Sunday, September 27, 2015

Infographic: The elements of postmodern winemaking (after Clark Smith)

In a previous post, I graphically illustrated the high-level differences between what Clark Smith (postmodern winemaking) calls modern winemaking and what he characterizes as postmodern winemaking. In this infographic, I capture the elements of postmodern winemaking as the baseline for an extensive journey into the method which I will undertake in future posts.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sources and roles of phenolic compounds found in wine

Phenols are highly reactive chemical compounds of primary importance in the quality of red wines. Phenol, the basic building block, is an aromatic organic compound (formula C6H5OH) where the phenyl group (C6H5, where six bonded carbon atoms with alternating double bonds are connected to five hydrogen atoms) is bonded to a hydroxyl group (OH, where the oxygen atom is covalently bonded to an hydrogen atom). A graphical representation of a phenol is provided below.

Phenolic compounds are:
  • Responsible for the color of red grapes and wine
  • Involved in the oxidative browning of white wines
  • Contributors to taste and astringency through interactions with salivary proteins
  • Another measure of wine quality.
The two major classes of wine phenolic compounds are flavonoids (defined by a C6-C3-C6 skeleton consisting of two phenolic rings joined by a central, oxygen-containing ring -- Jackson) and nonflavonoids (possessing a C6-C1 or C6-C3 skeleton; all numbers following "C" are subscripts). The sources and roles of the phenolic compounds falling into these two classes are illustrated in the figure below and the relative concentrations of selected classes are provided in the table following.

Table 1. Generalized concentration of various phenolic compounds
present in wine
Phenolic White Wine (mg/L) Light Red Wine (mg/L) Full Red Wine (mg/L)
Volatile Trace
Hydroxycinnamic acids
Other nonflavonoids
Polymeric catechins
Source: Kennedy, et al., Grape and wine phenolics: History and perspective,
AJEV, 57(3), September 2006.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Capensis 2013, a pleasant surprise from the Western Cape of South Africa

The Spire Collection is a curation of, and marketing vehicle for, the most esteemed wineries in the Jackson Family Wines portfolio. Last evening I attended a tasting of selected Spire Collection wines and, while a stellar array of wines was presented, the one which made the biggest impression on me was the 2013 Capensis, a Chardonnay from the Western Cape region of South Africa. This wine surprised me in that it was both excellent and from a region that I have had a hard time getting my arms around.

According to, this ultra-premium Chardonnay is a joint venture between Barbara Bank, of Jackson Family Wines, and Anthony Beck of Graham Beck Wines and was launched in 2014.

The 2013 Capensis is 100% Chardonnay (primarily clone 95) sourced from three different regions:
  • Fynbosch Vineyard Region
    • 1,719 feet elevation
    • Steep slopes
    • Clay soils
    • 60% of grapes used in the wine
  • Kaainansgal Vineyard Region
    • 2,484 feet elevation
    • 20% of grapes
  • East Bruwer Vineyard Region
    • Limestone soils
    • 20% of grapes.
The winemaker overseeing production of the wine is Graham Weerts. During the production process, some batches were inoculated while others were not. Approximately 45% of the finished wine was subjected to malolactic fermentation. The aging regime had 55% of the production aged in 100% new French oak for a period of 12 months.

The bottle we tasted last night had been decanted 40 minutes prior to the start of the tasting. In the glass it had a golden color, a testament to its oak treatment. The initial impresion was of burnt matches, vanilla, toasted oak, and smoke. After a while notes of honey dew and herbs caught the attention. On the palate smoke, coal, and a lemomy-lime acidity. Weighty. The 14.1% alcohol adds to a richness on the palate but also produces a slight burn. Lengthy finish.

Trey Christy of Spire Collection characterized this wine (I paraphrase) as a wine of promise rather than one at its destination. And I agree. This is a high-quality Chardonnay from the Chassagne-Montrachet school, more rich than mineral with the oak needing to recede further so that the underlying character of the wine can truly shine through. I bought 1/2 case of this wine at the $70 offer price.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Orlando (FL) Food and Wine Trail

In my recent post on the Orlando food and wine terroir, I introduced the concept of a food and wine area (FWA). While riffing from the American Viticultural Area (AVA) concept, this differs in that it is a consumption (rather than a growing) region. The figure below shows the Orlando FWA which follows the course of Interstate 4 as it wends its way from Daytona Beach in the northeast to Tampa in the southwest. The northernmost reach of the FWA is Deland-New Smyrna Beach while its southernmost extent is Tampa in Hillsborough County.

