Monday Oct 03

wine2 It’s been my experience that when both industries and institutions compile their data and create a glossary that they seem to forget that there might actually be those who’d like to know what they’re talking about. I’ve found that many glossaries are written in such a way that only ‘industry’ folk comprehend them. The purpose for any glossary is to help explain the process and offer definitions in an effort to give greater understanding to those who are really interested in going deeper in their learning. That being said, the wine world also has such a lexicon. When writing a monthly article for non-industry readers, my personal editor is often asking me what certain words mean, asks me to define and give meaning to phrases or if there is a word that could be used in place of another. I shrug and say; use the word ‘high alcohol’ instead of ‘heat’ or change it to ‘the soil the grapes get their taste from’ instead of their ‘terrior’. You can see where I’m going with this.

However, this month I want to bring you into the realm of an oenophile (a connoisseur of wines) and teach you instead of patronizing you, because as a reader of my monthly review, I know you would expect nothing less. So, before I get to this month’s selection, I want to give you a simple list of top terms used within the world of ‘all things wine’ and if you learn them these terms will help you feel more comfortable when you hear wine references being made. You may already be familiar with some of the terms, having heard them before, but my hope is that you will now have a clear understanding of their meaning. This is a small list of the most popular terms. Enjoy.

Wine Glossary

- the liveliness and crispness noted in wine.


- holding wine in barrels, tanks, and bottles to advance them to a more desirable state.


- the scent of the grape, as well as the smell of wine, especially young wines. (Different than "bouquet")


- when the elements of wine - acids, sugars, tannins, alcohol come together in a harmonious way.


- a wine made from more than one grape varietal.


- a tactile sensation and term describing the weight and fullness of wine in the mouth. A wine can be light, medium, or full-bodied.


- a term that refers to the complex aromas in aged wines.


- allowing wine to come in contact with air to open and improve the flavors.


– wine spoiling yeast that produces barnyard, mousey, metallic and Band-Aid aromas. (You know if when you smell it. “This wine is Bretty.”)


- underdeveloped and young wines whose flavors are not exhibiting well.


- a wine exhibiting numerous odors, nuances, and flavors.

- this denotes that the wine has a depth and richness of fruit that gives it appeal and interest

- a flawed wine that has taken on the scent of its faulty cork. It is perceptible in a bouquet that shows no fruit, only the smell of mustiness, which is reminiscent of a pirate ship.


- the harvest.


- an odor or flavor that of damp soil. This shows in older vintages.


- the conversion of grape sugars to alcohol by yeast.


- The impression of textures and flavors lingering in the mouth after a wine is swallowed.


- Odors perceived in the mouth.


- a tasting term signifying wines that exhibit strong smells and flavors of fresh fruit.


- a wine high in alcohol and flavors, often described as "big".

Hot Wine

- high in alcohol is often described as producing a "hot" burning feeling in the mouth. “That wine has a lot of heat.”


- sediment consisting of dead yeast cells, grape pulp, seed, and other grape matter that accumulates during fermentation.


- ready to drink.


- how a wine smells; a tasting term describing the aromas and bouquets of a wine.


- tasting term denoting smells and flavors of vanilla and toast.


– a wine that is inexpensive, simple, tasty and goes down easily.


- an ambiguous tasting term that implies harmony of fruit, alcohol, acidity, and tannins.


- the phenolic compounds in wines that leave a bitter, dry, puckery feeling in the mouth. “I feel like socks on my teeth after that taste.”

Tartaric Acid

- the principal acid in grapes, tartaric acid promotes flavor and aging in wine.


- French for "soil". Geographical characteristics - chalk, gravel, sand, clay - along with other environmental factors unique to a given vineyard, are also denoted by terroir.


- a tasting term describing how the wine’s being tasted feels on the palate; used more often when describing heavy, dense wines with a big feel.

- a wine made primarily from a single named grape variety and which typically displays the name of that variety on the wine label.

Vitis Vinifera
- the species of grapevines that comprises over 99% of the world's wine.


- the year in which a wine is bottled as well as the yield of wine from a vineyard during a single season.


- similar to "body", the thicker or richer a wine feels in the mouth, the more weight is described as having.


