Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hyping another winery--Bokisch Vineyards

Of course we are here to promote PWR Wines, but it is in keeping with our purpose to let you know about great wine buys out there.

We have long been fans of Bokisch Vineyards. Markus Bokisch has planted a number of spanish varieties in the Lodi area, where they thrive in the heat. We are glad that he champions these varieties, and we also think he does a great job farming and making wine from them. Bokisch adheres to the Lodi Rules for sustainable winegrowing, which have become the template for the rest of the state.

Two of our favorites, the 2007 Garnacha and 2006 Graciano, are now on sale for $100/mixed case (6 of each). Shipping is free in California.

The Garnacha will be a bit of a sneak preview for PWR Wines fans. PWR Wines is buying 1 ton of Bokisch Vineyards garnacha this year. We will make the wine this fall and expect to release it next summer.

So check it out, enjoy, and let us know what you think!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Why good California wine is so darn expensive

We read a piece on the Tablas Creek blog* today that is too good not to share. The piece explains in thorough detail why Tablas Creek elected not to buy a potential vineyard site to expand production of their $25/bottle Cotes de Tablas line. The short answer is that the land was too expensive. In getting to that conclusion Jason Haas delineates financing costs, farming costs, winemaking costs, and the cost of just about everything that goes into that bottle of wine. It's difficult to see how anyone could produce a good wine from a coastal vineyard for less than $25.

Haas allows "that as long as winemakers can find older vineyards of less-fashionable varietals, we'll see growth" in the $10-$20 range, but scavenging thus is hardly sustainable. Such scavenging is pretty much PWR's business plan, and given our size and the economic malaise in the wine industry, we expect to have no trouble sourcing good grapes over the next few years, but we certainly won't be planting a vineyard any time soon.

What's the solution? We are not sure there is one. As Haas eloquently states, there are too many demands on land suitable for planting coastal vineyards to expect land prices to fall significantly. The California coast simply is not suited to produce great wines at low prices, at least not on a large scale.

The solution may lie inward, however. California's Great Central Valley, which runs from Redding in the north to Bakersfield in the south, produces much of the nation's produce and is no stranger to the grapevine. Most of the viticulture is focused in the Souther San Joaquin Valley--roughly from Fresno to the South--where the winegrapes planted among the Thompson seedless raisin grapes are hardly renowned for their quality.

The Southern San Joaquin (SSJ) is hot and nearly water-less, with sandy and somewhat saline soils. This is no region for Chardonnay or Cabernet, let alone Pinot Noir (although acres of each variety are planted there, with disastrous results). But we believe the region could be just fine for varieties suited to such a climate. Varieties from regions such as Greece (Xinomavro, anyone?), Sicily (Nero D'Avola) or Spain (Garnacha/Grenache), for instance.

Housing pressures are great even in the SSJ, but land is still much cheaper than in coastal regions. It's also less expensive to farm. Now we just need to find a grower willing to take the plunge!**

* The Tablas Creek blog is well worth reading for many reasons. Today's piece illustrates the best of them--Jason Haas is open and honest in his discussions. The blog does not read like PR fluff. We love Tablas Creek wines. While not exactly inexpensive, they represent excellent quality at their prices, and are easily the match of wines costing many times as much.

** One reason growers are reluctant to plant varieties that may be better suited to their climate is the perception that consumers won't buy a wine that does not bear a familiar varietal name on it. Given the difficulties *everyone* is facing selling Syrah these days, the growers are probably correct. But would you rather have an eye-poppingly good Mavrodaphne or a dreary, flabby raisin-y Cabernet? Good. Now go tell 100 of your friends.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

We have a Winner!

In a recent post, we asked for help naming the 2009 PWR blend of Syrah (40%), Zinfandel (40%) and Petite Sirah (20%), that we will bottle in July.

We got a lot of great suggestions, and we thank everyone who shared with us. After careful consideration, we have decided to go with the name Bea's Knees, in honor of our daughter, who it just so happens turns one on Saturday.

Mike Trotta, who makes the delicious wines at Elyse Winery, made the winning suggestion. Lucky for him, we can legally give him a bottle of the wine he named. Lucky for us, too, because if we had to go with the "legal alternative" we promised to any winner from a state closed to wine shipping, we would have been stumped. What's the equivalent of a bottle of delicious, lovingly made wine?

Again, the wine will be bottled in July, along with our 2009 Syrah from Massa Ranch in Napa Valley's Yountville AVA. We'll make the wines available to you shortly thereafter. We cannot wait to share what we have made.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wine and Food pairing -- what's the big deal?

