Fifth Annual in Vino Veritas

Celebrate Great American Winemaking at Fifth Annual In Vino Veritas

In Vino Veritas, a much anticipated annual, two-day wine event at St. John’s College, Annapolis, Md., opens with a dinner and wine tasting that celebrates the legacy of great American winemaking.

On Friday, February 27 special guest Warren Winiarski (St. John’s College, Class of 1952), founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, joins a panel of notable winemakers and connoisseurs in an exclusive evening of wine tasting.  Stag’s Leap produced the winner of the 1976 Judgment of Paris. This historical wine event had a revolutionary impact on the wine industry, putting California wines firmly on the world wine map. A bottle of the award-winning 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon wine is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. In its November 2013 issue, “Smithsonian” magazine included this bottle as one of the “101 Objects that Made America.”

Napa winemakers John Turley, founder of Turley Vineyards; John Williams, founder of Frog’s Leap Winery; and Zach Rasmuson, CEO of Duckhorn Vineyards, will join Winiarski for a discussion moderated by Abe Schoener, founder of The Scholium Project.  Turley, Rasmuson, and Schoener are also St. John’s College alumni.  St. John’s College is known for its visionary winemakers –The New York Times magazine describes Schoener as a “fearless, risk loving winemaker.”

On Saturday, February 28, guests at the Grand Tasting can explore more than 100 wines from around the world, premier wine growing regions and producers, meet the vintners, and sample wines and hors d’oeuvres. Workshops will be offered throughout the afternoon.

For prices, tickets and more information about this two-day fundraiser sponsored by the Friends of St. John’s College, visit:

St. John’s College is located in the heart of historic Annapolis, Md.  The college, an independent, four-year institution, also has a campus in Santa Fe, N.M.  St. John’s is known for its distinctive curriculum that focuses on the foundational works of western civilization.  The college also offers graduate-level programs based on these same principles

7 Days, 7 Cities – 1 Great Wine

Aquaoir – from aqua,(“water”) is the interaction between a submerged container of wine and the set of special characteristics that a body of water and its environment hold – temperature, pressure, light (or darkness) and motion.

And so the experiment began in the Spring of 2013.  Mira Winery dropped four cases of their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon into the Atlantic Ocean just off the Charleston Harbor.  The wine stayed for three months.  Four cases of the same wine were left to age naturally in the bottle at the winery.  The wine was retrieved from the ocean and the tastings, along with the media frenzy, began.

I was fortunate enough to be invited as Mira’s guest to attend a blind tasting of the two wines side by side November 6.  The tasting event kicked off a 7 day tour where Mira was hosting a tasting event in 7 cities.  The tour lineup was:

  • Charleston SC – Nov 6
  • Washington, DC – Nov 7
  • New York, NY – Nov 8
  • Palm Beach, FL  Nov 9
  • Little Rock, AR – Nov 10
  • San Francisco, CA – Nov 11
  • Los Angeles, CA – Nov 12

The setting for the Charleston tasting was at Harborside East and you couldn’t have asked for a more picturesque backdrop for tasting wine

  • Charleston Harbor

    Charleston Harbor

The wine was initially aged in the ocean in an effort to discover a better process for aging wine.  The three-month experiment, by all accounts, was hugely successful.  The experiment was limited to three months to test equipment.  The bottles came out of the water covered with barnacles, but the corks were still securely in place.  Mira has now submerged eight cases in the water and plans to leave them eight months.  The difference in this group of wines is that they were submerged immediately after bottling with no bottle aging prior to submersion.  The labels were etched on the bottles for the new group of wines to avoid having to scrape barnacles off and attach labels after the fact.

Jim "Bear" Dyke

Jim “Bear” Dyke

So what was the result of the three-month aging as compared to regular bottle aging?  Answer: Significant and Amazing!

I have been following this Aquaoir experiment from the beginning.  I had already heard how significantly different the wines tasted.  With the blind tasting, I had no way of knowing which wine was in which glass.  Glass “A” appeared to be a young wine and was very tannic.   It had a great nose with hints of leather and spice.  I picked up licorice on the palate.  I felt like it needed quite a bit more time in the bottle.  Glass “B” didn’t have near as much on the nose, but the flavors were intense dark cherry, plum, and vanilla.  It was more evolved, silky with smooth tannins.  One would never guess that these were the same wine.  Glass “B” had been ocean-aged.  The difference was remarkable.

SIDE NOTE: The last case of the ocean-aged wine goes on sale TODAY.  The first case sold out to wine club members in a few hours.  Word of warning, this wine won’t last long.

