The Road to Expensive Non-Vintage Red Wine: Thanks Penfolds!

I’d like to take this opportunity on behalf of all winemakers to thank Penfolds for making a non-vintage red wine and charging $3000 a bottle for it.

Winemakers around the world have been greatly anticipating charging $3000 a bottle for non-vintage red wine.

An American example of non-vintage wine, the Mastro Scheidt Jug! It only costs $39 and it's nearly 1.89L. You should buy some.

An American example of non-vintage wine, the Mastro Scheidt Jug! It only costs $39 and it's nearly 1.89L. You should buy some.

$39 or $3000?

Oh wait…I have been doing it for years. It's called The Jug (yep, that's the label above. It's good wine. Really good). I've been combining vintages to make a consistent blend for over 5 years now, but not charging $3000 for the bottle. Stupid me. I charge $39.

When winemakers combine vintages like they have at Penfolds, it becomes a non-vintage wine, generally regarded as inferior by critics for still red wines. Unlike port and champagne, which are regularly blended across multiple vintages and considered a mark of quality, blending red wines across vintages has long been considered the practice of corporate wineries using 1 gallon and up packaging.

Super Blend or Just Red Wine?

Penfolds of Australia produces the world famous Grange by blending Shiraz (Syrah) with some Cabernet Sauvignon (in most years). A long heralded wine and deservingly so. With the G3, they’ve taken a long held philosophy of Aristotle, that the “sum is greater than the parts”, combining three vintages of Grange together in a single bottling, or as Penfolds called it, “a super-blend” and thus, charging more than any single bottling would cost.

From my own experience blending wines from multiple vintages, the “super-blend” of wines can be beneficial in a few ways. First, a young wine lacking depth and structure is given a boost from a wine that is older, as the older wine has had time to mature. Secondly, the older wine is ‘refreshed’ by the younger wine with more vibrant fruit and freshness. Thirdly, if the wines have been on new oak, the interactions between the wine, oak and time, depending upon the oak origin, can have a whole combination of various results on the finished wine that add a layer of complexity not otherwise derived from the wine itself.

A true test of greatness would be to try each individual vintage of Grange that comprise the G3 super-blend; 2008, 2012 and 2014 side-by-side with the G3. That tasting would cost just under $6000, if you can get your allocation of G3. I’d love to taste it.

I raise my glass to Penfolds and offer a toast to them for getting $3000 a bottle for a non-vintage Shiraz. May we all be so lucky.

Now go buy my Jug for $39!!!

Osteria del 36, Parma

Upon entry, I didn't see anyone at the front desk. So I made a little cough noise. I can only assume it was the owner that heard me, he clapped twice, loudly, as if to summon someone from the back to help. That's exactly what happened. The summons clap, something you won't ever hear in an American restaurant.

Incredible wine list here. Pages of stuff. Lots of big names and verticals from Tuscany. This is where traveling solo has a disadvantage, missing some great wines at reasonable prices. This is probably the reason this restaurant is on the Michelin list as an up and comer.

It's pasta, it's soup, it's good. 

It's pasta, it's soup, it's good. 

This is the first place that I noticed non-Italian music in the background.  Club beats in English no less, from Pitbull. Truly Mr. International.

To start, tortellini con brodo. It was pure. I added 2 spoonfuls of Parmigiano. There's not much to say here, it's broth, it's pasta (some meat filled, some only cheese), it's good. Look at the picture.

Time for your close-up Ms. Pasta

Time for your close-up Ms. Pasta

Wild board with pears

Wild board with pears

For my second plate, wild boar. The cut is a loin chop, bone in, with pear in a red wine reduction finished with what are small enough to be huckleberries and  a ton of butter. A true pan sauce style. The boar is gamey and wildish in texture and flavor like wild ducks. Frankly, a bit tough and chewy. The rare part near the bone is where it's at. The Italians can cook a steak perfectly rare, but pork or boar, always cooked through. The pan sauce is the bomb. I actually took bread to soak it up. If it weren't for the sauce, I would have been disappointed.

A first, Parmigiano with honey

A first, Parmigiano with honey

Parmigiano with honey. A first. The pairing doesn't clash with the pitcher of wine. No problem. Never seen honey served with Parmigiano, only w Gorgonzola. 

