bones about her unadulterated love for Riesling, particularly of the German persuasion. Riesling from Germany is noted for its finesse and clarity, and it runs the gamut from dry to sweet (the Germans have a system called Prädikat for assigning “sweetness” ratings to their wine… if your bottle says “Kabinett,” that’s a drier version, whereas “Spatlese” and “Auslese” indicate progressively higher levels of sweetness. Read more about it here). (more…)

06/29/11 – the Mendoza lineup

The perdiz (Spanish for “partridge”) is a medium-sized bird, larger than its cousin the quail, but smaller than its cousin the pheasant.  It’s a native resident of Argentina, and it lends its name to a winery in Mendoza called Las Perdices, whose labels depict a small flock of the stately fellows.  The good people at Vines of Mendoza were kind enough to send the Young Winos a handful of bottles from Las Perdices to taste and evaluate.  Please join us at Jason’s new place on Wednesday evening to do just that!

Those who haven’t tasted a lot of Argentinean wine are in for a treat: across the board, the wines have a rustic elegance that belies their old world roots, but it’s often coupled with a fullness and richness that rivals the best offerings from California and Australia.  What’s more, the prices tend to be right on point. (more…)

06/21/11 – throwing some reds on the barbie

Having been involved in the drinking and discussion (and more drinking, and louder discussion) of wine for several years now, I’m always surprised when I come across a bit of eye-opening wine insight I’ve never seen before — even if it’s only an acronym.  Such was the case today, when I discovered this ancient website about which wines to bring to a barbecue.  The unnamed author makes the clever and accurate observation that BBQ wines should always be B.B.Q.: big, bold, and quaffable.  I couldn’t agree more.

This week, we’re tasting red barbecue-friendly wines, and I’d say that the “B.B.Q.” descriptor is a good one to keep in mind when selecting a wine to bring.  The go-to “big reds” would probably be good bets (i.e. Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz, Petite Sirah, etc.), but here are a few other suggestions: (more…)

06/08/11 – buoyant Beaujolais for beaches and barbecues

In his masterful book Adventures on the Wine Route, legendary importer Kermit Lynch writes: “Beaujolais must be the most inspired invention in the history of wine.  What a concept, downing a newborn wine that has barely left the grape, a wine that retains the cornucopian spirit of the harvest past.  It even serves to remind us of the first time man tasted fermented grape juice and decided it was an accident of nature worth pursuing.”

In the past few years, the Young Winos have primarily concerned ourselves with Beaujolais’ well-documented popularity as a Thanksgiving wine, given its ability to pair with diverse and varied cuisines.  During these tastings, the most popular bottles have often been those with a certain degree of fullness or robustness — after all, Thanksgiving is an autumn feast, and robust wines are perfect for cooler temperatures. (more…)

04/06/11 – March Delirium week #3

Wednesday night is your last chance to get delirious!  (With the Young Winos, that is.  If you want to get delirious on your own time, there’s very little we can do about it.)

It’s the final week of our shorter, less intense version of our annual blind-tasting tournament, which we’ve decided to call March Delirium (to reflect its relative mildness as compared to full-blown “madness”).  Instead of six single-varietal meetings, we’ll instead be hosting three combination meetings.  Furthermore, instead of simply blind-tasting varietals and regions, March Delirium features guessing on a scale that will likely become all the more relevant to us this summer as fuel costs hit all-time highs: price. (more…)

03/30/11 – March Delirium week #2

The NCAA men’s March Madness tournament may be down to four (somewhat surprising) finalists, but the Young Winos’ March Delrium tasting series is just starting to heat up!

This year, we’re hosting a shorter, less intense version of our annual blind-tasting tournament, which we’ve decided to call March Delirium (to reflect its relative mildness as compared to full-blown “madness”).  Instead of six single-varietal meetings, we’ll instead be hosting three combination meetings.  Furthermore, instead of simply blind-tasting varietals and regions, March Delirium features guessing on a scale that will likely become all the more relevant to us this summer as fuel costs hit all-time highs: price. (more…)

03/16/11 – March Delirium week #1

As our once-proud tradition of weekly meetings has lately been marred by scheduling conflicts and the increased responsibilities that come with advancing age, we decided it wasn’t a viable possibility this year to host a full-scale eight-week March Madness tasting tournament as we’ve done in years past.  But don’t despair, blind-tasting buffs; we haven’t forgotten you.

This year, we’re hosting a shorter, less intense version of the tournament, which we’ve decided to call March Delirium (to reflect its relative mildness as compared to full-blown “madness”).  Instead of six single-varietal meetings, we’ll instead be hosting either two or three combination meetings, as determined by your interest levels.  Furthermore, instead of simply blind-tasting varietals and regions, March Delirium features guessing on a scale that will likely become all the more relevant to us this summer as fuel costs hit all-time highs: price.

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02/08/11 – Legendary Australian reds (Shiraz, Cabernet, and blends of the two)

Two years ago, the Young Winos assisted in the effort to save the Australian wine industry, but we haven’t done a weekly tasting of all Australian bottles since that point, and it’s time for that to change.  On Tuesday night, we’ll be tasting a lineup of big Australian reds and seeing if we can figure out what’s so distinctly Australian about them. (more…)

01/19/11 – comfort wines for troubled times

It’s 2011, yet the economy still sucks.  Like a clueless party guest still pouring himself another glass of wine an hour after everyone else has gone home, this pesky recession continues to linger.  (I recently found a fairly depressing LA Times article from 2008, in which economists warn that the recession could potentially last “until 2010.”  Imagine that.)

As everyone knows, consumers tend to cut back their spending in times of recession.  However, they exhibit other interesting traits as well: they favor the brands with which they’re familiar, and are less experimental in their purchasing than in boom times.  They become increasingly aware of sales, promotions, and other cost-saving opportunities.  And they spend more money than normal on products promising entertainment and escapism.  To me, all of this sounds like the makings of a Winos meeting.
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12/15/10 – Winter Beers III

Jason has generously agreed to once again host our annual Winter Beers tasting.  As always, this will be a casual affair, primarily because beer is totally un-serious and pedestrian compared to wine.  (Oooooh, snap!  No he didn’t!)

And no, I actually didn’t.  Beer is, of course, incredibly complex and elegant, perhaps no more so than when all of the rich and robust winter brews are available to consumers.  This winter, Jason will be providing a number of beers in various styles.  What should we expect on the menu?  Well, perhaps some…

– Winter ales
– Scottish ales
– Bocks
– …or Dopplebocks
– …or Weizenbocks!
– Stouts
– …or Imperial Stouts
– Winter wheats / dark wheat beers
– Porters (and not just yours truly)
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11/24/10 – a better Beaujolais (part trois)

Sorry for the last-minute nature of this meeting, but a custom-built tasting opportunity like this only comes around once a year, and we’d be foolish to miss it.

Once again, we’re doing our annual tasting of “a better Beaujolais.” As always, our goal is to find some delicious alternatives to the unfortunate Beaujolais Nouveau that so many people regrettably choose to drink with their Thanksgiving dinners. The 2010 batch of Beaujolais Nouveau arived from France last week, so we thought we’d better hold this tasting again, lest anyone be tempted to make a less-than-inspiring purchasing choice for this most important annual meal. (more…)

11/10/10 – the man’s guide to wine

Have you ever worried that the wine you’re drinking isn’t manly enough? Well, if you’re female, then probably not, I guess. And even if you’re male, this might not be an issue that very often concerns you. However, if you’ve ever had any worries about the manliness of your wine choices — or if you’re just in the mood to taste a delicious and robust lineup of bottles — then come out and join us in Sherman Oaks on Wednesday night. (Ladies welcome, of course.)

Attendees of this meeting will be treated to a nine-bottle lineup specially selected by the Young Winos for this tasting. But if you think it’ll consist solely of massive, full-bodied reds, think again. Manly wines can be white, rosé and red, dry and sweet, smooth and tannic. We’ll have wines from numerous regions and varietals, and we’ll wrap things up with a special manly dessert wine. All this for just ten bucks! (more…)

10/27/10 – scary old vines for Hallowino

In honor of everyone’s favorite fright-related holiday, we’ll be doing a special Old Vines tasting at Jessica’s place on Wednesday evening. “Old vines” is a disputed term in the winemaking world, but it generally refers to any vines that have gained sufficient age as to produce lower grape yields than younger vines, which correlates with increased quality. Since the oldest of these vines sometimes take on a gnarled, spooky quality, we figured they’d be the most appropriate theme for our Hallowino celebration.

Grape vines can grow for over 120 years. After about 20 years vines start to produce smaller crops, and average yields decrease, leading to more concentrated, intense wines. In the U.S., the most common use is on Zinfandel, because in California vineyards up to 125 years old are still bearing small amounts of prized Zinfandel fruit. Other countries producing significant quantities of old vine wines include France (where they’re called vieilles vignes), Spain, Portugal, and Australia. (more…)

10/21/10 – new wines from Zealand

Ever wonder why New Zealand is called “New Zealand?” Is there an Old Zealand? As a matter of fact, there is: the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands, which is composed entirely of islands, and is popular with tourists for its many miles of beautiful coastline. No wonder the original Dutch explorers made the connection.

New Zealand is an interesting wine destination. It’s a country about 900 miles long, and currently features about 30,000 hectares of vineyards — roughly the same area of planted land as in Napa, a region only 30 miles long. However, as recently as ten years ago, the total productive vine area was a mere third of what it is now, and this massive expansion of New Zealand’s wine production reflects its explosion in popularity on the international wine scene. It’s now considered one of the world’s premiere regions for a number of wines, particularly: (more…)

10/06/10 – marking Meltzer’s matriculation with Moet and more

Longtime wino Jason Meltzer is in a celebratory mood lately. Less than two weeks ago, he received a very impressive degree from UCLA. I won’t tell you what kind of degree it is, but let’s just say that it’s no longer appropriate to call him “Mister Meltzer.” (And no, it’s not a sex-change degree. There’s no such thing.)

As everyone knows, any celebration worth its salt demands that Champagne be popped open, and Jason’s celebration is definitely worth its salt. That’s why he’ll be hosting the Winos on Wednesday night, and providing us a lineup of Champagne for our careful, drunken analysis. (more…)

09/02/10 – the wines of Washington (state)

What do you think of when you hear the word “Washington?” Do you think of sneaky midnight trips across the Delaware? Do you think of homophobic rants on the set of Grey’s Anatomy? Or do you think of the Winos’ newest chapter? This Thursday night, come join the LA kids as we taste a lineup of bottles that will forever make you think “wine” when you hear “Washington.”

The state of Washington, despite being further north than Pinot-rich Oregon, is most famous for its warm-weather grapes: Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The reason has to do with topography; while Oregon’s vineyards are primarily found in the maritime-influenced Willamette Valley, many of Washington’s premier regions are found in the inland and eastern parts of the state. Check out this map — see all the brown areas? That’s where a lot of the good wine comes from. (more…)

07/22/10 – a whole bunch of Italians

Jason recently complained to me that he sometimes doesn’t feel like he really knows his way around Italian wine. As a result, we’re having an Italian wine night — not just because I hate hearing Jason complain, but because he makes a good point. Many of us know little more about Italy and its wine scene than that it’s the home of Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, and Sangiovese. Venture into an Italian restaurant with that limited knowledge, and you’re bound to be intimidated by the formidable wine list.

On Wednesday night, we’ll be broadening our knowledge of all things vinous and Italian by tasting some grapes and regions that might not be familiar to everyone. In order to make sure that we skip the clichés, let’s not bring any Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, or Sangiovese (don’t forget, that includes Chianti). Any other varietal is a-ok!

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07/07/10 – an Aussie evening with the Rob Gibson Wine Company

A representative of Barossa Valley’s Rob Gibson Wine Company is going to be pouring a lineup of Rob’s delicious Australian wines for the LA Winos on Wednesday evening. Rob Gibson’s portfolio includes both reds and whites from the Rob Gibson and the Loose End labels, including some of the big Shiraz-based wines that have put Barossa Valley on themap, with some Grenache and Cab and Petit Verdot thrown in there too. Check out more info about the Rob Gibson family of wines by clicking here.

Wednesday night’s tasting menu will feature:

–The 2007 Barossa FSR (Frontignac, Semilion, Riesling)
–The 2007 Loose End Barossa Grenache Rosé
–The 2004 Gibson BarossaVale Shiraz
–The 2005 Gibson “The Dirtman” Shiraz
–The 2006 Loose End Barossa GSM (Grenache, Shiraz, Merlot)
–The 2004 BarossaVale “Isabelle” Blend (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot)

Look at all those crazy blends! Grenache, Shiraz and Merlot? And wait — Semillon, Riesling and Frontignac?! (WTF is Frontignac? Are they just making up words now?) Needless to say, this is a tasting that any and all Australian fans won’t want to miss. (more…)

06/16/10 – rosé for refreshment

Summer is less than a week away. Therefore, it’s rosé time! Come join us on Wednesday as we taste a bunch of them — including the supremely refreshing bottle that’s part of this month’s inaugural wine2wino shipment!

(It’s not too late to order this month’s wine2winoClick here to do so.)

By now you’ll hopefully have discovered that rosé is much more than the White Zinfandel that your aunt likes to serve at her barbecues. They comes from all over the world, and they’re made with many different grape types, but the vast majority of decent rosés share one common characteristic: they’re made from red grapes, the juice of which has been drained off quickly so that the skins didn’t have time to impart more than a slight bit of pigmentation, resulting in a pink hue (as opposed to a full dark red one). (more…)

06/02/10 – Jason loves Sherry

No, he doesn’t have a new girlfriend, or even a new celebrity crush. Jason loves Sherry, that tasty fortified wine also known as Jerez, which hails from the Spanish region of the same name. In fact, Jason loves Sherry so much that he went out and bought a huge lineup of it for Wednesday night’s meeting! All you have to bring to the party is a crisp ten-dollar bill.

“Eww, a whole meeting of just Sherry? But isn’t Sherry, like, really sweet and gross, omg?” No! No it isn’t. See, that’s what everybody thinks, which is probably why people our age never seem to drink any Sherry. According to this article, Sherry imports are down to 200,000 cases a year, 75 percent off their peak in the 1980s, due in no small part to the fact that young people never drink it. Last fall, I was even interviewed by the NPR radio programMarketplace on the topic of Sherry’s dismal sales record among young people (click here for more info about the segment, or to listen!). (more…)

05/26/10 – Spanish reds, with a blind twist (número dos)

What could possibly be more exciting, you ask, than a super awesome tasting of eight delicious and well-reviewed Spanish reds that have been pre-selected and pre-bought so that all you have to bring is ten bucks? How about a super awesome blind tasting of eight delicious and well-reviewed Spanish reds that have been pre-selected and pre-bought so that all you have to bring is ten bucks?

Back in ’08, we held just such a tasting, and the results were not only positive, but delicious, and even positively delicious (but not quite deliciously positive, depending on who you ask). After learning our way around Rioja two weeks ago, it’s time to take our second-ever blind tour of Spain, and see what value wines we can find along the way. (more…)

05/11/10 – Revisiting Rioja

During the two months that we dedicated to the March Madness blind-tasting tournament, we drank wine from eleven different regions in six different nations: France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and the good ol’ USA. In doing so, we made geographical stops at a number of the world’s top countries for wine production. However, several important wino nations were overlooked, including Spain, which is a particular favorite of several of us LA Winos.

For the next two weeks, we’ll be doing a sort-of Spanish wine mini-series. We’ll start this week with an exploration of what has traditionally been considered Spain’s greatest wine region, Rioja, which we previously tasted at Nick’s place last summer for the Tempranillo meeting. Next week, we’ll be doing a blind tasting of budget Spanish reds from various regions, in an attempt to find the best values in a country that’s full of them.
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05/05/10 – Cinco de Wino

Join us on Wednesday night in celebrating Cinco de Mayo, the date in 1862 in which the Mexican army, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragosa, scored an unlikely defeat of the French expeditionary forces in the Battle of Puebla. For decades, this rather obscure holiday has been used as an excuse to consume copious amounts of tequila… which is exactly how we’ll be using it on Wednesday night!

In typical Young Winos fashion, we’ll be taking something that’s fun and carefree, pumping it full of education, and spitting it back out all classy-like. By the end of this week’s festivities, you’ll not only know your way around the important classifications of tequila, but you’ll have tasted several delicious and inspired margarita recipes, and you’ll hopefully have learned a thing or two about Mexican cultural heritage in the process. (Oh yeah… and you’ll be smashed.) (more…)

04/21/10 – Dry Riesling in the Australian Style

Our third-annual March Madness blind tasting extravaganza came to its thrilling conclusion last week, with newbie Wino savant Scott Wadlow claiming the top prize! First runner up was yours truly, followed by Jason, Vanessa, Andrea, and Adra. Scott will be presented with the ceremonial Booze Basket trophy at the next meeting he attends. Congratulations to all the participants! Here’s hoping everyone enjoyed themselves, and perhaps even learned a thing or two.

Although the March Madness tournament acts as a thorough primer on some of the world’s most significant regions and grape varietals, there’s plenty that it doesn’t cover. We can’t possibly get to all the notable varietals in a six-week time period, nor even all the significant growing regions for the varietals we do cover, so the period after March Madness often acts as an opportunity for the Winos to catch up on some excellent varietals and regions that fell through the cracks during the tournament. This week, we’re kicking things off with Australian Riesling. (more…)

04/13/10 – March Madness week #8 (championship reds)

Wine tasting doesn’t get much more intense than this.

Welcome to the second and final week of our big championship series in the 2010 March Madness blind tasting tournament! For six weeks, we tasted six of the world’s most recognizable varietals, both red and white, and last week marked our white wines championship round. This week, it’s red time, and we’ll all have to draw on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our efforts to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion — and to win the 2010 Booze Basket! (more…)

04/06/10 – March Madness week #7 (championship whites)

It’s on, folks. It’s completely on.

The time has come for the two-week championship finale of our third-ever March Madness blind tasting tournament. For six weeks, we’ve tasted six of the world’s most recognizable varietals. Now it’s time for two rounds of balls-out championship play, in which we draw on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our efforts to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion. This Tuesday, we start with the whites.

OFFICIAL RULES:
In championship play, all bottles are “blind.” The white varietals we’ll be tasting are those that we’ve explored over the past six weeks: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay. For each of these varietals, we designated three regions where they’re well-made, and we tasted bottles hailing from these regions — as a result, these are the only permitted regions of origin for bottles in the championship rounds. (more…)

03/31/10 – March Madness week #6 (Cabernet Sauvignon)

It’s time for week six of our second-ever March Madness blind tasting tournament. For six weeks, we’re tasting six of the world’s most recognizable varietals, one per week. After that, we’ll have two weeks of championship tasting, in which we go balls-out crazy with the blind tasting, drawing on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our effort to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion.

