Luxury wine vending machine increases wine sales for Goss Wine Bar, Tokyo

info via CrunchGear by Serkan Toto on 10/15/09

"It’s not really a secret: Japan loves vending machines. So it’s not really surprising this newest (and quite unique) model is made in Nippon, too: A vending machine that lets you buy luxury wines through a pre-paid card. The machine is supposed to soften the negative effects the current recession has for wine lovers.

The vending machine is operated by the Goss Wine Bar in Ginza, Tokyo’s poshest neighborhood. All customers need to do is to insert said pre-paid card, select a bottle of wine among 24 different kinds and watch how the wine flows into their glasses.

Reportedly, customers enjoy the fact that they can actually see the bottle before they drink the wine and that they can now taste expensive wines in smaller quantities.The Goss Wine Bar claims the number of customers has risen by 20% in September (when compared to September 2008)."

Squaw Valley Village: September Alpen Wine Festival Showcases Good Wines for a Good Cause

The 21st Annual Alpen Wine Festival, held in September, is a not-to-be-missed event for wine aficionados and those who want to learn more about wine. Held every year at the Village at Squaw Valley and hosted the great wine bar there, Uncorked, the event helps raise money for The Huega Ceter for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The Huega Center teaches people with MS how to use exercise to help manage their life with this chronic disease.

More than 40 wineries poured samples in the village setting, surrounded by Squaw’s beautiful Alpine-like scenery. There were so many wonderful wines to taste and enjoy, but here are a few that we found noteworthy.

Grant Family Winery’s California Tempranillo was a standout! This varietal has been a recent darling of the West Coast wine industry, and long a favorite of those who love wines from Spain. Jon Grant, winemaker, produced his tempranillo from grapes grown in the Madder Lake Vineyard near Clear Lake in Lake County, CA. Dark purple in hue, this tempranillo features aroma of plum, leather, mineral, spice, and a taste of complex berry, cherry and mineral. Bold and balanced tannin on the palate. Only 150 cases produced. $24/bottle.

The Alpen Cellars Winery poured a 2007 Pinot Noir with a yummy aroma and a lovely jammy taste. Located in Trinity County, this mountain winery grows early maturing vinifera grapes such as White Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The 2007 Pinot Noir is a great red wine for dinner with pasta, chicken, red meat, cheese. Aroma of black cherries, plum and black pepper. Taste of cherries, cranberries. 13.5% alcohol. Approx $17/bottle.

Chatom Vineyards is located in the breathtaking Esmeralda Valley of Calaveras county, a short distance from Murphys in the Sierra Foothills. The 2005 Gitano-Sangiovese is made from 100% estate grown grapes, and the result is a taste of spice, plum, raspberries, and a hint of anise and chocolate. I enjoyed the way this wine lingered with an herbal finish too, and the spice persisted. 14.9% alcohol. Only 812 cases produced. $16/bottle.

Andrew Geoffrey Vineyards made only 1700 cases of their 2005 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon. For those who like a complex wine with a strong tannic backbone, you’ll enjoy this peppery-tasting high alcohol wine. Their estate vineyard is located atop Diamond Mountain in the Diamond Mountain District sub-appellation of the Napa Valley. John Gibson, winemaker, has blended the finest lots produced from the varietals grown in the vineyard to produce a sophisticated and balanced age-able wine. 15.8% alcohol. $75/bottle 92 points Robert Parker.

Stark Wine poured their Damino Vineyard 2007 Viognier, with grapes sourced from the Sierra Foothills AVA. It has aroma of peach and pear, but the honeysuckle is what struck my nose as truly aromatic. Taste of tropical fruit. Winery owner Jennifer Stark and her husband Christian Stark, the winemaker, pride themselves on using Sierra Foothills grapes to produce fullbodied wines that are immediately drinkable but also have extended aging potential. 14.5% alcohol. $25/ bottle. Only 208 cases produced, so contact them soon!

Truchard Vineyards treated us to a glass of their 2007 Chardonnay. This Napa winery, established in 1974 in the Carneros area, produces Chardonnay that benefit from the marine soils and cooler temperatures of Carneros. This 2007 chardonnay has an intense fruit aroma of tropical fruit, lemon, vanilla and spice and flavor of honey, green apple and fresh pear. This complex wine has great acidity, minerality and a finish of toasted oak. 14.1% alcohol. $30/bottle

The Alpen WineFest is held each year in late August or early September in the Village at Squaw Valley. Did I mention that it is a dog-friendly event?

© 2009 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in September 2009.


El Dorado Wineries - Proactive on Water Conservation

From time to time, representatives of winery associations will give a glimmer as to the status of that region's water issues. Jolaine Collins works with the El Dorado Winery Association, and her quick report is that several El Dorado wineries are proactive with sustainable farming practices, including water conservation.

"In the Placerville area, Boeger Winery, the region’s largest grape grower and winery, works with the El Dorado Irrigation district on using electronic probes to monitor the vines’ water needs," Jolaine noted. "Greg Boeger told me that many of the region's wineries employ this irrigation management system to monitor and predict their vineyards' water needs on a weekly basis, and mentioned that both Boeger and neighboring Madrona Vineyards have specific vineyards that sometimes require as little as one application of water per year. "

In the south part of El Dorado County, the Fair Play wine region is faced with an even tighter water supply than its neighbors to the north, she said. "Without water storage facilities, Fair Play’s local water agency depends on Mother Nature for the south county's water allotment."

