Sorting Out Organic Grapes vs. Organic Wine!

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Suflites in Organic Wines

Suflites in Organic Wines

What is Organic Wine?

I am frequently asked what it means when a wine is “organic.” Here’s a fundamental way to understand what it means. There is a difference between “organically grown” grapes and wines that are “organically made.” This is a huge distinction!

Organically Made

If you label a wine organic, it means the wine cannot have sulfites added to prolong its shelf life; they must be certified to contain no more than ten parts per million of naturally occurring sulfites. 

Made from Organic Grapes

If a wine comes from organic grapes, it must say, “made from organic grapes.” Wines made with organically grown grapes come from vineyards that follow the guidelines set by Organic Certifications, which can vary by country. They have no non-organic crop protection materials in them. 

They can only contain organically approved materials for pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and bactericides (some synthetic materials are allowed). This is good, in theory, because you are not affecting the grapes. It can be troublesome, though, because you are not protecting the grapes; you are letting whatever happens to the grapes naturally happen, good or bad. Grape juice has sugar. Sugar attracts bugs, disease, and all kinds of other things that can destroy the grape juice on it’s way to becoming wine. Adding sulfites provides the grape with a protective blanket of sorts that can keep those unwarranted influences away from the grapes.

So What Should I Drink?

In theory, wines made with organic grapes should be better wines because they are made with a higher quality of fruit. But it depends on who’s making the wine. In the right hands, it’s terrific. In a lesser winemaker’s hands, the word “organic” won’t save the wine. I learned this from my good friend, Robert Sinskey. He’s been making wine from organic grapes since the 1980s. When Sinskey looked first around at his soil in Napa Valley, it was dead. There were no birds, no worms; there was no ecosystem. Nothing was living in this soil, so how can the grapes live? Sinskey made the conversion to organic grapes and never looked back, but it’s his skilled winemaking that brings the quality of those grapes to fruition in the bottle. 

Organic winemaking may sound sexy, but it requires stringent measures that may require the wine not to be made organically or labeled organic. Doing the minimal amount necessary to protect the grapes will still not meet the standards of being labeled “organic.” So though a wine like Sinskey’s is made from organic grapes and not labeled organic, you will be getting a high-quality wine that has taken great care to grow the grapes organically and protect them with as minimal treatment as possible to preserve their value and quality all the way to your glass.

Below are a few of the standard Organic icons you can look for on a bottle of wine in your journey to find Organically Farmed wines. 

Organic Certifications

Organic Certifications

Six Tips for Crushing Your E-Commerce Wine Purchasing in 2021 on Wine.com!

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More people than ever bought their wine online in 2020. As someone who hosts many Virtual Wine Tastings and needs to get wines to people all over the US, Wine.com has been an easy way for people around the country to share the same wines. Here are a few quick hacks on how to get the most out of Wine.com. They have the widest and most diverse selection with the best pricing.

1. Buy the free shipping – StewardShip

Why? Because it’s the best $50 you’ll spend all year. If you want to try something that you can’t find at your local store, it will get delivered to your front door, and eliminating the shipping will wipe out the highest extra cost. They will also offer special one-time deals for members.

2. Use the Rating & Price Slider

The Rating & Price Slider is everything. Sort by the grape, region, or style you like (Red, White, Sparkling, etc…), slide it to the price you want, and see what you discover. For example, start with wines $25 and under and go on a little adventure. 

3. Sort by Most Interesting 

Everybody wants to be popular, but in reality, everybody wants to be more interesting. And so it goes with wine. Interesting wines are more fun. Everyone wants to be their friend. They get invited back to the next party. Sort this way, and you will get past the popular stuff and go straight to the wine you absolutely want to hang out with, meeting new friends easily along the way.

4. Use the Chat Box 

There are actually certified sommeliers and wine experts on the other end who can help! Tell them what you like, your price point, and where you live, then let them make some suggestions. I’ve used this function, and there are some great pros on the other side! 


5. Read the reviews at the bottom of each wine.

Wine writers actually do an outstanding job. Don’t just look at the score. Read their thoughts and compare. Wines are more than just a number. Reading reviews will help you develop a vocabulary of your own. I would even suggest printing them out, get the wine, and play along as you drink it to see if you agree with the review. You’ll be surprised at how much you can intuitively learn about wine by doing this.

6. Participate

Jump in the game. When you taste something, put down a few words on the screen and rate it on the site. An excellent way to do this is to download the Vivino.com app. Take a photo of your bottle and give it a simple rating, and it will help you keep track of what you’ve tasted, bought, and like/don’t like. But it will also help you become part of a community where you can find new friends and new wines to drink. Let wine become more than just a drink, but a vehicle for new adventures.

