Monday, March 23, 2009

telling the truth about wines

I recently spent an indulgent and thoroughly enjoyable evening in the home of some new friends. Like most of these evenings, there were numerous bottles of wine open and available for tasting/drinking. Out of the twenty something bottles that were open about half of them had been provided by the three vintners at the gathering - two comercial and one a dandy home winemaker. It's times like that when the "I wish I was a fly on the wall" comes into play. I noticed that all three vintners were watching the reactions to their own wines. Just how honest are people when they taste a wine that they know you made? What is most helpful to us? If you genuinely like/love it feel free to tell the person who made it just why you do - Conversely, if you really don't like it try to explain why. I backed against a wall and watched/listend while people tasted and observed that what is said when the wines are being poured blind is much more revealing than when those bottles are exposed and the vintner is standing there. When you don't like something it actually does help us if you tell us why. Sometimes it is simply a difference in likes and dislikes (I really don't like gamay) but sometimes it is something we are hearing that we really do take into consideration when making the next blends. There is no doubt that Gustavo makes wines differently now than he did 20 years ago and a big part of that is due to a change in when consumers are drinking the wines they buy. 20 years ago if someone bought a spendy wine it was going into the cellar. Now it is going to be opened within a few months. Does this compromise the winemaker or, over the years, does that palate also adjust because all of the other wines they are drinking are being crafted to drink at an earlier age?
For me any dinner with strangers always has an element of work attached to it because I am still watching/listening to their reactions to learn as much as I can. Great work if you can get it.

Monday, September 1, 2008


I am delighted to once again be immersed in college football. Perhaps it is simply the time of year: somehow it signals the end of the oppressive hot weather and promises turning colors, cool nights and braised foods. When asked what foods I would pair with a given wine that we are pouring I find myself suggesting braised foods for the big reds. During the heat of summer the customers look at me like I am crazy; who would have the oven or stove top going for hours in July or August? It is why I love my crockpot. So why does the word Crockpot conjure up images of casseroles and bland foods? If someone asks how I made something and I say I braised it for hours they think of something rich and savory. However, if I said I put something in the crockpot in the morning and it will be ready tonight they aren't so anxious to join in the meal. Maybe just the mental image. If you say casserole it isn't nearly as attractive as saying you are having Paella or risotto for dinner but they are essentially the same things: a variety of foods thrown together and cooked to enhance the flavors. It's one of my favorite things on menus, to see how they have described something to make it sound much fancier than it really is.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

the new technology is amazing

There must be something about having been born post 1975 that enables one to automatically understand the capabilities and working of all of the new technology that makes our lives so effortless.  Unfortunately I was born much before that so have to rely on my sons and our web/technology queen who keeps us up and running. Last year for Christmas I bought myself a flat screen tv and an Ipod.  I then  told my sons that what I wanted from them for Christmas was to put it all together and then VERY PATIENTLY teach me how to use them (When they had left for college I had to call them for  the first two months to walk me through getting a DVD to run).  So, I am happy to report that I have now learned how to post a blog from my handheld and you will hear from me a  lot more often>

GustavoThrace 2005 Syrah

We are excited to release our very first Napa Valley Syrah. Gustavo was curious to work with this variety and this fruit is from the Coombsville area in the southern end of the Napa Valley. Just two barrels of this wine (51 cases) were produced at the winery here in Napa. The grapes were fermented in half ton picking bins and then aged in used French oak barrels until bottling. This is an unusual style for a syrah: not the big, smokey, meaty style of hte Rhone but rather a softer approach with aromas of cola, dried blueberries, dark cherries and summer herbs. There is a creaminess in the mouth that allows this to be a stand alone wine for sipping or pair it with grilled meats, falafels or a soft Montbriac blue. $30/bottle - only available at the tasting room at 1021 McKinstry in Napa

