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Author Archives: Andrew Murray
People often ask me about the necessity of decanting, especially around the holidays. Everyone has a relative who is particular about his wine; you know, the one who cradles his bottle like he’s brought the Messiah himself and looks over your shoulder as you gingerly place it on the counter. He’s the one who took a couple of wine education classes after graduate school and is pretty sure that if he only had the time, he’d be the 181st person to hold the title of Master Sommelier.
Let me start by saying, I’m no pro in this department. All I can do is give you a little background, then share my personal thoughts about the subject – tell you what I do when I drink wine. Decanting originated as a means of clarifying wine – particularly older wine. It was meant to remove the sediment that can occur in wine over time. Modern wines that are intended to be imbibed within a few years generally will be sediment free due to modern filtration processes. Wines that are prepared with aging in mind, will eventually show sediment in the form of tartrates and pigmented tannins resulting from phenolic polymerization (red wines)1.
When you go to a fancy restaurant and order an expensive bottle of wine, there’s no option for requesting that it be decanted; the sommelier will do it as a matter of course. He (or she) will bring a candle to provide pure light through the bottle, and as he or she pours, the moment sediment becomes visible in the neck of the bottle, the pouring stops. Though there may be a meaningful percentage of your pricey wine left in the bottle, it is considered contaminated by the sediment and will not be poured.
Decanting is thought by some to have the added benefit of introducing oxygen into the wine. The act of pouring the wine from the bottle to the decanter aerates the wine. The big broad base of the decanter is designed to optimize surface area. In other words, it optimizes the volume of wine that comes in contact with the air. Why do we care about aerating the wine? Aerating is thought to develop the bouquet of the wine. The great French oenology professor, Emile Peynaud from the University of Bordeaux, felt the exact opposite: to aerate a bottle of wine is to lose the concentrated aromas – in effect to dilute the sensorial experience. Besides, one can always aerate the wine by swirling it in one’s glass.
So, do I decant my own wines? No, I don’t. Should I? Perhaps, but I drink wine in a manner that works for me. The screw top is such a reliable device that it only allows a very limited amount of oxygen into the bottle. This makes our wines age in a slow, controlled manner, with little opportunity for generating a flaw in the wine. In addition, our careful, minimalistic winemaking approach results in limited sediment. My issue with decanting is that it’s a fatal process. Once you’ve decanted an entire bottle of wine, you’d better be prepared to drink the whole thing – there’s no going back. A few new products have hit the market which allow you to decant a glass at a time. The Vinturi is one of them. Incidentally, for those of you who are less geeky than I am, Vinturi is a nice play on words…a merge of ‘vin’ for wine, and ‘Venturi’ which is a fluid dynamics/physics term. But again, after a long day in the winery, I’m not likely to fool with a gadget.
My advice is that if you have a wonderful bottle of aged wine, decant it to ensure that you eliminate the sediment. If you can truly taste a difference in newer wines due to the aeration, then aerate them. If you can’t, then don’t bother. If your brother-in-law wants you to decant his wine, indulge him. It’s the season for giving and you can save the arguing for something more interesting like politics or religion.
1 – As I was writing this, I did reference Jancis Robinson’s excellent tome, “The Oxford Companion to Wine”, and specifically her entries on ‘Decanting’ and ‘Sediment’.
Looking for a great holiday gift idea?
How about a two pack or a three pack of Andrew Murray Vineyards wine? We’ll package it in a stylish black box with crinkle paper filler, add a beautiful holiday ribbon, insert a special gift note, and ship it straight to the recipient’s doorstep. Call us at(805) 686-9604 or (805) 693-9644 and we’ll create a gift box that suits your tastes and your budget.
Whether your gift list includes one dear friend, or a hundred clients, we’ve got you covered…now that’s the kind of shopping we love!
And for something really unique, why not ship a rare, signed magnum of our 92 point 2008 Syrah McGinley Vineyard? It’s double the the fun at 1.5 liters (2 bottle equivalent) and perfect to break-out for those special occasions.
You can read the details on the magnum here. SORRY – SOLD OUT!
Issue #10, December 2011 Jeb Dunnuck
2008 Andrew Murray Espérance (USA, California, Central Coast) $30
Earthy and mineral driven, the 2008 Andrew Murray Espérance, 60%, Grenache, 25% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre aged in 33% new French oak, opens up in the glass to shows beautifully complex aromas of black cherries, underbrush, leather, ripe herbs, and licorice. This carries into a medium to full-bodied wine that’s beautifully balanced, possesses a supple, polished texture, and an overall delicious, exceptionally drinkable profile. It should continue to perform admirably for 6-7 years. (91 pts.)
2008 Andrew Murray Syrah Tous les Jours (USA, California, Central Coast) $16
A fantastic value, the 2008 Andrew Murray Syrah Tous les Jours is a pretty, classy Syrah that opens up in the glass to show complex notes of spiced red and black fruits, ripe herbs, tar, and black olive qualities on the nose. Medium-bodied and fresh and pure on the palate, with integrated acidity and an overall light, deft texture, this delicious and easy going red should be purchased by the case, and consume over the coming 5-6 years. (90 pts.)