Week #1 — Sauvignon Blanc (done)
Week #2 — Syrah / Shiraz (done)
Week #3 — Riesling (done)
Week #4 — Pinot Noir (done)
Week #5 — Chardonnay (done)
Week #6 — Cabernet Sauvignon
Week #7 — Blind white tasting
Week #8 — Blind red tasting

OFFICIAL RULES:
Each week, we bring bottles of the given varietal from all around the world. Before the tasting starts, two people volunteer to donate the two “mystery bottles,” and their wines are placed in brown bags. (For your wine to be granted this special honor, you must be sure that no one else knows what part of the world it’s from.) (more…)

03/25/10 – March Madness week #5 (Chardonnay)

It’s time for week five of our third-annual March Madness blind tasting tournament. For six weeks, we’re tasting six of the world’s most recognizable varietals, one per week. After that, we’ll have two weeks of championship tasting, in which we go balls-out crazy with the blind tasting, drawing on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our effort to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion.

Week #1 — Sauvignon Blanc (done)
Week #2 — Syrah / Shiraz (done)
Week #3 — Riesling (done)
Week #4 — Pinot Noir (done)
Week #5 — Chardonnay
Week #6 — Cabernet Sauvignon
Week #7 — Blind white tasting
Week #8 — Blind red tasting

OFFICIAL RULES:
Each week, we bring bottles of the given varietal from all around the world. Before the tasting starts, two people volunteer to donate the two “mystery bottles,” and their wines are placed in brown bags. (For your wine to be granted this special honor, you must be sure that no one else knows what part of the world it’s from.) (more…)

03/16/10 – March Madness week #4 (Pinot Noir)

It’s time for week three of our third annual March Madness blind tasting tournament! For six weeks, we’re tasting six of the world’s most recognizable varietals, one per week. After that, we’ll have two weeks of championship tasting, in which we go balls-out crazy with the blind tasting, drawing on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our effort to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion.

Week #1 — Sauvignon Blanc (done)
Week #2 — Syrah / Shiraz (done)
Week #3 — Riesling (done)
Week #4 — Pinot Noir
Week #5 — Chardonnay
Week #6 — Cabernet Sauvignon
Week #7 — Blind white tasting
Week #8 — Blind red tasting

OFFICIAL RULES:
Each week, we bring bottles of the given varietal from all around the world. Before the tasting starts, two people volunteer to donate the two “mystery bottles,” and their wines are placed in brown bags. (For your wine to be granted this special honor, you must be sure that no one else knows what part of the world it’s from.) (more…)

03/09/10 – March Madness week #3 (Riesling)

It’s time for week three of our third annual March Madness blind tasting tournament! For six weeks, we’re tasting six of the world’s most recognizable varietals, one per week. After that, we’ll have two weeks of championship tasting, in which we go balls-out crazy with the blind tasting, drawing on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our effort to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion.

Week #1 — Sauvignon Blanc (done)
Week #2 — Syrah / Shiraz (done)
Week #3 — Riesling
Week #4 — Pinot Noir
Week #5 — Chardonnay
Week #6 — Cabernet Sauvignon
Week #7 — Blind white tasting
Week #8 — Blind red tasting

OFFICIAL RULES:
Each week, we bring bottles of the given varietal from all around the world. Before the tasting starts, two people volunteer to donate the two “mystery bottles,” and their wines are placed in brown bags. (For your wine to be granted this special honor, you must be sure that no one else knows what part of the world it’s from.) (more…)

02/23/10 – March Madness week #2 (Syrah)

It’s time for week two of our third annual March Madness blind tasting tournament! For six weeks, we’re tasting six of the world’s most recognizable varietals, one per week. After that, we’ll have two weeks of championship tasting, in which we go balls-out crazy with the blind tasting, drawing on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our effort to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion. (more…)

02/16/10 – March madness week #1 (Sauvignon Blanc)

Hard to believe, I know, but it’s actually that time again — time for the Winos’ big annual March Madness blind tasting tournament! Whether you’re a seasoned sipper or a beginner boozehound, you’ll definitely want to get in on the exciting action over the next eight weeks. Blind tasting has never been so epic.

This is our third year hosting the March Madness tournament, and the rules are the same as last year: for six weeks, we’ll taste six of the world’s most recognizable varietals, one per week. After that, we’ll have two weeks of championship tasting, in which we go balls-out crazy with the blind tasting, drawing on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our effort to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion. (more…)

02/05/10 – The Prisoner vertical tasting

Occasionally, the Young Winos of LA dispatch with the usual brand of weekly tastings and do something truly special. This is one of those weeks. (And no, not just because the tasting is on a Friday night… although that was definitely clue number one that something phenomenal is afoot.)

In March of 2008, when the LA chapter’s blog was in its infancy, Jordan and I posted our review of the 2005 Orin Swift “Papillon” Red Wine, a $56 Meritage from Napa Valley. We mentioned in the piece that Orin Swift is most famous for its Zinfandel-based “Prisoner” red blend, whose distinctive label (above) you may well have seen in your favorite wine shop. In the comments section, Jordan said the following: “we will be doing a Prisoner vertical tasting soon. Stay tuned.” Now, nearly two years later, “soon” has finally arrived. Sorry for the wait, folks… we’re pretty sure it’ll be worth it.

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01/26/10 – Nero d’Avola

As a demographic, the Young Winos tend to drink quite a lot more wine than the average. There’s no denying it… we drink an inordinately large amount of wine. Truthfully, it’s severely ridiculous how much wine we drink.

However, one of our big points of pride is that we not only drink more wine than most people, but more interesting wine as well. It’s easy to fall into the trap of drinking only Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Zinfandel, and other grapes we see most often on wine lists and in grocery stores. To avoid such situations, the Winos do our best to devote numerous meetings to tasting awesome, dynamic and under-appreciated grapes that may be flying below the radar of the average consumer. This week, we investigate exactly such a grape: the star of Sicily, Nero d’Avola. (more…)

01/13/09 – learning to respect the Sauvignon Blanc of Bordeaux

Here’s a classic wine joke: when does a Bordeaux not get any respect? When it’s a white Bordeaux! Hah! (Ok, I’ll admit, it’s not very funny. But that’s because there’s nothing funny about wine.)

The classic red wines of France’s Bordeaux region are among the most expensive and sought-after bottles in the world — and, to this day, are considered by many to be the standard for sturdy, age-worthy wines. The white wines of Bordeaux, while they certainly aren’t laughed at, simply don’t have the same prestige as their red cousins… nor do they have the “cool” factor of white wines from, say, the Rhone Valley (or Spain, or Austria, etc). Typically made from blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, white Bordeaux can be delicious, refreshing wines. So why the lack of respect?

One problem is likely the whole blending thing, which doesn’t really allow the Sauv Blanc to fully enjoy the spotlight. Unlike the reds, which are made by blending together grapes that share a lot of flavor characteristics (Cab, Merlot, Cab Franc, etc), the white Bordeaux can best be described as efforts to reconcile the opposing natures of their two main varietals: the Sauvignon Blanc contributes racy, herbal acidity, while the Sémillon adds honeyed textural elements. In the Loire Valley, where Sauvignon Blanc is not blended, the great bottles of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are pure expressions of the grape, and the region gets a lot of love as a result. In Bordeaux, it’s like, “hmm, am I tasting the Sauv Blanc or the Sémillion? I can’t decide… let’s just order more Pouilly-Fumé.” (more…)

01/06/10 – wines with numbers in their names

If you were out and about last Thursday night, or even if you were at home watching TV, it was probably made very apparent to you that a lot of people get really excited about the coming of the New Year. Well, here at the Winos we say “bah humbug.” It’s just a number, after all, and it’s totally arbitrary — but that doesn’t stop plenty of people from drinking quite a lot of alcohol to commemorate its arrival. Therefore, since we’re all obviously willing to drink to excess in honor of random numbers, this week’s meeting will feature such a theme.

On Wednesday night, bring any bottle with a number in its name. Please note, the number has to be in the wine’s actual name, not just on the label. Every bottle has numbers on its label, as mandated by law (the volume of wine contained, the alcohol percentage, and the good ol’ vintage, to name a few), but comparatively fewer bottles have numbers in their actual names. Your job is to seek them out. (more…)

12/15/09 – capping off the decade with some bubbles

Hard to believe, but the decade will be ending in about two weeks. Just think, it was a mere ten years ago that we all braced ourselves for the inevitable calamity that would be Y2K, and then breathed a collective sigh of relief when the ball dropped and nothing blew up. Most of us just turned up the volume on the Ricky Martin and got back to the party, probably not caring very much about what we were drinking. This year, we’re going to do it differently: we’re going to find that perfect bottle of New Years bubbly. We’ve come a long way since 2000 (check out the photo below if you don’t believe me), and our choice of celebratory libation should reflect that. (more…)

12/08/09 – Portuguese wine for winter ’09

**Last December, we ran a tasting called Portuguese wine for holiday cheer. It was a delicious and satisfying experience (check out our tasting notes and read why!). This year, we re-visit that legendary theme as part of our ongoing quest to find the ideal holiday bottle.

The holidays are now imminent, and it’s completely possible that you’ve not yet found the perfect holiday wine. (Because there is a perfect holiday wine, by the way. There’s only one. Only one wine that will make your holidays perfect. And if you don’t find it, your holidays will be flawed and depressing, and your family will love you less.) (more…)

12/01/09 – wines to bring to your next holiday party

With the passing of Thanksgiving, it’s time for even the most curmudgeonly holdouts among us to reluctantly acknowledge the arrival of the holiday season in full force — and, as always, following on the heels of that arrival is the inevitable arrival of the holiday parties. While it’s universally poor form to show up to a party empty-handed, it becomes especially crucial, during this season of giving, to project an image of generosity and good will towards men. And what better way to engender good will than by showing up with a delicious bottle of wine?

This week, we’re on a search for the perfect bottle to accompany you to your lineup of holiday parties. Everyone’s probably still feeling burned out from the big meal last Thursday, not to mention the trials of Black Friday (and apparently “Cyber Monday” as well… when did this become a thing?), so we’ll be making the shopping easy this week. Bring any bottle that you think would be the ideal contribution to a festive gathering of the holiday type. Just be prepared to explain why you brought it. (more…)

11/17/09 – a “better” better Beaujolais

Last year at this time, the LA Winos ran a tasting called A Better Beaujolais. Our goal was to find some delicious alternatives to the unfortunate Beaujolais Nouveau that so many people regrettably choose to drink with their Thanksgiving dinners. The 2009 batch of Beaujolais Nouveau will be arriving from France next week, so we thought we’d better hold this tasting again, lest anyone be tempted to make a less-than-inspiring purchasing choice for this most important annual meal.

Beaujolais Nouveau (literally “new Beaujolais”) is present-year vintage wine that’s specially bottled for the Thanksgiving season. Typically hailing from the least-celebrated vineyards in the Beaujolais region, the wine is harvested early (sometimes leaving it unripe), bottled, aged for about a week, and then shipped off to unfortunate customers all around the world. In most vintages, it’s pretty poor wine — and definitely not worth the $10 to $14 it commands. (For further reading, here’s a great piece on the history of Beaujolais Nouveau by Mike Steinberger.) (more…)

11/11/09 – Santa Barbara reds

This week’s meeting is being hosted by Jason, and will begin at 8pm.

The LA Winos have lots of friends in Santa Barbara, even without the entire chapter of Winos that live there! This is partially because it’s so close to Los Angeles and full of hip young winemakers. This week, we will explore the red wines of Santa Barbara county and its appellations — some hip, and some not-so-hip.

The reds of Santa Barbara run the gamut — from big and bold Cabernet Sauvignon to subtle Pinot Noir, and from the well known Syrah to the somewhat obscure Mourvedre. Blends representative of Rhone and Bordeaux abound, as well as some more interesting concoctions not often found east of Australia. (more…)

11/05/09 – Harvest Whites at Vendome Studio City

We’re well into autumn now, and I can already hear the haters telling me that it’s time to stop drinking white wine. “Summer’s over, bro,” they tell me. “You’ve got to change with the season.” (These are the same people who are also telling me to stop wearing shorts, t-shirts, and shoes with holes in them. What do they know?)

In a way, the haters are right — summer’s definitely over. But that doesn’t mean we have to stop drinking white wines… it just means we have to change the type of white wines that we’re drinking. Ideal white wines for fall are those that feature good structure, a touch of sweetness, and a nice round full-bodiedness. Last week, the LA Times ran an article called white wines to warm up your fall meals, and it’s in the spirit of that insightful piece of journalism that we’ll be conducting this week’s meeting. (more…)

10/27/09 – los rojos de robles (Paso Robles reds)

Paso Robles (shortened version of El Paso de Robles, Spanish for “the pass of the oaks”) is a barren, desolate place, nearly three hours from the nearest major league baseball stadium, and is totally unfit for human habitation. Despite these limitations, however, they make some pretty delicious wines there. Come out on Tuesday night and drink some of the red ones!

Jason recently returned from a trip to Paso, and he’s eager to show us the awesome bottles he picked up there — although we may have to twist his arm to get him to actually open any of them. You can assure yourself an excellent drinking experience, however, by picking up an awesome Paso red of your own! And there are many to choose from… (more…)

10/20/09 – big, brawny blends

Fall is finally upon us, and the weather is turning brutally cold. For example, the high temperature on Tuesday in Redondo Beach is going to be a measly 66 degrees. Don’t believe me? Come out to the Young Winos and see for yourself!

We’ve got a number of great tastings planned for the autumn months, including “white wines for the fall table” (a must-attend for Riesling lovers) and our annual Thanksgiving extravaganza (no Beaujolais Nouveau, we promise). This week, we’re getting into the fall spirit in simple fashion: by countering the cold with some big, brawny wines to fill our bellies and warm the soul. And, in the interest of alliteration, we’ve decided to require that all the wines are blends. (more…)

10/06/09 – bringing Sherry back

As you may already know, the Young Winos were recently featured on the nationally-syndicated radio show Marketplace (click here to listen). The subject of the program was Sherry — and, more specifically, why young people aren’t drinking any of it. According to this article, Sherry imports are down to 200,000 cases a year, 75 percent off their peak in the 1980s. Add to that the fact that almost no young people I know ever drink the stuff, under any circumstances, and you’ve got a total Sherry Fail.

This week, though, we’re going to buck the trend and see if we can’t introduce some young palates to the pleasures of the Jerez juice. We’ll be sticking to the drier end of the Sherry spectrum, as anyone who remembers our ill-fated attempt to conduct a meeting of solely sweet dessert wines will surely appreciate. (more…)

09/30/09 – Primitivo (vs. Zinfandel)

Whenever a product originating in a foreign country gets adapted for an American audience, you never know what the results are going to be. Sometimes the American version is better (i.e. baseball, vastly superior to the old British game of “rounders”), and sometimes it’s worse (i.e. The Grudge, or any of the other poorly-adapted Japanese horror movies). In the case of Primitivo vs. Zinfandel, however, the jury is still out. Come cast your vote on Wednesday night!

To be fair, Zinfandel isn’t really an “adaptation” of Primitivo… it’s more like a different version of the same thing. Grown in southern Italy, Primitivo was thought for several decades to be Zinfandel’s genetic parent. Recent research, however, has proven that Zinfandel and Primitivo share the same DNA, and that both are actually genetic clones of the obscure Croatian grape Crljenak Kaštelanski. (To read a scholarly review of the definitive research, click here — or, for the short Wikipedia version, click here.) Although they might technically be the same grape, they’re stylistically different enough to warrant a side-by-side comparison. (more…)

09/23/09 – the Oregon Trail

This week, we’re meeting for the first time at Vanessa and Andrea’s cozy Sherman Oaks abode, and we thought we’d honor our rookie hosts by drinking some wine originating in the places that they’re from. Vanessa, however, comes from Los Angeles, and there simply aren’t enough wineries in our fair city for it to justify its own tasting. On a much more positive note, Andrea hails from Portland, and the fair state of Oregon has no shortage of excellent wineries for us to choose from. (Andrea occasionally tries to point out to me that she actually comes from a “Portland-adjacent” city in the state of Washington, but I can never seem to remember that.)

Oregon is an exciting location in the world of domestic wines. It’s a difficult place to grow grapes; the state has cold weather, a rainy climate, and a name that no one can figure out how to pronounce (is it “or-a-GON” or “or-a-GINN?” No one knows for sure). Oregon’s most important wine region is the Willamette (definitely pronounced “will-AM-ette”) Valley, which also has various sub-regions within it. Other regions include Rogue Valley, Columbia Valley, and Umpqua Valley. Reds and whites are both fair game for this meeting — as are sparklers, if you can find one. (more…)

09/09/09 — whites for the wine century club

Last week, a couple of members were asking about the Wine Century Club. If you weren’t there, here’s a quick rundown of what it’s all about: the Wine Century Club is an informal organization of wine drinkers who have each tasted 100 or more varietals (grape types) in their lifetime. Becoming a member is easy: you simply make a list of 100 different grapes you’ve tried, and what the wines were called. Then you send in your list, and you get a certificate to hang on your wall. Truly badass. (For more information, check out the Century Club website.) (more…)

09/02/09 – three red grapes living together in one bottle

No matter what your televisual preferences might be, I’m sure we can all agree that Three’s Company wouldn’t have been any good if there weren’t three of them. “Two’s company” is the old saying, but that wouldn’t have made much of a show. And forget about one… that’s the loneliest number. No, it seems quite clear that in order to have any really good hi-jinks, shenanigans, or ballyhoo, you need at least three of whatever you’re dealing with.

It’s in that inclusive spirit that we introduce the theme of this week’s meeting: red wines featuring three or more varietals in them. We tried a similar theme last October, but I guess people were too distracted by some election or other to come out and drink with us, because attendance was uncharacteristically low. If you missed the last round, now’s your shot at redemption. (more…)

08/26/09 – intriguing Italian whites

There’s a reason we’re revisiting this theme from last year. In this week’s “Wines of the Times” column, Eric Asimov goes to bat for Italian whites in an effort to “silence the snickers” that are sometimes heard when discussing the merits of Italian whites. There’s an unfortunate perception among some wine lovers that Italy’s only good for reds, and that the whites are all easy-drinking and forgettable. Not true! Don’t believe me, however — just ask Eric Asimov: “Italian white wines, including pinot grigios, are no longer to be sneered at.” Boo-yah.

