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Last week, I had a guest on one of my tours ask me about a pricey wine they once opened that smelled like a wet dog that had been lost for a week or two. What they experienced was a wine suffering from “cork taint”. A wine with cork taint is often referred to as “corked” or “corky”.

So, what happened to this wine? Well, cork taint results from a faulty cork that creates a chemical compound called 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole, which is also referred to as TCA, or 246-TCA. TCA is harmless, but even in small amounts will render a wine unpalatable. It is also indiscriminate; it doesn’t care if a wine cost ten dollars or two hundred.

TCA is created when naturally occurring air-borne molds are on the cork at harvest. These molds react to bleaching compounds that are used to process the cork, and the result is TCA.

Cork taint can be very extreme, or extremely subtle. In large amounts, the result is sickening; generating aromas of wet newspaper, cardboard, and yes, stinky dog. Moderate amounts smell dank, musty, and moldy. Slight amounts simply strip the wine of its fruity aromas and flavors, and we may just think it’s not a very good wine.

To add insult to injury, our nose is extraordinarily sensitive to TCA. We can perceive as little as 30 parts per trillion (yes, trillion), and some of us with really good sniffers can detect it as low as 5 ppt.

It is estimated that between 2-7% of all bottles are influenced by cork taint. This number sounds pretty accurate to me. Last month in California, I was judging about 110 wine a day, and we sent back an average of 3-5 each day due to TCA.

One of my saddest wine memories goes back to April, 2005. Kathy and I were celebrating our 25th anniversary in a cabin on the Frio River. I pulled the cork on a very expensive bottle of Napa Valley Dominus Cabernet (it was a gift) that we had saved a long time. Kathy looked at me from 20 feet away with a very sad look and said, “it’s corked, isn’t it!”. I tried a moment of denial, and then poured a 200 dollar bottle of wine down the drain.

Anyway, we’re kind of over it by now. We’ll see you next week, with some notes about our brand new 2015 Cuvee Blanc...

We are fast approaching the inaugural Heath Vineyards Owner’s Club shipment in November!

The Sauvignon Blanc, Captivating, is now in the bottle and is already quite amazing with initial aromas of white peach that develop into perfectly ripened pear with floral notes. This is much more like a white Bordeaux than a typical Sauvignon Blanc.

The reds are aging nicely in the barrel and we are watching closely as they mature. We are pleased to see the depth of color and flavors present that so aptly reflect the terroir. Our upcoming Tank-Tasting event will feature tastings of the Syrah from the barrel, as well as, the aforementioned Captivating. We plan to bottle the Syrah, Pinot Noir and Absolution (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) in early Summer which will allow 18 months in oak and 5-6 months of bottle rest before shipping or pick-up to you!

What initially attracted us to this property were the unique growing conditions.  The only way to consistently have access to grapes of this quality is to own the land underneath the vines.  Most of the wineries around us, that feature estate fruit in this sub-region of the the Paso Robles Willow Creek District appellation, are already on waiting lists. We were excited to gain access for our club members.

As you might imagine, the pace of new members is accelerating as we get closer to the first shipment and we are on track to be sold out before then! As reported previously, the 2015 harvest was excellent quality but very low quantity. Originally, we had hoped we would have room for the addition of a few more members after the first shipment. However, given the limited harvest, we will move to a waiting list once we hit the initial membership availability. 

So, if you have been thinking about signing up, now is a good time!

Learn more about the vineyard and the club!

Hello, and howdy from the veggie garden!

Last week, I was asked by Maureen (our marketing director extraordinaire) to write a little about pairing wine with vegetarian cuisine for Vino Visit, our website that books our really cool brand new private tastings.

I misunderstood, however, and thought I was supposed to talk about wine and Vulcan cuisine. I was deep into Vulcan food and wine lore when reason exposed my fallacy. At the same time, I realized a Tyrannosaurus Rex was more qualified to write about pairing wine for vegetarians than I was.

The only time I talk about vegetarian wine pairings is when I when I have to backpedal after making a steak pairing and sub a Portobello mushroom for a tenderloin. Aye caramba, I’m in trouble. It’s time for research...

Whew, after many exhausting hours in the library, guess what I learned? I learned the pretty obvious: the same guidelines that apply to pairing wine with a meat protein also apply to a dish without a meat protein.

First, let’s check out what types of wine pair well with food. We want a white wine with crisp acidity, and a red wine with smooth tannins. It should be dry or slightly sweet, with low to moderate alcohol, maybe 11-13% by volume. We also want somewhat subdued flavors, ruling out many of the high alcohol fruit bombs from California. Texas wines, especially Grape Creeks, are very food friendly.

The most important guideline in pairings is to match the body and texture of the wine with the body and texture of the food. We want lighter wines with lighter foods (whites with fresh vegetables and salads, for example) and heavier wines with heavier foods (reds with roasted or grilled vegetables). We never want one to overpower the other.

Keep in mind, however, it’s not just the food itself, but also its method of preparation that we must consider. Pasta, for example, is medium textured and fairly neutral in flavor. Pasta functions in a dish as a foil to showcase something else.

Let’s begin with a spicy gazpacho pasta salad. Spicy foods do well with slightly sweet, very fruity wines. A crisp and fruity rose', especially our new Grape Creek Ramato, would be a great match.

Next, we’ll elevate the texture and sauté fresh veggies in garlic, butter, white wine, and fresh herbs; all tossed with linguine. The buttery sauce is going to coat our palate with fat. A full-bodied dry white, floral and high in acid like our Viogner, would be excellent.

Finally, let’s create even more body and texture with a fettuccine Alfredo with wild mushrooms. We’ve raised the bar by adding Pecorino Romano cheese, heavy cream, a little Cognac, and earthiness from the mushrooms. Here, a light bodied red with good acidity and soft tannins, such as our GCV Rendezvous, would be outstanding.

So, it’s really pretty simple, and simple is the best approach. In reality, most wines do well with most foods. If we drink a wine we like, that matches the texture of the food, we should be in good shape.

Also, in the next week or two, some exciting new GCV wine to talk about...

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