All About Wine

Tears, Love & Blood – Wine Movies That Have It All

As I sit here endlessly fascinated by the bubbles running up my champagne glass, I know you all are just as intrigued by the intricacies involved with our beloved drink. Since we have all found ourselves with more time on our hands, I wanted to dive into our wonderful world of wine more intimately by devouring several movies with grapes as the subject as well as the subtitle.

 

 

Somm

It’s truly hard to give such an outstanding production a review. Somm has taken our industry into the mainstream and exquisitely portrays a first-class view into everything that is entailed in the making, producing, studying, and business of wine. The trilogy guides us through candidates preparing to take their Master Sommelier exam, to all the components that go into a bottle of wine, while the third honors our founders and promotes the industry’s future. With factual accuracy, quirky characters, and striking footage Somm will educate and inspire anyone who watches.

 

 

 

Red Obsession

A very fitting title to a whirlwind ride into the extravagant and manic buying of Bordeaux, particularly the superb 2010 vintage. The viewer is introduced to what happens to the upper echelon wine market when a new wave of buyers turns their attention to Bordeaux, especially the first growth producers. Lafite becomes the equivalent of Chanel when price tags become unreasonable and a wine label turns into the sole value of the wine, regardless of its contents. We are also challenged with the idea of a new emerging wine-growing region that could rival our darling France. Cinematically gravitating, you feel you are watching a runway show with all the lights and chic models showcasing a lifestyle in which you can’t tell if you crave or resent. It’s like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but you know, the wine version. Leaving you feeling just as conflicted as Holly Golightly as to which lifestyle she fits in.

 

 

A Good Year

A tale of coming home again. We all want to go back home at some point, no matter our age, where we fled to, our the rubble we left there. A wealthy, money-hungry stockbroker from London is forced to take a trip to Provence, France to settle the chateau and winery left to him by his late uncle. He reunites with figures from his past and crosses a couple of tangled ones with his soon to be future. What life meant to the troubled broker was eventually discovered as he fell back in love with the place of his childhood. Underneath it all, this was a love story about the terroir and what was built on top of it by the people he held the closest.

 

 

Our Blood Is Wine

A truly touching experience that takes us back to the roots of winemaking. A renowned sommelier and his filmmaker wife travel to the Republic of Georgia to explore traditional methods of winemaking that were almost destroyed by the Soviet Union invasion. These stories strung together like a harmonious violin solo, paint pictures of deeply planted roots in family and love for one’s country. Meager yet incredibly hard-working households share not only their winemaking traditions but also their earnest personalities filled with laughter and singing, lots of singing that leaves you to feel bonded to these individuals. I’m still left in humbled awe at their true grit and a peek into what life means when stripped of the frills and price tags.

 

 

Uncorked

A fictional character feels he has to choose between his family’s business and his true passion, to become a master sommelier. This modern coming of age flick skillfully pairs its soundtrack to the beat of the main character’s ventures. Shedding light on the complete dedication an individual has to fully give in preparation for the exam, we see his loved ones joining together to do what they can to help him succeed. Slow-paced, with endless unspoken conversations, Uncorked sets your retrospect into overdrive while the ending leaves all loose ends untied, perhaps suggesting there is yet another story to tell.

 

 

Blood Into Wine

To be fair, I wanted not to like this one. I went in with an attitude of glorifying a rock star who decided on a whim he wanted to be a winemaker. Well, I got off my high horse relatively quickly. In a humorous yet sincere premise, Maynard, from the well-known band Tool allows us into his journey of knowing very little about the wine industry to build 2 successful wineries. I might be biased for obvious reasons but the breathtaking pictorial tour of Northern Arizona struck a cord of pride. Maynard pushes the perceived limitations of Arizona winemaking and illustrates the knowledge and ingenuity we bring to the vast wine industry.

Let’s Get Real About The Wildfires

You’ve seen the devastating images on tv, social media, and your daily news outlets. Fires have rapidly swept through many of our beloved wine-growing areas. California, Australia, Portugal, South Africa, and even parts of France (just to name a few) have fallen prey to the force that is mother nature.

