Tom's blog

I'll have some wine with my coffee

I met again with Jon Priest to taste some of his great pinot noirs and chardonnay from Etude. I first met Jon more than a decade ago while touring Carneros. He was filling the shoes of Etude's founder, Tony Soter. Treasury Wine Estates had just bought the winery, but Soter was obligated to stay on for a spell. Soter's legacy was pinot noir -- a passion he pursues to this day  but in the Willamette Valley.

Jon Priest, winemaker and general manager Etude Wines, Carneros.

Jon Priest, winemaker and general manager Etude Wines, Carneros.

Priest doesn't have much stock in what he calls "cocktail wines," those pinot noirs that are loaded with extracted fruit, oak, alcohol and especially sugar. Meomi and Menage et Tois come to mind, although he was too professional to cite any of the pinot noir producers he puts in the "cocktail" camp.

Priest said one day he was talking to an associate and said aloud that the next thing they'll be mixing with wine is coffee. Not long after that, someone did. Again, he wouldn't mention the wine, but I knew he was referring to Gallo's new Apothic Dark Roast. It's a Frankenstein. I don't know whether to serve it with my morning cereal or my evening dessert.

Robert Mondavi used to add wine to his morning coffee, if I remember his biography correctly. But he was one of a kind in more ways than one. Perhaps it was an Italian custom.

I asked Priest why someone hasn't yet mixed beer with wine. Today I read someone has! Curious Brewery in Great Britain adds chardonnay to its sour ale to make Curiouser & Curiouser. Let's  hope it never leads England's shores or, worse, starts a trend.

Wine has been a blending liquid in a lot of mixed drinks -- mimosas are probably the most well known. But that combination seems to make more sense than beer.

I can't wait until they add wine to Gatorade.



Jammy red wines just won't go away

I naively thought that American wine masters were turning away from the extracted, ripe fruit bombs. Alas, I am wrong.

If there is one characteristic that separates American red wines from their Old World counterparts, it's that there is little that is refined and unoaked. While Bordeaux and Burgundy, for instance, produce delicate, sensual red wines, many large producers in California, Oregon and Australia prefer to impress you with residual sugar, lots of alcohol and robust, jammy fruit flavors. Sadly, it's what American consumers seem to want.

Just look at the success of Gallo's Apothic Wines or Meiomi pinot noir, Menage et Tois, and a host of zinfandels that leave considerable sugar in their wines to give them a roundness and disguise what is often a poor wine. Apothic has even introduced a new wine -- Brew -- that infuses cold-brew coffee into a motley collection of red grape varieties. You could spread it on toast and serve it with your morning coffee. Other wines sport names that broadcast their style: Big Smooth and Double Black are two I recently tasted. 

It has been known for decades that Americans have a Coca-Cola palate even though most consumers profess to like dry wines. Residual sugar covers tannin and other acids many find offensive, but they also disguise inferior grapes.  Rarely do these sweet concoctions come from sub-appellations. That's why they are cheap and unfortunately so sweet that they can't possibly complement any food besides cake.