Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wine Spotlight: Winemakers

Taste the Best Wines from Paso Robles with The Paso Robles Wine Club

Farmers. Chemists. Rock stars. Winemakers are a compilation of characteristics from many professions. On the one hand, winemaking is pure science, but on the other, the artistry of experimentation and expert blending is what makes for an amazing wine. Our members of the Paso Robles Wine Club experience signature wines from over 200 wineries and winemakers, from the big producers to the boutique winemakers. If you’ve ever wondered what winemakers do to get the grapes from the vine to the bottle, read on to learn more:

Hitting the Books: Becoming a winemaker involves more than just having a love of wine and an interest in how it’s made. Training includes studying both Enology (the science of wine and winemaking) and Viticulture (cultivation of grapes). A keen understanding of chemistry, microbiology, enzymes and yeasts is a winemaker’s foundation. Equally important is knowledge of grape maturation, harvesting, fermenting, bottling, blending and filtration. Finally, a good winemaker has a ‘nose’ for wine and a well-trained palate.

Working the Cycle: Winemakers are busy year round, but the two busiest times of the year for a winemaker are in the spring when the vineyard begins anew, and in the fall when it’s time to Harvest the grapes and make the wine. Winemakers are always watching over their barrels and tanks, but they’re also responsible for looking after the vineyards, surveying the growing of the grapes, managing growth, directing the pruning of the vines and even keeping pests away. 

During Harvest—which can extend for 12 weeks or even longer—winemakers work 16 to 18 hour days, 7 days a week to get the grapes from the vines and into tanks or barrels.

Orchestrating the Magic: Once the call goes out through the vineyard that it’s time to pick the grapes, the winemaker must manage multiple processes, people and personalities in a timely and organized process. Much like the maestro directing an orchestra, the winemaker needs to ensure that everyone is doing their job effectively, all while overseeing the heavy machinery need to process the grapes, both in the vineyard and inside the production facility.

Before the winemaker can even begin to play with the alchemy of the grapes, he/she must plan the logistics of where the incoming fruit will go, the placement and duties of the cellar crew and the processing schedule.

Artistry and Alchemy: In lore, alchemists had the power to transmute base metals into gold. Additionally, they were beholden with the powers to create an elixir of life that could give anyone who sipped it endless youth and beauty. In some respects, the winemaker’s craft is similar; taking the humble grape, an agricultural product, and transforming it into something of remarkable beauty and taste, requires both alchemy and artistry. Wine couldn’t be made without a deep understanding of chemistry, but good wine can’t exist without passion.

Many wine growing regions require winemakers to follow strict guidelines and produce wines that define a geographical location. Not so when it comes to winemakers in  Paso Robles Wine Countyr who have more freedom to approach the grapes with artistry, experimentation and talent to create an exceptional wine. Ready to try a few of these award winning local wines for yourself? Membership in The Paso Robles Wine Club will give you the opportunity to taste these wines for yourself. Or, book a tour with The Wine Wrangler and visit the amazing winemakers of the Paso Robles AVA.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Put a Cork in It--Or, Not!

Join The Paso Robles Wine Club and Enjoy the Best of Paso Robles Wine Country

Perceptive wine drinkers all along California’s Central Coast have noticed that their favorite wines often come with two distinctly different wine tops—the classic cork stopper and the fairly new arrival, the screw top. Members of The Paso Robles Wine Club often receive shipments of wine with both types of bottle toppers and quite often, the question arises if one is better than the other. So to better answer the question, today’s post will look at both and provide a little history along the way.

Interestingly enough, the screw top, as it’s commonly referred, was invented in the 1950s by the French. However, traditionalists by nature, the screw top never gained popularity among the French winemakers and instead, was commonly used in the United States as the bottle closure of choice on some of the lowest priced wines on the market—think Boones’ Farm and Mad Dog 20/20.

