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Orange Coast Winery



Douglas Wiens
January 17, 2018 | Douglas Wiens

Okay, Besides the Color: What’s the Difference Between Red and White Wine?

Winemaking adds truth to the saying that beauty is only skin deep.

Apples and oranges. You’ve heard the expression used to describe comparing two things that are extremely different. It’s easy to associate this cliché with the difference between red and white wine because there really is a huge difference.

But there are also a few striking similarities. One of them even has to do with what grapes and apples have in common. Now that we’ve created a veritable fruit salad of allegories, read on to discover the main differences between red and white wine—besides the color.

Skin deep

We’ll start here because it’s only fair to satisfy the question we just brought up about what grapes—both red and white—and apples have in common. Skin color.

For the most part, if you peel any variety of apple, you reveal the same color flesh. The apple’s skin can be green, red, or yellow.

Similarly, when removed from their skins, both red and white grapes create a clear liquid when juiced. That’s right: red grapes do not produce red wine. Well, actually, they do—but only if you include their skins. And, this brings us to one of the most striking differences between red and white wines—which is how they’re made.

Skinny dipping

Nobody peels grapes before they start the process of winemaking. Imagine the time and effort this would take! However, during the production of white wine, the skin is separated from the clear juice. And while making red wine, the skin and seeds—and sometimes the vines as well as even leaves—are included in the juice fermentation process.

It’s known as maceration, and this is what causes the clear grape juice to turn red. It’s also a bit like brewing a cup of tea. A longer seep produces a darker brew. Longer maceration periods produce darker red wines, also resulting in more intense flavors.

It turns out that the secret to a wine’s complex flavors and bold personality lies in the grape skin. Does it surprise you, then, to discover that Cabernet Sauvignon grape skins are among the thickest to be found?

Wood vs metal

Fermenting with or without the skin might be the main difference between what makes a red or white wine, but what the juice from the grapes gets fermented in runs a close second.

We want our white wines to be acidic, zesty, and have floral aromas. We want our reds to be soft, rich, and velvety. At the start, the juice from both red and white grapes is somewhat unremarkable. You’d be hard pressed (excuse the pun) to taste and predict which will become a red or white wine.

The decider is oxidation. It causes red wines to lose their fruit and floral notes, and to take on smooth, nutty, richness. Winemakers encourage oxidation by using oak barrels to make red wines. Wood breathes. Winemakers reduce the exposure to oxygen during fermentation by using stainless steel tanks to make white wines. Metal does not breathe.

Back to the skin, again

Red wines are usually always described as having complex profiles. They make us think of berries, but then a list of secondary attributes that run the gamut from tobacco leaves to leather. Whites, on the other hand, tend to serve up a single citrus note, with maybe a secondary and more exotic tropical attribute. It’s not uncommon for someone to mention “pineapple” when talking about a white.

Red wines develop their profiles because of what exists only in the skins: tannins. Remember the apple? When you bite into an apple skin and feel your mouth pucker up, you’re experiencing the astringent phenolic compounds that make up tannins. These components are found in many plants, including grape skins.

Tannins extracted from grape skins during maceration are what create the foundation of the complex flavors we find in red wines. Tannins are also natural preservatives, which is why red wines can be aged much longer than whites.

Without tannins to impart complexity, white wines depend on developing the structure of acidity. The lack of tannins and oxidation creates higher amounts of acids, giving white wines their crisp, tart profiles.

They say beauty is only skin deep. Winemaking adds truth to this saying. When you remove the skin, you change more than the color of the wine you’ll make.

Time Posted: Jan 17, 2018 at 7:14 AM Permalink to Okay, Besides the Color: What’s the Difference Between Red and White Wine? Permalink
Douglas Wiens
January 10, 2018 | Douglas Wiens

If it’s Not from the Champagne Region of France, is it Really Champagne?

Using the Amazon teen shopping cart

All champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne.

You may have heard people who claim to be knowledgeable about such things tell you that sparkling wine can only be called champagne if its origins are from the region of Champagne, France. It must be made from the Pinot Meunier, Pinot noir, and Chardonnay grapes grown in this region.

These people are correct, mostly. Throughout the European Union and most of the rest of the world, the name “Champagne” is legally protected by an agreement called the Madrid system. This 1891 treaty designates the sparkling wine produced in the region and requires it to adhere to the standards defined for it as an appellation d'origine controlee. But there’s a loophole.

