Thursday, January 29, 2009

Welcome to California (But You Could Have Stayed Home)

California is certainly well known as a producer of many fine wines, from a variety of different appellations. In my opinion, the wine drinking experience would be incomplete without some understanding of the qualities and characteristics of Napa cabernet, Sonoma pinot noir, Amador zinfandel and Monterey chardonnay, amongst others. If you’re interested in trying something outside-the-box, here are some of my personal favorites from the road less traveled:

Gruet Winery (Albuquerque, New Mexico) Methode Champenoise, Brut, non-vintage

Palmer Vineyards (Long Island, New York) 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon

Mount Pleasant Winery (St. Louis, Missouri) 2004 Vintage Port

Enjoy your trip, wherever your destination.

Best, Joe Plonk

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Wine, Waves and Soul at Longboard Vineyards

Longboard Vineyards has a unique tasting room in Healdsburg, California. Founded by a surfer named Oded, the winery focuses its efforts on Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Their tasting room boasts an array of surf-themed art, vintage and new surfboards from famous shapers from around the world, and a surf documentary playing on a big screen TV with a Dick Dale soundtrack. Oded is great supporter of pairing wine with food, saying, "Relax, it's only frickin' wine...enjoy it with food you like and trust nothing but your own palate." I couldn't have said it better.

Their web site rhetorically asks the question “What does surfing have to do with wine?” Answer: “Try balance, harmony and nature for starters. Surfing is part sport, part meditation and all working within, rather than against, nature. Winemaking? Pretty similar approach.”

While perhaps a bit of a stretch, the winery combines two of Joe Plonk’s favorite pastimes – surfing and wine tasting. If they add a basketball hoop and offer free popcorn, I’ll be moving in!

Best, Joe Plonk

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Public Musings Regarding Semi-Private Blogging

Creating a wine blog has been a lot of fun, and as soon as it’s not fun Joe Plonk will be Joe History. Along the way, I’ve learned a number of things:

- Drawing attention to your blog is critical, whether you’re trying to create a community or generate advertising revenue. If nobody knows you’re out there, it is impossible to develop a following. I’m not interested in sending a lot of spam to people who might not have interest, but that seems to be the route that many take. I’ve bit turned off by people who try to push their blog on you, but suspect those folks get results.

- I have made 43 blog postings since September 8, 2008. There have been 450 unique visitors to the site, and there are about 10 to 15 regular followers. Not exactly the New York Times, but I’m proud of my following. I’m certainly appreciative, and a bit amazed, that anybody spends time reading my thoughts. Thank you!

- 41 of the 43 posts have been generally positive in tone, and of that group I’ve been contacted by 3 recipients of praise (7%). Of the 2 less positive posts, I was contacted by 1 party involved (50%). No, I’m not going negative.

- Blogging is not a money making endeavor. Using a free Google Blog account and Adsense, I’ve earned about enough money to buy case of Two Buck Chuck. Most people who do make money either (i) address topics of mass interest and have an infrastructure to support research and staffing (see the Huffington Post or Drudge Report), or (ii) blog to support a related product or services sales organization. You could make more money collecting bottle caps than blogging.

- For wine bloggers, there is a great support network called Open Wine Consortium ( On that site, you can find resources, discussion topics about blogging, the latest scoop about industry trends, and other information of interest to wine community. You will also find that there are a lot of other people with better wine web sites than you, such as Two Divine Girls blog (, and Wine Life Today blog (, and the super cool site for Vin Strategies (, etc. There are lots of creative people out there. I'm not sure I'm one of them, but I'm the guy to call if you need to move heavy furniture or want to empty your wine cellar.

Your thoughts/comments about how I might increase your enjoyment of the blog would be appreciated.

Best, Joe Plonk

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We Found the Rabbit

In response to my Monday blog posting, I was contacted by some very nice folks at Rabbit Ridge Winery. They are sending a replacement bottle of the 2007 Barrel Cuvee Zinfandel that I referenced in my blog, along with a complementary bottle of their 2007 Paso Robles Estate Zinfandel. A very cool gesture on their part, and not what I was expecting. They suggested my difficulty probably arose from a bad enclosure, and advised that their Barrel Cuvee Zinfandel was one of their best sellers. I suspect they are right about the cause of my difficulty with the wine, and look forward to trying it again.

We found the Rabbit, and it seems he knows something about customer service too…

Best, Joe Plonk

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Where's the Rabbit?

This weekend, I opened a bottle of 2007 Rabbit Ridge Winery Zinfandel, Central Coast, Barrel Cuvee which cost $7. Upon her first sip, TheWife said “Ugh. Where’s the Rabbit?” This was the second bottle of the night following a Rosenblum Zinfandel Vintner’s Cuvee XXX which cost $9 (see, the Plonks practice what they preach). The differences in the two couldn’t be more dramatic. Although not a blockbuster, the Rosenblum had a warm zinfandel flavor with pepper, raspberry and cherry notes, and was a good value at $9.

The Rabbit Ridge by comparison was a weedy, sour wine that would have been trounced by anything Two Buck Chuck. All I could think was that I’m going to have a headache the next day. This experience makes me wonder why Rabbit Ridge would have put its excellent brand reputation at risk. I understand that not every bottling is going to be perfect, and experimentation leads to innovation and improvements. But, selling this clearly inferior product does nothing more than harm their brand. Yes, I paid $7 for this wine because the label said Rabbit Ridge, but now I’m certainly going to think twice before buying one of their $20 offerings.

