Welcome to your Black Winer Newsletter for Monday, April 05, 2010

Table of Contents

Hello All,

Well, I have recovered from our filming of Duck, Duck, Goose and have been engrossed in (re)formulating the episodes for the first season of our proposed show.

So far, I have some twenty-five episodes drawn up, and am going over all of what I need for each one. It could range from anywhere as thirteen extras, to several musicians and a singer, to a small trio of backup singers (oh yes, I am getting creative this time around). I figure that in addition to being a co-host, I'll bring to the table my musical chops as well. Hell, I might even dance a little bit on a few episodes.

And on the music side, I am learning the whole business of obtaining synchronization, or mechanical, licenses for using music and songs by others in our shows. This will be a big pain, and hopefully it won't wind up costing too much.

The other thing is actually factoring out the production schedule and the budgets. With some twenty-five episode ideas, we have to factor down to a realistic shooting schedule which will allow us to shoot at least three episodes a day, I doubt that we'll get four.

So, in a nutshell, that's what I have been doing. Once I have this worked out, with the next phase, we'll get to then trying to raise funds for this phase, then go to serious preproduction, and probably shooting in July and August, maybe even June if we raise all of what we need before then. In the meantime, I am about ready to start editing video and also add it to the website. In this, it looks like it's time that I breakdown and get a Macintosh and start doing some work on it.

Along the world of wine, there have been some disappointments. The first is that I will not be making it to Vini Italy 2010, which means that I need to look at it for 2011. The second is that a couple bottles of wine that I was really expecting to be spectacular turned out to be duds (you'll read about the 7 Deadly Zins below).

But on the flipside, I did have both a great time at a blind tasting of sommeliers and also saw Ledisi and Mint Condition in concert. Of the former, it was the first time that I saw her in concert and she rocked it. On the latter, if you don't know, I am a Mint Condition fan, even being in the front row with a couple other die-hard fans of their DVD "Live at the 930 Club." And in music, you might want to check out Dira, and new albums from both Erykah Badu and Silhouette Brown.

Oh, and during the month of March I did a couple tastings of Quady's Winery's Electra between four different state stores in PA. I have been drinking Electra for years, as well as some of their other wines, and have introduced a number of people to it as well. Two years ago, I got the chance to meet Laurel and Andrew, the husband and wife owners up at the New York Chocolate Show. It is always a pleasure in showcasing their products, and I can't wait to finally taste everything that they produce, including their Syrah and Viognier releases.

Friday had me meeting Kohtaroh Kinoshita, the owner of Kitaya Company, Ltd., a producer of sake. They make some fine sparkling sakes, of which I advised them to produce a version with a higher alcohol content which will make it a great seller. This was set up by Silvio Lelli, the president of Nationwide Wine and Spirits. I intend to have a bartender acquaintance mix some sake and wines to come up with several different drinks which we'll unveil on the site and hopefully it will be carried in several places in the city. Looking forward, if you attend the sake festival you might see Silvio's table with said bartender mixing some sake & wine cocktails right on the spot.

Well, that's it, that's the 411 on everything going on on this end. There might be another tasting soon, and if so, I will let you know on it.

Latest Articles

A poker game of blind tasting with some wine-sharks

Monday, March 29, 2010

Yesterday, I had the great opportunity to sit amongst a table of four sommeliers and participate in a blind wine tasting with them.  It was quite a learning experience.  Along the way, I made the analogy that I was a little kid with the sixteen color box of crayons while they each had the deluxe set with two hundred fifty six colors and the sharpener in the middle.  

When I saw the sheet that they were using to narrow down what type of wine it was, the first thing that intimidated me was that to truly be able to do this, one had to have tasted, if not consumed, a significant amount of wines from different regions as well as different grapes.  Outside of understanding the taste of certain grape varietals, there is also the issue of being able to understand styles of wine that deal with basic blends from various appellations, tasting the different between oak and unoaked aging and fermentation, and observations such as reading the physical signs that a wine gives off to tell if it was produced in a colder or warmer climate.

