Wine Know from Carmody McKnight’s Owner

Hey Winos,

Check out the Divine Wine Sunday post on Carmody McKnight’s Pinot Noir from January 23rd.  Gary Conway, owner of Carmody McKnight’s winery, added a comment to the post and has provided more “Wine Know” on his Pinot Noir (and Pinots in general)!  Thanks for taking the time to “stop by”, Gary!

There is more Wine Know available at Carmody McKnight’s blog.




PS: I know, I know – I’m again behind on this week’s Divine Wine Sunday… but it is en route!


Divine Wine Sunday: Kirkland Signature Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

Happy Divine Wine Sunday!!… or Monday. I seem to have a rough time getting my post completed on Sunday… but hey, wine is divine no matter the day, right?

One of my favorite places to shop is Costco. Yes, I am just one person, but I have an enormous refrigerator and lots of cabinet space. So buying the 5 gallon jug of dish soap or 24 cans of tomato sauce or 20 breasts of frozen chicken is not really a problem. And guess what else isn’t a problem… the wine section! Despite Costco’s packaging of most products in at least a two-pack and up to a gazillion-pack, they do offer regular old single bottles of wine for excellent Costco prices.

I don’t often buy the same bottles of wine from wine stores – primarily because I like to try something new, and there are so many wines out there to taste. But Costco, in all its glory, has a relatively small selection of wines that I find very enjoyable for a very reasonable price. That’s their thing… offer less of a selection of wine, but keep the value high. Of the “Kirkland” labeled wines, I have found all that I’ve tried to be quite tasty, and I’m repeatedly purchase the the same wines from the warehouse. So today, I am highlighting the one that I consistently look for on every Costco adventure.

Divine Wine of the Week: Kirkland Signature Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA

Kirkland Signature Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

Price Range: $12.99 at Costco!

Wino Assessment: I generally like Cabernet Sauvignons quite a bit. And this one is among my favorite “every day wines”. (Yes, that will go in the glossary when I get around to making it.) To me, it is medium-bodied but full of “ripe fruit” flavors. What do I mean by that… I’m not totally sure… working through these words myself. It isn’t tart but it isn’t overly fruity. It is somewhere in between – perhaps a little cherry-like or plum-like but with a tinge of earthiness (which I love). I hate to admit this in words on the world wide web, but it is not hard for me to finish one of these bottles off in one evening…. for me, it’s very drinkable. (Wow – if that isn’t an ambiguous wino assessment, I don’t know what is!)

The Grape…

Cabernet Sauvignon. I feel like we have talked about this grape already on Wino to Wine Know, but apparently we have not – not on Divine Wine Sunday (or Monday) anyway. Cabernet Sauvignon (which I will refer to as “Cab” from hereon out in this post), is one of two of the world’s most popular grapes. (Merlot is the other.) It is a dark-skinned grape variety and it is based out of Bordeaux in France. Cab grapes are typically mixed with other grapes to make a Bordeaux wine, but there are certainly plenty of wines that are 100% (or majority) Cab. This grape has an ability to help a winemaker use the grape to make the wine that s/he wants to make. It is highly dependent on the terroir (the elements associated with the climate and soil and many other factors of where the vines are planted… more on terroir in a future post), and is a good candidate for longer bottle aging (meaning, Cabs may sit in their bottles for years and become one of those wines you save for a special occasion).

An interesting fun fact about Cabernet Sauvignon – its “parent” grapes are believed to be Cabernet Franc (a black grape) and Sauvignon Blanc (a white grape). This development was believed to have happened way back when (that’s an official time period) via some mixture of the two “parent” vines.

The Wine…

Cabernet Sauvignon is a crucial part of French wines, where it is commonly blended with other grapes. Why blend? Well while the Cab provides “structure” and has a lot of tannins, it needs to balanced by other grapes to make the wine interesting. While the French often blend their Cab grapes with others, Napa Valley offers a lot of 100% / majority Cab grape wines. Because of this, the Napa Cabs tend to be “dense, purple-black, jammy and tasting of currants and black cherries.” (The Wine Enthusiast Magazine) I really like Bordeauxs and I really like Cabs, so I guess I’m a winner either way!