 

The burning wine industry is combating the effects of smoke taint on their crops. The actual fires have made their marks by destroying wineries and vineyards, but it’s the smoke damage that is the real silent killer. This sneaky, yet devastating, impact of prolonged smoke exposure to the grapevines can result in entire harvests being dumped. Depending on where the individual grape bunch is in its growing phase, smoke can alter the integral outcome of a crop. During variation and right before harvest has been documented to be the most vulnerable time. Smoke taint leaves behind undesirable flavors such as burnt ash and cigarette butts.

 

The power outages, intentional or not, can cause real concern for a winemaker. The fires in California specifically, happen to occur during the same time as harvest. Having the power to a winery is essential in almost every aspect of the harvest process. Equipment can’t be used, controlled cellar temperatures to keep wine at its prime are shut off, and even as basic as having light in the evening to continue working can potentially not be an option. Several wineries rely heavily on a generator during this time, however, having access to a generator that possess the power to even keep the lights on is becoming more difficult. Mandatory road closures and evacuations can leave fermenting wine unsupervised for days. A process that normally has eyes on it several times a day to control the sugar levels and the heat displayed from fermentation to ensure no bacterial issues take over.

 

What about the soil after the fires?  Small amounts of fire to the soil can have a positive impact. In the appropriate doses, fire can kill diseases and insects while enriching the nutrients in the soil. In unmanageable doses, fire can deplete the soil of all its nutrients making revegetation difficult. There is also the possibility of erosion. Wildfires can burn away ground cover and vegetation across the landscape, leaving soils exposed and easily erodible by precipitation. Instead of the rain soaking into the soil, rainwater and melted snow can rush across these hardened surfaces, gaining enough power to erode loose sediments.

 

The biggest monetary set back caused by the fires is the decrease in tourism. The perception that vineyards and wineries are now just piles of ash has caused a ripple effect in visitors to wine regions. Areas such as Australia and California are starting to see the economic consequences of fewer and fewer winery goers. This is where we can step up and do our part! Keep making those vineyard trips, especially to the areas most affected (think Napa, Sonoma, Adelaide Hills, Southern France, Portugal). We’ve compiled a list of bottles you can add to your collection from wineries in need of reparation.

 

 Henschke Giles Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills, Australia 2017

Luxuriously silky, bright red berry-fruited Pinot Noir

Casa de Mouraz Branco, Dao, Portugal 2017

Luminous, textured, pithy dry white

Chateau de Caraguilhes, Corbieres, France, 2017

Spicy, robust, brambly fruited red

Mayacamas Chardonnay, Mt Veeder, Napa Valley, California 2017

Aromas of ripe lemon honey with the classic Mayacamas acidity and textural richness

 

Cult Wines of Napa Valley & Allocation

You know the names. Maybe you’ve even gotten your hands on a case or two or managed to get a sip here or there at a wine tasting, but it is rare for wine lovers to have had their fill of the powerful, predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines that have elevated California’s global standing in recent decades.

 

Beginning with the 1976 Judgement of Paris, a blindly judged wine competition in France that awarded two California producers with its winning titles, California wines have built their legacy and position among the best wines in the world. The history of Napa’s cult wine crew began around the same time as Screaming Eagle’s founder Jean Phillips released their 1992 vintage, to extraordinary critical acclaim. In no time at all, small production Cabernet Sauvignon grown often on hillside sites of Napa grew to high demand, and they developed price tags to match. With outstanding ratings, world-wide notoriety, and unparalleled quality, gaining access to these fiercely sought after wines was a dream for most. Today, a chance to taste an Opus One, Colgin, Bryant, Scarecrow, Harlan or an Araujo, to only name a few, is always a treat. These are often the wines that spark the “wine bug” that inspires the evolution of the average wine consumer from casual drinker to full-on fanatic. It is the ripeness of the striking California fruit that maintains acidity, combined with a sincere depth of flavors that evolve in the glass with each taste, plus an ability to age in your cellar for many years that differentiates our favorite cult wines from more ubiquitous bottlings you can find at your local grocer or wine shop.