This is basically what I drank at Osteria 36

This is basically what I drank at Osteria 36

My pitcher of red wine is a drinker, plain and simple. It's my Jug wine. It's red, Sangiovese based and an easy going bouquet that will pair with everything I eat. This is why I made the Jug wine.

Grappa generally has a couple choices, morbide or dolce and then bianco or the caramel colored variety that has been aged in oak. The Italian purists believe that anything other than bianco is not one should drink. Basically, the oak adds color, some sweetness and mellows out the flavor. That oak treatment is something I've seen in many an American restaurant for sure. We do love oak, sweetness and mellowing. I tend to get bianco and morbide.

Grappa and the end of another meal

Grappa and the end of another meal

Was this my best dining experience in Parma? No. However, there was one very positive take-away, chunks of 24 month or older Parmigiano pair very well with wild honey and dry red wine and for that alone, I'm glad I dined here.

Rack, Return, Jug!

Blending the Mastro Scheidt Mastrogiacomo Craft Red Wine Growler has been a top priority in early 2015.  For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm blending The Jug for 2015.

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This is a good opportunity to explain a little bit more about The Mastrogiacomo Jug. Let's address the name on The Jug. Mastrogiacomo, shortened to Mastro at Ellis Island, is my mother’s maiden name. My Italian ancestors immigrated to Fresno, California from Southern Italy in the early 1900s.

Nearly every one of my Italian relatives made wine in their basement and nearly every one of them bottled their wine (if they bottled it at all) in a jug. Fast forward about 100 years to what I'm doing at Mastro Scheidt Cellars; where I've taken the jug very seriously and crafted a high-quality red wine blend from Sonoma County and turned it into a cult favorite with both first-time buyers and regular enthusiasts of my more traditional offerings.

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Since its infancy, my red wine Jug was blended with 100% Sonoma County fruit. I've always used fruit that I've purchased and fermented to create my master blend, no corner cutting. My Jug is NOT 'the leftovers' from each year. Far from it.

Winemaker and Owner, David Scheidt steam cleaning barrels

Winemaker and Owner, David Scheidt steam cleaning barrels

Every barrel is selected by me, with the same attention to detail as our single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. I use high quality French, American, and Hungarian oak to age my jug wine.  The Jug is by design a non-vintage blend. I could declare a vintage, but this gives me the freedom as the winemaker to blend more well-rounded (read: more barrel time) wine from my cellar. 

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And then I blend. And blend again. And again. Then test and test again. Until the final product is easy to enjoy and readily drinkable. The Jug is not meant for aging or time in bottle, it's meant to drink. I rack off gross lees, allowing the wine to settle, as our method of fining and filtering the wine, rather than use a filtration system. We then bottle without adding additional sulphites.

The goal is for a great glass of wine that I personally produced from Sonoma County that is affordable and appeals to the casual drinker and connoisseur; hopefully around a table of friends and food. It has always been my ideal to tell you exactly what's in my blends and what my process is. The 'mystery' of what I do is the daily, weekly, and monthly planning (what barrels to bottle when), tasting (and spitting a lot) and testing (the less glamorous stuff) of each vintage and non-vintage bottling.

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Loud and Clear

The first of its kind Craft Wine Growler Dinner in Fresno was performed with unique flair and precision (and a little fun).

Front of House Ink...Loud and Clear

Front of House Ink...Loud and Clear

The entire staff, both front and back-of-house were ready for the end of a jam-packed Restaurant Week. The staff were encouraged to "dress down" from their more formal dress code, to something that resembled backyard BBQ attire (the Hawaiian shirt above, show off some personal ink and the shoes at the bottom). To fit the more relaxed theme of the evening, a special menu of small bites were prepared to pair perfectly with our craft wine growler...lovingly referred to by Mastro Scheidt fans as "The Jug".

For all the pictures, click on our Craft Growler BBQ gallery. I've got some shots of personal ink, the shoes all the staff wore and the various hats worn by all the kitchen staff that evening. A fun look inside the restaurant business and the characters that work in it.

BBQ Ribs

BBQ Ribs

The Jug is 100% Sonoma County Red Wine composed of Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon hand-blended and hand-bottled. Each and every guest in the sold out restaurant received their own craft growler at the conclusion of dinner to take home.