Tiny bubbles

Anybody can make sparkling wine if they know how, thanks to the monk Dom Perignon, who discovered the process in the late 1600s. Monsieur Perignon gets the credit, but it’s likely that the process was created slowly over time by the monks who lived in the Champagne region of France.

Sparkling wine starts out the same as regular wine. Carbon dioxide is produced when yeast begins to consume the sugars in the wine. In the case of champagne, this carbon dioxide is not allowed to escape. The gas is trapped in the wine, and released in the form of tiny bubbles when the bottle is opened.

California champagne?

Winemakers from all over the world produce types of sparkling wine. They cannot make even a vague reference to champagne if they are to be sold in the European Union, however.

So, how is it possible for winemakers—mostly in California—to be able to create sparkling wine and use the word “Champagne” right on the label? We have World War I to thank for that.

A loophole in the Treaty of Versailles

This historical document brought about an end to the first World War, and it also had a few additions to satisfy the major players. War activity in the Champagne region of France destroyed nearly all of the winemaking facilities there by 1917. Peace would return to the region, but champagne-making might not.

So, Article 275 was added to the Treaty of Versailles. Its purpose was to prevent Germany from taking advantage of the situation and flooding the market with their version of sparkling wine. It prohibited all members signing the treaty to produce a wine or spirit protected by a regional appellation. In theory, this should have meant that the United States would have to stop calling the sparkling wine created by California wineries “champagne.”

But, if you recall from your world history class, the United States never signed the Treaty of Versailles. The US Senate never ratified the treaty. And France probably wasn’t too concerned about competition from the United States because Prohibition was about to put an end to California’s winemaking capacity.

Business as usual

Prohibition did decimate California’s wine industry. Sales history shows that it didn’t really regain strength until the 1970s, during which winemakers began to produce inexpensive wines sold in jugs. As a marketing ploy, these wines were given names like Chianti, Chablis, and Burgundy.

Speaking of Burgundy—the California version—the popular 1970s “Hearty Burgundy” by Carlo Rossi, was actually made from a blend of Zinfandel grapes. There was nothing even remotely associated with the region of France, much to that country’s chagrin.

And France was getting a bit agitated by the continued use of treaty-protected appellations by California winemakers—especially when it came to champagne.

America finally joins the party, sort of

It took until 2005 for the European Union, led by France, to get the United States to the wine bargaining table to reach an agreement. In exchange for easing trade restrictions on wine, the United States agreed that what it termed as “semi-generic names” such as California Champagne, Sherry, and Chablis would no longer be used on domestic wine labels. Unless…

If a United States winemaker had used one of these “semi-generic names,” such as California Champagne, prior to March 10, 2006, they would be allowed to continue to include it on their label indefinitely.

Is there any remarkable difference between California Champagne and the sparkling wine that by virtue of a global treaty bears the right to be called Champagne? The rest of the world thinks so. France continues to grumble that California winemakers are causing consumer confusion.

What would Dom Perignon think?

We’re not sure. But he’s wound up as a trademarked brand of Champagne created in 1921 by France’s Moët & Chandon.

Time Posted: Jan 10, 2018 at 12:00 PM Permalink to If it’s Not from the Champagne Region of France, is it Really Champagne? Permalink
Douglas Wiens
December 27, 2017 | Douglas Wiens

Wine Alcohol Content: How it Changes What You Taste

If Johnny Depp were a wine, he’d likely have a high alcohol content. There’s nothing subtle about him.

The golden statue goes to the actor who gave the strongest performance, but we all know that he or she doesn’t carry the movie alone. It’s why there also are more golden statues for the best supporting cast. Such is the case with wine, as well.

Here, the grape is obviously the star. We know wines by the type of grape used. But, there’s always a strong supporting cast, and the performance by alcohol will always make a difference. Here’s what you should know about how alcohol content will change what you taste in a wine.

Getting to know the cast

We’ve already established that the grape—or blend of grapes—is the star of the show, but wine assumes its flavor from other sources, too. Many of them directly impact the character of the grape. Weather, water, and sunlight will affect the sugar content of the grape. It’s why Chardonnay grapes grown in California taste different from the same grape grown in France.

Another considerable contributor is yeast. In fact, it’s likely going to be a more important factor than what’s been mentioned so far. Yeast is introduced to the wine to convert the grape’s natural sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The wine will remain sweeter if the yeast dies before it consumes all the sugars. The longer the yeast remains active, the more sugars are consumed, and the drier the wine becomes. This also will increase the alcohol content—remember that alcohol is the byproduct of yeast’s consumption of sugar.