2008 Andrew Murray Syrah Terra Bella Vineyard (USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles) $36
Showing the most ripeness and flesh in the lineup is the 2008 Andrew Murray Syrah Terra Bella Vineyard. All Syrah from Hillside plots and aged for 18 months in French oak, it boasts an inky purple color as well as decadent black and blue fruits, vanilla, coffee grinds, and lavender aromatics. This full-bodied, rich, round Syrah has a supple, mouth coating texture, beautifully integrated acidity, and a long, completely dry finish. Impressive and this can be consumed now, or cellared for 4-5 years. (91 pts.)
2008 Andrew Murray Syrah Reserve (USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley) $50
Coming from the top 6 Syrah barrels in the winery and the most complete wine in the lineup, the 2008 Andrew Murray Syrah Reserve is a serious Syrah that delivers not only complex, cooler climate aromatic, but perfectly ripe fruit and loads of texture. Showing copious amounts of smoked black fruits, coffee, pepper, and subtle floral nuances on the nose, this wine is medium to full-bodied on the palate and impressively put together, with ripe, yet substantial tannin, vibrant acidity, and a classically styled, structured finish. This is approachable now given the fruit, yet has more than enough structure to allow it to age gracefully for a decade or longer. (93 pts.)
2009 Andrew Murray Syrah Watch Hill Vineyard (USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County) $36
Beautifully distinctive and oozing cool-climate Syrah character, the 2009 Andrew Murray Syrah Watch Hill Vineyard has smoky, gamey notes with wild berry fruits, bramble, pepper, and violets all intermixed. This flows to a medium-bodied Syrah that shows an overall fresh, balanced profile with vibrant acidity and masses of ripe underlying tannin that frame the finish. Give bottles a solid 2-3 years of bottle age, and then drink over the following decade. (92 pts.)
Our 2008 Syrah Tous les Jours received a 90 (“This is an outstanding value.”), and our 2008 Esperance Red Blend, our 2009 Syrah Watch Hill, and our 2008 Syrah Reserve all earned 91’s from reviewer Josh Raynolds of Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. You can read the full text of these 90+ Tanzer reviews on a PDF by clicking here.
“2008 Andrew Murray Vineyards Tous Les Jours Syrah
Still #1! 100% Syrah from the Central Cost of California. Dark berry flavors balanced with just the right amount of spice and a fantastic finish. A decadently good wine. Buy a case.”
Thanks to all of our fabulous wine club members for coming to our 2011 Harvest Party last weekend. It’s always such a treat to see you in person…we are truly grateful for your on-going support of our winemaking efforts. Thank you!
Thanks to Santa Barbara’s Noozhawk.com for this informative article on the last days of harvest:
“A pervasive trend is the care growers put in to get good fruit. Night harvesting is a big deal because they are picked when they are nice and cold and have maximum acidity,” meaning more reliable alcohol levels, Murray said. “If you are picking them in the heat of the day, the vines are tired, the sugars are rising, acids are falling and it’s tough to cool down for pre-fermentation. It makes all the difference.” Read the rest of the article about the night harvest in Santa Ynez Valley vineyards…
Cooking with my Daughter…
Baby Back Ribs with my baby
My 11 year old daughter, Estelle, loves to cook! Her absolute favorite dish right now is a relatively easy and tremendously tasty re-interpretation of a recipe for ribs that I found online. It is very simple to make and to prepare ahead. My daughter loves it with sparkling apple juice…but, I think it tastes great with our 2009 Syrah Terra Bella Vineyard. It brings out all of the smooth, spicy, and jammy notes. We hope that you try our recipe and let us know what you think or how you would improve it.
- 2 slabs of baby back ribs
Dry Rub Ingredients:
- 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1/4 cup coarsely ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup paprika
- few pinches of dried chipotle powder (to taste and only as desired)
- a bit of any of your other favorite seasonings…hard to go wrong here
Remove ribs from the plastic wrap and cover completely and seal tightly with aluminum foil. Place the wrapped ribs on a large baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Place in the middle rack of your oven. Cook the ribs for about 2 1/2 hours.
Get your grill going during the last 30-45 minutes in the oven. Bring your ribs from the oven to the grill and transfer them to the grill. Be careful because the rib meat will be falling off the bone. Cook on the grill for about 20 minutes more…turning and basting with your favorite BBQ sauce. Remove from the grill and serve.
Serve with your favorite sides… We chose a simple Au Gratin Potato recipe and an arugula salad.
Setting the scene:
In the winter time, always light a big roaring fire. It adds warmth and a lovely glow to the whole scene. It is where we invariably end up after dinner to share an another glass of wine and good conversation… My wife insists on dressing up the house with fresh cut flowers as it softens the “harshness” of winter and brings a wonderful lightness to the environment.
