March 31, 2008


GrapeRadio received more accolades for it's quality production of wine podcasts and videopodcasts, with this announcement from Tom Wark's "Fermentation - The Daily Wine Blog."

The crew that produces Grape Radio deliver one of the finest wine radio shows in America. And they have for quite some time. In my mind, what sets them apart from other wine related radio broadcast, be they originating on the Internet or via broadcast, is their willingness to treat their listeners with the respect they deserve, not talking down to them and not assuming they all need remedial education. The American Wine Blog Awards is hardly their first piece of recognition. The Grape Radio crew is now twice honored as a James Beard Award Nominee."

Once again, we at GrapeRadio are very proud to have received recognition of our efforts through this award, and consider it our responsibility and pleasure to continue to record and film the pivotal people and things in the world of wine.


March 29, 2008

SANTA BARBARA FUTURES TASTING - Tasting from the Wine Cask's Offering of Futures

I attended the Santa Barbara Futures tasting in the Wine Cask in Santa Barbara. This annual event covers what's new in offering from the county, and offers the consumer an opportunity to taste many barrel samples and buy on a futures basis, at a lower-than-release price. I'll post a link here when the tasting notes are finished, or you can check the "What's New" page.


March 24, 2008

JAMES BEARD AWARDS - Grape Radio Nominated

Today the nominees for the 18th Annual James Beard Foundation Awards were announced at the James Beard House in New York City. GrapeRadio received a nomination for a 2008 James Beard Foundation Award in the Broadcast Media - Webcasting category, for its short film, Stewards of the Land: Russian River Valley. The film is posted on the GrapeRadio site at the following location: Stewards of the Land.

Considered the Oscars of the food and beverage world, receipt of a James Beard nomination is reason to celebrate. We at GrapeRadio are obviously very excited to have received this nomination - nearly as excited as we were during our involvement in the project itself. Finalists will be announced June 6th-8th at ceremonies in New York.


March 22, 2008

BOOK REVIEW - Anything But Chardonnay

A new book, Anything But Chardonnay, examines some of the alternative wine grape varieties available for people who are interested in wine, but might be getting tired of Chardonnay.

The title correctly presupposes that Chardonnay is most often named by people as the default choice for a glass of wine. It comes from an expression born during the 1990s, when a sea of Chardonnay kept coming onto the market like so many waves on a beach. Soon thereafter, 'ABC' became the battle cry for those who were weary of this seemingly ever-present white wine (it was used pejoratively for Cabernet, as well) and yearned for something more - something different!

Written by food and wine journalist, Laura Holmes Haddad and published by HNA books, this semi-soft cover book is organized by wine type - white, red, sweet, and arranged alphabetically by grape within those groups. Each grape gets its own page, which gives us pronounciation, some historical information, and includes a little sidebar of snippets: where it's from, what it tastes like, producers to look for, what you'll pay, and dinner party trivia - all useful information for geeks and newbies alike. In addition, there are pages of educational and/or reference material interspersed between the grape descriptions every so often to break things up a bit. These include: wine terminology, ordering wine, how to buy and store wine, serving tips, regional information, and recipies that pair well with the wine on the opposite page.

While not all grape varieties are included, most of the wine grapes with which we are familiar are here, including the much maligned Pinotage. Now admittedly, upon picking up the book I flipped right away to the Chardonnay page to see if the author did any Chard bashing. Nope. Ms. Holmes Haddad does pay homage to the various styles of this noble grape in France, and attributes its arguable fall from grace largely to the ML butter bombs made in the New World.

Merlot was my next page-flipping stop. Was she going to side with Miles of the movie Sideways, I wondered. But, upon reading her comment that "...Merlot isn't the sissy most people think it is," I felt relieved. Ah, this book will treat every grape fairly - it's more about options - the plethora of other wines out there waiting to be explored.