The column, which you can read here, concerns itself mostly with Vermentino, a white grape grown in many parts of Italy (as well as in France and California, it seems). Read the article and see if you can find a Vermentino style that’s right for you, then ask your friendly wine merchant for help picking one out. (more…)

08/04/09 – a blind, boozy Tour de France

So you always wanted to compete in the Tour de France, but you were just never athletic enough? No worries… alcohol is the key, as usual, to making your dreams come true!

Come join us on Tuesday night as we go on a blind tasting tour of some of the classic French wine regions. Our host Liz is just a few weeks away from taking the final exam to receive her “I know hella lots about vino” certification, and part of that exam will be a blind taste test of various French wines. Help her study and test your own palate as we break open a few brown-bagged bottles of regionally-specific vin. (more…)

07/29/09 – Tempranillo

Over the years, the LA Winos have been pretty good about covering all of the major grape types in dedicated single-varietal tastings. Why, then, we’ve never hosted a Tempranillo shindig is one of the great mysteries of our age. Rather than dwelling on the past, let’s concentrate on fixing the situation, in order to create a better future for our children.

Until the last decade or two, Tempranillo basically meant one thing: Spain. More recently, other regions around the world have gotten on board the Tempranillo express, and the grape is now produced in numerous countries worldwide. The most legendary plantings, however, are still found in the Spanish regions of Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Hopefully we’ll get a cross-section of regions and styles to try at this meeting.

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07/21/09 – finding the perfect summer rosé

There were a number of delicious bottles at last week’s southern Rhone meeting, but the rosé category came in a little thin with only a single entry. In fact, the Winos haven’t had much rosé at all over the past couple months, despite the fact that we’re right smack in the middle of the warmest part of the year. Many serious drinkers think there’s no better bottle of vinous refreshment for the dog days than a bottle of something pink. Perhaps you’ll feel similarly if you come join us on Tuesday.

By now you’ll hopefully have discovered that rosé is much more than the White Zinfandel that your aunt likes to serve at her barbecues. They comes from all over the world, and they’re made with many different grape types, but the vast majority of decent rosés share one common characteristic: they’re made from red grapes, the juice of which has been drained off quickly so that the skins didn’t have time to impart more than a slight bit of pigmentation, resulting in a pink hue (as opposed to a full dark red one). (more…)

07/15/09 – the southern Rhône is so 2007

As long as the LA Winos have been drinking together, we’ve never done a vintage-specific theme for one of our weekly tastings. However, I was recently contacted by Jason — our host this Wednesday evening — who told me how excited he was about the 2007 vintage of Rhône Valley wines. Any time Jason gets excited about anything besides robots, I know to take him seriously, so 2007 Rhône it shall be.

france.JPGFor those who are a little sketchy on their French geography, the Rhône Valley is located in the southeastern part of the country, up-river a bit from the Mediterranean (it’s designated by the dark blue area on this map). The Rhône’s red wines are made from Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsaut, and other grapes; in the southern Rhône, these grapes are blended together, while in the north, only Syrah is used.

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06/30/09 – wines for the beach

How is it possible that the LA Winos have never had a “beach wines” tasting? Let’s take care of that oversight right now.

Whether or not you plan to visit the shore on the upcoming anniversary of our nation’s independence from Gordon Brown, everyone can agree that “beach season” is definitely upon us. Moreover, our meeting this week is being held in Hermosa Beach, one of only nineteen municipalities in the southland with “beach” in its name. Coincidence?? Not if we don’t want it to be. (more…)

06/17/09 – Pinot Noir, in all its versatile glory

One characteristic we all look for in our vino is versatility — the ability of a wine to pair nicely with numerous dishes, with various social situations, with whatever life throws our way. This is especially important in the summer months, when the warming temperatures can entice even the staunchest wino to pine for the thirst-quenching promise of an ice cold beer. Before you wander down Suds Street, however, take a moment to consider Pinot Noir, a grape that plays a whole lot of roles. This week, we’ll drink several of them.

In a recent blog post, our friend Dr. Vino asked his readers to share their experiences finding good Pinot Noir for under $20. His main question was whether most good Pinot in this price range comes from the Old World (aka France) or the New World (anywhere outside of Europe). There’s a big difference between French Pinot Noir and, say, Californian, Oregonian, or New Zealand…ish? According to his readers, however, it’s possible to find good examples of both types for $20 or less. (more…)

06/02/09 – Chenin Blanc (especially the French kind)

I just got back from a sporadic little jaunt around southern France with ma famille, and during those fleeting ten days managed to pass a few hours of travel time with an awesome book, Adventures on the Wine Route: a wine buyer’s tour of France, authored by famed importer Kermit Lynch. (Unfortunately I didn’t have time to finish the book, because I was pretty busy doing French shit, but once I do there will be a full write-up on this site.)

Lynch has an old-school palate that eschews big fruit and big impact in favor of delicacy and character — traits that he readily attributes to the wines of France. One grape in particular, Chenin Blanc, is described affectionately by Lynch as he recounts his travels through the Loire Valley. This week, we’ll be tasting a lineup of Chenin Blanc, with an emphasis on the Chenins of France, as well as examples from elsewhere in the world. (more…)

05/13/09 – wine from the south of France (while we’re still allowed)

Apparently, French wine culture is rapidly going down the toilette.

In a period roughly coinciding with that since the election of the teetotaling Nicholas Sarkozy, there’s been an upswing of neo-puratinism in France, and wine culture (or, more broadly, alcohol culture of all kinds) has been one of the targets. In a recent blog post, Dr. Vino talks about how the French government has banned certain alcohol ads, and has even come down hard against subjective wine reviews in journalistic publications.

Point is, we’d better drink us some French wine before they ban that, too.
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05/06/09 – light-bodied reds for the warming climate

In case you haven’t heard, the world is pretty screwed. Global warming is irreversible, and humanity is going to pay a high price for the indulgences of the past hundred-or-so years.

Last July, we held a tasting of light-bodied reds for summertime. No one wants to drink any big, heavy red wines in warm weather, but that doesn’t mean we have to switch to whites only for three months — there are plenty of light-bodied, refreshing reds that are perfect for summertime consumption. (Although it’s not quite summer yet, I figure it’s time for us all to become familiar with our favorite light-bodied reds, as it’s apparently going to be perpetual summer from this point on.)

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04/21/09 – saving the Australian wine industry

In a recent article, Slate wine columnist Mike Steinberger described the difficulties currently being experienced by the Australian wine industry. Besides the myriad problems suffered by the good ol’ global economy, there’s also the issue of the ridiculous weather (droughts, fires, etc.) that has ravaged Australia. According to Steinberger, however, the main problem lies with the industry itself: it became synonymous with mass-produced “critter” bottles, and can’t figure out how to get out of that rut, even as it faces increased competition from new budget-minded regions like Argentina and South Africa.

The big culprit, it seems, is Yellow Tail, which allegedly accounts for a full 50 percent of Australian wine imports to the United States. With its recognizable wallaby mascot and its homogeneous bottle shapes (all Bordeaux bottles, even on grapes that usually come in Burgundy bottles, like Chardonnay), Yellow Tail has carved out a huge chunk of the domestic budget market, and is doing just fine. The rest of the industry, however, is feeling the squeeze: now that so many Americans associate Australia with animal-themed bottles that sell for $10 or less, there’s suddenly no more market for Australia’s more serious offerings.

Let’s do something about that, shall we?

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04/15/09 – wine to pair with Asian food

In a recent column, Eric Asimov of the New York Times laments the fact that so many Asian restaurants seem to have sub-par (or non-existent) wine lists. “To call wine an afterthought for most Asian restaurants would be too kind,” he writes. “Wine in particular was not part of the culture for most Asians growing up, so it does not spring to mind when opening up shop in the United States.”

This large-scale oversight has probably contributed, both directly and indirectly, to a pair of associated problems: 1) people don’t drink a whole lot of wine with Asian food, and 2) even if they wanted to, they might have no idea what to drink.

Fear not, good Winos — after this week’s meeting, you’ll never get the Asian food wine jitters again.

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04/08/09 – it’s the economy, wino (so drink what you have)

Everybody’s got that dusty old bottle of wine laying around that they’ve been putting off drinking for months now. A recession might be just the time to open it.

vintagewinebottlesForget the articles that list all kinds of great values for $8 or $10 or $12… why buy something new when you can drink what you already have? In a recent blog post, Alder Yarrow of Vinography encourages his readers to preserve their budget by drinking that bottle they’ve never gotten around to opening:

Buying wine and not drinking it is a crime nearly as severe as buying a Ferrari and not driving it or owning a great record collection and not listening to it. Yet so many wine lovers, even those who don’t consider themselves to be “collectors” can quite easily fall into the trap of finding the acquisition of wine easier to justify than its consumption. (more…)

04/01/09 – March Madness week #8 (championship reds)

It’s time for glory or death. (Death and glory… those are your only choices. Which is it gonna be?!!!???!)

It’s the final week of our our second-ever March Madness blind tasting tournament. For six weeks, we’ve tasted six of the world’s most recognizable varietals, followed by last week’s round of championship whites. Now it’s time to taste the reds, drawing on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our efforts to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion.

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03/24/09 – March Madness week #7 (championship whites)

It’s on, folks. It’s completely on.

The time has come for the two-week championship finale of our second-ever March Madness blind tasting tournament. For six weeks, we’ve tasted six of the world’s most recognizable varietals. Now it’s time for two rounds of balls-out championship play, in which we draw on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our efforts to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion. This Tuesday, we start with the whites.

OFFICIAL RULES:
In championship play, all bottles are “blind.” The white varietals we’ll be tasting are those that we’ve explored over the past six weeks: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay. For each of these varietals, we designated three regions where they’re well-made, and we tasted bottles hailing from these regions — as a result, these are the only permitted regions of origin for bottles in the championship rounds.

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03/18/09 – March Madness week #6 (Cabernet Sauvignon)

It’s time for week six of our second-ever March Madness blind tasting tournament. For six weeks, we’re tasting six of the world’s most recognizable varietals, one per week. After that, we’ll have two weeks of championship tasting, in which we go balls-out crazy with the blind tasting, drawing on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our effort to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion.

Week #1 — Sauvignon Blanc (done)
Week #2 — Syrah / Shiraz (done)
Week #3 — Riesling (done)
Week #4 — Pinot Noir (done)
Week #5 — Chardonnay (done)
Week #6 — Cabernet Sauvignon
Week #7 — Blind white tasting
Week #8 — Blind red tasting
(more…)

03/11/09 – March Madness week #5 (Chardonnay)

It’s time for week five of our second-ever March Madness blind tasting tournament. For six weeks, we’re tasting six of the world’s most recognizable varietals, one per week. After that, we’ll have two weeks of championship tasting, in which we go balls-out crazy with the blind tasting, drawing on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our effort to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion.

Week #1 — Sauvignon Blanc (done)
Week #2 — Syrah / Shiraz (done)
Week #3 — Riesling (done)
Week #4 — Pinot Noir (done)
Week #5 — Chardonnay
Week #6 — Cabernet Sauvignon
Week #7 — Blind white tasting
Week #8 — Blind red tasting
(more…)

03/04/09 – March Madness week #4 (Pinot Noir)

It’s time for week four of our second-ever March Madness blind tasting tournament. For six weeks, we’re tasting six of the world’s most recognizable varietals, one per week. After that, we’ll have two weeks of championship tasting, in which we go balls-out crazy with the blind tasting, drawing on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our effort to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion.

Week #1 — Sauvignon Blanc (done)
Week #2 — Syrah / Shiraz (done)
Week #3 — Riesling (done)
Week #4 — Pinot Noir
Week #5 — Chardonnay
Week #6 — Cabernet Sauvignon
Week #7 — Blind white tasting
Week #8 — Blind red tasting
(more…)

02/25/09 – March Madness week #3 (Riesling)

It’s time for week three of our second-ever March Madness blind tasting tournament. For six weeks, we’re tasting six of the world’s most recognizable varietals, one per week. After that, we’ll have two weeks of championship tasting, in which we go balls-out crazy with the blind tasting, drawing on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our effort to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion.

Week #1 — Sauvignon Blanc (done)
Week #2 — Syrah / Shiraz (done)
Week #3 — Riesling
Week #4 — Pinot Noir
Week #5 — Chardonnay
Week #6 — Cabernet Sauvignon
Week #7 — Blind white tasting
Week #8 — Blind red tasting (more…)

02/17/09 – March Madness week #2 (Syrah / Shiraz)

It’s time for week two of our second-ever March Madness blind tasting tournament. For six weeks, we’re tasting six of the world’s most recognizable varietals, one per week. After that, we’ll have two weeks of championship tasting, in which we go balls-out crazy with the blind tasting, drawing on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our effort to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion.

Week #1 — Sauvignon Blanc (done)
Week #2 — Syrah / Shiraz
Week #3 — Riesling
Week #4 — Pinot Noir
Week #5 — Chardonnay
Week #6 — Cabernet Sauvignon
Week #7 — Blind white tasting
Week #8 — Blind red tasting (more…)

02/11/09 – March Madness week #1 (Sauvignon Blanc)

After skipping last year’s event because we were too busy being in the LA Times, the Young Winos are proud to present our second March Madness blind tasting tournament. For six weeks, we’ll taste six of the world’s most recognizable varietals, one per week. After that, we’ll have two weeks of championship tasting, in which we go balls-out crazy with the blind tasting, drawing on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our effort to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion.

Week #1 — Sauvignon Blanc
Week #2 — Syrah
Week #3 — Riesling
Week #4 — Pinot Noir
Week #5 — Chardonnay
Week #6 — Cabernet Sauvignon
Week #7 — Blind white tasting
Week #8 — Blind red tasting

OFFICIAL RULES:
Each week, we bring bottles of the given varietal from all around the world. Before the tasting starts, two people volunteer to donate the two “mystery bottles,” and their wines are placed in brown bags. (For your wine to be granted this special honor, you must be sure that no one else knows what part of the world it’s from.) (more…)

March Madness official rules

For six weeks, we’ll taste six of the world’s most recognizable varietals, one per week. After that, we’ll have two weeks of championship tasting, in which we go balls-out crazy with the blind tasting, drawing on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our effort to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion.

Each week, we bring bottles of the given varietal from all around the world. Before the tasting starts, two people volunteer to donate the two “mystery bottles,” and their wines are placed in brown bags. (For your wine to be granted this special honor, you must be sure that no one else knows what part of the world it’s from.) (more…)

02/04/09 – the wines of Eastern Europe

In just one week’s time, we’ll be testing out the theory that the Young Winos of LA are better blind-tasters than the judges at the California State Fair. Yes, it’s time once again for March Madness, the bi-annual blind-tasting tournament that separates the serious rummies from the mere lushes.

The only real problem with the March Madness event is that we there’s not much variety in terms of… well, varieties. For eight weeks, we’ll be tasting only six different grape varietals: three whites and three reds (followed by two weeks of championship play). I thought this might be a great opportunity to get the varietal heebie-jeebies out of our system by tasting some seriously bizarre shit. (more…)

01/28/09 – Pinot Gris vs. Pinot Grigio

Jerry Seinfeld once encapsulated perfectly the uncertainty that many beginning wine drinkers feel as they start to learn about the stuff. “Can’t we just get rid of wine lists?” he asked in his stand-up routine. “Do we really have to be reminded every time we go out to a nice restaurant that we have no idea what we are doing? Why don’t they just give us a trigonometry quiz with the menu?”

Think of the fun he could’ve had if he’d gotten into wine’s unpredictable and perplexing system of nomenclature. “What’s the deal with Montepulciano? Is it a town, or is it a grape? How can it be both?” (You have to do your best Seinfeld voice when you read this paragraph, even if it’s only in your head.) “Why is Syrah called Syrah in one place and Shiraz somewhere else? If it’s only one grape, why does it need two names? And why do they call white zinfandel ‘white’ if it’s actually pink?” (more…)

01/21/09 – Who’s Your Daddy? (a syrah / petite sirah blind tasting)

Our annual March Madness blind tasting tournament is just around the corner, so we really need to start getting our palates back in shape. In that spirit, this week’s meeting will be devoted to a fun little blind-tasting exercise I like to call “Who’s Your Daddy?” The name refers not only to the throw-down, balls-out nature of the competition, but also to the fact that one of the grape varieties in question is the genetic parent of the other.

Here’s how it works: everyone brings a bottle of either Syrah or Petite Sirah in a brown paper bag. We taste through the bagged bottles one by one, and discuss the various characteristics we encounter. Then everyone makes a guess as to which of the two varietals it is, after which we reveal the bottle and tally the results. (You might be a little shaky at first, but by the end of the lineup you’ll be picking ‘em out like a pro.) (more…)

01/13/09 – Bordeaux varietals made in Australia

My foodie friend Lance really loves his pizza. No grubdog I know holds his crusts in higher regard, or has such a craving for the sauce and the motz. Having spent his years in Detroit and then Los Angeles, however, he’d never tasted the good stuff — NYC original — until he took a trip there this past summer (you can read his write-up of New York’s best pies here).

As anyone who’s had both will tell you, New York pizza, despite its greatness, doesn’t taste a whole lot like its Italian counterpart. The ingredients are made differently, the methods of production are different, and as a result, the taste is different — even if it’s still just dough, tomato sauce, and cheese.

Wine works basically the same way. Occasionally you get a “new world” grape that doesn’t have a history in Europe (Zindandel, Torrontes, etc.), but most of the varietal wines that are being made in the new world are still the classic grapes of Italy, Spain, and Germany — and, of course, France. Because they’re being grown in different parts of the world, though, employing different production methods and with different soils and climates, they tend to taste pretty different. (more…)

01/06/09 — high-alcohol wines to start the year off right

It’s a New Year for the Young Winos of LA (and likely for most other people as well, I guess), so we thought we’d start things off strong with a tasting of wines with a 15%-or-higher alcohol content.

There’s another motivation, however, for this slightly obnoxious meeting topic. As some of you may already know, longtime LA stalwart Andrew Lang has abandoned his erstwhile digs in West Hollywood and moved into Wino HQ in Sherman Oaks. Besides having the effect of establishing the Sh’oaks as the undisputed capital of the Young Winos Empire (no more of this Rome vs. Constantinople nonsense), the move also made us realize that since neither of us has to drive home, “high alcohol wines” might be an ideal theme for our first gathering. (more…)

12/18/08 – Portuguese wine for holiday cheer

The holidays are now imminent, and it’s completely possible that you’ve not yet found the perfect holiday wine. (Because there is a perfect holiday wine, by the way. There’s only one. Only one wine that will make your holidays perfect. And if you don’t find it, your holidays will be flawed and depressing, and your family will love you less.)