Costco doesn’t offer a lot of info about their wines, in particular their Kirkland Signature labels. But they do offer a Costco Wine Blog! (Who knew!?!) Check it out – it shares a bit about what Costco offers in general when it comes to wine. You may be wondering about the Kirkland Signature label. If you’re not a Costco shopper, you should know that “Kirkland” is Costco’s brand name (I believe that is due to their home base of Kirkland, Washington, where one of my favorite Dreamers was born.) According to Serious About Wine, Costco serves as a distributor for small lots of wine and slaps their label on the bottle. (Ok, there’s probably a bit more to it than that…) They are small lots in general with about 2000 cases – which is possibly big for a winery, but small for a major warehouse like Costco. If you check out the post on Serious About Wine, you’ll learn a bit about the distribution methodology that Costco has laid out with regard to the “Kirkland Signature” label.

What does the Costco Wine Blog say about their 2009 Kirkland Signature Napa Cab? (I should note that I’m not sure how official this Costco wine blog is, but it looks pretty decent to me.)

“This is a good mid-week, everyday Napa Cab that’s $12.99 at Costco.And the wine is good, nice for the price, and after some air it started to open up into a fairly decent wine.

Cherry aromas, dark fruit flavors with a little chocolate, medium to full in body, and the finish was nice and smooth. I like Napa Cabs and I hunt for the best at these price points, and this one is definitely a contender. But I just didn’t find anything to push it over the edge. Nice wine, good price. Worth dropping in the cart.

I’m pretty happy with the pairing of my Wino Assessment to the Costco Wine Blog Assessment. At least when I read the Costco Wine Blog, I am thinking, “Yes! That’s what I meant!”

The Regions…

So Cabs are among the most popular grapes to plant in the wine world. But here on this post, I am only going to talk about California since this Cab is from that fine state neighboring my home state of Arizona. Apparently Cabs are the basis fo the “California Cult” wines. What, you ask, is a “California Cult” wine? Well, apparently it was a phrase used in the 1990s that were typically Cabs (but not exclusively Cabs) made in California and typically Napa Valley for which high rollers would pay higher prices than that of Bordeaux’s “first growths” (to put it simply, top ranking wines in Bordeaux). So as you can imagine, Napa loves its Cabs… as does the world of wine drinkers. It is an important grape across the world and will certainly be highlighted on this Wino’s world wide web space in the future!!

Hope you feel like you “Wine Know” more about Costco wine and Napa Cabs!! Have you tried this Costco wine or any of their other Kirkland Signature labels? What did you think!??!

[Source of Wine Knowledge in this post is The Oxford Companion to Wine.]

Divine Wine Sunday: Carmody McKnight Pinot Noir

Observant Wino to Wine Know readers may have noticed that last week there was no Divine Wine Sunday post… and that this post did not get quite make it for a “Sunday” posting. My apologies for the inconsistency… But I hope you all will forgive me as I was on a short hiatus from consuming wine (or any alcohol) to begin 2012 with a clean start…. that and get over a lovely winter cold.  After my two week hiatus, however, I pulled out one of my “special” bottles of wine from my (fairly) recent Paso Robles roadtrip a few months back.  And today, on Divine Wine Sunday (err… Monday?), I am highlighting that delightful wine.

First, as you can imagine, I was pretty excited to enjoy a nice glass of wine after a couple weeks without.  So when a good friend and fellow Wino invited me over for dinner, I thought, “Perfect! It is special wine time!”  As some of you may know from previous posts, I spent a few days in Paso Robles visiting a number of vineyards and tasting lots of great red wine.  I brought home about a case of wine and had yet to break any open…  Until this Pinot accompanied a delightful dinner…

Dive Wine of the Week: Carmody McKnight Pinot Noir, Carmody McKnight Winery, Paso Robles, CA

Carmody McKnight Pinot Noir

Price Range: $34.00  from the winery, I have not seen it available in stores yet, but am on the look out.

