Closure: Let it Be

Hundreds of thousands.  No, millions and billions of words have come out of my mouth since the day I uttered my first (which was probably “No”, I will call my mom after I finish writing and find out).  Millions and Billions of them I would take back if I could; and the other ten thousand or so I would leave out there for the universe full of humanity to receive in their ears.  Does this small sentiment frame me as a person filled with regret?  Not at all.  In spite of words gone by, powerful though they may be, I am resolved to live for the value of the experience, the opportunities of the future, and the relevance of the present moment.Vintage Screwpull

I’m not a big fan of screwcaps.

And I don’t fancy the Coravin.

There.  The words are said and I don’t regret them and if I do regret them at some future time, I will admit to it and those dozen words above will just join the ocean filled with Millions and Billions of others.  No big deal.

If the air is heavy now with notions of my pompous wine snooty attitude and my impossible-to-please nature, please allow me to freshen things up a bit.  Snap..Crraaackle…plunk.  There, twisting open a crisp, cold, dewy fresh bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc ought to do the trick.  May we continue.New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Line-up

Let us preface the conversation to come by stating that there is no judgement involved here.  These are opinions, each of us is entitled to our own, and the intent is to part as friends and reconvene at a later time as pleasant company would allow.  Shall we begin?

My distaste for the Stelvin closure method on bottles of wine is not a complete rejection of it, but rather a conditional and reluctant acceptance.  I am fully aware of the soul crushing disappointment associated with a “corky” TCA ruined wine.  Allow me to present a few of the corked bottles I have wanted to shed a tear for:  a 3 liter of 1997 Reichstrat von Buhl “Armand” Riesling Kabinett (first 3L was GORGEOUS, second was CORKED), a 2007 Marcassin Estate Pinot Noir…down the drain, the Orin Swift Mercury Head that we looked forward to for quite a few years…totally corked when we got around to opening it.

These memories are painful to say the least, but clearly I have illustrated that I understand the evils of TCA.  Yet still I do not embrace the clean and sure convenience of the screwcap.  Is it because I think the wine it holds in the bottle may be sub-par?  Is it because it lacks romance (and I’m a real big fan of romance)?  Could it be that that I have no good reason and I’m just fulfilling the prophecy of wine snobbery mentioned above?  Yes, it could be any of these.  But the two very simple and boring reasons I have for disliking the Stelvin are:Screwtop Wine

  • long term storage reliability
  • a lack of air transmission into aging wine
Both of these reasons are storage/cellaring related.  As a wine ages, a natural cork allows a minute amount of oxygen (air) to contact the wine causing it to slowly oxidize over time.  For some, oxidation is to be abhorred.  For others, it’s just another layer of complexity to be appreciated in the oldie but goodies.  Again, I emphasize that all judgement is being reserved for better, more heated debates at a later time.  If you find yourself to be disgusted at the thought of oxidation or put off by the idea of consuming wine over ten years old then, let it be.  Drink fresh; drink what you enjoy.  Unscrew and Unwind.
The other situation that concerns me when it comes to the screwcap is the longevity of the closure.  On more than one occasion I have had a screwcap spring a leak.  Grasping a bottle by the neck to remove it from storage, I heard the snap.  Upon inspection, indeed the seal had been compromised.  Wine is open now, may as well drink up.  Other times a cap has not been applied correctly and this leaves for leakage – possibly ruining more than just one bottle if you’re concerned with the labels of other bottles getting leaked on.  Natural corks have seepage problems as well (especially as they age or if stored improperly) yet the remedy of re-corking your older bottles is available – some wine producers even offer it as a special perk; check in with Penfolds for all of you Grange collectors out there.
Having stated my defense for natural corks I move on to say once more, there is nothing wrong with Screwcap Wines.  To qualify that statement, there is nothing wrong with screwcap wines from reputable producers making decent, fresh, ready to drink styles that you will consume within the first 2 to 5 years.  So I urge you as wine consumers to read between the lines when purchasing these wines.  Penner Ash Viognier at dinner with Barack Obama in the Whitehouse?  Sure, why not.  But I don’t want to see this producer drawing connections between their stunning Viognier that drinks well now but will age like a fine Condrieu.  The fabled Pinots of Pyramid Valley Vineyards in New Zealand – I’m growing very close to the day I taste them, but I don’t want to hear about how elegant and expressive they are now and how they are going to age like an austere Burgundy under their screwcaps.  Let’s not even start on the handful of German Rieslings setting themselves up to be consumed young.
There you have it.  The air here feels fresh and fine now that I have closure on the issue of closures.  And why don’t I fancy the fancy Coravin?
Let’s just say that to be stingy with wine would not be an authentic representation of my character.  -tiffandsauce
More on that next time.