Blame it on the sugar?

The amount of sugar available from the grape can determine the alcohol content. The sugars increase when grapes can fully mature—or ripen—with the assistance of optimal conditions. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that wines from California tend to have higher alcohol content than those from cooler climes.

South America, Australia, Spain, and California wine producers have experienced increasing seasonal temperatures. This has brought about an increase in the sugar levels of grapes, which in turn produces wine with a higher alcohol level.

To put this in perspective, the pinot noirs from Oregon have lower alcohol levels than their California pinot cousins because of the cooler climate. German Rieslings tend to have very low alcohol levels because the grapes struggle to ripen in this far northern location.

It has no taste, yet changes what you taste

Which brings us to alcohol. Experts tell us that alcohol doesn’t trigger receptors on our tongue, so technically, it has no taste. You’d think that logically, this means alcohol can’t affect the taste of wine.

By itself, alcohol is an ineffective contributor. It’s what alcohol does when it interacts with the star of the show that gives alcohol the ability to exert amazing control. And it’s not necessarily through our taste buds, either.

Enter the nose

Alcohol quickly evaporates when exposed to air. It’s the evaporating alcohol in your glass of wine that carries the aroma of wine to your senses. You need your nose to taste. If you haven’t already tried it, pinch your nose, and take a sip of wine. You’ll taste practically nothing at all.

Ah, so the higher the alcohol content, the greater the range of the grape’s personality you should taste, right? Well, not really. If the yeast consumes all or a high percentage of the sugars before it dies, the higher alcohol content can stifle a wine’s “bouquet.” It’s a fancy way of saying that the fruity aromas of the grape are diminished. And that will certainly alter the taste.

To some extent, the alcohol content will also affect a wine’s viscosity—which is the gatekeeper for the balance between acidity and sweetness.

Make it sweet

You’ve got to give the customer what they want, and they’re telling winemakers they want sweeter, bolder tastes. So, winemakers are allowing their grapes to stay on the vine and ripen longer than in the past.

The impressive performance requires a bigger contribution from the supporting cast. Generally, the bolder and sweeter the taste, the higher the alcohol content. The levels aren’t massive swings, however. Winemakers tend to agree that the ideal alcohol content for wine averages about 13.6%. California Cabernet sauvignon grapes will generate an alcohol content between 12.5% and 15%. A Riesling, on the other hand, can generate an alcohol content as low as 7%.

And this means…?

Is there a rule of thumb you can apply to alcohol content and the way it will affect the way wine tastes? The higher the alcohol level, the bolder the flavor.

Thus … if Johnny Depp were a wine, he’d likely have a high alcohol content. There’s nothing subtle about him.

Time Posted: Dec 27, 2017 at 10:17 AM Permalink to Wine Alcohol Content: How it Changes What You Taste Permalink
Douglas Wiens
December 20, 2017 | Douglas Wiens

Corkscrews: What’s the Best Type?

Learn about the many options available

Whether they’re wine-drinking newbies or consider themselves oenophiles, there’s one thing all wine drinkers have in common: they have to get the wine out of the bottle. Everybody knows this is what corkscrews are for, but with so many choices to pick from, is one type better than the rest? Here are the basic styles available:

Twist and pull

They don’t come any more basic than this kind of corkscrew. While inexpensive, they require a certain amount of strength to get the cork out, which can make them a little difficult to use.


The butterfly corkscrew is probably the most common one available, and odds are good that you have one in your home right now. They are mostly easy to use, but not all of them are the same, so it’s important to find a good one – all-metal is obviously more durable than many which have plastic components.

Bunny ears

Bunny ears corkscrews are also easy to use, but they’re not cheap. They are also somewhat sizable, so don’t expect them to fit nicely in an average drawer like the ones above.

Source: Wine Folly

Table top

Speaking of a big corkscrew, a table top variety is downright huge in comparison to the others on this list. Used in restaurants, this isn’t necessarily a wine opener that an individual needs to have. But if you’re a serious wine drinker – and you want to add an interesting piece to your home décor – this may be a good option.

Source: Wine Folly 


If you just have difficulty with regular corkscrews, an electric version might be the perfect one to go with. Very easy to use, and they also generally aren’t too expensive.

Two prong

Though more of a cork puller than a corkscrew, the two-pronged variety is meant for older bottles with natural cork. It is designed to remove the cork without damaging it.