 

In our deeper discovery of the California cult wine producers, we often unearth little hidden details about the overly ambitious winemakers themselves, the secret symbols embedded in their labeling and the inventive and unconventional winemaking processes that enthrall us further. Hundred Acre vintner and visionary who began his wine career with no formal viticultural training, Jason Woodbridge, harvests grape to grape rather than by cluster. This is just in part how he produces wines that Robert Parker describes as having “opulent, creamy textures” with “extraordinarily sweet, noble tannins” and anyone who has tasted these wines cannot even begin to argue Parker’s sentiment. Woodbridge is as eccentric as he is ingenious. There is no denying that his bold personality impacts the wines he makes as well as the notoriety they receive. And the name Hundred Acre is inspired by Woodbridge’s association of his first vineyard with the stories of Winnie-the-Pooh, speaking to the winemaker’s personal whimsy and flair for flamboyance. Similarly, Jean Phillips, though never confirming the link between her wines to the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division, which took part in the D-Day landings, called the “Screaming Eagles” only says the name is one that has meant a great deal to her since she was a young girl. Although, there is no denying that the risks and bravery of those WWII paratroopers imitate the fearless, pioneering spirit Phillips engineered for her cult winemaker confrère.

 

Today, most small Napa producers shun the word “cult” when speaking of their wines, although it is hard to otherwise describe the way in which these bottles are worshipped among California wine oenophiles. Many of these wineries would have you wait years for your first shipment, and who has time for that? Producer of Rhône style California blends, Sine Qua Non, currently has a 10-12 year wait. Schrader Cellars, sourcing grapes from the historic To-Kalon vineyard in Napa, has as many as 8,000 eager fans awaiting their chance to purchase their wines. And yet, Harlan Estate Director, Don Weaver, says “I wish more people could taste and see for themselves,” when discussing his wine’s harmony of fruit, power, and finesse. This is hardly the elitist attitude many uninformed wine drinkers assume of these Napa moguls and expresses more of the passion for these limited production wines than the exclusivity they carry.

 

You can try your luck purchasing some of these wines on your own online, but it can be a gamble when you consider the lack of care these bottles may have endured during their travels when the source is unknown, especially if the wines have been aging in bottle for several years. At Vinum55, we have built countless relationships with local distributors who have given us access to some of the cult Napa selections for which you might be on the hunt. Through these distributors, you can trust they are providing us with wines that have been well cared for since their release. Our wine trained professionals on our Vinum team, as well as those we know well throughout the Arizona wine community, can source so many gems you might not be able to locate on your own. And if we are unable to source through our own channels, we can recommend the most reputable path for obtaining the wines you seek. We are eager to access the best wines for our members and it is our highest goal to provide you with access to the inimitable wines of California and anything else that fulfills your wine obsessions.

Biodynamic Farming and Wine

What exactly does the word biodynamic mean in relation to wine and how does it differ from organic or sustainable? As a society that is becoming more and more health conscious, all of these words are tossed around quite frequently. And as consumers, we eat that up. We love it. It makes us feel better, healthier. Like we’re doing our part for the environment. But when it comes to wine, exactly what can you expect out of a bottle of biodynamically farmed wine?

Well, for starters, it goes so much further than being organic. It’s a much deeper, almost spiritual connection with the earth. To quote Wine Folly, “The concept behind biodynamics is that everything in the universe is interconnected and gives off a resonance or ‘vibe’. The interconnectivity of everything even includes celestial bodies like the moon, planets and stars. Biodynamic viticulture is the practice of balancing this resonance between vine, man, earth and stars. Essentially, biodynamics is a holistic view of agriculture.” The United States government has long regulated the use of the words “sustainable” and “organic”, but there is no legal definition for “biodynamic”, even though it’s been around for over a century. The concept started in the 1920’s with Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner and predates the evolution of organic farming by about twenty years. Biodynamic farming is similar to organic farming in that both take place without synthetic chemicals, but what we love about biodynamic farming is that it treats the vineyard as its own little ecosystem.

