Oenophilia – An obsessive disorder or just a way of life?

Swirl, Sniff, and Spit with your friend, Patrick

Someone Just doesn’t get IT

So what did it take to bring me out of my self-imposed blogging retirement?  A great concept was recently publicly misrepresented and maligned in a reply to a celebratory blog posting.  Twitter Taste Live has grown to be one of the most popular regular wine events ever.  Affectionately referred to by its hashtag #TTL, Twitter Taste Live, and it’s upcoming April 14th Hospice du Rhone tasting, was promoted and praised by by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat‘s Heather Irwin.  Ms. Irwin is a member of the main-stream media who is also keeps a great blog called Bite Club (Be sure to check out her postings!)

Back to my indignation!  Some luddite who “doesn’t get it” chose to really try to ridicule #TTL and it’s followers in quite a nasty tone.  Rather than use Ms. Irwin’s blog as a forum for mudslinging, I have chosen to come back to the world of “Macro-Blogging” and let my legions of devoted followers know what has gotten my Irish up – even if only my name and liver are Irish!

Here’s the recap:


This is social networking gone too far.  I am all for Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Digg, LinkedIn, etc., but these kind of events are simply asinine. How terribly inconvenient and old-school it must be to communicate with people using your voice and words and expressions. How awkward it must be to actually interact with people you are in a room with without using a BlackBerry or iPhone. The need to publish your thoughts (of the moment) to a group who are either right next to you, or are not next to you and have no frame of reference is just silly. And if you’ve ever read the “transcripts” of these kind of events you know what it is to want to own a gun and draw a target on your temple. The arrogance of public wine-tasting combined with the arrogance of Twitter (you know, that idea that people actually care what you’re doing at all times and where you’re doing it?) makes for a foul-tasting blend of narcissism and desperation. A delight for budget bloggers and self-promoters, but also a tragic and transparent attempt at “connecting” with the next generation of wine drinkers through technology instead of taste-buds.”Online Tasting.” Wow. It says it all right there and yet people still pay money to participate in such garbage “events.” Let’s keep going and try “Online Molecular Gastronomy,” “Online Farmer’s Markets,” and “Online Culinary Arts Certificates.” I might have to wait for the NYTimes to come down on this joke of a social experience for it to wind down, but really? It’s already done.


Twitter Taste Live has been going on for a year now and has continued to grow in popularity! The wines that will be tasted are published in advance at http://www.twittertastelive.com – along with some convenient suggestions as to where they might be purchased on-line. People meet at the agreed time and contribute using all sorts of social media. Usually there are gatherings to share the bottles and expense with other tasters, but when I can’t get a babysitter, my wife and I taste in our living room. We have a great time discussing the wines we are tasting with our friends who are on-line and tasting as well.

Last month, about two dozen tasters gathered at Healdsburg’s very cool Palette Art Cafe to taste several Pinot Noir together and then share their notes, thoughts, and opinions with the hundreds of others who were trying the same wines simultaneously at the Jug Shop in S.F. as well as in other places around the country. We also had tasters Tweeting in from the U.K. and China! Not only did we get to taste some interesting wines, we also enjoyed some great food at one of the grooviest establishments in Sonoma County.

The days of the snooty grand somellier tasting out of a silver “Tastevin” are at an end. The wine critic no longer has the last say. We have entered the era where anyone can sip some wine and tell anyone else what they think about it. The goal of #TTL is to engage more and more people in conversations about something they enjoy. Voyeurs are welcome – but it is really all about tasting together. Tasting wine and sharing has been around for a very long time. Now our reach is even broader with Twitter, 12seconds, viddler, UStream, Facebook, Skype, Ning communities, our own websites and so many others.

Heaps of Sonoma County wine lovers will pour into Estate on April 17. Hundreds others will get together in restaurants, bars, and dining rooms all around the world. Why not join in the fun? http://www.twittertastelive.com or #TTL if you are on Twitter!

There it is folks.  I chose to not even address this fellow’s diatribe, but rather just tell people what Twitter Taste Live is about for me.  Go on to Bite Club and read Ms. Irwin’s really wonderful posting about Twitter Taste Live.  Then see what has gone on in the comments and be sure to be productive when you chose to take on the apostates!  See you on the 17th!!!

What’s a blocked blogger to do? What isn’t he to do?

