Wine Blogging Weds #65: Wines for Winter! Let it snow! No more rain!

What would you drink with a side of snow? That was this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday prompt from Wine Girl who suggests that no matter where we live, we “imagine Snow. Snowmen, snow balls, igloos, snow trucks, snow … cold, cold snow. Then I want you to imagine what [wine] that makes you want to drink.” She continues, “With a valid story behind you, there’s no reason you can’t pop open a cognac, a brandy, or even bourbon.”

So as my hometown in southern California is getting battered by a week of wet and wild storms, and after a few days of filling some 30 sand bags and shoveling way too much mud during breaks in the rain, I am hiding out inside to face the monthly Wine Blogging Wednesday question: what to taste and what to drink? And this time complicated by the option of fortified wines and more!

My first thought was my go to evening wintry drink, port, maybe tasting one each from three continents–Portugal (naturally!), Australia (probably Jonesy), and a Kachina port that was in the gift bag at the Wine Bloggers Conference last summer (here’s a review of the Kachina port to indicate why I’m looking for a tasting occasion!)

But then I thought about the lovely madeira and the sherries I tasted with Esteban Calabezas in Portugal at the European Wine Bloggers Conference and realized I would have the perfect excuse to open the Gonzalez Byass Solera 1847 Oloroso Dulce I picked up from a tasting by the distributor, Henry Wine Group. I think I paid around $20 for it; online you can find it from $16-$30.

Then I was given a birthday present, a very special birthday present, and I knew that offered a choice, this beverage would be NUMBER ONE on any snow day. I was ACHING to pour it over fresh powder!

A stone mason, Janine Hegy, is staying with us in order to attend the Stone Foundation Symposium going on in town. On the night of my birthday, she presented me with a small glass of a very dark liquid over ice. The delicate gold laced glass she served it in had been one of my grandmother’s and it’s twice as old as I am. The cold temperature made it difficult to get much in the nose, but once in my mouth, I almost swooned. Amazing–it had the exact essence of a perfectly ripe blackberry picked from deep in the cool shadows of the bush on a hot summer day. With just the right amount of sweetness but not cloying, I could taste the pollen from the flowers, the earth it grew in. Bliss in a glass.

Janine had picked the organic berries from her property where they grow beside her barn and she made the drink herself using her grandmother’s recipe which she gave me to share here: In a one gallon jar place 5 quarts fresh, ripe, clean blackberries with 4 cups sugar and one bottle Korbel Brandy. Janine insists that it MUST be Korbel and only Korbel for the magic to take place. Store for two months in a cool dark place, stirring occasionally. Strain and bottle. Drink plain or over ice for a bit of heaven. A second, slightly less intense batch can be made using the same fruit by adding more Korbel Brandy.

She handed me a very small, very precious bottle holding maybe two jiggers. And I suppose I could taste it again and write about it for Wine Blogging Wednesday #65. But that’s not a fair choice for Wine Blogging Wednesday, eh? Something that rare, that special? Something that you can’t get your hands on unless you sneak into my house in the dead of night?

So I surveyed my options and went for the Sherry: Gonzalez Byass Solera 1847 Oloroso Dulce.

Now what I actually know about sherry would fit on the head of a cork (and yes this bottle is stoppered by a real cork). Esteban Cabeza gave me an abbreviated yet accelerated lesson in sherries, ports and madeiras at the European Wine Bloggers Conference which I was attending along with Jo Diaz thanks to our hosts Enoforum Wines.  I’d been in Portugal just over 24 hours and had had an amazing day and when I got my lesson,  it was getting late into the night. I’d lived a week in the previous 48 hours. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t remember as much as I wish about it all but I can tell you that it invigorated my curiousity about all things fortified! And as I learn, I will share it all here, of course!