Enjoy your new find freedom in finding fun new wines! 

Cheers! 🥂

The Eyes Have It! Laser Focus Wine Sight

As someone that has led thousands of tastings, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people close their eyes as they taste wine, expecting that it will heighten the sense of taste. Let me propose that you open your eyes and give the wine a good look. Understanding the wine’s primary color is the first step towards understanding the aromas and flavors. I use these cues and clues as a detective would solve a puzzle. Let’s get started on my three basic white concepts and three basic red concepts.

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Photos by James Wade Photography

Cheers! 🍷

Pale Straw: This is a wine that you can see through; it has lots of silver and green tones. The wine should be fresh, bright, clean, and have lots of energy.

Flavors: Greenish flavors—green apple, lemon, and lime, with some herbal and mineral notes.

Wines: Mosel Riesling, Muscadet, SancerreVinho Verde, Lighter Grüner Veltliner

Pale Straw White Wine

Pale Straw White Wine

Pale Yellow: This a wine with a slight advance in color. The pale yellow color tells me that the wine is richer than Pale Straw in the medium-bodied camp.

Flavors: Yellowish flavors—yellow apple, lemon, pineapple, and peach, with some floral and herbal notes.

Wines: Chablis, Unoaked Chardonnay’s, California Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño

Medium Yellow White

Medium Yellow White

Yellow Gold: The yellow straw color indicates some evolution moving the fruits into the yellow, oaked, oxidative zone. The color tells me to look for a slightly fuller white wine with a richer mouthfeel.

Flavors: ripe/baked apple/pear, ripe lemon, tangerine, tropical fruits, honeysuckle, with touches of oak notes such as vanilla and baking spices. 

Wines: Oaked Chardonnay, Alsace Pinot Gris, Viognier 

Yellow Gold White

Yellow Gold White

Pale Ruby: This color indicates a lighter-skinned red variety from a cooler climate. A bright and transparent rim shows a youthful wine with loads of freshness.

Flavors: Tart and fresh fruits such as raspberry, cherry, cranberry, and possibly red flowers. Probably no oak flavors here. 

Wines: Pinot Noir, Trousseau, Rioja Crianza

Ruby Red

Ruby Red Wine

Deep Purple: This color shows a wine of high pigmentation and extraction. A dark, nearly opaque rim shows the wine’s youth and power. The wine should be full-bodied with mouth-filling tannins. 

Flavors: Ripe, jammy black fruits such as blueberry, blackberry, plum, and purple flowers. Look for possible baking spices such as vanilla, chocolate, and nutmeg from oak aging.

Wines: Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec 

Deep Purple Red

Deep Purple Red

Ruby Garnet: Garnet indicates a wine evolving with the fruit changing into dried fruits, dried flowers, tobacco, leather, and citrus peel. The brickish-orangish color at the rim shows a wine that has spent 5-10 years in the bottle. Garnet indicates a wine evolving with the fruit changing into dried fruits, dried flowers, tobacco, leather, and citrus peel.

Flavors: Dried berry fruits, dried flowers, leather, and tobacco,

Wines: Barolo & Barbaresco, Rioja Gran Reserva, Aged Red Burgundy, Aged Brunello di Montalcino

Deep Ruby Garnet

Boyz II Men are one of the top-selling musical artists of ALL TIME!

They’ve sold millions of records, topped the Billboard Charts, have won multiple Grammy’s, and now have joined the wine business with Harmony by Boyz II Men.

I recently sat down with the Boyz; Shawn, Wanya, and Nate to taste through the wines, their journey in the music industry, the partnership with Château Auguste, and winemaker Damien Landouar!

Click here to jump to the YOUTUBE vid! They were all so gracious with their time! 

Tasting w/ Boyz II Men!

There are three colors in the mix, white, rosé, and red. 

The rosé and red are 100% Organically Farmed and have music and sounds called Genodics played to the vines daily, which help their overall balance, health, and harmony! 

Harmony by Boyz II Men

The interview is in-depth, but we couldn’t edit it for the world!

Please enjoy this conversation with these legendary hitmakers.

Pour the Wine, Light the Fire!

It’s Harmony Time!

Cheers! 🤘🍷❤️🌈

Fred Dex, MS

Mourvèdre “Lower East,” Gramercy Cellars, 2017, Columbia Valley

Texture: Dark and dense, with chewy tannins and pepper acidity.

Over the last decade, the state of Washington has been producing some of the most incredible wines in the world. At one point, there were just a handful of wineries. Now, there are over 1,000. The opportunities to produce great wines in Washington are limitless.