Wino Assessment: This is no typical Pinot Noir.  I find that Pinots tend to be on the lighter side of red wines – very easy to drink with or without food.  But the Carmody McKnight Pinot Noir is a bit earthy but with a velvety finish.  It maintains the fruit flavors (maybe a bit of a jammy flavor) but is far less fruity than I expect a Pinot to be. From the first sip, I was immediately reminded why I enjoyed it so much (and therefore, took a bottle home).

The Grape: “Pinot” in French is “pine” and “noir” is “black”.  Pinot Noir grapes are black grapes that are clustered tightly together in a way that is similar to a pine cone. While it is grown around the world, it is most commonly associated with the Burgundy region of France.  (So next time you have a recipe calling for a Burgundy type wine, you could probably pick up a bottle of Pinot Noir if it is more convenient!)  The Pinot Noir grape has lots of clones – nearly twice as many as the more popular Cabernet Sauvignon grape in France.  This is due to the fact that Pinot Noir grapes are prone to mutations, and after many many years of cultivating these grapes, the best of the best are cloned and planted in vineyards around the world.

The Wine: Pinot Noir is a very popular wine – it is grown all around the world, making it very accessible. It tends to be a light to medium bodied wine with cherry and raspberry flavors and aromas.  That said, Pinots tend to have a wide range of flavors, textures, and bouquets (all things discussed last week on Thoroughly Wino Thursdays: Let’s Talk About Taste!) Because of this wide array of flavors, aromas, textures, etc., Pinot Noir wines can often be difficult to identify.  So a few people commented on the “animal” category of flavors and aromas in last week’s post.  I’m here to pass along a little news for you… you may think you’re all that drinking your bottle of Burgundy and feeling very sophisticated.  But according to my favorite resource, The Oxford Companion to Wine, traditional Burgundy (region of France most commonly associated with Pinot Noir), is famous for its “farmyard’ aromas.  Yes.  It is true.  I think I’m going to have to go out and find a “traditional” bottle of Burgundy to blog about the farmyardiness flavors.

A couple of other fun facts about Pinot Noir as a wine.  It is typically lighter in color compared to other reds which has to do with the coloring matter of the grape skin.  It is also used in producing sparkling wine, including Champagne, as well as Rose wines.

So, what does Carmody McKnight say about their Pinot Noir?  Well, I don’t know!  Their website is operational, but the page that shows info on their specific wines is not working at present.  (Quite a shame for a winery’s website, eh!?!)  I did find this description for their 2006 bottle (I believe I had their 2007) on a different website:

Earthy with red and dark fruit aromas, good balance and nice finish.”

I fully agree!! The wine did have a great balance (which I think I better double check to ensure it means what I think it means… but in this case, I presume it means that from the beginning of the sip to the end of the sip, it holds its flavor in an even way).

!!UPDATE!! (February 3, 2012): The winery’s website is operational again, and I have pulled their description of this fine Pinot Noir.

“The most romantic of wines, our estate Pinot Noir is surprisingly opulent, yet elegant and velvety textured, with strawberry and berry-earthy savoriness in its overture. Blackberry and spicy plum vie for attention with black cherry and currant flavors, finishing in a final act of subtle tannins, a trace of toasty oak, and a silkiness that glides seductively over the palate.”

Regions: As previously stated, Pinot Noir is grown all around the world – particularly in many regions of Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and North America.  Carmody McKnight is located in the Paso Robles area (about half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles), and Pinot Noir is grown heavily there.  The Willamette Valley in Oregon is known for its Pinots… and perhaps you’ll find it interesting that Oregon is approximately the same latitude as that of Burgundy in France.

