Thursday, August 30, 2012

Nicola’s Redmark Makes An Exciting Mark


I’ve known my friend Crista Whitelatch and her husband Bob for a few years now. We’ve done many different projects together, and I’ve been a big fan of their main label, Claar Cellars because they make a “back labeled shiner” bottle that allows me to put my own custom labels on for clients from time to time. It is a great wine for the price, and allows my clients the ability to have custom labels for a reasonable price legally.

The Whitelatches also own Le Chateau, a Walla Walla label, as well as Ridgecrest, a label for the on-premise market. All together, the family produces a lot of good juice for the market of this region.

Crista shared with me a few months ago that their partners in Le Chateau had left the business. She also shared with me that they had acquired a new label as well called Nicola’s Redmark. I took this information in one ear and out the other, not really giving it much attention.

This week I had the opportunity to have a meeting with Crista, where she was able to explain the Nicola’s brand to me a little. I did a little digging, and searching their website, and found it to be a very youthful brand indeed. The advertising video that opens their website definitely makes me feel young and want to drink Nicola’s with my wife really soon. You’ll have to check it out for yourself.

Nicola’s is named after Nicola Metrione, who had a habit of marking his possessions with bright red paint. He immigrated from Italy in 1891 to New York, where he dug subway tunnels for $1 an hour. He made wine in his tiny Bronx apartment, and dreamed of someday owning a real vineyard and winery. The name is a legacy to his memory.

Nicola’s Redmark comes in four varietals currently, with some promise of expansion in the future. There is a Red Blend, a White Blend, a Reisling, and a Pinot Gris.

I was gifted with a Red Blend and White Blend bottle to write up and share with you. You will have to try the Reisling and the Pinot Gris and let me know what you think of them.

The White Blend is a mixture of Columbia Valley Chardonnay at 60% and 40% Columbia Valley Reisling. Treated with 100% stainless steel, the wine is crisp with fruit and acidity. I loved the light straw color in the glass. Peaches, pears, and passion fruit meet the nose and lead to a spicyness and minerality on the mid palate and finish. I would suggest this wine on a hot late summer evening, or with grilled ahi.

Nicola’s Redmark Red Blend is a rather complex Tuscan styled blend of 35% Merlot, 33% Sangiovese, 12% Barbera, 10% Nebbiolo, 5% Dolcetto, and 5% Mourvedre. I think this blend is probably the way Nicola would have made wine. Mixing a little of this and a little of that to come up with something his friends would really like.

Wide open and full of fruit on the nose, the wine features lots of dark fruit, mocha, and baking spices. A very gentle wine, it is full bodied yet softly voluptuous on the palate.

I’ve been seeing lots of Nicola’s lately in higher end grocery stores and establishments. You can also get it online at . You probably want to go check out the great site anyway and plan your own quiet evening at home. A great way to kick off football season!

Monday, August 20, 2012

What Makes A Good Wine Shop Great?

A distributor prices and places bottles on the shelves.
The place was hopping at 10a.m..
This week I was out in Port Townsend as part of my day job, acting as the Director of Evergreen School of Professional Photography. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the things I love most about traveling out of town is the idea of going to new wineries and wine shops where ever I’m visiting. While in Port Townsend I found what I consider to be a “great” wine shop named the Wine Seller.

In talking with the shop’s owner, Joe Euro, I was totally enthralled with his story. Joe, a highly acclaimed guitarist was traveling the world, playing in resorts, and waiting tables. He was brought back to Port Townsend out of a “homesickness” that he just couldn’t shake. So, in 1982 he opened the shop on a shoestring.

Being out on the edge of nowhere, Euro had to make weekly trips into Seattle to actually pick up wines for his shop. It was tough. Selling wines back in the 1980s wasn’t an easy or kitchy thing to do like it is now. There were few wines from the northwest region, and people in general weren’t really into it like they are now.

Jumping thirty years ahead, you would never know that Joe had ever struggled. His shop is a virtual adult candy store with thousands of bottles of wines stacked carefully in every nook of the store. There is a full cooler in the back with awesome craft beers from the region, and a great selection of cheeses and meats in another cooler. I was there at 10 a.m., and the store was bustling with customers and distributors.