Ask anyone in the wine industry, whatever their role, what question they are most often asked and the answer will be some variation of "What food goes with this wine?"

If a wine's back label says anything at all (beyond some gibberish about the glorious winery owner or the wonderful vineyard site) it will recommend food pairings.

Look at any winery's twitter stream and every other tweet will mention food and wine pairing.

We have two questions:

1. Are you, dear reader, interested in this sort of knowledge?
2. Why?

We don't mean to be snide. Rather, we feel that food and wine pairing is both incredibly subjective and relatively unimportant. There are a few no-brainers: most any steak will go well with most any red wine; most any crisp white will go well with shellfish, and some rich and fat whites will go well with some shellfish, Chardonnay and oysters, for instance.

But even those basics are disputed by some, and rightly so. What works for us may not work for you.

Or at least not as well. Because there are very few combinations that are disastrous to either wine or food. Artichokes are famous for making wine taste metallic, and peanut butter can make wine taste funny, too.

On the other hand there are very few combinations that make wine and food transcend themselves to become some magically wonderful taste sensation unlike any you have ever before experienced.

Which, come to think of it, is probably what people are asking for when they ask the question. But don't you think we'd tell you if we knew? And the answer probably isn't, "This wine pairs well with chicken, fish, roast meats, game and pizza," as you'll likely see on that back label.

In fact, the answer probably is not a particular pairing in the first place. Probably what makes some combinations so heavenly--and it does happen, dear reader. If not for you yet, we hope very much that it does soon--what makes some combinations so heavenly, we repeat, is the company.

The Jura (not where we were, though). Thanks, Modzzak.

Our most cherished wine memory involves a bottle of 1985 Burgundy (the cheap low-end stuff; we probably paid about $8) drunk in 1998 at a campsite in the Jura. We ate it with roast chicken and french fries we got from the servants' entrance of the nearby restaurant (for which we were impossibly underdressed), which was the only restaurant or grocery open on that lovely Sunday afternoon.

Chicken, but you knew that: http://www.flickr.com/photos/galant/ / CC BY 2.0

We were in the middle of a wonderful journey together and were entranced by the high mountain meadows and the Jura's stunning peaks. By our humble tent amidst all the splendor, the wine, chicken and fries were transporting--not that we wanted to go anywhere. It seemed all was abloom and a radiant glow suffused everything--the food, the wine, us.
Nope, that wasn't the bottle. Thanks, Wine Label Readers.

Does that mean that chicken and fries is the perfect combination for cheap burgundy? Maybe.... But it's at least as likely that the best way to enjoy a cheap burgundy is to walk around a mountain lake before enjoying dinner in the late summer light with your beloved. Yeah, that seems the more likely pairing.

What do you think? We'd love to hear your tales of food/wine bliss. We'd also love to know why you ask that question, if you do, and what sort of answer satisfies.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The PWR plan to take over the world

In the January 18, 2010 issue of The New Yorker, Malcom Gladwell writes about the character traits that make enrepreneurs succecssful. We admit to being momentarily taken aback, as we fit almost none of the criteria.

Successful entrepreneurs
  • write a business plan.  We have not written a formal business plan, though we do have a mission statement. Does that count?
  • take over an existing business, rather than starting from scratch. Last time we checked, no revolutionary wineries were for sale. Or were we supposed to swashbuckle our way in? Oh, wait. There aren't any (other) revolutionary wineries.
  • sell to other businesses, rather than consumers. But we want you, the PEOPLE, to have our wine, not other businesses.
Gladwell goes on to say that failed entrepreneurs
  • underemphasize marketing. Well, we have TOP people working on our labels, and we've chatted up marketers at parties in an effort to get free marketing advice.
  • don't understand the importance of financial controls. Guilty as charged. What is a financial control, anyway?
  • Try to compete on price. Well, yes! That's what we're all about. Bringing to market great wine at a great price.
Gladwell concludes that taking these risks "reflect[s] a lack of preparation or foresight." As you can see, neither is lacking on our count. We are surely making mistakes, but not for lack of trying.

But perhaps we are on the wrong track entirely. Because Gladwell is talking about successful, or not, entrepreneurs. And we are not trying to become wine moguls or anything of the sort. Our mission is clear and succinct and does not include our personal enrichment.

Doubtless we have fretted in vain.

Nor should you fret. The wine is resting happily in barrel. We shall see whether it will be ready for bottling in late spring, in which case it should be available by mid-summer. If not, it will be available when it is ready. And we'll be sure to let you know.

Until then, we thank you for your patience, and wish you happy, and not ruinously expensive, drinking.

The People's Wine Revolution
Wine Blogger Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.