With that, I’ll leave you with a Pinot Noir fun fact and a couple of quotes that I enjoyed coming across in my “research”….

Pinot Noir Fun Fact: Around 2004-2006, Pinot Noirs became extremely popular, and many believe it has to do with the movie Sideways.  (A movie that I enjoyed for the wine factor, but the plot kinda weirded me out.)

Pinot Noir Quotes:

“[Pinot noir is] the most romantic of wines, with so voluptuous a perfume, so sweet an edge, and so powerful a punch that, like falling in love, they make the blood run hot and the soul wax embarrassingly poetic.”  -Joel Fleischman, Vanity Fair

“[Pinot Noir is] sex in a glass.” -Sommelier Madeline Triffon

I’m guessing that if the content of this post didn’t make you want to run out and buy a bottle of Pinot right now, that these quotes might.  And if you find yourself facing a bottle of Carmody McKnight’s Pinot Noir, then get it and let me know what you think!!

[Source for all Wine Knowledge unless otherwise stated is from The Oxford Companion to Wine.]

Divine Wine Sunday: La Crema

A few years back during a lovely dinner party, someone pulled out a bottle of La Crema Chardonnay.  And I remember it distinctly – mostly because white wines do not usually make a memorable impression on me.  Sure, I like white wines and drink them regularly.  But for whatever reason, reds typically leave me wanting more than white wines do.  However, I remember so clearly sitting around the dinner table with many good friends, and taking a sip of this Chardonnay and thinking, “wow – this is lovely.”  Since then, I have enjoyed La Crema on multiple Chardonnay occasions… but it’s time to Wine Know a little more about it….

Divine Wine of the Week: La Crema Chardonnay, La Crema Winery, Sonoma Coast, CA

La Crema Chardonnay

Price Range: $15-20 in a wine store (it is available at most grocery stores, World Market, and even Costco), $22 from the winery

Wino Assessment…

What I like the most about La Crema Chardonnay is while it has some soft fruit or flowery flavors, its buttery and smooth finish is what makes it interesting.  I think it would go well salmon or any fish, but also with a steak.  I would not necessarily just sip this one without food – it seems like it would be best with a little something to bring out its flavor.

The Grape…

Chardonnay grapes are originally from the Burgundy region of France and is now one of the most widely planted white wine grapes in the world – it seems it is essentially planted everywhere that grapes are grown.  It makes up approximately 40% of the white grape vines planted in California and is the second most widely planted white grape in France. Chardonnay grapes are often used in making Champagne – often combined with Pinot Noir grapes.  In the Chablis region of France, Chardonnay grapes are the only grapes permitted in making white wines within the European Union “wine laws” (I put that in quotes because I believe there is a more proper name for said laws).  So basically, if you say, “I’ll take a glass of Chablis!”,  you’re really saying, “I’ll take a glass of Chardonnay from Chablis in France!”

The grape is generally easy to grow and is highly resistant to vine diseases.  It is not especially flavorful in and of itself, which means that a  winemaker has a lot of control in a wine’s taste via the winemaking process (see next section).  And in general, as a wine, Chardonnay is extremely popular, making it a relatively easy sell for winemakers.  “A typical Chardonnay winemaker is more chemist than vitner.”  (The Wine Avenger) That might be a harsh assessment, but when you read below, you may feel the same!

The Wine…

Two things primarily affect the flavor of Chardonnay grapes when turning them into wine.

(1) Malolactic Fermentation (yes – there will eventually be a wine word guide on Wino to Wine Know – this Wino can’t keep up!). According to my good friend, Wikipedia, “Malolactic fermentation (or sometimes malolactic conversion or MLF) is a process in winemaking where tart-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid.”  So, now that we know that, we know that the wines that go through that fermentation process have a more buttery taste, and those that do not go through the fermentation process have a crisper appley taste.  My guess is that the La Crema Chardonnay does indeed have some MLF happening (look at me already abbreviating my new favorite winemaking verbiage!).