My friend and fellow master sommelier, Greg Harrington, quit his cushy NYC beverage director job a decade ago and moved to Walla Walla, Washington, a place smaller than a small town. Armed with the knowledge of buying thousands of wines a year, he took his incredible palate on an adventure to the Pacific Northwest to create Gramercy Cellars. His winemaking evolution has been extraordinary. Never one to follow the rules, this bullish wine made from the unique grape Mourvèdre showcases his vision for wines of Washington in the future.

What You’ll Taste: Dark cherries, fruit leather, peppercorn, cured meats, violets, and touches of green spices 

Food Pairing: Red wine-braised short ribs with herb-roasted root veggies

Price: $28:00

Get it here:

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Chenin Blanc, “Ernesto Wickenden,” Foxen, 2018, Santa Maria Valley

Texture: Medium-plus bodied, sumptuous, with a ripping finish 

Did you know that Chenin Blanc was a more widely planted grape at one point than Chardonnay?

Did you know that Chenin Blanc was a more widely planted grape at one point than Chardonnay? It’s like classic Hollywood—gone but not forgotten. One of the last great Chenin Blancs of a classic era—more Lauren Bacall than Marilyn Monroe—Chenin Blanc is sleek, sophisticated, and unapologetic. This vineyard is a piece of California viticultural history. The folks at Foxen have preserved the integrity of this great grape variety, as well, as Turner Movie Classics has kept the great films of yesteryear alive and available for generations to come. Except this wine takes things from technicolor to digital.

What You’ll Taste: Meyer lemon, bartlett pear, dried yellow flowers, almond skin, and touches of salty minerals 

Food Pairing: Ginger-soy Asian steamed fish and jasmine rice

Price: $27.00

Get it here: 

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Côtes-du-Rhône, “Reserve”, Cellier des Dauphins, 2018, France

Texture: Medium-plus bodied, round, juicy with spicy tannins.

Côtes-du-Rhône is the Gene Hackman of wines. They are every man of French wine, but they offer a performance that blows away everything around it when they enter the scene. Typically in Côtes-du-Rhône, Grenache takes the leading role of the blend, with a supporting cast of amazing grapes that brings complexity in every bottle. Don’t be fooled by glossier competitors. These wines bring authenticity and depth at an everyday value. 

What You’ll Taste: Spiced red and blackberry fruits, dried herbs, cracked pepper, lavender, and a touch of sweet vanilla.

Food Pairing: Five-spiced duck breast with sautéed mushrooms.

Price: $13.99

Get it here:

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Verdejo, Marqués de Cáceres, Rueda, 2019, Spain

Texture: Medium-bodied, easy-drinking and vibrant

For all you white wine drinkers stuck drinking the same old Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, this wine is a portal to a whole new world called Verdejo. You may have never heard of this grape variety, but it’s time to pick up a book in a new genre. This grape from Rueda (wine region) in Spain has all the aforementioned whites’ character traits with a little bit of a plot twist when it hits your palate. Verdejo’s offering is a little sassier with tropical fruits and a touch of naughty adventure. For $9.99, it’s cheaper than a page-turner paperback and twice as fun.

What You’ll Taste: Mandarin orange, grapefruit peel, white peaches, and touches of yellow flowers.

Food Pairing: Light cheeses, fresh garden green salad with a citrus vinaigrette, sushi, OR all of them!  

Price: $9.99

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Cabernet Sauvignon, Mirror Napa Valley, 2017, Oakville

Texture: Decadent, layered, and rich, with plush, silky tannins

The newest release from Mirror Napa Valley and former NFL and Notre Dame quarterback Rick Mirer are like a perfectly executed two-minute drive. Mirer’s All-Star collaboration with seasoned winemaker Kirk Venge makes this 2017 Cabernet tough to beat. This small production Cab is out of Oakville, the heart of Napa Valley. Every glass is bold, explosive, and complex—like a high-octane NFL offense. Well done, gentlemen!

What You’ll Taste: Dark and juicy blackcurrants, cassis, candied violets, sweet black licorice, and sandalwood. 

Food Pairing: Dry-aged pan-smashed burger with bacon, cheddar, and spiced aioli

Price: $95

Get wine here:

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IN THE DRINK with ROBERT MARK KAMEN – SCREENWRITER of KARATE KID, TAKEN, and TRANSPORTER owner of KAMEN WINES.

I recently chatted with my good friend Robert Kamen, responsible for creating blockbuster film franchises The Karate Kid, Taken, and Transporter for my newsletter. Robert happens to own one of the most incredible Biodynamically Farmed Vineyards in the World! You’d have to see it believe it! 

Check out this candid interview with this legend! 

 

You’ve written some of Hollywood’s iconic franchises—The Karate Kid, Taken, Transporter. How did you get into wine?