Air pump

This is another wine opener that doesn’t actually use a corkscrew, but it will get the job done. It utilizes a needle and air pressure to get the cork out.

Waiter’s friend

Portable and easy to use, the waiter’s friend corkscrew is a great choice. There are many different types available and prices can vary significantly, but even the less expensive ones are good. They do take some skill to operate, but their portability and versatility drive their popularity among food service professionals.

Your own fingers

Unless you have superhuman abilities, you probably won’t be able to yank a cork out of a bottle without some sort of instrument. You can however, twist off a screw cap. Sometimes the best wine doesn’t require any sort of corkscrew.

When thinking about corkscrews, there’s really only one thing to determine: Will it get the cork out so you can drink? If the answer is yes, it probably doesn’t matter how basic or extravagant it is. The important thing is finding a wine worth pulling a cork for. This is where Orange Coast Winery comes in. We make wines that rival some of the best in the world. And when you come see us, we’ll take care of the corks for you!

Time Posted: Dec 20, 2017 at 6:53 AM Permalink to Corkscrews: What’s the Best Type? Permalink
Douglas Wiens
December 13, 2017 | Douglas Wiens

Do Sulfites Really Cause “Wine Headaches?”

Debunking common myths about sulfites in wine

Sulfites are the “bad guys” of the wine world, getting the blame for a number of ailments, including headaches. There are even warning labels on bottles of wine that “contain sulfites.” Outside of those who work in the wine industry, either as winemakers or experts, not much is known about sulfites. So, we thought it would be a good idea to dispel some of the myths surrounding them.

What are sulfites and are they really harmful?

Let’s start with defining sulfites. According to Scientific American, “Sulfur dioxide (or SO2) is a chemical compound made up of sulfur and oxygen. It occurs naturally but can also be produced in a laboratory. It’s used to preserve foods and beverages, which it does by acting as an antioxidant and antimicrobial.”

Sulfites have been used for centuries in the winemaking process, acting as a preservative to maintain its freshness. Ancient Romans used sulfites to keep wine from turning into vinegar.

In most cases, sulfites are not harmful unless you have a health condition such as asthma. Other people are “sulfite-sensitive” as their bodies lack a certain enzyme that allows them to break down sulfites. However, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), less than 1% of the U.S. population is sulfite-sensitive.

The amount of sulfite in a bottle of wine is highly regulated. In the US, a bottle that contains more 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur dioxide must carry a warning label. There are also limits on the total amount of sulfite that can be present in a bottle. In Europe, the limit is 210 ppm, while in the US, the limit is 350 ppm.

Debunking common myths about wine and sulfites

Myth #1: Sulfites cause headaches

This may be the most common myth associated with sulfites. While it is true that drinking wine can trigger headaches in some people, there is no evidence that sulfites are the cause. According to, “There are many other compounds in wine such as histamines and tannins that are more likely connected to the headache effect (not to mention alcohol!).”

Myth #2: Red wine causes more headaches due to elevated sulfite levels

If sulfites are the alleged cause of headaches, red wine gets the most blame. Many believe that red wine contains more sulfites, however the opposite is true. That’s because red wines contain tannins, which are polyphenols found in the skin, seeds, and stems of grapes. Tannins act as an antioxidant and preservative in red wine. This translates to less sulfur dioxide being needed during the winemaking process rather than more. In fact, European regulations allow up to 210 ppm of sulfites in white wine, but red wine is limited to 160 ppm.

Myth #3: Wine contains more sulfites than other food/drink and should be avoided

Again … no. Other foods are known to contain more sulfites, including soda, candy, prepared soups, frozen juices, processed meats, potato chips, French fries, and dried fruit.

In fact, dried fruit can contain up to 1,000 ppm, while wine generally has around 10 ppm. If you eat these types of food and don’t get headaches, you probably don’t have an allergic reaction to sulfites.

Myth #4: Sulfites are an “unnatural” substance

Many critics of sulfur dioxide object to it because they believe it is an unnatural addition. However, according to “Sulfites are also a natural by-product of the yeast metabolism during fermentation. So even if you do not add any additional SO2, your wine will still contain sulfites.”

Actually, the proportion of sulfites in wine has been reduced due to a better understanding of how sulfur dioxide breaks down, new winemaking practices, and careful selection of healthy grapes.

