Tag Archives: Chardonnay

My favorite wines of 2015

28 Dec

These are my favorite wines of 2015.  I probably tasted some other wines that should have made the list, but if I didn’t write a note about it, I don’t remember it.  I did a number of handwritten notes for the Diploma class that I was taking & those generally were tossed.  I listed the wines by vintage with the non-vintage wines first.  These aren’t in order of preference.  I have prices by the wines, but of course prices vary. If I were to go through all of the wines I tasted in 2015 & taste them again, I’m sure that I would have come to different conclusions about a few.

My list this year is dominated by Bordeaux, Napa, & Champagne.  That isn’t because I prefer those regions to others.  It is a reflection of what I had the opportunity to try in 2015.  I don’t have any Burgundy on the list, although I had some very nice Burgundies this year.  I just didn’t have any that blew me away (that I managed to save tasting notes for at least).  I attended a couple of huge Bordeaux tastings & was able to pull from notes for over 200 Bordeaux wines that I tasted in 2015, so that region may be over represented.  That being said, they were great wines that couldn’t be left off the list.

There are four sweet wines on the list.  I know that some of my friends who like wine wouldn’t ever consider drinking a sweet wine.  These are all examples of why a great sweet wine can hold its own with any other wine in the world.  Anyone who opts not to try them because they don’t like sweet wines is just missing out.  I’m happy to drink their share.

With all of those disclaimers, I will say that there are some tremendous wines here.   If you have a chance, you should give them a try.

Please feel free to leave comments below & let me know what wines you liked best in 2015.

NV Extra Brut Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru Champagne Chapuy $46chapuy

This is liquid French toast.  I could add things like flavors of poached pear
& peach & spice.  I could mention the creamy nature of the wine or the nice minerality, but really liquid French toast says it all. 1,850 cases made.

NV Brut Rose’ Andre Clouet Champagne $42clouet

I tasted this on an evening when I tasted 85 Champagnes.  One of my notes for this wine is this is why so many others just got a “meh.”  This is a great rose’ Champagne, especially for the price.  It has rich red fruit, floral notes, & the classic toast brioche that you want.

 

 

1998 Chateau de Fesles Bonnezeaux  $601998 Chateau de Fesles Bonnezeaux

I drank this over the course of about 3 days.  It was just as fresh & wonderful on the third day as it was the first.  Even though it was almost 17 years old, it seemed youthful.  I probably could have left this in my wine rack for another 30 years.  There are honey, jam, & marmalade flavors. They never become cloying due to the crisp acidity.  Other intense flavors of this wine include beeswax, luscious apple & pear notes. La Revue du Vin de France has called Fesles the “Yquem of the Loire Valley.”

2000 Cuvee 2000 Henriot Champagne Cuvée des Enchanteleurs Brut $100henriot cuvee

This spends 12 years on the lees & it shows.  It has an intense nose of marmalade, orange peel, liqueur, acacia, peach, apricot, & toast, with other floral notes blending in.  The flavors follow the nose, with a nutty flavor thrown in as well.  The fruit is incredibly fresh given the age.  This tastes like a wine that could be spread on toast!  It is just an excellent creamy, rich wine.  It could pair with a wide variety of food, but I would prefer just to sip it.

 

 

2004 Brut Rose’ Dom Pérignon Champagne 60% Pinot Noir & 40% Chardonnay. $324Dom Perignon rose 2004

This had a high intensity nose with floral notes, red fruit & tart cherry.  On the palate, it had the red fruit & tart cherry, but it also showed some citrus…particularly grapefruit.  This wine has light pinot noir notes similar to a light Burgundy.  There are toast notes at the long finish.  This is just a delicious, complex wine.  It is great by itself, but would be wonderful with fish, chicken, or cheese.

2005 Clos des Goisses Champagne Philipponnat Brut $161

philponnatWhile I think this is excellent Champagne, I know that it won’t be for everyone.  It is a single vineyard wine, which is somewhat unusual in a region known for blending.  It does not go through malolactic fermentation to soften the acid, which is also not the way the majority of champagne is produced.  It s barrel fermented & then spends 9 years on the lees.  It is finished with a 4 grams per liter dosage of sugar, which is on the dry side.  It is 67% pinot noir & 33% chardonnay.  The finished product is creamy with a nice all-spice character & a lingering finish.

2009 Domaine de Baumards Clos du Papillon Savennières $36papillon

This has the minerality & smokiness that I look for in a
Savennières. I also tasted beeswax & honey, although somehow even with the honey flavor it is still dead dry.  This is a terrific food wine.  It would be easier to list the things that it wouldn’t pair with than to list all of the ones where it would.  Asian food would be a go to though.

2010 Chateau Rauzan Gassies  Bordeaux 2nd Growth Rauzan Gassies 2010(Margaux) $63

Dark ruby. There is an interesting nose to this wine.  It has dark fruit with leather & dust.  I would peg this as Bordeaux from a distance.  It has much more vibrant fruit than I expected, with blackberry & raspberry & some boysenberry.  There is some minerality, but not the leather that I expected.  It is really a delicious fruit forward wine.  This is either a great example of new wine making techniques in Bordeaux or a terrible one depending on how you feel about Parkerization.

2010 Chateau Calon Segur Saint-Estephe  $110 3rd Growth 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdotcalon segur

Deep ruby colored wine.  It has a beautiful nose, with red fruit black fruit spice & perfume.  If they can get this into cologne I would buy it.  There is a heavy toasted oak flavor that I am getting as coffee.  I’m also getting a lot of dark fruit on the palate.  The tannins & acid seem to be only medium.  This will age, but maybe not as much as some of the others from Bordeaux’s 2010 vintage.  If I had a case of this I don’t think that aging would be an issue though since I would drink it all before a year was out.  There is always a good reason to drink a wine like this, fireplace weather, nice steak, it’s Tuesday, whatever.  It has a long finish with some blueberry.

2010 Chateau Angelus St. Émilion Grand Cru $400

saint_emilion_chateau_l'angelus_2010This is almost black. It has blackberry on the nose with some liquorice.  The palate has intense anise with plum & raspberry.  It has medium plus tannin & acid.  This is a powerful wine.  It almost overpowers right now, but it is delicious & this won’t get anything but better for the next 10 years.