I have been so conspicuous by my lack of postings that many who just followed this blog feared I had fallen into a tank of white zinfandel.  Until the muse strikes me (upside the head and really hard for not having paid attention to her screaming at me for the past severl months), look for me as Patrick Llerena on Facebook and @Oenophilus on Twitter.  If you are interested in what I may have to say about other wines I have tasted recently, look for reviews by Oenophilus on Snooth and @OenoTweets on Twitter.

So what have I really been doing?  Other than pounding the V.C. pavement to help us grow Iridesse Wines, we have devoted much of our energy to our Iridesse Winery Consulting company.  Are you in the Wine Biz?  Do you want to be in the Wine Biz?  Do you want to stay in the Wine Biz?  Our company Iridesse Winery Consulting had a website, a blog, a Facebook Group Page, a Facebook Fan Page, and always room for more clients! We do “Soup to Nuts” coverage for just about anything with which a company may need some help harnessing to give them an extra push in this economy.


Area 51…WBW…Madeira or not

I actually know nothing about aliens and what they might know about Madeira, fortified wines, etc.  But since it is Wine Blogging Wednesday #51, I pulled a wine out of my cellar that I had hidden away, out of public view: Rombauer VineyardsJOY – Late Harvest Chardonnay Carneros. The Rombauers – one of Napa’s royal families – are reknown for their chardonnay.  Not to say they don’t do a great job with all they produce, but I loved their Chard even before coming to wine.  The JOY is a barrel fermented botrytis Chardonnay that was picked at 45 degrees Brix at harvest, left with over 27% residual sugar and less than 10% alcohol.  Does this wine qualify for WBW #51?

Well, it’s not Madeira.  However it is oxidized and about as brown as iced tea!  Was this intentional?  I think not.  Should I have kept this bottle for about ten years?  Probably not.  It looks a lot more like maple syrup than the pale golden nectar I bought well before #43 learned the secrets of Area 51.

It is as viscous as syrup!  A beautifully complex nose filled with apricot, hibiscus, almond, honeysuckle, thyme, baked apples, and Meyers lemon peel.  The wine explodes on the tongue and coats the mouth like custard on the back of a spoon.  Overripe peaches and various nuts lead the flavors but are tempered by shining acids that have held on rather brightly around the honey and butterscotch.  As I would hope, a long, long citrusy finish that shows the wine’s Carneros roots.

While this wine – or any late harvest chardonnay – would not be my first selection off of a restaurant list, I do like it.  The toffee-brown color frightened me at first.  Thoughts of Kaluha and Tia Maria frightened me; they are o.k. in cocktails, but not what I want to have with Foie Gras or stinky Stilton.  Nevermind.  The Rombauers consistently bring JOY!  But next time… I’ll have some Madeira, M’Dear!

Cute Little Bottle!

So here I am, minding my own business, looking through our wine closet for something to drink with dinner.  All of a sudden, it jumps out and grabs me!  This cute little innocuous bottle that was standing on a shelf (ignored for Bacchus-knows how long) demanded to be consumed. I have no idea from whence it came.  A 375 ml, dark green, bottle that could best be described a portly.

Turns out my little buddy is from Villa Sparina in Dolcetto d’Acqui, Gavi, Italy.  The 2000 <<Bric Maiolo>> was imported by Domaine Select Wine Estates, meaning it could have been a gift from my old friend Jeffrey Meisel who I met when he managed the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant – Oh so many years ago.   Well in the end…Who cares where it came from? It’s open and in my glass now!

This Dolcetto is dark, blood red, just starting to show a little age on the edges.  Ripe plum, black olive, almond, and licorice all teased my nose really peaking my interest in what is to come. The mouth is just as interesting. Add other fruits like black cherry and red berries, and lavender to the mix with very soft chalky tannins rounding the mouth as the finish shows cedar and spice, a little tangerine peel and juicy acids that go long.

It paired nicely with my wife’s lovely Butternut Squash Risotto, but I could easily imagine it with Salumi or other savory meats.

WBC: What a Day! And that was only the 1st half day!!!

The 2008 Wine Bloggers Conference is in full swing in Santa Rosa – our BIG city here in Sonoma County.  Over 175 bloggers from around the country have gathered for a weekend of wine, conferences, wine, breakouts, wine, meals, wine, friendly competition, wine, live blogging, wine, presentatons, meet & greets, wine, a keynote…. and did I mention there is a lot of wine here?

We started off with a ride out to Kick Ranch, grower for a number of notable boutique wines. I got to meet up with some of my favorite bloggers.  That is a very interesting dynamic here.  Most of us only know each other in cyberspace.  We follow each others blogs, we read each others reviews, we are Facebook friends, and we follow each other on Twitter.  Now we meet at the top of a vine-covered hill in Sonoma County and read name-tags as we squint at faces to see if someone might resemble their avatar or profile picture.  Then we embrace like old friends.  Pretty cool.  I will post more on Kick Ranch in the future.