Myth #5: Organic wines are sulfite free

Just because wine is labeled “organic” doesn’t mean it contains no sulfites: “In order to be certified organic, a wine must not contain added sulfites. However, sulfites are produced naturally during the fermentation process…Organic wine may contain between 10-40 ppm sulfites.”

Also, be careful when reading wine labels. Some use organic grapes, which can have as much as 100 ppm sulfites. Organic grapes and organic wine are not the same thing.

What if you truly have a reaction to sulfites?

It is true that certain people cannot consume food/drink with sulfites. Thankfully, there are a number of new wines on the market that are “sulfite free.” Look for these in stores if you want to enjoy wine again.

Time Posted: Dec 13, 2017 at 5:58 AM Permalink to Do Sulfites Really Cause “Wine Headaches?” Permalink
Douglas Wiens
December 6, 2017 | Douglas Wiens

By the Numbers: Who’s Drinking the Most Wine These Days?

three women drinking wine and laughing

Millennials and women are the new wave in wine drinkers

Anyone connected with the wine industry can rest assured that wine is not going anywhere. In fact, sales have risen in the last few years, to the tune of $32 billion spent annually.

A study published by the Wine Market Council, a non-profit association of grape producers, importers, wholesalers, retailers and other wine-related businesses, recently looked at wine drinking habits. The findings make it clear that wine is not only still popular, but gaining strength. The study revealed a couple of interesting new trends …

There are basically two words to remember when it comes to wine drinking trends: Millennials and Women.

Trend #1: Millennials and wine

First, look at the numbers regarding wine consumption by generation:

Millennials (age 21 – 38) = 42%

Baby Boomers (age 51 – 69) = 30%

Gen-X (39 – 50) = 20%

Silent Generation (70+) = 8%

Millennials now drink more wine than any other generation, and look at this:

  • Millennials drank 159.6 million cases of wine in 2015, an average of 2 cases apiece
  • 30% of those who consume wine several times per week (aka high-frequency drinkers) were Millennials
  • Between 2005 and 2010, there was a surge in high frequency drinkers from 7.9% to 13.9%, driven by the Millennials

Part of the growth has to do with the fact that the youngest Millennials are now finally over the legal drinking age of 21. That means the entire generation is free to indulge when they want.

It’s not just volume when it comes to Millennial wine habits

Millennial drinking habits and trends are different from other groups as well. Millennials have more eclectic and varied tastes than any other generation before, eschewing bottles from traditional wine-producing regions like California. “At least 30% of high-frequency, wine-drinking millennials said they had bought wine from domestic wineries like Washington and Oregon, and overseas countries like Chile, Argentina, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and South Africa over the last three months.”

Millennials also seem to have more expensive taste, as 17% have paid over $20 for a bottle of wine.

Trend #2: Women like wine … a lot

Take a look at your Facebook or Instagram feed and notice of all the memes having to do with wine. You might also notice that many of them are posted or shared by women. That’s because women drink more wine than men, often by a wide margin.

  • Women accounted for 57% of wine volume in 2015, compared to 43% of men
  • Highly involved female wine drinkers are mostly Millennials, are more often urban educated professionals, and are more ethnically diverse than the typical female wine drinker

If you want to drill down further, younger millennial women are the top trend in wine consumption. In fact, two-thirds of high-frequency wine drinkers under age 30 are women, according to a 2015 study.

The buying habits of women seem to be driven by a few interesting trends as well:

  • Women are more likely to buy wine labeled as “organic” or “sustainably-produced”
  • 51% of women age 21-24 and 38% of total women say this is important.
  • Women are also drawn to labels
  • Female wine drinkers rated “traditional, classic, and sophisticated” labels more intriguing than other types of labels
  • Women are more likely to buy a wine they’ve never tried before based on the label or a recommendation rather than buy a wine they’ve only read about

Based on the new findings, it’s clear that wine is here to stay and that millennials – especially millennial women – are the driving force in its rising popularity.

Regardless of trends, Orange Coast Winery sees wine lovers in every generation, gender, and just about every other demographic. Simply put, the love of a great wine is universal. To find the perfect wine for your next dinner party or event, visit Orange Coast Winery (online or in-person) and review our selection of fine wines for every price range and palate.

Time Posted: Dec 6, 2017 at 8:20 AM Permalink to By the Numbers: Who’s Drinking the Most Wine These Days? Permalink
Douglas Wiens
November 29, 2017 | Douglas Wiens

Wine Storage Tips for Those of us Who Don’t Have a Cellar

It’s less complicated than you think: Wine cellars are for long-term storage and aging.

