2009 Year End News

Mark the calendar - Sunday, December 27 from 1 to 4 PM... will be year's last new wine release and wine club pickup. Loreta will be catering the event with foods, cheeses, nibbles and all sorts of Holiday fare.

We're proud to be releasing the

2007 Vin do Iberica
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon - Carneros / Dixon Ranch
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa / Tudall Estate
2008 Tempranillo-Tannat - Lodi / Silvaspoons Ranch

We entered 10 wines into the San Francisco Chronicle / Cloverdale Citrus Fair wine competition, and are looking forward to a win or three. Like most fairs, it is pretty expensive ($60 a variety, plus 6 bottles of each kind) and a few other administrative fees. Bob hand-delivered the wine to Cloverdale last week, so there has been no breakage. The returns won't be published until late January.

The pre-Thanksgiving Fall Release was excellent - a Bodaeceia super-Meritage and the assertive little Fumé Blanc were quite a hit. If you haven't picked up your wine club packet, please do remember to come by!


TASTING WINE ... The "2-3-4-5" system

Not everyone can (or cares to) learn the "40 factor" system of Robert Parker or UC Davis ... and for most of our abstract ad hoc tastings, such precision hardly matters. Bob, some 30 years ago, picked up a simple quirky little scoring system, and has been enthusiastically teaching people since. In a nutshell, it is a system that asks you to separate the senses, then keep track of the numbers for a grand total. Its easy and fun!

How it works

2 points for what your eyes see
3 points for what your nose smells
4 points for what your tongue tastes
5 points for what your heart finally "says"

Lets try 2008 Sangiovese...

The "2-3-4-5" Scorecard
2007 Sangiovese - Irish Monkey Cellars - Amador Remember your "4 V's" - VVVV (Vintage, Variety, Vintner and Venue (where))

EYE: 2 points

Starting with a brilliantly clean glass, pour an inch or so. The glass has to be clean so you can hold it by the stem (not the bowl!), swirl it, and note the brightly clear, pinky-red color of the Sangiovese Grosso wine. No bugs doing the backstroke, no mud at the bottom, clear and not orange or brown.

NOSE: up to 3 points

Now - without tasting!!! - swirl the glass then bring it up to your nose. You should not touch your lips to the glass. Just smell the aroma and bouquet coming off the wine. Are there faults (sour, odd, stinky, cheesy, moldy, papery, bland, just 'wrong'), or is the aroma pleasant, interesting, noticeable, suggestive of other fruits and flowers? Does the wine (in this case) smell like a sangiovese, or is it completely different?

It was pretty easy - loads of cherries, berries, and Italian Chianti character. Not the ultimate of all the sangioveses that I've had, so ... 2½ points, but clearly "top shelf"

TONGUE: up to 4 points

So now repeat the little swirling-dance. Hold the wine up, swirl, bring to the nose (not the lips!) and smell, a second or so later, then take a small, timid taste. The big questions are, does the wine's taste match its aroma, and just as important, is it faulted or "wrong" in either subtle or objectionable ways? If we're tasting a Sangiovese, then the wine should have that clear, easy-drinking Chianti character. It shouldn't be too heavily oaked, and should have a nice sharp tanginess.

Here the flavor almost exactly matched the expectation set forth by its aroma. The "ultra-cherry" aroma bursts in the mouth into a sensation of cherries, yellow plums, fresh tomatoes and just cries for Basil and olive oil! The match is excellent, so points. Why not 4? Because ... well, maybe it would be even better with greater depth, and with greater complexity. But for now, all but perfect!


HEART: up to 5 points

Once again (don't get tired of the ritual - it helps!) hold the glass by the stem, swirl, then smell, then take a taste, in three separate but fluidly connected motions. This is the time you can now say, "I like it" (where the analytic side of the previous 3 evaluations precluded the sentiment). Do you like it as a wine? Would you buy it? Take it to friend's house? Proudly serve it at a formal party, or an informal BBQ?

The choice here is personal - and that's why there are 5 points available to you. YOUR opinion of the wine matters, not mine, not your friend's next to you, not what you read in a book, or what you had expected. If you were surprised and pleased, then give it points, if you were disappointed or unhappy, or disgusted ... that's what the points are for!

In my case, I thought the 2008 Sangiovese was simply excellent - a bit light, but certainly sturdy enough to accompany any Mediterranean cuisine.4 solid points for me.



All those little halves add up. Out of 14 possible points, I gave the Sangiovese a solid 12 (which is very high in my book.) Your scores might be a bit different, but try to remember to be consistent, neither being a "hard judge" nor an easy mark.

Below 8 - wines that you're not likely either to buy, or to accept in restaurants. If inexpensive enough (Like the proverbial 2-buck-Chuck), then 7's are acceptable. There are a LOT of under-8 wines though, so remember, just because its cheap doesn't mean its worth it.

8½-9½ - Ordinary day wines. Perfectly suited for day-to-day drinking (and should have concomitant prices). When these are available inexpensively, then they're "good deals". Beware though - you will find that many older wines tend to be 8½-9½, but that the score may be more of your lack of "acclimatization".

10-11 - Very good wines, well worth looking up, worth bringing to friends houses for parties. Probably not great wines or long keepers, but still, pleasant and satisfying. The value of these go up directly with lower price. When you find them under say $10/bottle, pick up a lot of them!

11½-12½ - Brilliant, excellent wine. You're very pleased, and you're probably inclined to buy a few bottles at the winery if they're not too expensive. These are "ordinary show-off wines", in that they're great to bring out at the best occasions, but don't require "special" occasions to appreciate.