We started with whites, where with the first bottle, I asked the question of whether it was a blend, being that it reminded me of something that I had with one blanc grape (meaning that Blanc was in the grape's name); I was right on that part, but that was all that I could deduce.  The second wine threw me, because I detected more of what I felt was oxidation, rather than anything else.  The last white reminded me of so many things, but it turned out to be a combination of two grapes, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion, with that latter importing it's character to mute the former.  The third white reminded me on something, but in the back of my mind, the first thing that I thought was I have not had enough of this particular varietals, especially in various fashions to be even able to make the call on it.

The reds were probably as difficult, but more familiar to the parties involved, and that's where I really understood the value of trying more foods as well as more versions of wines made from the same grape.  There was one Cabernet Sauvignon that was about ten years old and at that point, loses the common fruit level that a young Cab is known for; just about anyone used to drinking wines less than five years old outside of certain meritages and dessert blends would have easily been fooled.

While I felt highly intimidated amongst this group, they were very forthcoming with their knowledge and encouraging me to just talk about the wines from my own experiences.  This was one of those experiences that many people fear and shies them away from wine, and others try to fake based on reciting what they read about in magazines such as Wine Spectator et al.  However, no one should be intimidated with wine, you like what you like, and if you are truly into wine, you'll start reaching out for more in-depth sampling of more than you'll normally find on the shelves of one store.

There were some other interesting things that were voiced, and one major one was that all of the wines picked were more traditional in nature, with no occasional exceptions thrown in to rattle, or fake, anyone there.  An example of this would be taking a wine from Italy that is done with a different style than what is normal for that appellation, or a wine from California where someone was going for an Alsace rendering of Pinot Blanc.

One thing I saw was the similarity between sommeliers and auto mechanics.  Of the latter, after years of experience with a number of vehicles, there is the advanced knowledge from decades of having to understanding schematics, both electrical and mechanical and understanding the nuances of different setups.  A good BMW mechanic can tell you about every little design 'character' of any particular year and model that the worked on.  They could tell you cheaper ways to increase horsepower, torque, fuel mileage, etc.  Some mechanics can tell you what a car has under the hood based on simply hearing the engine at different speeds.  Additionally, someone could tell you every potential configuration for a car given a certain year; remember Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny?  

Well, sommeliers are like that, and after they get their certifications, just like mechanics, it doesn't end there.  It takes years of tasting wines to form a great mental database of all of the nuances of a grape, of a style, of a region, etc., to adequately be able to tell certain things about a wine without knowing what it is.  Just like knowing which parts are likely to fail inc ertain cars and when based on their manufacture, a sommelier might taste the same bottle year after year to see what changes in general and what specifically (for those that don't know, wines usually change after so many years in the bottle, sometimes becoming duller before brightening up again).

I myself never want to become a sommelier, nor an auto mechanic, though I did once work in a place rebuilding engines, starters and alternators; you should have seen me then folks.  I was happy as hell with my air tools, my chain lift and hand-operated and electric forklifts.  I am equally happy with a variety of wine openers, some bottles of wine, and good folks to share it with.

Thanks again to the round table: Marnie Olds, Bill Eccleston, Geoff Butler, and the woman whose name that I forget.  They helped to refine an idea that I want to use for some episodes of my television concept.

Latest Reviews

About as sinful as a newborn kitten

Brand NameMichael and David Phillips
Wine Name7 Deadly Zins
CountryUnited States
Wine ClassRed
Wine TypeZinfandel
Alcohol Percentage14.5%
Price$10 - $20s
Site Rating5 (on a scale of 1-10)

Since I am on a Zinfandel kick as of late, I had great anticipation towards drinking this wine. Unfortunately, it tastes somewhere between wet leather and bacon, and this is not a great taste for a wine. There is some fruit in it, but you have to get paste the initial taste-stench to even begin to pick it up.

