Friday, May 30, 2014

Tap It

Are you interested in learning more about wine? 

Check out my new column, Planet Grape, in the new The SOMM Journal, a re-launch of The Sommelier Journal which is complimentary to the trade and to students of wine -

Planet Grape 


DURING MY ALMOST 11-YEAR TENURE AS Adjunct Instructor at the CIA’s Rudd Center for Professional Development in Napa Valley, I witnessed the birth of wine on tap. Wine Director Traci Dutton was an early adapter, offering a local Sauvignon Blanc on tap at $5 a glass. She was thrilled to pass along cost savings to her guests at the Greystone Restaurant. The same wine bottled sold for $8 to $9 per glass. Today, cost savings have all but vanished. The message is all about being green, clean, and efficient.

Chris Dearden, owner/winemaker of Dearden Wines, says, “From a winemaker’s standpoint, we love wine on tap as it provides a delicious glass of wine we get to the consumer in an extremely ‘green’ package. There is nothing to cause TCA or other off flavors, and it appeals to a broader and younger demographic which we are really trying to attract. Both coasts are embracing this format now, and as usual, it should pervade to the Midwest soon. I currently provide wines to New York, Maryland and California, and am working on Florida, which has just legalized kegged wines to be sold in that market.”

Jess Voss, owner of Jamber Wine Pub in San Francisco, adds, “I chose to do wine on tap because it makes so much sense for restaurants: having the benefit of a lower cost of waste from not having to throw away oxidized wine [serving wine by the glass means the wine can go bad before the whole bottle is sold]. It reduces our carbon footprint by eliminating bottles, corks and labels. Wine on tap makes life a lot easier for inventory and ordering; instead of having to keep track and store numerous bottles, we have 24 kegs.”

Dan Donahoe, co-founder and Chief Growth Officer of Free Flow Wines in Napa Valley, a large provider of wine in traditional metal kegs says, “Premium wine on tap as a category has exploded with growth over just the last 24 months. As more and more high-quality, respected wineries make their fine wines available in keg format across the US, the concept has been proven to work and offer operators and their customers a better glass of wine, every time.”

Metal kegs have to be returned, washed and refilled, adding cost and eating away at carbon footprint savings. Between this and the current drought in California, some producers are switching to “one ways,” such as the TORR Keg with a disposable bladder bag similar to those found in bag in box containers.

Wine on tap is not for everyone. An establishment must have volume and be able to “lock in” their selections until the kegs are empty. And they don’t translate as well into the more formal dining rooms. A small high-end restaurant wine buyer needs the flexibility and convenience of ordering wines by the bottle. Producers and buyers agree. Keg wine is here to stay. For freshness and convenience, wine on tap is a cutting-edge solution.

by Catherine Fallis, MS
The SOMM Journal, p. 36, June/July 2014

A complete archive, which was available originally only to paid subscribers, is also available at no charge here:

I Dare You to Try Sonoma Wines

June 1st is Dare Day.

I dare you to try one of these delicious, refreshing, and well-made Sonoma wines:

2013 J Vineyards Pinot Gris Russian River Valley $23
With pear,lemongrass and honeydew melon notes, this medium-bodied, juicy and refreshing white is delicious as a sipper, and great with spicy dishes too.

2011 Trione Chardonnay Russian River Valley $32
Winemaker Scot Covington is quietly building a reputation for himself as one of the greatest winemakers in California. This Chardonnay, from individual vine blocks on the estate, is rich, round, and opulent with notes of baked apple, almond croissant, and orange blossom honey.

2012 Fog Crest Estate Pinot Noir Russian River Valley $55
From their southeast facing estate vineyard, James and Rosalind Manoogian produce beautiful, small  lot Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Their Pinot Noir is classic RRV with notes of sassafras, dried herbs, ripe cherry and cherry cola.

Enjoy Sonoma wines!

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Happy Mother's Day from Planet Grape!

We love flowers, we really do, but the typical mail order floral arrangement is disappointing in so many ways. Why not gift mom with something that will delight all of her senses?

Here are Planet Grape's red wine picks for Mother's Day, specially selected by Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, aka grape goddess®

 - 2012 Masut Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir Mendocino County $40
This soft, fruity and earthy Pinot Noir has notes of cherry cola, milk chocolate, dried herbs and sundried tomatoes.

- 2011 Wairau River Pinot Noir Marlborough New Zealand $14
Light cherry, wild strawberry, and vanilla notes make this a lovely aperitif wine.

 - 2011 Bethel Heights Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley $32
This zesty, smoky wine has notes of sour cherry, oolong tea and Dr. Pepper.

 - 2010 Blair Estate Pinot Noir Arroyo Seco $35
Richly fruity and lavishly oaky, this is a gorgeous Central Coast selection.

 - 2012 Casa Silva Carmenere Los Lingues Vineyard Colchagua Valley $16
Chile's signature grape, Carmenere, is a rising star - this dark berried beauty is luscious and soft with chocolate and violet notes as well.

 - 2012 Bonny Doon Vineyard Contra Red Wine California $18
This Rhone blend is deeply fruity with notes of mulberry, cherry cobbler, white pepper, celery and bacon. Delicious and well-priced!

 - 2011 Kenwood Vineyards Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain $30
Black fruits, sage, vanilla and mint notes evolve as the wine opens up. Enjoy with a steak or lamb chop.

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.