Last year, several members of our staff were fortunate enough to tour Littorai, a winery located in Sonoma. Ted Lemon, owner and winemaker, is one of the most respected people in the world of wine and a pioneer in California biodynamic farming. Ted and his team have one goal: to produce as many of the farm and vineyard needs on site as possible in a manner harmonious with and respectful of the surrounding environment and wildlife. Eight acres of the property are woods and streams, never to be developed. Fourteen acres are open pasture dedicated to providing a home for the cattle and hay which form the base of their annual compost pile. One quarter or these pasturelands have been re-sown with legumes, grains and grasses- a key component to the natural teas and tinctures that are applied to the vines. Yes, you read that right. Case in point- They grow (and then dry) their own chamomile, make a tea out of it and spray it on the vines when they’re “stressed”. And as if we needed any more convincing, all of the water used in wine production is recycled through eco-sensitive constructed wetlands in which plants naturally treat and recycle the water for reuse as irrigation water on the property. We have one word for this type of commitment to the environment- WOW.

So, what exactly makes a wine biodynamic? Well, it all starts in the vineyard before winemaking even begins. In addition to not using chemicals, all tasks related to the maintenance of the vine (pruning, planting, harvesting, etc.) are regulated by a special biodynamic calendar. The calendar was originally devised by the ‘high priestess’ of biodynamics, Maria Thun, who divided days into four categories: Root, Fruit, Flower and Leaf Days.

Each biodynamic calendar day coincides with one of the four classical elements of Earth, Fire, Air and Water that have been used since before Plato’s era:

  1. Fruit Days: Best days for harvesting grapes
  2. Root Days: Ideal days for pruning
  3. Flower Days: Leave the vineyard alone on these days
  4. Leaf Days: Ideal days for watering plants

Now to answer the big question that you’ve all been wondering- Do biodynamic wines taste different? The answer in short: NO. If anything, in our professional opinion, it could make a wine taste BETTER. Many people believe that the “hands off” approach of biodynamic farming allows the terroir to truly shine through. Ultimately, we feel that minimal manipulation is always the best way to go.

One might think biodynamic wines are rare and hard to find but that is hardly the case. You would be surprised by how many wineries that you already know and love practice biodynamic farming- Bonny Doon, Domaine Leflaive, Benzinger, Michel Chapoutier, Nicolas Joly, Domaine LeRoy, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht and Cristal…just to name a few!

We love being able to share our thoughts and insight with you, but at the end of the day, the best way to figure out if you like something is to try it for yourself. Our goal is and always will be to challenge your palate, expose you to wines that you’ve never had and teach you a little something along the way!

Pyrazines & Wine

Have you ever smelled or tasted a wine and the first thing you thought of was a vegetable? We know, we know – not exactly a description that you would expect right off the bat – or be interested in tasting for that matter. However, there are several varietals out there that are known for having vegetal qualities. In the wine world, we call these flavors and aromas pyrazines and when done the right way, they can be a beautiful addition to the profile of a wine.

So, what exactly is a pyrazine? Short for alkyl-methoxypyrazines, pyrazines are chemical compounds generally found in higher levels in the classic Bordeaux varietals- Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carménère and Malbec. While green peppers are the most common aromas associated with pyrazines, others that might indicate the compound’s presence are spicy or sweet herbs, plant stems, asparagus, snap pea, olive, jalapeno or even just rustic earth. On the bad side, pyrazine can smell like old asparagus water or mushy, steamed green pepper. But on the good side, pyrazines can yield charming, complex flavors that add the signature identity to these grapes. For example, Sauvignon Blanc when done right offers a fresh herbaceous quality of chocolate mint, tarragon, fresh parsley or sweet basil. If this sounds like the Sauvignon Blanc for you, the great producers of the eastern Loire Valley have mastered this style. For Cabernet Sauvignon and the other red Bordeaux varieties, you can expect notes of red pepper, green peppercorn, green olive tapenade and mint.

The red Bordeaux varietals have varying concentrations of pyrazines- Carménère and Cabernet Franc have the highest, followed by Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and then Malbec with the lowest. The levels vary based on climate, and cooler regions and vintages will always have higher levels of pyrazine. The number one way to control pyrazines in wine is in the vineyard. For the most part, pyrazines are a product of the vineyard, not of the wine making. Vineyard practices that contribute to elevated pyrazine levels include over watering, a bushy canopy (too many leaves) and grape cluster shading during the first 50 days of berry set. A good vineyard manager can mitigate excessive pyrazines by clearing the fruit zone of leaves, keeping the canopy in good order and restricting the amount of water the vines receive early on.

