Featured Post


How does one simplify the world of wine?  Well, maybe you don’t exactly simplify it, you just put a little time in, says cV Sommelier, Jenny Benzie: Every year has a new season, as they say in baseball, and the same can be found true for every vineyard and wine region in the world.  You might...

Read More

It’s in the barrel…

Posted by admin | Posted in Burgundy, California Wine, travel, Wine | Posted on 31-08-2011

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


Is that a 2X4 that I smell in my glass?

Wine tasting notes will often refer to wines as being oaky, but what exactly does that mean?  The use of oak in winemaking can play an important role in the final product in several different ways.

First of all, you must consider the source of the wood.  Most American oak barrels typically come from the species Quercus alba, which is a white oak species.  This oak has wider grains and lower wood tannins.  The wider grains allows for a quicker, more concentrated release of aromas into the wine.  American oak typically imparts flavors of vanilla and more sweet nuances, along with coconut (think sunscreen) and dill (think pickles).  This oak is used for big, powerful reds and for Chardonnays from warmer climates.

In France, Quercus petrea is more common for its finer grain and richer aromatic components.   French oak produces silky, softer style tannins.  Warm sensations such as baking spices (cinnamon, clove, nutmeg) are more apparent with this type of wood.  In France, some winemakers choose their wood from one specific forest as they each forest will have slightly different nuances on the final blend.  Due to the finer grain of French oak, less of the tree may be used in barrel production.  Therefore, the cost of French barrels is more than that of American barrels.

Others types of oak are sometimes used including Hungarian, Slovanian and even Russian oak from near the Black Sea.  These barrels tend to be less expensive alternatives that either French or American oak.

Another varying degree of oak barrels is the amount of ‘toast’ inside the barrel.  Yes, it’s the same concept of when you ‘toast’ a piece of bread (not the toast at your friend’s wedding…).  Toasting ranges from lightly charred, medium toast, to heavily toasted.  The lighter the toasting, the more of the original oak flavor is imparted on the wine, where the heavier the toast, you see a reduction in the coconut notes and perhaps a slight reduction in the color of the wine as it reacts to the toastiness of the barrel.

The size of a barrel is important to take into consideration in regards to the ratio of surface area to volume.  The most common size is the Bordeaux barrique which hold 59 gallons (225 liters).  The next most common is the Burgundy barrique at 60 gallons (228 liters).  Some wine producers will use a foudre, a large barrel made of oak (or chestnut) and used in other parts of France, that can range in size from 150-350 hectoliters.  These large vessels are used more to age the wine than for the qualities the wood may impart on the wine itself.  On the smaller side, often used by home winemakers are mini-barrels which may hold 1-10 liters of juice.

This takes us to the age of a barrel and it’s varying effects.  The first time a barrel is used, it provides a wine with good texture and a substantial amount of tannins.  With each subsequent years the barrel is in use, the nuances that it offers become less and less.  Some wineries will only use 100% new oak every year (now you know why that wine costs so much!).  Others will use the barrel up to three years, then scrap the inside of the barrel, retoast it to their specifications, then put it back into rotation.  Some only used ‘seasoned’ barrels (those who have been used several years without a retoasting) and refer to them as neutral barrels that will impart very little on their wine, but do allow it to age with a slight exposure to oxygen.

Next time you are tasting your wine and feel like you are in the forest, think about all these factors about barrels that the winemaker takes into consideration when crafting their product.–Jenny Benzie

Elisabeth with Denis toner at Francois Freres

Elisabeth with Denis Toner (center) at Francois Freres

Kistler oak at Francois Freres

Kistler oak at Francois Freres

Toasted barrels

No More Yellowtail!

Posted by admin | Posted in currentVintage, Nantucket, travel, Wine | Posted on 24-08-2011

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



When dining at a favorite restaurant or browsing the shelves of the local neighborhood wine store, US consumers are still looking for a great value in their wine selection with so many choices available to them these days.  Value regions that may come to mind typically lie on the outskirts of more well-known regions:

Pernand Vergelleses is next to Corton-Charlemagne, you can’t get to Montsant without going through Priorat and Sant’Antimo  has no problem having so many wine ‘cousins’ in Tuscany.  This regional recognition for lesser-known wine regions is common for most Old World wines, but not so easily discernable for New World wines that highlight grape varietal first in their labeling regime versus promotion of a regional designation.   This type of labeling and promotion is the beginning of many challenges that Australian wines have in marketing regionally specific wines to the US market.

Americans’ perception, in general, of what they think represents the Australian wine industry is not a fair cross-reference of what is truly available to them.  Preconceived notions of Australian wine can range from consumers general ignorance that not all riesling is sweet and not all shiraz is over-the-top to the misconception that Australia only offers low priced, poor quality exports that do not evoke a sense of place.   This lack of awareness for regional character, variety and quality leads them to have a false image and identity of Australian wines.  Americans are unaware of the amazing white wines from Australia and how they compare to their international counterparts: the well-balanced, elegant Chardonnays of Margaret River in comparison to white Burgundy, the dry rieslings of Eden Valley up against some of the best from Austria’s Wachau and the classic, under-appreciated Semillons of the Hunter Valley.  The image of Australian reds is seen as big, heavy, rich and concentrated.  However, this is not the case for many reds that are available: Pinot Noir from Pemberton that may be confused as a red burgundy in a blind tasting, the Rhône-style cool climate Shiraz/Viognier wines from Yarra Valley and the distinctive earthiness of a Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon.  While these wines may be known to the wine buyers and sommeliers around the world, little has been translated that these wines are the first recommendations out of their mouths to consumers.

So how can you learn more about these regionally specific wines that Australia has to offer?  Ask your respected wine professional to recommend these types of wines so you can try them.  Have the sommelier or wine store merchant share with you the stories about the history of the people who have produced wines from these locations, being able to discuss the terroir from where the grapes are grown and emit a passion about the final product of wine itself.  Truth in labeling laws and emphasis on where the wine came from in these small areas will help consumers to recognize place of origin with the grape variety.  Be open to the innovative packaging that is developed and tested in Australia as it should be seen as an asset to the industry where US consumers are able to easily access these wines without having to use a special tool to open the bottle, box or wine pouch.

No one would ever think to take a wine tour around the entire United States of America, much less all of California.  Much is the same for Australia in that wine regions need to be divided, recognized and absorbed for each of their parts that make up the entire sum of its wine nation.  Promoting wine tourism is an invaluable tool to bring US consumers to the source of what Australia has to offer in the wine industry – you get to see the terrain and feel the climate, understand the geographic differences of each region and why certain grapes thrive better in some regions versus others, along with sampling the wine with local cuisine created by new, emerging talented chefs from Down Under.

By continuing to discuss the regional differences in Australian wines and how they relate to more familiar regions, US consumers are then given a frame of reference and a comfort level that allows them to feel safe in further exploration of what Australian wines truly do have to offer.–Jenny Benzie

currentVintage recommends:

Hope Estate Chardonnay, Hunter Valley (New South Wales), 2009, $15

95% Chardonnay and 5% Semillon;  Barrel-fermented with a restrained use of new oak.

Betts & Scholl Riesling, Eden Valley (South Australia), 2008, $30

The Wine Spectator 92 points: ‘Light, crisp and beautifully focused, with cantaloupe, papaya and lime flavors that bounce easily across the palate and into the long, fragrant finish. Subtle and absolutely enticing. Drink now through 2016. 250 cases imported.’ Nov 2008

More from cV on Betts & Scholl

Mollydooker Shiraz “Blue Eyed Boy”, South Australia, 2009, $54

Wine Advocate:
‘The 2009 Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz is a 20% Langhorne Creek and 80% McLaren Vale blend matured in 71% new and 29% 1 year American oak. Very deep garnet-purple colored, it is profoundly scented of blueberry and black cherry with touches of mint, mocha and the faintest whiff of damp loam. Very full-bodied, the bold, ultra-ripe fruit is well supported by medium-firm chewy tannins and medium-high acid, leading to a very long and pure if slightly warm finish. Drink this one 2012 to 2017+.’ – 92 points, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, www.erobertparker.com

Wine Spectator :
‘Rich and ripe, with a burnt edge to the spice and dried tomato flavors that remain strong against the blueberry and plum fruit. The tannins are well-meshed. Best from 2012 through 2018. Tasted twice, with consistent notes.’ – 91 points, Harvey Steiman, www.winespectator.com

