As many of you know, just because it's Arizona doesn't mean it's not cold. Sure, we may not have snow here in the southern part of the state, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy a big, red wine by the fire.
It may be cliched, but to me, Christmas is all about port. Back when I was at Gallo, my manager would occasionally head down to one of our more secluded facilities and bring back a case or two of the port she had made years earlier and stashed there for safekeeping. It was made of Tannat, a grape that is aptly named due to its high tannin content. All that tannin and the high alcohol from the fortification allowed it to age gracefully, tasting better and better with each year.
I've currently got one bottle left. One, unlabelled, green glass bottle tucked into the back of the wine rack. I'm not sure if I'll open it this year, or if I'll go out and buy something a little less nostalgic. As I type this out, I think I've got my answer-- I'll keep that one-of-a-kind bottle. Christmas is a special occasion, sure, but I think I'd better wait until I can be sure to savor the memories. (Beth, if you ever see this, you can always feel free to send me another one or two of that port...)
What will you all be drinking this holiday season?
Any of you who have visited me at the winery know that I'm inordinately excited by lab work. A large component of that is having good tools to work with. In this installment of my favorite tools, let me introduce you to some of the great items in the Aridus lab.
Here we have an assortment of serological pipettes. I use these frequently when I'm putting together blends-- they allow me to be extremely precise in dialing in exactly the percentages of each component that I want.
This is my -45 degree freezer. I store our malolactic cultures and a few specialty yeasts in here. The alternative is using freeze-dried cultures. I prefer these deep frozen cultures, because I find them to be more viable than freeze-dried.
Finally, this is our Oenofoss unit. All it takes is 0.6 mL of wine to tell me everything I want to know about it from a chemical standpoint-- alcohol percentage, residual sugar, titratable acidity... It's a very handy piece of equipment if you're interested in tracking as much analytical data as possible about your wines!
Happy Hanukkah, everyone! In honor of the holiday, which starts tomorrow, we thought we'd take a little time to talk about kosher wine options. Unfortunately, Aridus does not offer a kosher wine at this time, but we're more than happy to point you in the direction of some elegant options.
The wine that most people think of here in the US is, of course, Manischewitz.
It's Concord-based, which means that it's made from non-vinifera grapes. Vinifera are the species that produce the wines we're most familiar with-- your Cabernets, Chardonnays, Syrahs, and so on. As a result of being a different species, a lot of the aromatics are different. That Concord aroma that carries through to the wine is what is known in the wine industry as "foxy." The compound is methyl anthranilate, and there are a lot of claims as to where the descriptor "foxy" came from, but one story goes that to the British, wines made from American grapes smelled like fox dens. In any case, it's not a bad thing, just a different thing than what most of us are used to from a table wine. All the products in the Manischewitz line have at least some measure of residual sugar, so if you're looking for a dry wine, you might want to look further, but if you want a bit of sugar and want to try something different, give Manischewitz a shot!
One excellent source of fine kosher wines is none other than the country of Israel. Wine grapes have been growing in the area since probably around 5000 BC, but modern kosher wine production really began in the 1880s. The producers in Israel are truly producing wines that are world class that just happen to be kosher at the same time. A huge selection can be found at the online retailer kosherwine.com. Look for red wines from Israel in particular, such as Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines, Syrahs, Malbecs, and one of our favorites here in Arizona... Petite Sirah.
If reds from hot climes aren't your cup of tea, never fear. There are kosher wineries throughout the world. Oregon's Evan's Vineyard produces a pinot noir and a meritage blend from Washington, and the same owners produce the Goose Bay label out of New Zealand to quench your thirst for Sauvignon Blanc. If you must have Napa, look for something from Covenant. They have Cabernet, of course, but also Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
See what you can find, and be sure to let us know if you have any particularly fantastic kosher wine this Hanukkah!
An increasing portion of wines by the glass at restaurants are packaged in kegs. These are inert stainless steel, and come in a variety of sizes-- from 2.5 to 30 gallons. Most people are familiar with beers in kegs, and for the same reasons that they are good containers for beer, they are good for wine. What's more, they can minimize the cost of a glass of wine, because the restaurant is no longer passin galong the cost of the packaging of a wine in glass, nor the possibility that the wine will go bad before reaching a consumer. Effectively, this means a high value wine at a lower price point. While consumers may never directly purchase a keg of wine, it makes a lot of sense for restauranteurs.
Winemakers who currently use kegs for a portion of their production often note the high quality of the wines, despite the age of a keg. At a recent industry gathering, one cited an example of a half-filled keg that was returned to the winery a year after being tapped. “The wine was in perfect condition,” he said.
Since the expense of starting up a kegging program can be pretty steep, winemakers in more winery-dense areas now have the option to work with commercial wine keggin services to oversee the packaging, storage, and delivery of kegs. A third party kegging operation saves wineries from needing to purchase their own kegs, in addition to the cleaning, sanitizing, and packaging, which many wineries aren’t set up to do easily.
I have great hopes for the future of wine kegging in Arizona. As far as I know, only one winery is currently in the keg business, but I think it makes a lot of sense if you have the sort of volume to make it work, and if you are invested in bringing in customers through their experiences with your wine in a restaurant setting. Who knows? Maybe in a few years, you'll be able to enjoy a glass of Tank 12 right from the tap.
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