Video: The Meaning of Wine with Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent Winery

It’s a great life ... It’s a great project for my life
— Mark Vlossak, St. Innocent Winery

Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent Winery answers Austin Beeman's signature question.  "What does wine mean to you?"

This is Episode #51 of the Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman video podcast and the fifth of five videos from my interviews with Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent Winery. Click below to see the other parts of the interview.

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Video: Inspired to Discover New Terroir (with St. Innocent Winemaker Mark Vlossak)

Without the established rules of Europe, how do American Winemakers discover great new terroir?  For St. Innocent's Winemaker Mark Vlossak, it is all about inspiration.  In this short six minute video, Vlossak talks about the different subregions of Oregon's Willamette Valley and what he find so inspirational about each of them.

This is Episode #50 of the Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman video podcast and the fourth of five videos from my interviews with Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent Winery. Click below to see the other parts of the interview.

A Video about Italy's Great Sparkling Wine .... and it's not Prosecco! It's Franciacorta

If I ask you to name Italy's great sparkling wine, you'd say Prosecco.  Right?  Sorry, wrong.

There is no denying that Prosecco has exploded throughout the wine-drinking world, conquering the category of 'value-priced sparkling wine.'  But it didn't have to be this way.  The region of Franciacorta in Northern Italy produces some of the world's greatest sparkling wine - and have for a long time.

This four minute video, produced in Franciacorta by Ben Shapiro and Jeremy Parzen in Franciacorta, gives you a brief look at the people, place, and food of the great Italian Sparking Wine Region.  Enjoy.

5 Elegant Sonoma County Wines Worth Seeking Out

From the vantage point of my wine shop in Ohio, it is easy to view Sonoma County as a monolith.  It would also be easy to judge an entire region by its largest wineries.  These corporate wine behemoths present an image of boring wines and a bland region.  But that doesn't begin to tell the complete story.

I spent a month recently in Sonoma County and discovered that this is an immensely diverse region and there are dozens of fabulous small producers making compelling wines that month people don't ever taste.

Here are five worth seeking out. - From the lightest white to the heaviest red.

Jordan 2012 Chardonnay 'Russian River Valley AVA.  "Clear light yellow color. Fleshy white peach aromas. Great balanced chardonnay with a touch of of oak and a soothing lemon custard finish. Better balance, acidity, and food-friendliness when compared to most RRV Chardonnays.  90 points.  Retail $33

Lioco 2012 Chardonnay 'Hanzell Vineyard, Sonoma Valley AVA.'  "Wow, this is one of the most amazing California Chardonnay's I've ever tasted!  A pristine yellow color. Aromas of hay and fresh wild honey. Nice acidity, but a firm, tight mouthfeel that opens up to creaminess as you hold it in the mouth. Medium+ body. There is great purity here as well as richness. The finish really persists a long time, so this is a candidate for moderate aging as well.  I've rarely seen such a sophisticated and confident American Chardonnay. Kudos."  95 points. $60 OH Retail

County Line (from Radio-Coteau) 2013 Pinot Noir 'Sonoma Coast AVA.'  Light color a soft pink-purple. Wonderfully delicious with strong obvious acidity, pure raspberries, and the tiniest hint of milk chocolate. A light 'truly-burgundian' take on Pinot Noir. You can almost feel the salt water spray of the Sonoma Coast."  93 Points.  $28 OH Retail.

Medlock Ames 2011 Bell Mountain Estate 'Alexander Valley AVA.'  "Ruby red. Dusty red fruit aromas. Bright strawberries and warm bubblegum. Pleasant amounts of tannins and a persistent finish. A good warm-weather take on Bordeaux Blends."  90 Points.  $30 OH Retail.

Radio-Coteau 2012 Syrah "Las Colinas" 'Sonoma Coast AVA.' "Glowing purple color. Spicy herbs, pipe tobacco, and menthol in lush red fruits on the nose. Melted blueberry pie with subtle hints of many types of stone and smoke. Touch of "bitey" tannin on finish. This needs a bit of time, but I have to believe it will only get better."  91 Points.  $60 OH Retail.

The wines discusses here were originally tasted at Walt Churchill's Market in Maumee, Ohio.

Hourglass 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon: Blueline Estate and Classic.

One of the great things about wine is that everyone is constantly learning.  Today, I discovered an excellent, terroir-driven, Cabernet Sauvignon producer that I'd never heard of.  Hourglass Winery.  This luxury, small-production winery is located as the area where the Napa Valley "pinches" to its smallest point - hence the name.

