Wine: Great Legs and a Firm Ass

Tim Nodland, Winemaker

Author: Tim Nodland

Almost every time I attend a wine tasting I hear some know-it-all say that a wine is well made because it has “great legs”. When someone refers to “great legs” they are referring to the droplets of liquid coming down the side of the wine glass like tears.  Pick up your glass, perhaps you have in it the Nodland Cellars Private Blend, swirl it and let the wine hit the side of the glass. You will see liquid coming down the side of the glass like tears. In wine jargon these are the “legs”. The French call them “tears”. Contrary to what you will hear at wine tastings, these “legs” or “tears” do not indicate the quality of the wine.

The “tears” are present on the side of the wine glass because alcohol evaporates faster than water. The alcohol crawls up the glass as it evaporates but the film of water on top pushes it into an arch until gravity wins over and the water’s surface tension is broken and the water runs back down the side of the glass in tears.

Stated another way, the “legs” effect is a result of alcohol having a lower surface tension than water. When water and alcohol are mixed together on the side of the wine glass, the region of the glass with the lower concentration of alcohol has a greater surface tension and will pull on the surrounding fluid more than the area with the higher alcohol concentration and the lower surface tension. The water flows away from the areas with a higher alcohol concentration and down the side of the glass.

To prove this principle of basic physics you can cover the glass to stop the evaporation and the “legs” will not form.

And so it is a myth that the legs on the side of a glass indicate the quality of the wine and is just a matter of fluid dynamics. It is also wrong that the legs indicate the presence of glycerol in the wine or from it you can tell how much alcohol is in the wine. It would take too large amount of glycerol or too great of increase in alcohol to notice a change in the effect.

So at the next wine tasting, beg to disagree about the meaning of “legs” on the side of a wine glass. Tell your friends that it is merely the “Gibbs-Marangoni effect” understood and explained by scientists in 1855. Or if you wish to amuse yourself at their expense, tell them that the wine not only has great legs but also a very firm ass.


Wine Headache! – Here’s the “Cure”

Tim Nodland, Winemaker

Author: Tim Nodland

It’s not what you have heard. Sulfites do not cause wine headaches! That is a myth and science has thoroughly debunked it. You have to let go of that one. No, wrong again, it is not the tannin in red wine. That is a myth as well. The culprits are histamine and tyramine, two compounds present in inconsistent amounts in the various types of wines and in differing levels from wines from the various grape producing areas of the world.

Histamine is found in many red wines and some whites and that varies by region and by grape variety. This compound dilates blood vessels which in some people causes a harmless headache. The cure? Caffeine in coffee has a reverse effect of reducing the size of blood vessels as does things like salt, licorice and ginger.  I have a friend who takes a Claritin histimine blocker before indulging in a few glasses of wine.

Tyramine is found in cheese, bananas, chocolate and also in some wines. It causes blood pressure to rise and that may cause a headache in some people, usually only those who are on specific medicines that increase the effect. Riesling is high in tyramine. The answer is to try drinking Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay which are usually lower in the substance.

Most interesting is the importance of where the wine was produced, since the soils in Europe and other older areas of wine growing have been so depleted over the centuries, it turns out that new fine wine regions have lower amounts of these headache causing compounds. Washington State is thought to have the lowest levels of headache causing compounds in both reds and whites due to the rich volcanic soils that are in pristine condition in what is a very young wine growing region producing world class fine wines.

So here is your answer. Experiment with different wines, find out which give you a headache and which don’t. When in doubt pick a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay or other white wine from a young wine growing region like Washington State or New Zealand. Don’t give up on the reds! Try a glass of Washington red wine and experiment. You might be surprised to find you can drink many wines you never thought possible. Perhaps try one of the reds produced by Nodland Cellars which uses grapes from the rich soils of the Walla Walla Valley. Always drink wine with food, preferably during a meal and if you are prone to headaches avoid the cheese and chocolate. Have a cup of coffee at the end of each meal where you drink wine. Some report anti-histamines and Ibuprofen help if you get a wine headache (but I should offer a caveat by saying you should read the label and contact a doctor before taking any medicine and if you have migraines you should be seeing a doctor for advice anyway). Finally, drink an 8 ounce glass of water for each glass of wine…that also prevents the common hangover.

So there you go! Time to start the fun experimentation of which wines work for you and take the headache out of drinking wine.

Fifty Shades of Grape

Author: Tim Nodland

“Whip me, squeeze me, make me wine…” Christian Grey begins the evening by sharing a bottle of wine from his cellar with his lady conquest. After a few glasses, when her cheeks are slightly flushed, he quietly takes her hand and leads her to his secret red room for a passionate liaison. Anastasia, his muse, is filled with delight and no matter what he does to her, she always comes back for more. So goes the best selling erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey”.

Beyond popular literature and into the real world of viticulture, there are the Fifty Shades of Grape. There are so many wines, so many grape varieties, so many places where grapes are grown and wine is made. The vineyards are located in the most romantic places on earth. There are 50 Shades of Grape because of this wide diversity of terroir and expressions of wine but also because wine itself as a beverage is very sensual. It is a uniquely romantic liquid. There is passion, beauty and art in this drink.

Wine is often spoken of as if it were a beautiful woman. Wine has a good body. It is elegant, sophisticated, hot, sexy, luscious, fashionable. Wine has long legs, it has pedigree, it can be pouty, cloying, spicy and there is delight in finding one that is bold yet silky smooth.