 

2010 E. Guigal Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde de Guigal $60Cote-Rotie
This has a garnet color.  It has a perfumed nose with blueberry, savory spices, rose, smoked meat, & acacia. There are nicely integrated, almost silky tannins.  Flavors of smoked meat with baking spices, savory spices, pepper, dark red fruit & some blueberry (almost smoked).  It’s a good quality wine that will improve with age

 

2010 Chateau Cheval Blanc St. Émilion Grand Cru $1,500
cheval blanc 2010a52% Cabernet Franc 48% Merlot.

This smells like St. Émilion. I get dust & cherry & raspberry.  On the palate I get darker raspberry medium acid & tannins.  It is a juicy & delicious wine.  I really don’t see how someone who doesn’t like merlot wouldn’t like this!  Rib roast would be great with this, but you can’t really go wrong.  It is hard to justify the price of this wine & I can’t see myself buying a bottle anytime soon, but it is an excellent wine.

2010 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes Premier Cru Superieur 2010 $650yquem

This is cold liquid honey, only better. The acid is great, so the sugar isn’t cloying.  There is some lemon & citrus, peach, white flowers and lanolin, but the honey is overpowering in a good way.  This is a short review, but there isn’t much to add.  This isn’t just one of the great sweet wines of the world; it is one of the great wines of the world period.

climens2010 Chateau Climens 2010 Barsac Premiere Cru $125

Wow!  If you like Yquem, you should try this.  It isn’t as smooth, but it is honeyed & interesting & hundreds of dollars cheaper.  It tastes of honeyed, lanolin.  There are also tropical fruit notes including mango & pineapple.  I also noticed some apricot & vanilla.  It has really high acid. This is very nice.

 

2012 Spreitzer Rosengarten Grosses Gewachs VDP Riesling Trocken  Rheingau 13% $37.99

This medium gold wine has thick clear legs, which in this case are indicative of the sugar content.  The nose has a pronounced intensity with baked fruit flavors, peach, nectarine, apricot, nuttiness, & caramel. There is a botrytis note here as well. This wine is still developing. On the palate, the wine is sweet with medium plus acid which keeps the sweetness from being cloying.  The palate has a long finish that reveals that it is Riesling rather than Sauternes. There are mineral notes on the palate.  There is almost a mushroom taste, which indicates botrytis.  The big botrytis marker of orange marmalade is there as well.  This is an outstanding wine that can be drunk now, but should age well for years.

black bottleThe Black Bottle Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $1,000

I know this wine is stupidly expensive, but every time I try it I really like it.  It has beautiful blackberry, raspberry, plum, chocolate & mint. There are nice medium plus tannins that have a green tea quality.  It has a long finish.  It is 15.2% alcohol, but I wouldn’t have guessed it was that high. This is an odd wine to review because I have tried two different vintages & really liked both of them.  At the same time, I think it is more expensive than Napa Cabernet should really be at this point.  I believe that it sells out each year though, so I guess it is worth it. Either way, it is a delicious wine.

2013 Antonutti Poppone (Not available yet in the U.S. about $20)poppone

Merlot & Pignola grapes are dried like an Amarone.  After fermentation, it goes into barrel for 12 months.  It tastes like roasted raspberry chipotle.  There is also some tart cherry.  This is a ridiculously interesting wine.  I want to drink a bottle of it while I’m grilling & then have it with grilled meat.

2013 Hofgut Falkenstein Riesling Sekt. Brut 11.5% Germany sektSaar BA $26.99

60-80 year old vines all grown on slate
This is a lemon green sparkling wine with persistent small bubbles. The nose shows  petrol, citrus, lemon, honey, honeysuckle, mineral, slate, & lime. It is dry, with high acid, medium alcohol, & medium  plus intensity.  I tasted citrus including lemon& tart & sour lime.  There was also white flower, honeysuckle, & honey.  This is a very good quality sparkling wine.  The intensity of complex flavors is enhanced by the high acid. This would be great with seafood. It is a mouthwatering wine. Drink now or over  3-5 years This might be cheating a bit since I don’t know that it is as good as the other wines on the list.  On the other hand, if you compare its price to some of the others on the list, it is just amazing quality for the price.

2014 Azienda Agricole Franco Roero Chardonnay  (No price here because it isn’t available yet in the United States)Franco roero chardonnay

This surprised me.  It is in a Bordeaux bottle & I expected something light.  Instead this is a heavy, textured Chardonnay with lots of toasted nuts. There is no oak so I have no idea how they do this. Citrus with lemon peel is a major component.  This is the best non burgundy Chardonnay I have had in some time.

tullio2014 Ca’ Tullio Traminer  Not available in the U.S. About $10 Euro

This is a dead dry Gewürztraminer.  It has lots of floral notes & fresh fruit on the nose that make you think that it is going to be sweet, but it finishes dry. It has floral flavors with plenty of lychees. This is really a fantastic wine for the price.  I will lay in a supply when this becomes available in the U.S.

 

Trying to help Tim Tebow. Successful examples of guys who switched from the quarterback position + wine

7 Dec

After a nice Thanksgiving, I was thinking of all that for which I am grateful.  When I thought about football, I thought about how happy I am that I’m not a Browns fan.

The Factory of SadnessHere’s the perfect video/song for your favorite Browns fan.  It’s a Factory of Sadness. In fact, if you Google “Factory of Sadness” you will get multiple Cleveland Browns links & images, including t-shirts.  Mike Polk returned to the Factory this year.  My two favorite bits on that link were the one about Brandon Weeden “He’s already probably staring down the first receiver he is going to throw to (next week)” and “I’m not sure I’m going to be able to get drunk enough to make that game watchable, but the difference between me & you is that I am at least going to try!”

While we are on the Browns, here’s one more. Basically, the Browns have some of the best, funniest, most long suffering fans in the NFL & I am glad I am not one of them.

It looks like Jason Campbell may be able to start at quarterback for the Browns this week.  That usually isn’t great news for your team.  In this case however, it means that the Browns won’t have to start either Alex Tanney, who was signed from the Cowboys practice squad last week or Caleb Hanie, who was signed as a street free agent this week.  Tanney has never played in an NFL regular season game & Hanie has played in 10 games since signing with the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2008.

This further confirms what I said last week about Vince Young not getting another shot & Tim Tebow needing to think about a position change to get another chance in the NFL.  Truthfully, I think either player would give the Browns a much better option to come in with little preparation and win a game.  I don’t think a lot of Tebow as a quarterback, but you can’t tell me that Caleb Hanie is a better option.

Some people say that it is too late for Tebow to change positions.  Their argument is that he would be competing against players who have spent decades learning to play their particular position.  That is true, but I think that quarterbacks learn the routes and the blocking assignments for all of the other positions and can make the transition.  To prove my point that it can be done, here is a list of some of the best players to switch to another position from quarterback.  For years there was prejudice against black quarterbacks and successful black college quarterbacks were often forced to change position if they wanted to play in the NFL. “For so many guys in my era, that was just how it went,” said Tony Dungy, 58, the first black NFL coach to win a Super Bowl. “They would say, ‘Hey, you can play in the NFL but it’s going to be a position change. Or you can go to Canada and play quarterback because the style of the game kind of fits what you do.’ And that’s what happened in the ’70s and ’80s.”  Dungy switched from quarterback to safety and won a Super Bowl ring playing for the Steelers in 1978.  Of course he is better known now as a Super Bowl winning coach.