Now that we’ve talked about exactly what pyrazines are, let’s talk about what’s most important – will you like it? Well, like anything else pertaining to wine, you’ll never know unless you taste it. As sommeliers, we enjoy this characteristic in a wine, but only when not overdone. As anything else in life, there is such a thing as too much. Too much oak, too much fruit; too much of anything in a wine is not ideal. The best wines are those that are balanced. Additionally, there are studies that exhibit data showing the presence of pyrazines positively affects the aging potential in a wine; cooler vintages in Bordeaux (i.e. higher levels of pyrazines) ended up tasting the best long term. Enjoying and collecting wine is a constant battle with time, so any help in that department never hurts!

At the end of the day, we can’t tell you what you’ll like or dislike in a wine, we can only present you the facts and let you take it from there. Something like pyrazines in wine don’t have to be a bad thing. Instead think of it as something different and unique, something that will be fun to explore, try and learn from!

How To Pick Holiday Wines

Summer is finally coming to an end. As Phoenicians, nothing makes us happier than saying those words. Sure, the days are still creeping up in to the 90’s but where we can really see the break in the heat is in the early mornings and late evenings – it’s crisper, cooler. There is a change in the air and whether we like it or not, holiday season is upon us. Before we know it, we’ll be hosting our first party of the season. One question that always comes to mind is ‘What kind of wine can I serve to my guests that won’t break the bank but will still be a crowd pleaser?’

Lucky for you, membership has its privileges. As clients of Vinum 55, you have a team of sommeliers at your fingertips to help you pick out the perfect bottle! Start by asking yourself ‘How much do I want to spend per bottle?’. This will help you narrow down what you should even be considering. Don’t blow your budget on wine. There are some phenomenal options in the $15-$25 range that won’t leave you with buyer’s remorse. Next, figure out about how many guests you’ll have. You should account for 2-3 glasses of wine per guest. Some will drink less, some will drink more- this is just a general rule of thumb.

We recommend a ratio of 1/3 white wine to 2/3 red wine. More people drink red wine, that’s just the facts. That being said, play to your audience. If you have a group of wine lovers coming over, you could probably go 50/50 white to red as your attendees will appreciate the refreshing acidity offered by a lot of white wines. It acts as an intermezzo, a palate cleanser. Rose is also a great option, especially living in Arizona. Our mild winters allow us to continue enjoying this summer beverage long in to holiday season. Pro tip: Have some Rose around for Thanksgiving. It’s a great way to cut the heaviness that comes with the food served that day.

Next, you should decide what varietals you want to serve. We always recommend a sparkling. It’s a great way to start the night and end the night. It’s perfect for the holidays and celebrations just aren’t the same without it. We’re big fans of bubbles. It really is one of the most versatile wines out there. For white, Chardonnay is always a great option. We know, we know. Some people say they hate Chardonnay. The thing is, Chardonnay differs greatly based on where it comes from. In California, people are accustomed to a richer, oaked expression of the grape. On the other hand, Chardonnay coming from France, specifically Chablis, sees no oak and maintains a bright, crisp acidity and a beautiful salinity. We recommend the later, as it’s more approachable to the masses and more food friendly. For reds, you should pick one light and one full bodied wine. The obvious choice for a lighter bodied wine would be a Pinot Noir. However, that’s not your only option, impress your guests by serving them a Grenache or a Gamay. Both thin skinned grapes, light, fruity and easy drinking. For a full bodied red, people naturally gravitate towards a Cabernet Sauvignon. Instead, serve a killer Argentinian Malbec or a Dry Creek Zinfandel for a third of the price. Spice up the night by serving the wines in a blind bag. Prep the bartender to give a couple descriptive words about each wine and let the guests choose for themselves. This could be a great opportunity for someone to step out of their box and discover a new favorite!