This week, in our quest to help you all save your respective holiday experiences from utter disaster, we throw caution to the wind and visit a region we’ve never before covered exclusively: Portugal! Back in the 1800′s, when some separatists carved off a little piece of Spain and declared it a new country, they chose a name for it by simply taking the region’s famous dessert wine and adding a few letters to the end. Hence, “Port” and “Portugal” are inexorably linked in our collective wine consciousness. However, there’s more to Portugal than just Port. Or is there? (Yes.) This week we’ll find out what, exactly. (more…)

12/09/08 – ending our South African sanctions

Jason’s gonna hate me for this one.

The Young Winos’ last foray into South African wine has become the stuff of legend. So underwhelmed were we by the wines we tasted those two and a half years ago that we haven’t returned to the region since. Some of our long-time members still harbor extremely negative opinions about South Africa’s contributions to the wine world, and aren’t afraid to say so.

However, in the interceding years, several decent South African bottles have sneaked their way into various other tastings, and it might just be time to re-think our unofficial sanctions. After all, it’s the holiday season — a perfect time to put aside old grudges. This week, we drop our “bah, humbug” attitude towards Cape Town and give those Boer wines another go. (more…)

11/25/08 – A.W.A. (annoying wine acronyms)

Black Friday is nearly upon us — and so, therefore, is the official start of the holiday shopping season. Unfortunately, for many people, this period isn’t always the happy, joyous time that was originally intended by Mary and Joseph. Instead, it’s become a frenzied and stressful race to a high-stakes finish, one that can easily leave even the most level-headed Wino reaching for a glass of something strong.

Ah, wine: the opiate of all ills. Its calming, rejuvenating presence may be just what the doctor ordered for your various holiday-related stresses. For some, however, wine itself continues to be a source of stress, due to the inherent complexity that can also make it so much fun. We at the Young Winos always strive to de-mystify wine in whatever way we can, and this week, we unwrap yet one more of wine’s many layers of complexity by taking a close look at the various acronyms that we encounter in our daily interactions with wine. Whether you’re looking for a gift for a Wino friend, or seeking out that perfect bottle for your holiday table, rest assured that no acronym will continue to baffle you after Tuesday’s exegesis. (more…)

11/19/08 – taming Torrontés

The list of “easy-to-find varietals that have never had their own dedicated Young Winos tasting” is dwindling faster than the number of viable US automakers. It’s a race to the finish. I guess you could say that Torrontés is basically our Chrysler.

When several of the Winos drank it up at Skirball for the Argentina tasting a couple weeks ago, we were up to our ears in delicious Cab Sauv, Merlot, and Malbec — especially Malbec, the red grape that’s putting Argentina on the world map. But try as we might, we couldn’t possibly ignore the scores of delicious Argentine whites, which still tend to represent a great value on the international scene. And of all the white grapes to be found in that war-criminal haven they call a country, the most distinctive, by far, is Torrontés. (more…)

11/11/08 – a better Beaujolais

Winos,

My friend in Dallas told me yesterday that their malls have already begun playing Christmas music, in what must be some sort of feeble attempt to motivate shoppers to spend like there’s no financial crisis. “Bah Humbug,” says I — we have a major holiday to deal with before the yuletide starts coming in! I speak, of course, of Thanksgiving, that magical time of year when families across America gather round a scrumptious feast of turkey, potatoes, cranberry sauce and pie…. and then wash it all down with a bottle of one of France’s grodiest wines. (more…)

10/29/08 – bargain buys from Whole Foods (part deux)

Winos,

First of all, I hope to see a bunch of you tonight at the Argentina tasting at Skirball!  For those who have missed it somehow, all the info is on the website at youngwinos.com.  It’s not too late to get a $10 discount on your ticket just by mentioning the Young Winos when you show up!  (Look for me… I’ll be the really tall one with a wine glass in my hand.)

As for tomorrow, it’s time for Part Deux of last week’s funfest! (more…)

10/21/08 – bargain buys from Whole Foods

Winos,

To many young people, Whole Foods is the LA grocery scene’s version of the proverbial double-edged sword.  On the one hand, its bountiful selection of healthy and delicious comestibles rivals that of Winos stalwart Trader Joe’s (while certain departments, such as produce and made-to-order, are unequivocally superior).  On the other hand, the advantages come with a price, and it’s a hefty one: the WF does not have a reputation as the ideal destination for the youthful libertine on a budget.  With respect those two grocery categories most near to a Young Wino’s heart — wine and cheese — your average Whole Foods may have an edge over the Teedge in terms of selection, but can’t compete on the value scale.  Or so we thought… (more…)

10/14/08 – debatable reds

Winos,

Engaged as we’ve all surely been by the debate highlights witnessed thus far in this year’s variety show of an election — from the deferred handshakes, to the “that one”s, to the shout-outs to third graders at Gladys Wood Elementary — I thought it best to bump the Winos’ weekly gathering to Tuesday.  That way, our respective Wednesday nights can be unencumbered by all responsibilities besides imbibing in the fourth and final showdown (and spending the requisite few hours afterward carefully considering our election day options).  However, that certainly doesn’t mean we’re going to run an apolitical meeting on the eve of such a portentous affair.  We’ll be getting into the spirit early by tasting “debatable” wines — specifically, wines featuring three or more varietals, which we’ll judge based on the strengths of the various grapes’ platforms (how apparent the individual grapes are in the nose and the palate), as well as their ability to reach across the aisle (how well they integrate themselves into a cohesive blend).  We’ll stick to reds this week… after all, the red states have been looking a bit shaky lately, and could probably use the boost. (more…)

10/08/08 – your favorite supermarket wine

Oenophiles,

“Try to avoid buying your wine at a supermarket” currently holds a place as the third-most frequently mentioned phrase in my weekly meeting announcements (trailing only “don’t forget to chill your whites” and “if you don’t bring tasting notes, you’re kicked off the mailing list”). However, I’ve realized I may be doing our members a disservice by effectively limiting their exposure to supermarket bottles: wines that tend to be easily accessible, highly recognizable, and often on sale. Sometimes, for any number of reasons, we’re forced to turn to our local Ralphs or Vons for wine purchases.  Maybe we’re rushing to a party, and we need to grab something in a hurry… maybe it’s 11pm, and our favorite wine shop is long since closed… or maybe we’re just browsing, and find ourselves seduced by that big gaudy wine display at the front of the store (next to the potted plants and Halloween candy). (more…)

09/24/08 – craft beers from the Schmaltz Brew Co

Winos,

If you were stuck on a desert island, and you could only have one alcoholic beverage, what would it be?  (Mind you, this is a well-equipped desert island, with a fridge and plenty of glassware.)  My hope, of course, is that a good many of you would choose wine.  However, I’m happy to report that we’re not stuck on a desert island, and there’s plenty of time in this life for us to drink all kinds of hooch!  In that spirit, the Young Winos embark this week on a tasting of delicious craft brews. (more…)

09/17/08 – intriguing Italian whites

Winos,

Earlier tonight, when I was trying to figure out what might make a good weekly topic for a white wine meeting at Leah’s place, I decided to seek out some inspiration from my favorite newspaper, the Calgary Herald (which I read in its entirety every single day).  As fate would have it, they just happened to be running a piece called Italian bargains can still be found.  Unfortunately, the article dealt mainly with red wines, but the “Italian bargains” thing still remained appealing to me.  A few hours later, while wandering around in the LA River, I had an epiphany: take the bargain Italian theme and apply it to white wines instead!  And thus a meeting was born. (more…)

09/10/08 – a handful of reds from Black Sheep Finds

Winos,

Last week, the good people at Domaine547.com gave us a discount for our Obscure Whites Redux tasting.  This week, they’re giving us one better — a pair of winemakers!  On Wednesday night, the Winos will be joined by Peter Hunken and Amy Christine of Black Sheep Finds, as well as Jill Bernheimer of Domaine547.  Peter and Amy will be pouring us five red wines from their various labels (check them out here, and visit Domaine547.com to find out more about what goes on there). (more…)

09/03/08 – obscure whites redux

Friends,

Last September, we attempted a comprehensive tasting of obscure whites in order to broaden our horizons beyond the Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio that we all know so well. I can’t be completely certain, since this occasion preceded the practice of taking detailed tasting notes at each meeting, but I seem to recall that we found ourselves underwhelmed by the quality of the wines we encountered. However, a full year has passed, and it’s now time to take a second stab at obscure white greatness. (more…)

08/26/08 – Spanish reds, with a blind twist

Winos,

What could possibly be more exciting, you ask, than a super awesome tasting of eight delicious and well-reviewed Spanish reds that have been pre-selected and pre-bought so that all you have to bring is ten bucks?  How about a super awesome blind tasting of eight delicious and well-reviewed Spanish reds that have been pre-selected and pre-bought so that all you have to bring is ten bucks? (more…)

08/20/08 – Red Rhône blends (from Rhône and elsewhere)

Wine dawgs,

Back in April, we had ourselves a delicious little tasting entitled White Rhone Blends (from Rhône and elsewhere).  The logical follow-up was to do a similarly-themed red tasting, but we never got around to it.  However, after months of eager anticipation, this week we return to that long-forgotten theme, of whose return there have been several notable harbingers:

–We recently did a Grenache tasting (Grenache being a major Rhône red grape)
–We visited the Rhone Rangers event in Hollywood (and brought home a number of delicious Rhône-style bottles)
–We were joined for a tasting by Municipal Winemakers‘ Dave Potter, who poured us a barrel sample of his “Bright Red” Rhône-style blend (more…)

08/12/08 – wines from “The Hills”

OMG, I know you’re all as excited as I am that season four of The Hills premieres next week.  But, like, what wine should you drink while you’re watching?  That’s such a tough question.  Luckily, this week we’re going to taste a bunch of tasty white wines from various “hills” regions at a house in the hills so that you know what to drink while watching The Hills.  Picking the wrong wine would be, like, so not cool. (more…)

07/31/08 – Chenin Blanc

Winoficianados,

I’ve been home in New York for a few days, and on Thursday evening found myself charged with the task of picking out a wine or two to serve at a dinner my family was hosting for the parents of my high school girlfriend. Naturally, this begs the question: what wine do you serve to the parents of your high school girlfriend? Something a bit tight and restrained, in acknowledgment of the period when they didn’t quite trust you and kept her on a short leash? Or something sweet and full-bodied, to represent their eventual embrace and celebration of the young love that you two shared? Or something from the 2003 vintage, to represent the last time you saw them? The answer, of course, is this: it completely depends on what you’re serving for dinner. (more…)

07/16/08 – Provence

Friends,

Like some other members of our generation, I’ve long felt a general antipathy towards wine magazines.  It just seems like they’re always full of useless information that doesn’t speak to me in any practical way: reviews of wines I can never find, photos of haute cuisine meals of which I’d have to eat at least six to feel full, and write-ups of “quick getaway” wine vacations that I could never afford (believe me, the only thing “getaway” about a weekend in Europe is the car I’ll be driving away from the bank I’m going to have to rob just to pay for it).  But when my 12-year-old nephew insisted I buy one of his magazine subscriptions to help him learn science or something, I scanned the list until I found the sole wine publication the service offered, and I wrote him a check. (more…)

07/08/08 – summertime, and the reds are light-bodied

Fellow Gershwin fans,

Nothing goes with a snowball fight like a big Cabernet.  No wine compliments a “polar bear plunge” like a beefy Brunello.  And I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m participating in competitive Alpine skiing, I always end my day with a massive Shiraz.  Now that we’re in summer, though, the last thing we need to do is be drinking like it’s still winter… we need some warm-weather wines up in here.  However, contrary to popular belief, that doesn’t mean we’re stuck drinking only whites and rosés.  (more…)

07/02/08 – wines that nobody likes (Pinot Grigio and Merlot)

Winos,

I’ve begun to realize that we spend way too much time tasting wine that people are excited about, wine that gets good reviews or is currently really popular.  What about all the wine that the pundits don’t favor?  We have to stop letting all these bottles get picked last at recess.  It’s time to explore a pair of unpopular wines and find out whether they’re actually really awesome, like that awkward kid in your math class who goes home and secretly produces mind-blowing electronic music on his computer, then cements his sweetness by wearing an authentic ’70s leisure suit to your junior prom… or whether they’re actually more like that other awkward kid in your math class who does none of these things. (more…)

06/22/08 – misunderstood European bubbly, part 2

Winos,

Typically, when we combine two different wines into a single subject for one of our weekly meetings — i.e. Barolo and Chianti, Muscat and Sherry, etc. — people tend to bring fairly even numbers of each. Last week, however, one of the two wines selected for the tasting went entirely unrepresented in the final bottle count, an event that hasn’t occurred since the ill-fated Chardonnay and Organic Lingonberry Wine from Northern Sweden tasting of our younger and more foolhardy days. At Jason’s place on Wednesday, we drank eight Crémants and a tragic total of zero Proseccos. This week, we right the wrong that so cruelly befell one of our favorite Italian bubblers. (more…)

06/18/08 – misunderstood European bubbly (Crémant and Prosecco)

Wine friends,

This week marks the return from Hawaii of seven of our most frequent attendees.  Now, there’s been a lot of grumbling heard at recent meetings — “I don’t want them to come back,” “it’s better when they’re not here,” etc. — but I’ve decided to stop saying these things, and, instead, to try and cultivate a celebratory attitude regarding their imminent return.  Step one in this process is to break out some bubbly. (more…)

06/11/08 – celebrating democracy (California style) with some Zinfandel

Dear Winos,

Surely most if not all of you participated in last Tuesday’s ballot measure elections, where we Californians exercised our own peculiar brand of direct democracy. For those of you who aren’t so well-informed, Proposition 98 lost and Proposition 99 won (we will likely discuss the ramifications of these results at Wednesday night’s cheese time). In celebration of the uniquely Californian ballot initiative process, if not of the particular election results, we’ll be drinking wine made from a uniquely Californian grape: Zinfandel! (more…)

05/27/08 – Recalibrating our “oakdar”

Alkies,

Every once in a while, the Young Winos are prone to getting a little bit haughty and self-indulgent, and at these moments we find it helpful to remind ourselves that we’re only one of a number of badass young wine tasting groups raising hell on the world wide web.  I like to spend my evenings trolling around these various other blogs, making observations and mental notes, and occasionally stealing ideas for tastings.  Such it was this evening when I scoped out the following blog entry from the San Francisco Wine Enthusiasts Guild (a group that could definitely teach the Winos a thing or two about how to party): last August, they ran a tasting comparing oaked Chardonnays to their unoaked counterparts.  I figure even the more seasoned Winos among us can always benefit from the occasional fine-tuning of our oak-detection devices, so we’ll be shamelessly lifting this theme for our tasting on Tuesday night. (more…)

05/21/08 – Grenache goodness

Boozers,

Inspired by our recent Celebrating Sémillon tasting, in which we embraced a long-neglected varietal and finally gave it the attention it deserved, this week we embark upon a similar humanitarian effort — on the red side.  Grenache is, by many accounts, the most widely-planted red grape in the world.  Why, then, have the Young Winos never devoted a weekly meeting to tasting it exclusively?

The answer, actually, is pretty simple: until very recently, it’s been difficult to find single-varietal Grenache.  The grape is hugely popular worldwide, but it’s most often used as a blending grape (as in Rioja and Australia), as a majority grape for others to be blended with (as in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and elsewhere in the southern Rhone), or as anonymous juice which is made into cheap, uninteresting jug wine (as in California’s Central Valley for the past half-century).  Only recently have producers started realizing that if this grape is good enough to form the majority of some of France’s most interesting red wines, it might well be good enough to stand on its own.  (more…)

05/13/08 – Anderson Valley

Winos,

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a good old fashioned “pick a California region and suck it dry” meeting. In that spirit, this week we venture into one of the state’s smallest and most celebrated AVAs, the tiny and picturesque valley known as Anderson. (more…)

05/07/08 – north of 90 for south of $20

Alkies,

I just finished a chapter in Red, White and Drunk all Over in which the author Natalie MacLean examines the “purely American phenomenon” of wine scores.  Hugely interesting stuff, and very relevant to us Winos; the vast majority of us, I would hazard a guess, are influenced by those 100-point-scale ratings that we see taped up next to displays of wine in stores.  Charged with a mandate to buy something relatively obscure (a bottle of Pinot Noir from Chile, lets say), and discovering two similarly-priced bottles at your local wine shop — both with positive reviews but one featuring a 92-point designation as well — who among us wouldn’t err on the side of critical approval and go for the numbered bottle?  This inclination, though, raises some important questions: which critic was it?  Is his/her taste similar to your own?  Do you know?  Do you even care… or is a “good” number from some expert simply enough? (more…)

04/30/08 – Celebrating Sémillon

Winos,

In our ongoing quest for deliciousness, it’s important to not lose sight of issues of social importance. Are we fairly representing all of the world’s important grape varieties in the course of our tastings, for example? Glancing back at old topics, there’s one glaring omission that clearly needs to be dealt with posthaste. Not only has this varietal been largely neglected by the Young Winos, but it apparently has the dubious distinction of being one of the more overlooked and misunderstood grapes in the wine world today. (more…)

04/23/08 – Syrah vs. Cabernet blind tasting

Winos,

In a lot of ways, our weekly sessions are almost like a college course. Each week we discuss a different topic in our field, each week we participate in hands-on learning with multiple examples to compliment our discussion, and each week we (hopefully) learn something. The only glaring absence has been the lack of any kind of evaluation element. When’s the big exam? Well… it’s right now.

Pop quiz, folks! This week we’re doing a Syrah vs. Cabernet Sauvignon blind tasting. That’s right — nine bottles of blind-guessing mayhem, with nothing but your acute senses of smell and taste to lead you to correct determinations of what grapes you’re enjoying. (more…)

04/15/08 – White Rhone blends (from Rhone and elsewhere)

Winos,

Here are some nifty Wino-tastic fun facts to make you more popular:

1. we haven’t done a Tuesday night meeting since early March
2. we haven’t tasted white Rhone varietals in any capacity since our Fresh Off The Boat tasting
3. we haven’t held a weekly tasting in the Valley since February

All of these statements will fail to apply by 9pm on Tuesday… which you probably could’ve figured out by reading the subject line of this post. (more…)

04/09/08 – Bottles with animals on the label (because we won’t buy wine without them)

Winos,

Typically, we pick our weekly meeting topics because they’re timely and relevant, or because there’s a certain region we want to learn about, or because there’s a particular grape that interests us. Only rarely do we hold tastings specifically geared towards calling out the wine industry and holding them responsible for their shenanigans. This is one such meeting.