Rabbit Ridge relocated its operations from Sonoma to Paso Robles in 2001. Perhaps they left the bunny behind…

Best, Joe Plonk

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Real Hope in a Bottle

Hope Wine was created in 2006 by Jacob Kloberdanz to help raise money and spread awareness for numerous causes. Their 2006 Pink Ribbon Chardonnay supports breast cancer; their 2005 Red Ribbon Merlot supports AIDS research; and their 2005 Puzzle Ribbon Cabernet Sauvignon supports Autism research. They donate 50% of their profits to the particular cause identified in the label of each wine. Hope Wine labels have a bright ribbon on the front which designates the charity that will be the recipient of their donation. All wines come from California grapes, and are medium priced good value drinkers. As the blessed parents of a child (Pip Plonk, we’ll call her) diagnosed with Autism, Joe and TheWife are particularly interested in Hope Wine’s Cabernet Sauvignon.

Autism is a disease that directly affects children. As many as 1 in 150 children are diagnosed with Autism, and those numbers continue to grow. Every 20 minutes another child is diagnosed with Autism. Also heavily affected by the growing numbers of Autism are the mothers and fathers of the children. Currently, over 1% of households have a child that has been diagnosed with Autism. Autism is a brain development disorder characterized by impairments in social interaction and communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior, all exhibited before a child is three years old. These characteristics distinguish autism from milder autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Most recent reviews estimate a prevalence of one to two cases per 1,000 people for autism, and about six per 1,000 for ASD, with ASD averaging a 4.3:1 male-to-female ratio. This information was copied from the Hope Wine web site. More information can be found at,, and

Savoring tasty wine and supporting a good cause – it doesn’t get any better than that!

Best, Joe Plonk

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Red Guitar Hits Right Notes

Tempranillo is Spain’s best known grape, with bright flavors and smells reminiscent of raspberry and blackberry flavors. Kissin’ cousin to America’s Zinfandel, Italy’s Primitivo and Croatia’s Crljenak Kastelanski grapes, it is a hearty yet fruity wine that is well suited for singing, dancing and joyous occasions. Spain boasts grapes grown on ancient vines, in some cases going back 100 years. In this bottling, from the Navarra region, you will find dark, powerful and rich fruit flavors without breaking the bank. Available everywhere including Target for about $9.

The Red Guitar brand is produced by Constellation Brands, Inc. (NYSE: STZ), headquartered in Fairport, New York, which is about as far from Spain’s vineyard region is you can get. The web site says: “It is a wine that sings of the land of the bullfight, tapas, and the art of living well.”

As for me, I say OLE!

Best, Joe Plonk

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Three Thieves in a Jug

Three Thieves are the makers of a line of value priced wines that embody the spirit of the old west – specifically the wild and untamed revelry of bandits. Three Thieves makes several different bottlings, including a good value 1.0 liter box wine called Bandit. What has caught my attention is their 2005 Jug Zinfandel. Priced at $9 for the screw-top, 1 liter jug bottle, their deliver a jammy, peppery spiced wine from the heart of California. This is a terrific wine for parties, pizza, hamburgers or anything else that pairs well with a smooth drinking red wine. Winemaker’s Notes and Comments say:

“On a mission to bring the joy of wine to the masses, the Three Thieves headed out for the territory—the Lodi territory that is—famed for producing Zinfandel, the all-American grape. There they found excellent sources for their precious jug o’red. Thief/winemaker Joel Gott then took a little side trip to adjacent Amador County to put a little Gold Country spice into the blend. To keep the snobs away, the wine is bottled in a retro, 1 liter, clear glass jug.”

I’d steal (or buy) that kind of wine any day!

Best, Joe Plonk

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Wine Drinkers: Take the Pepsi Challenge

In the 1970s, I took the Pepsi Challenge at a local shopping center. A representative from Pepsi had set up a table with two white paper cups: one containing Pepsi and the other containing Coca-Cola. After tasting both drinks, I choose one of the two cups and then a screen was lifted revealing my preference. Like a small majority of Americans, I picked Pepsi instead of Coke in the taste contest.

We as wine drinkers have known about this simple process (using appropriate stemware, of course) for many years. Tasting wines mano-a-mano avoids many variances that often skew results, such as food pairings, wine temperature, decanting times, and how you feel one day versus the next. Most of us do not have perfect palates, so the best way is to blindly compare the wine. Zinfandel A in glass #1. Zinfandel B in glass #2. You be the judge.

As for me, make mine RC cola.

Best, Joe Plonk

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Listen to Your Taste Buds

Saturday Night Live regularly broadcasts comedy skits that advertise made-up products.  One of these funny skits was, in fact, an actual commercial for Budweiser.  The hilariously funny series of skits included several of the SNL cast inside a mouth dressed up as Taste Buds.  A variety of foods were thrown into a mouth, but the Taste Buds were satisfied only when doused with Budweiser beer.  Silly, stupid and brilliant all at once.   

While my taste buds bristle at the thought of being doused with Bud, the skit highlights that wine consumers should pursue what makes their taste buds happy.  You can use Drink Plonk to track your personal preferences, and to get recommendations from consumers who have similar preferences.  My taste buds long for heavy but sweet and jammy, peppery red wine. 

Hey Taste Buds, Zinfandel is coming soon!