Related Articles & Blogs:
Obama Serves Screw Top Wine at China State Dinner -Paul Bedard for The Washington Examiner
 The Drinks Business on Italy Approving Screwcaps – With Compromise -check out those scathing comments!  A person sharing my opinion on the cork gets ripped on.

Memory of Taste: exchanging a Kiddie Cone Moment for a lifetime of Sense(s)


Taste Memory

There was (still is?) a little roadside hamburger stand in Wallowa, Oregon where my mother would stop in with a car full of us kids for a post-game treat on our way home from the softball field.  As I begin the telling of this story, the voice of Sauce is in my ear reminding me, “You have told me this story a million times”.  Perhaps I have.  But I will tell it again.

As we age (like a fine wine of course), this repeated story telling in an almost ritualistic fashion assures us that we’ve still got that glimmer of memories past.  That we came from somewhere.  And that we’re possibly even going somewhere.  We see children practice this ritual in a similar fashion.  Our three-year-old son tells us over and over a recounting of his daily events – trivial, complex, pleasant, and disturbing – it is all captured in his mind’s eye.  The most trivial usually being bathroom and bodily function related.  A more complex story covering emotions, questions concerning the universe and it’s existence, and long scenarios beginning with “once upon a time”.  He is comforted in his relationship to his narrative.

Going back to The Little Bear.  There was a vanilla soft serve kiddie cone for dessert.  Their signature touch was a red gummy cinnamon bear on the top.  It looked so appealing in that red-on-white cherry on top of a sundae sort of way.  But it tasted like – FIRE!

A few decades later, the fire has settled down into a warm bed of coals and I find a cinnamon gummy bear to be a sticky sweet nostalgic confection.  So where does this road lead me in terms of my Memory of Taste?  It is but a short side jaunt on the larger supersensory highway of a Lifetime Palate.  Retelling The Little Bear story in my own mind, and out loud just to tickle the Sauce nerves, reminds me that my best and most highly sensitive reception of taste was when I was a little girl, a baby even.  Where something could be so delicious – or so offensive – that it would stick.

So that’s it? We have lost the sharp sensory abilities of our youth?  The best wine quaffing opportunities passed us by when we were but babes on the breast?  Not entirely.   While I have not gone deep enough into the depths of science, I have a lukewarm assumption that as we age our perception of aromas and flavors does dull.  However, if we tune into the world around us, our bank of sensory memories continues to expand which in turn gives us a greater capacity for interpreting the sensory perceptions we receive.  To keep a sharp palate, we exercise beyond the physiology of tasting and smelling to log in to a longer term memory bank what otherwise would be a very short term experience.

And the how…It’s all just a presence of mind.

There are no “5 Easy Ways” or “10 Simple Steps” coming up, but rather suggestions for how your everyday sensory experiences can be heightened just by being present in the moment.  Take yourself on mental field trips.  Go to extremes and then contrast them.  Try a few versions of the following:

  • a hot & dry place and a cold & dry place (think desert vs. tundra)
  • a cool & damp place and a warm & damp place (think Redwood Forest vs. Tropical Rainforest)
  • a very empty space (think Vacant parking lot or warehouse or an open field)
  • a very crowded space (think New York subway/sidewalk, Disneyland at Fireworks, Costco on Saturday, the I-5 any second of any day)
  • a modern place (think Art Museum or Luxury Car Showroom)
  • a rustic place (think Horse Stable, Mountain Lodge, Roadside Hamburger Stand, Tombstone Arizona)
What did it smell like?
What was the intensity level of the aromas?
Now take those observations down in a mental note and return to them on your daily path.  If you shop a farmer’s market tune into the smells of the fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.  When you step into a coffee shop for a quick chat over an espresso – stop and smell.  When you go for a jog, a ride, a row, a walk with your dog, or whatever is your choice of winding down – breath in.  Taking notice of the scents in your surroundings is building your memory bank for future reference.
Then go and uncork that bottle.  Follow those truly simple “3 Easy Steps”:
swirl, sip, repeat

If the smells and tastes from your glass transport you into your Memory of Taste, then congratulations, you have arrived at your wine destination.