Bottom line: Anything But Chardonnay is a nifty book - filled with little tidbits of information that will have you saying sheepishly, 'I didn't know that.' At $20, this semi-soft cover book is filled with enough gems to serve as good reference material, yet concise enough to do well on a coffee table for your guests to peruse. In fact, they're liable to ask you, "did you know that...."


March 19, 2008

BOOK REVIEW - He Said Beer, She Said Wine

I checked out a new book, written on an interesting premise - what foods can a couple pair with their favorite beverage when he likes beer but she likes wine. Surprisingly, what appears to be a natural subject for light-hearted humor, with each one poking fun at the other, turns out to be more of an education in both beer and wine, illustrating that they have more in common with each other in when it comes to pairing them with food.

Written by Marnie Old (a sommelier) and Sam Calagione (a microbrewer), He Said Beer, She Said Wine, seems to sum up what the pair have learned over the past five years from dinners presented to others to find out just which beverage pairs best with different foods. At each dinner, participants were asked to vote on their favorite pairing. Interestingly, the final tally kept flip-flopping - wine, then beer then wine again, and so on. It seems the diners had a tough time singling out one or the other beverage as consistently pairing best with food.

Published by Dorling Kindersley Ltd (DK), the hardcover book is very well-organized, and takes us through the material in a logical fashion. At the outset, the authors each state their preference and rationale for beer or wine as their ultimate food pairing beverage. This is followed by separate primers for both wine and beer, which is nicely handled, giving some good in-depth descriptions of how wine and beer are made, along with stylistic types (red, white, light, dark, etc.). The book also takes an quick stab at dispelling the usual myths about high-brow wine versus low-brow beer - although people who are into wine are probably more likely to maintain a peaceful co-existence with beer lovers, than they are to switch allegiance to the other side.

From here, the "meat" of the book is organized by food groups where the authors discuss how each beverage would pair with various food groups such as cheese, sandwiches, fish, meat, and desserts. The authors have wisely decided to approach this area of discussion by focusing on one beverage at a time, thus there's no distracting back-and-forth to keep you from actually learning something. Also, there are very good examples given in this section. For instance, we learn from the wine and sandwich section that a sauvignon blanc ought to pair nicely with a tuna sandwich, thanks in part to its citrusy acids. Whereas, in the beer and sandwich section we learn that a bitter ale with a tuna sandwich is successful largely because of the hoppy quality, as well as the inherent acids.

As one expects with any DK book, He Said Beer, She Said Wine is beautifully illustrated throughout, including plenty of wine, beer and food charts, descriptions of how we physiologically taste, and some specific descriptions and recommendations for pairing each beverage with different types of food. In fact, one could easily shop for beer and wine just based on the pictured recommendations.

The last few chapters are devoted to estabishing some common ground by using the previous material - with suggestions for wine and beer tastings, and recipies showing how each can work well together, or co-exist in a given situation. I suspect most wine drinkers appreciate beer at some level. In fact, winemakers themselves will always tell you, 'It takes a lot of beer to make good wine.' But, even if you don't like beer - and maybe especially if you don't like beer - there are lessons to be learned here about matching the taste of food with specific beverages.

Bottom line: a very nice read, with fabulous illustrations. The information within is also the kind of thing you'll want to refer back to more than once. At $25, whether it's beer or wine, if you're interested in what combination makes any good food pairing and why it works, then He Said Beer, She Said Wine ought to be on your radar.


March 18, 2008

FAMILY WINEMAKERS OF CALIFORNIA - Tasting some of California's Finest

I attended the Family Winemakers of California trade tasting in Pasadena. There is usually lots to try here - all across the broad spectrum of varietals. The 2008 tasting proved to be no exception.

There was a glitch in 2007, and the event was restricted to only those involved directly in the sale of wine - making, distributing and selling. Thus, media were not invited. So, it was nice to be back. I'll post a (link) when the tasting notes are finished, or you can check the "What's New" page.