I was recently incensed by this article (Wine Labels with Animals: why un-traditional branding works), which basically insinuates that people are more likely to buy wine with an animal on the label than without. First of all, I think that’s pretty insulting — as far as the Winos are concerned, the presence of an animal on a wine’s label ranks in importance somewhere between the brand of toilet paper used in the winery’s restroom and the astrological sign of the vintner’s mother-in-law. Still, if it’s truly the case that the American consumer is going to blindly reach for zoological labels more eagerly than barren ones, I figure it’s the Young Winos’ civic duty to taste a bunch of these animal bottles and alert the hapless public as to which ones are good and which ones are shit. (more…)

04/02/08 – Green wines for spring sippin’

Winos,

Usually I pride myself on coming up with truly original topics for the weekly tastings… for example, “any Chardonnay but California Chardonnay” was moderately clever, no?  And clearly “wines that start with V” was a stroke of genius.  This week, however, we turn to an outside source for our topic, and it’s an interesting one, at once categorically diverse and seasonally topical.  I know that’s how y’all like them to be. (more…)

03/26/08 – white Burgundy

Winos,

We’re back to a regular meeting schedule now, and it’s with great excitement that I send you the details of this week’s meeting — the first to feature a sampling of our new, post-LA-Times membership. And, correspondingly, the first to feature a more pro-active RSVP system. Details after the info.

Per Kristen’s request, this week we return to a wine we’ve dabbled in once or twice but perhaps have never given the attention it deserves: white Burgundy. We tasted it back in 2006 when we were doing our world tour, but that’s when we didn’t really know what we were doing. Then last year we might’ve had a couple bottles at the ACBCC meeting, but when was the last time we actually got into Burgundy, deconstructed it, demystified it? It’s definitely that time. (more…)

03/11/08 – Oenotria part 2

Hey enthusiasts,

Winos keep dropping like flies. Only a week after we welcomed them back into the fold at the Vendome tasting, Theresa and Joe have informed us that they may be leaving for the east coast within the month. Their plan for now is to move in with Theresa’s aunt; Joe will work at a radio station, and Theresa will teach music at an elementary school. What an interesting family! (more…)

03/02/08 – Spain and Portugal tasting at Vendome

This week we’ve got a Young Winos first… our weekly tasting will be held off-site at a wine shop, and will be run by a wine professional instead of yours truly. On Wednesday night, we’ll be heading to Vendome Wines and Spirits in Studio City, where salesman, shaman, and madman Steve Besser will be leading us in a tasting of Spanish and Portuguese wines. (more…)

02/24/08 – Fresh off the Boat 2: Old World red varietals in the New World

Winos,

If last week was a White Flight, this week we’re gonna have a Red Scare. As exemplified in this cartoon from the early 20th century, European varietals (or anarchists, whatever) have always been a menace to traditional American institutions like capitalism, two-party democracy, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. This week we’re going to explore a few of them. (more…)

02/20/08: Fresh off the Boat: Old World white varietals in the New World

Champs,

I’ve begun to realize that we’re not at all utilizing Gary Vaynerchuk to the extent that we could be. (more…)

02/12/08 – Petite Sirah (and Syrah too!)

Hello people,

First of all, good news — Jason has discovered a wine store that’s having an absurd sale.  In his words: I went to a wine store today in Pasadena called Le Petit Vendome. They are having a 20-30% off sale on a lot of their wines. Good selection and nice stuff. They had the Rose Protocolo, which I bought for $6, and an Auslese Riesling that I got for around $35 with the sale. The guy working there (owner?) is a bit of a character, but the place is worthwhile for a visit. Sale is on until they sell the inventory.  If you guys are interested in checking it out, it’s located at 906 Granite Drive, Pasadena, 91101.  Might be a great place to buy this week’s bottle! (more…)

02/05/08 – Gruner Veltliner

Winos,

I frequently receive complaints that the weekly e-mails are too long and ungainly.  Since the name of this week’s wine is itself long and ungainly, I’ve decided to keep the e-mail short. (more…)

01/23/08 – Malbec from Argentina

Winos,

Ok, first of all, lets get down to brass tacks here.  Spring is fast approaching, and that means we’ve got to start planning more field trips.  The suggestion has been made by Sasha and others — and I think it’s a good one — that we return to Santa Barbara, having not done a trip there since September ’06.  We’ll have an extra year and a half of tasting experience under our belt, and naturally we’ll do a Santa Barbara meeting in preparation for the trip. (more…)

01/16/08 – White blends of three or more varietals

Hello all,

We always seem to taste whites at Leah’s house, for some reason. Maybe it’s because she has such a snazzy fridge? The trend continues this week as we head to Santa Monica for a tasting we’ve never done before: white wines made from at least three varietals. We’ve tasted varietals individually more times than I care to count. This week, we’ll try to find our favorite wacky white blends. (more…)

12/11/07 – Holiday Zins and Yankee Swap

Dear Winos,

It’s our last meeting of the year, so obviously we’ll be drinking the last wine in the alphabet — Zinfandel. Nothing like a nice jammy red to pair with our holiday meals. Zin is grown all over California, but excellent plantings can be found in Sonoma, Mendocino, Napa, and — as we discovered earlier this year — Paso Robles. The grape is made into several styles of wine: the sweet, fruity blush called White Zinfandel, first created by Sutter Home in 1972; traditional red Zin, which is full-bodied, jammy, and often spicy; and “Zinfandel Port,” a rich dessert-style wine that we sampled at Stuart Vineyards in Temecula. Feel free to buy any style you like (though lets try to avoid those mass-produced bottles of White Zin from Ralph’s that cost less than $8 a piece, because we all know exactly what those taste like). And don’t forget to check out the Appellations America entry on Zinfandel to learn more about its flavor profile and its best areas. (more…)

12/05/07 – Various Italian reds

Winos,

In accordance with the wishes of our hosts, Theresa and Joe, we’ll be drinking reds this week — and, in impassioned celebration of their ancestral heritage, we’ll be drinking Italian!  With any luck we’ll discover a few delicious Italian reds that will pair well with the robust meals of the holiday season.  In order to maximize our potential for deliciousness and consistency, lets choose from the following four well-regarded Italian reds: (more…)

11/28/07 – Don’s last hurrah

Yeah that’s right, no more putting the varietal in the subject line.  I’m on to you lazy bastards.  Read the e-mail.

Dear winos,

For those who haven’t yet heard the unfortunate news, we’re losing our longtime member and resident iconoclast Don Ferlazzo — as well as his lovely fiance Jamie — to a life of matrimonial bliss in rural upstate New York.  This will be the last wine club that Don and I host together.  Come out in droves to pay your respects to a legendary wino who far made up for in jocular spirit what he lacked in tasting acumen.  (Or just come see him the following week at his sister’s place.  Either way.) (more…)

11/21/07 – “California Fun” version 2

Winos,

Just under a year ago, as we wrapped up a three-month exploration of California’s diverse wine regions, we held a tasting at Erik’s Venice apartment in which we sampled a number of the state’s sparkling and dessert wines under the heading California Fun. So what better way to help welcome Erik to his new home in the hills than to revisit the California Fun theme? That’s not all — it’s also Erik’s birthday this week, so between the celebratory requirements of that event and his recent move, the mood will be festive and debaucherous. Erik’s making us a delicious dessert to pair with the dessert wines, and we’ll wrap up the evening with a dipsy into the pool and hot tub! One thing you can say about the winos is that they definitely know how to kick off a long weekend. (more…)

11/13/07 – Carneros whites

Winos,

Directly south of (and overlapping parts of) Sonoma and Napa sits the tragic “gateway region” of Carneros, either ignored by the serious drinkers on their way to the biggies or descended upon like locusts by day-trippers trying to hit as many wineries as they can. The irony is that there are some really good wines coming out of there. Our host Leah suggested that we pick out a region to examine and then feature examples of a few well-received wines that people can look for in stores. We haven’t tasted Carneros in more than a year, so lets do that — specifically, Carneros whites. (more…)

11/07/07 – Australian whites

Winos,

A few weeks ago we had a delicious tasting of full-bodied Australian reds. But did you know that Australian whites can be full-bodied too? Because they can! Now you know. (Here’s another fun fact: “In 2000, Great Britain imported more wine from Australia than from France for the first time in history.” Thank you, wikipedia.) (more…)

10/31/07 – Spooky wine costume party

Winos,

Don’t get the wrong idea… this meeting is going to be just as serious and somber as any other.  However, given the holiday, it’ll be a little bit different in a couple of ways:

1.  Winos are encouraged to come wearing their costumes
2.  Winos are asked to bring bottles wearing nothing at all

And by that I mean — bring any bottle of wine you’d like, and please remove all of the labels prior to arrival.  We’re going to be doing a new type of blind tasting, one in which all of the labels are laid out in front of us like a game of memory, and we’ve got to guess what we’re drinking based on the choices we have. (more…)

10/24/07 – Inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon

Winos,

About 86% of you missed an awesome tasting this weekend at Moe’s in Brentwood. Five of us tried a decent flight of wines for ten bucks each, including the delicious Stickleback white and Stickleback red from Australia. Both were blends, both were delicious, and both were on sale — for $7.99 a piece! (As an aside, about 97% of you missed an awesome tasting at Vendome of Studio City afterwards. Emily and I tasted about eight different wines, a couple of which weren’t part of the regular flight and were instead bought by customers a la our De La Montanya experience — including a freakin’ $165 bottle of 1964 Madeira that one of the regulars just randomly decided to share with us! Oldest wine I’ve ever tasted by far. Oh, and Emily totally got hit on by that Joseph Drouhin rep that always hits on people. Good times.) (more…)

10/16/07 – Marlborough, New Zealand

People,

Jason was so upset about missing last week’s Australia meeting that he’s opted to feature the next best thing at his place this week: New Zealand’s biggest wine region, Marlborough.  New Zealand is an interesting wine destination.  It’s a country about 900 miles long, but it features only 22,000 acres of vineyards — that’s half of the wine acreage in Napa, a region only 30 miles long (these figures as of the printing of the Bible, 2001).  Nevertheless, New Zealand‘s output has grown exponentially, both in terms of quantity and quality, within the last 25 years.  (more…)

10/10/07 – Australian reds

People,

Whenever Andrew “I love Clifford” Lang hosts the meeting, he likes his wine like he likes his dogs: big and red.  With that in mind, we return to an old haunt — what better place to find affordable full-bodied red varietals than Australia?  Lets talk about the important ones… (more…)

10/03/07 – Wines that start with “v”

Winos,

It’s only following a period of careful reflection and determined self-critique that I came to the unfortunate realization that we’ve never yet done a meeting devoted to wines that start with the letter “v.” Despite the proliferation of v-skewing wine words like vintage, varietal and vomit, we have never yet tasted wines exclusively starting with that letter. Lets correct that post haste. (more…)

09/25/07 – northern Sonoma (exit tasting)

Alkies,

I’m not sure whether you all are familiar with the procedures involved in being an Apollo astronaut, so I’ll tell you.  First, you have to go through a lot of training… lots of hours and days and weeks devoted to understanding the space mission.  Then there’s the mission itself, which is super exciting.  Then you get back, but you’re not done — you get put in isolation for a few days to see if you contracted any moon-diseases, and then you do some exit interviews, etc, and you analyze the moon-rocks that you’ve brought home to see if they matched up with your expectations based on your original research.

This process is roughly analogous to our recent trip to Sonoma.  We did several Sonoma-themed tastings in the weeks and months leading up to the trip, really developing an understanding of what we should expect.  Then we took the trip itself, which was super exciting.  And now we’re doing one last Sonoma “exit tasting,” and analyzing (drinking) the moon-rocks (bottles) we brought home, as well as other examples. (more…)

09/18/07 – two Italian giants (Barolo vs. Chianti)

Boozehounds,

On August 8th we enjoyed a delicious selection of Italian varietals grown in the USA.  This week, we go back to the “home country,” as several wine club members might call it (you know who you are, all the Marcellos and Ferlazzos and Chapskis out there), to explore two of the most renowned and legendary wines the country has to offer.  Two names dominate any appreciation of the classic Italian reds: Barolo and Chianti.  This week, we’ll see if they live up to their billing. (more…)

09/12/07 – Obscure whites

Drunks,

Over the course of this past year, we’ve welcomed a number of unusual and obscure people to wine club.  Lets do a meeting of all kinds of obscure or unusual whites.  We’ve all had our fill of Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc lately, so lets skip those for this week.  Also, we’ll add Pinot Gris and Viognier to that list of no-no’s.  I’m on the fence about Gewurztraminer, because there are a few cheap and uninteresting California versions that we don’t need to bother with; therefore, avoid Gewurz unless it’s European or from a small California producer. (more…)

09/04/07 – well-aged Merlot

Hey folks,

Yeah yeah, I know, the e-mail is late.  Andrew and I had a slight misunderstanding, as I thought we were doing Wednesday, then later learned that I was mistaken regarding his roommate’s preference, and it had to be Tuesday.  And then I meant to send the e-mail earlier tonight, but I neglected to account for the Labor Day Excess Theorem… are you familiar with it?  Basically it states that (too much sun at Zuma Beach + too much food at barbecue) x (increased libations) = (passing out in clothes at 9pm and then waking up at 1:30am remembering I have to write wine club e-mail). (more…)

08/29/07 – (sweet?) German whites

Guys,

First and secondmost, big props to everyone who came on the extremely worthwhile Sonoma trip this weekend.  We had an awesome time visiting the wineries, drinking some excellent Russian River and Alexander wines, and enjoying the unspoiled beauty of pastoral countryside as bucolic as an old batch of collard greens.  Big thanks to Jason and Kristen for volunteering their cars for the long ride up to wine country.  We’ll plan to do at least one more trip before the end of the year, likely another of our famous day trips for people who can’t take a whole weekend away — perhaps a return to Santa Barbara for round two?

Second and foremost, we’ve had a request to devote a meeting to light-bodied, sweet-ish wines that are accessible either on their own or with appropriate food.  What better place to find wines like that than in Germany?  A vast majority of German wine is white, as the combination of Germany’s cool climate and high altitude with its propensity towards refinement and precision have resulted in a reputation for producing whites with extreme clarity of flavors and a careful balance between natural acidity and crisp fruitiness.  It should be the perfect region to discover some off-dry to sweet whites that still display complexity and structure. (more…)

08/21/07 – Proprietary blends

Alkies,

Tuesday’s our last meeting before the big trip.  Just to reiterate what’s been said, the Sonoma trip is this weekend, August 25-26, with either a one- or two-night stay depending on individual preference.  One car will be departing Friday evening, and one car will be departing early Saturday morning — both cars will return Sunday evening.  There is extra space in the hotel rooms that we have reserved, so if you want to come aboard, it’s not too late to do so.  Anyone interested can e-mail me or Jason with any questions regarding costs, etc. (more…)

08/15/07 – French bargain whites

Winos,

Another set of familiar apologies I suppose is in order for the lateness of this e-mail… lets make an effort to identify next week’s host at each meeting like we used to.  It’s so disconcerting to not know where we’re going to be until the last minute.  I could hardly sleep last night.

Where we ARE going to be is in France, taking an opportunity to try to discover some inexpensive Franco-whites for delicious summer drinkin’.  Think about it… how classy is it when you have people over for a barbecue, they want some wine, and you’re just like, “oh, I have this little French number in the fridge that I really enjoyed the last few times I drank it.”  Plus, we have to stop toiling under the erroneous notion that France is this intimidating bastion of expensive Burgundies, inaccessible Bordeaux, and haughty Champagnes.  There’s tons of crisp, flavorful, refreshing French whites to be found for less than $15.  For the purposes of this tasting, lets keep it around that price-point or lower, heading up towards $20 only if we find a real winner. (more…)

08/08/07 – Italian varietals grown in the USA

Winos,

Sounds like a crazy idea, I know, to try and find Italian varietals that aren’t grown in Italy.  Well, maybe that’s because I’ve been going crazy following the loss of my beloved glasses.  At Jason’s party, those treasured companions of mine who were my closest friends on my trip “down under” and ever since were unceremoniously taken and hidden by one of the guests, who — five minutes later — somehow failed to remember where they had put them.  Not only that, but inexplicably none of the seven or eight other guests could seem to recall either where the glasses had gone or who was responsible for the heist.  Conspiracy?  I hope not.  Long story short is that if you come to the meeting tomorrow, you’ll see me pitifully without my favorite pair of glasses for the first time in many months. (more…)

08/01/07 – Spanish reds

Winers and Diners,

Whenever one of our local bastions of wine distribution has a big sale, the appropriate response, obviously, is to center our next meeting around the sale item in as opportunistic a fashion as possible.  Such is the case this week, as Wine House is having an impressive sale on Spanish reds.  It’s a perfect opportunity to check out the unique and often under-appreciated offerings from the country which is third worldwide — after Italy and France, and before the US — in total wine production. (more…)

07/25/07 – Sparkling wine from abroad

Enos,

Every four or five months, it seems we do a tasting exclusively dedicated to sparkling wine, and it’s always a lot of fun.  In the past, these have focused solely on California sparkling wine, and we’ve only tasted foreign sparklers (Champagne included) when we did that particular country or region.  Now, it’s finally time to do what we Americans do best: reduce the rest of world to a collective “other” and taste sparkling wines that aren’t from the good old US of A. (more…)

07/17/07 – Oregon Pinot Noir

Winos,

I don’t have any envy for those of you who didn’t make it out to Leah and Andrew’s combined birthday party at Santa Monica’s “Gas Lite,” that bastion of restrained civility and polite indulgences.  The birthday boy was heard to sing “Ring of Fire” in between slices of amazing chocolate cake, and several other wine club members who had signed up to sing but never got called wound up belting out their selections while annoying regulars performed “Love Shack” for the ninth time that night.  Next time you get an invite to a non-wine related event on the wine listserv, it’s imperative that you go. (more…)

Andrew hijacks the Winos

Hey kids, it’s that time again.  As I’m feeling one year older and wiser, I’m hijacking wine club for the week.  Sorry Jesse, but it’s a coup.  I’ll let you have the club back on Thursday, I promise.

Just don’t kick me out for being now 2 years beyond the “age limit”.