Some women appreciate a man who knows his way around a wine list. Thus, many a well chosen bottle of fine wine has lead to a romantic encounter. This is particularly true because the fermented grape has been scientifically proven to be a strong aphrodisiac in women. Studies show that women who drink two glasses of wine a day have a stronger libido than non-wine drinkers. The compounds in red wine increase blood flow to the female erogenous zones. Women who drink wine daily were found to think about intimate relations more frequently than those who do not imbibe. Finally, studies show that wine drinkers have healthier sex lives, regardless of their age.

Beyond the scientific studies, drinking wine is a sensual experience. When drinking wine, all of the senses are invoked. One eyes the beauty of the color, the clarity of the liquid, the curves of the crystal. Getting closer, there is the scent of perfume on the nose. Once put in the mouth it explodes with flavor and there is the sensation of the nectar on the tongue. When swallowed, the flavor lingers on for a long finish leaving one satisfied, savoring the moment but soon longing for more.

In essence then, wine is for lovers who seek a new experience with each encounter. It is a drink, but more than any other it has so many flavors and colors to choose from, white, straw, pink, light red, crimson, purple to opaque black. So bring out the good crystal, uncork the excitement of an excellent bottle and explore the Fifty Shades of Grape. There is romance in every glass.


Top Walla Walla Merlot Vineyards

Tim Nodland, Winemaker

Author: Tim Nodland

Walla Walla is home to some of the greatest Merlot vineyards in the world. Among the great vineyards of this AVA, three stand out for exceptional Merlot. Each vineyard has distinctive flavor characteristics.

Seven Hills Vineyard. This vineyard is located in the southern portion of the Walla Walla wine growing region or “AVA” and is actually located in Oregon, closer to Milton Freewater than downtown Walla Walla. The vines are planted on a slope that faces north and northwest. The soils are sandy loam and have good water drainage. It is a warm site that often survives frosts and other catastrophic events. The microclimate of the site and the outstanding management accounts for the high quality of the wine grapes grown there. The Merlot grown here has a distinct dark fruit characteristic reminiscent of Bing cherries.

Pepperbridge Vineyard. North of Stateline road and close to the Milton highway, this vineyard is well known to provide premium bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon. What is not so well known is the site produces big bodied and well structured Merlot. Fine soils with few stones, the best portion of the vineyard is located on a bench that slopes generally to the north although some parts do face south. There is a lesser portion of the vineyard to the north separated from the main section by a hay field which is flat and yields lesser quality than the southern bench. The Merlot is full of dark fruit, cherries, plums, lots of tannin all on a huge frame.

Ash Hollow Vineyard. Located on the far western side of the Walla Walla Valley, this cooler site faces south. The soils also are fine and have good drainage but this vineyard can suffer from frost and freeze more than its neighbors to the south of the valley. Ash Hollow Merlot is closer to a medium body and produces fruit flavors that are bright and fresh, similar to Rainier cherries.

You can find some good bottles of Merlot from these vineyards from various Walla Walla wineries including Saviah, Seven Hills Winery, Ash Hollow Winery and Pepperbridge Winery. The only wine to contain all three of these vineyards in one bottle is the Nodland Cellars “Bad Attitude” red wine. This one is a blend of Walla Walla Merlot from these three top vineyards, blended with Malbec and small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot . Cherries, blueberries, spice and a hint of vanilla. Retail price is $20 at the winery.

Posted on November 28, 2010 at 7:43 pm by admin · Permalink · 329 Comments
In: grapes, Nodland Cellars, Tim Nodland, vineyards · Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Carmenere – The Lost Grape, Recently Rediscovered

Tim Nodland, Winemaker

Author: Tim Nodland

Almost thought extinct, the grape we now call Carmenere was once called Biturica and was the darling grape of ancient Romans who planted the vine all over Europe. It took hold in a city they named Biturica, after the grape which is now called Bordeaux. It is no surprise then that Carmenere is now one of the six allowed Bordeaux varieties. in the late 1800’s the wine grapes of Europe were mostly wiped out by a bug brought over from the New World and Carmenere was not replanted. It was then thought extinct for 150 years until it was discovered that the Spaniards had propagated the vine along with the Catholic missions to be used as sacramental wine in South America.

Some plantings survived in Chile but were unrecognized as they survived largely among the Merlot vines, which for decades gave Chilean Merlot based wines a unique flavor. DNA testing recently revealed that, in fact, there was actually Carmenere vines growing along with the Merlot. Chile now produces a few bottlings of straight Carmenere and a limited number make their way into this country. Chilean Carmenere bottlings vary greatly in quality but the best are big, bold and muscular. Most lack finesse.

Carmenere is even more rare in the United States and the most interesting place to grow it is Washington State where the grape yields medium body, elegant wines that are spicy, exotic, and enticing with wild berries, cherries, and a distinct note of cracked black peppercorn. When grown in Walla Walla, it provides the ultimate expression of the grape with a unique sophistication and grace that delights the senses with a flourish of spice and fruit. The wines from Walla Walla are more feminine and sexy than their Chilean counterparts.

If your curiosity is aroused, then you will be happy to learn that Nodland Cellars, produces a few cases of Carmenere from the famed Seven Hills Vineyard in Walla Walla. This wine is only produced in special years and only in limited quantities. The 2007 “Avant-garde” Carmenere is a delicious rendering of the wine, aged in a mix of French and Hungarian oak for two years in order to bring out a cardamon and cinnamon spice to complement the rich fruit and peppercorn notes that make it so special and unique. For more information on the Avant-garde, 100% Carmenere red wine, contact the winery at (509) 927-7770.

Posted on November 27, 2010 at 7:35 pm by admin · Permalink · 181 Comments
In: grapes, Nodland Cellars, Tim Nodland, vineyards · Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,