Rae’s Place WotW Dec. 9th 2019

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Shannon Ridge “High Elevation” Zinfandel 2017 Lake County, California


92pts Wine Enthusiast

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Wine of the week:

We’ve had tremendous success with the Shannon Ridge Cabernet and now offer the 2017 Lake County Zinfandel. To be honest, I don’t traditionally like Zinfandel. It’s too big a wine for me. I love the aromatics and the base flavors but when they get super high in alcohol and become syrupy, I tend to move away.

This Zinfandel is a bit different. There’s plenty of the big fruit and that brambly nature Zinfandel lovers covet but there’s also restraint, structure and a nice, clean finish. It’s refreshing to drink Zinfandel and want a second glass.

This wine will please traditional Zinfandel lovers and those of us who like clean finishing wines. Grab a bottle at a great price and see for yourself.


Notes from the winery:

Owner and visionary leader of Shannon Ridge Family of Wines, Clay Shannon has transformed his ranch into one of the agricultural icons of California’s North Coast, and in doing so is changing the face and substance of grape-growing in the USA.

Clay grew up on a farm in Healdsburg in Sonoma County. He began his career as a vineyard manager in St. Helena, traveling the wine regions of California managing the company’s vineyards. A short time later he started his own vineyard management company, growing grapes for some of the top wineries and fruit companies in Northern California.

In 1995, Clay discovered a magnificent piece of property in the hills overlooking Clear Lake in Lake County, thirty-five miles north of Napa’s famed vineyards. He quickly set out to develop vineyards, Clay’s vision was simple: “We wanted to grow the best fruit in the world,” says Clay, “but we wanted to do it in a way that made us happy living there.”


 Farming Practices:

 “Sustainability wasn’t some philosophical concept; it is the way we live our lives.”


Ovis cycle (o-vis sahy-kuhl)

Ovis – Latin for Sheep

Cycle – a sequence of changing stages that, upon completion, produces a final state identical to the original one.


Reduced use of mowers, tractors and weed eaters

At Shannon Ridge the sheep have reduced our need to mow by 500%. The use of gas powered weed eaters have nearly been eliminated. This means far less use of fossil fuels in our farming system.


Reduced use of herbicides

The sheep have greatly reduced our use of herbicide. We are able to treat individual areas only as needed.


Better productivity for our human crews

The sheep are used to remove basil leaves and trunk suckers from the vines. This means less manual labor for our valuable vineyard crews.


Wildfire prevention and protection

The sheep eat the cover crops, dry grasses and other leaf material that can fuel wildfires, thus creating fire protection on the property.


Erosion protection and farmland restoration

Over the years our hilltops have been eroded by the wind. As a preferred sleeping spot for the sheep, natural fertilization has caused the grass to grow and restore hilltops into productive areas.


Tasting Notes:

Shannon Ridge “High Elevation” Zinfandel 2017 Lake County, California



This is high elevation zin to the max. The traditional flavors are there; ripe, plummy fruit and a touch of sweetness from the heat in Lake County. What sets this wine apart from others in this price point is the spice, tannin and acidity. Because it’s high elevation and the skins are thicker, this wine has great structure and high notes not often found in Zinfandel. This isn’t a big fruit bomb, this is focused and restrained. A special wine in the sub $15 category.

Pair with BBQ, grilled meats, or a Santa Maria tri-tip salad.


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Rae’s Place WotW Dec. 2nd 2019

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Cellar Capçanes “Potente” 2016 Montsant, Spain

Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, Merlot


93pt James Suckling


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Wine of the Week:

The 2016 Cellars Capçanes “Potente” is another offering in a long line of great Spanish wines with big scores and small price tags. Capçanes has created reputation for great quality at affordable prices and we are proud to offer this wine to anyone who already knows Capçanes and those who might be intrigued. This wine will sing with holiday meals and cool temperatures that come to us in December. It’ll also make a great gift for wine lovers who are looking for something different.