Seriously. (more…)

07/10/07 – our next trip (Napa/Sonoma reds)

Winers,

First, please thoroughly enjoy this freaking hilarious article about the state of wine tasting in Long Island (and, it sounds like, elsewhere in the country) that Daniella found in the Times: New York Wineries Face Tastings Gone Wild.  Maybe that’s why we got turned away from Brander, because they assumed we wanted to run naked around the vines and vomit in the swill bucket. (more…)

07/03/07 – our next trip (Napa/Sonoma whites)

Winos,

I hope that by now everyone has engorged themselves on the veritable photographic feast that now exists on our website in the form of a new set of pictures from Paso Robles.  There were even a couple that were just too aesthetically excellent, like a beautiful close-up of my nose, courtesy of drunk people owning cameras.  That picture will be included in a special “drunk shots” album currently under construction. (more…)

06/19/07 – Muscat vs. Sherry (the battle of the dessert whites)

People,

I’m in the mood for a battle, aren’t you?  I say we take two of the more famous white “dessert wines” and totally deconstruct them.  By no means are they the only important dessert whites, but it’s fair to say that Muscat and Sherry are two of the most prominent… and the most misunderstood.  First of all, what’s a Muscat?  We see labels like “Muscat Canelli ,” but how is that different from other Muscats?  Is it a regular (table) wine, or is it a fortified wine?  And Sherry, don’t even get me started on Sherry.  Only old ladies drink Sherry.  I just saw Notes on a Scandal, and it just seemed so appropriate when Judi Dench’s 70-year-old spinster character ordered a “dry sherry, please.”  What does that even mean?? (more…)

06/13/07 – ACBCC

Winos,

I was browsing an article sent to us by the venerable Erik Nye when I came across a term so often used in recent years, not least in the wine world: ABC.  In “winespeak” (as those with enough pretension to think that their particular jargon merits being called its own language would say), ABC means Anything-But-Chardonnay, and represents a resounding rejection of increased Chardonnay production and sales over the past couple decades.  As Chardonnay became the go-to white wine for people who didn’t necessarily know about wine, more serious wine drinkers saw their own favorite white grapes suffer in terms of representation on wine lists, availability in stores, and sometimes in actual planted acres.  Therefore, “ABC” became their slightly snobbish battle cry against this increasingly ubiquitous varietal. (more…)

06/06/07 – Petite Sirah (vs. Syrah)

Alkies,

Let me tell you — Wednesday’s meeting is going to be interesting for a lot of reasons.  First of all, don’t anticipate any amicability between Andrew and I.  The Cubs are playing the Brewers this week, and their three-game series wraps up on Wednesday, a few hours before the meeting.  Whoever wins the series will come decked out to the nines in the official garb of their respective team, so that all of you will know what’s up.  (Loser can only wear the hat.) (more…)

05/30/07 – Zinfandel

Wine groupies,

Hi there, it’s great to be back from my journey elsewhere.  What better way to celebrate my return to California than by drinking copious amounts of the full-bodied red with the most acres planted of all grapes in the entire state?!!?  So that’s what I did tonight, I drank a bottle of Cabernet all by myself.  However, I also very much look forward to this week’s meeting, in which we’ll be tasting another quintessentially California varietal, the legendary Zinfandel. (more…)

05/09/07 – Sangiovese

Boozehounds,

I hope you’re all as thrilled as I am about the impending trip up the coast to Paso Robles.  I was at a tasting this weekend at which several vineyards were recommended to me as being particularly excellent.  Those who have suggestions or questions regarding the trip, please e-mail me or attend the meeting, and we’ll be sending out an informational e-mail with all the specifics you need to know on Thursday. (more…)

05/02/07 – Viognier

Winos,

Please enjoy this photo of Scarlett Johansson.

One might wonder why I started the e-mail with a photo of Scarlett Johansson… although I assume some of the men did not bother to (and I would be inclined to think at least a few of the women as well, which, believe me, is understandable).  I’ll tell you why: in my limited experience with the wine, and drawing somewhat on what I’ve read in preparation for this meeting, I feel that Viognier might most aptly be compared with Scarlett Johansson on the good old “what famous person does this wine remind me of” scale.  The majority of the articles on the white grape Viognier tend to reference its floral nature, its intense fruit aromas, and its richness of body and flavor.  It also seems to vary significantly, as many whites do, on the basis of production methods.  Apparently Viognier is occasionally over-oaked in a Chardonnay style, which doesn’t produce great results — similarly, Scarlett is sometimes overdone and not as appealing as when she’s allowed to express her remarkable natural beauty in a more subtle, intimate setting, in which her true complexities are even more resplendent.  (You know it’s a good analogy when you can’t tell if I’m talking about the actress or the grape!) (more…)

04/25/07 – Wines from your state

Pilgrims,

After months and months of anticipation, “wines from your state” night is finally here!  Look forward to ridiculous bottles of vino from New York, Texas, and Wisconsin… and, as promised, a bottle from my Hawaii trip last summer (which I actually bought in Hawaii and then painstakingly wrapped up and smuggled back to the mainland in my luggage, where I later learned that I could’ve bought the same bottle in Vendome for a dollar less).  (more…)

04/18/07 – Merlot

Winos,

Absence makes the heart grow thirstier, huh?  I hope everyone’s ready to jump back on the wagon.  This week we return to form with what is probably the most famous and widely-consumed grape out of all of those that we excluded from the March Madness tournament: Merlot.  According to the Bible, Merlot tastes very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon and is “easily confused with it in blind tastings,” so I thought it best to choose one or the other, and Cabernet enjoys perhaps just a bit more prestige here in California.  Merlot generally tastes a bit more “soft, fleshy and plump” than Cabernet, both here in the new world and also in its traditional home of Bordeaux, where some of the world’s top Merlots are made.  The most important regions for Merlot production are Bordeaux, California, Washington State, and Chile. (more…)

04/11/07 – a bottle of Liebfraumilch for one and FULL HOUSE on Nick at Nite

Friends,

For the first time in the history of the Young Winos, there will be no meeting this week because no one volunteered their place.  So have fun sitting at home with a $4 bottle and Mary Kate and Ashley (it’s either that or Crossing Jordan… I think we can all agree there’s nothing else worth watching on Wednesday at 9:00).  I’ll be at the 3rd Stop hitting on that bartender that I delude myself into thinking really believes I go there for the Chimay on tap.

See y’all next week at Max and Kate’s—

J

04/04/07 – Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio

Wine-faces,

The official tournament may be over, but in our quest to examine the six of the most important and prominent grapes, we inevitably ignored a number of very significant ones, and over the next few weeks we’ll be returning to those.  Due to the popularity of the “blind bottle” concept, we’ll similarly be putting one bottle aside and attempting to guess region at the end of the meeting.  This won’t be for points, but the level of short-term bragging rights you’ll enjoy simply cannot be overstated. (more…)

Young Winos Tournament Results

People,

The first annual Young Winos March Madness tournament was an intense, captivating experience.  I think we all learned a lot about tasting… not only about the techniques and nuances involved in a blind tasting experience, but also about our own limitations and shortcomings therein.

For many of us, the reds proved significantly more difficult to discern than the whites.  The average score at the white tasting was 7.1, while the average score at the red tasting was only 5.7.  The three highest scorers at the white tasting (Andrew, Jessica, and Newsha) experienced significant drop-offs during the red tasting, while the three of us who fared better tasting the reds (Noah, Emily, and myself) experienced only small increases over our white night total — and, at least in my case, guessed many more white varietals correctly than we did red, the point increase only resulting from some rather specious regional guessing. (more…)

03/27/07 – March Madness (Blind Reds)

Winos,

It’s the final day of the March Madness challenge, the last chance to rise from tasting obscurity and claim this year’s championship title.  Also, there’s a prize… we haven’t discussed it at a meeting yet, but I would assume a $20 gift certificate to BevMo or Wine House would be appropriate, payable from the Young Winos donation fund.  We’ll discuss this particular point on Tuesday before the tasting begins, so anyone there at the beginning of the meeting can have a say in the prize selection.

Here are the current standings:

1.  Andrew (11)
1.  Jessica (11)
3.  Newsha (10.5)
4.  Emily (9.5)
4.  Jen (9.5)
6.  Sasha (9)
7.  Jesse (8.5)
8.  Nick (7.5)
9.  Daniella (6)
9.  Nick (6)
(more…)

03/22/07 – Round One Results (and next week’s event)

People,

Congratulations to everyone who came out and participated in the first of two blind tastings that encompass our playoff series this March!  Results were all over the board, although I think everyone who participated was generally pleased with their performance.  Unfortunately, home-court advantage didn’t do much for yours truly, but I suppose the absence of Don (who was at hockey) just made the place seem empty and hostile.  Next week everyone has a chance at sweet redemption and at the championship… as you’ll see below, the scores are still very close, and definitely within striking distance for those participants who didn’t make it out on Tuesday. (more…)

03/20/07 – March Madness (Blind Whites)

People,

The playoffs have finally arrived! Your diligent tasting efforts over the past six weeks have hopefully prepared you adequately for the grueling task you’re about to undertake over the next two: taste bottles entirely blind, knowing nothing more the three varietals that they could possibly be, and attempt to guess the varietal (and, for the boldest of the winos, the region as well). The points that you’ve accumulated over the past six weeks will count towards your final total. They also allow us to determine the seeds heading into the final taste-off. (more…)

03/13/07 – March Madness (Cabernet Sauvignon)

Folks,

This is the final week of the March Madness “regular season” before we move on to the two-week playoff tournament.  It’s your last chance to vie for those crucial regular season points, which, I should remind you, carry over and count towards your final total.  Won’t you feel quite the fool if you find yourself competing for the tasting championship and managing to lose by only a point — a point that could’ve been scored by attending the Cabernet Sauvignon meeting and guessing where the mystery bottle was from!!  It sickens me to even think about how difficult your life would be after such a grievous error. (more…)

03/06/07 – March Madness (Chardonnay)

Friends,

This week we move on to Chardonnay, sometimes described as “California’s most widely-planted white grape,” largely because it is.  Like most grapes whose names sound French, Chardonnay’s traditional homeland is France — specifically the legendary region of Burgundy (or Bourgogne), the same appellation famous for its Pinot Noir.  Chardonnay is Burgundy’s sole white grape, and in that cool region it produces crisp, light wines that contain bright fruit and mineral flavors.  It’s also in Burgundy that some (not all) producers incorporate oak into the winemaking process.  When Chardonnay production exploded in the “new world” (California, Australia, Chile, etc.), it was warm-weather Chardonnays leading the way with their buttery oakiness; this is consequently the taste that many people associate with Chardonnay (a passage on the Wine Varietals Index says that “the natural varietal ‘taste and smell’ of Chardonnay is surprisingly unfamiliar to many wine drinkers, as its true character is often guised with dominating winemaking signatures” like buttery oak). (more…)

02/28/07 – March Madness (Pinot Noir)

Winos,

It’s pinot butter jelly time!  Pinot butter jelly time!  Pinot butter jelly time!  Where y’at?  Where y’at?  Where y’at?  Where y’at?  Now there ya go.  There ya go.  There ya go.  There ya go.  Do the pinot butter jelly.  Pinot butter jelly.  Pinot butter jelly with a baseball bat!  Pinot butter jelly.  Pinot butter jelly.  Pinot butter jelly with a baseball bat! (more…)

02/20/07 – March Madness (Riesling)

People,

First of all, happy President’s Day! In honor of all of the important men and women who have served as commander in chief of this country, we’re all taking Monday off from work. Undoubtedly you’re bored and in desperate need of purpose on this day of respite. Here’s one suggestion: go buy a nice bottle of Riesling. And when you’re done with that, read this article about an extremely interesting business opening in LA soon that we all must go check out. (more…)

02/13/07 – March Madness (Syrah/Shiraz)

Friends,

Last week was awesome, the games are underway and the competition is intense.  This week we turn to one of our favorite reds, the ever-exciting grape known as Syrah… and also as Shiraz.  Questions abound: the names are similar, but are they two different grapes?  Are they the same grape, resulting in two different types of wine?  Or is it just two terms that describe the exact same animal? (more…)

March Madness Official Rules

Guys,

For those who couldn’t make Wednesday night, it’s not too late to join the most exciting and dynamic wine tasting tournament for 25-and-under that LA has ever seen!  We’re done with our first week of March Madness, and here’s what we have to look forward to:

Week #2 — Syrah
Week #3 — Riesling
Week #4 — Pinot Noir
Week #5 — Chardonnay
Week #6 — Cabernet Sauvignon
Week #7 — Blind white tasting
Week #8 — Blind red tasting (more…)

02/07/07 – March Madness (Sauvignon Blanc)

Winos,

Having completed our year-long mission to taste and discuss wines from arguably the most significant (and readily accessible) wine regions in both the United States and the world, the Young Winos now prepare to embark on a wild, unadulterated tasting spree in a series of meetings that will run the gamut from the canonical to the bizarre — everything from “The Franco-Spanish War, Part 2″ to “Pinot Gris vs. Pinot Blanc” to “The LA Marathon: Which Wine Goes Best With Eating My Dust?” (more…)

01/31/07 – Washington (part 2 of 2)

People,

This week we return to Washington State, which is incidentally the home of the Seattle Seahawks, just one of the many teams that the Bears beat this year on their way to an appearance in the Superbowl.  Oh, also, did I mention that the Chicago Bears are in the Superbowl this weekend?  For those of you who don’t know why, I’ll tell you — it’s because the Bears are the NFC champions.  They also finished the season at 13-3, which is by far the best record in the NFC.  I really can’t stop talking about them.  Oh, and by the way, the Bears are in the Superbowl this weekend.  By next week things will be back to normal, and I’ll either be very happy or not very happy at all. (more…)

01/24/07 – Washington (part 1 of 2)

Pilgrims,

Well, it seems we finally did it: like some post-modern Lewis and Clark, we’ve reached the last wine-producing state in the USA, thus completing our yearlong exploration of all the major wine regions of the world.  Specific to our arrival in Washington, I believe the appropriate metaphorical concept might be “Manifest Destiny”: the whole of the country is now under the dominion of the Young Winos of LA.  (That’s not true, of course.  States like New York, Virginia, and Texas also have significant wine production.  However, given the relative difficulty people have had finding wine from even a state as prolific as Oregon, I think that once we’ve completed the three Pacific seaboard states, any further US wine exploration would best be saved for “bring a wine from your home state” day.) (more…)

01/16/07 – Oregon (part 2 of 3)

Winos,

This week’s return to Oregon is roughly analogous to Jack Bauer’s return from his internment in China: we’re bruised, we’re battered, and we have slightly more facial hair, but we’re still thirsty for freedom and justice.  And wine. (more…)

01/09/07 – Oregon (part 1 of 3)

Drunkies,

This week marks our triumphant return to a full-fledged, “full-figured” approach to wine tasting.  Last year we finished up California, and then you gluttons went off to your respective holiday locales and stuffed yourselves with bunt cake and sugar plums, or whatever it is the children are eating these days.  Hopefully you’ll have some excellent holiday wine stories to share on our first day back.  Mine isn’t that entertaining so it shouldn’t be hard to top.  It was 5 pm on New Years Eve and I was in Manhattan trying to meet up with Max.  He called me and told me he was with some friends in Brooklyn, so I got on the subway and headed over there.  As I was walking the eight blocks from the station to this apartment, I realized I should pick up something to bring, so I stopped into a liquor store for a bottle of wine.  It was a tiny place with the weirdest wine selection I’ve ever seen — almost entirely European, and generally very inexpensive.  There was a huge display in the front with a sign that said “buy any two, get one free,” and the wines contained therein were exclusively from Transylvania, the Czech Republic, and other former Eastern Bloc nations; in fact, so was a large proportion of the store’s whole selection.  I wound up going for a white from Rueda, Spain — one of the few things they had that was chilled.  And it wasn’t half bad!  Ok, there’s my holiday wine story… hope there are more interesting ones on Tuesday night. (more…)

12/20/06 – Holiday reds and “Yankee Swap”

Winos,

If there’s one thing I always attempt to do at wine club — albeit with varying degrees of success — it’s to keep the meetings from getting too “fun.”  Lets face it, wine itself isn’t fun, and nor should be the study of wine.  That’s why we hold wine club on non-fun days like Tuesday and Wednesday.  However, once or twice a year, I feel like we can afford to cut loose and enjoy ourselves.  This Tuesday is one such occasion. (more…)

12/13/06 – California Fun

Winos,
This week’s meeting is gonna be fun.  First of all, Erik’s apartment is always fun, and perhaps even more importantly, the wine in question is really fun.  As we’ve pillaged our way through California from south to north, tasting region after region, acquainting ourselves extremely well with the history and trends of California winemaking, we’ve undeniably focused primarily on red and white still (non-sparkling) wines, which are the bread-and-butter of most wine tastings anyway.  But as we occasionally saw when we did certain regions — and also when we visited the tasting rooms on our field trips — there’s more to California than just reds and whites.  Tomorrow night, we’re going to focus on those wines, and they are definitely some of the most fun wines — from a tasting standpoint — that we’re going to experience.  Specifically: (more…)

12/06/06 – Mendocino / Lake County (pt. 2)

Alkies,

First of all, awesome party.  Apologies to anyone I offended with my antics.  I assure you my intentions were pure. (more…)

11/29/06 – Mendocino / Lake County (pt. 1)

Alkies,

The meetings this week and next week will be our last California regional explorations.  I’m pleased to say that after several months, we’ve finally reached the last significant regions in California that we’ve yet to taste.  Mendocino and Lake County are the northernmost of the major wine regions in the state.  They are the original homes of both Fetzer and Kendall-Jackson, two of California’s most recognizable labels (although these producers now source grapes from all over the state, not just Mendocino or Lake County).  Lake County is named after Clear Lake, the largest natural lake in California.  Mendocino is the more varied of the two appellations, with more wineries and several smaller AVAs within it: Anderson Valley, Redwood Valley, and McDowell Valley.  Of these, Anderson Valley is the most distinctive; it slices inward from the cold sea and is one of the chilliest grape-growing areas in California. (more…)

11/22/06 – Sonoma (pt. 3)

Winos,

Exciting times for our little cabal this week.  We’ve got a meeting at a brand new location on Wednesday (Beverly Hills, centrally located, always fun).  Thursday we’re doing a Young Winos orphans’ Thanksgiving Dinner for everyone who doesn’t have a family or some other prior commitment on the big day.  There will be food, fun, and Beaujolais a-plenty.  More info on that in a separate e-mail.  First, lets talk about our final week tasting Sonoma. (more…)

11/14/06 – Sonoma (pt. 2)

Winos,

First of all, thanks to everyone who came on this weekend’s dynamite trip to Temecula.  We tasted a ton of wine, some good, some less than good, and some that were very good.  Several of the best were at Stuart Cellars, where the owner/winemaker himself gave us a free guided tour!  And the other wineries were enjoyable as well.  Everyone got enough glasses to host a formal dinner party…. albeit one in which the guests each receive a glass with something different written on it.  We had fun, and we were picky — we went to one winery, took a look at the crowd, and peaced out!  Because that’s how the Young Winos roll!  We don’t even care.  Temecula’s still reeling like they got suckerpunched by Pedro Martinez.  We’ll have to do another trip soon and taste the wineries that we missed.  (more…)

11/07/06 – Sonoma (pt. 1)

Children,

Having just completed the Napa Valley, we now move on to Sonoma, traditionally known as Napa’s less-pretentious neighbor, but certainly still considered one of California’s premier wine regions — many would say equal to or just behind Napa in terms of quality.  If Napa is the Yankees (always really good, but too expensive and egotistical) then Sonoma is the Red Sox (also consistently good, not as expensive, occasionally pulls off an upset).  Sonoma is a beautiful place, and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit twice, most recently this past summer.  The county is known as California’s Provence, so-named after the French region known for its ideal climate, natural beauty, and the excellence of its locally-grown cuisine. I’ve attached a few photos from my two trips so that you can see what I mean.

