Featured in this issue

Pruning the Wine Budget

Why do you drink wine? Have you asked yourself this question lately? It sounds simplistic, but knowing the answer may be of value when you consider the mounting expenses in your life and the shrinking economic opportunities for so many of us. When your buying power is slowly decaying, making tough choices between your various life style habits can be as unpleasant as dental work – good for your health in the long term, but hell on your dinner plans.

So perhaps it’s time for a little personal inventory of your desires. Sure, we’re talking about a beverage here and not your utilities bills, but we do measure the quality of our lives by more than the basic necessities. A delicious meal prepared and enjoyed with friends and family at home, accompanied by an equally delicious bottle of Pinot Noir brought back from a recent trip to the Russian River Valley (where the weather was perfect and you floated for three days in an inner tube wondering what all the fuss at work was about anyway) has a way of filling you up in a way that’s just as necessary as filling up the gas tank in your Toyota 4Runner. To torture a phrase from Socrates, for oenophiles, the un-imbibed life may not be worth living.

We drink to remember, we drink to forget. We drink because it just tastes so damned good. We drink because it just tastes so damn good with Alaskan king salmon. Or filet mignon. Or peekytoe crab. We drink because it helps our digestion. We drink because it reminds us of place and time and loved ones. We drink because we heard that a little red wine is good for the heart. We drink because we’re poets. And yes, some of us drink because we’re not poets, as Dudley Moore’s Arthur drunkenly explained.

By all means, be smart about your money and your budgeting. If need be, tighten the belt. Get leaner so the belt doesn’t pinch so much. Get creative, take chances, be bold. Start relying on a good local wine shop to steer you towards unknown wines in your (new!) price range. Bargains abound. Or cut your buying in half and start drinking up what’s already in your cellar. It’s not getting any younger, and neither are you.

Above all, if you really enjoy drinking wine, you will probably want to keep on drinking it, no matter how tough things get – especially if they get tough. If you’ve got the passion, you’ve got the means.

The Blend’s Monthly Featured Producer (is a wine shop): K & L Wine Merchants

This month’s featured producer is a not a producer at all, it’s a wine shop! What with all this talk about saving money and getting good wine for less, we thought that rather than focus on one single winery that has delivered in this category, we could tell you about our local Hollywood wine shop (OK, with two other stores in Northern California - and yes, they ship) which seems to be getting the message loud and clear.

K & L Wine Merchants was founded in 1976 in Millbrae, CA by Todd Zucker and Clyde Beffa Jr., who named their store using their wives’ first initials. Still running the family business after 30+ years, Zucker and Beffa currently have stores in Redwood City, San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as a fantastic online store where the inventory is updated in real time, so you can know exactly how many bottles of something are available, in what stores and when they can be delivered or made available for pick up at one of the three locations. This is what wine buying is in the digital age, folks. Browse their site by category (Variety, Sub-region, Price Range, Wine Review Scores, etc.), read detailed information about the wine, even view a picture of the bottle in most cases, then add quantities to your shopping cart. For locals, you have the option of buying the wines online and then having them waiting for you at will-call. If the wine is in stock at one of their other stores, they’ll ship it to your store in a couple of days. For out-of-towners, K & L will ship direct to 18 states, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea. The company can also work out shipping to a third-party storage facility in a direct shipping-friendly state. Once you have made an online purchase, K & L’s server keeps a history of all of your transactions, making it quite easy to re-order.

The store has real buying power, too. Because of their proximity to California’s great wine regions and long standing relationships with wineries and distributors, they can get their hands on some of the best stuff out there, and according to them, “buy in quantities that allow them to offer their wines at prices that are often below the wholesale cost of other stores.” They also send their buyers to Europe to negotiate many of their own direct purchases, saving on importing costs and middleman mark-ups.

What all this means for wine drinkers is quality wines, purchased with thought and know-how, with a nice diversity, and offered at competitive prices, and with their up to the minute web store, browsing and shopping that is easy and intuitive.

