Charlie Opines About Wine

In my search for interesting wines to serve to guests at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast, I attend many planned and impromptu wine tastings. I am happy to share my experiences with you. It's a tough job but someone has to do it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wine & Memories

Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ing

Happy days are almost here again! Wednesday, the wine tastings resume at the Belfry Bistro. As we prepare for our Valentine’s Day guests at our Cape Cod bed and breakfast, I am still looking for the right wines to serve. While waiting for the formal tasting to start, I have been informally exploring wines that cross my path. A Christmas gift of wine from guests that have become good friends brought back a flood of childhood memories. No, I did not start drinking wine when I was that young, but all wines have a story to tell. 

Kevin and Lynne from Canada have stayed with us many times over our nine years here, the last time was this past 4th of July, but that is another story. Kevin is an amateur wine maker and always brings us a few bottles of his latest vintage. Our routine is to sample one of the new ones along with one from his last visit. For the occasion I invite other wine loving friends for what has become know as Wine Patio. I then cellar the remaining new ones until Kevin and Lynne return.

I knew Kevin had a temporary work assignment in California and I knew he and Lynne would take advantage of their proximity to great wine country. Right before Christmas a packaged arrived with brochures and wine guides from Santa Barbara to Napa Valley that confirmed they visited a lot if wineries. How envious am I? They teased me with the documentation of their travels, but also included two bottles of wine. The first was a 2010 Charles Shaw Cabernet, which I know Kevin included as a joke. Charles Shaw was first widely distributed in Trader Joe stores at a ridiculously low price and is infamously known as Two Buck Chuck. Unfortunately, the level of quality is also reflected in the price. I’ll save this one for Kevin’s next visit. The second wine was a 2008 Fess Parker Santa Rita Hills Ashley’s Pinot Noir. In no way is this a joke and I could not wait to taste it, sorry Kevin.

The Fess Parker Winery is in Los Olivos, California in the Santa Barbara Wine Country made famous by the Sideways movie about Pinot Noir. This was a great bottle of Pinot, but the flash back of memories for me is the Fess Parker name. Who growing up in the 1950s and 1960s does not remember Davey Crocket and Daniel Boone?

Fess Parker was a TV actor that portrayed both these historic frontiersmen and inspired the sale of millions of coonskin caps and buckskin jackets with fringe. I wish I could find that picture of me marching in the 1955 Palatine Illinois Centennial parade in my cap and jacket my mother made for me carrying my antique 22 rifle pretending to be a mini Davey Crocket. Fess Parker is gone, passing away in 2010 at age 85, and his family continues to run the winery and are making some great wines. If you visit the winery you will see a lot memorable from the Crocket/Boone era.

So a great bottle of wine has brought me a flood of great memoirs. Come stay at our Sandwich Inn and we can share a bottle of wine and create new memories. 

Happy Wine-ing

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper’s Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod Massachusetts

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Wente Wines Informal Tasting

Charlie's Weekly Wine-ings 

Informal wine tastings have been helping me find new wines to serve guests at our  bed and breakfast. Through my friends at Cellar 55 Wine Merchants, my local wine shop, I have met a lot of the Sales Consultants who represent the major wine wholesalers. Their job is to go to retailers and restaurants and introduce the wines they sell. This can only be done by tasting all the wines. It doesn’t sound like that hard of a job, but of course professionals like these taste, but do not drink the wine. That is a skill I have had trouble mastering, since I always want to drink it. When Cellar 55 is open, one sales rep or another is stopping by about every other day showing either new wines or the latest vintage of stocked wineries. I am often there at the right time to get to participate.

Since the Cellar is closed until April, while the team is tending their other business in the US Virgin Islands, I have been missing these weekly tastings. But the Sales Consultants still make calls on other businesses in Sandwich and sometimes stop by the Inn. Recently, Polly from Classic Wine Imports dropped by with some interesting offerings from Wente Vineyards. It’s nice to have friends in the trade.

My blog followers may remember me mentioning Wente in previous blogs. I have not thought about or tasted Wente wines since an ill-fated San Francisco Bay sailing experience over the Thanksgiving Holiday in 1976. So over 35 years ago, at a tasting room in Tiburon, CA I had my first Wente wines. As I recall they were called Adequate Red and Adequate White and we concluded they were incorrect about the white. Just in the last year I have been reintroduced to Wente and in fact have written several blogs about them. On a recent visit, Polly shared some of Wente’s higher end, Estate Grown wines from their Heritage Block selections.

Wente’s Heritage Block wines are grown in specific vineyard blocks named for the pioneers who relate to the history of Wente Vineyards’ winemaking tradition and premier Estate vineyards. We started with the 2010 Riva Ranch Chardonnay. It is a nice medium-bodied Chardonnay with a rich, golden color. I prefer Chards with less in your face oak and, although this sees 10 months barrel aging, it is very subtle and much to my liking.

Pinot Noir
Next we had the 2008 Reliz Creek Pinot Noir. You may consider this more of Burgundian style wine with more earthy and mineral qualities. The grapes are sourced from vineyards that are planted with old Pommard clones, which paired with their wine making process supports the French style. It was just delightful.

We finished with the 2009 Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the Livermore Valley vines planted in the 1880. This was Jan’s favorite and she is not a big Cab drinker. It is a very drinkable and smooth wine. The old vines give it depth and intensity, but with low tannins.

I am not sure how these reds will age, but they are very approachable now and would not last long in my cellar. We did not have food pairings with this impromptu tasting and all of these wines may have more surprises in store when enjoyed with a meal. Wente wines are way past that almost Adequate state of 35 years ago.

Jan, Polly, and I sat around the kitchen counter and tasted these fun wines. What a nice way to spend time on a cold February afternoon and I think I found some new choices for guest at our Sandwich Inn. Come and stay with us and a friendly Sales rep my pop in with some wines to share at our wine kitchen. 
Happy wine-ing!

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper’s Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod Massachusetts