104_0418-2.JPG 104_0427.JPG 124_2426.JPG

The first two pictures are Sonoma in the spring time… the leaves are just forming on the vines.  Check out the “old vines” in their rustic, gnarled state.  The third picture is this past summer; observe how much fuller and bushier the vines look after a few months.  Also observe how much fuller and bushier my hair was than it is now. (more…)

11/01/06 – Napa Valley (the culmination)

Alkies,

This week we return to Napa for our third and final installment, and we finally dip into the public funds!  More on that later… (more…)

10/25/06 – Napa Valley (pt. 2)

Winos,

I really want to share with all of you the inspiring story of how I unceremoniously lost $550 this week.  But I’ll save it for until we’re at least ten bottles in on Wednesday night, I promise.  (more…)

10/18/06 – Napa Valley (pt. 1)

Winos,

Yo, it’s definitely time to cut loose and get crazy, because starting this week, we’re gonna be dealing with some serious prestige.  The Napa Valley is probably the most prestigious wine region in the United States, and is certainly the best known AVA that we’ve visited (AVA = American Viticultural Area, roughly similar to the French Appellation Controllee that you lifers will remember from last spring).  It’s not the largest wine region in California by any means, nor is it the oldest or most historical.  Napa’s international fame is the result of the arrival of a number of talented winemakers (including Robert Mondavi) in the mid-60s, at which time California’s best selling wines were cheap, sweet “ports” made from nameless seedless grapes, and at which point Chardonnay was so infrequently grown that it wasn’t even recognized by the California Agricultural Service.  A decade later, two Napa Valley wines shocked the world by beating out the top French wines in a blind tasting at the infamous Paris Tasting of 1976, and the region has been in the international limelight ever since. (more…)

10/9/06 – Carneros

Boozehounds,

Like an unadulterated and ominously unmanned locomotive full of TNT, we barrel northwards towards the storied wine Meccas of Napa and Sonoma. We’ll spend several meetings in each of these legendary locales, breaking them down both by varietal and by sub-region. But first, we’ll take a refreshing pit stop at one of California’s leading regions for top-notch Burgundian grapes, the small and unassuming Carneros. (more…)

10/03/06 – The Livermore Valley

Dear friends,

October, traditionally, is one of the twelve months of the year.  During October, we’ll be visiting several of the world’s most famous wine regions, including Napa and Sonoma in all their glory.  We’ll hopefully also be taking a field trip (more on that at the meeting) and there will probably be a party at some point, since we just cleaned the carpets over here and they look way too clean.  For now, lets talk about historically significant wine. (more…)

09/26/06 – North Central Coast (pt. 2)

Winos,

Remember last May or something when I told y’all about how I managed to burn my eyelids when I was laying out on my roof?  Those were the days, man…. nowadays I can’t burn anything up there anymore.  Where did the sun go?  I laid out for a good three hours this weekend and I still look as white as the driven snow.  I’m gonna have to start going back to that sketchy tanning place and then you all are gonna make fun of me and question my sexuality.  Again.  Ok, regardless, my point is that it seems like autumn has finally arrived, and we should start planning our next trip so we can see the harvest!  At this week’s meeting, lets discuss destinations (i.e. back to Santa Barbara, appellations we didn’t visit?…. Paso Robles?…. Napa?….) and potential times. (more…)

09/20/06 – North Central Coast (pt. 1)

Wine slobs,

First and foremost: amazing trip on Saturday. A great time had by all, no doubt about it. We hit one winery (Bridlewood) and a very impressive FIVE tasting rooms: Summerland, Consilience, Longoria, Epiphany, and Daniel Gehrs… not to mention taking lunch in the infamous Los Olivos Cafe (as featured in Sideways: “I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot”). Thank you so much to all of those who came out and made the pilgrimage so memorable. Especially Daryn. Daryn was very memorable. Andrew as well was memorable. Joe not so much. I can barely remember Joe doing anything scandalous.

trip14.jpg trip11.jpg trip02.jpg

It was an amazing day, and I think we can all agree that there will be another trip some time very soon… a day trip would be easy, or perhaps we’ll do an overnight in Santa Barbara, and there was even talk of a Napa/Sonoma overnight trip. (more…)

09/13/06 – Central Coast pt. 2

Winos,

Upon the beseechment of this week’s host, Dr. Jason Meltzer, we return to the fertile Central Coast region for round two of delicious, spicy, fruity reds and big sunny whites.  For the purposes of our tasting, we’re going to define Central Coast as the wine regions immediately north of the town of San Luis Obispo.  Some people include Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande in the Central Coast rather than in Santa Barbara (since they’re not in Santa Barbara County), but we grouped them with Santa Barbara because of the similarity of climate and wines produced.  The climate of the Central Coast is different — hotter, actually — and the wines grown there are therefore very different…. different varietals, and different tastes.  The Central Coast regions we’ll be tasting are Paso Robles and the much smaller region of York Mountain(more…)

09/05/06 – Central Coast

Winos,

This week we move on from our three-week roost in Santa Barbara and plunge mercilessly northwards, heeding no warning of man or soul, stopping not until we reach the Central Coast, at which point we’ll drink some wine.  For the purposes of our tasting, we’re going to define Central Coast as the wine regions immediately north of the town of San Luis Obispo.  Some people include Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande in the Central Coast rather than in Santa Barbara (since they’re not in Santa Barbara County), but we grouped them with Santa Barbara because of the similarity of climate and wines produced.  The climate of the Central Coast is different — hotter, actually — and the wines grown there are therefore very different…. different varietals, and different tastes.  The Central Coast regions we’ll be tasting are Paso Robles and the much smaller region of York Mountain(more…)

08/30/06 – Santa Barbara County (red vs. white)

Winos,

There were no fires this weekend, so I really don’t have anything exciting to talk about.  Oh, wait, yes I do….. Santa Barbara wines!!!!  This week, we wrap up our Santa Barbara tasting experience with a big, catch-all “red vs. white” meeting.  Anything goes — bring a bottle of whatever you want (even something we’ve already had if we particularly liked it), because I’d like to use this meeting to see if we can decide on some wineries we’d like to visit when we take our trip.  More on that later.  Right now, here’s the same paragraph about Santa Barbara wines that you’ve read for the past two weeks, and it’s as riveting as ever: (more…)

08/22/06 – Santa Barbara County (pt. 2)

Winos,

First, thanks to those of you who attended our little Polynesian soiree on Saturday night, or the “tropical debacle” as it shall forever be known.  It was fun for a while, and the pineapple-served pina coladas were a huge hit.  Then things started getting “out of hand,” I think most indicatively when the flaming shot I had just poured for Max took leave of his hand and spread itself around the kitchen — counter, stove, etc., culminating with its presence on my hand as we attempted to put out the flames.  I don’t know what was worse, that the kitchen was on fire, that my hand was on fire, or that, by that point, I was too drunk to feel much pain.  (more…)

08/16/06 – Santa Barbara County (pt. 1)

Winos,

It’s great to be back in California, and it’s seriously such an auspicious return, because after months of dicking around in backwater regions like Burgundy, Chianti, and “New Zealand” — wherever that is — the Young Winos are finally returning to the good old USA, specifically to the unique and oddly-shaped state that we all call home.  We took a brief look at California sparkling wines two weeks ago, and now we’re starting the state in earnest, with an in-depth examination of the wines of Santa Barbara County.  This is the region that was featured in “Sideways,” the Oscar-nominated 2004 comedy/drama (which is actually a really accurate presentation of wine tasting knowledge and techniques, delivered with much more clever wit and hard-hitting emotional content than my e-mails have ever had… at least since February or so).  Anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet, now is very literally the perfect time. (more…)

08/09/06 – Wines for the Grill (pt. 2)

Aloha!

This upcoming wine tasting is historically significant in that it’s the first meeting ever in which I will not be there sharing the joy.  My family is coming into town tonight, and tomorrow morning we board a plane for a state to the west of here.  I won’t tell you which one it is, but I will tell you that there might be a luau involved, maybe some black-sand beaches, maybe the occasional volcano, a little bit of “Lilo and Stitch” action.  So right now you’re thinking either Alaska or Hawaii, and you’d be right…. I’ll tell you which one when I get back. (more…)

08/02/06 – Celebrating California

Kids,

Well, we did it.  After seven months of trotting around the globe like the members of an all-black basketball team from Harlem, we’ve finally come home to California.  And what better way to celebrate our historic arrival than with a few bottles of champagne?  (Notice the small “c.”  We can’t say “Champagne,” of course, because we’re using the generic term that refers to all sparkling wines, not the proper name that refers to wine specifically from Champagne, France.)  Obviously, champagne is the traditional wine of celebrations, so this meeting is gonna be off-the-hook and probably really immoral.  But with any luck, we’ll also learn a thing or two about sparkling wine in the midst of the debauchery.  Here’s a few good starting points: (more…)

07/26/06 – New Zealand part 2 (Sauvignon Blanc)

Gents and ladyfolk~

First of all, my apologies if this e-mail is riddled with spelling errors and all manner of lexicographical problems.  I’m writing it on a computer at work — yeah, I got a job, but fear not, it’s just temporary, and I’ll shortly return to being unemployed and devoting all of my time to wine club — and it’s a PC.  It’s rare that I write anything on a PC these days… Max has one which I use occasionally when he’s not home and I need to visit a website that I’m afraid will give me a virus.  Other than that, it’s macs all the way for me, and returning to a PC is kind of trippy.  These keys are sticky as well, so I’m worried that I’m going to make a lot of undetectable errors (like typing “no” instead of “on” and other things that the spell check won’t notice but Andrew and Jason will), resulting in an entirely incomprehensible e-mail.  And you people are so timid that you won’t take the initiative to point it out to me, meaning that everyone will have bad information and no one will show up with the right bottle (or even in the right place).  C’mon, people, please…. help me out.  Help me help you.  I don’t do this for me.  You know that. (more…)

07/19/06 – New Zealand Part 1 (why is the rum gone?)

Mates,

The reason I’m writing this at 8:30 AM on Tuesday (rather than late at night on Monday, two days before the meeting, as is my custom) is that last night I found myself a bit incapacitated.  It wasn’t my fault, though.  It all started in Midas, where the recent “Pirates 2″ fervor had apparently caught up the shop’s manager, as he’d decided to play the original Pirates movie on the lobby’s DVD player all day.  Trouble was, in order to keep things professional, he had turned the sound off.  So poor me… sitting there, waiting for him to deal with my “check engine” light, watching what I consider one of the more entertaining movies I’ve seen, and unable to hear a word of dialogue.  Naturally, I resolved to view the movie in its full audio-visual glory that night.  However, Max and Kate were watching Signs when I eventually got home, and since that’s an entertaining film as well, I decided to partake, and consequently didn’t start watching “Pirates” until 11:30.  Somewhere around 1:45 (no joke… it’s a long movie), the new roommate Tanya and I finally reached the island scene in which Jack Sparrow produces an impressive cache of rum from a secret underground hold.  Well, I just thought it would be irreverent to let that scene go by without passing a bottle of cheap rum back and forth between us, and even once the scene was over, it still seemed appropriate.  (more…)

07/12/06 – Australian reds (pt. 2)

Lovlies,

Well, for those who haven’t heard the rumors yet, let me be the first to tell you that they’re completely true, and you can take that to the bank.  Besides that, though, it’s also a fact that Marie and I took a trip up to Sonoma this weekend, which actually turned out to be a wonderfully enjoyable excursion.  Due to schedule constraints we were only able to stay one night, and it’s a long drive up there, so by the time we got to town, found our hotel, unpacked and had lunch, we only had time to visit two wineries before the rather inhospitable closing time of 5 PM rolled around.  But the two we picked were great; we got to Arrowood and Cheateau St. Jean, the latter of which features a classical European garden and a tasting room where they really know how to treat their customers.

StJean01 StJean02

She and I had a genuinely awesome time and I think it’s a forgone conclusion that the long-discussed Young Winos “field trip” really needs to take place.  We should decide on a weekend in September to head up to Santa Barbara, and if that goes well, perhaps an October or November weekend in Napa/Sonoma.  Details to be discussed at next occurrence of mass intoxication. (more…)

07/05/06 – Australian reds (pt. 1)

Kids,

I’ve got a little “Killing Me Softly” by Roberta Flack playing in the background as I write this, so if you detect a morose, pining tone to this e-mail about Australian red blends, that’s why. (more…)

06/27/06 – Australian whites pt. 2

People,

This week’s e-mail takes a departure from my normal rambling diatribe and instead embraces the properties of shortness; it’s my attempt to prove that, if necessary, I can be uncharacteristically succinct. (more…)

06/19/06 – Australia pt. 1 (Chardonnay)

Children,

Tomorrow night marks our preliminary foray into that godless land of wallabies and wombats, kangaroos and kalababbles, Tasmanian devils and devilled dingos.  Yes, we’re going to drink some Australian wine, and we’ll have to do our best to avoid exercising the spirits of all of the lawless criminals upon whose labor the modern Australian wine industry was built.  For many years, the Australian wines were considered something of a joke… it wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that they started to earn some respect.  Of course, this can be said about many emerging wine regions, California included, but since Australia was always sort of the “dumping ground” for England’s nastier elements (like New Jersey is to New York), the British have been particularly cruel in their mockery of Australian wines.  Here’s a short Monty Python audio file that I hope will demonstrate my point. (more…)

06/13/06 – Chile

Winos,

My apologies for the lateness of this e-mail. You see, I’ve just recently become unemployed, and as the phrase “carpe diem” no longer inspires me like it used to, I thought it probably more important to lay out on my roof for a couple hours today and then to watch the VHS copy of Popular Science’s “The Greatest Science and Technology of the ’30s” than to write the wine club e-mail. I assure you this unabashed hedonism is only a passing phase, and as soon as I have a job, the e-mails will once again be timely. Anyone looking for a writer’s assistant? (more…)

06/07/06 – Argentina

Alkies,

If you go up to any random person on the street and grab them around their waist, tackle them to the ground, put your arm across their neck so that they can’t breathe very well, and ask them, “what do you love most about Argentinian wine,” you’ll probably get arrested.  I really, really hope that unfortunate fact won’t dissuade you from reading the rest of this e-mail, because Argentian wine is actually really interesting and exciting.  Argentina has been called the “sleeping giant” of the wine world, because even though it produces the fifth most wine of any country, it’s only recently that the world has begun to take notice.  The Argentinians, though, have been appreciating their wine for a long time.  We Americans drink an average of about 1 to 2 gallons of wine per year (I certainly assume the Young Winos drink a bit more than the average).  Argentinians, in comparison, drink 10.4 gallons of wine per year, and as little as a few decades ago, that figure was 26 gallons a year.  That’s a gallon of wine every two weeks!  Inspirational, isn’t it? (more…)

05/31/06 – Wines for the Grill

Winos,

So we’re going to take a departure from our region based analysis and do a special “wines for the grill” event.  I know, heresy.  I should be burned at the stake for this.  Or… might it be more appropriate to say “burned at the steak?”  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!  Holy shit.  Wow.  I just set a new standard.  You know I did.  Love it.  Embrace it. (more…)

05/23/06 – South Africa part 2

Swingers,

This week we’re representing the ethnic minorities and doing “South African whites.”  Perhaps it’s ironic that although the Boers of South Africa were for so long intolerant, a word rarely used to describe their bottled counterparts is “intolerable.”  Nicely done, huh? (more…)

05/17/06 – South Africa part 1

Brethren,

I hope you all had as lovely a weekend as I did.  Props to Leah for hosting an awesome party.  It definitely seemed like a good time was had by all who attended, even that really drunk young woman who unceremoniously tumbled into the huge pile of shoes that someone had the foresight to put behind her.  And congratulations to the Young Winos’ first documented case of de facto matchmaking!  Apparently once under the influence of a few glasses of vino, romance just might chance to blossom.  How exciting is that?  Best of luck to you two.  Who’s gonna be the Young Winos’ next celebrity hook-up?  I’m banking on Brett and Max. (more…)

05/09/06 – Germany pt. 2

Winos,

Just as you were starting to get used to the wonderful country of Germany, it’s time to bid it “au revior,” as the locals say.  We’ll be spending Tuesday night polishing off a smattering of the top German whites, and then we’ll be leaving Europe for a while and seeking out the New World, like Christopher Columbus did in 1492 when he discovered the previously uninhabited land of America and named it “The United States.”  So Tuesday will obviously be exciting in the sense that we’ll be deciding where in the world we’d like to go next.  Moreover, it will be enthralling for the sheer variety and excellence of the German whites we’re going to taste.  Let me explain… (more…)

05/02/06 – Germany pt. 1 (Riesling)

Guys,

I got good and sunburned yesterday. I was laying up on the roof of my house since it was such a gorgeous day, and I went and got myself mighty sunburned. Even my eyelids are sunburned, which is weird, but which also actually hurts a lot. My advice to all of you is to do whatever is necessary to avoid getting sunburned eyelids. (more…)

04/26/06 – Alsace

Guys,

This week is absolutely absurd and awesome for so many reasons.  First of all, the meeting is going to be held in the old Pabst brewery.  Oh, and it actually might be on the ROOF of the old Pabst brewery…. we’ll have to see how warm it is outside.  Also, later this week, Vendome is doing a very cool tasting that everyone should attend: wines for the grill, the perfect bottles to match with all of your barbecue food this summer.  Can’t wait.  Also, the Young Winos might get a mention in the Detroit Free Press.  Yeah, I know, insanity.  I’ll explain it all at the meeting.  But you want to know the most unequivocally awesome thing about this week?  Alsace, that’s what. (more…)

04/16/06 – The Rhone

Lushes~

Ok, first of all, I really want someone to explain what the hell happened on Saturday night.  It was a great party, and thank you to everyone who attended.  But why did I wake up at 7:30 on Sunday morning on my couch, in my clothes, with the lights on and everyone gone?  I have a very difficult time believing that I just passed out — on my COUCH, not my bed — in the middle of a lively game of Taboo.  I wasn’t that drunk (I’d had five or six), it wasn’t that late (like 2:30), and I wasn’t that tired (I’d slept during the day, as the sunburn on my face clearly attested).  It doesn’t add up.  So basically, I’m interested in knowing who slipped me the roofie.  And also, to that end, why were my clothes on in the morning?  If you’re going to drug me into submission, it’s kind of an affront to not take advantage of me.  Thanks a lot. (more…)

04/11/06 – The Loire

People,

First of all, lets all extend our thanks to Theresa and Joe for having the two awesomest dogs in the entire Los Angeles metropolitan area.  Noodles and Apollonia may have to make guest appearances at future wine club meetings.