From the Producer:

Eva López (Winemaker) met Capçanes viticultors in the Montsant area and from the beginning, she knew she had found people who really produce wines true to their origins using indigenous grape varieties. Capçanes is located 100 miles southwest of Barcelona, 20 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea, in the heart of a long wine growing history dating back to the middle ages.

She made the decision to develop the POTENTE project in this incredible area in Catalonia making a blend of garnacha, merlot, samsó & syrah that shows the truth of the typicality and elegance of this area created by small plots, hard inclinations and sustainable agriculture in the typical terraces. Neal Martin said once “If Priorat is Pauillac then Montsant is Margaux”.

Tasting Notes:

Cellar Capçanes “Potente” 2016 Montsant, Spain

Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, Merlot

This is high elevation mountain fruit aged in new and used oak for 9 months. The result is pure red and black fruit, spice notes good tannin and wonderful structure. This is a complete wine that should cost a lot more than it does.

Pair with grilled and roasted meats or game. This would also go well with mushroom and shallot risotto and pan sauce.


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Rae’s Place WotW Nov. 25th 2019

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Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir 2017 Santa Barbara, California

100% Pinot Noir


On Sale $24.99

92pts Robert Parker!

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Wine of the week.

Our wine of the week for November 25th is Brian Loring’s 2017 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir. While I highly recommend his single vineyard Pinots, I think he shines when he’s coaxing the very best out of his appellated wines. Brian has become a master of accentuating the sense of place from each of his offerings. He does this by putting his Pinots through the same barrel regimens and finishing the wines with the same level of alcohol. The resulting differences in the wines are expressions of the vintage, the soils and the vines. We chose the Santa Barbara County wine because it embodies the big style of Pinot that so many are looking for while still showing restraint and finesse. Grab a bottle or two and try for yourself, you’ll be glad you did.


Notes from the region:

Santa Barbara County-

Santa Barbara County is fortunate to enjoy a varied climate and great diversity in their soils. The Santa Maria Valley to the west is coastal with a maritime influence characterized by foggy mornings and sun during the day while areas like Santa Ynez and Happy Canyon are more inland and enjoy a continental climate characterized by warmer days and nights. As a result, Santa Barbara County is positioned to excel at both delicate varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as more robust varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Grenache.

Santa Barbara County has a long growing season, allowing the grapes extended hang time to develop mature flavors and a much-valued balance of sugars and acids.

Santa Barbara County’s soils are just as diverse as its climate – from sandy, silt and clay loams, to patches of limestone. This unique blend of climate and soils creates ideal growing conditions for a range of grape varieties, with Santa Barbara County producing some of the most sought-after (and most expensive) wine grapes in California.


Notes from Loring Wine Company:

The Philosophy

            My philosophy on making wine is that the fruit is EVERYTHING. What happens in the vineyard determines the quality of the wine – I can’t make it better – I can only screw it up! That’s why I’m extremely picky when choosing vineyards to buy grapes from. Not only am I looking for the right soil, micro-climate, and clones, I’m also looking for a grower with the same passion and dedication to producing great wine that I have. In other words, a total Pinot Freak! My part in the vineyard equation is to throw heaping piles of money at the vineyard owners (so that they can limit yields and still make a profit) and then stay out of the way! Since most, if not all of the growers keep some fruit to make their own wine, I tell them to farm my acre(s) the same way they do theirs – since they’ll obviously be doing whatever is necessary to get the best possible fruit. One of the most important decisions made in the vineyard is when to pick. Some people go by the numbers (brix, pH, TA, etc) and some go by taste. Once again, I trust the decision to the vineyard people. The day they pick the fruit for their wine is the day I’m there with a truck to pick mine. Given this approach, the wine that I produce is as much a reflection of the vineyard owner as it is of my winemaking skills. I figure that I’m extending the concept of terroir a bit to include the vineyard owner/manager… but it seems to make sense to me. The added benefit is that I’ll be producing a wide variety of Pinots. It’d be boring if everything I made tasted the same.