First released in 1997, Hourglass Cabernet Sauvignon has held its own with the great "Cult Cabs" of Harlan Estate and Screaming Eagle, but this was under Pride Mountain and Paloma superstar winemaker Bob Foley.  2012 starts the winemaking reign of Anthony Biagi - formerly of Duckhorn, Plumpjack, and Cade.

I visited Hourglass Winery at their Blueline Estate Facility for classes related to The Wine and Spirits MBA program, but also got an advance taste of the new 2012 Hourglass Cabernet Sauvignons.  Here is what I thought.

Hourglass 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon 'Blueline Estate.'  "Dark red fruits and hard crushed stone. A low acid wine but with big serious minerality. A stone monster that is awkward now, but certain to mature into an austerely beautiful Napa Cabernet in 5 to 10 years."  94 points.  Approx Retail $125

Hourglass 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate.  "Smooth and complex. The classic Napa Cabernet story. This is chocolate cherry with a bloody meaty red fruit character with even more milk chocolate. Very culty. Lush and classic. Probably will improve with a couple years, but very few will let it get there."  95 points.  Approx Retail $165


Hourglass Cabernets aren't cheap.  Nothing in the Napa Valley really is.  But if, however, you want a small production, high-quality, estate-bottled, and terroir focuses wine from Napa, this is a heck of a good option.

Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape: A Vertical Tasting of 2008, 2009, 2010, & 2011

The wonderful Chateauneuf-du-Papes of Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe have always been some of my favorite.  The release of the glorious 1998 vintage corresponded to my first few months in the wine business.  Tasting that wine, I was immersed into the wines of the Southern Rhone for the first time. I have been fans of Vieux Telegraphe ever since, so when the opportunity arose to host a vertical tasting of recent vintages at Walt Churchill's Market, I couldn't resist.  The results were surprising and my tasting notes are after the picture.

 If you aren't familiar with Vieux Telegraphe, visit  Kermit Lynch Imports Website.

If you aren't familiar with Vieux Telegraphe, visit Kermit Lynch Imports Website.

Three bottles of each wine were opened for the tasting.  They were given 2 hours of time to open.  I tasted across all three bottles throughout the night, with consistent tasting notes.  All wines sell for $89.99 each in Ohio.

Vieux Telegraphe 2008 Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  "Sadly, this 2008 was one of the weakest tasting versions of VT that I've yet come across. It was prematurely old with very minimal tannins or acid. The fruit came off kind of stewed and it was very far into secondary flavors of leather, tobacco, vanilla, caramel, and dark smooth red fruits. Decent length to the finish, but this is wine that is peaking.  It is unlikely that this wine will improve with time.  It wasn't bad, but I always expect better from Vieux Telegraphe - and have never been disappointed until today."  88 points.

Vieux Telegraphe 2009 Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  "This is a sexy beast!  Very luscious sexy Grenache fruit. Scrumptous pure hedonism, but kept in check by very well integrated acidity. One of the best young VTs that I've ever tasted. After 2 hours open, firm powerful tannins emerge from the fruit and give me great hopes for the longevity of this wine.  If you are looking for a Chateauneuf-du-Pape to drink tonight and also in a decade, this is your choice."  96 points.

Vieux Telegraphe 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  "One of the best Young Chateaneufs I've ever tasted!  This has all of the amazingly sexy fruit of the 2009, but elevates to another level with strong serious framing tannins. Red fruits dominate with serious purity and black fruits slide in to add complexity. This is a beautiful long-lasting wine.  This is a wine that received serious accolades from the wine press ... and deserved them all.  It reminds me of the 1998."  98 points.

Vieux Telegraphe 2011 Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  "Young and aggressive. Probably a lot of Syrah and Mourvedre because I tasted smoked meat, white pepper, hard black plum, some garrigue. All that was spices in a pure hard Grenache red-fruit. Not very sophisticated for VT, but solid wine.  This something that I would have to revisit in a few years.  This could bloom into a wonder, or it could collapse.  Not sure."  91 points.

There is a saying in wine circles that great wineries can make great wine even in the off-vintages. I've said that myself and believed it to be true.  However, this tasting challenged that idea because there was such significant separation between the great vintages of 2009-2010 and the mediocre vintages of 2008-2011.  Even for a great producer like Vieux Telegraphe.


If you are in Ohio, buy your Vieux Telegraphe from Walt Churchill's Market.  But if not, shopping Amazon Links below will help support this website.