Whether the day after Thanksgiving is your favorite time to shop or you prefer to hold off until cyber Monday — or maybe you’re more like me and hold off until the very last second — it never hurts to have a shortlist of some wine-centric gifts to give your wine-loving friends. These are just a few items tried and tested by yours truly that I’m truly thankful to have in my life. I’ve got everything from stocking stuffers to big ticket items that wine-lovering novices and pros will appreciate. Take a look, shop around, and have a very happy holiday season!
This year marks my first year at the annual Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC17). What I was looking forward to was learning more about the blogosphere, how to improve my writing skills, and — of course — meeting with the people I chat with almost on a daily base — either on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook (in some cases all three) in real life. But what I wasn’t prepared for was how fast we’d become real life friends and how, just within the span of a long weekend, we’d all form lifelong relationships bonded by our mutual love and respect for the world of wine.
I’m not saying there weren’t some crazy antics behind the scenes — but when it comes right down to it, each participant seemed to have their own professional niche in the wine world. And because I don’t yet have a space for a blog roll on my site (this will definitely be in Phase 2, as it were, as I continue to build), I wanted to dedicate a post to a few other bloggers — both writers and podcasters — whose websites I think are worth subscribing to.
It makes sense that Zinfandel has gained a reputation as California’s “heritage grape.” For many years, Zinfandel’s exact origins remained a mystery, or, as Jancis Robinson calls it, “a romantic thriller.” The red grape seemed to have made the trek and set fresh roots in the Golden State in conjunction with the forty-niners seeking their fortune in gold. Here, when the search for treasure proved fruitless, settlers turned to farming — and the Zinfandel grape thrived more than the Gold Rush ever could. Fields of vines flourished throughout the Sierra Foothills, and wine — namely jug wine — became a household staple and a new California industry.
With no known parentage and no knowledge of how the red wine grape arrived in the States in the first place — Zinfandel became California’s “wine child.”
The reputation Miles gave Merlot from his famous line in Sideways is not without merit. Sometime in the mid-1990’s American Merlot plantings boomed: In 1985 there were less than 2,000 acres in California, but by 2003 (just around the time Sideways released), there were over 50,000 acres planted. As a result, Merlot became the go-to red wine of choice or, as WinePros.org says, “the generic red wine flavor of fashion.” Winemakers were virtually mass-producing the varietal to keep up with popular demand. So Merlot became known for its lack of flavor, texture, and structure — an “easy drinker” that didn’t need to be understood. But with Miles’ line, the wine-drinking masses, along with the winemakers, seemed to have woken up. What is this red wine we’ve been drinking without a thought?
Merlot is actually a tricky grape to grow — its nuances so subtle and only noticeable when harvested at the proper time. There are good Merlots in the world — with depth, complexity, and uniqueness. So let’s take a look at what makes Merlot…Merlot.
Awhile back I did a close up look at Tannat in my feature Let’s Talk (and Taste) Tannat. Here, I focused on Tannats coming out of California and Oregon because, well, as a West Coaster, that’s what I have access to. The truth is, however, that Tannat is somewhat the “heritage grape” of Uruguay — a region I’ve only recently began to explore through various media tasting events. After reading my take on Tannat, I was quickly put into contact with Artesana, a boutique estate winery located in the Canelones region of Uruguay.
Founded in 2007 by American Blake Heinemann and under the dual, female winemaking talents of Analía Lazaneo and Valentina Gati, Artesana focuses on small-lot wine productions of Tannat, Tannat blends, and Zinfandel from the estate’s Las Brujas vineyard. The even smaller production of Merlot is used exclusively for their signature red blend, affectionately referred to as “TMZ.” And while there may be more than a few Tannat-based blends (and certainly other more popular blends that utilize a small percentage of Tannat), Artesana is the only producer that creates this precise mixture.