More Places, Smells, & Memories for your reading and viewing pleasure:

Wine For the Ages: Tasting in Emoji

Emoji of Sine Qua Non Rose

Are tasting notes simply a matter of taste?

It seems that the more I read and write tasting notes for wines the deeper I go into experiencing wine on another level.  Captivating prose flows from the bottle to the lips to the page as I fall in love with every nuance of whatever happens to be in the glass.  Of course I make every effort not to sound repetitive, not to be too technical, not to be over the top fantastic in describing fermented grape juice.  After all, we are all short on time and very busy indeed.  So much of our stimulus is visual, quick and simpler to process on the go.  If we want to keep up in today’s market, we have to stay fresh and lively.  So in an Ode to Jimmy Kimmel’s interpretation of current events through Emoji, I give you …


2012 Walter Hansel Chardonnay, Cahill Lane Vineyard, Russian River Valley, CA

Antonio Galloni calls Walter Hansel “some of the most consumer friendly wines readers will come across ANYWHERE in California”, and we can’t agree more. When tasting this wine blind, I almost always place a higher value on it and then get a pleasant surprise at the true price. But numbers aside, the Cahill Lane shows all of the richness of Russian River Valley Chardonnay through a pure and simple use of the Wente Clone exclusively on this site. Brioche, buttered and topped with a dollop of apricot preserves, comes to mind. – Falling Bright notes


Emoji of Walter Hansel Chardonnay
Chardonnay, Simplified.

2011 Behrens Family Winery “Spare Me” Cabernet, Napa Valley CA

Succulent raspberry and black cherry give way to hints of tobacco, cedar, and violets. The beautiful perfume that Petite Verdot brings to the aromatics is not lost in the mix. -FallingBright Notes


Emoji of Behrens Family Spare Me Cabernet
Cabernet but less Complicated

2012 Booker Sweet

Perfectly ripe tropics – pineapple, mango, passion fruit – an unctuous core finishing on a high note. There is no reason not to enjoy a sip of Sweet with a nibble of cheese – something semi-hard to hard like Pleasant Ridge Reserve or Vella Dry Jack. -Falling Bright Notes


Emoji of Booker Sweet Dessert Wine
Just Desserts

2010 Sine Qua Non “That Type of Rosay”

Ridiculous strawberry, sage and underbrush.  A full-bodied meaty expression of Grenache and Syrah with complexity, depth, and a crisp dry finish. -Falling Bright Notes


Emoji of Sine Qua Non Rose
Delicious in Tiny Pictures

Next time you feel like your tasting notes are getting over the top and under your skin, just check back in with us for the short notes on what we’ve been tasting.  We will be sure and give you the small picture(s) so you can make wise use of your time to focus on the Big Picture.

Enjoy what’s in the glass and send us a note on what you’re tasting – Emoji Style of course!

Related Articles / Blogs

Jimmy Kimmel & Brie Larson Emoji Movie

The Underground Wine Letter – Laughable Wine Descriptions

The Black Label – 10 Most Ridiculous Wine Descriptors

Visit The Shop:  Falling Bright

Palate Talent

Wine Flying High
Wine Flying High
Flying Leap of Faith

Many times in our years as Somms on the restaurant floor we have been asked some version of the following question:

“Do you have a naturally great palate or did you have to learn to be a better taster?”

Well, yes and yes.  But, in the interest of not sounding self-absorbed, we want to humbly explain that it’s a balanced combination of both and that YOU too can achieve that balance.

Start with knowing what you like or don’t like about the wines you’re drinking.  Then take a leap of faith and do some blind tasting (even blind buying…providing the wines meet your pre-set price parameters).  The purpose of these blinds is not to learn varietal identification and pass a test.  The purpose is to taste wine without any preconceived notion or judgement of the wine based on varietal or region or producer.  Just taste.  Then like.  Or dislike.  You’ve discovered that you can rely on your own palate to choose wines that will be pleasant company.

The only way our palate talent stays relevant is if we can in some small way share it with you to improve your personal wine situation.  Are you doubting your palate?

Related Articles & Blogs

apwasset Blog on Wine, Art, and Dividing Opinions Jefford on Monday: New Zealand Pinot Noir Finds Fans in France

Falling Bright on Facebook: Pinot Punch-Out


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