Thankfully, I believe that attitude has finally changed.  Here’s my list in no particular order.

Hines Ward

Hines Ward played quarterback at Forest Park High School in Georgia.  When he went to the University of Georgia he primarily played as a wide receiver as a freshman, although he played some running back.  As a sophomore As a sophomore, he alternated between wide receiver and quarterback.  In the 1195 Peach Bowl he started at quarterback and set Bowl records for Georgia completing 31 of 59 passes for 413 yards.  The next year Mike Bobo was the quarterback and Ward only threw 3 passes.

Once he got to the NFL he became a full time receiver and had a borderline Hall of Fame career.  He caught 1,000 passes in his career & threw just 2.  He gained 12,083 receiving yards, which is 21st all time.  He was also a Super Bowl MVP.  That is a pretty successful transition.

Josh Cribbs

Josh Cribbs injured his shoulder trying to make a tackle for the Jets on Sunday and will miss the rest of the season.  He has had a pretty successful NFL career so far though. He is in a tie for the record for most kickoff returns for a touchdown with 8 and he is also tied for the most kickoff returns for a touchdown in a single game, with 2.  He has thrown 15 passes in his NFL career. He was a threat to run and pass as a quarterback at Kent State.  I think that if he were coming out of college today, he might even get a shot as a quarterback due to the recent success of running quarterbacks.    At Kent State he set the school record for all-purpose yards and still holds several career records at the school, including passing yards and completions.

He signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent.  Officially listed as a receiver, he has also worked as a running back, with 141 carries.  He never really broke out as a receiver, but his skills as a return specialist have sent him to 3 Pro Bowls and earned him a spot on the NFL’s all decade team for the 2000s as the 2nd team kick returner.  When he signed a second contract with the Browns in 2010, he made $20 million.  That’s a fantastic change for a previously undrafted free agent.

Julian Edelman

Following in Josh Cribbs’ footsteps, Edelman was a great quarterback at Kent State.  He threw for 3,196 yards & 26 touchdowns and broke Cribbs’ single season total offense record. He did catch 1 pass for 11 yards, punted a few times, and worked on kickoff returns, which is amazing for a quarterback. He had offers to play QB in the Canadian Football League, but he wanted to play in the NFL.

Edelman ended up being a 7th round draft pick of the New England Patriots.  As a rookie he returned punts and stepped in at wide receiver when Wes Welker was injured. He even played at cornerback in 2011 due to injuries and he did a decent job.  In the first few games of 2012 he was featured a bit more than Welker, before Welker game back and led the team in receptions.  As a free agent this year, the only team outside of the Patriots who brought him in was the New York Giants despite the fact that at that time he had the highest career punt return average among active players.  He signed a 1 year deal with the Patriots, but I think that next year he will be offered a solid long term contract from several teams.  So far this year he has 70 catches for 711 yards.  According to Tom Curran of CSNNE.com, Tom Brady now calls him “Minitron.”

Antwaan Randle El

Randle El was such a well-rounded athlete that he was drafted by the Cubs to play baseball, but chose to play quarterback at Indiana instead.  While at Indiana, he also played baseball and basketball.  By the time he left school, he was 5th on the NCAA all time total yards list with 3,895 rushing yards and 7,469 passing yards.

He was drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, which is somewhat odd for a player whose position you expect to change.  Over a 9 year career with 2 teams, he had over 4,000 yards in receptions and over 4,000 yards in punt & kick returns.  He did manage to throw a few passes in the NFL. He completed 22 of 27 passes.  His passer rating of is the highest quarterback rating of anyone who three at least 20 passes in the history of the NFL.  In fact, despite having flashy return plays like a 99 yard kickoff return for a touchdown, probably the play for which he will be most remembered was a 43 yard game winning pass to Hines Ward in Super Bowl XL.

Marlin Briscoe

On December 6th 1968, Marlin Briscoe became the first black quarterback to start a game in the NFL.  He began the season as the 3rd stringer for the Denver Broncos, but after the starter broke his collarbone & the backup wasn’t able to do much, Briscoe was brought in to finish a game.  After that, he started for the rest of the year.  He threw for 14 touchdown passes, but also had 14 interceptions.  He did lead the league with a 17.1 yards per completion average.  Marlin Briscoe was drafted in the 14th round of the 1968 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos.

He was released before the start of the next season and was picked up by the Buffalo Bills.  In Buffalo, he changed positions to receiver.  He became an All Pro in Buffalo & had 1,036 yards receiving in 1970, but was traded to Miami for the 1972 season.  He never caught more than 30 passes in a season after 1970, but he was part of two Super Bowl winning teams in Miami.  He also played for the Chargers and the Patriots before he retired after the 1976 season.

Freddie Solomon

Freddie Solomon was the last quarterback for the University of Tampa.  They dropped football the next year.  He was a running quarterback & amassed 3,299 yards running the ball, which was an NCAA record back in 1974.  He was a second round draft pick of the Dolphins as a receiver.  He returned punts and caught a few passes for the Dolphins, then was traded to the 49’ers in 1978.  He played for 11 years catching 371 passes for 5,846 yards and 48 touchdowns. He also ran for 519 yards and 4 TDs and returned four punts and one kickoff for scores.  He was an All Pro in 1980 and he retired with two Super Bowl rings.  Perhaps the most famous play in which he was involved was one where he was the primary receiver, but he slipped coming out of his cut.  That meant that Joe Montana threw the ball to Dwight Clark for “The Catch” that put them in the Super Bowl.  He had a couple of clutch catches on that drive.

Brian Mitchell

Brian Mitchell may not have been able to continue his career as a quarterback, but by any measure, he had a successful NFL career.  After becoming the first player in NCAA history to throw for more than 5,000 yards while rushing for over 3,000 yards, he was drafted in the 5th round of the 1990 draft by Washington.

As the quarterback at Southwestern Louisiana he didn’t return any kicks, but that’s what Washington wanted him to do.  He did it well.  He is currently second on the NFL’s all-time list in all-purpose yardage with 23,330 yards, behind Jerry Rice. He is also first all time for combined yardage for a non-wide receiver. His 13 special teams touchdowns are second in NFL history, behind Devin Hester, and his nine punt return touchdowns are third. Mitchell was ranked the 2nd greatest specialist in NFL History by NFL Network’s NFL Top 10 Return Aces.

