Notes on the 2015 California Vintage (and a little on Oregon) Posted on 28 Mar 12:47 , 0 comments

Early conversations about the 2015 vintage of California Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and a bit of Cab may be foretelling the future of climate change. The size of the vintage has shrunk mainly due to lack of rain. Even though we irrigate in California, the rain helps wash down the salts and other chemicals in the soil. A four year drought has stressed the vines and has begun to force the plants to produce less fruit. Some estimates are between 20 and 30% less fruit.

Now take that drought and add to it a little bit of bad luck. Early rains in the 2015 growing season were followed by very cold temperatures. This meant that at a crucial time, many vineyards found that their flowers either were damaged by rain or frozen. These factors affected the quality and yield of the fruit in the remaining flowers.

Another complication of the drought is likely to be wines with more concentrated and intense fruit, but also higher tannin. Expect the wines of 2015 to be big wines and need some time to come around. Many of the growers picked early and were able to keep alcohol levels under control.

And now for a little economic reality. These big tannic wines will be in short supply. We expect to see higher prices for this vintage to make up for the short volume in order for wineries to survive.

Oregon seems to have had a better growing season and are looking at a big yield, but with late rains, the wines may seem a bit diluted, but not in a bad way. They are said to be tasting very supple and silky with good balance between acidity and tannin.

After aging and bottling, we look forward to the finished product!

The Smoking Archbishop Posted on 17 Feb 16:00 , 0 comments

Southern California generally doesn’t have a climate that demands mulled wine. Yet, it is a treat that occasionally appears around the holidays. Sometimes there are bottles at the Accidental Wine Company that require a little bit of creative thinking.

A few years ago we acquired some surprisingly good Italian Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. We sold most of it, but we had recently lost confidence in the wine. The wine wasn’t bad, but we couldn’t guarantee that it would be good.

Enter the Smoking Bishop.

The history of food, wine and spirits is a frequent topic of conversation here. The Victorians are particularly interesting. England was at the height of its power and all sorts of exotic ingredients were available from across the Empire.

There are different types of mulled wine that share a prefix. The name varies depending on their base[1]:

Smoking Bishop – Port
Smoking Archbishop — Claret
Smoking Beadle — Ginger wine and raisins
Smoking Cardinal — Champagne, Rhine wine or Tokay
Smoking Pope —Burgundy

One bottle of Cabernet and one bottle of Merlot is close enough to approximate a Claret (as the English would say) or Bordeaux (as the French would say) or Meritage (rhymes with Heritage, as the Americans would say), especially if it was going to be cooked and mixed with fruit and spices.

And so, based on what was available, a recipe was concocted. 4 oranges were studded with 5 cloves each. They were roasted in an oven with a grapefruit. Since the Victorians were using Seville oranges, which have a nice bitterness, a grapefruit was a nice choice to balance out the sweet oranges.

Once out of the oven, the roasted fruit was squeezed and the juice was set aside. The skins were soft and the burnt orange perfume infused the house with a holiday feel. In a separate pan, one bottle each of Merlot and Cabernet were added, two cups of water, a cup of sugar, a 2” knob of sliced, fresh ginger, 2 cinnamon sticks and a freshly grated quarter of a nutmeg. These were simmered together until the sugar was dissolved. The mixture was strained and the citrus juice was added.

It may have been one of the better mulled wines. Served at a party filled with wine drinkers, it was a lark. Who would have guessed that it went before the first bottle of wine was opened!

TAWC Smoking Archbishop

1 750ml Bottle Cabernet Sauvignon
1 750ml Bottle Merlot
1 cup sugar
2” piece of peeled ginger, sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
¼ nutmeg, freshly grated (about ½ teaspoon)
4 oranges
1 grapefruit
20-30 whole cloves


Divide the cloves and stud the oranges. Roast in a 400º for 45 minutes on a sheet pan. The fruit will darken and the bottoms will get darker still. Remove and let cool. Squeeze the fruit, reserve the juice and discard the peels.

Add the remaining ingredients to a stockpot. Bring the mixture to a simmer and allow the sugar to dissolve and the flavors to blend. Approximately 20 minutes.

Strain the mixture, reserving the ginger and cinnamon sticks. Add the citrus juice and return the ginger and cinnamon.

We kept it warm over the lowest flame we could manage.

Make it pretty with a garnish, if you like. We had some help in figuring out this project. The internet is an amazing place.

Tori Avey: Drinking with Charles Dickens – The Smoking Bishop

Anne Bramley - Smoking Bishop: A Boozy Christmas Drink Brimming With English History

  1. Andrea Broomfield (2007), Food and Cooking in Victorian England, Greenwood, p. 154


The New Store Posted on 06 Oct 11:38 , 0 comments

It has been many years since TAWC has seen a redesign. In this fast-paced, on-the-go information age, everything needs to be available all the time on any size screen. It's a long way from our origins; before the smartphone or the tablet, when most folks did their online shopping on a big 'ol computer screen at home.

I love the clean, uncluttered design of our new site. I look for little visual cues that help show me where to go. It is a step back from the trend or hyper-minimalism, where the tools you need are hidden away, without any way to find them. 

We've also made some changes to the way we do things. It has become a rare treat to acquire the accidental wines that we used. Those with stained or dinged labels. Every sector has made adjustments to improve speed, cut waste and decrease cost. We are still on the lookout for these items, we just don't see them very often. We say goodbye to our old categories, David's Proclivity, Janice's Style and Micah's Indulgence. We'll keep the Opulent Obsessions...those bottles never go out of fashion.

TAWC has spent the past few years searching out great wines from producers big and small. Finding wines that fit our old categories has become a challenge and we've chosen to conquer by finding wines that don't usually show up in the local supermarket or liquor store. Usually it's a small family winery with low acreage under vine. Sometimes it's a well established winery with an unusual bottle. Sometimes it's a big guy with too much good wine. That is all part of the adventure. The TAWC site is full of things we like to drink. Plenty of wine from all over the world...Italy, France, USA, Argentina, Austria, Australia, South Africa, just to name a few. All available to you. 

Thank you for joining us on the adventure.