At the end of the day, when you’re purchasing wine for an event the goal is to have the perfect balance of quantity and quality. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again. You do not have to spend $100 on a bottle of wine to get something that overdelivers. Remember that your guests will appreciate you, not for the wine that you served, but for the hospitality they felt while enjoying that wine!

The Importance of Wine Storage

Certain wines must be aged to achieve peak quality. This statement is so prevalent in the general public’s consciousness that many consider it common knowledge. Most people also know that wine must be stored in a certain manner. Few people know the details, nor understand the actual science behind aging wine, which may explain why so many people underestimate the importance of proper wine storage. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a member of Vinum 55 so we’re preaching to the choir. You already know, understand and appreciate the art of aging wine. We’re writing this for those that don’t realize how vital proper storage is to the life and quality of your wine. Trust us- when you open that perfectly cellared bottle, it’s magic.

Maturing or aging wine is both a science and an art. A science, in that chemistry is the engine that drives the whole process. The individual reactions involved are well understood, predicable and clearly illustrate why proper storage is so important. But it’s also an art. Wine composition is so diverse and complex; each bottle reacts very differently. Therefore, it can be very difficult to predict the end result that aging will have on different wines. It can be just as tough to predict results among different vintages of the same wine. To make matters more complicated, taste is subjective. Some people prefer aged wine for their secondary flavors and prefer younger wine for their primary fruit flavors.

Despite doing everything in our power to age our wines perfectly, we are sometimes disappointed. A lot of this has to do with how our wines were handled prior to being in our possession. Trust us, we’ve seen how some wines are transported, it’s painful to watch. Unfortunately, what happened before it landed in your cellar is out of your control. At some point it boils down to luck. This, of course, adds to the mysterious allure of wine. One thing that we do have control of is once the wine reaches us, are we storing it properly? And what exactly does proper storage entail? There are six critical elements associated with storing wine.

  • Temperature
    • The ideal temperature for wine storage is somewhere between 11°C and 14°C (52°F to 58°F). When wine is stored in warmer temperatures, it can cause the wine to age more rapidly, and not in a good way, bringing out undesirable flavors in the wine. On the opposite end, when temperatures fall below the normal range, this causes the wine to age at a much slower rate. Although not ideal, this situation is better for your wine than the previously mentioned one.
  • Temperature stability
    • Wine must be kept in an environment where temperature is constant and stable. An acceptable level of temperature fluctuation is said to be about 2 to 3°C (5°F) around the average once per year. Temperature stability is the “holy grail” of wine storage. Besides humidity, it is the most important of the storage requirements, and at the same time one of the hardest ones to achieve. Maintaining constant temperature over time is even more important than the actual average temperature level.
  • Humidity
    • Humidity should be between 60 and 80 percent to maintain cork integrity. Cork is a natural product and will deteriorate with time. And yes, the cork will still dry out even when the bottle is placed on its side. Although the bottom of the cork is in contact with the wine, the top of the cork is exposed to the air and influenced entirely by the conditions of the air around it. If the air is too dry, the top of the cork will dry out, shrink, crack and allow more air to come into contact with the wine.
  • Ventilation
    • Wine needs to be kept in an odor-free environment. Since some air will always get back into the wine through the cork, the molecules that make up that odor can, and will, get into the wine over time. Certain odors are fairly benign, others are quite harmful. Odors to look out for include solvents (fresh paint, cleaning solutions, etc.), or various aromatic food products like onions or garlic. Don’t store these around your wines.
  • Darkness
    • Wine should not be subjected to excessive amounts of light. Light, especially the short wavelengths, breaks down the complex molecules that create some of the amazing flavors that we love in properly aged wines. This is rarely a problem since wine is already well protected in glass that virtually absorbs all ultraviolet rays. Dark-colored glass absorbs most other light. Low-level lighting will not harm wine. One big rule- keep out of direct sunlight!
  • Security
    • What’s the point in having a cellar full of wine if your susceptible to loss or damage due to fire, theft or equipment failure? As collectors and enthusiasts, we invest a lot of time and money in our wine so naturally, we want to make sure it’s safe. As a professional wine storage facility, we offer high-end, commercial grade security with a sophisticated back-up system to protect your wines. All of our cellars are equipped with sprinkler systems and in the instance of a power outage, back-up generators are on our site within thirty minutes.