Then we returned to the fabulous Flamingo Resort to get started with the meat of the conference.  Joel Vincent, our fearless leader got the conference rolling.  Joel is an amazing man.  He took a community of disparate individuals that shared a common passion and enabled us to create a community that we call the Open Wine Consortium.  He holds it all together and pushed us forward.

For me, the main event was the Wine Blogging Live – speed dating – wine tasting event.  There were 16 tables of bloggers all plugged-in and hooked-up.  Winemakers came around to each table and had five minutes to taste us on the wines and to talk us up as we blogged, Twittered, recorded, or scribed about the wines.  Pretty wild ride!  I chose to review the wines on Twitter.  If you follow me as Oenophilus or subscribe to my OenoTweets feed, you can click on that name and get the reviews.  I think most of the bloggers were with me and loved this event. 

We finished this and went on to the Blind Tasting Competition sponsored by the Culinary Institute of America.  Tracy Dutton – Head Wino at Greystone, CIA’s Napa Valley campus – led the comparative, multi-leveled tasting.  I got bumped out in the very first round.  In my defense, I think my two samples got mixed up. No! Really! Hard to pick Gewurtz and Viognier out of the air and just label the samples opposite!  Anyways, the eventual victor was Doug Cook of Able Grape.  This was well deserved as he is one of the most amazing wine gurus I have met.  By the way, If you don’t have Able Grape on your toolbar or bookmarked or widgeted on your own blog/site…get busy.  When it comes to wine, “Google” is no longer a verb; AbleGrape is the word!

We then retired to the next series of tastings! Yes. More wine. The Winegrowers of Dry Creek plied us with some gorgeous wines from that celebrated Sonoma County appellation in their cute hospitality suite by the pool.

Where the Pf#<% have I been?

The Wine Bloggers Conference starts today so I thought I should get up off of my Divan (where I have been swirling, sniffing, and not-spitting while contemplating the complexities things enological) and get blogging.  Where have I been?  Why have you not been either educated or entertained at this once ever so hip URL?  Lots of lame excuses…some not so lame…but excuses none the less.  ENOUGH!

After from some serious misunderstandings with WordPress upon moving my domain, I have decided that a few brilliant posts from recent months are lost to the ether.  We have also been really focused on the development of our business – moving from a small botique brand into a larger wine company.  As many of you will know, the hunt for venture capital is always a rollercoaster ride.  The global economic crisis hit just as we were moving forward and has made things as nerve-wracking for us as for millions of others. So enough with the excuses.  I’m back and  blogging with a vengeance!

September saw a cool, last-minute, short-notice trip to Germany.  Unfortunately, we went to the only part of Germany that makes NO wine.  No prob.  We tried new and interesting wines from all over and drank even more beer. Look for pics on Flickr, videos on Viddler, and reviews on Snooth.

I did my usual turn as the Wine Educator for the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.  Over 300 smart folks realized if they went to my Wine 101 workshop, they would get to drink free wine. I did learn this year, that if I didn’t spit, I was much funnier by the third class of the day! I did seven over the course of the weekend with 8-14 wines poured at each class depending on my mood.  I also got to get on my soapbox about my favorite topics ranging from the politics of organic certification to new closures vs. cork to “Chardonnay/Sulphur/red wine/California wines give me headaches.  What should I do?”  WooHoo! Lots of fun and we tried some great wines.

My sister-in-law Samantha (btw: Happy B-day to you!) , who took over operations of Chateau Felice when Genevieve & I left about two years ago this week, got married there at the winery.  Beautiful bride.  Great new husband.  Lots of yummy wine. A grand family gathering.

Malia started First Grade.  I had to cope with my daughter now going to real school – sitting at real desks and bringing home real homework.  Yikes.  She now will occasionally call me, “Dude” before I remind her that, “I am not ‘Dude’, I am ‘Daddy’.”  Zoinks!  She is so incredibly beautiful – especially with her toothless, first-grade smile – and she constantly amazes me.

I am halway through my CERT training.  That is the Community Emergency Response Team made up of trained volunteers who will be able to assist emergency personnel as first-responders in the case of a catastrophe.  As you may know, here in California we are just waiting for the BIG ONE to hit.  This has been very valuable information for me and I highly encourage anyone who can to contact their Fire Department and inquire about these programs in your area.