(2) Barrel Choice:  There are generally three types of barrels used in wine making – stainless steel, used oak, or new oak. (The Wine Avenger).  Chardonnay is typically made in oak, and the flavor of the wine is highly dependent on how much that oak barrel was charred.  With a highly charred barrel, the wine will be rather “toasty”.  Other flavors tasted when drinking a glass of Chardonnay that come from the oak of the barrel include caramel, cream, smoke, spice, coconut, cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla. (“New World Chardonnay”, The Wine Spectator)

So what we’ve learned so far is that Chardonnay grapes are grown all over the world, and the taste of a Chardonnay wine is really more dependent on both the maloactic fermentation process and its barrel rather than the grape itself.  I find this very interesting and feel that if I ever venture to make my own little barrel of wine, that perhaps I should start with Chardonnay!

What does La Crema Winery say about its Chardonnay?  “The 2009 vintage of Sonoma Coast Chardonnay opens with an intriguing interplay of lively citrus and subtle toasted oak, laced with just a kiss of butterscotch. The palate is round and nutty, with flavors of yellow apple and orange adding lushness, while well-balanced acidity creates a lovely vibrancy. Hints of vanilla and caramel add richness and texture to a long, fresh finish.”  (La Cream Winery)

Woot!  I feel like my Wino assessment was pretty close to the winemaker’s assessment! (Again, I write the Wino Assessment prior to my Wino research).  Of course, the winemaker has a much better and expansive selection of words, but I think “buttery” is close to “butterscotch” when speaking about wine flavors, and “soft fruit” is similar enough to “flavors of yellow apple and orange adding lushness.”.  Am I stretching too much??


As previously stated, Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted white wine grapes in the world.  In the North America, it immensely popular in California, but is also grown in New York, Washington State, and Oregon.  Canada also grows Chardonnay (Canadian wine?? Hmm… I smell a future blog post.)  In Europe it is most popular in France.  And in other regions of the world it can be found in Australia, New Zealand, and South America.  Basically, if you’re seeking out some Chardonnay vines, just go to any wine country region of the world and you’re likely to find it.

So La Crema, in this Wino’s book, is indeed a Divine Wine! Give it a try and let me know what you think!

[Source for all this fine Wine Knowing in this post unless otherwise stated: The Oxford Companion to Wine]

Divine Wine Sunday: The Franc

First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!  Hope those wine headaches are minimal on this fine first day of the 2012… I’m excited that my first Divine Wine Sunday post is on the January 1st!

Ok, on to business…

So – as a Wino, I do have a general idea of what kinds of wine I like to drink – it is pretty rare that I am unsatisfied with a glass or bottle that I end up with at a restaurant or wine bar… perhaps I’m lucky in my selecting of wines, or perhaps my palate isn’t developed enough to know when what I’m drinking is bad, or perhaps I just stick to what I know I like.  Usually, the only glasses I choose not to finish (or even give back) are those in a slow hotel bar that opts to serve its patrons a glass of wine out of a bottle that was opened two days prior.

Anyway, one thing that is for certain is that if there is a Cabernet Franc on the menu, that is typically my first choice.  This isn’t necessarily because I have loved every Cab Franc I’ve ever had.  But (a) they typically have characteristics that I enjoy in a big wine – dry and earthy with a smooth finish, (b) a Cab Franc wine (i.e. – one that isn’t blended with other grapes or at least not blended much with other grapes) isn’t all that common (from what I’ve seen), and (c) you don’t often see Cab Francs available in restaurants / wine menus.

