Sunday, May 29, 2011

Apples -> Grapes

This original Apple packing box label was used on lug boxes of Blue Lakes Apples in the early 1900's. The apple 'pictured' is a Rome Beauty - my grandmother's favorite. You can see two of the many medals I.B. Perrine won for his fruit: Nebraska State Fair in Omaha, 1896 and the Paris, France International Exposition of 1900. On the left of the label there is a horse drawn stage coach descending down the north grade hairpin turn road that took I.B. seven years to build - it is still the main road into the Blue Lakes Canyon today. In a small frame on the right side of the label is a depiction of Shoshone Falls [the Niagra of the West] by the Oregon Short Line Railroad.
Apples would have been designated in the lower left blank space for "Variety" and the intended recipient's address in the space marked "To_____"
Many vineyardists I have known say that wherever you can grow good apples, you can grow good grapes. That is why so many acres in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho have been converted from apple orchards to vineyards. Historically, apples of the heirloom varieties produced good crops only every other year. Bankers like to have annual income guarantees when they loan money to farmers. Many orchard farmers could not get loans for apple orchard necessities in the early 70's, but they could get loans for grapes - especially wine grape vineyards. The growth spurt of vineyards was based on a flowering of the trends indicating wine was a good investment for the predicted increase in future wine consumers. Two things about this strike me as sad and funny - a number of heritage apple varieties disappeared or became endangered species.  Bankers would most likely not get any return on investments in vineyards for at least 5 years. Bankers are born Gamblers!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wine Consumerism

It is often enlightening to read marketing reports of current consumer trends. As the population of 70 million millennials become 21 years of age and start buying alcoholic beverages, their wine habits are more diverse than any previous generation. They grew up with the Ipod and seem to enjoy the random lack of structure that setting things on "shuffle" affords them. They are not easily intimidated by "experts"; they are not afraid of screw tops or wine in boxes. They love to explore the world, take some risks, and drink wine to have fun. They are not likely to plan a dinner with wines matching courses as their parents may have done. They most likely will have a buffet party with their favorite foods on the table - pizza, sushi, wraps, tacos and a side table with a variety of different wines that often have wild names and crazy labels. Marketing to them necessitates visible and audible quick catch unique personality, creativity as well as informational clarity and authenticity.

Only 27 % of people buy and drink luxury brands; 73 % do not. Women buy 75% of all wine, mostly because they plan the household meals and buy wines to accompany and complement specific food.

There are six key wine consumer 'types' : The Enthusiast, who explores and buys with adventure, the Image Seeker who buys only wines rated over 90 to impress others, the Savvy Shopper who loves to find a good bargain, the Traditionalist who sticks with the tried and true, the Satisfied Sipper who doesn't want to know why or how a wine pleases - just that it does, the Overwhelmed who cannot decide without help from others.

A look at which traditional table wines and varietals US consumers purchased in 2004, when, for the first time, Americans led the market, buying over 160 million cases of wine. Chardonnay leads with 41.5 million cases or 26%, White Zinfandel was second at 22.8 million cases. Red blends = 31.5, Merlot = 21.9, Cabernet Sauvignon = 19.7, Sauvignon Blanc = 5.8, Red Zin and Pinot Noir = 3.1 each, Syrah = 1.8, Pinot Gris [or Grigio] = 1.6  and all others = 10.6 million cases.

For more in depth consumer and marketing information, visit Constellation Wine's Genome Project.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

“Dandelion Wine”

Pick dandelions from an open field or yard far from any insecticide spraying, and if you can, pick early in the season when the leaves of the plant are still tender. Newly opened flowers are also ideal. You should have a large soup pot with a lid and 2 clean gallon glass jugs, a wire mesh strainer and 2 fermentation locks. 12 clean wine bottles with stoppers - corks, o-ring glass or screw tops.
8 cups whole dandelion blossoms, stems removed
16 cups water
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lemon
Peel of 1 large orange coarsely chopped
Peel of 1 lemon coarsely chopped
2 ¼ teaspoons brewers or Champagne yeast
¼ cup warm water
6 cups sugar
8 whole cloves
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and diced
1. Wash the dandelion blossoms well in a colander. Put them in a pot with the water, orange and lemon juice, and the orange and lemon peels. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for 2-3 minutes.Turn off the heat and add the whole cloves and ginger. 
Let cool and sit, covered for 24-48 hours.
2. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit for 10 minutes.
3. Add the sugar to the dandelion liquid and stir. Add the yeast mixture as well and stir.
4. Fit a large gallon jug with a funnel and fit the funnel with a mesh strainer. Ladle in the liquid one spoonful at a time, pressing down onto the dandelions as they go into the mesh strainer to ensure all of the liquid is extracted. Dump the dandelion and peels into an empty bowl to allow each new batch of liquid to go through easily.
5.  Fit the jugs with the fermentation locks. Let rest for one week in a cool dark place as the fermentation begins.. 
6. Strain the liquid again into bottles using the funnel.  Then cork the bottles, or use bottles with screw on tops, and store them in a dark cool place for 3 to 8 weeks and up to a year. This kind of wine is best consumed while it is young.
Some recipes call for just petals not whole buds. Fermentation can sometimes stop before it is complete, meaning it’s “stuck.” This can happen when there aren’t enough micronutrients for the yeast. You increase the chance of success by using whole buds because it adds more micronutrients, but you will have a slightly more bitter wine. I’m okay with that, I like a little bitter. But if you’re not, try the petals only. This will require more picking and separating.

Monday, May 9, 2011


The Century Club an organization founded in London, with a logical, educational aspect on wine tasting - you become a member by documenting 100 wine grape varietals you have tasted. The Century Club certification is free - however, Mr. De Long sells charts, maps and tasting reservations for the annual tasting/meetings in London and NYC. There are also American Chapters of this organization.

I don't know the details of forming a Century Club tasting group - I know they are relatively new. Here is the link to their website: Wine Century Club. The old Chevalier du Taste Vin and Les Amis du Vin were French "clubs" - I think they may now exist only in France. There are also guilds and courts - Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers headquartered in London - certification organizations that are based on very rigid testing and writing a thesis related to Wine [MW] ... or the alcohol service business [MS] and are very expensive and prestigious - there are only 20 MW's since 1990 in the USA, only three people in the world who are certified both MW and MS. Doug Frost is the only one in the USA.

American organizations have started widely varied certification programs - for knowledge of wines of the world, qualified wine judges and the organizers expect to make money. I am skeptical that certification will mean much in the future - except that it may be easier to get a job / promotion in the wine business, as Leslie Young has recently been promoted to manager of the CO-OP Wine Shop. To my knowledge, she is the only one working there with certification credentials.