Fortunately, the web has a wealth of information about just about everything, including, of course, sherries. According to Wikipedia, “Sherry is produced in a variety of styles, ranging from dry, light versions such as finos to darker and heavier versions known as olorosos, all made from the Palomino grape. Sweet dessert wines are also made, from Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel grapes.” With Esteban, I’d had

  • Manzanilla s straw colored (yellow) variety of fino Sherry, auestere but with a finish that lasted for months I swear
  • Amontillado a little darker, sweeter, less sharp than Manzanilla, easier to savor at first; it is aged under flor then exposed to oxygen

First off, this is not the same kind of sherry that I had it Portugal–this one’s an Oloroso which means ‘scented’ in Spanish and it’s aged oxidatively for a longer time than a fino or amontillado, making it a darker and richer wine and with an alcohol levels between 18-20%, more alcoholic.[10] And it’s made with 75% Palomino and 25% Pedro X.

In the glass, it’s cherry cola colored–like flat cherry cola, brown and kind of blah looking. As I drink some down, it gets more tawny colored and pretty–orange pink sunset colors shifting as I swirl the glass and the dark amber liquid catches the light.  Legs line the glass. When I stick my nose down in it, the color reminds me of a golden tiger eye.

What I’m saying here is what started out as a bland looking beverage on closer inspection has all the variances and depth of a winter sunset.

Hmmn, if I’m not careful I’m going to be picked up by the wine blogging police led by Jeff over at Good Grape for being too over the top! So what does it smell and taste like? I’m wondering that myself. Unlike the other two sherries I tasted with Esteban, this one is clearly sweet. But it doesn’t coat the tongue, it’s not syrupy, there’s some acid that cuts through.

Obviously I am in over my head but I’ll keep flailing away. And pour myself some more.

Ahh, that’s part of it–this one is tooo easy to drink. The other sherries I had in Portugal I just wanted to savor and marvel. This one, as far as sherries go in my very very limited experience, is somewhat simple. Sweet and simple. Here’s an analogy: if your basic sherry is like the  cheapest hollow  chocolate Easter bunny, maybe with some fake almond flavoring,  this would be like one of those Hershey kisses with an almond inside. No, actually more like a walnut.

Backing up now–what does it smell like? One website, The Wine Doctor,  describes it as having “axle grease” on the nose. Maybe I’m using the wrong glasses. What shape of glass am I supposed to be using to taste sherry, I wonder. I’m sure my new Reidel glases from Jo Diaz would do the trick–even if they are for syrah!

But there is something there I’m getting on the nose beyond the baked goods, carmelized sugar, raisins and nuts…Maybe if I had some axle grease handy to compare it with?

And finally, the finish. Sad to say, there isn’t much of one. What I’m longing for is the lingering long finish of those sherries I tasted. (Somewhere in the universe I swear I have notes on what those mythical sherries were!)

Is the  Gonzalez Byass Solera 1847 Oloroso Dulce sherry from Spain worth $20? Yes. I’m glad I bought it and I will enjoy drinking it. Is it what I’m hankering for? This is the third type of three sherries. Maybe I’m just not as big a fan of this style, or maybe this type of sherry at this price point.  But given the limited offerings in my home town, I’m grateful that I have this sherry around during this epic rainstorm here in southern California to keep me warm and cozy. And yes, and little baked too. I think I’ll have another splash of it before bedtime.

January 2010 Green Drinks Ventura County Meets at Ecologic Next Weds.

Green Drinks Ventura County, the local Ventucky gathering of this international green group of eco/green oriented businesses and individuals, meets the second Wednesday of each month at a different location somewhere in the county. On January 13, from 5:30-7:30pm, Green Drinks meets at a brand new downtown Ventura business’s green design showroom, EcoLogic Life; Main Course California Catering brings the goodies! Here’s the Green Drinks link.

Green Drinks Thousand Oaks/Ventura County was started in August 2008 to bring together people with a common interest in sustainability issues.  The popular monthly event offers networking, socializing, informal information exchange, and mini-topic panel discussions. The event fosters connections, raises awareness, and catalyzes the movement toward a more vibrant and sustainable Ventura County.

Too often, unfortunately, the drinks at Green Drinks aren’t too green. Let’s hope this month the wines are local, sustainable, and/or organic!

More on this month’s hosts: Continue reading

What wine pairs with snow? Wine Blogging Wednesday #65 Announced!

What do you drink with a side of snow?