Even though we consider ourselves so much more than just a place to store wine, at the end of the day it is the base on which our company is built and we are very proud of that. Our goal is to give you the best all-around wine experience, and we believe that begins in the cellar. Rest easy knowing that from the moment your wine crosses our doors, it is given the highest level of care possible. When all is said and done, our hope is that we are able to eliminate some of the stresses that can come with collecting wine and allow you to focus on the fun part- drinking it!

Vinum 55 and AZ Food + Wine!

When Darla Hoffmann, one of the best up and coming Somms in the Valley asks if they can write an article about you for AZ Food + Wine, you say YES.

Thank you Darla, we are so honored and grateful to you for writing this beautiful piece!

https://www.azfoodandwine.com/somm-insider-vol-9-vinum-55/

Vinum 55 exists to make everything about wine special. Wine enthusiasts across the valley crave memorable experiences with every bottle they purchase. Wine is so different from any other beverage because it yearns for conversation and affirmation from people all over the world. It’s almost like it is a living liquid that earnestly hopes to be a part of your life. Vinum 55 eloquently provides meaningful services to its members while making sure the wine is being treated with respect and care.

The founders of Vinum 55 wanted someone with a vision to take their idea to unforeseen heights and it appears they have done just that in hiring Director of Operations, Raini Keyser. “I could see all of the possibilities of what Vinum 55 could do for the wine community,” she says. “[And] it was surreal. It happened to match what the founders wanted and I feel very lucky. My job does not feel like work.”

Their concierge service, led by a team of in-house Sommeliers, includes everything from wine delivery and retrieval, keeping inventory of your wines, handling your member events, and personalizing your tastings with esteemed winemakers. Vinum 55 has connections with expert winemakers nationally and internationally, so members have exclusive opportunities to taste wines and receive education from some of the most distinguished people in the food and wine industry. This allows them to purchase rare wines at special pricing for their elite club. “Our members don’t just love wine,” says Raini. “They travel to wine countries both near and far. They love the story of wine, the places it comes from, and the people who make it.”

The Lounge is available to members to host public or private events, serve their wines, or taste each other’s wines. Decanters and stemware are furnished to accommodate their members and their guests.

One of the most essential services they offer is their Cellar. Wine collectors can rest easy knowing their wines are kept in a temperature-controlled storage unit with 24/7 security. You also have the option of shipping your wines from abroad directly to your unit with assurance that your wines will be safely accounted for upon your return. When asked what the next step is for Vinum 55, Raini proudly proclaimed, “The sky is the limit for the future of Vinum 55. We love our clients and showing other wine lovers what is available to them.”

Vinum 55 has 3 locations including Phoenix, Scottsdale and Chandler. Go to www.vinum55.com to unveil what’s in store for you in this wondrous world of wine.

Riesling: A Somm Fascination

RIESLING:

THE MOST MISUNDERSTOOD AND UNDERAPPRECIATED GRAPE OF THE LAST 500 YEARS

We all have our favorite, daily drinker white wines, right? Maybe it’s a crisp Sancerre, perfect on a hot summer day. Or perhaps an easy drinking Pinot Grigio to sip on by the pool. Maybe your favorite is a Chardonnay from Burgundy that would pair beautifully with the seabass you’re having for dinner tonight. Whatever it may be, we all have our go-to whites. But have you ever heard someone say that their favorite white wine is a Riesling? The answer is probably no, unless you have a friend that is a sommelier because we can’t get enough of the stuff

 

Misunderstood and Misrepresented

 

As certified sommeliers, we’ve made it our personal mission to change the perception of this often-misrepresented varietal. We believe the reason for this misrepresentation is because many years ago Riesling was placed in the category of ‘sweet wines’ and there it has lived…forever! Don’t get us wrong, there are some beautiful examples of Riesling that are sweet, and we love those too. However, there are also some incredible bone dry, mouthwatering Riesling’s- layered with notes of ripe peach, tropical fruit, petrol, citrus and wet rock- and these are the wines that we gravitate towards.