Rae’s Place Tasting Notes:

Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir 2017 Santa Barbara, California

Pinot Noir

One of the things we love about Brian Loring’s wines is that they all have the same alcohol (14.3%) and get aged for the same time (10 months in French Oak). The reason he does this is to showcase each wine growing area. We found the 2017 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir to have a mix or bright red fruit and darker, riper fruit. There’s good tannin and acidity but above all else, there’s balance. The fruit is on display as are the three different sites where the wines are grown. If you like big Pinots with good balance, Loring Santa Barbara Pinot Noir is for you.

Pair with grilled meats, roast pork or mushroom and shallot Bolognese.




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Rae’s Place WotW Nov. 18th 2019

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Westerly Wines Red 2012 Happy Canyon, California

76% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc


On Sale $23.99

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Our wine of the week for the week of November 18th is Westerly Wine’s Red Blend 2012 from Happy Canyon in Santa Barbara County. While this wine has a little age on it, there’s still a great amount of pep in its step. We love it because it’s lush and fruity while still showing great structure. Made of Cabernet Franc and Merlot from hillside fruit at an elevation between 500-3400 feet, this blend is pure and focused with a silky texture, dried fruit and cherry notes that all make for an immensely enjoyable, full bodied red wine.


Notes from Westerly Wines:

Happy Canyon-

            Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara is the easternmost growing region in Santa Barbara County. First planted in 1996, the AVA is widely recognized for its unique micro-climate, serpentine-laced soils, and its ability to produce top quality Bordeaux varietals. Designated as an official American Viticultural Area (AVA) by the Trade and Tax Bureau in November of 2009, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara is home to only eight vineyards and three brick-and-mortar wineries. 

The AVA lies north and west of Lake Cachuma, and the area descends in elevation from 3430’ in the northeast to 500’ in the southwest. It is the warmest micro-climate in the Santa Ynez Valley. The soils are made up of a mixture of loam and clay loam with red and yellow chert and serpentine cobbles. In general, the soils are low in nutrients and thus grow smaller vines that produce high quality wine grapes. 

During Prohibition, a “California Moonshine” was produced in the nearby foothills of the Los Padres mountains. Legend has it that folks would “take a trip up Happy Canyon” to purchase the infamous beverage and the name stuck.

The Philosophy

            At Westerly, our purpose is simple: to craft wine for enjoyment while also giving back.  We strive to grow and produce esteemed wines that honor place while at the same time influence and contribute to our community, locally and globally, through our dedication to education and philanthropy. 

The winemaking process is lengthy and committed.  From farming to grape growing, harvest to cellar, bottle to table, it is a multi-year endeavor with every detail as critical as the next.  But our efforts do not stop here – they surpass the delight of the end result.  While producing wines with a sense of place is important, we also see value in providing for our community.  Through partnerships with organizations such as “Wine To Water” and the development of internship programs for local students, we hope to have an impact far beyond the palate with the beautiful wines that we produce.   

Rae’s Place Tasting Notes:

Westerly Wines Red 2012 Happy Canyon, California

Merlot, Cabernet Franc


The 2012 is showing beautiful fruit, both red and black. There’s silky texture from the Merlot and great structure and fruit from the Cabernet Franc.  The acidity and tannin are still quite present, giving this wine the stability to stay tasty for a while to come. This is a great find with a little age on it.


Pair this with grilled meats, Beef Bourgogne, or braised oxtail. Hearty vegetable dishes would also work, especially if you can add a mushroom and onion stock.




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Rae’s Place WotW Nov. 11th 2019

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Borgogno “No Name” Nebbiolo de Langhe 2014 Piedmont, Italy

100% Nebbiolo


On Sale: $39.99

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This week’s wine is Borgogno “No Name” Nebbiolo 2014 from the Langhe region of Piedmont in Northern Italy. We chose this wine because of the juice in the bottle and the story behind it. Many consider Barolo to be the “King” of red wines in Italy and rightfully so. Depending on what vineyard(s) the Barolo comes from, it can be powerful, elegant, floral or a mix. Regardless, Barolo is an absolute pleasure for the senses and is truly a wine every wine lover should experience.

Technically, “No Name” isn’t a Barolo, it’s the younger brother Nebbiolo di Langhe, which is usually taken from younger vines, aged minimally or not at all and has very expressive floral and fruit notes. This however is a very special Nebbiolo, it comes from three of the best vineyards in Barolo: Cannubi, Liste and Fossati. The wine is aged for 3 years in oak and then two more in bottle before release (Required for making Barolo) but is labeled and priced like a Nebbiolo. They do that to bring focus on the Government’s involvement in agriculture and their dislike of it. This is for all intents and purposes a Barolo at Nebbiolo prices, it’s an absolute steal and not to be missed. This is also a perfect wine for all your holiday dinners.


Notes about the winery:

The estate of Giacomo Borgogno & Figli has been around since 1761 and has had the same ideology the entire time, they make the best wines they can and do as little as possible to alter the wine’s natural path. They’re also big fans of going slow in order to do things right the first time. These philosophies are what have kept these wines pure and beautiful for centuries.

“Being slow in one’s actions means having the time to understand things better and do them the right way. This is what we have been doing in our vineyards and with our wines since 1761.”


Tradition is key to the success of the winery and the wines they produce so there have been only a few changed during the winery’s history. In 2008, some 240+ years after it’s inception, the winery was acquired by the Farinetti family, a few years later, they decided to go back to using concrete tanks for fermentation and in 2015 they began converting the winery and its vineyards to organic. The 2019 harvest will be the first certified organic vintage for Borgogno. Other than that, this winery has been running on tradition and letting the grapes, the vineyards and the vintages speak for themselves for almost two hundred and sixty years.


“To be stubborn means not easily abandoning one’s ideas. Even today, after 250 years, wines are made in full respect of tradition: without the use of chemical additives in the vineyards and with spontaneous fermentations in concrete tanks and aging in large Slavonian oak casks in the cellar.”

Tasting Notes:

Borgogno “No Name” Nebbiolo de Langhe 2014 Piedmont, Italy


This wine quickly gained a cult following due to the reputation of the house and the nature of the label. This is truly a Barolo, the Nebbiolo comes from three of the greatest vineyards in the Barolo region of Piedmont (Cannubi, Liste, and Fossati) and the wine is aged for five years before release. The label is as much a badge for this cult wine as the juice inside. “No Name” hits you like a ton a bricks when you see it but if you look at the bottom of the label you’ll fine “Etichetta di Protesta” or “Labeled in Protest” They do this to bring recognition to how the bureaucracy affects Italian agriculture. It’s also priced like a Nebbiolo rather than a Barolo. If you love Barolo and haven’t tried this, or are looking for something new, this is the bottle for you. You’ll find all the characteristics of a great Barolo inside this wine; Earth and wood notes balanced by cherry and spice. Great tannin and acidity provide balance and structure all while dazzling your senses with what is quintessentially Italian Nebbiolo.

Pair with roast wild boar, venison and lamb or pastas with wild mushrooms and red sauce.

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Rae’s Place WotW Nov. 4th 2019

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Chateau Petit Freylon “Cuvee Leah” Bordeaux Superior 2015 Bordeaux, France

100% Merlot


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So, you already know we love this wine. We are, not so quietly, supporting the charge to bring Merlot back to its rightful place as one of the kings of the noble red grapes.

With the new tariffs hitting, French wine will be going up steeply as containers land from Europe. Thankfully we have access to this beauty stateside, so the price is still quite fantastic. We hope you’ll pick up a bottle or two and give this wonderful grape another try. Or, maybe you’re one of us and you already love Merlot too! We like you a lot for that. If you’re already a fan but haven’t tried a merlot from Bordeaux recently, this will make you very happy.


Notes from the winery:

The Winery

Château Petit-Freylon is located in the small Aquitaine village of Saint-Genis-du-Bois, a tiny village boasting less than 100 inhabitants. The estate belonged to the Lagrange family for generations until 2011, when it was purchased by La Société PESA. Since that time, the new owners have invested heavily in the château’s wine-making facilities and have installed much needed improvements such as new tanks, barrels, and thermo-vinification systems. This attention to detail has earned the wines several medals at prestigious competitions, such as the Concours Agricolein Paris and the Concours de Bordeaux.

The Terroir

The vineyard at Château Petit-Freylon covers 30 hectares (75 acres) of rich potential, 20 of which are within the Bordeaux Supérieur appellation. The clay and limestone soils are well lined, giving way to high caliber wines. Growing on 30-year-old vines, the Château produces a grand assortment of grape varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with average yields of 50 hectoliters per hectare.

The Environment

Since 2016, Château Petit-Freylon has been a part of the Bordeaux Environmental Management System Association, in an effort to reduce our impact on the environment.

The estate is heavily invested in numerous conservational initiatives such as recycling waste, improving biodiversity, reworking vineyard management, efficient use of resources and counteracting all forms of pollution. Everyone in our team is notably involved in each step of this process; from the pruning of the vine to the final bottling of each vintage.

All our attempts to conserve the environment have allowed us to be certified at the highest level of the High Environmental Value (HVE Level 3), in addition to the ISO 14001 certification.


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Careful with Tasting Notes

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Be careful with tasting notes in wine.

There’s no shortage of people out there ready to tell you what’s “in” the wine you’re about to buy. Many of those people are paid and that’s great, I’m just not sure that helps people who are new to wine or developing their palate. Honestly, if the winemaker is using descriptors in their tasting notes, then you’re probably on the right path. No one cares and knows more about the wine than the person who spends all year coaxing it to its potential.

Wine professionals don’t want to inundate you with descriptors of a wine’s nose or flavor. We believe that both sensory notes are relative to the smeller or taster. What I get out of a glass of Sauvignon Blanc may not be what you get. Why is my description correct and yours flawed? Do you think because I’ve spent a large portion of my life with my nose in a glass, I know what you experience better than you? I don’t, I do however know what a wine from a particular region should smell and taste like and I use that knowledge to help you get closer to the best wine for your needs. As a result, I tend to use broad descriptors like grassy, tropical notes for that New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc instead of lemongrass, grapefruit, guava or passion fruit. Those are all things you can find in a Sauvignon Blanc from that part of the world, but it’s more fun if you pull those profiles out of the wine. Remember, I care more about styles than descriptors.

Another problem with dumping those descriptors on you is the tendency for a “confirmation bias” to form. If I tell you what I get out of the wine, you may end up searching for it in the wine and missing other cool properties. Nobody wants to grab a glass of wine looking for the things they’ve been told are already there, we want to explore and uncover the nuances of the wine. That’s part of what makes tasting wine so much fun. It can also really help you develop your palate and appreciate a greater breadth of wines as you gain more experience.

If relying on someone else’s descriptors helps you then go for it. In the end, it’s about getting the most out of your experience. I’m here for you if you’d like to try something new or different and get a little more out of the wine you’re about to drink.


What a Great Rosé!

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2018 Bodegas Breca Rosé, Calatayud Spain

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I’ve been wondering when I was going to get around to posting about wine. I’ve been so busy getting things going for the shop that I just haven’t had time. Then I tasted this Spanish rose a few days ago and it stopped me in my tracks. This was going to be the first wine I introduced to my family, friends and the Rae’s Place community.

I LOVE rosé. While I prefer rosé from the South of France I enjoy any rosé that is made well and tastes good. The wines from Provence, Languedoc, Roussillon, etc., are generally crisp, fruity and refreshing (my idea of what everyone should drink when it’s hot outside). So, how did this wine from Northeastern Spain sway me away from the azure seas of Southern France?

First and foremost, it is bright and lively like a rosé should be, but then there’s this amazing presence of dried fruit on the nose the palate and much more body than I was expecting. I thought it was a few years old but there was too much acidity left in the wine for it to be “falling apart”. I checked the label and sure enough a 2018, current vintage, and the beginning of the vintage at that. There was so much structure in the wine. It was more than a refresher, this rosé wanted…FOOD! I was thinking of salmon, pork tenderloin and sushi. While it can be hard to find a rose that can go from the deck to the dinner table, this is one does that in spades.

