Monday, March 30, 2009

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23 from Santa Plonk

For the birthday party this past weekend, Santa Plonk brought the 2003 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23. It was described by those in attendance as “DELICIOUS”, and TheWife reports that the birthday girl was “very happy” with the wine. When they asked to have the bottle opened, the sommelier came over and commented how she had been trying to get the wine buyer to bring in Cask 23 for their list. Another guest in attendance knew the wine, and told the story about the 1976 Paris wine tasting. Fabulous wine with a little bit of ceremony – just what was needed.

Ro! Ro! Ro!

Best, Joe Plonk

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Santa Plonk is Coming to Town (in March)!

After the Mollydooker strikeout (see prior post), I was tasked with buying a gift bottle to bring to a nice restaurant in San Francisco. My budget is $150, so the sky is (almost) the limit. Our honored guest must have been very good to somebody for this wonderful gift. I now know what Santa Claus feels like as he tries to figure out how to get the biggest, best-est present off his sleigh and down the chimney to some deserving child.

Santa Plonk is flush with good ideas about exotic wines from far off places, but knows that he must deliver … and deliver big for this important evening. After brief thoughts of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Super Tuscans, I settled on Napa Cabernet. The reindeer well knew the say to the Wine Club in Santa Clara. As I approached the door, I wondered whether the staff would recognize me in my new red outfit and my jolly Ro-Ro-Ro as I passed the usual value-priced offerings for the big boy toys. Should I search for vaunted glories such as Chateau Montelena, Caymus Special Selection, Joseph Phelps Insignia and Opus One, or take a bold step newer cult wines? The mere mention of those wines made Santa Plonk’s cheeks rosy, and gave him a warm feeling inside.

‘Twas Christmas in March and all through the cellar,
There were wonderful wines, but nothing quite stellar.
So, out the Wine Club Santa lept with a cheer,
With fine Cabernet for friends and reindeer.
Dance swing, dance jive and dance honkey-tonk,
Because Christmas coming from dear Santa Plonk. (la-la la-la laaah, la-la la-la laaah)

Tune in Monday when we will reveal Santa Plonk’s selection, and whether it was a hit or a miss at the party.

Best, Joe Plonk

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Hello? Australia?

My search for the 2007 Mollydooker Carnival of Love Shiraz (#9 in the Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2008) for our cousin’s birthday has been eventful. Trying to get a bottle has lead to some strange experiences:

- the 888 number on the Mollydooker web site actually forwards you to a very friendly woman named Anita who is resides in Australia. She was passionate about their wines, and more than willing to help. But, since she is 15,000 miles away (Google Maps says it would take 51 days and 1 hour to drive), there isn’t much to be done about this weekend.

- Southern Wines and Spirits is their US importer. I called their office, but the person who answered the phone couldn’t (or wouldn’t) tell me which retailers in my area carry Mollydooker’s wine. She suggested that I check with BevMo. No southern hospitality there. Dead end number two.

- Each of the three BevMo stores that I contacted gave me a different answer: (i) don’t carry it, (ii) don’t have it in stock, and (iii) there is a bottle at a store in Arizona. Dead end number three.

Think our cousin will notice that it’s Fetzer Eagle Peak Merlot instead?

Best, Joe Plonk

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Surf City Vintners

Surf City Vintners ( of Santa Cruz is group of wineries in close proximity to each other on the west side of the city of Santa Cruz. This association of wineries has sprung up within several warehouses that have been converted into a stylish food and shopping area. Along with an art studio, clothing shops, restaurants, bakery and a few other odds and ends, a visit to taste wine can turn into a day of fun. Some of the more notable stops include:

Pelican Ranch Winery (pinot noir and others including a tasty raspberry dessert wine)
Bonny Doon Tasting Room and cafe (stylish new diggs to the world's most eclectic winery)
Sones Cellars (featuring Santa Cruz's finest Zinfandel)
Vino Tabi (winery and micro-crush pad)
Dragonfly Cellars (small winery selling Durif and Malbec under Odonata label)
Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard (home of wonderful Durif)
Trout Gulch Vineyards (Aptos' finest pinot noir has operations here)
Equinox Champagne Cellar (high end sparkling wine from Santa Cruz mountains)
Sarticious Gin / Alexander Cellars

Also, not to be missed is the Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery ( which features excellent organic beers with friendly, hip staff. Beers include pale ale, india pale, amber, brown, stout and porter (erp...) When I was there, the scruffy guy behind the bar was blasting AC/DC, and offered me a friendly smile and a pint. Good stuff even to a wine-guy.

And, just in case you were confused, Surf City Vintners is not located in Huntington Beach.