Let’s get something important out of the way first. If you buy a bottle of wine today and plan to drink it in the next month or so, you don’t really need to worry all that much about storage. In that case, your concern is more about how to protect it and prepare it for drinking. 

Wine cellars are for long-term storage, and their objective is to help the wine age. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about how to store wine—either to drink in the near future, or to store and age it, if you don’t have wine cellar. 

The ideal conditions

Wine cellars are perfect for storing wine because they can offer the optimal conditions for wine to age. If you plan to drink wine soon after purchase, you don’t have to worry about humidity, and you need to be less worried about temperature and light. 

If you have a wine cellar, though, these conditions should be:

  • An ambient temperature of 55 degrees
  • A variation in temperature of no more than 3 degrees
  • Darkness
  • 70% humidity

Let’s take a look at each of the ideal conditions so we can understand why they’re important for long-term storage, or aging—keeping in mind that this probably is the only reason why you would want to put wine in a wine cellar. 


Kudos if you have a wine refrigerator. It’s keeping your wine between the temperature of 40 and 65 degrees—which is the range of wine serving temperatures. Long-term wine storage for the purpose of aging requires the wine to be maintained instead at about 55 degrees. Why?

Oxidation is the enemy of all wine. However, some oxidation is a part of the aging process. The 55-degree temperature is that perfect balance that prevents complete oxidation, which will kill wine. What does a dead wine taste like? It’ll be flat. The oxygen will have robbed it of the volatile chemicals that create a wine’s aroma. It’ll also change color. White wines will darken and take on an amber color, and red wines will take on a brownish hue.

Excessive heat increases the rate of wine oxidation. A wine stored at 73 degrees ages twice as fast as wine stored at 55 degrees. While you might think this would be a good way to add some mellowness to a sharp cabernet sauvignon, at about 70 degrees, the components of wine begin to react to heat to create unpleasant tastes and aromas. It’s possible to actually cook a wine at temperatures above 80 degrees. 

A degree or two of temperature fluctuation might not seem like anything to worry about, but it turns out to be a big deal for long-term wine storage. Even a couple of degrees is enough to expand the wine’s volume and put pressure on the cork. When it cools the differential pulls air into the bottle. That’s an invitation for unwanted excess oxidation. 


Wine is put in colored glass bottles to protect it from ultraviolet light. This offers some protection, but your wine will need more for long-term storage and aging. 

White wines are most susceptible to damage from light. The term is called “lightstruck,” and it causes wine to take on taste most often described as like wet cardboard. 

Red wines are less susceptible to being lightstruck because they contain polyphenols—also known as tannins—that protect it. It isn’t just excessive sunlight that’s the enemy of wine. Fluorescent light is just as bad. 


This is all about protecting the cork in your bottle of wine, so there’s nothing to worry about if it has a twist-off metal cap. The objective is to keep a certain amount of moisture in the cork.

Don’t be fooled into thinking the solution is to lay the bottle on its side. The only thing this accomplishes is to keep the cork moist on the inside of the bottle—and that’s only half the battle. 

A wine cellar allows you to maintain an even and constant humidity to prevent the top of the cork from drying out. It will shrink and crack of this happens. A constant humidity of about 70% helps the cork to maintain an effective seal. 

A higher humidity may bring on the occurrence of mold on the cork and the label. The only thing this impacts is the appearance. Bottom line: it’s better to have a humidity level of 70% or higher. 

If not in the cellar…

Where to store your wine? Places to avoid include your kitchen, a storage shed, and your garage. Wait, back up. The kitchen is a bad place to store wine? 

For long-term storage and aging, yes. It can be one of the hottest places in your house, subject to huge temperature fluctuations. Kitchens also tend to be well-lit, and we like them to have lots of windows to let in the sunlight. 

Your garage or a storage shed will expose wine bottles to extreme temperature fluctuations. The cork can also allow car exhaust fumes and vapors from things you keep in storage sheds to work their way into your wine. 

Do you have a basement? That’s your substitution wine cellar. Choose a subterranean wall—not all basement walls are completely underground. Look for wine racks made of redwood. It’ll be maintenance free for you. 

Remember this important point. A wine refrigerator is not what you could call a miniature wine cellar that fits in your kitchen. While it’s great for short-term storage, its purpose is to keep your wine at the proper serving temperature.