We Love Shiraz:
‘The 2009 Blue Eyed Boy is 100% Shiraz from the Mollydooker Home Block Vineyard and Langhorne Creek Vineyards. The wine has an intoxicating spicy nose with hints of blackberry and strawberry. In the mouth the wine fully coated my palate with velvety tannins and flavors of plum, chocolate, coffee and blackberry. The purity of this wine was amazing. It was a unified presentation of fruit with a complex flavor profile. The lasting finish had evolving flavors that begged me to take another sip. This is the best Blue Eyed Boy (BEB) I have ever tasted.’ – 98 points, Brian Pasch, www.weloveshiraz.com

More from cV on Mollydooker

Jenny+Benzie+-+Pour+Sip+SavorJenny Benzie is the owner of Pour Sip Savor, a forward thinking wine business in which she is able to provide ‘An Assemblage of Sommelier Services’ by creating wine education opportunities for consumers, private client wine services, restaurant wine list consulting and brand ambassador to wine regions from around the world.  Her sommelier expertise has been honed by working at some of the finest establishments – Caneel Bay Resort in St. John, Michael’s in Santa Monica, Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach and The Pearl on Nantucket.


Posted by admin | Posted in currentVintage, Nantucket, Wine | Posted on 17-08-2011

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


How does one simplify the world of wine?  Well, maybe you don’t exactly simplify it, you just put a little time in, says cV Sommelier, Jenny Benzie:

red soxEvery year has a new season, as they say in baseball, and the same can be found true for every vineyard and wine region in the world.  You might wonder how to demystify wine and bring it down to this type of every day level that we see in the wide world of sports.  This seems like an easy question to answer for me – read about it a little each day.

You pick up your ‘sports section’ and you see who won the game last night.  Highest scorer (Wine Spectator, anyone?), best of show (been to any wine fairs lately?), the names and uniforms changes (if the grape really isn’t in Napa, then how can you can you use that location in its name?).  And what about the recent steroid usage issues that we have seen in the news lately…sounds like genetically modified grapes to me.

By reading into some wine websites (like people watch SportsCenter) every evening as you unwind with a glass of wine after work, you can learn a little something each day.  Eventually, you know who the big players are, where they came from and what school they attended, who their teammates are, when were they drafted, have they ever been traded and just what is their batting average.  Maybe they played in an international league before settling into life in Napa Valley.  You follow your favorite professional athlete, now start to follow your favorite wine professional.  Sometimes they fumble, other times they score a homerun.  And you as the fan want to learn more about your favorite ‘team’ to impress your friends with trivia at the wine bar late at night!

Wine is something that is available for everyone.  Whether you are on a budget and choose the cheap seats at the game, decide to sit along the baseline to see the wine being made or you have season tickets and entertain in your sports box at every home game, you decide how you get your money’s worth out of your wine experience.  Switching from wooden bats (or barrels) to aluminum (stainless steel tanks)?  How dare they mess with the tradition of replacing corks with Stelvin screw closures!  Are half bottles considered minor leagues and magnums the World Series?  (Did you ever notice how they all celebrate with champagne at the end anyway?!?)  And what about all the great wine accessories that you can buy to decorate your house?  Who is your favorite grape mascot now?

I think you get the picture, just take it one day at a time.  Eventually, before you know it, you will be the one who knows all about the different vintages, which company bought out which team and who are the rising stars that make it all happen for us.

So, if you aren’t able to make it to the Red Sox game this Friday, come join us at cV for our weekly wine tasting where you get to sample a few of the wines you keep reading about!

–Jenny Benzie

Jenny+Benzie+-+Pour+Sip+SavorJenny Benzie is the owner of Pour Sip Savor, a forward thinking wine business in which she is able to provide ‘An Assemblage of Sommelier Services’ by creating wine education opportunities for consumers, private client wine services, restaurant wine list consulting and brand ambassador to wine regions from around the world.  Her sommelier expertise has been honed by working at some of the finest establishments – Caneel Bay Resort in St. John, Michael’s in Santa Monica, Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach and The Pearl on Nantucket.