Joe Euro talks on the phone with a customer looking
for a hard to find wine.
What makes this store so great isn’t really a secret. It is the result of a dream and a lot of hard work. It is the result of a willingness to invest in success.

So many times I walk into a wine shop where there are one or two bottles of some wine, and a minimal selection. Wines from only the Northwest, or wines that are cheap and can be purchased in any grocery store for about half the price. Those store owners are running on a scarcity mentality, and a fear of failure.

What struck me was the enormous selection of wine. Everything from cases stacked high of Crane Lake at $2.99 a bottle in the front, to wines in locked cabinets ranging in the hundreds of dollars per bottle. The shop doesn’t just have a bottle or two of Leonetti. There are entire flights of the stuff, and cases of different vintages. Bottles of three, five, and seven liter magnums were available.

One of the ways you know you’ve entered a “great” wine shop is what you see when you walk in the front door. A “great” wine shop has a feeling of walking into a market place, with boxes stacked around on the floor in front of the shelves. Signs telling you what the wines are, and the great price you’re going to get on those bottles. The store feels almost overwhelming and exciting. You can’t wait to purchase a few bottles and come back tomorrow for more.

If you want to visit the store while in the area you’ll find it just off the ferry dock on Water Street downtown. You can also find out more, and actually buy wines on their website at


Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Few Good Uses For Bad Wine

With as much wine as I drink, and report, you can only imagine how much bad wine I get to taste. You will never know which, because my no-scorched-earth policy doesn’t allow me to write bad stuff. (For those who want to know which wines not to drink just look for the ones I don’t write about.) Nonetheless, I do get to taste some pretty nasty stuff from time to time.

So, the question really comes up about what to do about a bottle of bad wine. What do you do with stuff you don’t drink? Well...I have a few suggestions. You can use them or toss them any way you see fit.

First, there needs to be a discussion about “bad” wine. There is a big difference between “bad” and “BADDDDD!”. My first rule of thumb is to never do anything except dump and throw away wine that has a barnyard odor or flavor. If it tastes or smells like the working end of a cow, throw it away. It is likely to have a bad bacteria that may or may not make you sick.

Also, if a wine is strangely bubbly it is likely struggling with a bad bacteria. One way to know if it has this problem is if the cork is pushed out from the pressure inside the bottle. I’m not talking here about sparkling wines. I’m talking about wines that shouldn’t sparkle when you drink them. Once again, dump them or take them back to the place you bought them.  Of course, my dear departed grandmother would have suggested that you rub that vinegar on your body to relieve arthritis and joint pain.  (Don't knock it.  She lived to her 90s!)

Now that we’ve talked about the crap you can’t do anything with, let’s talk about what you can work with. In most cases we’re talking about wines that are either too hot from a high balance of alcohol, wine with too much sulfur dioxide, or wines that are old in the bottle or oxydized by too much air from an opened bottle.

Wines that have been sitting in the bottle for many years will often open up a little skunky initially. They are old and have been sitting a long time. Much like an old root cellar or closet they just need to get some air. I recommend that you just decant the wine or use an aerator to infuse air into it.

Wine that smells like eggs when you open it happens quite often, especially in wines that are from other countries. They have had to infuse extra sulfites during bottling. Just like old wine I recommend decanting. In both cases if the wine is still skunky...Cook it!

A wine that just can’t be consumed even after you have tried to fix it, or one that you got too tipsy and forgot to vacuum or preserve from the night before are great wines for cooking.

One of my favorite uses of red wine is to make spaghetti sauce. Another is my wine reduction barbecue sauce. For whites, they are great for poaching fish or using in soup stock.

My spaghetti sauce is easy. Brown Italian sausage in olive oil over medium heat. Put in garlic, onion, mushrooms, and peppers. When the meat is crispy and the veggies are tender pour in a bottle of your favorite brand of canned spaghetti sauce. Rinse the bottle with about 1 cup of your “bad” wine. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. People will think you and Uncle Guido worked at it for hours!