Now I am off to hang with about 200 of the coolest geeks!  The are many more of us waiting to fill the world with our thoughts and opinons about wine, but alas, not all can gather at the river of Bacchus this weekend.  I’ll be keeping you all updated throughout the weekend.


The Bradinator’s Bottle

A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of a visit here in Healdsburg from Bradley Cooper – the engaging winemaker from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.  The Bradinator (Cooper’s moniker in the fast-paced world of Twitter. Yours Truly goes by Oenophilus)  & his wife, Audralee, spent an afternoon with me running around Healdsburg and tasting a little wine.  After visiting my sister-in-law, Samantha at Chateau Felice’s tasting room, we decided to cross the Plaza and to dine at Ravenous.  One of my regular haunts, Ravenous serves wonderfully fresh and creative “wine country” cuisine.  They are also home to one of the finest burgers in creation!  We tasted some of my Iridesse Wines with our dinner as we talked shop long into the evening.  Audralee and Brad  thoughtfully left me with a couple of their bottles.

I must say, the first Merlot I have had in quite a while.  Not because of any aversion to the varietal or any Miles-induced prejudice.  I just hadn’t happened to have any recently. That said,  I was honored and excited to try it – especially as my knowledge of wines north of the Willamette is woefully inadequate.

Boy, was I ever glad I did!!!

Township 7 – 2005 Merlot Okanagan Valley

Bradinator Brew

This wine has great color:  dark, rich, and inviting!  All sorts of wonderful aromas come up out of the glass: Plum, Smoke, fresh raspberries, dill, bay leaf, humus, pepper, and cloves. These all seem to come together perfectly with the flavors that the Merlot brings to the palate.  A nice medium acid approach is quickly rounded out into an elegant mouthfeel that holds dark rich fruit, spices, plum, blackberry, cherry, bittersweet chocolate, and fig.  The wine finishes like a great food wine with good acid, a quality similar to “Angostura” Bitters” in aroma and flavor with a zesty citrus finish to wrap it up.

Audralee:  You are always welcome in Healdsburg.  Don’t bring Bradley too often. The world needs him at work in the cellar!

Wine Blogging Wednesday #45 – TBA is King!

Mmmm-Mmmm! There is nothing like Sweet and Sticky when it is done right. Trockenbeerenauslese – literally, a wine made from the harvest of selected dried berries – is regarded as the highest quality category of Austrian wines. This Wine Blogging Wednesday, Tim Elliott of WineCast presented the category of “Old World Riesling” and I rejoiced. I love Riesling. To me, it is the most noble of the noble grape varieties. And even better, I don’t make one. This gives me a chance to track down something yummy from one of my favorite winemongers, Domaine 547. There, Budo-Kun pointed me to a “TBA” made from botrytized Riesling by one of the foremost unsung heroes in Austria.

Pots of Gold at Either End

Weingut Franz Heiss is located on the eastern shores of the Neuseidersee in the Burgenland region of Austria. Long famous in the town of Illmitz for producing “Liquid Gold”, Heiss agrees with those of us in the wine world who hail Riesling as King. Even though it is his favorite grape, he makes very little. Only a small portion of his 500 cases of several different sweet wines became his 2001 Trockenbeerenauslese Riesling.

I put Malia to bed and popped the cork on my bottle. She’s only five, but one whiff of this beauty and I know she’d be pestering me for a tiny sip! I did share with She Who Must Be Obeyed. I’m not THAT stupid. However, I sequestered myself in the dining room so as to not be influenced by my wife’s superhuman palate.

Wow! Liquid Gold is right. If the miller’s daughter had a bottle of this to give the king, Rumplestiltskin would have had no deal! Beautiful inviting color that can be best described as… Liquid Gold. Aromas more of Vaseline than petroleum, apricot, pear, sour apple, lilies, pomegranate, peat smoke, and chanterelles sauteeing in butter. The wine entered my mouth with a rich viscosity. Its unparalleled sweetness on the tip of the tongue played against bright acids along the sides and spicy pepper across the top. Heiss often ages stickies for a year in Acacia wood barrels, not clumsy White Oak, to bring out the floral and savory flavors that distinguish Austrian Riesling. I found flavors of honey, grilled peach, cantaloupe, toasted almonds prosciutto, and Seville orange marmalade. Finally a quick flash of spice and white pepper on the finish before a perfect balance of acid and sweetness love you long time!