3 Ghastly Mistakes To Avoid If You Are Hosting A Wine Tasting…

Posted by admin | Posted in Culture, currentVintage, Fashion, Nantucket, Vintage, Wine | Posted on 10-08-2011

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


2According to cV Sommelier Jenny Benzie (Founder of Pour, Sip, Savor! Sommelier Services), here are 3 Ghastly Mistakes To Avoid If You Are Hosting A Wine Tasting…

So, you’ve invited a group of friends over, everyone is bringing a bottle and you want to make sure your wine tasting event occurs without any ‘flaws.’  Below are a few mistakes to avoid if you are hosting a wine tasting event to ensure you get a ‘Gold Medal!’

Dirty glassware can cause your wine tasting event to go from ‘Brilliant’ to ‘Dull.’  Here are a few tips to ensure clean glasses:

  • Don’t just pull the glasses from your cabinet or a box – they will have a stale, cardboard smell.
  • Don’t wash your glasses with soapy water – this can leave a film.
  • Never use a paper towel to dry your glasses – this will leave an ‘off’ odor in the glass (and lint!).
  • Rinse your glasses with warm water and gently dry by hand with a polishing cloth.

How can you identify what’s in the glass with distracting smells all around you?  Here are a couple of ideas to keep your wine tasting area odor-free:

  • Do not burn any candles or have plug-in air fresheners in the room.
  • Ask your guests (and you!) to refrain from wearing perfume, cologne, after-shave or other scented personal products.
  • Do not use chemicals or scented cleaning products on the table where you will be tasting.

While some like ‘hot’ tea or ‘iced’ coffee, seldom do they like ‘warm’ white wine or ‘too cold’ red wine.  Some helpful information on correct temperatures to serve wine:

  • Champagne and Sparkling wines: 41-45 degrees F
  • Lighter, more delicate whites: 45-50 degrees F; Heavier white wines: 50-55 degrees F.
  • Lighter style reds: 55-59 degrees F; Full-bodied reds: 59-64 degrees F

It is easier to ‘warm’ a wine by cupping the glass in your hands than it is to ‘chill’ the wine by diluting it with ice cubes (gasp!).

That’s it for the tips. I hope you’ve found them helpful.  Remember, wine tasting should be an enjoyable experience and hopefully this advice will help you in preparing your own event!




Benchmark Alex Gambal 2009

Posted by admin | Posted in Burgundy, currentVintage, Food, Nantucket, Wine | Posted on 03-08-2011

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Alex Gambal in Beaune

Alex Gambal in Beaune

A long-time island friend and favorite winemaker, our selection of Burgundies would not be complete without offering something from the only American who now owns parcels in the Grand Cru Batard-Montrachet!  All of his wines are fermented by indigenous yeasts, racked only once and bottled by gravity without filtration.  According to Alex, ‘the superb 2009 vintage is a benchmark in the maturation of this fine little Burgundy house.’

To drink or to keep, you decide….just don’t wait too long!

St Aubin ‘Les Murgers des Dents du Chien’ 1er Cru $50

From one of the most famous climats from this small region located next to Chassagne-Montrachet, this wine offers what a village level wine from its next door neighbor does at a fraction of the the price.  Soft citrus and orchard fruit, rich flavors with medium acidity, slightly linear but with a lingering finish.

Suggested Pairing:

Sea Scallops with fresh corn salsa

Puligny Montrachet, $68

A straight-forward village wine that offers hints of soft toasty oak and citrus notes, mostly lime zest.  Fresh and vibrant, this wine is a perfect pairing for the abundant seafood available on the island.  Be sure to save a bottle to pair with Nantucket Bay scallops with a celery purée in the months ahead.

Suggested Pairing:

Lobster!  Lobster!  Lobster!

Bourgogne Rouge “Cuvee des Deux Papis” $30

Alex does it again with a sophisticated single-village wine worth its’ price!  Perfumed nose of spiced red berry that lead to bright middle weight flavors on the palate.  Perfect for those sometimes chilly nights when the fog starts to roll in before we are ready to receive it.

Suggested Pairing:

Salmon with roasted shiitakes

Chambolle Musigny, $70

Perfume of red berries on the nose  and a silky flow of soft, fading  tannins on the palate.  This is a wine that any Pinot Noir lover will appreciate.  Buy a couple bottles for your collection and reap the benefits of aging this wine a few years.

Suggested Pairing:

Coq au Vin, Roast Chicken with potatoes Dauphine