Grilled Australian Rack of Lamb
with Potato Artichoke Hash & Star Anise Demi – Glaze
If you haven’t been to The Ballard Inn either to stay or dine, you should go. Proprietors Budi and Chris Kazali are two of the loveliest people you’ll meet in the Santa Ynez Valley. Chef Budi cut his teeth at such renowned restaurants as San Francisco’s La Folie and Boston’s James Beard Award winning Blue Ginger. His French Asian cuisine is not be missed. Chef Budi created this exquisite rack of lamb recipe with a suggested pairing of our 2008 Espérance red blend. Enjoy!
- 4 10 -12 oz. Rack of Lamb , trimmed of all fat.
Potato Artichoke Hash
- 2 Cups diced Yukon gold potatoes
- 1 Cup diced sweet potatoes
- 2 Cups diced artichokes, green outer leaves and centers removed
- 1 Cup diced red bell pepper
- 2 Bunches of arugula leaves
- 1 Cup diced yellow onion
- 1 TBS. finely chopped garlic
- 1 TBS. finely chopped ginger
- 3 TBS. canola oil
- 2 TBS. canola oil
- 4 Medium shallots chopped
- 2 Garlic cloves
- 3 Cups Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah wine
- 2 Cups of Chicken stock
- 3 Cups of Beef stock
- 1 Star Anise
For Sauce: Sauté shallots and garlic with canola oil over medium heat. Deglaze the pan with red wine; simmer to reduce by two thirds. Add beef and chicken stock and reduce until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Salt and pepper to taste. Strain and set aside.
For Hash: Blanch potatoes and sweet potatoes in salted water until cooked but still firm. Set aside to cool. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté artichokes in canola oil until cooked through stirring frequently about 10 to 15 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and red pepper and sauté 2 minutes to brown garlic. Add potatoes and salt and pepper to taste, sauté until potatoes are cooked through and begin to brown. Add arugula last, cooking just long enough to wilt.
For Lamb: Grill rack of Lamb 6 minutes on bone side and 4 minutes on the meat side on med high heat. Let rest for two minutes before cutting.
Last week I had the pleasure of participating in the harvest of our Syrah from a couple of stellar vineyards: Three Creek Vineyard and McGinley Vineyard, both of the newly created Happy Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara. Grapes are typically picked in the middle of the night nowadays. This keeps the grapes cold, locking in their flavors and staving off the possibility of fermentation starting too early. In our case, this meant that crews from our fastidious vineyard manager, Coastal Vineyard Care, were ready to roll at 3:00 a.m.
It’s a bit disorienting to be awake this early in the first place, but as I approached the vineyard, the eerie sight before me only exacerbated my already unbalanced state. Lights hovered above the moonless vineyard like an alien spaceship searching for signs of life. I hopped out of my car, cursing myself for not bringing a flashlight. I picked my way up the sloping vineyard aided by the light of my cell phone. The soil in this area is good and gravelly lending to ideal drainage for grape cultivation. And ‘gravel’ is really a misnomer; if you’re not careful, you’ll trip face-first over gourd size stones.
As I neared the crew, I was struck by the frivolity of the wonderful souls picking what will become the product for which I care so much. There was singing, and hollering, and a sort of verbal whistling. The energy is contagious. When I opened by saying that I ‘participated’ in the harvest, I really should have said I ‘observed’ the harvest. These folks are professionals, and there is no room for Sunday pickers.
They were clad in half the layers I was wearing, despite temperatures dipping into the high 30’s. The grape vines rustled and plunged as the pickers expertly extracted the purple gems from the comfort of their yearlong homes. They move in teams of three, the rear picker eventually moving forward to become the front picker, in a rhythmic cycle until they reach the end of the row. The ‘bucket person’ constantly removes full buckets and replaces them with empty ones when a picker shouts, “Cubo!” The ‘leaf person’ hovers over the pallets removing any leaves, branches, or other foreign material, as the tractor and its four great overhead lights slowly motors just ahead of the pickers.
I’m a big fan of technology; I’d feel naked without my iPhone, iPad, and sophisticated bottling line –and I was an early adopter of screw caps for all our wines. But being in the vineyard, shuffling through the dirt, seeing our grapes hand-picked in the dark and cold by a proud, symphonic team, made me realize how few industries such as winemaking still exist in modern America. We actually get to observe and participate in the entire lifecycle of our product, from earth to bottle. And it’s still an industry where hand-picking and hand-crafting have meaning. Did I have to arise at ‘oh-dark-hundred’ to hustle out to the frigid vineyard? No. Would the grapes have been successfully picked with or without me? Yes. But had I stayed nestled in my warm bed, I would have missed that communion with the soil and people that collectively allow me to do my work.
With Thanksgiving only a few weeks away, I’m grateful for the wonderful people who, through their stewardship, are delivering beautiful fruit to our winery. I’m also grateful that I get to participate in such an ancient and timeless craft.