Best, Joe Plonk

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with Ireland Wines!

Ireland is a designated by the EU as a wine-producing region. Despite being best known for whiskey and beer, Ireland includes several small wineries that produce several unique varietals for local consumption. Mostly located in County Cork, they range in size but their vineyards are generally 5 acres or less. Some of Ireland’s better known wineries include:

Bunratty Winery ( Located at Bunratty Castle in County Clare, Bunratty Winery primary produces mead (honey wine) and potcheen (irish moonshine) from one of the castle’s coach houses.

Longueville House. ( Famous hotel in Mallow with 1.1 acres of vines, including Muller Thurgau and Reichensteiner varietals, made into wine just for their restaurant.

Blackwater Valley Vineyard. Located in Mallow, produces several thousand bottles of wine yearly from its five acres of vines. This winery produces the white grape varietal Reichensteiner for sales to local stores.

If you are interested in the “new world” winery experience for St. Patrick’s Day, I suggest Irish Vineyards ( located in Vallecito, California (Amador Valley region), which produces a large variety of red and white wines and jams. Or, you could just have a glass of my favorite Irish wine -- Guinness!

Best, Joe Plonk

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bread and Cheese Wine

I recently had friends over for a small, impromptu wine tasting. As our guests arrived, we opened a bottle of pinot noir to enjoy with appetizers. My thinking was that a lighter wine like pinot noir would pair well with fruit, cheese (yes, Joe Plonk likes brie), sourdough and other snacks. After an evening of steak dinner and bruising red wines from several well known Napa and Sonoma wineries, a guest told me that she “liked the bread and cheese wine the best.” While confused at first, I realized she was referring to the excellent 2006 Windy Oaks Diane’s Block Pinot Noir we tasted earlier in the evening. This wine was done in a slightly fruit forward Burgundy style, and wowed everyone at the party with its elegance and grace. Well done!

Best, Joe Plonk

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Joe Winemaker

This weekend Joe Plonk and TheWife joined forces with our friends FranKen to enter the world of winemaking. Our currently unnamed venture involves Vino Tabi, a custom micro-crush winery in Santa Cruz, California. We’ve joined their Barrel Buddy program where we will own a barrel of wine that is housed in their custom wine making facility. We will be participating in winemaking classes, and enjoying a hands-on approach to each step in the winemaking process from harvest, to crush, to winemaking, to bottling. We know lots about consuming wine, but nothing about making it. For our private label wine, our new friend Katie Fox of Vino Tabi helped us select Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot as varietals for our first bottling. Vino Tabi provides education and tools (and oversight by an experienced winemaker) to help new winemakers like us to make the wine of our dreams. No, I won’t be quitting my day job, but hope to gain a better understanding of this magical process with good friends.

Watch out Bob Mondavi! Joe Plonk’s private label is coming in 2010…

Best, Joe Plonk

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Top Five Glass of Wine (#1 - Paterno di Calabria, Cosenza, Italy, winemaker unknown)

Picking my favorite glass of wine wasn’t even a contest. While traveling with TheWife and her parents, we visited Paterno di Calabria, the birthplace of TheWife’s Nonna, a short drive outside of Cosenza, Italy. I wanted to purchase a bottle of local wine to bring home for the rest of family to enjoy. After a humorous, hand-waiving conversation with a young man who worked at the town gellateria, I inquired about wine from the town Paterno and not the broader Cosenza region. (TheWife is an olive skinned beauty who immediately melts in with the locals, whereas I am known worldwide as “Senior Eng-lay-si”.) Through a series of gestures, our new friend instructed us to wait while he jumped in his Alfa and sped off into the hillside. About 20 minutes later, this young man drove up with a two liter bottle of homemade red wine from a small vineyard on his family’s property just down the road. The wine had been poured into a used bottle with its cork covered by aluminum foil. His gift to us was more than this light, fruity red wine. It embodied everything that is wonderful about wine – friendship, love and a passion for living. That is one glass that I will never forget.

Best, Joe Plonk

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Top Five Glasses of Wine (#2 -- 1997 Staglin Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon)

“Order the Constant Diamond Mountain Cab” had been repeated to annoyance by the guy at the end of the table. And, when that bottle arrived, it was indeed super tasty which only elevated his self-perceived importance. So, when it came to my turn to order a bottle, I took aim square at the feather in his tiara. The 1997 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon must have also included a pinch of poison, because its massive Napa goodness paralyzed him right in his tracks. The deflation of humpty’s head was only icing on the cake to this wonderful wine that lingers glowingly in my memory.

Best, Joe Plonk

P.S. The Wife responded to this posting with: "Revenge is a dish best served with a Napa Cab." That's my girl!

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