Bracket Busting Wines

brackets ready!

Bracketology and March Madness will keep a blogger from posting on a timely basis. Early picks like Kansas State (8 seed beats 9 seed, your basic toss-up) and VCU beats Wichita State (the classic 12 seed upsetting a 5 seed) are just a setup for the next round losses like my senior big men from Vanderbilt losing to cheeseheads from Wisconsin. I had Vandy going to the the Final Four. Just saps my energy. It seems so much easier to pick wines, no?

Tinkaboudid. You’re in a wine store. There’s hand-penned signs all over. Some have Parker scores – “91 points!” Others have store touts – “Shelly’s favorite with weeknight pizza!” Still other signs go for sophisticated appeal – “Extremely rare small production South Dakota vineyard!”

New Mexico's finest

How do you know which to choose? You need a system…like “always pick the next lowest price wine on the wine list. It’s the best value.” In NCAA Bracketology a highly touted rule is to pick the 12 seeds to beat the 5 seeds. But in 2012 we already had two 15 seeds beat 1 or 2

big rep

seeds. This is like New Mexico Sparkling wine (say Gruet) topping Champagne veteran Gosset. Actually, Gruet is pretty good especially at the $15 price point.

Here are a few tips for picking bracket busters for March Madness also adaptable to wines.

RULE 1: Know your palate. Go with what you know and like. The trick is to have a range of knowledge. If you only know Duke and UCLA or Kansas and Louisville and you never even heard of Purdue or Gonzaga, well you need to extend your palate. tBoW really likes Riesling wines from the Mosel. Knowing something about Austrian Rieslings and crisp white wines from Italy or northern Spain actually makes us better at picking German wines. Lots of value in the mid majors.

RULE 2: Take a chance. Go with the 10 seed against the 7 seed even if you never heard of the 12 seed school. If you think picking wines by Parker scores is a good way to go you will be disappointed. Parker has a palate too and it may not match yours. Doesn’t match ours. In 2012 Harvard was THE SMART #12 PICK to beat #5 Vandy who crushed the Crimson. The actual smart upset picks were two teams nobody ever heard of. What am I saying to you? Forget the Parker scores. Do a little research and figure out the best long shots based on obvious factors: do you like the region because it suits your palate? Was it a good vintage in the region? Is the price right to take a chance?

RULE 3: Keep learning. You can always read however it is more fun to buddy up with someone who knows a bit more than you. Drink wine together and talk about it. Throw a tasting party for your friends and theirs who actually like drinking and talking about wine.

2008 Ernst Schiffmann Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett $14: Here is your classic wine tasting bracket buster. See RULE 2 above. Screwtop bottle from a good vintage and our favorite German region, the Mosel. We really like Rieslings from the Mosel. Took a chance on the producer. Turns out they are 12th generation. [ed. synchronocity you say?] The Brauneberger Juffer vineyard is legendary. The name associated with it is Haag; Fritz or Willi. Schiffmann – a pischer! Think about Rimmerman hiking through the Mosel checking out all the little guys without the big names. Valderee! Valderaa! Valderahahahahahaha! Nice and lively, not too complicated. Appley. Deliver nicely. A SUPER U20. Bought from Garagiste. When he is on…8.5%

2008 Hitching Post Cork Dancer Pinot Noir
$23: IGTY is looking for very good value Pinot Noir he can suck down with the Mrs. The wine has to complement her excellent meal prep and it should pack enough fruit to keep everyone asking for more. He has found Hitching Post which buys all their juice and bottles it under various labels depending where they bought the fruit. Picking from HP wines is a very good strategy as the Hartley-Ostini team never seems to make any bad wines. This is no exception. All Santa Barbara fruit which means it will come in with plenty of Pinot new world fruit to satisfy any Pinot lover. What is even better is they kept the alcohol at a lower level fro the region. There is a movement to pick earlier and make more elegant wines typical to the Santa Rita Hills AVA. Picking earlier means lower alcohol and hopefully the end of fruit bombs. See RULE 1. 14.1%

We attended a wine tasting event at Tra da Noi in Malibu recently which featured Malibu Family Wines. The Semler family which is MFW has made a strong commitment to producing top notch wines. We have tasted and reviewed wines from their Saddlerock and their Semler lines in the past. Changes in the vineyards, on the crush pad and in the winery are starting to show.

A word about Tra da Noi. The food is excellent there. Kevin Bening – MFW Regional Sales Manager – made the case for developing a cuisine in Malibu to complement what was coming out of the ‘Bu. While this may seem hopeful the two chefs – Francesco of Tra and Matt of Malibu Vine and Wine – sure made a strong argument in support. It also helped to have local farmer Larry Thorne of Thorne Family Farm in attendance supplying fresh strawberries and vegetables for the fare.

We tasted two new releases. The Saddlerock label is for wines made from fruit purchased all over the state. The Semler label means the grapes were grown on the Semler ranch in the Malibu hills. The Saddlerock blends are created with significant family input including Kevin Bening. The Semler wines are made in Santa Barbara by a local winemaker from the area.

Saddlerock NV Brut $30: A brightly flavored blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Mendocino Coast. The wine has some weight. A terrific wine to start things with. Served with fresh oysters in shell topped with a frozen reduction of the Semler Orange Muscat that would appear again at the end of the meal. Only 400 cases and it will be served almost exclusively at the tasting room. Recommended. 12.5%

2010 Saddlerock Orange Muscat $22: Served chilled. Pear flavors, crisp honeydew melon. Might have been my favorite wine of the tasting.

2009 Saddlerock Pinot Noir
$25: We have tasted this before. We are impressed once again. This wine can be found discounted. If you see it in the $15-$18 range grab it. The source is a high quality “central coast” vineyard which is like saying Surfrider Beach is a good place to catch waves in Malibu. Classic smoke on the nose and full Pinot Noir in the mouth. Most folks still think Malibu winemaking is for the wealthy who need something new to play at. They are half right. The Semler family is very serious about making wine a successful business. That begins with a quality product. I am actually looking forward to their new releases from the 2009 thru 2011 vintages that will be coming out this summer. 14%

Excuse me. My teams need me.

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