Time Posted: Nov 29, 2017 at 10:20 AM Permalink to Wine Storage Tips for Those of us Who Don’t Have a Cellar Permalink
Douglas Wiens
November 22, 2017 | Douglas Wiens

Is it Blasphemous to Order White Wine to go with my Steak?

Pairing food with wine can’t be simplified by matching colors

Yes, people take wine seriously—which is why it’s possible to attach the word blasphemy to those who do not speak the truth about this glorious liquid. Often, though, blasphemy turns out to be only an accusation made by the uninformed. Ask Galileo, who in 1633 was accused of blasphemy and found guilty of heresy for daring to declare that our planet revolved around the sun. 

Galileo spent the rest of his life under house arrest for this. Don’t worry. A similar fate does not await you if you declare that only white wines go with fish or reds with meat. There are uninformed people out there who may accuse you of blasphemy. Now, you can help them see the light. 

The problem with one size fits all

There’s validity to the idea of the white/white red/red rule, but you shouldn’t apply it in all cases. Not all red meat is the same. You likely wouldn’t confuse salmon with flounder. The same is true with wine.

So, while it’s generally a wise idea to pair white wine with fish, it’s also important to look past the color. A Gewürztraminer tastes completely different than a Sauvignon Blanc—yet both are white wines. 

This takes us to the idea that wines and food have the responsibility to pay complementary respect in flavor, which sometimes has little to do with color. Your Dover sole filet would be overwhelmed by our Sangiovese. The flip-side to that would be the consequences of pairing our Pinot Grigio with a strong and oily filet of salmon.

And then there’s the consideration of how your meat or fish is prepared. Perhaps you’ll prepare calamari Fra Diavolo-style. A delicate white wine would be lost in the mouthful of spices.

Some specificity for the generality

Hard and fast doesn’t work well with the complications brought on by pairing a main ingredient—in this case, either meat or fish—with myriad cooking styles, and then applying the white/white red/red rule.

The color rule is a good place to start, but then take it to the next round of elimination by keeping these things in mind:

  • Oven-baked fish, as well as oil-rich filets like salmon, can be paired with a medium red wine. Think Pinot Noir. Careful with the stronger reds, though. Fish may taste mild when it’s unadorned—but its iodized undertones can clash with a red wine’s tannins. You’ll get a mouthful of metallic or bitter sensations.
  • Red meats—especially with marbled fat—will soften these sharp tannins. It’s why most people opt to pair wines such as our Malbec with a Porterhouse steak or a dinosaur-size Prime rib.
  • Back to considering the preparation method over the main ingredient: Pass on a red wine if your dish features a cream-based sauce. The fats and milk solids will coat your tongue, allowing only a portion of the spectrum of flavors contained in red wines to make it to your taste buds. That limited spectrum may not be to your liking. Go for something oak-aged, like a creamy Chardonnay.

Galileo was on the bad side of the Catholic Church for more than 300 years for daring to voice his opinion about our Earth and the sun. Ultimately, the church admitted that there was a preponderance of evidence to their contrary belief.

You may have some pushback when you decide to order a bottle of our Viognier to go with your steak au poivre. It’s doubtful you’ll spend the rest of our life under house arrest, though. In fact, you may actually gain standing by educating your naysayers about the limiting consequences of the white/white red/red rule.

Time Posted: Nov 22, 2017 at 6:28 AM Permalink to Is it Blasphemous to Order White Wine to go with my Steak? Permalink
Douglas Wiens
November 15, 2017 | Douglas Wiens

The Best Ways to Store an Open Bottle of Wine

Ensure your wine tastes great longer with these tips

Forgive us if you took one look at the title of this post and laughed out loud; we understand that for a lot of folks, once a bottle of wine is opened, there is little chance there will be any left. But on the rare occasion that you and your guests have had your fill and you realize there’s wine leftover, you definitely don’t want to waste it.

First of all, why does wine go stale?

The culprit is oxidation. At first, oxygen is often good for wine. This is why people are encouraged to swirl it in their glasses or ‘let it breathe’ once it is opened; oxygen releases flavors and aromas. However, when wine gets too much oxygen for too long, it degrades. It becomes bitter and eventually it will turn into vinegar. You only really have two or three days to enjoy a bottle once it’s opened.

How to keep your wine as fresh as possible

Put that cork back in

This one may seem obvious, but the quicker you get that cork in, the sooner you can slow down the oxidation process. Make sure it is in nice and tight.