So what created the differences in these wines.  As of right now, the science behind testing these wines hasn’t really given any clues.  The chemical analysis consisted primarily of  testing pH, alcohol, volatile acidity and turbidity and comparing the results of the land aged versus the water aged.  There was no significant difference in any of this.  When the wine was submerged, the bottles were at 57°.  The wine was set ay 60′ deep and stayed for three months.  When the wine came up, it was at 72°.  This was completely unexpected and they are not sure why it was so warm.  The warmth could have sped up the aging process, but the results are not conclusive.

The eight cases that have just been submerged will age through the winter months.  Will this make a difference?  Only time will tell.

Could ocean-aging be the answer to the global wine shortage that is being talked about lately in the news?  It is definitely something that should be looked at closely.  Mira is the first US winery to try ocean-aging, but several wineries around the globe have experimented with ocean-aging.


Taster’s Tablet

Okay, let’s be honest.  If you are reading this article it is because you love wine (almost) as much as I do.  We love wine festivals and events, especially if it offers us the opportunity to taste new and different wines!  But what happens when we encounter too many great wines.  How do we remember all of them – what was good, what was mediocre, what do I want (need) to remember for my next shopping trip – or for that matter, so I can go back later that same day and buy a whole case of that perfect wine???

I always think I will remember the wines I like, but truth be told, I am more likely to remember the ones I don’t.  And if I am at a major tasting event, by the time I get through the tasting,, going back to buy a specific wine (or case) is the furthest thing from my mind.  So we should all take good tasting notes that include special markings by the wines we really like, but where do you put your wine while you write and score these wines.  You need your hands free!

The Taster’s Tablet was invented to free up our hands so we can take notes and retain a little bit of our dignity as we do so.  Don’t be caught with a wine glass dangling around your neck sloshing wine all over your shirt.

Wine Glass Necklace

Wine Glass Necklace

Instead, use Taster’s Tablet.  You will have both hands free to take tasting notes, greet people or sample delicious tidbits of perfect pairings.


Here you have the wine perfectly balanced in the glass holder at the top of the tablet.  You have a free hand and the glass is stable.  You can take notes and score the wines as you go.  The glass slides easily in and out of the glass holder for tasting.  The tablets come with taster’s note sheets and flavor descriptors to help identify the flavors and aromas you are picking up in the wines – perfect for the wine connoisseur or the novice.

Put your logo or design here!

Put your logo or design here!

You can also have the tablets customized with your own logo or design.  Use them at your next event or as giveaways so that your brand is front and center at the next BIG wine tasting in your area.

You can find Tater’s Tablet on Facebook and Twitter (@TastersTablet) as well.

Taster’s Tablet was a media sample received for review purposes.

Mira Winery Makes History with Aquaoir

Mira Winery Makes History after Successfully Recovering Wine Aged in Charleston Harbor

Taste Test Reveals How Quickly Two Wines Changed Paths


Charleston, S.C. (May 22, 2013) – Mira Winery concluded a historic three-month experiment in the Charleston, S.C. Harbor Tuesday, May 21, 2013 when the Napa-based producer of fine wines recovered four cases of its 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from 60 feet below in the Atlantic Ocean. Mira is the first American winery to successfully experiment with aging wine in the ocean.

“There is no doubt that the ocean holds a potential gift to wine,” said Mira Winery President, Jim “Bear” Dyke Jr. “The success of Phase I makes us more committed than ever to going back down in the fall with twice the cages for twice the time.”

In February, Mira Winery began Phase I of its project by submerging cages filled with its wine to test how it would be affected if aged in the ocean, experimenting with the major elements that can affect aging — temperature, humidity, pressure, motion, light – or lack thereof – and oxygen. The experiment follows generations of European wineries that have explored the ocean’s impact on wine.

Mira Winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez, and Communion Wine Club Advanced Sommelier Patrick Emerson first tasted the wine before sharing the results on a conference call with Mira Wine Club Members.

“In full disclosure, I am a big fan of the control wine which was on land,” said Emerson. “I am quite surprised – shocked at how quickly these two wines have changed paths – something magical has happened with Aquaoir. The signature difference might be in the riddling motion of the tides.”

“It’s not better, its not worse and it is definitely different,” said Gustavo Gonzalez. “The land wine is tighter versus Aquaoir aged wine which is more complex and broad, more open and relaxed. The result is proof certain that we have more to learn.”

Mira Winery will share temperature readings and other information from Phase I on its website at Twelve bottles of the wine will be sold via the website exclusively to Wine Club Members, beginning July 1, 2013 on a first come basis.