March 15, 2008

OVER 90; UNDER 30 - Tasting some Hi-Scoring, Low Priced options

I attended a tasting at Orange County's Wine Exchange, featuring their attempt to bring to the forefront some of the critic's (Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator, in this case) recent hi-scoring wines, all of which retail for less than $30.

As you might imagine, there are usually more imported wines in a lineup like this, and this tasting proved to be no exception - there were only three domestic wines included. I think it's a sad situation that at a time when the dollar is much weaker against other currencies, we are still unable to find domestic wines at entry-level prices. I'll post a (link) here when the tasting notes are finished, or you can check the "What's New" page.


March 07-08, 2008

WORLD OF PINOT NOIR - Pinot Noir Festival on the Central Coast

GrapeRadio and Grape-Nutz headed north to the hamlet of Shell Beach (just south of San Luis Obispo) to attend the 2008 World of Pinot Noir. A better setting could not be imagined.

The event was held over over a two-day period, encompassing seminars, dinners and comparative tastings, and finally finishing both Friday and Saturday with a large outdoor tasting where wineries poured some of their currently available wines. I attended the tasting portion of both days, as well as one of Friday's seminars. The crowds were moderate in size, and it was relatively easy to visit with winemakers, proprietors and reps. Photos should be up in about 3-4 weeks, so check back here or on the "What's New" page.


March 05, 2008

BOOK REVIEW - The Wine Tasting Guide to California's Central Coast

I checked out a copy of a new winery guide-book by Mike O'Beirne, The Wine Tasting Guide to California's Central Coast, published by Old Vine Publishing Company. Now, I'll be the first to say that books on this subject are usually "stale" the moment they hit the bookstore shelves. Wineries are born, wineries die, wineries change hands, and so on. That said, many wineries live on - or at the very least stay in the same location. So, since I consider myself something of Central Coast denizen, I thought I'd give this book a peek.

First, a bit about the author. Mike and his wife moved to California in 1977, and found an interest in touring the wineries of the nearby Central Coast (generally accepted to extend from Monterey in the north to Santa Barbara in the south). By 1995, he apparently began conducting group tours of several areas, and continues to do so today.

The book is subtitled, 230 Wineries -From Paso to Malibu- You Won't Want To Miss, so its scope of coverage applies just to these areas - which is really sufficient, because this is where the lion's share of rapid and huge growth in new wineries has taken place. The book has a 40-page introduction to the basics of wine: how to taste, what to avoid, how to wine-speak, and what I think ought to be mandatory in all wine books - how to pronounce many of the French words used in wine-speak. Mike even takes the space to explain what a winery's wine club is, and why one should or should not join (he likes them, and explains why). I think this should be a welcome section for those newly to wine touring, since many a wine traveler, feeling "in the spirit" of the occasion has probably unwittingly signed up for one or more of these clubs.

After he gets the preliminaries out of the way, Mike leads us through each of his recommended wineries from the east and west sides of Paso Robles, through San Luis Obispo, to Santa Barbara County, and finally down to Ventura and Malibu. The book is organized geographically, with the obvious exception of listing the wineries in alphabetical order within the region. This may have been a missed opportunity, as Mike could have done all of us a great service by arranging these in some sort of suggested tour order.

Each winery description is well written, very accurate by my reckoning, thankfully limited to one page, and doesn't pre-suppose what wines the reader might like. Even better, Mike has chosen to include many of the so-called "hidden" wineries that might be left off the local Wine Association's touring map (smaller, often family-owned wineries are frequently not members of their local Association due to their small production or the cost of membership). Salient information on each winery includes: address (and driving directions), phone number, hours, and whether or not you need an appointment. In addition, Mike has given a little bio of the proprietors, the price range of the wines and the varieties and styles in which they're made.In short, it's a wonderful reference book for the regions covered.

Bottom line: I liked the book very much. At $20, this paperback ought to be in every Central Coast traveller's hand when they plan, or set out for wine touring in the region.



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