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California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by dandecasper » Mon Jul 31, 2006 7:07 pm

Are there any California Red wines that have not been in oak barrels (e.g., just steel)?

Curious,

-Dan
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by Bill Spohn » Mon Jul 31, 2006 7:44 pm

Hahahahahahahahah......(oak is the universal panacea for marketplace inertia - just ask Mondavi)
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by dandecasper » Mon Jul 31, 2006 10:21 pm

You're absolutely right. Which is why I'm asking.

Living in the Bay Area but being from Europe (and having just been there again recently) where you can enjoy a great variety of vivid, fresh, fruity, just terrific Reds without that often all too strong (for our taste anyway) "wood finish"... just plain steel is all it needs. And there's for the most part MORE hours of sunshine in CA than in many of our favorite wine regions (e.g. Piemote)

Why? One explanation I heard was that "the American consumer is not yet ready for this" but somehow I don't buy that...
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by Bill Spohn » Mon Jul 31, 2006 10:33 pm

No, it is because they wanted to market some feature and picked an easily discernable attribute (even to a wine tyro).

Did you ever see the Mondavi ads for Woodbridge - equating oak with quality? Gack.
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by John Treder » Mon Jul 31, 2006 11:35 pm

Some of Canyon Road's reds are fermented in redwood vats that are a sight to behold. I'm told they're 100 years old, but it's probably like Grandpa's axe.

But they're aged in oak.
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by Gary Barlettano » Mon Jul 31, 2006 11:44 pm

dandecasper wrote:Are there any California Red wines that have not been in oak barrels (e.g., just steal)?


The exception confirms the rule once again! Go to Boitano Family Wines and scroll on down to the 2004 Santano Sangiovese. I have brought up this little gem before. It is a self-described Beaujolais-style Sangiovese, best consumed chilled and best not consumed in quantity. It is a tasty oddity which has led to many a Katzenjammer! By the way, this family pours at the Vino Piazza in Lockeford and they know how to party. It's well worth going to one of their events to try the Santano, eat a sausage, pepper and onion sandwich, look at the dinosaur bones and fossils, and dance a dance with a loved one.
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by TimMc » Fri Aug 04, 2006 2:27 pm

OK.

Pardon my ignorance, but what is the problem with red wine aged in oak?


Seems to me the only alternative would be stainless steel.
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by Howie Hart » Fri Aug 04, 2006 2:42 pm

TimMc wrote:OK.

Pardon my ignorance, but what is the problem with red wine aged in oak?


Seems to me the only alternative would be stainless steel.

Legit question - ignorance is a non-issue - pardons not necessary. My thoughts are that it depends on the variety. Gamay is fine in SS with no oak, but I don't know how much they make in CA. Also, I believe PaulB would be aghast if someone made an oaked Concord.

But to get back to the original question, aren't most CA jug wines (Carlo Rossi Paisano, Gallo Hearty Burgundy, etc.) unoaked?
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by Bill Spohn » Fri Aug 04, 2006 2:44 pm

TimMc wrote:OK.

Pardon my ignorance, but what is the problem with red wine aged in oak?
Seems to me the only alternative would be stainless steel.


Well there is a small group of drinkers that are oak-intolerant, but let's ignore them for the moment.

The use of oak as a sort of seasoning has long tradition behind it and when used with finesse and moderation, I think most wine fanatics would agree that the end result is improved.

Picture a company in the US trying to think of a way to market an admittedly indifferent red wine. Let's call them the RM Winery.

They can't say the wine is actually better than anything else out there, because it isn't, and there isn't any other advertising hook they can think of to push this mediocre plonk - until some bright light comes up with the idea of using a flavouring that sets their wines apart.

It should be cheap to use (how much can wood chips cost?) and must not run afoul of any additive laws (oak is an accepted 'additive' with traditional precedent). It should be easily identifiable (if you add enough so that any flannel palate can detect it...)

You then embark (pun intended) on a huge advertising campaign that attempts to get the buying public to equate 'quality' wine with 'oak'. You blatantly SAY - W***bridge wines MUST be good because they have soooo GD much oak in them! You even start loading the higher end wines with oak even though they don't need it and in many cases arguably suffer for it (particularly in the case of the whites), just to appear consistent.