13-14 - Superb, outstanding, complex, rich and totally compelling wines. By design, you should have hardly any of these in your collection. They're going to be expensive, they're going to require specific types of food that can "stand up" to their strength, character and excellence.

Every once in awhile, you'll hit a 14+ (where you use +'s or stars or other "super-duper" indicators). You'll know it when you drink it. But just as ominously, remember that the "+" system often responds to your enthusiasm - which might result from a long happy tasting session. So, by and large, keep the "plus" calculations out of the equation.


And there you are... a simple grading system

I've been using this system for over 30 years, from beer tastings to chili cook-offs to wine tasting, to even fresh-fruit evaluation. The same 4 categories (look, smell, taste, and overall) always count. A bowl of chili that looks like chopped up animal parts (and not particularly recognizable ones), no matter how good it smells, gets lower points.

Try it next time you're tasting something!


The DECEMBER Wine Club packs are ready. This release has 4 bottles - bringing out our amazing new Touriga blend - Vin do Iberica as well as a couple of outstanding Cabernets and a very complex yet drinkable Tempranillo. You're sure to be happy.

2007 Vin do Iberica

Iberica is the name of the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal & Spain combined) that is given to it by the people of the land itself. Far be it for me to rename their beautiful and somewhat stark sub-continent. Of the 8,000 or so named varieties of grapes, Portugal has over 3,500 of them, and Spain another 1,000 or more. Many are found nowhere else in the world.

In keeping with the Portuguese "Vin do..." concept, the Iberica is mastheaded by a flowery, rich Touriga Nacionál from the 2007 vintage. It additionally has a bit of Merlot, Syrah and other fairly neutral (but supportive) varieties, to supplant and build upon the lovely Touriga backbone. Although not listed on the label (to keep it from being a potpourri), the Tinta Cao, Touriga Francesca and Sousão grapes added to the character.

This wine is best described as either a Portuguese Pinot or a "flowery pinot-like wine, with a perfumed nose and excellent body".

I tend to think of it as a great drinking wine - suited for almost any cuisine

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon - Dixon Ranch, Carneros

The Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from Mr. Dixon's ranch is picture-perfect in every way. Dark, small berries, excellent color extraction and plenty of peppery tannins, the resulting wine spent time both in American and French oak casks.

If we've ever produced a "1970's classic", this is it. The first thing you'll note is the power of the wine - it is assertive, chalky and "wild" at the same time. If you like roasts or long-braised dishes, this is the classic "mid dinner" wine.

70 cases produced.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon - Tudal Ranch, Napa

In collaboration with my old buddy Jeff Bay, we picked, vinted and produced only 46 precious cases of this outstanding "old school" cab. The grapes were harvested from the Tudal Estate in Napa, from 55 year old vines that are head-pruned (like bushes) and only modestly productive. This low yield in turn results in Cabernet that is almost the opposite of "thick and rich', and is instead much more transparent and clear in tone. The heavyness is sidelined, and instead is great balance and character.

The "label" is really just a proof of the label the Jeff Bay is designing with his family. It isn't clear that we'll be selling the wine at the winery, as there is so little of it. But, for our wineclub members and "friends of the Winery", I'm sure there'll be a supply.

46 cases produced.

2008 Tempranillo-Tannat / Lodi

Tempranillo (in Spain, Tinta Roriz in Portugal) is the single most widely planted variety on the whole Iberian peninsula. The wines produced are brisk and deeply purple-red, with more "grapey" flavors than the kind of stone-fruit and tropical notes ascribed to other varieties. The cup is complex, dark, and begs for a bowl of cracked black olives, hard cheeses and plates of tapas.

Our little twist was to add the noble Tannat wine to the Tempranillo, to give it more structure and body. There is a Bouquet Garni (so to speak) of herbs and spices that comes from a small addition of Touriga Nacional, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, but the percentage is very small, so as to keep the fundamental Tempranillo-Tannat character intact.

A "Steal" at only $22/bottle.





Dec 27

1-4 PM


Cab Sauv - Dixon/Carneros
• Cab Sauv - Tudal/Napa
• Tempranillo-Tanat
• Vin do Iberica

• $10 wine & food pairing, club members. $15/person non-club.



Irish Monkey Cellars has become known for custom-labeling ... so much so that several customers recommended us to offer custom labels. Have you considered custom labels for your holiday wine gifts? As an introductory offer, we will take your custom art and print it on quality label stock, then affix it to the bottles for a minimum of a case of a single variety. The cost is $10 for the first case, with no additional charges for 2 or more cases. Of course, case-discounts apply.

If you design your own label ... make sure it is presented in "300 dots per inch (DPI)" format. JPEG or Photoshop files are fine - as long as the 300 DPI (or higher) resolution is adhered to. If you want to use one of our labels, we will print at this resolution and fill in the black custom message from your copy.

File Sizing Specs:

• Must be rectangular or square
• Must be 300 to 600 DPI
• Should be a minimum of 2.5 inches (7 cm) both horizontally and vertically
• Use JPEG (at "high" resolution) or TIFF or Photoshop or EPS
• Use RGB, not CMYK (designers will understand - if you don't don't worry!)


REMINDER - Sunday December 27, 2009 - 1 PM to 4 PM - the release of the above wines, and the tasting of the same. Loreta will be setting up a nice repast for the event.

We're pleased to announce that our wines are now being sold at...

• Adagia - Berkeley
• Angela's - Alameda
• Asena - Alameda
• Paradiso - San Leandro
• Dragon Rouge - Alameda
• Kasuga - Albany
• China Village - Albany

• Nob Hill Foods - Alameda

Bob & Loreta
(510) 915-5463 cell
(510) 533-3349 office phone & voice-messages