In 1970, a company called Australian Consolidated Industries acquired the manufacture rights, renaming the screw top closure, Stevlin. Of course, back then, the Australian winemaking industry was a sleeping giant and winemaking was the sort of agricultural hobby that happened in conjunction with farming, and then, among family and friends.

Then in 2005, a group of winemakers in Australia’s Clare Valley decided to put the screw top to the test and collectively bottled 250,000 bottles with the screw top. The following year, with great anticipation, they decided to check the wine to see how it was aging; they found the wine was aging so well that they couldn’t discern a difference between the screw top and the cork. Thus, the Australians led the way in bringing public acceptance to screw cap wines.

Well, that is, just about everywhere, but among luxury winemakers—and drinkers—who still have reservations about the screw top. The cork, of course, has deep roots in winemaking and for many people, the ritual of using a wine opener to pull a cork is part of savoring the experience.
The introduction of the cork came by way of the Benedictine monks, or more specifically, Dom Perignon, who was looking to replace the commonly used wooden stoppers with something that wouldn’t regularly pop out of the bottle. Cork was widely available and plentiful. Made from the bark of Cork Oaks, native to Mediterranean regions, corks quickly replaced the wooden stoppers and were embraced by wine makers.

While the debate still rages on whether screw tops or corks are better, aside from personal preference, here are some guidelines: white wines and those red wines that are meant to be drank very young, are perfectly suited to the screw top. However, for big wines that are better with a little age, the cork allows for a little oxygen, perfect for softening tannins.

To sample a variety of unique and boutique wines produced in Paso Robles Wine Country, join The Paso Robles Wine Club and you’ll receive regular shipments of wine—some with screw tops, and others with corks—and all, perfectly suited for enjoying with family and friends.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wine and Food Pairing: Hearst Ranch Winery

The Paso Robles Wine Club and Hearst Ranch Beef Burgers

Hearst Castle might be the biggest tourist attraction on California’s Central Coast and a tour of the castle is a not to be missed adventure. But, there’s another Hearst adventure well-worth enjoying and that’s a trip to Hearst Ranch Winery where you can taste the wines and where your palate will be entranced by the magical flavor profile of the wines--the result of sound agricultural practices and talented winemaking.

If you’re a member of The Paso Robles Wine Club, your latest wine shipment included two of our favorite Hearst Ranch Winery selections: Three Sisters Cuvee, a lovely white wine with notes of lemon and honeydew (perfect for sipping on a warm fall afternoon) and the Pergola 2013 Petite Sirah.

The Pergola 2013 Petite Sirah manages to both be decadent and versatile, which is no small feat! During the blending trials the descriptors of chocolate, sweet bacon fat, vanilla and spiced stone fruits were oft repeated. While being delicious is of great importance, it is also imperative that the depth and structure add intrigue to the wine. To rein in the bold tannins inherent to Petite Sirah, Hearst Ranch Wines employ a cooler fermentation than normal, which limits extraction. The resulting mid-palate is nothing short of velvety and allows the acidity to keep the wine composed.

This wine is delicious on its own, but it is pure magic when paired with fat and charcoal to tame the tannins and enhance the underlying notes of coffee, clove, and dried raspberry.

Open a bottle and let it breathe while you stoke the coals. Our favorite food pairing for this wine: Hearst Ranch Beef Burgers grilled over an open flame and topped with aged cheese and crisp bacon on buttery brioche buns.

Hearst Ranch Beef Burgers
1 ½ pounds of Hearst Ranch ground beef, divided into four 6oz patties
8 strips of good quality bacon, cooked until crisp
4 thick slices of aged cheddar (or Blue cheese, if you prefer)
4 brioche buns, split and lightly toasted
Condiments of your choice, including grilled onions and pan fried mushrooms

1.       Sear burgers over hot coals until charred on the outside, then finish over indirect heat until medium rare.
2.       Top with cheese and cook until cheese is softened and melted.
3.       Transfer to toasted buns and top with bacon and condiments.

4.       Enjoy with a glass—or two—of Hearst Ranch Winery Pergola 2013 Petite Sirah and say hello to delicious!