- a microorganism - endemic to vineyards and produced commercially - that converts grape sugars into alcohol.


- an immature wine that is usually bottled and sold within a year of its vintage.

Now, let’s uncork this month’s wine. It’s a classic California, based in Rutherford which is in the heart of the Napa Valley. Probably one of the best priced for a California wine: based on the history of the winemaker, their decades in business, along with their award-winning quality for nearly 40 years.

Grgich Hills Cellar, now properly renamed Grgich Hills Estate, was founded on July 4th, 1977. The winery changed its name in 2006 when it first began producing only "estate grown" wines which are made from the grapes which are exclusively grown in their winery owned vineyards. Owner and winemaker Mike Grgich gained international recognition at the historic Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 when the Chardonnay he produced at Chateau Montelena won first prize among the white wines. (Please see my review of the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay I did a few months ago. I write about the Paris Tasting in more detail).

This review is on their Cabernet Sauvignon. A great fall wine that opens with intense cherry and spice. Their other releases are Fume Blanc (AKA Sauvignon Blanc), Chardonnay, Violetta, Grgić Vina (from their sister winery in Croatia opened by Mike Grgich in 1996), Zinfandel, Merlot and a Petite Sirah. Also for white wine lovers the Grgich Hills chardonnay is an excellent value and has elements that you just don’t find in many Napa whites.

Usually their Cabernet does include Merlot. Small amounts of Merlot can be found in the 2010, 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. What I enjoyed about the 2009 is that there is no Merlot in sight. Not so much in Bordeaux, France. In fact Merlot is grown primarily as a filler wine. In the traditional Bordeaux style, Merlot's role is to add body and softness as it brings the tannin levels down. Grgich however blends in 5% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. What you get is a well-balanced wine with such power that you can taste the history of the vineyard. There is passion in the grapes they produce and after the first sip you are dazed with it.

Grgich farms all of their vineyards naturally, without artificial pesticides or herbicides and they are certified organic and Biodynamic. I’m becoming a big supporter of organic vineyards and a dear friend of mine has made it her mission to bring ‘organics’ to the forefront. In a future review, I’ll tell you more about her and the movement she’s creating. But regarding the Grgich Hills Cab, you really can taste purity in the grape. People are learning that Biodynamic wines are judging better than conventionally grown wines. I need to do more research (more research = more drinking!) and I will get back to you on the matter very soon.

wine1 Grgich Hills Estate
Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009

Winery: Grgich Hills Estate
Vintage: 2009
Region: Napa Valley
Location: Rutherford
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon

Appearance (Color): Deep ornate purple
Aroma (Complexity): Coffee, Spice, Cherry, Plum, Vanilla
Body (Texture and Weight): Full Bodied, Extremely Balanced
Taste (Balance of Flavor): Cherry, Black Currant, Clove, Tobacco
Finish (What lingers): Cinnamon, Cherry, Oak
Price: $50.00

Food Paring: Steak, Italian Food, Dark Chocolate, Heavy Cheeses
Serving Temperature: 64°

Drink now through 2020

Final Rating: 92

My rating system is based on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale.

Wine Points     : How Good the Wine Is

95-100Classic: a great wine
90-94               Outstanding: wine with superior character & style
85-89               Very Good: wine with special qualities
80-84               Good: a solid, well-made wine
70-79               Average: drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
60-69               Below Average: drinkable wine but not recommended
50-59               Poor: undrinkable wine, not recommended


JohnTuri02 John Turi has had an impulsive career as a writer, wine aficionado, and artist. He has two published books of short fiction and poetry.  He is a former child actor with the anxiety to prove it. He began college with a major in Mortuary Science. With a desire for writing he switched to Creative Writing and then finally finished at a free love hippie art college in Southern California as a graphic designer / sculptor. For over six years he worked in the wine industry and acquired a delicate palate for varietals.  For the last 20 years he has become a private rare book and wine collector. He desires California Pinot Noirs, but his true love is the Italian Sassicaia. As a way to pay for his wine collection he works as a senior marketing manager / designer for an adult sex toy company. He is also training to be a certified master sommelier. Currently he resides in Southern California with his lovely wife Shawn-Marie.