 

History and Regions

 

The Riesling grape dates back at least 500 years and most likely originated in the Rhine River Valley of southwestern Germany. Riesling is grown in wine regions all over the world but most commonly found in Germany and Alsace. More recently, we’ve seen some lovely examples of the varietal coming out of:

 

  • Austria
  • Australia
  • South Africa
  • New Zealand
  • Domestically in Oregon, California, Washington and the Fingerlake District of New York

 

Additionally, it is said to be one of the most terroir expressive varietals, meaning it takes on the character of the soil and climate in which it’s grown (Insider wine tip: the famous slate soils of the Mosel add a beautiful minerality to the wines).

 

Specific Characteristics

 

Most Riesling, unlike Chardonnay, does not undergo malolactic fermentation (the process in which tart, malic acid is converted to a softer, creamier lactic acid), which helps to preserve the tartness and acidic characteristics that make Riesling such a food-friendly, thirst-quenching wine. The versatile nature of this varietal makes it an easy-to-pair wine that can stand up to the boldest of dishes- including the spicier flavors of the Thai and Chinese culture. Finally, because of the characteristics of Riesling, it is proven to mature more gracefully than most other wines, getting more concentrated and complex with age.

 

Professional Recommendations

 

At the end of the day, we are drawn to every varietal for a different reason, but our fondness and appreciation for Riesling is obvious to anyone who spends five minutes with us. Now, what good sommeliers would we be if we didn’t have some recommendations for you? (Answer: Not good ones)

 

These are a few of our favorite producers with pricing included for our members:

 

  • 2015 Kuentz-Bas – Alsace – $16/bottle
  • 2016 St. Urbans Hof Ockfener Bockstein Kabinett – Mosel – $22/bottle
  • 2016 St. Urbans Hof ‘Urban’ – Mosel – $10/bottle
  • 2015 Brooks Dry Riesling – Willamette Valley, OR – $17/bottle
  • 2016 Dr. Konstantin Frank ‘Dry Riesling’ – Fingerlakes, NY – $15/bottle

 

“On the palate, Riesling is meant to move—to shimmer, to surge, to burst, to dance, to arc, to soar. Riesling has a rare trait- velocity. Of all varietals, it is the most kinetic and alive.” – Wine Bible, Karen MacNeil

 

Get out of your comfort zone. Try something new. Get addicted to the world of Riesling!

 

CHEERS!

Mexico: A Wine Destination

Mexico is a vacation spot known for its delicious food, sunny beaches, and tequila filled spring breaks. But what many travelers have yet to explore is Mexico’s incredible wine country. With three unique regions, providing a wide range of varietals, it has recently become a popular destination for vinophiles.

The Spanish started cultivating wine in Mexico when they settled in the 16th century. They brought grapes from all over Europe creating unique blends. There is over 7,700 acres dedicated to wine. Although winemaking has been going on for hundreds of years in Mexico, the wine industry didn’t start booming until the 1980s.

 

Northern Region

The Northern region features the states of Baja and Sonora. Baja includes Valle de Guadalupe, Valle de Calafia, Valle de San Vincente, and Valle de Santo Tomás. With over 150 wineries, it makes up around 85% of Mexican wine production. The most popular area to visit in Baja is Valle de Guadalupe. Sonora includes Hermosillo and Caborca, which are known for their Brandy. If you are traveling to this region take the “Ruta del Vino” which connects several hotels, restaurants and wineries. Also, check out the “Fiesta de la Vendimia” a wine festival that occurs every August in Ensenada.

 

La Laguna

The La Laguna region includes the states of Coahuila, Durango, and Zacatecas. Coahuila hosts the oldest winery in North America, Casa Madero, in Valle de Parras. The best times to travel to this region are August and September for the annual grape harvest, “La Vendimia”, and in June for the “Feria de la Uva y el Vino”.

 

Central

Just outside of Mexico City, the Central region consists of Querétaro, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes. This area is known for its sparkling wines, like Freixnet. Visit Querétaro in June to experience the annual wine and cheese festival, “Feria Nacional del Queso y de Vino”.

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