I didn’t plan ahead and the Gorgonzola we had in the house was too mild and was lost to the flavors of the wine. On a whim, I brought out my spicy pralines and the Heiss TBA Riesling was actually sweet and savory enough to handle both the brown sugar candy and the liberal pinches of cayenne. As it is now 1:09 am and officially Wine Blogging Wednesday, I’m going to bed. Hmmmm, Riesling and Rice Crispies in the morning?

Zinc Nasal Gel May Kill Your Sense of Smell

According to the calendar, those of us who live in the northern hemisphere should be well into spring. For some of us, that means a couple of feet of snow or inches of rain. Nasty bud-killing frosts aside, sunny California is…well, you know, sunny. Either way, the viciousness of this winter’s colds is still haunting many and the misery of spring’s allergies has taken over our noses and eyes.

I thought I’d take this moment to remind all my fellow bloggers, reviewers, judges, vintners, winos, and everyone else – DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES PUT ANY COLD REMEDY CONTAINING ZINC INTO YOUR NOSE!!! There is a medically documented possibility that applying topical zinc through one’s nasal membranes can cause temporary or permanent loss of one’s sense of smell – Anosmia.

Yes, gentle reader. I said using the only ingredient in over-the-counter remedies that has been proven to lessen the symptoms and duration of the common cold may incapacitate your schnozz. Zinc may halt your honker. Zinc may prejudice your proboscis. Zinc may bust your beak. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, that anatomical implement which allows us to enjoy that which has brought us together this day in cyberspace is in grave peril! My friends, the organ with which we unravel the mysteries of the universe as presented by the “Fruit of the Vine, Work of Human Hands” is endangered by an ordinary cold remedy. Simply put: you may no longer be able to smell your wine.

This has been batted around the medical journals and courts for years. Many of you may already avoid topical zinc for this reason. There is only a chance that use may cause this catastrophic result. But WHY RISK IT?

These are just five citations of the many that draw attention to this:






If you can’t imagine your life without sticking your nose in a glass of wine, find another way to unstuff your nose!

WBW #44: Romance in a Glass; My 1st Feminine Cab Franc

Let me officially say that I LOVE DOMAINE 547! JB’s selections have been spot on. I seem ready to love each of her wines even more than the last. However, this one rides straight to the top as the newest of my favorite wines. Chateau du Hureau 2005 Saumur-Champigny – Wine Blogging Wednesday #44: French Cabernet Franc!

WBW #44

I first tasted this wine at around 7:30 this morning and continued at around 8:30 because I was so smitten. I just had to revisit this lovely. Did I mention I love Domaine 547 ?

Chateau du Hureau is a domaine in the Loire AOC of Saumur-Champigny. Aside from being the birthplace of the Plantagenet Dynasty of England, the Loire is home to a beautiful expression of Cabernet Franc. The Domaine that produced my fantasy date for the morning is indeed a serious Cinderella Loire Valley Chateau. BTW – un hureau is a solitary old wild boar, very NOT like this wine!)

Her beauty poured in a seductive soft purple hue that reminded me of the color that I would have wanted my raspberry coulis to come out, if I had ever thought to make a raspberry coulis. The first aromas to surface were garden iris and raspberry. They were soon overtaken by green & red bell peppers, black cherry, white peppercorns, and ginger – leaving behind creamy vanilla and the sharpness of Stilton. Her scent was alluring enough to make me want, no need, a taste.

The primary impression that came to mind with the first sip was that this was one well-balanced Cab Franc! No aggressive attack, just a cool medium viscosity not unlike milk. Yet the mouthfeel had enough acid taking over as the the wine left my mouth to get the glands juicing and pining for more. The flavors fused together beautifully trying to elude direct identification, wanting to present a total, yet iridescent impression. She is calculating in the seduction of her unwary prey.

First the fruits : Plum, raspberry, a hint of roadside blackberry and wild strawberry. Then she roughs it up a bit to turn my admiration to longing: radicchio with a very mild soft bleu and bits of crispy bacon. Then she rewards me with a little creaminess: mixed berry yogurt on the way down my eager gullet. Her finish played with a little leather and showed very mild dark and toast caramelized onions, citrus peel and heaps of soft tannins that dried out my mouth only for the acid to do its job and slack my thirst.

And you wonder why I am just posting this now after tasting the Saumur-Champigny almost four hours ago? It has taken me this long to recover. There is still two-thirds of a bottle left. Maybe after my daughter goes to bed tonight, I’ll uncork this beauty again and, in the French tradition, share her with my lovely wife.Romance in the Loire