It works, and it works well and you sell tankerloads of your indifferent product and all sorts of other wineries see you doing this and jump on the bandwagon - they don't want to be seen by consumers as the winery too cheap to use oak! And anyway, it turns out that you can mask all sorts of flaws and deficiencies under this excess quercosity!

Now that is oversimplified and more than one winery was at the root of the 'stir it with a plank' movement, but you get the idea.

And that is why an unoaked or even a low oak California Chard or red wine is a bit unusual.

And then we have the Australians......
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by TimMc » Fri Aug 04, 2006 2:56 pm

Howie Hart wrote:
TimMc wrote:OK.

Pardon my ignorance, but what is the problem with red wine aged in oak?


Seems to me the only alternative would be stainless steel.


Legit question - ignorance is a non-issue - pardons not necessary. My thoughts are that it depends on the variety. Gamay is fine in SS with no oak, but I don't know how much they make in CA. Also, I believe PaulB would be aghast if someone made an oaked Concord.


Makes sense.

A wine meant to be fruity and drunk early like a Gamay would suffer under oak, IMHO.

Serious Cabs, Merlots and Zins, etc., however, need such an application, true?

Howie Hart wrote:But to get back to the original question, aren't most CA jug wines (Carlo Rossi Paisano, Gallo Hearty Burgundy, etc.) unoaked?


True enough.

Where I live, you can drive up and down the Valley and spot tank farm after tank farm of fermenting grapes for jug wines.
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by TimMc » Fri Aug 04, 2006 2:58 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:
TimMc wrote:OK.

Pardon my ignorance, but what is the problem with red wine aged in oak?
Seems to me the only alternative would be stainless steel.


Well there is a small group of drinkers that are oak-intolerant, but let's ignore them for the moment.

The use of oak as a sort of seasoning has long tradition behind it and when used with finesse and moderation, I think most wine fanatics would agree that the end result is improved.

Picture a company in the US trying to think of a way to market an admittedly indifferent red wine. Let's call them the RM Winery.

They can't say the wine is actually better than anything else out there, because it isn't, and there isn't any other advertising hook they can think of to push this mediocre plonk - until some bright light comes up with the idea of using a flavouring that sets their wines apart.

It should be cheap to use (how much can wood chips cost?) and must not run afoul of any additive laws (oak is an accepted 'additive' with traditional precedent). It should be easily identifiable (if you add enough so that any flannel palate can detect it...)

You then embark (pun intended) on a huge advertising campaign that attempts to get the buying public to equate 'quality' wine with 'oak'. You blatantly SAY - W***bridge wines MUST be good because they have soooo GD much oak in them! You even start loading the higher end wines with oak even though they don't need it and in many cases arguably suffer for it (particularly in the case of the whites), just to appear consistent.

It works, and it works well and you sell tankerloads of your indifferent product and all sorts of other wineries see you doing this and jump on the bandwagon - they don't want to be seen by consumers as the winery too cheap to use oak! And anyway, it turns out that you can mask all sorts of flaws and deficiencies under this excess quercosity!

Now that is oversimplified and more than one winery was at the root of the 'stir it with a plank' movement, but you get the idea.

And that is why an unoaked or even a low oak California Chard or red wine is a bit unusual.

And then we have the Australians......


OK.

Now I understand....there are wineries using less than legit oaking techniques then passing the juice off as something it isn't.

Good point.


Now, then....tell me about the Aussies.
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by Bill Spohn » Fri Aug 04, 2006 3:12 pm

TimMc wrote:Now, then....tell me about the Aussies.


Well they tend to also go for the 'if a littlle is good, a lot must be better' school of winemaking, and they do it on two fronts, the same egregious over-use of oak, and also huge, jammy, in-your-face fruit.

Before I am attacked by a horde of disgruntled dingos, let me hasten to add that this tendency is not universal - in Australia, particularly in Western Australia, they make some wonderful restrained wines with depth and subtlety.

Unfortunately, the marketing whizzes for North America seem to consciously ignore that sort of wine and select the over the top fruit and oak bombs, to the extent that many North American consumers have wrongly come to believe that Australia only porodcues that sort of wine.

The big jammy oak bombs are certainly something one cannot taste and ignore (although many will taste and recoil), and they do seem to garner more high scores from reviewers than I'd have thought realistically appropriate.

Sadly, I have serious doubts about the long term ageability of some of these wines - while sweet and luscious when young, they may well have little staying power, unlike many older Australian wines which were made for the long haul.
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by wrcstl » Fri Aug 04, 2006 3:19 pm

TimMc wrote:OK.

Pardon my ignorance, but what is the problem with red wine aged in oak?


Seems to me the only alternative would be stainless steel.


Tim,
I am an oakaphobe and this is one of the two reasons I steer clear of many domestic wines. Having said that I think cabernet as well as many other strong red grapes require some oak, just not 90% new american oak. The reall question should be "Is there any Ca Reds that are not over oaked". Can't believe I am defending oak but it is all a matter of balance.
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by Hoke » Fri Aug 04, 2006 3:38 pm

Now I understand....there are wineries using less than legit oaking techniques then passing the juice off as something it isn't.


Whooooooaa, now. Bill's abridged version of the oak trend was pretty damned good, but let's not launch into defamatory statements here, Tim!

While I'm not an oak-defender (and heartily wish the trend had not started in the first place, and had not gone so totally overboard, because it mucked up an awful lot of good wines---must be what they military means by "collateral damage", eh?), when you start saying things like "wineries using less than legit oaking techniques" and "passing juice off as something it isn't", you're treading on dangerously thin ice.

You may not like what they're doing (I certainly don't), but to accuse all thos wineries of using less than legitimate practices??? Uh, Tim, thos practices ARE legitimate. They are allowed. They are permissible and accepted. The Feds made them legal, and said they were okay. You got an issue, take it up with the guys who make the rules (and that's fine with me). But don't imply that the wineries are doing anything illegal.
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by Mark Lipton » Fri Aug 04, 2006 5:08 pm

Hoke wrote:While I'm not an oak-defender (and heartily wish the trend had not started in the first place, and had not gone so totally overboard, because it mucked up an awful lot of good wines---must be what they military means by "collateral damage", eh?), when you start saying things like "wineries using less than legit oaking techniques" and "passing juice off as something it isn't", you're treading on dangerously thin ice.


While we're on this subject, I'd like to point out that there's a world of difference between aging wines in oak barrels and adding the flavor of new oak. Most wines, both red and white, benefit from spending time in oak barrels. (Yes, I know that you know this stuff, Hoke, as does Bill; I'm just adding my $0.02). What Bill's objecting to, and what I suspect this whole thread really concerns, is the use of new oak barriques or oak chips to add those "woody" flavors to a wine that we find so off-putting. But even German Rieslings spend time in oak, do they not? And the most traditional Barolo uses (admittedly ancient) oak tuns. So, let's be careful about criticizing the use of oak in winemaking.

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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by TimMc » Sat Aug 05, 2006 12:01 pm

Hoke wrote:
Now I understand....there are wineries using less than legit oaking techniques then passing the juice off as something it isn't.


Whooooooaa, now. Bill's abridged version of the oak trend was pretty damned good, but let's not launch into defamatory statements here, Tim!

While I'm not an oak-defender (and heartily wish the trend had not started in the first place, and had not gone so totally overboard, because it mucked up an awful lot of good wines---must be what they military means by "collateral damage", eh?), when you start saying things like "wineries using less than legit oaking techniques" and "passing juice off as something it isn't", you're treading on dangerously thin ice.

You may not like what they're doing (I certainly don't), but to accuse all thos wineries of using less than legitimate practices??? Uh, Tim, thos practices ARE legitimate. They are allowed. They are permissible and accepted. The Feds made them legal, and said they were okay. You got an issue, take it up with the guys who make the rules (and that's fine with me). But don't imply that the wineries are doing anything illegal.


Hoke,

Don't get me wrong...all I was doing was trying to understand what Bill had posted. If what I wrote is incorrect, tell me....I asked the question so I could learn.

Besides, "less than legit" does not equal "illegal" anymore than less than perfect equals inadequate. Please don't think I am making any statement along those lines. I am also aware that in the State of California several chemical additives are allowed in wine making including oak chips. What I think Bill was pointing out is that some wineries are passing wine off as something it is not, that is, spent time in oak barrels.

My position was one of summary not accusation.
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by TimMc » Sat Aug 05, 2006 12:07 pm

Mark Lipton wrote:
Hoke wrote:While I'm not an oak-defender (and heartily wish the trend had not started in the first place, and had not gone so totally overboard, because it mucked up an awful lot of good wines---must be what they military means by "collateral damage", eh?), when you start saying things like "wineries using less than legit oaking techniques" and "passing juice off as something it isn't", you're treading on dangerously thin ice.


While we're on this subject, I'd like to point out that there's a world of difference between aging wines in oak barrels and adding the flavor of new oak. Most wines, both red and white, benefit from spending time in oak barrels. (Yes, I know that you know this stuff, Hoke, as does Bill; I'm just adding my $0.02). What Bill's objecting to, and what I suspect this whole thread really concerns, is the use of new oak barriques or oak chips to add those "woody" flavors to a wine that we find so off-putting. But even German Rieslings spend time in oak, do they not? And the most traditional Barolo uses (admittedly ancient) oak tuns. So, let's be careful about criticizing the use of oak in winemaking.

Mark Lipton


Thanks, Mark.

I have learned something here...and I appreciate the posts, Guys.
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by Bill Spohn » Sat Aug 05, 2006 12:38 pm

Mark Lipton wrote:But even German Rieslings spend time in oak, do they not? And the most traditional Barolo uses (admittedly ancient) oak tuns. So, let's be careful about criticizing the use of oak in winemaking.



Actually, the use of new oak in Italian wines (prior to Parker) was pretty minimal and while, as you say, they do use large old oak as storage vessels for wine, the wines get next to no oak character from them as they are old oak used for many years.

They aren't even picky about it being oak (remember, they are just after storage, and the material isn't even a consideration) and I've seen lots of old chestnut as well.

When you sit back and think about it, the use of oak is really rather bizarre!

It is only accepted, nay, expected, because of its long tradition, but can you think of another foodstuff that comes pre-adulterated from contact with its container?
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by TimMc » Sat Aug 05, 2006 1:37 pm

Bill Spohn wrote: It is only accepted, nay, expected, because of its long tradition, but can you think of another foodstuff that comes pre-adulterated from contact with its container?


Only if the container on the shelf is an oak barrel. :wink:

Lots of foodstuffs come to us pre-adulterated....smoked salmon or artichoke hearts, as an example. The "container" in that case would be the smoke flavor on the fish and the oil around the artichokes.

I get your point, however, wine is bottled [except for that boxed stuff] and so far as I know, glass does not alter the product in any way.


Make sense?
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by Mark Lipton » Sat Aug 05, 2006 2:48 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:
When you sit back and think about it, the use of oak is really rather bizarre!

It is only accepted, nay, expected, because of its long tradition, but can you think of another foodstuff that comes pre-adulterated from contact with its container?


Bill,
Somewhere a winemaker explained to me that oak is one of the few woods that you can use to make a non-leaky barrel without needing to seal it with pitch. Since that was the problem with ceramic amphorae, too, I think that oak was the material of choice until stainless steel and concrete came along. Meanwhile, people found that semi-permeable oak actually helped the taste of the wine by creating "rounder" wines, so that also probably helped contribute to its popularity. That almost sounds like the story of corks, no?

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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by TimMc » Sun Aug 06, 2006 1:32 am

Mark Lipton wrote: Meanwhile, people found that semi-permeable oak actually helped the taste of the wine by creating "rounder" wines, so that also probably helped contribute to its popularity. That almost sounds like the story of corks, no?


:D :D :D
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by dandecasper » Mon Aug 07, 2006 6:04 pm

Wow, thanks much for all the responses. Great stuff!

I think the intent of my original posting was very well "distilled" in this thread - I have nothing against oak if used "properly" as outlined. However, "properly" is to some degree a matter of personal taste, and I might have a lower tolerance than most. I just had too many (sometimes even pricey) big jammy CA oak bombs (well put!) and after living here for six years I'm TIRED of it. I really want to buy fruit and freshness over wood in my wines, but as much as possible buy local stuff which is just more fun.

So I will definitely try the Boitano and Canyon Road. Does anyone make a decent Gamay in California? Any other suggestions for "no or light oak" CA Reds in the $10-$20 range would be greatly appreciated.
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by Steve Edmunds » Mon Aug 07, 2006 7:05 pm

There is only one true Gamay made in California. I think it's decent. :wink:
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Re: California Reds that have NOT been in Oak

by dandecasper » Tue Aug 08, 2006 12:17 am

Steve Edmunds wrote:There is only one true Gamay made in California. I think it's decent. :wink:


Where can I get a case?
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