Thursday, January 27, 2011

What makes a Value wine?

Was the Hugo a good value? It was a car that sold for under five thousand dollars brand new. Is that value or just cheap? You may be asking what's the difference? The difference is quality. The perfect example is Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. It is not a value because it is cheap. Not in price but in quality. I am not saying it is bad wine or criticizing anyones taste, I am saying that the quality of the product does not  match the price. They produce one million cases of Pinot Grigio. Where can they get quality grapes for that many cases to justify the price point? They can't and that is why there is no value. Value is all about quality. A wine could cost $50 and still be a value because of the quality is higher then most other wines in the price point. Here are some other wines to check out that I think really bring a lot to the table.

Ritratti Pinot Grigio
From Trentino in Northern Italy. This is a pinot that has body, character, and quality that far exceeds its price. $15.99

Grayson Chardonnay
This wine is a perfect balance of fruit and oak with enough body to make you wonder why people would spend so much on KJ.

Block Nine Pinot Noir
This is a perfect example of inexpensive of Pinot Noir. They blend in about 15% Syrah to give it a little more weight. This wine is medium bodied with lovely fruit notes of strawberry, raspberry and plum.

Petra Zingari
A blend of Merlot, Syrah, and Alicante this is a home run of a Super Tuscan. Rich and dense with amazing spice notes and a core of rich dark fruit. Great structure and a impressive mouth feel and finish.

These are just a few wines that I think are amazing at their price points. Please feel free to contact me for other suggestions.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Priceless Portugal

No country in the world has a longer history of growing, producing and exporting wine than Portugal. They traded with the Romans, Phoenicians, and Greeks. Portugal during the Hundred Years War became the main wine import of the British. Today, Portuguese wines are still very popular in Britain and are gaining popularity all over the world. The Portuguese were the first to implement a quality control system for wine production, two hundred years before the French. With such a long history of making wine, Portuguese wines are still not known very well in the US. Many times when I am speaking to people about wine, I get the most resistance when I try to tell them about Portugal. Most people think of Portugal as where they make Port, the sweet fortified wine. Most of the time things go south when they ask what grapes make up the wine. Soon as names like Fernao Pires, Touriga Nacional or Tinta Roriz are spoken I see their eyes glaze over. Unlike California wine, or France, when a person does not know what grapes are in a Bordeaux, they become comfortable when they find out because they are familiar with the grapes. With wines from Portugal, the names of the grapes are as foreign as their pronunciation. So here is a simple guide to the main grapes of  Portugal and what better known grape they most taste like.

White Grapes

Alvarihno- Known as Albarino in Spain. This is a grape that has intense aroma of peach and full fruit on the palate, think of it like a Gewurztraminer or Viognier

Loureiro- This is a white grape found in the wines of the Vinho Vede Region of Northern Portugal. This grape is known for its intense aromatics of bay leaf and citrus. Think of this similar to a Sauvignon Blanc

Red Grapes

Touriga Nacional- This is Portugal's flag ship red grape. Used in both the production of Port and Still wine. These grapes produce wine that is Dark and rich with flavors of black fruit and intense gripping tannin. Think of this like Cabernet Sauvignon

Touriga Franca- This is also one of Portugal's most widely planted grapes that is used in both Port style wines as well as dry wines. The wine from this grape is also dark, but more fragrant and slight lighter bodied than Touriga Nacional. Think of this like Cabernet Franc.

Tinta Roriz- This is known in Spain as Tempranillo where it makes the world famous wines of Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Shows cherry, berry, character, sometimes showing hints of mint. Think of this like Merlot.

These are only a few of the grapes used in Portugal but they are the main components of most of the wines. So please for yourself try some wines from Portugal.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Malbec Then and Now

It is impossible to open a wine publication or a blog without reading something about Malbec. In the past decade I have tasted my fair share of Malbec wines, but my first experience was with a Cahors and that is the one that sticks with me. This was not the wine that most people would think of as Malbec. It was not soft fruity and welcoming, but it was dark brooding and damn near angry with gripping tannins and a structure that taunted me to try and get through it. This was my first experience with a wine made from 100% Malbec and I loved it. This Malbec did soften and open up after a few, well 12, hours and was really beautiful. With the advances in wine making, the softer more approachable wine I had to wait 12 hours for, is now available right when you pull the cork or twist the cap. It was that wine that lead me to learn everything I could about first, the Cahors region, and later Argentina. The Malbec grape in many ways is a bit of a phoenix. Dating as far back as the 13th century, the wines of Cahors were widely held in great esteem with a small interruption in trade with England during the Hundred Years War. Cahors caught the attention of Thomas Jefferson who sang its praises as the "black wine of Cahors." Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries it remained popular until 1885 when almost 90% of the vineyards were destroyed by phylloxera. It rebounded more slowly then other regions that were also crushed by phylloxera such as Bordeaux. The region slowly came back but never reclaimed its former glory. Then in February of 1956, the region was once again decimated this time by frost. As Malbec's star was fading in France, it was being widely planted in Argentina. It was first brought to Argentina by Tiburcio Benegas, along with the most advanced technology available at the time in the late 1800's. Tiburcio Benegas, who was the governor of the Mendoza province, is considered one of the pioneers in the wine industry in the Americas. For the better part of the 19th and 20th centuries, Argentina mostly produced cheap wine for local consumption. It was not until the 1990's when the government stabilized and investment poured into the wine industry. It was in Argentina that Malbec really came into its own. They gained popularity very quickly outside of Argentina and were second behind Chile in exports. Then in 2002, the Peso was devalued and tourism boomed as did investment. What we now see in both the quantity and quality of Argentine wine is a direct result of those investments. Wine luminaries such as the Rothschild family, Paul Hobbs, Michel Rolland, and many others have all invested their time and money in the vineyards of Argentina. Imports of Malbec from Argentina have grown by 40% in just the past few years according to some experts . This is the state of Malbec right now, seeing astronomic popularity and continuing to grow. This is great heights for a once ignored humble grape.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Weekly Wine Review

