Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for February, 2007

How to tell a wine’s gone bad

I had an experience recently with a bad bottle of wine at a high-end restaurant. The wine was cooked, and thank goodness our waiter was level-headed enough to recognize the problem and replace the bottle immediately. If you get a waiter who’s a nonbeliever, simply put the glass under his or her nose for proof. If they’re really stubborn, have them taste it. But you really don’t have to. You can tell it’s gone bad by using your nose to look for the following:

1. A moldy smell. This is caused by an infection, and about five percent of wines have it. Tell the waiter it’s corked.

2. Flat. This is what happened to us. The wine was most likely overheated in the summer months (this was a small inland restaurant). Imagine what happens when you boil vegetables as opposed to steaming them. You cook the flavor right out. Tell the waiter it’s cooked. Wines that are dry yet smell like strong Sherry could also be cooked.

3. Rotten eggs. There is hydrogen sulphide in the wine, so it’s just a bad bottle. It never should’ve made it to the restaurant.

4. Wrong color. The reason you tilt the glass to the light or look at it against a white napkin? To check for consistency in the color. If the rim on a white wine is brown or the rim on a red wine is also brown or yellowish, it’s a goner.


Posted on Tuesday, February 6th, 2007
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What’s a green harvest?

Someone recently asked me this. While green harvesting sounds like it has to do with organic or biodynamic winemaking, it doesn’t. Green harvesting is a technique used by winemakers to concentrate the flavor of their grapes. During the summer, before grapes turn their ripest color, they are olivey green, almost like peas (hence the term green harvesting). At this time, those working in the vineyard cut off clusters that aren’t as far along in development. This way, there are fewer clusters left on the vines to ripen fully and the ones that do stay on the vines will have premium flavor and ripeness. It’s associated with top vintners and premium crus, so ask your favorite winemaker if they’re “green” the next time you’re sipping along side them.

Posted on Monday, February 5th, 2007
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A-B Makes Money, All Malt Michelob, bud-TV

This is starting to look like an Anheuser-Busch-Budweiser blog…But I can’t help it. The big Bud’s been busy indeed and it’s no wonder their profits are up 31 percent for 2006. Domestic sales of A-B beers rose 1.1 percent. That’s tiny, but consider the volume: 22.3 million barrels or 48.4 percent of the entire U.S. beer market.

Also, they cut deals across the world to import InBev beers (includes Stella Artois and , plus all beers from Grolsch, Kirin, Tiger and the Czech Budweiser, sold here as Czechvar. A-B also bought historic Rolling Rock, closed the Latrobe, PA. brewery and began brewing Rolling Rock in Newark. The company also owns a large share of Grupo Modelo, which makes Corona, among other beers, and Harpin, a brewery in China.

This exquisite photo of a glass
of Budvar Budweiser was
taken by European
photographer Daniel Zolli.

The list of breweries owned, or partly owned by Anheuser-Busch goes on and on. Here’s a link. to their most recent financial report,


A-B is about to announce that they’re revising the formula of its Michelob beers. No more rice. Beginning fairly soon, Michelob and Michelob Amber, and I guess, Michelob Light will be 100 barley malt. According to the company, that’s the way Michelob was when they introduced the brand the first time in 1896: A 100 percent barley-malt pilsner.

The brand was reintroduced in 1961 and I tried it as a very young beer drinker about then and was underwhelmed. I’ve always been underwhelmed with Michelob. Too dry. Not enough body. Anyway, here’s hoping.

I have two samples in my beer refrigerator and will try them sometime this weekend and let ‘ya know.


Anheuser Busch on Monday plans to launch “BUD-TV.” The site is already up

According to MarketWatch “Bud.TV will offer original comedy skits, performers and writers from “Saturday Night Live” appearing in original series, and short movies. Visitors will be encouraged to send in some of their own video, too.”

“ Tony Ponturo, vice president of global media and sports marketing at Anheuser Busch (BUD said he had to take the risk of Bud.TV. “If we don’t start playing in this digital game now,” he said, “we’re going to be playing catch-up for a long time. And this is an industry that can’t afford catch-up.”

Posted on Friday, February 2nd, 2007
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BevMo! Top 100 Symposium

I hit that annual BevMo! event last night, where they include wineries that made Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list. Misleading name for an event, I thought it was the top 100 wines of the year, until I talked to Miguel, and he cleared it up for me. Some of my staples were there. A nice contingency of Central Coast (represent, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo!) wines. Schramsberg’s Blanc de Blanc and Blanc de Noir, of course. Another great sparling, J’s 2002 Brut, which cha-chings in at $27, a few bucks less than Schrammy but just as tasty. Other faves:

Domaine Alfred Pinot ’03 (give it up for Edna Valley, I used to work a few miles from this winery!) is spectacular. Dried roses, coffee and a gorgeous lingering finish. They focus on Pinot and Chardonnay, so they get it right.

We loved the Mount Eden Vineyards ’03 Cabernet. It’s hearty without being a bomb, and would pair deliciously with a burger or meatloaf.

Lastly, get yourself a bottle of the Kim Crawford 2006 Marlborough Sauvingnon Blanc. New Zealand winemakers are brilliant. They make a young luscious wine like this with tons of honeydew and pear in the nose crisp enough to have that night with fettucine alfredo. Brilliant, and only $14.

Posted on Thursday, February 1st, 2007
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