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    Thomas Jefferson: the nation’s first wine connoisseur

    I’m excited and privileged to be attending the North American Wine Bloggers Conference later this week. On Friday night, we’ll be having dinner at Monticello in honor of America’s first true self educated wine connoisseur, Thomas Jefferson. Did you know that Virginia is the fifth largest producer of wine in the US? I sure didn’t. When designing Monticello, Jefferson started with the most important room: the wine cellar. In addition to his collection from abroad, he most likely envisioned stocking it with some fine American wines. Unfortunately Jefferson did not get to see successful American wines in his lifetime, despite creating vineyards around Monticello. How did Jefferson become such a…

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    How much is that bottle in the window?

    2005 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, California Average retail price ~$55 Average markup: 87% Bottle Markup Mediterrano Ann Arbor, MI $82 49% The Sun Dial Restaurant Atlanta, GA $104 89% Restaurant Bricco West Hartford, CT $110 100% L’Andana Boston, MA $115 109% But wait you say, is that a fair comparison?  Costs vary tremendously across the country. Agreed. So I also took a look at the price of the same wine at three different restaurants in Boston, MA. 2006 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, California Average retail price ~$45 Average markup: 170% Bottle Markup Union Bar and Grill $95 111% Mistral $130 189% Bricco $139 209% Guess I know where I’m going if I…

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    What do wine ratings mean?

    Let’s Talk About … Wine Ratings There are a lot of wines out there. How do you choose? Do you grab the one with the interesting label? The one that you recognize and always buy? Or do you take into account critic’s ratings? And what do those ratings mean anyways? Robert Parker, Wine Advocate Everyone has heard of Robert Parker and his famous 100 point scale. The question for you, as the consumer is, do you like the same types of wines as Parker? If so, then his scoring may help you decide amongst the bottles. Parker specializes in wines from Bordeaux, California and the Rhone Valley. He likes big…

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    To drink or not to drink, that is the question

    Someone gives you a lovely bottle of wine for a special gift. So thoughtful, so appreciated… Wow, you think, I’m going to save this for a special occasion. I better put this into storage. It’s too expensive/fancy/unusual to drink right now. All wines get better with age, right? Not true! Most wines made in the world today (around 90%) are meant to be consumed within a year or two of the vintage (year) on the bottle. All wines change with age, but not all wines change for the better. But wait you say, this is a really nice bottle. What should I do? What are some of the signs that…

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    Horizontally, vertically, or any which way – how do you do it?

    Hosting a wine tasting party can be easy and fun. Don’t be intimidated by thinking you don’t know enough to host one.  Wine tasting is not the same as wine drinking, although these can easily become the same amongst a small group of friends. Wine tasting is done to learn about the wine. The purpose is to develop your palate, your nose, and learn to discern subtleties between wines. Wine drinking on the other hand, well, involves the actual drinking of the wine. Themes You can choose different themes for your wine tasting. A general wine tasting can be a combination of any types of wine, typically a few whites…

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    What goes into the cost of a bottle of wine?

    As you exit your local wine store with a new bottle in your hand, do you ever wonder how much the winemaker actually profits from your purchase? The profit is dependent on the years of storage required and the grapes used, but for your average bottle of wine in the $15 to $30 region, a typical breakdown is shown below. What does that mean for your favorite vineyard? For that $20 bottle of wine, they are pocketing only around $1 in profit. There are those who cite this as a good reason to buy directly from the winery as they can keep more of the profit. Some smaller vineyards now only sell…

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    How American vines first destroyed and then saved Europe

    Ever wonder why you aren’t allowed to bring live plants to another country? The story of the phylloxera blight provides an excellent example of what can happen when non-native species are introduced in new settings. In the mid 1800′s, the great vines of Europe were being destroyed. Most French vineyards were completely wiped out within 20 years. What caused this widespread devastation? Phylloxera, a tiny root louse related to aphids, had taken a free ride across the ocean from the East Coast of the United States. The vineyards of Europe had experienced a powdery mildew fungus to which East Coast vines seemed resistant. As an experiment, vines were brought across…