Mira Winery, launched in September 2012, employs the craftsmanship of Napa Valley 100-point Winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez. Mira’s wine was most recently rated by Wine Enthusiast with the 2010 Pinot Noir receiving 94 points and named “Editors’ Choice” and the 2009 Syrah receiving 92 points. Mira prioritizes craftsmanship over production, yielding handcrafted, small production wines that can be found in fine dining restaurants throughout CA, Charleston, S.C., Palm Beach, FL and Washington, D.C. and at

Open cage of wine retrieved from the ocean

Open cage of wine retrieved from the ocean

first bottle

First bottle retrieved after 3-month Aquaoir aging.

G during taste testing

Gustavo Gonzales

About Mira Winery

Mira Winery produces Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Red Wine, Rose, White Wine, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from some of the most prestigious vineyards in the Napa Valley. Old world tradition meets new world techniques.

Dinner with Wine & (New) Friends

One of my favorite past times is going to wine dinners hosted by local restaurants!  You get fabulous food, the atmosphere is always fun and festive and you get to try glorious new wines that you might otherwise never get to taste, not to mention all the great people you get to meet.  A glass of wine always breaks the ice and is such a great conversation starter!   The price for the 4 – 5 course meal with a different wine paired with each course is one of the best deals you will ever find, typically a better price than the restaurant’s regular menu.  Then you have the option of purchasing these wines at incredible discounts!!!  We always buy a case.  Chances are we will never have another opportunity to purchase them.

As I was pulling wines out tonight to pair with dinner, I stumbled across a 2007 Reserve Chianti from Coli.  We picked this wine up a couple of years ago at a wine dinner at Meridian in Winston Salem.  I had thought these wines were all gone so I was pleasantly surprised.  It was the perfect accompaniment for the pasta dish hubby had prepared for dinner.

  Chianti Riserva 2007

  Coli Wine Cellars – Tuscany, Italy

  12.5% Alcohol

  Very dry, earthy, licorice with a hint of tobacco

And The Winner Is…

The 23rd Annual Pinehurst Food and Wine Festival is winding down today. This year’s festival was hugely successful by any standards. It was a sold out event with great wine, great food and great entertainment.

The Festival kicked off Friday, September 2 with a wine tasting & competition where the guests served as judges, scoring wine in ten different categories: Premium and Prestige Chardonnay, Premium and Prestige Pinot Grigio, Premium and Prestige Pinot Noit, Premium and Prestige Cabernet Sauvignon, Prestige Organic Chardonnay, and Prestige Organic Pinot Noir. Premium (less than $20 retail) and Prestige (wines that were greater than $20 retail). The medals were not categorized as gold, silver and bronze, but rather as medals of distinction and recognition.

The People Choice Premium Awards:

Benziger 2009 Sangiacomo Vineyard Chardonnay

Cambria 2008 Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay

Catena 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

Estancia 2010 Pinot Grigio

The People Choice Prestige Awards:

Stewart Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

DeLoach 2009 Pinot Noir OFS

St Innocent 2009 Villages Cuvee Pinot Noir

Botega Vinaia 2009 Trentino Pinot Grigio

To Wine Club or Not to Wine Club?

I visited wine country back in May – Sonoma County, Santa Rosa and absolutely loved it (didn’t even get upset over the parking ticket). However, I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of requests to join wine clubs. Yes, we have wine clubs here in North Carolina, but they seem to be an after thought when you are getting ready to pay for your purchase, not the main focus of your tasting. I ended up joining three wine clubs, mainly because I couldn’t get those wines any other way, especially back in North Carolina. Another misconception on my part was thinking that ALL California wines are widely distributed and that I just wasn’t shopping in the right places. Wrong! Most of these wines can only be purchased at the winery and the majority of them are only available to wine club members.

So this started me thinking about the criteria I consider important in choosing a wine club. Not all of these questions will apply to you, but some of them will. At any rate, don’t join a wine club just to be joining. Make sure you get what you want and expect out of membership.

1. Does the wine club offer exclusive wines to the members? (Not all the wines need to be exclusive, but every wine club shipment needs to have wines included that ARE NOT available for everyone to purchase.)

2. Does the winery offer special discounts to wine club members? (Discounts are important. Keep in mind that the winery is guaranteed a certain level of income every time a wine club shipment goes out; therefore, when you visit the winery, they should be willing to give you a substantial discount on your purchases. I would suggest as much as 30-40% on case purchases.)

3. Does the winery offer special events for wine club members only? (Once again, the winery knows exactly how much they are going to make off you with every wine club shipment. They should want to keep you happy and one way to do this is to offer special “exclusive” events that only wine club members can attend.)

4. Are there costs associated with joining the wine club? (There should be no fees for joining the wine club. Obviously the winery needs to know they can count on you as a member to fulfill your obligation to them for the discounts and parties they give you. Members should be required to sign an agreement stating that they will stay in the club for a set amount of time and credit card information should be furnished at the time of joining the wine club so that shipments during this “set amount of time” can be paid for timely. This creates a win/win situation for both the winery and the wine club member.)

