Thursday, December 25, 2008

Two Torrontes - Tetra and Glass

On the left, the Tetra-Pak protected Yellow + Blue, on the right, something in a (deep breath), glass bottle (ooh!)

Today I look back on a week of tasting two different Torrontes, a varietal native to Argentina. The two contenders are a 2008 from Yellow + Blue, packaged in an environmentally-friendly Tetra Pak, and the 2007 Familia Zuccardi Santa Julia, made from organic grapes, and packaged in that old-school, enviromentally-evil container known as . . . glass.

The Santa Julia was purchased at Sam's, for about $9.00; this was purchased to give a comparison to the Yellow + Blue which came as a gift from K.C. Geen of GolinHarris.

Before reporting on the wines, a quick glimpse at the Torrontes grape and an overview into Tetra Pak packaging.

On the website, Susan Balbo of the Dominio del Plata Winery, wrote a mouth-watering description of the grape:

“Enticing aromas that are strikingly similar to Viognier, with hints of peach pit, flowers, and orange citrus fruit. On the
palate, it has a beautiful structure and acidity along with enticing fruit flavors that keep you coming back for another sip, and plenty of body for a wine that shows such delicate aromas and flavors. Fruity, floral and yet still quite dry, this wine has to be tasted to be believed. Best enjoyed in its youth either by itself, or as a wonderful partner with smoked meats, mild to medium-strong cheeses, and seafood. Great partner for spicy food and Thai as well."

You can read about Tetrapak at (where else?) The packaging consists of a combination of plastic and aluminum coated paperboard, and is frequently used for milk and juices. It can easily preserve such liquids for several months. The wine industry has been slow to adopt Tetra Pak, but it's light weight and lower cost than glass may make it more common in the future.

So, what about the wines? The Yellow + Blue's nose reminded me of peach, tangerine and pineapple, while the Santa Julia evoked grass and pineapple, but much more faintly. On the mouthfeel, the Yellow + Blue produced a sharper acidity than the Santa Julia, and more of an orange component versus the grapefruit of the Santa Julia.

Surprisingly, the freshness and lively fruit of the Yellow + Blue didn't fade until the fourth and final day of tasting, while the Santa Julia, even on the second day, started to lose some of that energy.

It's really a personal preference which wine you would enjoy more; if you are more into the orange and tangerine flavor, and a really sharp tangy flavor, go with the Yellow + Blue; if you prefer a little more body in your white wines, go with the Santa Julia.

Hopefully, other wineries will experiment with Tetrapak packaging; I tell many customers at The Night Thing that it's not the packaging that matters, it's what's inside the packaging!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Where is the Wine? At

I've been asked at a few recent tastings how to keep informed on all the wine events taking place in greater Chicago. The most thorough website listing events is, a national clearinghouse for tastings, dinners and wine classes.

Founder and developer Eric V. Orange created this site in 2000, and has listed close to 200,000 events since then.

When I look at the Chicago listings for any random month, I feel that, compared to other cities, Chicago is quite fortunate to have such an active and thirsty market for wine education and socializing.

Eric also has a place on his site for wine blogs; readers can vote their favorites higher up his list. Chicago Pinot ranks a distant #419 right now. I could sure use some votes from my fans!

It's Not a Wonderful Ad Campaign

It's a fuzzy photo from my cell phone, but hopefully you can make it out. Here is a banner advertisement seen this past week on the #6 CTA bus. You may recognize the typeface as well Donna Reed and James Stewart listening in on their phone (don't you miss those old school phones?)

No, Donna and James are not promoting another airing of It's a Wonderful Life, their images are promoting a vital Illinois institution which, to my knowledge, is completely corruption-free!

I'm not an anti-gambling crusader, and am not advising readers to boycott the Illinois lottery. When the jackpot passes one hundred million, I will wait in line for a ticket or two and fantasize about all the Bordeaux and Burgundy I will fill my cellar (aka 6 x 6 x 9 feet storage locker) with should I win.

But there must be some more creative method to promote the lottery than to exploit images from a classic movie that promoted, let's see, thrift, loyalty, humility; not exactly character traits in abundance in Illinois right now!

To use a famous wine descriptor; this banner ad is icky. Lottery tickets are not a Wonderful Gift, and holiday ad campaigns for the lottery are not a Wonderful Idea.

P.S.: And I am not even a big fan of the movie!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Advice for President-Elect Obama

Yes, we all know President Elect is busy with many important issues; choosing his cabinet, deciding who (or what) to bail out, trying to decide how many Illinois governors he remembers meeting. But eventually, he must address the major issues of our time, namely, the ones involving wine.

Here are some suggestions from some of my favorite bloggers and Chicago based personalities about the one question that really matters:

What can President-elect Obama do for the wine industry?

From Amy Gardner at WineTalent:

"The best thing for the wine industry that President Obama could do would be to allow the free sale and shipping of wine across state borders. I think this would allow fair trade and also provide some opportunities for underserved wine regions."

From John Terlato of Terlato Wine Group:

"The President of the United States is a high profile opinion leader whose influence is global in scope. It appears as if the Obama's genuinely enjoy fine dining and wine as a lifestyle choice. As they continue to enjoy wine and fine dining and express a visible appreciation for a diverse range of U.S. wine brands and varietals, this might serve as an acknowledgement of their interest in wine as a lifestyle choice and could also positively impact the U.S. wine and food sectors.”

From Maggie Tosch of Outside the Lines, Inc. and Wine and Hospitality

"I am sure you are going to get a huge response saying 'Get rid of the three tier system!' It creates undue burden on the winery, with most of the profit going to the middle man with both the producer and end consumer paying the price."

From Alyssa Rapp at Bottlenotes:

"The United States’ wine industry is governed by the 21st Amendment that grew out of Prohibition. The 21st Amendment established a “Three-Tier system” for the distribution of alcoholic beverages in the U.S.; wine therefore must move from a winery/importer, to a wholesaler, to a retailer, before arriving at an end consumer. As the e-commerce world continues to evolve and grow, regulators at every level would greatly benefit by putting consumers’ needs first by making it as easy as possible for them to purchase wine from any location (winery, retailer, etc), and receive it in any state in which they live. There is no reason that wine should be any more difficult to purchase online than shoes."

From Amy Garman at South Loop Wine Cellar:

"I think it would be wonderful if the Obamas could somehow promote the wine industry or wine drinking, but I don't see that being the first thing on the list and it could lead to an image problem. The President Elect does, however, have great enthusiasm for both innovating and making American industry more environmentally friendly. Wine making is an agricultural business and I think that we will see great gains in efficiency and green practices in both farming and agriculture throughout the Obama administration. This will not only reduce production costs, but help save the planet - which is good for everyone!"

From Don Sritong at Just Grapes:

"I would like President Elect Obama to push for amending or repealing the 21st amendment and place federal controls on wine shipping laws. I would like him to allow consumers to buy wine from which ever state they choose. Free trade is the basis of our beautiful capitalistic society yet our liquor laws go against every grain of this. We need to progress from our Puritanical past and open up the state borders to the freedom of choice of wine!"

From Alpana Singh of What Would Alpana Drink?

"The White House serves only US wines and there is a great tradition of serving them at state dinners, etc. I know many people would be inspired to take up wine if President Elect Obama were to publicly announced his appreciation for it. He is so well respected and admired by many so his just merely saying how he likes to relax with a glass of wine would do wonders for the industry. Just look what happened when he announced they would be getting a dog!"