This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday’s host Wine Girl asks:

“Even if you’re in warm sunny Florida or Los Angeles,” writes Wine Girl in her announcement of WBW #65, ” I want you to look out your window and imagine Snow. Snowmen, snow balls, igloos, snow trucks, snow … cold, cold snow. Then I want you to imagine what that makes you want to drink. Do you want to curl up in front of your fireplace with a port? Maybe you want to pull out a cabernet sauvignon or a big juicy zin and then put on your snowsuit. Are you a glutton for punishment and you’re pulling out a chilled riesling before heading out to build a snowman? Are you inspired by vintners who are braving frigid temperatures to make icewine? In this particular instance, I’ll even allow you to branch a little away from wine if you want. With a valid story behind you, there’s no reason you can’t pop open a cognac, a brandy, or even bourbon. Imaginary “bonus points” for anyone with a wonderful Snow Day story of their youth, a great photo of snow and wine, or even a Snowman and wine!”

This prompt is  too cool for school if you ask me! I just wish I’d known LAST weekend when we broke into two different bottles of port and we could have tried a third I brought to snowy Flagstaff. Fortunately, we’re heading to the snow again this weekend to celebrate my birthday–now certainly with some fortified wines! I’d love to find an excellent madeira or sherry which is really tough around here, but I will likely do some ports–maybe one each from three continents–Europe, Australia and here:  I have a tempting Kachina port that was in the gift bag at the Wine Bloggers Conference last summer.

Want to take part in WBW 65: Snow Day? It takes place Weds. Jan 20. Send links to

Share wine on this wine barrel “cuddle bench”

Instead of just “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” how about “Reclaim, Reuse, Recreate”?

There’s plenty of ideas on what to do with old wine barrels, but this one sounds cozy to me! The Oak Barrel Company takes apart old barrels and reassemble them as benches recycling one inch white oak staves for “legs.” The bench comes in an indoor or an outdoor finish with three different stains. It retails for around $200 including shipping.

The Oak Barrel Company offers other innovative products as well. According to their website,

When Chris Deffenbaugh creates his “one of a kind” furniture, he draws his inspiration from the White Oak Barrels and other materials used. Chris has long been concerned about what humans are putting into the environment, the atmosphere and landfills, which is why he truly believes in his company’s moto:
ReClaim ReUse ReCreate

Personally, I am in love with this stave swing!

Welcome to 2010! Happy New Year!

Let’s toast to 2010! And to YOU! Thank you for being a reader of Wine Predator in 2009!

What a year it was! I mean, gosh, I went to PORTUGAL as a wine blogger thanks to Enoforum Wines and Jo Diaz at! How can 2010 be better? That’s absolutely the best thing that’s happened to me as a blogger–that and meeting fabulous people like Jo, and everyone at Enoforum, and Twisted Oak’s Jeff Stai, and Marcy Gordon, and oh, so many more wonderful wine bloggers and wine folks here in the US and in Portugal! Drinking lots of wonderful wines has its rewards as well!

As Wine Predator/Art Predator, I frequently participated in Wine Blogging Wednesday each month and
–blogged about Macworld in January on a press pass,
–submitted a video application to blog about the Great Barrier Reef in February,
–kept rolling in March and April including a trip to Yosemite
–attended WordCamp SF in May,
–submitted a video application to blog as the Murphy-Goode Lifestyle correspondent in June
–attended my second North American Wine Bloggers Conference in July
–helped people prepare for Burning Man in August
–went to Burning Man for the 17th time in September and blogged about tastings I held there with wines from Michel-Schlumberger, Twisted Oak, Bonny Doon, and Vino V (watch for another blog post about this escapade soon!)
–attended my first European Wine Bloggers Conference in Portugal in October thanks to Enoforum,
–blogged about the Alentejo region of Portugal in November
–and kept on keeping on in December!

So, let’s have another toast (with a nicely balanced brut J cuvee 20–a not sweet, fresh crisp gently bubbling Sonoma County sparkler from the Russian River Valley!) to the New Year, a new blog URL ( and YOU! (Because without YOU, it would get rather boring just sitting here writing to myself…!)

And one last toast–to more adventures in wine! What will 2010 bring for the Wine Predator? And you?