Within the broader FSA, there are a number of sub-zones each of which may contain one or more food establishment, wine establishment, or food and wine establishment. In the figure below, there is significant sub-zone pooling between Lake Mary and Celebration and significant spacing between that core and the northern and southern extremes.

The figure below illustrates, by sub-zone, the restaurants and wine bars that I believe capture the essence of Orlando as a food and wine destination. Tampa, and its restaurants, are included in this list because it is only 1 hour away and we travel there regularly to enjoy the fine fare offered at its establishments.

The table below lists the restaurants alphabetically along with their cuisine types and links to their websites. Of the cuisine styles, steakhouses are the most dominant with fully eight restaurants self-identifying as such. Italian (5) and American (4) are the next most popular cuisine styles.

Web Site
Aged Steaks
Bohemian Hotel -Celebration
Spanish Steakhouse
Capital Grille
Chatham’s Place
Fine Dining
Steak and Lobster
Cress Restaurant
Globally Inspired
Del Frisco Double Eagle
Eddie V’s
Prime Seafood
F&D Kitchen & Bar
Highball & Harvest
Kabooki Sushi
Casual American
Mise en Place
Modern American
Morimoto Asia
New World
Regional Italian
Ruth’s Chris
Spanish River Grill
Small Plates
Spanish Latino Fusion
The Ravenous Pig
Victoria & Albert’s
Modern American
Steak and Fine Dining

I need to reiterate that this restaurant list is based on my favorites and probably reflects my wine preferences. The steak offerings would pair well with my Bordeaux and Napa wines while my Italian collection is at home in Enzo's, Peperoncino, and the like.

Of the steakhouses, Bern's aged meats are legendary and a meal at the restaurant is incomplete without a tour of the meat aging room, the kitchen, and the wine cellar. Do not leave without doing dessert. I have captured one of my many great Bern's experiences in the following post ( The 50,000 or so wines in the cellar are a legacy of the yeoman collecting effort by the restaurant's founder and is the raison d'etre for many a cross-country trip to the locale.

All of the other mentioned steakhouses will meet and exceed your expectations in terms of the quality of the food, level of service, and wine list. Capa is relatively new but has established a strong foothold with its tapas-inspired small plates and robust steaks. It also has an excellent wine list which was honchoed by Jill Davis as Sommelier before she left for Del Frisco's Double Eagle. I have eaten at the Del Frisco Double Eagle once in a pre-opening affair so have not yet rated its food. The wine offering is a stupendous 10,000 bottles which are attractively stored and displayed throughout the restaurant.

Other than Bern's, the restaurants I enjoy going to most are Victoria & Albert's, Cress Restaurant, Luma, Eddie V's, Norman's, Morimoto Asia, and Mise en Place. Of these, Morimoto Asia is the newest. Eddie V's is a member of the Darden chain but do not be fooled by this fact. Both the menu and wine list are extensive and of extremely high quality. As is the actual food. The environment is also extremely pleasing to the eye. This is probably the third or fourth best restaurant in the FWA.

Victoria & Albert's continues to roll along as a bastion of high-end fine dining even in the face of declining support for this style among area restaurants and patrons. The Chef (Scott Hunnell) is one of the most respected in Orlando and a a seat at his table was second only to season tickets at Lambeau Field in desirability. Disney has since amended its policy such that you have to be staying at the Grand Floridian in order to buy out the table. That was a bummer but we can still dine at the Queen Victoria Room and get the same menu as is being served at the Chef's Table. The problem is that a max of 16 people are so accommodated. Some of my experiences at V&A are captured in the following posts ( and

The most interesting tastes grace your palate when you pay a visit to Cress Restaurant. Chef Hari Pulapaka (a math professor by day) and his wife Jenneffer (a Podiatrist by day) have created a treasure in the far reaches of the FSA; but it is worth the bother. These folks, along with Bill Budzinskifrom the Elusive Grape (the wine bar across the street), have given us something to look forward to every time we launch in their direction. Some stories about these two locations follow.

The Elusive Grape

Cress Restaurant

Well the stories can go on and on but I think the point has been made. Right @marcygordon? Orlando is far from a foodie wasteland.