Blade

Blade

Thanks to each and every guest for their participation and enthusiasm.

The Best Shoes I've ever seen in the Front of House

The Best Shoes I've ever seen in the Front of House

Sunday Dinner at Lake Mary, Mammoth Lakes

Cooking for two people is fun and easy. Cooking for 12 people is a challenge. Cooking for 40+ people and then transporting the food to a remote location is like running a mini-restaurant for the night.

On the last evening of the 2014 Mammoth Food and Wine Experience, T.L., Brother John and I cooked for 40 people at the Pokonobe Resort on Lake Mary.

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For our last night in Mammoth, we went with our strength...Italian food...which translates into Pizza, Pasta and Grilled Veggies.

John cooked his specialty, a Spring/Summer fusilli pasta dish complete with pancetta, finely minced and slowly cooked in butter garlic, onion, and red peppers and finished with fine herbs. In addition, my brother really enjoyed his new toy, the flat top grill.

T.L. who has worked several dinners with me before, cooked nearly 20 pounds of pasta that night, roasted about 30 pounds of vegetables, and was our utility player for the day working different prep and finishing stations.

I worked on the various sauces, doughs, pizza, dessert, seasonings and final tasting, along with logistics with our culinary liason, Dan Molnar from the Mammoth Lakes Foundation. A special thanks to Dan for his help in coordinating the evening with the Foundation and Marci Satterfield of the Pokonobe Resort at Lake Mary.

In addition to the cooking that T.L., my brother John and I did that evening, I asked a couple other locals to lend their creative talents, baking talents specifically, to the evening. Elizabeth McGuire of The East Side Bake Shop (who I cook with regularly) and duo from Mountain Cakery, Cora Coleman and Lauren Jenks. Thanks to all of you for your help in adding a sweet finishing touch to the evening.

Mammoth Burger Battle 2014

The Mammoth Food and Wine Experience 2014 in Mammoth Lakes, CA was a jam-packed event for everyone at Mastro Scheidt Cellars.

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In a repeat of last year, The Best-of-the-Best Burger Battle kicked off the weekend Friday afternoon. However, this year was special, as Chef and Co-Owner Jason Hoeltzel of CJ's Grill incorporated a secret ingredient in his house-made ketchup...Mastro Scheidt Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Vinegar.

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This is the second year that Chef Jason and Winemaker David Scheidt have collaborated at the Mammoth Food and Wine Experience. In 2013, Jason and David paired wines with Alpers Trout, a specialty in the Eastern Sierras.

The stakes were raised this year for The Best-of-the-Best Burger Battle, as the winning Chef would qualify to compete in the World Food Championship, Best Burger Specialty, in Las Vegas later this year.

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Photo Courtesy of Kendra Knight...Blue Bird Imaging

Chef Jason walked away with the First Place prize in this year's Mammoth Food and Wine Experience Burger Battle 2014 and was automatically entered in The World Food Championship. We're very pleased to have our very own Mastro Scheidt Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Vinegar play a supporting role in Chef Jason's hand-crafted ketchup.

Everyone at Mastro Scheidt Cellars wishes Jason and CJ's Grill the best of luck at the World Food Championships later this year.

The Jug Debut

The Spring Tasting in Bakersfield was the official debut of the Mastrogiacomo Wine Growler, a.k.a. The Jug.

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Known to beer enthusiasts as a 'growler', the wine world has rarely seen a growler available for commercial sale. Let's define a growler:

  • 64 Ounces or
  • a Half a Gallon or
  • 1.89L (for the rest of the world) or
  • Nearly 3 bottles of wine (for those wine drinkers out there)

100% of the wine contained in the jug is from Sonoma County. The dominant varietal used in the Spring Blend is Sangiovese. While the dominant variety used in the Fall Blend is Cabernet Sauvignon. 

All of the jugs are gravity fed, hand blended and hand bottled, unfined and unfiltered without additional sulphites. The Jug is a pure expression of high-quality Sonoma County fruit that is ready to drink.

If you would like to purchase The Jug, call us at 707.385.1460 or fill out your contact infomation here. Our Jugs are in limited supply and only available to residents of California.