Anquan Boldin

In 1998, Anquan Boldin was named Florida’s Mr. Football while playing quarterback for Pahokee High School. When he moved up to Florida State University, he primarily played wide receiver, with some time spent at quarterback.

In the 2003 NFL Draft, he was selected in the second round by the Arizona Cardinals.  He won the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award.  He played for the Cardinals long enough to see them come close to winning a Super Bowl.  He was traded to the Ravens and was a key factor in the Ravens winning the Super Bowl.  He caught several jump balls in key moments when Joe Flacco seemed to trust him to just go up and take the ball away from the defender.  He was traded this year to San Francisco and he has done a good job so far bailing out his young quarterback on contested balls.  He is just short of 11,000 yards for his career.  He has been to 3 Pro Bowls.

Gene Washington

Gene Washington is the current director of football operations for the NFL.  It was a different world when he entered the NFL in 1969.  He was the quarterback at Stanford and was the first round pick of the San Francisco 49ers.  They immediately converted him into a wide receiver.  Beginning with his rookie season, he made it to four straight Pro Bowls and was selected onto four All-Pro teams. He had almost 7,000 yards receiving in a time when passing yards were harder to come by than today.

 

I spent too much time on the football portion this week, so I’ll just throw in a few wine reviews.

KungFu GirlKungfu Girl 2012 Washington State Riesling 2012 Evergreen Columbia Valley Charles Smith Wines
11% alcohol
Green apple, guava, great acid.   I tasted papaya, followed by even more green apple.  It finishes dry or just off dry, but it really tastes like a green apple Jolly Rancher. It smells like white flowers & a little bit of green apple.  It doesn’t smell as intense as it tastes. I had this with smoked turkey fried rice.  This has great mouth feel & a mouthwatering, lingering finish.  On the finish I got some slightly creamy lime.   This was on spectator top 100 wine this year & definitely worth it for the price.

Cline North Coast 2012 Viognier
This is one of the first Varietally correct Viognier I have had in California.  It has all of the peach & apricot that you might expect. It has the honeysuckle on the nose that I like.  This is a very nice inexpensive Viognier. There is some tropical fruit as well, particularly guava & kiwi.  It isn’t particularly complex, but it is nice and varietally correct.

3 Girls Cabernet 2011 Lodi
Earthy, with dark red fruit.  This has some mint & oregano.  There is also some ripe plum.  This is a better wine than I expected. It has some varietal character and at under $10, it is a solid everyday wine. There are a number of herbal notes.  It has light tannins. This wine tastes older than it is, so I would say drink this now.

446 Chardonnay
Here’s a nutty, oaky Chardonnay. It reminds me of nuts toasted in butter.  There is some lemon on the finish. It has great mouth feel.  It is probably too over the top for most food pairings, but it would be good with buttery popcorn, or buttery lobster, or buttery whatever.

Gnekow Family Winery Campus Oaks Old Vine Zinfandel 2010
I tasted candied cherry and bright red fruit.  It has medium tannins.  It kind of reminds me of Ludens cherry cough drops.

Another trip to Napa helps me find a couple of wines for Thanksgiving + this week’s football thoughts.

27 Nov

November the 14th started out as a rainy grey day in Napa.  We had a meeting with a printer that morning & then the guys and I had time to visit a couple of wineries before driving to Sacramento. Our first stop was Domaine Carneros.

Domaine Carneros 046

Domaine Carneros is known for their sparkling wine.  That makes sense because their official name is Domaine Carneros by Taittinger.  Taittinger has been producing Champagne since 1734. The Domaine Carneros main building was finished in 1989.  Their Pinot Noir facility behind the main house is designed to look like a classic French carriage house.  Despite the ancient look to the buildings, when the Pinot Noir facility was completed, it had the largest solar collection system of any winery in the world.  Their vinification techniques are also a nice blend of ancient tradition and modern technology.

As you might also guess, the winery is in Carneros, which is an appellation that includes the northern portion of both Napa & Sonoma.  Wine writer Alan Goldfarb calls Carneros “the sweet spot for Pinot Noir & Chardonnay.”  Those are 2 of the 3 grapes allowed in Champagne and Domaine Carneros does a great job on both.  They also make still wines from those grapes.

The winery is beautiful, and tastings are conducted at tables rather than at a bar.  We had a nice seat in front of the fireplace.  Here are the wines we tried.  I didn’t take very detailed notes this time because things moved fairly quickly and I tasted with two other people.
2009 Brut Cuvée $28.00
This was clean with a faint hint of baked bread.  There is a fresh melon flavor that took me a while to notice

2010 Brut Rose’ $37.00
There is some of the expected strawberry here, but there is more of an unexpected peach.
There is some raspberry as well. This is 70% Pinot Noir 30% Chardonnay.

Vermeil Demi Sec $36.00
This slightly sweet wine reminds me of baked apple & baked pear pie.  The pear notes are really enjoyable.  I’m more of a fan of dry sparkling wine, but this is nice.  It is a favorite with visitors to the winery.

Ultra Brut 2009 $39.00
This is serious stuff. It has a full mouth feel.  It reminds me of toasted fresh bread. There is also some toasted nut.  There is a small amount of cream. This would be great with the some Oscar Benedict, the crab version of eggs Benedict.  It would also be fantastic with crab smothered in butter or grilled.  It only has 4 grams per liter of sugar.  I love dry vintage sparkling wine.

Le Rêve Blanc du Blanc 2006 $99.00
Le rêve means “the dream.” This is 100% Chardonnay (white from white) There is a long finish to this wine.  It tastes like toasted bread with a tiny hint of mushroom.  There are creamy cheese notes to the wine.  I would love to try it with some. Soft gooey cheese.

Estate Pinot Noir 2011 $35.00
Dark fruit with mushroom & herbal notes. There is leather, and while it is nice that I am trying this on a cool, foggy day in front of the fire, it would be even better in a classic Victorian office with a fire…or perhaps with a brace of pheasant.  Ok…apparently it would be better if you were a British Lord.  That is often true.  The grapes spend 5 days in cold soak before fermentation.  There are 11 clones of Pinot Noir in the blend from 4 different organic estate vineyards.

Reserve Pinot Noir Famous Gate 2011 $75.00
This spends 16 months in French oak (48% new). It has smooth, fresher fruit than the estate Pinot Noir.  The other almost seems more nuanced.  Maybe it needs to open up.  I get raspberry, cherry, & herbs.  This may end up as a better wine, but for now I don’t think it is worth the extra $40.

