Michel Schlumberger Wines Rock at SSU

SchlumberThe SSU Wine Tasting Club met recently to taste some of the magnificent wines of Michel Schlumberger located in the Dry Creek AVA of Sonoma County.  This winery specializes in Bordeaux varietals and organically grown grapes.  When I visited you enter through some very impressive gates, and are invited to go on a vineyard tour to learn how they farm organically.  Afterwards you enjoy an informal tasting of their wonderful wines.  You must call in advance to schedule an appointment, but the tasting and tour are definitely worth it! (http://www.michelschlumberger.com/

The two favorite wines of the 53 Millennials tasting at SSU were the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Michel Schlumberger Dry Creek ($40) with rich ripe plum notes and spices of cinnamon and nutmeg.  The wine was aged 24 months in 35% new French oak.  The second top favorite of the evening was the 2005 Estate Merlot Michel Schlumberger Dry Creek ($28) which is a big serious merlot with black fruit, cocoa and leather.  It was aged 16 months in French oak and includes a small percentage of some of the other Bordeaux varietals (Petit Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Carmenère). label schl

Two other fun facts about the evening with Schlumberger.  They announced that they are hosting a Halloween (Hallowine) Open House tonight (Oct. 29th), and they also let attendees taste their 2006 Pinot Noir which is made from the ONLY pinot noir wines in Dry Creek!

Putting Pennies in Your Wine

PenniesLast night in my wine business class we evaluated 4 interesting wine from Greece and South Africa.  The last South African wine, a deep red pinotage with the distinctive red berry, greenstick, earth and spices that it is known for, also included a very strong smell of rotten eggs.  Immediately one of my students suggested we put a penny in our glass, and I agreed.  In less than 10 seconds the stinky smell had dissipated in the wine and we were able to evaluate it more fairly.  Looking around the classroom, I saw some puzzlement on the faces of other students, so I thought it would be useful to take a few minutes to explain why we put pennies in the wine. 

The stinky rotten egg smell was caused by too much hydrogen sulfide in the wine.  Sometimes this can form more complex sulfur compounds which are called mercaptans.  According to James Halliday & Hugh Johnson in The Art and Science of Wine (2007), “these can assume an ungodly range of totally unpleasant personalities: burned rubber, tar, rotten game, and rancid garlic…..while the taste always has a bitter, astringent finish to add to whatever particular flavor it may have.…It toughens and obscures the taste; in a recently bottled red wine it may be confused with tannins (p. 214.)”  NOTE:  It is important to differentiate sulfides and mercaptans from brett, which is yeast that gives wine a stinky barnyard and leather taste. 

So What Causes the Stinky Sulfur Smell?

 There are several causes of hydrogen sulfides and mercaptans in wine, but the primary ones are: 1) using too much sulfur in the vineyard to control powdery mildew, and/or applying it too close to harvest. 2) A second reason may be that the fermentation yeast did not have enough nutrients – in which case they produce more hydrogen sulfides.  It should be noted that some fermentation yeasts do this more than others.  3) A third reason could be that the wine did not receive enough oxygen during fermentation, and/or after  — with racking (or aerating the wine).  4) Finally if the wine is left to sit for too long on the gross lees, this problem can also occur.  

Solving the Problem 

The best way to prevent sulfides occurring in the wine is good viticulture and winemaking practices.  However, if it happens anyway, the first step in the cellar is to rack (aerate) the wine.  This often solves the problem as the sulfides blow away.  If the rotten smell is still present, then a small addition of copper sulfate can be added (according to legal limits).  This combines with the hydrogen sulfide to form copper sulfide which can then be removed by racking.  If none of this works, then the only solutions are to blend the wine with a non-smelly one; remove the off odor with expensive reverse osmosis, or discard the wine. 

If you are a wine consumer and you have just purchased a bottle of wine that has the sulfur taint when you open it, the first solution is to aerate it by putting it in a decanter and letting it rest for about 30 minutes.  If the bad aroma is still present, add a few clean pennies to the decanter.  This will often erase the smell.  If that doesn’t work, then pour the wine back into the bottle and return it to the retailer for a refund.

SSU Wine Club Starts the Semester with Sebastiani Wines

What better way to start a new Fall semester on campus than with a wine tasting of fountain_3434smallSebastiani wines.  For this first tasting, the room was filled to capacity with over 50 Millennials.  Julie Butler from Sebastiani’s Hospitality group brought 6 wines to taste.  Three were from Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery located in Sonoma, California, plus an additional 3 wines from Firestone Winery in Santa Barbara County.  You may not be aware that the 100+ year old Sebastiani Winery was acquired by Foley Family Wines in December of 2008.  Foley Family also owns 8 other wineries, including Firestone, Merus in Napa and several others in California and New Zealand. 

According to SSU Wine Club President, Matt Lapides, the clear favorites of the evening where the Sebastiani 2007 Chardonnay Sonoma County ($13) and the Sebastiani 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($18) — also from Sonoma County.  The Chardonnay was filled with rich tropical fruit notes and some light toasty oak; while the Cabernet Sauvignon was a dry red wine with rich texture and dark berry flavor.  The 82% cabernet was blended with small amounts of merlot, malbec, 03-sonoma-county-chardonnaypetite verdot and petite sirah to add complexity. 

Before she left, Julie reminded everyone that Sebastiani hosts Wine & Music Late Night Fridays for locals.  Each Friday from 7-9pm, Sebastiani offers free music and discounted wine and food for Sonoma County residences. See www.sebastiani.com for more information.