When I was in grad school, I spent time in Afghanistan, and I wrote a novel about it. A cousin of mine is a film director. He showed me three screenplays. So I turned it into a screenplay, and Warner Brothers bought it for $135,000 in 1979. I came up to Sonoma to celebrate and drank a lot of wine. My friend took me to this magical place, wherefrom the top you could see the San Francisco Bay. I said, “I could stay here forever.” He said, “You can. It’s for sale.” And so I bought 300 raw acres of a place I’d never been to before.

I never had it in mind to make wine. Everyone told me the wine business sucked, and it does. It wasn’t until after the big fire here in 1996 that people kept telling me what a great vineyard I had. And then, Jean-Georges (Vongerichten) came to the vineyard and said, “You must make wine. I’ll sell it in the restaurant.” I made 500 cases, and he took 50. I said, “I thought you were going to sell it!” And Jean-Georges said, “Why did you make so much?”

Kamen Vineyard

The Vineyard is amazing!

It’s a lava block. You’ll never see anything like it. We took every stone bigger than your head and hand-carried it out of the vineyard. They are all piled up in this swale—80 tons of rock. We planted 2,000 vines to the acre. It’s all Cabernet, with a half-acre of Cabernet Franc, and it’s all planted in rock. There’s no dirt. We’ve planted 50 acres, which give us 4,000 cases, including 300 cases of white, 200 cases of Syrah, and a half-acre of Viognier. The rest is Cabernet.

There is a fun story about how your top wine, Kashmir, came to life.

Yes, my winemaker, Mark Herold, insisted that we make a cuvée from the best performing barrels. My vision was an estate where all the wine was blended into one great wine. Mark had sent me samples to taste to make the call. Fearing cellar palate and bias, I called you up and asked to taste the samples with me to make the final call. I pulled up to your restaurant on my road bike in full gear, and we went down to your cellar and tasted through. You said #3 is best, #1 the least, and #2 in the middle. You nailed it, and I was on the phone with Mark telling him to proceed, and Kashmir was born! 

Robert Kamen, Winemaker Mark Herold & Biodynamic Farming Guru Phil Coturri

Do you have a vision for the future of your wine?

I ripped up the irrigation system and installed misters because the climate is changing, and it’s getting hotter. You don’t want to have canopy collapse in the middle of the summer. When it gets above 95 degrees, the mister automatically comes on, the heat rises, things get hydrated, and it lowers the temperature two-to-three degrees, enough to keep the canopy from collapsing. I’m very proud of what we’ve done. This vineyard will be here long after I’m gone.

Practicing Tai Chi

You created The Karate Kid and now people love Cobra Kai. I was watching it, and I noticed a scene in there that is your origin story. Did you give that to the writers?

I did. My first karate instructor was Ed McGrath. He was a former marine drill instructor, a big rough and tough Irish guy who taught me how to fight. We were in Northport, Long Island, doing my blackbelt test. I did all the stuff, and he didn’t say anything.

Afterward, we go to a bar in a strip mall across from the dojo. There were all these construction workers there. I never went to these places. I was a little, scrawny Jewish kid. Ed was 6-foot-3, and he goes up to this 6’2” guy and starts flirting with his girlfriend, and the guy was like, “What the hell is wrong with you?” So Ed says, “Mr. Kamen, take care of this issue for me. So I clocked the guy. I hit him as hard as I could in the solar plexus. Two other guys jumped in, and my nose got broken. I came out of the bar with blood all over my blue and white striped shirt. McGrath, an alcoholic, takes me to his car and says, “Kneel!” We’re in a parking lot! I’m like, “OK, Sensei!” My nose is throbbing, my rib hurts. He hands me my blackbelt… in a strip mall in Long Island.

You don’t just write your own great movies; you’re also well known for being a script doctor. 

For the films Devil’s Own and Angel Has Fallen, I was a script doctor. I do it if it comes up. I turned The Karate Kid into a Broadway musical. If COVID didn’t hit, it would be on Broadway a year from this month, but we’ll have to push it back a year now. I try to do three scripts a year. The best thing now is I don’t have to go to L.A. anymore. I push a button and send the script to them. We’ll have a Zoom meeting; It’s fantastic. It’s the poor man’s version of Count Tolstoy.

Could you pair one of your wines with one of your iconic movies?

Yes! I would pair my Syrah (taken from Chave in Hermitage, some of the best Syrah vineyards in the Rhône) and Taken. They both have dark overtones; you have brooding dark fruits, chocolate, spices, tobacco, and in the end, the Viognier skins give a floral lift and a happy ending.

Thank you for the time, Robert! Your movies and legacy stand strong! 

“Put em’ in a body bag”! 

Find Kamen Wines here.

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