I ended up with the Estate Pinot & the Ultra Brut Cuvee for potential Thanksgiving wines.  There is a Zinfandel sitting around that is in the mix as well.

048

After finishing up at Domaine Carneros, we reluctantly left the fireplace and moved over to Duckhorn Vineyards.  Duckhorn is another beautiful winery tasting room.  Instead of a French estate, this looks like a converted Craftsman house, although it was built for this purpose.  They have indoor seating & seating on a covered patio.  We sat out on the patio & they had gas heaters going.  It was starting to warm up and clear off.  Towards the end of the tasting, we could hear a frog croaking nearby and the sun came out.  Here is what we tried.

Sauvignon Blanc 2012 $45.00                                                                                                                                                                                                          This classic nose tends a little toward the New Zealand style.  It has a clean fruit filled nose. It tastes like lime, lemon, and guava.  It is a single vineyard wine and it spent 10 months on lees in new oak.  The oak definitely does not overpower the fruit.

Merlot 2010 $54.00                                                                                                                                                                                                                             90% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc. 15 months French oak
Great nose.  There is strong dark fruit.  It has good tannins.  I tasted plum, cherry, blackberry, spice, maybe all-spice. 14.5% alcohol

Rector Creek Vineyard Merlot 2010 $90.00
18 months in French oak. 83% Merlot 17% Cabernet Sauvignon 14.5%
Licorice, dark cherry, herbal notes. Maybe sage & fennel. Little bit of pepper.  This is a really nice example of Napa Merlot.  This is $90, but worth it. There is a little earthiness here, but it tends more to bright fruit.   The 1st Merlot was released 4 months before the 2nd & that may have something to do with the big difference in oak integration.  Duckhorn also owns Paraduxx Winery on the Silverado trail in Yountville.  The fruit for this wine comes from that vineyard.

Three Palms Vineyard Merlot 2010 $90.00

82% Merlot 15% Cabernet Sauvignon 2% Cabernet Franc 1% Petit Verdot 18 months French oak  14.5%
this is a big dark red.   There is dark raspberry, with a chocolate core.  The dry cocoa on the nose is nice.  This wine gave me a little shiver.  That’s usually the sign that it is something special.  It has a long finish.  I like this better than the Rector Creek.  It received 92 points in Wine Advocate.

Monitor Ledge 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon $95.00

77% Cabernet Sauvignon 19% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot 18 months French oak
The nose is heavy oaky Cabernet.  It is actually much more smooth & silky on the palate.   Ripe strawberry mixes with a tiny bit of raisiny plum.  Very solid cabernet, but it pales in comparison to the next.

Patzimaro Vineyard 2010 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon 18 months French oak
83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc
Head shaking, shivering good wine. This is a wine with depth.  The tannins are solid, but not to the point where they overwhelm you.  There are dry cocoa and some mushroom and earthy notes. There are blackberry, raspberry & plum flavors.  There is a minerality here that gives the wine a backbone.  It is just an excellent example of Napa Cabernet.  This has an incredibly long finish.  I was sitting around 5 minutes later & realized I was still tasting it.  The vineyard is in the St. Helena appellation at the base of Spring Mountain. According to their website, “the site was named after the town of Patzimaro de Aviña in honor of the Hurtado Family, an essential part of the Duckhorn Vineyards winemaking team who migrated from this small village to the Napa Valley in 1987.”

After we finished tasting all of the wines, one of the guys I work with had me stand up with my back turned to the table.  He rearranged the reds & had me taste and identify them.  I was able to nail all of them.  That told me two things.  First, it meant that I could keep getting paid to work in the wine business for another week.  Second, it meant that Duckhorn makes distinct wines.  They aren’t just slapping a label on every wine from a different vineyard & then treating them the same.  They are making wines with care for the differences between vineyards and the differences between lots of fruit.  That is impressive.

Random football thoughts of the week.

1)      It was good to see the Giants brought down to earth.  They were doing way too much talking for a team that hadn’t beaten a good team.  After losing their first 6 games, the Giants were on a bit of a roll due to playing 4 teams in a row with injured or backup quarterbacks.  From their locker room there was talk about running the table.  The smack talk really got out of control last week before they played the Dallas Cowboys.

Terrell Thomas said “No doubt. We’re gonna win this game.  You can tell ’em, put it on the bulletin board, it doesn’t matter because we have to win this game. Our season is on the line right now.”  Not to be outdone, Jason Pierre Paul said it would be a beat down for the Cowboys.  “We’re going to put it on them, man,” Pierre-Paul said after the Giants’ 27-13 victory over the Green Bay Packers which Packers’ starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers  watched from the sideline. “I’m pretty sure the offense is going to get going. The defense is going to get going even more. And the special teams will contribute to it…It’s going to be a fight. It’s going to be a dogfight. There’s going to be a lot of blood spilled out there.”  Later, Antrelle Rolle said “If JPP says there will be blood,” Rolle said, “then there will be blood.”

After the Cowboys won the game 24-21 and dealt a severe blow to the Giants’ playoff hopes, the Cowboys took the opportunity to mention that they had heard all of the re-game talk.  “They talked and they talked and they talked,” cornerback Orlando Scandrick said, according to the New York Post. “I’ve never in my life heard a team that was 4-6 talk like that. We were 5-5, and we knew we had no room to talk.”  “I just finished eating a Giant, and there’s some leftover blood,” Jason Hatcher joked after smearing fake blood on his face. They said blood was going to be shed, right?”  “We talked about it,’’ tackle Tyron Smith told Mike Fisher (105.3 The Fan). “Not to be the team that does the talking. Be the team that does its job.’’

The Giants will probably bounce back against Washington and their terrible pass defense on Sunday.  After that though, they will play the Chargers, Seahawks, & Lions, & that sounds like 3 more losses to me.  The Giants aren’t eliminated from the playoffs just yet, but all of their bravado sounds a bit pathetic at the moment.

2)      Will Bruce Arians win coach of the year twice in a row?    Since 1957, the Associated Press has named a coach of the year in the NFL.  During that time, only 3 coaches have won the award in consecutive seasons. Allie Sherman won in 1961 & 1962. Don Shula tied George Allen in 1967 & won it outright in 1968.  Joe Gibbs won it in 1982 & 1983.  It would be amazing if Bruce Arians joined that group.

Bruce Arians didn’t get his first chance as an NFL head coach until he was 60 in 2012.  Prior to that, he had been the wide receiver coach, then the offensive coordinator from 2004-2011 for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  After the Steelers lost in the wildcard round in January of 2012, the team announced that he had retired.  Arians said that he did not retire & that he was fired.  He was soon hired as the offensive coordinator in Indianapolis.

Indianapolis drafted Andrew Luck with the 1st pick in the draft that year.  They earned that pick by virtue of having the worst record in the NFL in 2011.  Then their rookie head coach got leukemia.  While Chuck Pagano successfully fought his disease, Arians stepped in as interim head coach & led the Colts to a 9-3 record under his coaching.  That turnaround led him to win the AP coach if the year award & more importantly, it led him to the Arizona Cardinals head coaching position.

For the last several years, the Cardinals were a team that was 2 years away from being 2 years away.  They haven’t been able to find a quarterback to replace Kurt Warner.  Their line has been terrible, and their defense has been worn down from being on the field all of the time.  They have two 5-11 season sandwiched around one 8-8 season.  This year with Arians coaching, the Cardinals are 7-4.  Their remaining opponents are: at Eagles (6-5), vs. Rams (5-6), at Titans (5-6), at Seahawks (10-1), vs. 49ers (6-3)  If they beat the Eagles, Rams, & Titans, they should be able to play the 49’ers for the last NFC playoff spot.  Arians has gotten solid play out of Carson Palmer & the line hasn’t played great, but has improved enough for them to win.  The defense is playing lights out.  I don’t think that they are a great team yet, but Arians may be a great coach.  It is amazing that he didn’t get a chance until he turned 60.  I guess that should give me optimism that I have years to hit my potential!

4) Only 1 team has been eliminated from the NFL playoffs & it is the Falcons.  Who would have guessed?  Every year when the season begins it looks like most, or all, of the teams who made the playoffs will be back again.  Every year, a number of them don’t make it.  This year it looks like the Falcons will be joined in the staying home for New Year club by the Texans, the Vikings, & the Redskins.  It is a distinct possibility that the Packers & Ravens will miss the playoffs as well.  There is an outside chance that the 49’ers will miss the playoffs if they lose to the Cardinals in week 17.  That would mean that 7 of the 12 playoff teams from 2012 were not able to repeat that feat in 2013. It really makes you appreciate the teams that consistently succeed.  The Broncos are headed to their 3rd straight playoff appearance.  The Cincinnati Bengals have the opportunity to make the playoffs for the 3rd time in a row & 4th in 5 years, which is amazing for Cincinnati.  Seattle should make the playoffs for the 2nd year in a row & the 3rd time in 4 years.  The Packers may not make it this year, but they have made it 4 years in a row.  This will be the New England Patriots 5th consecutive playoff appearance & their 10th in 11 years.

5) Vince Young’s NFL career is probably over.  I think that he should try the CFL.  Perhaps he will be able to prove himself again there and get back into the NFL.  Perhaps he will just be able to continue making a living playing football.  It just doesn’t look like he will get another chance in the NFL as it stands.  Alex Tanney was signed by Cleveland from the Dallas Cowboy’s practice squad yesterday.  Cleveland lost Jason Campbell last week and had to go back to Brandon Weedon, who promptly fumbled the ball & then followed that up with an interception that was returned for a touchdown.  Cleveland has other problems that might have prevented them from making the playoffs, but quarterback is the biggest.  Weedon has just been terrible.  Who would have thought fans of a team would be saying “If only Brian Hoyer had stayed healthy!!!”?  Now Cleveland has brought in someone best known for his awesome youtube video of throwing tricks.  If quarterback situations in Green Bay, Jacksonville, and Cleveland haven’t gotten Young a look, I don’t think that anything will.  Something similar applies to Tim Tebow, but I’ll write about that next week.

6) The Patriots could actually be the #1 seed in the AFC.  That sure didn’t look likely a few weeks ago.  If they win out against their remaining schedule: Texans (2-9), vs. Browns (4-7), at Dolphins (5-6), at Ravens (5-6), vs. Bills (4-7) they would be 13-3.  They would have the head to head tie breaker with the Broncos.  If you think Peyton Manning looked uncomfortable in November in Foxboro, wait until January.  The Broncos can’t afford to lose a game to their remaining opponents: Chiefs (9-2), vs. Titans (5-6), vs. Chargers (5-6), at Texans (2-9), at Raiders (4-7).  They probably won’t & will finish 14-2, but 1 loss could send them on the road. Since 2003, Tom Brady is 23-5 in games played when it is freezing, while Manning is 1-6.  For what it is worth, the Farmer’s Almanac predicted a snowstorm for the Super Bowl in New York this year.

7) I don’t think that the Titans will make the playoffs, but at 5-6 they still have a pretty good shot.  They even have a legitimate chance to win the division.  If the Colts keep playing like they have since Reggie Wayne was injured, the Titans could actually win the division.  That may save Mike Munchak’s job.  The Broncos & Cardinals will probably stomp them and end any playoff hopes, but it is interesting to watch.

I hope that everyone has a great Thanksgiving full of good wine and good football!

Enkidu Wines + Why is Darrelle Revis so hard to trade?

7 Mar

moss beating revis

Enkidu WInesLast week I went to a wine dinner & met Phillip Staehle from Enkidu Winery. I had tried his wines in the past, but had never had a formal tasting on them. The food was great (The Funky Door in Lubbock Texas) & the conversation was excellent. Phil was enjoyable to chat with & was a wealth of information about his wines.

Enkidu Winery, named after the character from Gilgamesh, is a Sonoma Valley Winery. They do not own their own vineyards, but they have long term relationships with their growers. They make fewer than 5,000 cases of wine a year. They consistently win medals in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition & they get great reviews.

Here’s what we tried the other night…

2011 Tin Cross Chardonnay (Alexander Valley)
This has a bit of a buttery taste from 30% new oak, but it doesn’t have that over the top, pour it on your popcorn taste. That’s because it doesn’t go through malolactic fermentation. So it is more of a hint of butter. Since it doesn’t go through malo, the acid is higher, which makes it crisp. There is a little mellow spice& vanilla. There is some minerality to begin with, which really grows as the wine opens up. I also noticed some lemon, or maybe lemon cream. The nose really shows the mineral character of the wine. This was a terrific example of what you can do with Chardonnay in Alexander Valley. It runs about $30, so it isn’t an everyday wine for most people, but it is certainly a nice treat.

2009 Tina Marie Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley)
Meaty isn’t the first word you usually think of with Pinot Noir, but it isn’t a bad starter for this one. On the front it shows blackberry, fairly deep red fruit, & spice. As it settles in the meaty, almost bacon flavor showed through. It also had some plum that was almost pruney, in a good way. I liked this wine a lot more as it opened up. My first sip seemed like a solid, but light California Pinot Noir. After it had some time to breath though, it revealed a much more complex wine & I greatly enjoyed it. I would recommend pouring this wine about 20 minutes early, or decanting it. I also read recently about a chef who has been sticking his red wine in a blender to aerate it. That is so weird that I have to try it! This wine runs about $42. I liked the wine, but that may be more than I would pay for it.