Speaking of guest appearances, guess who’s gonna be at the meeting on Wednesday night?  My parents, that’s who….. they’re in town from New York for the week and I told them they should stop by and learn a thing or two about the hedonistic, wine-soaked life I lead out here in this godless city.  So I don’t want to disappoint them — I need you guys to be at your most belligerent, ok?  No, I’m just kidding.  They’re my parents.  They’re only gonna stick around for a little while, and then we can be belligerent after they leave, ok?  Have some decency, for chrissake. (more…)

04/04/06 – Penedes

Ladies,

So our meeting is now on Wednesday again… is that cool with everyone?  I need some feedback from you bunch of mutes over which day you prefer.  Otherwise I’m going to keep picking the day using what thus far has been a very costly and dangerous method: every Friday night, I instruct Max and Brett to each consume a fish cake.  What they don’t realize is that one of the two fish cakes has been laced with cyanide; not enough to kill a man, but enough to make him projectile vomit for the duration of the weekend.  If Max throws up, meeting is on Tuesday, and if Brett’s the one to punt, it’s on Wednesday.  This method is just really becoming too bothersome, not to mention expensive and just generally unusual.  Can we select a day please?  E-mail me your preference or mention it at the meeting tomorrow night. (more…)

03/28/06 – Rioja

Winos,

Ok, let me start this e-mail by admitting that I’m drunk right now.  It’s true, I’m intoxicated.  Not on wine, either.  I apologize for the potential incomprehensibility of this e-mail, but hey, estoy borracho.  For those who were not aware, “Inside Man” was America’s top movie this weekend, and it was decided that a celebration was in order today at work, so I was instructed to go out and purchase a large amount of alcohol.  Good alcohol, too.  And then they gave me a blender and told me to make margaritas.  So right now I’m sitting at my desk, afraid to stand up, sucking down the last of my Gray Goose on the rocks with a thick slice of fresh lime, and I can hear the party still raging in the background.  God, I love Hollywood.  Do you think that if Morgan Stanley turns record profits one quarter, the copy boy gets sent out for a few bottles of Patron while the manic CEO gives a jubilant speech on how glad he was to have been frightened into investing in a few shaky hedge funds by Spike Lee?  I don’t think so. (more…)

03/20/06 – Rias Baixas

Wine hounds,

Soooooo…. we make our triumphant return to Tuesday for this week.  Lets see how this works out for people.  Anyone who has a serious preference between Tuesday and Wednesday, please either air your grievances at the meeting or send me an e-mail.  I want to make sure that the Young Winos of LA continues to provide an accessible service for all of its members, even those with absurdly restrictive scheduling constrictions. (more…)

03/14/06 – Ribera del Duero

Borrachos,

This past weekend, I had the sobering experience — well, I guess “sobering” is the wrong word — of being the only Young Wino of LA attending Saturday’s tasting at Vendome. However, I represented us well by getting really drunk and giving the e-mail address to a very nice young lady who didn’t seem to really want it but whose mother insisted that she check out the group. So far, no e-mail. I think I scared her off when the guy brought out a swill bucket and I was like, “oh, so let me tell you about this one kid Don… who, incidentally, is my roommate and very good friend.” (more…)

03/07/06 – Oenotria (the south of Italy)

People people people,

Almost a thousand years ago, Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain and discovered Italy.  While that particular sentence isn’t entirely true, what IS true is that the ancient Greeks had a word for Italy: “Oenotria,” which basically means “the land of wine” in ancient Greek-talk.  And according to Karen MacNeil, author of the Wine Bible, the crazy drunk Greeks were specifically referring to the southern portion of Italy — “the toe, heel and ankle of the Italian boot” — which featured rugged, sunny, mountainous terrain with scores of fascinating grape varieties.  This week, we wrap up our Italian experience with a visit to “Oenotria,” the southern provinces.  (more…)

02/28/06 – the Tre Venezie

Winos,

This week, we go to Venice.  Ahh, sweet Venice.  The very mention of the word inspires images of swaying palms, dirty beaches, street performers, hippies and rastafarians selling tie-dye shirts, and afternoon flights from Seattle thundering overhead as they descend into LAX.  Ahh, Venice, or “Venizie,” as the Italian immigrants say. (more…)

02/21/06 – Tuscany

Oenophiles~

This week is pretty ridiculously exciting, because we’re moving on to Tuscany, which the Wine Bible calls “the quintessential Italian wine region.”  Tuscany is known for Chianti and for two other red wines, but its output of whites is very low.  Therefore, we’ll be condensing the Tuscany region into one meeting, since the whites probably wouldn’t justify their own session.  If you do happen to find a Tuscan white in the wine shop, feel free to bring it so we can at least get a sample.  Just make sure it’s cold, because it won’t have time to chill in the fridge, since we’ll want to drink any whites we have before we get to the reds (remember, “white before red, no pain in the head.  Red before white, yeah fucking right”).  I just made up that saying, but it’s definitely true. (more…)

02/14/06 – Piedmont part 2 (red)

Winos,

After last week’s enjoyable foray into the Piedmont region by way of the white grape varieties, this week promises to be just as delicious.  By the way, really good job to everyone last week finding the often-obscure Piedmont whites.  Well done.  The reds should be even easier.  I just picked up my bottle, a Barolo from a store that didn’t have any Piedmont whites at all.  So if you head to BevMo, Vendome, or any other large store, you should have a decent selection. (more…)

02/07/06 – Piedmont part 1 (white)

People,

Hope you all had a lovely Superbowl weekend. And I hope you all drank a lot of wine, as well. Americans consume more wine during Superbowl weekend than any other weekend of the year. That’s actually not true, I just made that up. But every other fact in this e-mail IS true, which is overwhelming, because there are a lot of them. This week, as you know, we move on to Italy, definitely a fascinating and important nation in the wide world of wine. (more…)

01/30/06 – Burgundy Part 2 (RED)

Dear unabashed lushes…

Wednesday night’s meeting marks a first in the history of the Young Winos of LA: a meeting held on a Wednesday. It’s also gonna be a very special meeting for several reasons, first and perhaps even foremost of which is that we’ll be drinking Red Burgundy. I mean, you want to talk about wine, red Burgundy is kind of “la creme de la creme,” if you will. And if you won’t, well, then…. it’s just really, really good. (more…)

01/23/06 – Burgundy Part 1 (WHITE)

Winos–

Thanks to all of you crazy alkies who came out to the party this weekend.  If you were there, I actually have a quick question for you: do you happen to know anything about the disappearance of a painting that was hanging in our hall?  Right when you first go into the apartment, on the left, we had a painting hanging there, but by about 1:00 or 2:00 (can’t really remember), I noticed it was missing.  I just assumed it was a roommate trying to “Punk” me or something, but by the next morning, the absence of Ashton Kutcher made me realize that it had probably been taken.  Did any of you see anyone messing with a painting, taking it off the wall, even talking about it?  I’d definitely appreciate any clues you guys might have noticed. (more…)

01/15/06 – Bordeaux Part 2 (RED)

Winos,

First of all, a minor detail — Jason can’t host this week, so our scholar-athlete duo of Brett and Kate rose to the occasion and offered up their apartment for the meeting.  Show your gratitude by wiping your feet before you even step on their sidewalk.  Thanks, B&K, you guys definitely own us now. (more…)

Leah’s letter of interest

I read your post on craiglist…it sounds great! My friends and I love wine tastings! Can you add me to your list? It sounds like a great time!

Leah

Ed. (03/08): Even then, she liked ‘em brief.

.

01/09/06 – Bordeaux Part 1

Enophiles,

It’s the general consensus among the several wine group members who live in this house that we never decided on a subject for this week during last week’s meeting.  We DID decide to change meeting night to Monday, so keep that in mind when you’re trying to figure out whether or not you have anywhere to be tonight.  You do: the wine meeting.  But what will we be drinking?  That was the unanswered question.  I decided to take matters into my own hands and answer the question myself.  Here’s my response: Bordeaux.  Specifically, white Bordeaux.  (more…)

01/02/06 – Rioja

Crazy winos,

Welcome back from your inexcusable periods of sedentary, gluttonous frivolity. Time to get back into the groove. The wine groove. Tuesday night at 9 PM is when it’s gonna happen.

As we decided last YEAR, we will now be moving from a grape-based (varietal) analysis of wine and beginning a region-based analysis. Of course, there are many grapes that are often strongly associated with certain regions (such as Pinot Noir with Burgundy), but since that’s not always the case, our region-based analysis shouldn’t be terribly prone to overlapping with things we’ve already covered. (more…)

12/12/05 – Merlot (and other assorted reds)

People of the wine world,

Welcome to our last meeting of the calendar year, Tuesday evening at 9 PM.  Hopefully your busy holiday schedules won’t be so obtrusive as to preclude your attendance at what promises to be an awesome, awesome meeting.  We’re gonna have a lot of fun, and we’re gonna drink a lot of good wine, and we’re going to have some delicious food as well (read on).

We’ll be drinking Merlot, the last major red grape that we haven’t touched on yet (some snobs might say that I just made a dubious claim and would cite such grapes as Sangiovese and Gamay as major reds that we haven’t done, but I’d retort by saying “well shut up cause we did do Gamay, dumbass, you must not have been paying attention, and as for Sangiovese, we’re obviously going to do a whole Chianti section next year,” to which they might reply, “to be sure, Chianti is indeed the noble grape’s classic home, but I do hope you and your ruffian friends are aware that some delightful Sangioveses are grown right here in California,” to which I would be likely to spew, “yeah, well your mom is grown right here in California too, jerk, doesn’t mean we’re gonna be tasting her tomorrow night.”  And that would probably end the conversation right there.  But that won’t be a problem, because we don’t have any snobs in wine club, do we?).  (more…)

12/05/05 – Miscellaneous whites

Crazy kids,

When I was in grade school, I would read the lunch menus that the school cafeteria would print up and send home with us on a monthly basis.  The color-coded, crudely-decorated leaflets would go straight up on the fridge so that I knew what I was going to be getting for lunch each and every day.  And at the end of the school year, I remember very distinctly that each day of the last week of school would be “Las Vegas Day – Take a Chance.”  I kid you not.  Basically, you wouldn’t know what you should expect, because THEY didn’t even know.  It was all the leftovers of the school year, whatever government surplus foodstuffs they happened to have lying around the freezer in great amounts. (more…)

12/02/05 – The Beaujolais meeting

OK winos…

The Beaujolais meeting was fun, but quite admittedly it got a little bit out of hand.  Between the piano playing, the couch scrubbing, and Don’s increasingly troubling bursts of asinine insight, we were a messy bunch of unabashed drunks by the time it was over.  Well done. (more…)

11/28/05 – Beaujolais

Enophiles,

I hope all of you had a satisfactory Thanksgiving. I certainly did. One of the highlights was a nice little bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau that we drank with dinner. Although for all intensive purposes I still consider myself pretty hopeless with regard to pairing wine with food, at the very least I know what tastes good. And this definitely did. (more…)

11/21/05 – Riesling

Enophiles,

The word of the week is “enophile” (also “oenophile”), meaning “one who appreciates and enjoys wine.” I think that rather permissive definition probably applies to all of us. A second meaning is “one who collects wine.” Ummmmm…… maybe in a decade or so. Right now it’s too tasty to not drink it. (more…)

11/14/05 – Pinot Noir

People,

First of all, check out the jazzy new e-mail address. Vast improvement, in my opinion. This one really conveys our mission and purpose as an organization.

Tuesday night we meet at Christina’s house, and she’s chosen to make it exceedingly difficult for everyone to get there by living somewhere that’s apparently not very easy to find. We’ll have to do our best, I suppose, so to that end, here are the directions, straight from the horse’s mouth, the metaphorical horse in this case being Christina: (more…)

11/08/05 – Pinot Gris

Winos,

Tuesday night’s meeting marks a “wine group” first — our first gathering at a new location. Kia has been thoughtful enough to offer up his apartment, so we’ll be meeting in West LA (near Santa Monica), zipcode 90025. As always, please bring either a bottle of that evening’s vin du jour OR a few dollars for reimbursement. I’ll bring along our obnoxious textbooks, and Kia will do his best to scrounge up enough wine glasses for each raging lush that shows up. (more…)

10/31/05 – Shiraz / Syrah

Ed. (03/08): I believe this was Jason’s first meeting ever…

People,

This week’s meeting promises to be the biggest and most exciting since last week’s, and it looks like we may have some additional newcomers this time as well. As decided at our last meeting, Tuesday evening’s foray into el mundo de vino will center on Shiraz / Syrah. The names are similar… are they two different grapes? Are they the same grape, resulting in two different types of wine? Or is it just two terms that describe the exact same animal? The answers to these questions — which are not entirely definitive — will be revealed tomorrow night. (more…)

Sunil’s letter of interest

Ed. (03/08): I had to include this.

Hi there,

I just moved to LA aprox. a month ago because I was offered a job here (in the advertising business) from grad school. I am 24, and I am always looking to hang with new people, so what better way to bond than over fine selections of wine? Anyway, I actually went to school at Syracuse University, but never actually made it out to the Finger Lakes. We had a wine tasting event plan for our grad school class, but it fell through. (more…)

10/24/05 – Chardonnay

Ed. (03/08): Finally, some new people showed up! Early wino stalwarts Rob and Hillary made their auspicious debuts. Also, this is the week in which my e-mails started getting cutesy and obnoxious.

People–

Tonight’s meeting is going to be crazy for several reasons. First of all, we have several new members showing up tonight, so we’ll all have to be on decent behavior… not necessarily our best, per se, but decent at the very least. So leave the scatological humor at the door, please. Or just leave it right outside my room, and then I can pick it up and laugh at it once everyone is gone. (more…)

10/14/05 – Zinfandel (both red AND white)

Fellow winos,

Thanks to everyone who participated in last Monday’s spirited session concerning Cabernet Sauvignon. This coming Monday is going to be very interesting as well — based on a suggestion made this past Monday, this week’s meeting will be devoted to the comparison of Red and White Zinfandel. The two wines, although made from the same grape, are like night and day. For those who are interested, here’s a quick primer: (more…)

10/10/05 – Cabernet Sauvignon!!!

Did you like the three explanation points? I’m trying out a new “super excited” motif in my Wine Group e-mails from now on.

Dear Friends,

As you know, tonight marks the second meeting of the fledgling 25-and-under Wine Group, and we’ll be doing Cabernet Sauvignon. Hopefully we’ll have several different bottles of Sauvignon to compare, and then we’ll also be comparing the wine with a sample of Cabernet Franc, one of its two genetic parents. Finally, we’ll be trying a blend of Cab Sauv and another grape, probably either Merlot or Shiraz, which can be very good. (more…)

Last night’s meeting / next week’s meeting

Hey people,

The first meeting of the West Coast incarnation of the famous wine tasting group went really well! Thanks so much to everyone who attended. We definitely all now have a better grasp of Sauvignon Blanc, from the grape’s origins and lineage to its best growing regions, from its plethora of bizarre flavors to it’s viscous “legs”… and we also now have a couple of bottles that we know we really like (the Fernleaf from New Zealand and the Berenger Founders’ Estate from Napa, both 2004, were the big winners). (more…)

First meeting of the 25-and-under Wine Tasting Group

Ed (03/08): Here’s the first-ever e-mail! We were so naïve.

I like that the meetings get out after an hour or two (instead of ending around 1:30 or whenever the slobbering drunks scattered around my house decide to peel themselves off the wine-stained furniture and lurch out to their cars).

By the way, want to know who attended? Very few. The meeting consisted of me, Max, Kate… and Molli. What ever happened to Molli?

Hey guys,

Thank you to everyone who responded to the craigslist posting about the 25-and-under wine tasting group. We’re impressed with the response, and the turnout Tuesday evening will hopefully be just about the right size. This e-mail contains all of the details you’ll need to know in preparation for tomorrow’s inaugural meeting. (more…)

Informal wine tasting club for 25-and-under

Ed (03/08): This is the first-ever craigslist ad inviting people to what would eventually become the Young Winos of LA. It’s also about three pages long… I’m stunned that anyone kept reading long enough to find out where it was going to be held.

Informal wine tasting club for 25-and-under

Every Wednesday evening during the last semester of my senior year of college, between five and ten friends of ours would gather in our apartment around 8 PM for our “Wine Appreciation Club.” None of us knew much of anything about wine, and my own personal ignorance regarding what I thought to be a really fascinating subject was what prompted me to start the club in the first place. Each week, we’d agree upon a certain varietal — Chardonnay, for example — and some way that we’d like to analyze it (e.g. French Chardonnay vs. California Chardonnay).

The ten of us would assemble on and around the couch, break out our very utilitarian wine glasses, and open up a few bottles. The more serious of us had books open on our laps, reading facts and anecdotes about the particular grapes that we were tasting, relaying various olfactory sensations that the authors suggested we should be experiencing. The slightly less serious of us would make statements like “this tastes funny” and then ask for another glass. But I think it’s not an overstatement to suggest that everyone walked out of the sessions feeling at least slightly more knowledgeable about whatever element of the wine world we had discussed — and tasted — that day. Plus, by that point, it was 10 PM and everyone was rocking a moderate buzz, just in time to head out to the bars. Ah, to be a college senior again… (more…)