Thursday, April 26, 2018


Los Vinos de España
(The Wines of Spain)

If my memories are correct, my first encounter with Spanish wine was a bottle of Yago Sangria, when it still had the plastic net, in the back seat of a car on the way to the Syria Mosque to hear Stanley Turrentine play.  I was 17. Things have changed since then.

Join us on Wednesday May 9, 2018 at 7:00

We will taste six wines from Spain, the world leader in exporting wine.  Here is a chance to sample some of the most exciting wines on the market, and have an expert tell us about them.  If you feel the urge, Spanish attire is welcomed!

Our tasting will be presented by Rob McCaughey this month.  Rob grew up in London and was faced with a choice of a law degree or a life in the booze business.  Needless to say he chose the latter and has spent the last 20 years roaming the globe in the hospitality and beverage industries.  Rob has worked throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East and brings an international perspective and a wealth of knowledge to our tasting.

Rob’s certifications include: WSET Level 3 Award in Wines and Spirits as well as Level 2 Award in Spirits (with distinction); Certified Specialist in Spirits with the Society of Wine Educators; Advanced Bartender graduate of the United States Bartender Guild’s Master Accreditation Program.

WEDNESDAY, May 9, 2018

Evergreen Community Center

3430 Evergreen Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15237



 The cost for members or guests is $25.

Please reply before May 4, 2018 to:

Or you may reply to 412-657-0777.

Mail your check, payable to AWS to:

Dr. Dennis Trumble
1302 Arch St
Pittsburgh PA  15212

Don’t forget to visit the website for directions, useful tips, and recipes.

Monday, April 23, 2018

¡Viva la Revolucion!

El que con vino cena, con agua desayuna.
(He who dines with wine, breakfasts with water.)

Forty years ago, Spanish wine was nowhere on the global map. Now, it has almost legendary status among connoisseurs the wine world. Ever since Spain joined the 1985 there has been a revolution in Spanish Wine.

At one time, if you asked someone what their favorite Spanish wine was, you would likely get “Sangria” as an answer.  Here are a few bits of “cocktail fodder” (or in this case, “tapas fodder”) to use as you like.  Join us at our next tasting for more!

Spanish wine was the Romans' favorite drink 
They’ve been making wine in Spain since the first century AD. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder raved about wines made from the area known today as Alella, near Barcelona. Another Roman, Ovid, noted the most popular wine in Rome (from Spain of course) known as Saguntum, was only good for getting your mistress drunk. The Catalan regional government found remnants of an ancient Roman wine press and has developed an interactive museum tour to see how wine was made during this time.

Spain is a record breaking exporter 
Spain is the top exporter of wine in the world.  In 2017, Spain exported over 60 million gallons with the majority of it going to France. Not only is Spain a top exporter, but in 2017 it was the third largest producer of wine, behind France and Italy with one billion gallons produced. While everyone thinks of Rioja when they think of Spanish wine, the top area for volume is actually Castille/La Mancha near the capital of Madrid.

Spanish wine has different classifications. 
Spain has 78 sub-regions of wine across 17 provinces of the country, including the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands. They are classified as Denominación de Origen (DO) and Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOC). Both denote wineries meeting stringent requirements to produce wine, with the DOC designation being the highest quality. Currently only two regions have met DOC requirement in Spain, Rioja and Priorat. In Catalonia, it’s referred to as DOQ Priorat due to the Catalan language spelling and pronunciation.
There are over 400 grape varieties in Spain! 
Most of the production comes from Tempranillo, Garnacha, Monastrell, Albariño, Palomino, Airen, Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo. The most widely planted is Airen, a white wine grape which is valued for a variety of reasons including its hardiness. Second is Tempranillo, the popular grape of Rioja, followed closely by Garnacha which is planted throughout Spain but mostly known internationally due to the Catalan region of Priorat.

Cava isn't only from Catalonia
Everyone knows that Cava is the Spanish equivalent of sparkling wine, which uses a similar method of production as Champagne. Although 95% of Cava production comes from Catalonia where it originated in the late 19th century at Codorniu Winery in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, it can also be produced in Aragon, Castile and Leon, Valencia, Extremadura, Navarra, Basque Country and Rioja. It is regulated by DO Cava, which determines the rules and regulations of the production of Cava.

Spanish wine was Picasso's inspiration. 