The El Dorado Winery Association includes 29 wineries, the majority of them family owned. Growing grapes in hundreds of microclimates from 1,200 to 3,500 feet, the county contains more than 2,000 acres of vines, and is home to approximately 50 wineries. El Dorado was designated an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1983.

You can read more about water issues in the sister blog of winebiznews,

Hyatt (Incline Village, NV) Winemaker Dinners: A Best-of-Class Experience

A brilliant young winemaker and experienced Chef de Cuisine, brought together in harmonious combination by a talented sommelier – nothing could be quite as perfect as this kind of evening orchestrated at the Lone Eagle Grille at the toney Hyatt Regency resort in Incline Village, NV.

We’re talking about the fabulous winemaker dinners here, and the sommelier Kristi Snyder is the knock-your-socks-off hostess with the moistest. This summer we experienced Kristi’s hospitality first hand, as winemaker Nicholas de Luca of Dierberg Estate Vineyards poured wines that paired so perfectly with the dishes of chef Mark May that writing about the experience is like returning to a food-wine-pairing dream.

Throughout the year, the Lone Eagle Grille is a place sought out for its fine food and its fantastic wine list, all enjoyed with fantastic views of Lake Tahoe. We’ll talk more about the wine list built by Kristi Snyder and her philosophy of making wine accessible in a later column, but for now, picture yourself in a cozy corner room of the Grille, surrounded by great food and great wine and 30 other guests.

The wines featured were from the Dierberg Estate Vineyards. The Dierberg vineyard is located near the Pacific Coast in Santa Barbara County, and they produce incredible Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; owners Jim and Mary Dierberg focus the Dierberg label on the delicate and elegant Burgundy varieties. The nearby Star Lane Vineyard, also acquired by the Dierberg’s in 1996, is in the most eastern corner of the Santa Ynez Valley; this notably warmer terroir produces robust and powerful Bordeaux varieties.

Winemaker Nicholas de Luca brings his on-the-job experience to these wines from background at Cline Cellars, Fisher, several crushes in New Zealand, and Byington, in the Santa Cruz Mountains among other stops in a nonstop climb to the ranks of great young winemakers.

As guests mingled with the winemaker and sommelier, the Star Lane Sauvignon Blanc 2007 was poured. This refreshing wine with aroma of citrus and a taste of grapefruit was served at the perfect temperature – frankly, a rarity in my wine tasting experience, as most whites are served far too cold! The correctness of the temperature allowed the wild spring flowers, gooseberries and mandarin orange flavors to manifest too . !3.6% alcohol. $20 bottle/winery, cellar for up to 6 years.

Chef May presented a first course of sautéed soft shell crab, served on a bed of mache lettuce and finished with beets and brown butter at the side. The Dierberg Chardonnay 2006 was a full bodied Chardonnay with bright acidity and, with its wonderful citrus characteristic, a perfect accompaniment to the crab. Grapes sourced from the Santa Maria vineyard result in deep tangelo, grapefruit and lemon grass aromas, with a touch of hazelnut. 14.6% alcohol. $32 bottle/winery, and will hold well for 5 years.

For my palate, the yummiest wine came next – the Dierberg Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2006. Aroma of blackberry, a touch of white pepper, tobacco. Mild tannin in the middle, and a great finish. Winemaker de Luca noted that this wine is a bit of a lighter style Pinot than what Dierberg is generally known to produce, but said that “the wine we make needs to reflect the wildness of the vineyard, and we then take care of the fruit from that point forward.” This wine has overtones of sage, with delicate aromas of tea leaf, raspberry and forest floor. The 2006 Dierberg, aged in 75% new French oak for 17 months, then lightly fined with egg whites and bottled unfiltered, has 14.9% alcohol, $42 bottle/winery; it can be cellared for 10 years. It was incredible with the Grilled Niman Ranch pork tenderloin, prepared with blackberries and quinoa.

The third course, roasted prime striploin with seared goose liver, grilled zucchini and green peppercorn sauce, was paired with the Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. This is a beautifully balanced cabernet, with light tannin, with tiers of blackberry, currant, and herbs, and is truly reflective of the love of the owners for wines from Bordeaux. The hallmark of this Santa Ynez Valley vineyard, the notes of sage brush and chaparral, are present in this wine. $42 bottle/vineyard.

The meal finished with an exquisite dark chocolate hazelnut torte served with plum compote and cassis. It was served with the Star Lane Syrah 2004, with its aroma of ripe black fruits, and taste of plum, black berry, lavender and violet. A full-bodied Syrah full of character and depth; $31 bottle/average retail.

The Lone Eagle Grille is part of the many lovely features of the Hyatt Regency at Incline Village, located at 111 Country Club Drive, Incline Village, Nevada, USA 89451. Reservations are recommended, and are a must for the winemaker dinners: 775.886.6899 Go to for more information.

© 2009 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in September 2009.