Friday, August 22, 2008

dream customers

With the tremendous reaction to Bottle Shock here at the tasting room we are a bit overwhelmed with filling orders from those curious after seeeing the movie. We open the doors here at 11 am and I was running late this morning, only to arrive and have someone waiting patiently at the front door. Gustavo was already here stocking more wines he had brought up from the winery so I got the doors open and welcomed our visitor. She said no problem with the wait, asked for two bottles of the Barbera and handed me the cash. The wines got bagged up and out she went, just to return some minutes later to say I had given her the wrong change. She was correct and we just laughed about it, stepping over the shipping boxes and orders and confusion that generally exists when first opening in the morning. I asked her how she had found out about the wines and she said a friend had recommended them-our favorite reference! So, with the correct change she left and then returned ten minutes later. She had bought two bottles of Barbera and I had put two bottles of Petite Sirah (in my defense they had been shelved in the wrong place by an employee but still my error). Again she just laughed and said she would be back for more. I couldn't have designed a better reaction than hers, good-natured, understanding and infinitely patient. It makes me re-examine my daily outlook on life and my reaction to things that don't go exactly how I would like them to. She chose to make light about it and won't drag it around with her -although she'd be right to tell others that I'm pretty much of a ditz - while someone else may have made the choice to be upset about it and then complain about it on and on and on. I don't know your name but thank you for adjusting my attitude> Next bottle is on me. T

Monday, August 18, 2008

bottle shock

When we were first approached by the screenwriters of Bottle Shock to see if Gustavo would read the script and 'sign off on it', Gustavo said he wasn't really interested. I am sure there are multiple reasons for his apprehension but as the 'marketing queen' I almost strangled took some explaining on my part to convince him of the exposure this would give to GustavoThrace. "Just meet them and read the script" I said. So, we had dinner together with the screenwriters and read through the script. Gustavo said ok and then we didn't hear anything else for a year and figured it never got picked up. We were then contacted by Brenda Lhormer, the producer of the movie, who introduced herself and wanted to chat. What a treasure she has turned out to be (as well as her charming husband Marc). It was very revealing to watch her, even at a distance, orchestrate the whole thing. The energy they put into this was astounding. She dragged Freddy Rodriguez - who plays Gustavo in the movie - over for dinner, she sent updates and kept up the cheerleading all the way through Sundance and now in releases. We hosted a party at the new tasting room on Friday before the premiere of the movie here in Napa and then all walked across the street to the theater. Marc Lhormer spoke before the movie started and it was great fun to have our crowd clap/boo/hiss/laugh together (we had been pouring liberally at the tasting room since we were all walking) throughout the movie.
Lots of controversy about the 'details'. Is it factual? Partly. Is it Hollywood? Absolutely. Is it wonderful? We sure think so. Go see it and tell us what you think too. Thrace

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

things we hate about wine tastings

The enjoyment of one of the huge wine tastings - ZAP, Family Winemakers etc - largely depends on which side of the table you are standing. The pleasure, when you are pouring, is to meet the people who love your wines. It gives us a chance to tell our story, explain what makes us unique and to make new, and sometimes, as in the case of the New Orleans faction, lifelong friends. BUT, after standing on cold cement for five or six hours one can lose his/her sense of humor as the day wears on and those on the receiving side of the table have now been drinking for the same five or six hours. So, here are some of the things that REALLY annoy those of us who have shown up at an event, paid to be there and are donating our wines and time.

PLEASE don't say:
"What is your best wine?"
"Did you bring anything good?"
"What is your favorite wine?"
"Do you have any white zinfandel?"
"Go ahead and fill up my glass so I don't have to keep coming back."
"Can I have a bottle?"
"I've never heard of you." (we've never heard of you either)

don't wear perfume/cologne
If you are spitting please do it close to the bucket so our literature isn't splashed
don't leave your dirty dishes on our table
don't talk on your cell phone at our table
listen to your friends when they tell you that you've had enough

You must have a list of the things that vintners do while pouring that bother you as well. Let us know what they are.