Stick it in the fridge

A common mistake people make with open wine is leaving it out. Once you put the cork back in, you can put the bottle in the refrigerator. The cold temperatures will further help limit the impact of oxidation.

Pour it into a smaller container

The two previous measures can preserve wine, but all of that extra air in the bottle contains oxygen, and we know what oxygen does to open wine. This is why if you have an empty half-bottle sitting around, pour it in. An even better option is a mason jar with its airtight lid. 

Try this fancy device

If you constantly find yourself with open bottles of wine, it may be time to invest in a Coravin. This contraption uses a needle to pierce the cork and then sends argon gas into the bottle. You can pour however much you like and then take out the needle. At that point the cork seals naturally, so you will not have to worry about that pesky oxygen getting in.

No matter if it’s your favorite bottle of inexpensive wine or perhaps something you’ve splurged on, you do not want to squander any of it. The above tips will help you enjoy it longer. And if you’re looking to try something new, come join us at Orange Coast Winery. We have a great selection of wines you’re sure to want to take home. And whether you finish a bottle in one sitting or not is up to you. 

Time Posted: Nov 15, 2017 at 9:07 AM Permalink to The Best Ways to Store an Open Bottle of Wine Permalink
Douglas Wiens
November 8, 2017 | Douglas Wiens

Should You Take a Wine Seriously if it Doesn’t Have a Cork?

The difference between a screw cap and a cork? About 10 seconds.

The waiter brings the bottle of wine you selected to the table and shows it to you. What’s this? It’s got a screw cap on it. Which means that it somehow managed to get mislabeled. There’s no way a quality wine would be bereft of a cork, right? Not so fast.

The venerable cork, long a signature characteristic of fine wines, have become … well, no longer a signature characteristic of fine wines. Here’s the story behind why cork is starting to take a back seat to screw tops.

When it’s meant to be drunk young

Some winemaking areas, such as Australia and New Zealand, have switched to using screw caps for nearly all their wines—regardless of quality. The rest of the world has taken a more science-based approach. Winemakers have begun to use screw caps for their white wines, as well as red wines that are meant to be drunk young. Here’s why.

The metal screw cap may look less appealing, but it’s far more efficient at preventing oxygen from entering the wine bottle. That’s important if you want to keep a bottled wine crisp and well-preserved—which are characteristics that are strongly attributed to whites.

Breathable isn’t always preferable

Cork—whether it’s the real deal or synthetic—is not an impermeable substance. It’ll allow a slow exchange of oxygen with the wine. That’s great for more complex wines. These would include most red wines, as well as certain whites such as chardonnay.

The oxygen exchange permitted by the cork allows bigger and fuller wines to continue to develop inside the bottle. That small amount of air exchange helps smooth out tannins that otherwise might take the smooth finish off the glass of cabernet sauvignon when it’s poured into your glass. You need those tannins for the velvety feeling that reds impart in your mouth, but their oxidization is what makes them more drinkable.

Serving wine on time

So, it turns out that the screw top is not necessarily an indication of quality. In fact, it just might be a sign that the winemaker has taken steps to ensure that your bottle of wine will taste exactly as it should. That metal screw cap still has a bit of a stigma going on, though. Mainly that’s because of how we’ve come to associate the pleasure of drinking a fine wine with its uncorking.

That’s all well and good if you’ve got a wine screw and you know how to use it. Screw tops banish the possibility of broken corks, or small pieces of them floating on our freshly poured glass of wine. That’s a bit of a texture violation, for sure.

Truthfully, the only sacrifice a metal screw cap introduces to the wine drinking experience is that of ceremony. Metal and cork (the real stuff) are both renewable substances, so neither has an advantage there. It is a bit difficult, though, for your server—or you—to unscrew with flourish a bottle of excellent wine. There’s no squeaking of cork against glass, rewarded finally by the satisfying “pop!” of its release from the bottle.

If speed is of the essence, an accomplished server of sommelier can uncork your bottle of wine in about 10 seconds. It’ll take you longer than that if you don’t do this for a living—or at least on a regular basis. The screw cap is your better choice if introducing the wine to your taste buds is more important than the ceremony of uncorking.

And, depending on the type of wine you’re about to enjoy after the cap is unscrewed, you may actually enjoy it more.

Time Posted: Nov 8, 2017 at 7:11 AM Permalink to Should You Take a Wine Seriously if it Doesn’t Have a Cork? Permalink