So, what makes this wine so good? We have Jorge Ordonez to thank for that. Groupo Jorge Ordonez owns eight wineries covering thirteen different growing regions (DOs) throughout Spain. He has also been importing Spanish wines to the US since the late 1980s. His goal has always been to protect and represent little know wine making areas, indigenous grapes and wine makers that hold on to old-school practices like dry farming, organics and non-intervention. This offering from his Bodegas Breca winery is right in line with this. The grape used is Grenache (Garnacha), the most popular grape in the world for making rosé. But this is Garnacha de Aragon, the oldest and least genetically manipulated clone of Grenache on the planet. This is like tasting a Roma tomato from the store next to an heirloom tomato from the garden or a heritage breed of pork next to the one we all see in stores. When you try them, you think to yourself “this is the way it’s supposed to taste”.

I can’t wait to get this into the shop.  There are a few more things I should mention about this wine before I go: it has already received 90pts from Wine Spectator, rosés don’t usually rate much higher than that as they are usually afterthoughts for wineries or made simply for enjoying in the sun. This rosé is clearly different. Also, this wine will be incredibly affordable. Ridiculously affordable.

Thank you for spending a little time with us and we look forward to helping you “Create Happy Hour at Home”

Jeff Champion: Owner of Rae’s Place Fine Wine Boutique


The Affects of Alcohol on Wine

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A question I’m often asked is “How do I know if a wine is good?”


Here’s a hint: usually, it’s not the varietal! Whether or not you know it, most people like styles of wine, not a particular varietal. They’ve just found their style in a particular Cabernet or Chardonnay and believe that’s the kind of wine they like. Styles of wine can be gauged in many ways: dry or sweet, full bodied or light, fruity, earthy, the list goes on and on.


The first thing I do is check the alcohol level. Few things affect the outcome of a wine like alcohol. It does much more than get you tipsy or drunk; it affects body, weight, texture, and fruit/sweet levels in wine. Varietals affect these things too, but they are generally limited to the nature of the grape. You adjust the volume of a wine with alcohol.


Typically, wine with an alcohol level of 9%-13% will be lighter in style, have less body, less fruit flavor and more acidity (acidity=balance). Be careful though, there are low alcohol wines that taste cloyingly sweet (I’m looking at you Washington Riesling…), these wines lack the acidity to balance the remaining sugar that wasn’t consumed by yeast. A wine in the 13%-14% range should show moderate levels of body, fruit and acidity (generally more balanced). Wines in the 14%-15+% range will have full body, texture, mouthfeel; and a riper fruit/sweet feel. They can also tend toward the stewed or over-ripe feel (think red zinfandel, some syrahs/shirazs and big cabs.)


Note: The alcohol level on a bottle of wine can be found on the front of the label (around the perimeter) or on the back of the label towards the bottom.


In the meantime, lets dig a little deeper into how alcohol gets into wine.  Alcohol starts as sugar in the grape. The longer the grape can sit on the vine and enjoy that warm sun, the more sugar the grape will have. After harvest, the grapes are fermented in large vats by adding yeast. The yeast eats the sugar as food and excretes alcohol as a byproduct (different strains of yeast can also affect the end flavors in the wine). So, the more sugar in the grape, the more alcohol can end up in the finished product.


Winemakers can affect the amount of alcohol in their finished wine by controlling fermentation times and temperatures. If they want their wine to be full dry (no leftover sugar) they let fermentation run its course. If they choose to make sweeter wines or end up somewhere in the middle, they stop fermentation early, while there’s still sugar left in the wine.


Finally, it’s up to the customer to buy a few bottles and enjoy the process of deciding for themselves. Of course, that is best done with the help family and friends, cheese, fruit, dinner and the making of great memories. Cheers!

Jeff Champion, Owner of Rae’s Place Fine Wine Boutique

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