2010 Bedrock Vineyard Zinfandel (Sonoma Valley)

This is a big boy Zinfandel. The vines for the grapes are as much as 125 years old. When the vineyard was planted, there were some vines of other grape varietals interspersed. So this wine has some Alicante Bouchet, Petite Sirah, Peloursin, & Carignane mixed in with it. That blend adds complexity to the finished product. It is a tough trick to pull off because you have to pick at the right time. not all of the grapes will be at equal ripeness at the same time. This wine was fermented on native yeast, which really surprised me. I asked Phillip about it because the wine showed some alcohol, balanced, but clearly higher than usual. He said it was 15.7%, which is pretty high. Most yeast dies around 15%. I asked what he used, since I figured he was using a special commercial yeast that had been shown to be tolerant of high alcohol. Nope, just native yeast. In case you don’t know about making wine with native yeast, it was the way all wine was made for thousands of years. There is yeast on the skins of the grapes or in the vineyard. Wineries will start to build up colonies of yeast as well, not always good ones, but that is a different story. That yeast gets into the juice & starts to eat the sugar & convert it to alcohol. Some native grapes work great & you get great wine. Some don’t & you get stuck fermentation (where it is hard to get the sugar to convert to alcohol) or you can get stinky wine. Anyway, this yeast worked well. The wine has strong fruit on the nose & a long finish. The alcohol does show a little high, but it is balanced by the fruit. The fruit itself tends toward older, dried fruit flavors. It spent 15 months on French oak & the tannin exchange with that new oak has left it softer than you might expect. This is a wine that you can pair with meat with a lot of flavor. It would be great with lamb or a Montreal steak. It sells for about $34.

2008 Diener Ranch Petite Sirah (Red Hills Lake County)
This won a Gold Medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition this year. There are some really nice tannins here, which is the signatyre of Petite Sirah. It has a great mouthfeel with a little spice & a distinct cocoa taste. It is dry, & not exactly austere. Maybe “reserved” is a better word for it. We had this with a chocolate dessert, which was a nice match. If I were to have it at home, I would be more likely to have it with grilled meat. I think some ribs would be great with it. I prefer beef, but it would be nice with some pork ribs as long as they had a little spice. This wine throws sediment, so if that bugs you, you might want to decant it. Otherwise, just grit your teeth! This is $34.

The Enkidu wines aren’t found everywhere, but if you run across them, they are worth checking out.

My football thoughts of the day are about the Darrelle Revis trade story going on at the moment. I think it is going to be almost impossible for the Jets to get full value in a trade for Revis.

In 2007, Darrelle Revis was the 1st round pick of the Jets (14th overall). His play at cornerback has been excellent. He has been named to the Pro Bowl 4 times and named an All Pro (which is much more prestigious) 3 times. He even has a cool nickname, “Revis Island”, because he can be left on an island to defend the other team’s top receiver without expecting Safety help over the top. SO why would the Jets want to trade their best player & why is it going to be so hard? There are 2 ways of looking at it.

Revis has been surprised about the trade talk. He has said “It doesn’t make sense to trade your best player.” I am usually bothered when a player talks like that, but in the case of the Jets, I guess it isn’t bragging when there isn’t anyone on the roster who has a clear claim on second best. Here is one way of looking at it if you are want to trade him
1) How often can you acquire an elite player in the league who is under 30 years old? Revis is 27.
2) Revis can shut down the other team’s leading receiver, so your other corner can get safety help, or you can free a safety to blitz. Basically, he can make your entire defense look better & he can disrupt an offense. They have to game plan for him.
3) If you feel like you are a team that is 1 cornerback away from winning a Super Bowl, possibly the San Francisco 49ers, the Denver Broncos, or the Atlanta Falcons (or The New England Patriots, although the Jets would never trade him there) shouldn’t you give the Jets a Herschel Walker type deal so that you can get over the hump & win a Super Bowl?

Here is the other way of looking at it & it’s why I think the Jets won’t get what they want…
1) Revis tore his ACL last year & is still rehabbing it. There is a perception that players are coming back from ACL injury more quickly than they used to, but cornerback is a harder position than running back to rehabilitate because it is inherently more reactive than the running back position. The running back can pick his angle & protect himself more easily than a cornerback. Rod Woodson did come back in the same season after an ACL tear, but he wasn’t the same player & eventually moved to safety.
2) If he can’t play at his best this year you are in trouble, because he is in a contract year & you would have to decide what to pay him going forward without knowing if he would ever be as good again.
3) You can’t franchise him because after he renegotiated his contract in 2010, he was able to add a “no franchise” clause. So you couldn’t keep him for an extra year to see if he can get back to 100%
4) He might hold out again. He missed the first 21 days of training camp his rookie year holding out for more money. In 2010 he missed all of pre-season holding out for a 4 year $32 million, fully guaranteed contract. He didn’t make any interceptions that year. In 2012 he threatened to hold out again, despite language in his contract that attempted to prevent it. He has been talking about needing $16 million a year on his next contract, so it wouldn’t be out of character for him to hold out for a long term, expensive contract before reporting to his new team.
5) Most of the teams that are mentioned as being a cornerback away from a Super Bowl win can’t afford to pay him what he wants. The 49er’s are now 14 million under the cap, but that is less than Revis wants & even if they trade some of their 15 draft picks to the Jets, they will still have their own free agents to sign & new draft picks to pay. The Falcons might make the most sense. They cut cornerback Dunta Robinson the other day & are now $15.9 million under the cap. They might sign a new contract with Matt Ryan & gain some cap room as well. That still isn’t enough for Revis & they are still probably going to pick up a running back & some defensive help in free agency. They have been linked to Steven Jackson & Osi Umenyiora. They are also hoping that Tony Gonzalez will come back for another year. The Denver Broncos have about $18.5 million in cap space. They have some other needs though (like running back) & unless the Jets are just writing off the year, it would be odd to trade Revis in the conference. John Elway has been known to roll the dice on a highly paid player who is coming off a major injury. It would mean a ton of cap money tied up in two players though. If they paid Revis $16 million, they would have almost 30% of the salary cap tied up in Revis & Manning. You can put together a team that way, but it is hard to do.

Here’s the question that I think a GM has to ask. What would you give to pick up a player that you may only have for a year, who probably won’t be in top condition until late in the year…if at all, who can’t be franchised, who has a history of holding out & griping about his contract, & whose salary demands could kill your salary cap? When you look at it that way, it is hard to see someone giving up much to get Revis. Of course they only need to find one GM or owner willing to make the deal. I just don’t see it as likely to happen.