Merchant website: http://www.klwines.com

Recommended Wines:

Here are a few wines we’ve been enjoying of late in the bargain basement price range of ten bucks and under (and all bought from K & L):

wine label Barrière Frères is the commercial arm of Grands Millésimes de France, a large insurance conglomerate which also owns Château Beychevelle. About 30% of the wine was aged in oak barrels (some new) for 6 months. Ripe red fruits, spices and a hint of oak make for a harmonious and full wine with round fruit flavors, ripe tannins and a savory finish. Beychevelle participated in the conception and creation of Grand Bateau. 

Pairs well with roast chicken, quiche, shepard’s pie, soft cheese and Bacalao. About $10 USD.

wine label “Pinot for the people.” Winemaker Alex Cose left the “trappings of the privileged” after six years at Peter Michael Winery, bringing his considerable talents to Mark West. To keep the quality high and the cost low, he “must negotiate and curry the favor of friends, acquaintances, colleagues and neighbors” for the best grapes available from Santa Barbara to Northern California. Jammy, bright and supple, with flavors of cherry pie, raspberry preserves, ripe plums, notes of vanilla and baked peaches.

Pairs well with veggie burgers, smoked turkey, pot-au-feu and bleu de Bresse cheese. About $10 USD.

wine label Another terrific selection from importer Eric Solomon. The hills where this Toledo winery is situated provide hot summer days and cool nights for perfect wine growing conditions. 100% Tempranillo (known locally as Cencibel). Aged for five months in French and American oak. Full flavors of black fruit and licorice, with spicy aromas of clove, cinnamon and anise. It’s a real bargain and a Parker favorite, too.

Pairs well with Mediterranean cuisine, grilled salmon, hamburgers and paella. About $10 USD.

wine label 2007 was an excellent vintage for Loire Valley dry whites and the quality trickled right down to even the simplest wines. Produced using sustainable farming practices by Les Frères Couillaud near the mouth of the Loire River from Chardonnay vines located next to their Château Ragotière, here’s a vin du pays that is refreshing and bright and full of all the right elements. Apple, pear and quince flavors, good mouth feel, crisp, tart and minerally.

Pairs well with Grilled lobster, Trout with Béarnaise sauce, chicken curry and hard cheeses. About $8 USD.

Did You Know that the Former Soviet Republic of Georgia is the Birthplace of Wine?

While modern wine making can be linked historically to the ancient Phoenicians and Greeks, evidence suggests that Georgian (formerly ancient Armenian) wine production dates back at least 5,000 years, long before recorded history, and is probably the source of the world’s first vine cultivation. And findings of petrified grape seeds have been found at Neolithic sites dating back a million years. Archaeological digs have unearthed canals for irrigation, wine cellars and clay amphorae, the likes of which are still used to make wine in the region by planting them outside in the earth where the wine ferments. Pruning knives, presses and even grape decorated jewelry have been dated as far back as 3,000 BC. Today in Georgia, over 500 indigenous vine varieties have been identified, most of which are grown in the Kakheti region, which produces both wine and brandy. Rkatsiteli (for whites) and Saperavi (for reds) are the country’s most important grape varieties.

PWC Tips and Tricks

Now that you know how to use the "Favorites" function, expand on that to keep track of multiple, discrete cellars... CLICK HERE.

Plus, we've got lots of video tutorials to help you make the most of PWC. We think you'll find plenty of things here you didn't know about ... CLICK HERE.

Announcing Drink It With, the all new iPhone application powered by The Personal Wine Curator. Coming this Summer!

We’re pretty jazzed over here about our soon to be released iPhone app, Drink It With, a food and wine pairing guide that includes over 7,500 possible combinations of specific foods or dishes with nearly 200 categories of wine types. Those of you using PWC, will recognize the same technology from your software. Drink It With will also include a pairing log to keep track of your successful food and wine pairings (and outright failures, if you care to be reminded of them), as well as PWC’s unique aging potential calculator, which lets you look up wines for suggestions on “drink after” and “drink by” dates. For quick reference, a glossary of wines includes definitions, context and flavor profiles. A free “lite” version of the application will also be available for downloading. We’ll keep you posted on the release date!

The Personal Wine Curator Wine Cellar Software