Pablo Picasso’s inspiration for the cubism movement came from his time in DO Terra Alta town of Horta de Sant Joan, south of Barcelona and near the Catalan border town of Tortosa. Picasso spent time there while he was splitting his time between Barcelona and Paris beginning in 1901. In fact, in many of Picasso’s paintings you can see the elements of the people from the towns, and also the vineyards where he sometimes slept in at night. Wine is also directly in many of his works, including Bottle and Wine Glass on a Table from 1912.

La Rioja has been making wines for almost a thousand years. 
The first mention of the name Rioja in official documents as a wine producing region dates back to 1092, while during the same time, King Garcia Sanchez I donated lands  to the monastery of San Millan de la Cogolla, which included the vineyards. Monks and monasteries played an important role in wine production all across Spain after lands were reconquered from the Moors starting at that time, and leading up to 1834 when legislations saw monastery lands confiscated for the benefit of the citizens of Spain.

The Franco years were dark days for Spanish wine. 
The Franco dictatorship was a dark time for wine production, as wine was not allowed to be exported. Franco believed that wine should only be used for church sacraments and not much else. Still, when it was discovered that President Eisenhower was a fan of sparkling wines, Franco commissioned Perelada to produce a special cava for his visit to Spain in December of 1959. Some of the original bottles from the commission are on display at the winery. Salvador Dali was also a fan of Perelada cava, offering it to his guests who came to visit.

Spain is the number one producer of organic wine in the world.  
Over 197,000 acres of land is specifically registered and documented as organic. Even one of Spain’s largest wine producers, Torres, has one third of their vineyards as organic. This has been a dramatic rise, as organic wineries were rare in Spain up until the 1990s. However, due to traditional winemaking techniques, many winemakers throughout Spain have refused to use chemicals or pesticides in wine production since the 1950s.

The Only Sherry is Spanish Sherry. 
Sherry is originally from the Jerez region of southern Spain. In fact, other areas around the world aren’t allowed to use the word Sherry as the region has a trademark on the brand, similar to the French region of Champagne. Sherry production dates back to the 8th century, and it may have been around for much longer. It was first exported in the 12th century and became popular in England, and other areas began to adopt the methods to make their own variation of Sherry. In the 16th century Sherry was regarded as the finest wine available in Europe. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Let's Talk Wine

¿Como es tu español?
(How’s Your Spanish?)

Our next tasting will be an exploration of the wines of Spain. Do you love the culture, the music, the food and the wine of Spain and want to learn more? Then, this is the tasting for you! So that you’ll feel more “at home”, this short vocabulary will get you through the tasting just fine!

Beginner Spanish Wine/ Drinking Vocabulary

Beber– to Drink
Brindar– to toast or cheers
Boedga– this is what the Spanish refer to as a winery or wine cellar.  There is generally no vineyard nearby. Simply a place where you can buy wine, taste wine and sometimes take a tour of the premises.
Cata– Wine tasting (analytical and objective)
Cosecha– harvest of the grapes, often listed on bottles with year of harvest
Degustar/Probar– Try or Taste (subjective tasting)
Dejo– Aftertaste
Resaca– Hangover – if its really bad “rasaca fatal”
Uvas– grapes, the famous grape of La Rioja is called Tempranillo

How much are you drinking

Una botella– A bottle
Una media botella– Half bottle
Un Vaso– A glass

Types of Wine

Vino de la casa– House wine
Vino blanco– white wine
Vino tinto– red wine. (The Spanish don’t say vino rojo but instead tinto- tinted wine)
Vino de mesa– “table wine.” This wine is of a lesser quality and more for daily consumption.
Vino dulce– sweet wine
Vino seco– dry wine
Cava– natural sparkling wine

Want a little more?

Joven/vino del año– this wine, commonly referred to as ‘Rioja wine,’ is literally young wine or wine from the current year. These wines are usually the best when enjoyed within the first 6 months on the market and have a soft and fruity taste. With little to no oak barrel aging, they range from one to two years (maximum) old and are the cheapest of the bunch!
Crianza– The oak aging time of the Crianza is a minimum of one year, with a few months to a year in bottle. This wine has a light oak taste, but it is not too prominent. Basically a Crianza is your well-valued, upper-scale daily drinking wine, perfect for tapas hopping and casual conversation.
Reserva– Reservas are red wines with a minimum aging period of three years. They spend at least one of these years in oak barrels, following with at least two in the bottle. Most wine lovers declare Reservas the perfect Riojas- not too fruity, not too oakey, but just right.
Gran Reserva– While the aging process for the Gran Reserva is a minimum of 5 years, it is important not to rush the perfection of these superior Rioja wines. These deeply oakey ‘vintage’ wines are made with the best grapes and aged as long as the winemaker perceives is needed in both oak and in bottle.

Be sure to mark the blog as one of your favorites!

Friday, April 13, 2018

OK. It wasn't ALL French. . .

It was an explosive good time!

We’d like to thank John Hoffman and Wendell Barner for the presentation of “Bubbles and Blades” on Wednesday.  If you missed the tasting, or couldn’t watch on Facebook Live, we had good wine, good food and learned a lot about the sparkling side of the wine world.

John and Wendell provided the demonstration of sabering a sparkling wine bottle, with the attendant scientific explanation of the process.  John also provided some tips on how to safely open a bottle of champagne without the use of a long, sharp, dangerous weapon.  He added some ideas for champagne cocktails for those times when you need to host a brunch.  As John quoted, “Don’t save champagne for special occasions.  Make the occasion special.”

Wendell presented six wines for our enjoyment.  He contrasted “Old World” with “New World” in three flights of two wines each.  The wines, prices, and LCB numbers are listed below.  Wendell expertly explained the various methods of making these wines sparkle, and the differences in the outcome.  As a bonus, he got to talk about Geology when explaining the soil types in the different regions!

One of our newest members, Julia Rittelmann was our host for the evening.  She provided a great selection of cheeses, nuts, bread, smoked salmon spread and fruit to complement the wines.  As usual, a special thanks to our Co-Vice-Chair Humans, Kevin and Bob Dering for selecting, getting and serving the wines.  That function takes a LOT of work and we really appreciate the job that they do.

Velenosi Verdicchio dei Castelli de Jesi, 2016  78753  $9.99 (Welcome Wine)

Sharffenberger Brut Excellence, NV, Mendocino CA  1475  17.99

Canella Prosecco Extra Dry Superiore de Conegliano Valdobbiadene, NV Italy  46749  19.99

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve Champagne NV, France  8568  39.99

Chapel Down Vintage Reserve Brut, NV  England  19730  39.99 *

Louis Pommery Brut, NV California  49100  21.99

Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux Brut, NV  5083  13.99

*People’s Choice for the tasting

Únete a nosotros el próximo mes por los vinos de España.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

It's All the Way Live

As Lakeside said in 1978, "It's all the way live (now)"

If you are not able to join us in person for our next tasting, Bubbles and Blades, you can still get in on the fun!  We will be LIVE on Facebook!  Join us on your phone, tablet, laptop, desktop or smart TV. Be sure to follow us at:


Evergreen Community Center
3430 Evergreen Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15237



 The cost for members or guests is $30.

Please reply before April 8, 2018 to:

Or you may reply to 412-657-0777.

Mail your check, payable to AWS to:

Dr. Dennis Trumble
1302 Arch St
Pittsburgh PA  15212

Don’t forget to visit the website for directions,
useful tips, and recipes.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

BYOG (if you like)


As you know, our next tasting, Bubbles and Blades, will be all sparkling wines. That prompts the question of glassware. Do you prefer to drink your bubbles from a flute? Are you in the camp of the “cool kids” who say that a tulip glass is better? Or, are you a traditionalist who loves the “Great Gatsby” look of a champagne coupe?

Originally, during the time of Louis XV of France, the coupe was used to shoot Champagne like a shot rather than sip. Because our drinking of Champagne has evolved to a slower pace, this can hint at why the anatomy of the glass did too. The shallow bowl that sits on the short stem allows for the quick gulp whereas the long flute shows off its bubbles.

The flute started to make its way into hands by the 1950s as the coupe exited the scene by the 1960s. Although the coupe has been around longer, many avid Champagne drinkers believe the poor design of the coupe leaves the flute here to stay. The coupe’s shallow glass means that spillage is more likely and it also wasn’t designed with the bubbles in mind.

The flute, however, has a nucleation point at the bottom of the glass where bubbles gather to rise to the top. The narrow surface space of the flute means less oxygen will reach the Champagne so the bubbles stay longer. Perhaps that’s why people of the past shot the drink to maintain the carbonation.

Though we might miss our vintage coupes, we’ll suggest either the flute or the tulip glass. If you prefer a flute, please bring your own. If you insist, feel free to bring your own coupes!


Evergreen Community Center
3430 Evergreen Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15237



 The cost for members or guests is $30.

Please reply before April 8, 2018 to:

Or you may reply to 412-657-0777.

Mail your check, payable to AWS to:

Dr. Dennis Trumble
1302 Arch St
Pittsburgh PA  15212

Don’t forget to visit the website for directions,
useful tips, and recipes.