30 Second Wine Advisor: Study wine: Maps and history!

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The California Wine Club: Give the Wine Country Experience!
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Study wine: Maps and history!

I've often made the point that wine owns a special place in the world of food and drink because it's one of the few consumables that we enjoy not only with our senses but with our mind.

Become even halfway serious about wine and you'll soon be intrigued not only by its flavor but by the stories and the lore that surround it. Learn about wine, learn about geologym agriculture, botany, science, and, not least, the history and geography of the many places where grapes are grown and wine is made.

Why, it's almost like a college education in a glass, with no tuition and no final exam!

Two of my favorite Wine 101 courses are wine geography - maps and details about the places where wine is made - and wine history - the stories of the people and politics that fostered the evolution of wine as we know it today. Let's take a look at two recent resources: An intriguing and highly readable wine-history blog, and two beautiful new wall-size wine-region maps from an old friend.

The Wine Historian

Wine lover and historian Gregory Vaughan describes his The Wine Historian: Essays, Articles and Discussions on Wine History as "a small blog with periodic postings on wine history."

I've found it engaging and intriguing and only wish Mr. Vaughan had the time to post even more frequently.

Among recent postings, he has dug up instructions on building a wine cellar from a journal written in 1866 ... a French article from 1879 about how to bottle Champagne ... and advice written in 1914 about how best to serve wine, from "Bohemian San Francisco, its restaurants and their most famous recipes - The elegant art of dining."

One offbeat tip from this source: "Never drink any hard liquors, such as whisky, brandy, gin, or cocktails, with oysters or clams, as it is liable to upset you for the rest of the evening."

An exceptional blog, highly recommended.

De Long's Wine Maps

Many of you will recall past articles about the wine projects of my pals Steve and Deborah De Long, who founded The Wine Century Club, a casual organization for wine enthusiasts geeky enough to have tried wines made from at least 100 wine grape varieties and to have kept a record of it, and who innovated The Wine Grape Varietal Table, a humorous yet educational wall chart that presents 184 international wine-grape varieties in a format resembling the familiar classroom wall chart, the periodic table of the elements.

Now the De Longs have moved into wine map publishing, having launched two beautiful, informative poster-size maps featuring the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and the entire state of California, depicting up-to-date information about wine regions in bright colors.

"Our wine maps," Steve says, "are the most accurate and up to date wine maps available anywhere. Each measures 24 x 36 inches and is printed on heavyweight acid-free archival paper." They they're rolled, not folded, for shipping in sturdy tubes.

Both maps are $29.95 plus shipping, but Steve is offering a 20 percent discount for 30 Second Wine Advisor readers for the next two weeks. To get the discount, available through June 30, 2009, simply click through the following links and enter "garr30" (all lowercase) in the Discount Code box when you check out.

Wine Map of California

Wine Map of California

Wine Map of the Iberian Peninsula

Wine Map of the Iberian Peninsula

For today's tasting, featured below, we'll examine a couple of wines from a favorite California producer, Edmunds Saint John, whose wine-producing regions are easy to spot on De Long's California map: ESJ's "Heart of Gold" is a white blend of Vermentino and Grenache Blanc from Rome Vineyard (formerly Wylie), above Georgetown in El Dorado County, Gold Rush country in the Sierra Nevada foothills. "That Old Black Magic," a red blend of Syrah and Grenache, gets its grapes from the Wylie and Fenaughty vineyards in El Dorado County and from Eaglepoint Ranch in Mendocino County.

Today's Sponsor

California Wine Club

The California Wine Club: Give the Wine Country Experience!

Weddings, Graduations, Father’s Day and Birthdays ... this time of year there is always something to celebrate. Why not give your gift recipients a gift that can’t be found in local stores? Give a gift from The California Wine Club and your gift recipient will experience a California wine adventure.

Since 1990 The California Wine Club has introduced wine enthusiasts to limited-production wines handcrafted by California’s best "mom & pop" wineries.

Each month the club hand-selects two bottles of award-winning wine from a different winery. Monthly deliveries also include the club’s 12-page and entertaining newsletter, Uncorked. Uncorked offers an up-close look at the family making the wine, tasting notes, recipes, wine tips, insight to California's wine scene and much more. It’s like an armchair tour of California's wine country and a gift that will definitely be enjoyed and remembered.

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To place a gift order, or try the club for yourself, please visit www.cawineclub.com or call 1-800-777-4443.

Today's Tasting Report

Here are my reports on two recent releases from Edmunds St. John, whose Gamay-based "Bone-Jolly" red and rosé I featured in the May 12, 2009 Wine Advisor. "That Old Black Magic," a hearty red based on Grenache and Syrah, is successor to the winery's excellent "Rocks & Gravel" red. The "Heart of Gold" white is a complex blend of Vermentino and Grenache Blanc, an excellent match with fish.

Edmunds St. John 2006 "That Old Black Magic" California Red Wine ($20)Edmunds St. John

This red blend lives up to its name ("That old black magic, got you in its spell") with a very dark blackish-purple color all the way to the clear edge. The aroma presents ripe plums, cherries and red berries with a whiff of Kirsch liqueur; flavors consistent with the nose, fresh and ripe but no "fruit bomb." Fine acidity and soft tannins in a wine that's delicious with food now but should age nicely under its Stelvin-style metal screw cap. It made a fine match with a natural, locally pasture-raised pork chop pan-seared with onions, then braised with Asian flavors. (May 8, 2009)

Edmunds St. John 2008 El Dorado County "Heart of Gold" White Table Wine ($20)

A blend of Vermentino (59%) and Grenache Blanc (41%) from El Dorado County in California's Gold Rush country in the Sierra Nevada foothills, this complex white offers scents of almonds and hazelnuts over distinct white fruit on the nose. Full and acidic, it adds a peach-pit bitter note in the finish. Served with disparate dishes on successive nights and went well with both: Fresh Alaskan halibut pan-seared, then finished in a Cuban-style orange-lemon mojo with loads of garlic, and fettuccine with asparagus cut lengthwise into long slices in saffron cream. (May 1, 2009)

The Edmunds St. John Website provides considerable information about the winery and its wines:

Locate vendors and check prices for Edmunds St. John's wines on Wine-Searcher.com:

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To contact me by E-mail, write wine@wineloverspage.com. I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

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