Last updated 12/1/15

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Orlando (FL) food and wine terroir

At this year's Wine Bloggers Conference, @marcygordon was ribbing me about the "food and wine desert" (I paraphrase here) that Orlando probably was and, being relatively thin-skinned about that particular issue, I invited her to come to town so that I could show her what we had to offer. I checked in with her earlier this week and she indicated (again I paraphrase) that she was awaiting the Orlando terroir report prior to finalizing her departure date. Well Marcy, this one's for you. I will cover the topic in two posts. This one covers the Food and Wine terroir and a follow-up post will illustrate the Orlando Food and Wine Trail.

Before I go any further I should mention that this is my perspective of what I am calling the Orlando Food and Wine Area (FWA; get it?), its components, and the players. Others may take issue with my characterizations and choices and there may be gaps as a result of my preference and acquaintances. This perspective has been formed by long-term residence during which time there was growth from a dependence on Disney-based restaurants to today where high quality food/wine establishments are broadly deployed throughout the region. And it has been further honed by relationships that I have developed with Chefs, wine directors, restaurant staffers, distributor employees, retailers, and other food and wine lovers resident in the area. Now back to the task at hand.

Terroir is a French word, originally confined to wine but recently extended to cheeses and other specialty foodstuff, which, (i) ties the uniqueness of a product to its place of production and (ii) elucidates the elements responsible for this manifestation of place. For me, the terroir of the Orlando FWA is as depicted in the figure below, where the interconnectedness and interworking of the contributory elements function in a manner which yields a consistently "magical" dining experience.

It all begins with the Chefs. We have evolved from an era of corporate Chefs employed by/at Disney-area hotels to one in which they have been supplemented by a brace of young, dynamic, innovative, adventurous Chefs who are just as likely to be catering to locals as to tourists and who have been at the vanguard of the farm-to-table movement. These Chefs cooperate extensively, as they strive to make Orlando a world-class foodie destination, and, on any night, are just as likely to be cooking in a fellow Chef's kitchen as in their own. Their efforts have been rewarded with a number of James Beard Semifinalist mentions. Their thrust regarding ingredients is captured by Chef Hari Pulapaka of Cress who seeks out the "freshest and tastiest seasonal produce" from Farmers Markets and local purveyors and meats, poultry, game, and cheeses from "local specialty purveyors" and "internationally acclaimed artisan farmers."

The restaurant's fare has to be aligned with the environment in which it is presented. Fine dining, for example, does not have to be restricted to a specific decor, but it is certainly exclusionary of some. For example, Victoria & Albert, Luma, and Cress are all fine-dining establishments in my book, but they exude three totally different vibes. And each works in its place.

In Orlando there is an almost incestuous relationship between the employees of wine distributors, wine directors, wait staff, and some of the younger Chefs. They hang out together at area restaurants and pubs, they switch between these job roles interminably, and they just have a lot of fun together. As a local, if you go out reasonably often, you can tap into this stream and it can elevate your overall dining experience: Wine directors plying you with their latest discoveries; distributors pulling stuff out of their ever-present bags to have you taste something interesting; fellow travelers sending something across to your table and you reciprocating. Now you may be the type that just likes to go out and sit in a corner and have a nice quiet dinner. You too are welcomed and accomodated; quietly.

There are a number of on-premise retailers -- Tim's Wine Market and The Wine Barn, for example -- and wine bars -- The Wine Room and Imperial, for example -- in the area but most of the wine consumed outside the home is probably drunk in restaurants. There are some very impressive wine lists around (Berns, 50,000+ bottles; Del Frisco's, 10,000 bottles; Victoria & Albert, 5000 bottles) but the majority of restaurants have tightly focused lists designed to highlight and emphasize their culinary offerings. Most restaurants will allow you to bring in your own bottle for a corkage fee ranging between $10 and $35.

There is a strong tradition of wine education in the Orlando wine community beginning with the distributors and extending into the restaurants themselves. Florida's wine sales operates under the three-tier distribution system and the distributors provide robust training support to the next level down as part of their sales efforts. And they have high-powered staff to assist in this effort. For example, Premier can leverage Andrew McNamara MS, who is part of their Augustan management team, into training and education efforts. Within the restaurants, there is also a major focus on wine training for staff with Darden restaurants having George Miliotes MS, and Disney having Brian Koziol MS, with partial responsibility in that area. The MS population in the area is rounded out by Jon Blazon MS, who is the VP of Sales for The Spire Collection of Jackson Family Wines. Within the restaurants, Wine Directors such as Jill Davis (Del Frisco's), Jenneffer Pulapaka (Cress), and David Arnold (Luma) excel in staff-based training initiatives.

My next post will cover the establishments that simultaneously take advantage of, and fuel, this terroir.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme