Saturday, September 6, 2008

The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and Wine Rating System

The San Francisco Chronicle was started in 1865 by Charles de Young and brother Michael de Young. It is now Northern California’s largest newspaper and serves almost primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the year 2000, the Cloverdale Citrus Fair Wine Competition entered into a sponsorship agreement with The San Francisco Chronicle which then was renamed The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The idea was to take public wine tastings from hundreds of wineries across the United States and award the best tasting wines with medals and feature the winners in The San Francisco Chronicle. In 2006, over 900 wineries across the United States entered in an astonishing 3,318 different varietals into the competition. Since 2000, father and son Bob and Scott Fraser founded which was a service provided to the Chronicle and became the new producer of the competition and started to feature wine nationally across the United States. At first, the competition only featured wines from the California area, but started to broaden its wines nationally in 2005. The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is one of the biggest public tasting competitions in the United States and in the world.

While there is a big public tasting competition and the winning wines are featured in the newspaper, there is also several writers and wine experts who write for The Chronicle and rate different wines in blind taste tests. During a typical panel, one wine expert will taste around 30 to 100 different kinds of wine. It’s interesting to note that The San Francisco Chronicle’s Wine rating system is a bit different from others. Magazines such as Wine Advocate or Wine Spectator use a 0 to 100 point scale, and usually any wine that scores 90 or above is considered a good, quality wine. Anything below 90 is usually not published. The San Francisco Chronicle, instead, uses a four star system for their ratings. One star meaning “poor”, two stars meaning “good”, three stars meaning “excellent”, and four stars meaning “extraordinary”. It is very rare to see any kind of wine that is higher than two stars and those wines with less than two stars are never published. It is even rarer for the Chronicle to find a four star wine. That is to say that there are only a few four star wines that the experts find each year. In 2007, one of there most highly recommended wines was a 2005 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from Sonoma Valley which only received two stars. Once again, they never publish any of the wines that receive lower than two, but state that, “Even many of our rejects from this week's edition were solid wines that we wouldn't mind having again, though perhaps they cost a bit more than we would pay” (

Here are some examples of ratings from their publications:

EXTRAORDINARY – One of San Francisco Chronicles most highly rated wines was a 1988 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Rare Vintage Champagne. It was said to have a “dazzling complexity” with very unique drinking experience. It received a very rare four stars and is priced at $85.

EXCELLENT – One wine that received a very rare three stars was a 2005 Roessler Widdoes Russian River Valley Pinot Noir priced at $48.

GOOD – Said to have been a “very solid” wine, the 2006 Hogue Columbia Valley Pinot Grigio received two stars in their publication and is priced at a mere $8. Others such as the 2006 Sauvignon Blanc or Fume from the Falkner Winery and a 2006 Chardonnay from the Scheid Vineyards come very highly recommended at come at very reasonably low prices.

Once again, a POOR wine or wine “reject” is never published by The San Francisco Chronicle, so it is nearly impossible to find. I, personally, would have to agree with the way that is handled. A poor wine rating may equal bad things for the specific vineyards that get them. So, I think it’s better not to be published than receive a horrible rating. When rating, several experts taste numerous different wines and take in account the different notes both on palate and nose. They measure body, flavor, balance, acidity, tannins, secondary characteristics and how long the finish is after each taste.

There is a higher rating consideration according to the complexity involved in each wine. The vintage year is also taken into significant consideration according what specific region the wine had come from. It is also interesting to note that for more expensive wines, the experts take the price of wine in consideration as well. They try to take the point of view of the consumer and view more expensive wines with a more critical view than less expensive wines.

The wine samples for each tasting collected feature almost all varietals including: Merlots, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Reisling, and many, many more. Suffice it to say that The San Francisco Chronicle’s target audience is almost anyone who is remotely interested in wine, those wanting to learn more about wine, and those who would like to purchase quality wines at reasonable prices. California is one of the largest areas in the world with vineyards and wineries, so The San Francisco Chronicle caters to a lot of the wine-loving public there. This shows with the public wine tasting competitions that they hold with where the public is invited to taste and rate wines from across the country.

Recently, The San Francisco Chronicle features an option to join an “exclusive” Wine Club (The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Club) which publishes weekly sections about fine wine. Those wanting to join this “exclusive” club can join for $39.95 a month. Members of this wine club have benefits such as: Recipes to match wines with food, receiving two wines selected by wine and food editors Jon Bonné and Michael Bauer, and gift ideas for the holidays or any occasion, and options to reorder club favorites at significant discounts.

The wine section of The Chronicle runs weekly ads with the newspaper featuring different kinds of wine at fair prices. The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition runs annually, usually near the end of February, in the San Francisco Area. It lasts for 3 hours and usually costs between $40 to $70 depending when and where you bought the tickets. Furthermore, Santa Rosa Junior College Wine Studies Program and Culinary Arts Program are the primary beneficiaries of the competition. The next public tasting and competition is offered on February, 28 2009 and one can purchase tickets for the event at:

The Pisco Sour

Nobody can argue that fütbol is the most popular sport in the world. South America is no exception, especially in South American countries such as Chile and Peru. Chileans and Peruvians can argue for hours on end to team is greater than the other. Both countries take great pride in their national teams, and you may have even heard or seen the incredible emotion from the fans during, (and sometimes after) the matches between the two countries. However, between life and fütbol, there has been one outstanding issue that has been the subject of great debate between both countries: Which country is the originator of the cocktail brandy the Pisco Sour? For over 500 years, the two countries have been battling over the true origin over the drink.

If you traveled to Chile, you would most likely discover that the citizens believe that the cocktail was created solely by them. If you traveled to Peru, you would most likely hear a similar story in Peru’s favor. This cold war of pisco has gone on for decades and seems that the debate will never rest until a distinct truth emerges from the past. If you track both histories of pisco between both Chile and Peru, you can see how the creation of the actual drink may seem something worth debating over. After all, the Pisco Sour is an amazing drink! Unfortunately, the drink is quite rare in the United States especially on the east coast.

Although the history is in high debate, Peruvians claim that the earliest roots of pisco itself have been dated back to the 1500’s. Pisco is a liquor that is distilled from grapes from both wine-producing countries of Peru and Chile. The earliest known vineyard to harvest pisco was dated back to 1553 in Peru during the time of the Spanish Conquistadors. The Spaniards had begun to harvest grapes in the southern areas of what is now known as Peru for wine production. Then in the 1920’s, the pisco sour cocktail was then supposedly produced in a local bar in Lima at a bar named “Bar Morris”. Whatever their claim may be, the Peruvians can claim that the original word, “pisco” is, in fact, a genuine Peruvian word. It came from a Quechua, (Peru’s indigenous language) word meaning “bird”. Furthermore, Pisco is also a port city located in the Ica Valley in Peru. The mud container that pisco was deposited was the “bojita”.

To debate the origin, Chile had also developed the pisco sour cocktail supposedly before Peruvians claimed they had in 1920. The birth of the pisco sour was said to be produced in Chile during the War of the Pacific in the 1800’s. An Englishman by the name of Elliot Stub was the so-called inventor of the pisco sour while he was on leave in a small city called Iquique. He had opened a local bar in the area and had begun experimenting with the local pisco and a small lime grown in the area called limon de pica. From there, he had created the cocktail known as the pisco sour. However, the Peruvians claim that drink was “stolen” during the War of the Pacific. Peru had lost the war and had therefore lost a lot of land to the Chileans.

The area that had been taken over was a region of Peru where pisco production had thrived. This region that was taken over was a large desert area known as Tarapaca. Naturally, Chileans disregard this “allegation” as a fallacy and have since focused on the fact that Chile produces fifty times more pisco than Peru today. Chile’s marketing power and claiming to be to able to, “bring the world pisco” is truth enough for them that they are the original creators of the cocktail.

Needless to say, we may never know the true originator of the Pisco Sour, but both hold the Pisco Sour with great regard and pride. Even though pisco is a pomace spirit, it is actually a brandy. The Pisco Sour cocktail has a very distinct taste and has said to be a cross between a margarita and a whiskey sour. When it is tasted, one would get a sweet and sour taste with a dash of lemon on their palate which makes for a very refreshing drink! The recipe includes egg whites, lemon,, cane sugar and bitters known as Angostura bitters.

However, Chile and Peru can also debate which variation of the recipes is the superior. Some South Americans claim that the inclusion of Angostura bitters, (a bitter found in Venezuela) in a Pisco Sour is not a “true” Pisco Sour. Especially in Chile, where is a largely believed that adding egg whites and the bitters is not part of the original recipe in a Pisco Sour. In Peru, the variation of the recipe may use lime instead of lemon and in other areas simple syrup instead of cane sugar is used. Whatever the recipe best suits the individual, the mixture is shaken over cubed ice and strained and then served into a traditional and old fashioned glass. The egg whites are said to give life or consistency to the frothy top of the beverage.

Although most popular in Peru and Chile, the Pisco Sour is also a popular drink in many areas of California such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. The Bank Exchange Bar in San Francisco is famous for selling this drink. Along with the Pisco Sour, the bar experiments with different variations of the drink such as Pisco Punch. Sadly, the Pisco Sour has been left out of the mainstream in the United States. There aren’t many restaurants around North America that make it or even distribute it.

There are many online sites that do, however, sell many mixes and variations of the drink to buy such as or To truly purchase this drink at any local bar, one must travel to South America; namely Chile, Peru, or Bolivia where the drink is most popular. Hopefully the cocktail can break out into the mainstream so that all can experience its delicious and fresh taste!

Until then, Peru and Chile will continue the debate of the origin of the Pisco Sour. The debates had gotten so “sour” that in 1961, Chile actually began to ban imports on all Peruvian imports! However, many outsiders would agree that the two countries would or could eventually come to a small agreement if they actually sat down together and talked about it. If you ask a Chilean or Peruvian personally about the heated debates, they would most likely respond, “Ah, you just don’t understand”.

We may never know, but the argument about who the original creator is neither here nor there at this point. Both countries hail it as a regional drink and both make very delicious variations of both. Who can complain?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Oatmeal Stout

Let’s travel down memory lane for a moment. Imagine that you’re a kid again. Everything was so carefree and simple. The days when time stood still you we were playing “king of the hill” on a brisk Fall day, and when we came back inside, Mom would be waiting with a hot, piping bowl of oatmeal. There was nothing more comforting than that warm, rich and smooth texture sliding down your throat as it stuck to the roof of your mouth. Even if those moments of childhood have long faded away, every once in a while we still harness a desperate longing for those experiences. After all, childhood is short. Adulthood is forever. And perhaps if you’re yearning for those types of memories, one might consider the Oatmeal Stout. It’s just like Mom used to make…..with beer! It’s a sweet, filling and full-bodied experience that has everything you love about a hot beverage. This eccentric stout features different blends of oatmeal brewed into beer that highlights an extraordinary amount of flavor and complexity. The Oatmeal Stout will most definitely hit the mark.

Unfortunately, this grand beverage wasn’t always held in high regard. The oatmeal stout started out, shall we say, in an “unpleasant” fashion. Forget about all of those fantastic imageries of remembering the good old days with mom for a moment, because traditionally, the oatmeal stout was a beverage intended for lactating mothers due to its nutritional values. During the medieval period in England, it was not uncommon for many breweries to add a substantial amount of oats into the brewing process. Thus, due to those high proportion additions (around 30 to 35%) of oats, the stout, although nutritious, unfortunately drew very astringent and bitter flavors which most people found to be quite repugnant. Heck, breweries couldn’t even give it away to thirsty Elizabethan sailors! Suffice it to say that the practice of adding oats into beer slowly died out and ultimately became extinct by the sixteenth century.

It was not until 1977 when the stout began to regain its popularity after Michael Jackson, (No, not the pop singer. Rather, the famous beer and whiskey author and journalist) had mentioned the defunct stout in his book The World Guide to Beer. It wasn’t long until the brewery Samuel Smith of Yorkshire took it upon themselves to reinvent and reproduce the oatmeal stout in 1980 at 5% ABV. The outcome was an amazing, complex beverage with silky textures and a bittersweet aftertaste. Soon other companies such as Young’s Brewery of London and the Anderson Valley Brewing Company of California followed suit and started producing their own version of the Oatmeal stout.

To produce, the Samuel Smith brand oatmeal stout includes a mixture of pale malt, flaked oats, crystal and chocolate malts, and roasted barley. The result is a sweet, smooth, superbly balanced, and full-bodied beer with a lasting impression leaving hints of bitter chocolate, dark fruits and molasses aromas and flavors. All in all, the Samuel Smith oatmeal stout is a beverage of superior drinkability, (and it’s good for you, too!).The trick is to never drink straight from the bottle. Otherwise, you might end up experiencing those dreaded bitter flavors mentioned above. Instead, slowly pour it into a pint glass, let it breathe for 2 to 3 minutes, and then slowly sip as you sit back, kick your feet up and let the good times roll.

Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout is also one of the most easily accessible brands to purchase. Grocery stores such as Whole Foods Market have them readily available in most of their beer and wine departments in the Atlanta area. This Whole Foods grocery store in particular carries them often:

Company: Whole Foods Market

Address: 5930 Roswell Road

Atlanta, GA 30329

Phone: 404.236.0810

Brand: Samuel Smith

Price: $3.99

Quantity: 1 Bottle

Bottle size: 18.7-ounce “Victorian Pint” bottle

Food pairings: Pizza, salad, Italian foods, steak, dark breads, steamed clams,

eggs Florentine, lobster, and shish kebabs

If you’re looking to go out on the town, you might want try the 5 Seasons Brewing Company’s version of the oatmeal stout in Sandy Springs on 5600 Roswell Road. They produce a wonderful Chocolate Imperial oatmeal stout.

What do you say? If you’re up for a unique palatal experience, give the oatmeal stout a go. Be a kid again….with a twist.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Greetings, everyone! Thank you very much for coming to visit my wonderful blogging site. I am your official Blog Master for this site. Heh-Heh. Okay, you can call me Mr. Tea. And, yes, I do love tea. It’s one of my favorite of all beverages.

*On a brief side note, It’s kind of interesting…I’m not a big fan of Mr. T, himself, although I did find him to be quite menacing as Clubber Lang in Rocky III. Furthermore, I never really ever watched The A-Team on television that much in my life. However, since this site is mostly about beverages and tea is one of my favorite kinds of beverage, I thought the named fit. It doesn’t matter. The name is not important. What’s important is the content of this blog site. So welcome!

(This is is a site about all beverages in general. Also, I would like to mention very briefly that this is my first time “blogging” on any kind of site whatsoever. So bear with me!)

Here, I hope to talk a lot about one of the most popular subjects in the world: the beverage. Is it one of the most popular subjects in the world? I don’t know. I may have just made that up. Whatever the case is, I think you’ll find that talking about beverages, (especially good beverages), is quite fun. Everything from creating unique cocktails to share with others, to unique tea blends, to keeping you up-to-date about everything beverage-related in the world. The main reason I created this blog was not to bore you to death with beverage information. I could go on and on about the types of Cognac distillations. By the way, the distillation must take place in a Charentais still. The first pass distillation is called the brouillis. The second distillation of Cognac is called the bonne chauffe when the brouillis is redistilled. NO! I won’t do that. I’m not going to bore you to death about the thousand different rules / regulations Scotland has in order for a Scotch Whisky to be called a Scotch Whisky. I won’t do it. First of all, and most importantly, Scotch whisky must be distilled in Scotland and must be matured in an excise warehouse in Scotland in oak casks and not exceeding 700 litres and maturation no less than 3 years......You see!? There I go again. You’ll find that, whilst reading my lovely blogs, sometimes I do, in fact, go off on tangents. Sometimes I may even go off topic. If I start randomly posting topics about Star Wars, please don’t be alarmed. I tend to do that. I’m quite schizophrenic that way. I like Star Wars. I’m a nerd. So what? Shut up. (Just kidding) Seriously, though, on and off you’ll see that sometimes here. You’ll just have to deal with it! I’m a wacky guy.

At any rate, the main purpose here is to talk about anything beverage related. For instance, one of my biggest passions is to come up with new cocktail recipes. However, I don’t want to be the only one posting. One of the reasons I created this is to see what kind of recipes other folks had and share them on this site. Now I know some of you may have visited the website It’s a really great site to see different variations of cocktail recipes and newly created recipes. Anybody is able to submit there own unique recipe(s). I’ve submitted several myself. Some of which I know for a fact are very, very good. Unfortunately, since most likely gets about 500 submissions a week, they probably only post about 5% of all submissions. It’s a bummer, I know. But, don’t fret, ol’ chap! That’s quite all right. This is one of the many reasons I started this. Any recipe that you submit is welcome….unless it can potentially kill someone. That is something that I particularly don’t want to be responsible for. Sorry. It’s just not good business. So, please don’t include anything in your creations that contain monosodium methyl arsenate. Preferably no notorious, poisonous metalloids whatsoever would be just fantastic.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, however. It doesn’t just have to be cocktails, either. There is so much to talk about! I love coming up with different tea concoctions. We will talk about tea, coffee, carbonated soft drinks, beer, etc., etc., etc.. Whatever you folks desire. Since I’m new at this, I welcome any kind of comments, suggestions, and ideas along the way.

So…where to start? There is so much to write about……Well, first of all, let me tell you a little bit about myself first. I am a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a major of Film Studies. Yes, you’ve read correctly: Film Studies. Do you want fries with that? Just kidding, (or am I?). Whatever, my degree matters very little at this point. Plus, you probably don’t really care anyway. Anyhow, I am now currently attending The Art Institute of Atlanta for an additional degree in Wine and Beverage Management. So far, the program has been really great! I’ve learned many, many new things and have redirected my passions into several different kinds of beverages; namely coffee, tea, and spirits. I am married, (Mrs. Tea) and have a beautiful daughter, (Little Miss Tea).

That’s about it. I think you’ll find this blog site to be not only entertaining, but quite informative, as well! It’s going to be a little bit tricky figuring out how to get things started, but please keep checking in and bear with me! It’s quite possible that I won’t cover a certain subject within a period of time. What I mean to say is that I probably won’t be on a subject of coffee for two weeks and then turn to tea for the next two weeks. I’m way to scatter-brained to be that organized. Trust me. Heh-heh.

I may cover a couple subjects of coffee one day, tea the next, post some cocktail recipes the same day with your responses and your recipes.


I may cover tea one day, coffee the next, cocktail recipes the next two weeks and take your recipes and responses.


I may cover cocktail recipes right away, write about beer……Okay, I’m babbling. I’m starting to “sound”, (even though you can’t physically hear me) like Steve Martin in The Jerk when he’s talking about how long each of his days were. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, take a look at this:

Okay, well that’s enough goofing off for now. Keep checking in and feel free to comment at any time!!!


Mr. Tea