Now, as a resident of the Valley of the Sun within a walkable distance to a lovely little restaurant and wine bar called 5th and Wine, you might guess that I was delighted to find a Cab Franc on their menu the first time I wined there. And not only was it fun to try, I also really enjoyed it!  And since then, I have really enjoyed it over and over and over again.  (Except during that brief period that they decided to not carry it until enough of us repeat customers cried to our servers.) So here it is…

Divine Wine of the Week: The Franc, Cosentino Winery, Napa Valley

The Franc

The Franc, Cosentino Winery

Price range: $20-30 per bottle at a wine store (I’ve seen it available for sale at Terroir Wine Pub), $10 per glass (at 5th and Wine), $20 per bottle from the Winery

Wino Assessment…

Besides the fact that it has accompanied me many-a-night at 5th and Wine, I enjoy The Franc because it is very dry (meaning, my tongue gets a little chalky when drinking it), but has a smooth finish (meaning, my throat doesn’t feel chalky after a sip).  It completely fills your mouth with flavor with a fine balance between plumminess and earthiness. (Yes, “plumminess” is a word.  Even if there is a red squiggly line telling you otherwise.)  And although it is very dry, that smooth finish allows me to feel like I could drink it all night.  So there’s my Wino assessment… let’s see what the books say…

The Grape…

Lots of people say they like “Cabs” – short for “Cabernet” – but that is usually a references to “Cabernet Sauvignon”.  The OTHER Cabernet is Cabernet Franc.  (Kinda like how pork is the OTHER white meat.)

Cab Franc is a French black grape variety and is usually blended with other grapes in wine making – most often, Cabernet Sauvignon.  It happens to be the “parent grape” to Cab Sauvignon, which was only proved in 1997 via DNA typing.  It buds and matures more than a week earlier than the Cab Sauvignon grape and is also less susceptible to poor weather during harvest.  It is one of the 20 most planted grapes for cultivation in wine. In fact, in parts of the Bordeaux region of France, Cab Franc makes up about 10% of a typical vineyard; because it is more “weather proof” than Cab Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, it is a safer bet for wine makers each year.  (Interesting, right?!… now I like Cab Franc even more – it is risk averse, like me!)

The Wine…

As a wine, the books say that Cab Franc is typically light to medium bodied and sometimes includes herbaceous aromas.  Huh… I would have thought Cab Franc would be described as medium to heavy, but I suppose I related the “boldness” of a wine more to its earthy factor than its fruity factor.

The Franc as described by its winemaker is: “The aromas come out immediately with ripe plum, cherry and clove. Plentiful ripe plum, black cherry and clove notes abound on the palate, followed by a welcome shot of tannin on the smooth finish.” []

So my judgement (as noted in “Wino Assessment” above) was not too far off (I did write that before reading anything else…).  Plum, smooth finish… it’s just that light to medium bodied thing threw me off.


France: As of 2000, Cab Franc was France’s 6th most planted black grape variety, especially in the south western regions. It is very commonly used in the Bordeaux blends…

Italy: It is also fairly common in the north east regions of Italy, but not nearly as much as Cab Sauvignon.  Italians may refer to Cab Franc as “Cabernet Frank” or “Bordo”.  It is also increasingly being referred to as “Carmenere” in north east Italy.

The U.S. of A.: Cab Franc has been grown in Cali since the 1960s (way old, dude) and is primarily grown in the Napa and Sonoma counties.  The book says that it is becoming “increasingly fashionable” due to its relative scarcity (did you hear that – I’m part of an increasingly fashionable crowd!).  Besides Cali, it is also grown in Washington State, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New York.

Other Random Regions: Cab Franc is also being planted in Hungary, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, and – are you ready for this – China. (Random!!)  I have enjoyed wandering around the wineries of Eger in Hungary, and while I didn’t know they used Cab Franc grapes, I love-Love-LOVED their wines.  (Though the handful of Hungarian wine available in U.S. grocery stores are not representative of what I tasted in Hungary… not even those sold at Trader Joe’s, friends.)

So there you have it – the first Divine Wine on Wino to Wine Know.  I feel like I Wine Know a little more than I did… do you??

[Source for all this fine Wine Knowing in this post unless otherwise stated: The Oxford Companion to Wine]