5. Do you have the option of selecting your wine preference? (Most wine clubs will give you the option of choosing all reds, all whites, or a combination. If you only drink reds, don’t join a club that doesn’t offer the option of choosing only red wine in your shipment.)

6. Can you select the time of year you want your wine club shipments sent out? (This is not an issue if you live close to the winery and can drop by to pick up your wines; however, if you live on the “other” coast, this is an important consideration. All the wine clubs I joined in California had to agree to NOT ship my wines during the summer months because of the excessive heat.)

7. Do you receive anything from the winery for bringing new members into the wine club? (The winery should offer something “special” if you bring someone to the winery that joins the wine club while they are visiting with you. I would suggest a free bottle of wine to show their appreciation for you, their loyal customer.)

8. Do you get a free tasting or a free glass of wine when visiting the winery? (All wine club members should get their choice of a free tasting or a glass of wine when dropping by the winery to visit or bring a guest.)

9. Can you sit and enjoy a bottle (or glass) of wine in comfort at the winery? (This doesn’t just apply to wine club members, but if it is 95 degrees outside and the humidity is 98%, the winery shouldn’t expect you to sit outside to drink your wine. The same goes for cold weather. The customer’s satisfaction and comfort should be a priority for the winery.)

My example would be Kunde Estate in Kenwood, CA. They offer a special area in the tasting room referred to as the “Kinneybrook Room” for wine club members to sit, enjoy a cheese tray and sip their wine. This type of treatment should be the norm, not the exception.

So what is your criteria for the “perfect” wine club? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Bottle Shock 2 – North Carolina Style

 The Salute NC Wine Festival celebrated its 6th year anniversary Saturday, June 4.  Each year this festival grows in popularity – the reason, the eclectic events surrounding and leading up to the festival.  The actual festival is the last day of a weeklong schedule of wine related dinners, pairings, movies and fun.  All of Winston Salem gets involved!

This year there was something new added to the list of diverse happenings – a blind wine tasting called “Wine Design.”  Held in The Underground Theatre at the Community Arts Café, we were all greeted with a blind pouring of sparkling wine as we registered and got our tasting packets. The packet, almost as exciting as the tasting itself, contained an Aroma Wheel.   

Aroma Wheel

 A Wine Aroma Wheel not only provides you with a vast wine vocabulary, it also shows you the most common aromas you will find in wine, and then breaks down each basic aroma to something more specific.  An example would be picking up an aroma of spice in your wine.  Taking it to the next level, you would want to identify that spice as anise, black pepper, or clove.

But we weren’t just tasting wine; we were pairing each wine with specific foods meant to bring out the best flavors in each wine.  There were four tasting stations ranging from lighter whites to bold, intense reds.  Each station had three wines; all wrapped up and numbered so we had no idea what we were tasting.  Of the three wines, at least one was a North Carolina wine and at least one was not.  We had French wine and California wine; but none of that mattered.  All of our preconceived notions about what we liked went out the window.  We were all Swirling and Smelling and Sipping (the three S’s of wine) and then sipping some more.  Everyone studied the Aroma Wheel to find the right words to describe the aroma they were picking up and then the subsequent taste and finish of each wine.  Our main objective was to rate each of the three wines in each category, leave our ratings at that station and move on to the next station.

While we were doing this, there was both music and art to enhance the experience.

The rating sheets were picked up and the rankings were compiled.  BOTTLE SHOCK! From the first station, the winner was a Traminette from Lake James Cellars of Glen Alpine, NC.  This wine had gone up against another North Carolina wine but also beat out MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc from South Africa.

Station two produced another North Carolina winner with McRitchie Winery’s Pale Rider, a rose from the Yadkin Valley.  McRitchie not only beat another North Carolina winery, but they also beat Domaine Antugnac Chardonnay from France AND they were selected as the overall winner for the night.  A big congratulations to McRitchie Winery!!!

At Station three, we tasted a Cabernet Sauvignon from Raylen Vineyards, Chateau du Colombier, Bordeaux France and Sophenia Reserve Malbec from Mendoza Argentina.  Raylen Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon won with its intense deep red fruit and hint of pepper.

At the final station, we tasted another wine from Raylen Vineyards, their Category 5; Charles Smith “Velvet Devil” Merlot from Columbia Valley, Washington and Shoofly Shiraz from Southeast Australia.  The Charles Smith “Velvet Devil” with its smoky dark fruit and long finish won.

The experience was fun and the wines, like the night, were impressive.  We put North Carolina up against some of the best and we left our mark.

Blog Stats

  • 51,709 hits