Wine should be from somewhere & Wes Welker needs to stay a Patriot

13 Feb

Barossa Valley I tried a couple of wines recently that were both good. Both succeeded as examples of the varietal. One stood out to me though because it tasted like it was from somewhere and the other didn’t.

So what does it mean for a wine to taste like it comes from somewhere? To me it means that when you taste the wine, you can easily pick the country or region where the wine was made. You can imagine the climate and the soil that helped make the wine the way it is. The French word that covers this and a whole lot more is terroir. That’s pronounced something like “terwah”.

Last night I tried DMZ 2012 Chardonnay from Stellenbosch South Africa. Here are my tasting notes. It had good acid, with light oak that mellowed into butter and vanilla.There was a lemon and shortbread flavor that made me think of the lemon Girl Scout cookies. In fact, I would highly recommend this wine with lemon Girl Scout cookies. If DMZ can just get 10% of the moms who need a drink after standing outside the grocery store all afternoon selling cookies while their kids are running amuck, they will be the best selling wine from South Africa. There was also some green apple and minerality. As the wine opened up, the lemon notes and the minerality really seemed to come out and that ended up being the primary flavor. It kind of tasted like a lemon Girl Scout cookie that had been dropped on a gravel road…in a good way. I liked the wine. I checked & the previous vintage got an 89 in Wine Spectator, which is great for a wine under $20.00. The only negative I took away from the wine was that it didn’t taste like it came from anywhere. It had some traits of a Chablis, but realistically it could have been a wine from Chile, or Australia, or France, or almost anywhere.

The night before that, I tried the 2008 Groom Barossa Valley Shiraz. To me, it was a wine that could only have come from Barossa Valley in Australia. This wine was so dark that it ranged somewhere between dark purple and black. It had dark brambly fruit that was extremely deep. There were layers of plum, blackberry, and dark cherry. The wine had a long finish. It had good mouthfeel and enough acid to pair well with food. The tannins were solid, but not especially pronounced. As the wine opened up it showed deeper fruit and a longer lasting finish. This would be a great wine with a Montreal steak. The heavy fruit would soften the spice of the seasoning and the acid would make the steak melt in your mouth. For those who care, it received 92 points in Wine Spectator. I tried it with some chocolate that had lemon and cracked black pepper in it and it was fantastic. I know that wine books tell us that red wine doesn’t go with chocolate. I know that experts will say that the polyphenols, acids, and tannins that chocolate and red wine share make them a terrible match. I know that you are only supposed to have chocolate with Port or a Muscat based dessert wine. I also know that lots of people love red wine and chocolate. This is a great example of how the two can work together. The fruit in the Shiraz translated into sweetness compared to the spice of the black pepper in the chocolate. You can believe the scientists here, or you can try it for yourself.

Anyway, the wine tasted great. It also was a wine that made me think of Australia and the red dirt in Barossa. It felt like it came from somewhere. I love Syrah from France. It is the same grape as what the Australians and South Africans call Shiraz. It tastes different though. The same grape that tastes huge & deep and jammy in Barossa tastes velvety and nuanced and smooth in the Northern Rhone. Thanks to the different terroir, the wine makers in each region take the same grape and make two world class styles of wine.

I don’t know if there is anything like terroir in football, but I do know that some players and some schemes work better with some teams than with others. I believe that subtle shift from team to team is going to weigh on Wes Welker this year.

For those who don’t know, Wes Welker is a former Texas Tech football player who plays for the New England Patriots. He had a great career at Texas Tech and still holds the NCAA record with 8 kickoff returns for touchdowns. Partially because Texas Tech had a pass happy offense that sometimes inflated numbers for receivers, partially because he ran a 4.65 in the 40 yard dash at the scouting combine, & mainly because he is short for a receiver at 5 foot 9 inches (maybe), he wasn’t drafted.

He signed with the San Diego Chargers in 2004 and made the team. Unfortunately he was cut after the first game. He then signed with the Miami Dolphins and mainly played special teams. He had a huge game against New England where he scored touchdowns on a punt return and kickoff return and also kicked an extra point, a field goal, and made a tackle in the same game. The Dolphin’s kicker was injured early in the game. By 2006 he was the third wide receiver on the team. He managed to lead the team with 67 catches and to catch one touchdown pass.

In 2007 he was a restricted free agent. The Dolphins didn’t want to pay him more than 1.35 million for the year. They traded him within the division for a 2nd round & a 7th round pick. Neither of the players that they drafted with those picks is still with the Dolphins.

Since joining the Patriots, Welker has caught more passes than anyone else in the NFL. He reached 500 catches with the Patriots in 70 games, which is an NFL record. He is the Patriots’ all time receptions leader and he did it in less than half the time of Troy Brown, the previous record holder. He has averaged 112 catches per year, which is amazing. It might be a Hall of Fame type average.

So what changed? Welker didn’t get faster or taller. He is playing with a great quarterback, but he still caught 111 passes in 2008 from Matt Cassell when Tom Brady was injured. It seems that New England was just the right fit for his skill set. His ability to run precise routes across the middle should work for any team, but it works like gangbusters in New England. Despite changes in offensive coordinators, the coaches at New England consistently have put him in a position to succeed in a way that the coaches in San Diego and Miami just didn’t.

So now he faces a tough choice. This year the Patriots probably can’t pay him what he made under the franchise tag last year (9.5 million). If they tag him again this year, he would probably make over 11 million. Either he can sign with New England again for less, or he might make more money signing somewhere else. The problem is that if he signs for 7-10 million a year for 3 years somewhere else and the coaches don’t use him correctly, or the quarterback doesn’t get the ball to him at the right time, he might not be around for all 3 years to collect the money. Teams don’t have much patience with a 32 year old plus receiver with a big paycheck if he isn’t putting up the numbers. If he works out a deal with New England, he may be leaving money on the table.Wes Welker

I hope that Welker and the Patriots can work out a compromise that pays Welker close to what he is worth, but allows the team enough cap money to sign other key players. I think that he is the best player that he can be in New England and I don’t think that his skills would be easily replaced in New England. They tried it to some extent last year with Julian Edelman and as good as he was, he wasn’t as good as Welker. Of course he got paid less than $700,000 last year, so he was comparatively a bargain.

Just like some grapes show their best in certain soils and don’t perform their best in different climates, I think some football players need to be in the right spot to excel. Here’s hoping that I can drink some Groom Barossa Valley Shiraz this Fall while watching Wes Welker catch passes for the New England Patriots.