Long Meadow Ranch is a amazing place. They are a full functioning vineyard, farm and ranch, focused on  organic sustainable agriculture. All of the highland cattle are grass fed and raised with no growth hormones or antibiotics. Check out there site

Long Meadow Ranch Ranch House Red 2007

Made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon with supporting amounts of Merlot , Sangiovese and Petite Sirah.
13.5 abv

This wine is intensely aromatic soon as the cork is pulled. Scents of cherry and plum jump out followed by  spice notes. This wine makes its presence known right away. On the palate, the wine grabs you and lets you know it is in charge with gripping tannins.This wine needs food without question, well if not it needs air and lots of it. This a full throttle wine with great fruit, interesting spice and secondary flavors to keep any Cab drinker interested. And all this for $20.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Shop Locally

What is the value of shopping locally? Is it saving money? Is it saving time? Is it supporting your community? Is it helping to rebuild a stronger economy? The answer to these questions is... yes. This is by no stretch of the imagination is an original thought or sentiment, but it is true. I think most people would say that you will spend more at local shops then you would at a big box retailer or mall. And on certain items the price of an item will be lower but was the actual cost lower? First we have to ask where are most big box stores located? The answer is on highways. So you are going to spend time driving to get to a big box store, and the most common vehicle driven is the family SUV or Minivan and what is the MPG on these vehicles? And what is the price of a gallon of gas? In the end you really save pennies on the dollar, but pennies over time make dollars, right? That is true, until you figure what is your time worth. Being a retail store owner I spend most of my time as you imagine inside the four wall of my store, so my time is limited and very valuable. My wife and partner in my business has it even harder. She takes care of our two daughters, the house, the store, and me. I have not figured out if or when she sleeps, so I would say her time is even more valuable. I do not think we are the exception to the rule, I think most of the people we know live lives similar to ours. So when a resource is in short supply and there is a high demand the cost is going to soar. I am not an economist, but I am pretty sure that is how it works. There is no question that shopping locally saves time and as we just pointed out saves money, but how about those last two questions? Supporting your community means supporting the businesses that support the community. If you have kids of your own or nieces or nephews and they are involved in sports look around and you will see the names of the local merchants who sponsor these teams, or how about your local charities, who donated the items up for auction? Support is a two way street if you depend on local merchants for support than they should be able to depend on you. I am not saying that you should exclusively shop at local merchants, but we would love it if you did, all you would have to do is spend $50 of your monthly budget in local independently owned non chain stores. If half of the employed population did this it would bring $42.6 billion dollars into local communities (Statistic provided by 3/50Project) The American small business is the cornerstone of the economy. Small business provides more than half the jobs in the US. Shopping locally will bring more jobs locally and keep tax dollars locally. All of these things will lead to stronger communities and a stronger economy.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


 My wife and I have just celebrated our two year anniversary of owning Maratene's Fine Wine this past Saturday. Turning a established traditional liquor store in to  a fine wine shop is tricky in the best of times, but in the midst of  a financial collapse it added an extra level of pain. I remember in March of 2009 when everyone went into bunker mode I thought "What have I done?" After a brief period of panic and anxiety things picked up again and I began to see a lot of new faces.  We have been lucky that much of the established clientele who bought beer and liquor here but shopped for wine elsewhere are now buying everything with us now. I am also lucky to be in a town that takes great pride in their local shopping and go out of their way to support local business. This coming year will see a rebirth of Maratene's as a wine retailer, and as a member of the larger online community. This is the first post with many to follow. The topics will be about wine and the wine business, but also a more honest view into the world of small mom & pop retail. I want to be unflinchingly honest about the trials of owning and operating a small business in an age of the
wal-mart mentality. So stick with me this may be bumpy and at times uncomfortable but in the end I hope I can make it worth your time and interest.