Totally overrated.

Smoky leather

Brand NamePozzan
Wine NameOakville Cuvee Zinfandel
AVANapa Valley
CountryUnited States
Quality/GradeSingle Vineyard
Wine ClassRed
Wine TypeZinfandel
Alcohol Percentage14.9%
Price$10 and Unders
Site Rating7 (on a scale of 1-10)

There are a lot of things that can be said about Zinfandel, but it should be somewhat juicy and flavorful. I can't say that I like this wine, as the smell and flavor remind me of wet leather, though the underlying fruit is dark plum, the tannins shake the taste from your mouth, covering them up indelicately.

If you take your time to taste this wine, letting it sit in your mouth for at least seven seconds, you do get an undercurrent of currant and just the faintest bit of cocoa and wood.

As of now, I don't rate this wine high, but it might have been interesting to see what it tasted like when first released, and what it will taste like in another three years.

Fall in, but don't forget your safety net

Brand NameW & J Graham's
Wine NameSix Grapes Reserve Porto
Wine ClassWhite
Wine TypeItalian White, Italian White, Italian White, Chenin Blanc, Italian White, Italian White
Alcohol Percentage19.5%
Price$10 - $20s
Site Rating10 (on a scale of 1-10)

This is my paisan's go-to Port wine, and I must say that I also like it (though I do love their older ports). This wine is filled with a rich, succulent decadence that is the utmost over-concentration of well-aged fruit (think raisins and candied plums). The power of both the fruit and the alcohol hit the back of your throat and slowly permeates the back of your throat, yielding some sort of heavenly mist that slowly creeps down into your gullet.

This is something that you sit down for, not take a shot and walk around a bit. For those cigar lovers, this is something that you might want to share when you chomp down on a stogy.

Well, I can't wait until the next big wine tasting where I can enjoy some of there more prestigious releases.

Great on waffles

Brand NameBlandy's
Wine NameAlvada
Wine ClassWhite
Wine TypeChenin Blanc, Chenin Blanc
Alcohol Percentage19%
Price$10 - $20s
Site Rating9 (on a scale of 1-10)

I have had Bual Madeira and I have had Malmsey Madeira --my favorite is a 1964 Bual from Broadbent going for over $650 a bottle-- but this was the first time that I have had a mixture of both.

Another wine that Mr. Trabb introduced me to, this ambrosial concoction reminds me of the walnuts and pecans in the syrup that you find at any good ice cream shoppe. However, this aint for kids! Lovely, in it's nature, thick in body and with a kick, this is the best accompaniment to a nightcap, either drank straight or poured over a dessert. It would also be a morning after treat served over waffles with strawberries.

The bottle is hip and this would wow people if it was stocked in a club.

Berry and chocolate from Portugal

Brand NameDow
Wine NameVale do Bomfim
Wine ClassWhite
Wine TypeItalian White, Italian White, Italian White, Italian White
Alcohol Percentage13%
Price$10 and Unders
Site Rating9 (on a scale of 1-10)

I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Arnold Trabb, the East Coast Account Manager of Premium Port Wines, at the New York Wine Expo in February. It was love at first site with his wines, and we've probably met before at a couple of wine tastings with me tasting some of his older ports and madeiras.

This time around, we met to get a chance for me to review some of his wines, and see some of the things that most people might not connect to their brands.

This wine not only had essence of dark berries and cocoa, but also just a little bit of oak. This is a wonderful wine that should not be consumed without food. Well priced, it's something that you should try on your shelf.


Our Mission: The Black Winer strives to expose African Americans [and others] to wines, without the flair, stuffiness, and airs of elitism and snobbery that you get from sommeliers and high level wine enthusiasts. We believe in finding something that you like the taste of, outside of the basic brands that you have been force-fed over the years through a combination of ethnically targeted advertising, and what people in your family have historically been drinking.

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