Tale #00001

So has the recession affected wine sales? Yes and no. It has affected the dollar amount of sales but it has not affected the volume of sales.

People are still buying wine, but now the emphasis is on choosing bottles that represent quality received for value rendered. In other words, consumers are now looking for a good buy.

A few years ago people were buying $20-$40 bottles of wine without a second thought. Today, the $8, $9, and $10 bottles of wine are leading the market. The hottest items on wine store shelves in the past few years have been the $7-$10 “fighting varietals”.

Per capita wine consumption is about the same now as it was last year, but the highly priced wines are finding few takers. It’s all a matter of finding balance. The yuppie-inspired spend, spend, spend mentality of the 80’s is being replaced with a more prudent attitude toward spending as we move into the 2000’s. Ultimately this will be for the best because it indicates that a balance will be found which will bring things back into perspective.

As a consumer, you should know that you can trust the judgment of the clerks at Crazy Billy’s. We go out of our way to find quality wines at affordable prices so that you will be satisfied with your purchase.  Any time you want to ask questions, please feel free to do so.

Tale #00002

Do you know that grapes were planted in France back when it was known as Gaul and part of the Roman Empire? In the second century B.C.  there was a thriving wine business from the Greek colony of Massilia, now known as Marseilles. Two great trade routes by river and road were already established. One went north up the Garrone river to Gironde where goods were shipped across the channel to England. The other went up the Rhone and Soane rivers to the Moselle River and points north or across land to the Loire river Valley.

In those days wine was shipped in earthenware pots called amphora. Wrecked ships loaded with amphorae have been found on the bottom of the Mediterranean with jars that contain a liquid that was new wine from the years before Christ was born.

As hardier grape varieties were developed, viticulture spread northward. In the early middle Ages, Rouen was an important port and French wines were shipped to England as well as Spain and Portugal. In those days, many of the vineyards in France belonged to the church – the monks took almost as much pains to spread the vine as they took to spread the word and their wines became an important source of revenue.

By 1750, commercial wine houses were established and they have been exporting French wines ever since –  some of which continue to this day. Of course you can find the wines they export at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00003

Did you know that every year the first glass of Sake that is produced in Japan is reserved for the emperor?

Each year when the new harvest of Sake is ready, a ceremony is held at the emperor’s palace. Sake lovers from all over the island gather to observe the event and to vie for the honor of being among the first to taste the new wine. After the emperor has tasted the first glass, he places it on a shrine and in a simple ceremony thanks the gods for providing a bountiful harvest.

Sake truly is the universal drink of Japan. It is served at family gatherings and offered to friends who drop by. They seal business contracts with it and use it to cement quarrels. At christenings and weddings it is used to propose toasts that will assure good fortune, good health and abundant wealth.

Sake has traditionally been associated with women and the ancient Japanese word for wine master is Toji which means “woman of the house.” An ancient maxim states that, “Sake should be served warm…and by a warm hearted woman.”

If you are looking for something different to offer your family and friends, why not plan a traditional Japanese dinner complete with Sake? And don’t forget that the best place to shop on Long Island for Sake is at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00004

Premium wines from Chile? Indeed so, say the expert wine tasters. French and American winemakers are looking to Chile for new terrain in which to expand their already successful wine making operations.

Chile’s winemaking valleys lie between the towering Andes and a small foothill range where hot, dry summers and abundant snow melt create a climate comparable to the Napa Valley in California and the Bordeaux region in France.

Varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grow so well in Chile that Bordeaux’s Mouton Rothschild has invested in a 250-year old wine estate near Peralillo. Robert Mondavi, a prominent California winemaker, is involved in a winemaking venture with the 125 year old Vina Errazuriz. In fact, for the past ten years, foreign winemakers have invested millions of dollars in Chile’s estate wineries, improving production techniques and thus improving quality.

So move over Pomerol, Loire, Napa, Sonoma and Monterey. It’s time to make way on the wine shelves for names such as Santa Rita, Aconcagua Valley, Casa Lapostolle Colchaqua, Villa Montes Curico, and Errazuriz Don Maximiano.

Chilen wines tend to be affordable, hearty, spicy, fruity, sturdy and great for simple meals like hamburgers or barbeque.

And don’t forget that we stock the best imports from all over the world at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00005

Legend has it that Baptist minister named Elijah Craig was the first distiller in Bourbon County Kentucky to make whiskey.

This historical fact can be traced to an entry made in a volume called the History of Kentucky that was published in 1874. Author Richard Collins wrote, “The first Bourbon Whiskey was made in 1789 at Georgetown, at the fulling mill at the Royal spring.”

Now Elijah Craig was a unique individual. He had a following of religious devotees but for some reason they were chased out of Virginia and migrated to Lebanon Town in Kentucky in 1786.

A year later, the name was changed to Georgetown to honor George Washington. In 1787 Reverend Craig founded the school that has become Georgetown College. In 1789, he established the first fulling mill for making cloth. In 1793, he opened Kentucky’s first paper plant. In 1795, he started a shipping business on the Kentucky River.

On September 26, 1798 he and 177 of his neighbors were found guilty of making whiskey without a license and fined $140.

So whether the elusive Reverend Craig was really the first Bourbon-maker is disputable. But that he was Kentucky’s first big time entrepreneur is not.

And I say “Hat’s Off!” to whoever invented Bourbon. It is America’s favorite whiskey to this day. And don’t forget that you can pick up your favorite brand at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00006

Word from the California and Oregon wine country is that the 1994 vintage Pinot Noirs are superb. For decades American made Pinot Noirs could not compare with French Burgundies made from the same grape. For some reason, the elusive earthy delicate quality of the Pinot Noir grape was lost by American wine makers.

Then Oregon began to produce some excellent Pinot Noirs during the 1970’s due to the fact that the northerly latitude allowed the grape more cool temperatures to develop. The grape is so delicate that it gets wiped out in hot climates like California’s central valley.

During the 1980’s many northern California wineries devoted themselves to producing quality Pinot Noirs and connoisseurs all over the world now acknowledge their successes.

1985 was regarded as the “Vintage of the Century” until 1994 came along. The 94’s show deeply concentrated fruit and extract along with a friendly open personality that gives Pinot Noir the advantage over all other American made reds.

So whenever you want a fine bottle of California or Oregon Pinot Noir to accompany lamb, turkey, pork or beef, ask for a recommendation from one of the friendly wine clerks at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00007

Do you know that Abraham Lincoln’s father worked in a distillery? Legend has it that young Abe used to deliver his father’s meals to him and help out around the place.

Our 16th president was born on a farm near Hodgenville, Kentucky in 1809. His father, Thomas Lincoln, had bought the 348 acre Sinking Spring Farm the year before for $200. In 1811 the family moved ten miles away to a farm on Knob Creek.

Just down the road was the Boone Distillery founded by Waddie Boone who was a “near relative” of Daniel Boone. Waddie claimed that he was one of the first distillers in Kentucky having started in 1780.

By the time Thomas Lincoln came on the scene, the distillery was owned by Waddie’s sons, Charles and Johnnie Boone. Thomas would work at the distillery on days when he wasn’t tending his farm. Later in life Lincoln wrote, “My earliest recollection is of the Knob Creek place.” A replica of the Lincoln cabin is now a favorite tourist site.

Knob Creek almost changed history. Apparently the future president fell into a rain swollen current and almost drowned. A schoolmate named Austin Gollaher pulled him from the water.

Of course we all know that history was changed by the many distillers in Kentucky who invented Bourbon. Where would we be without it? And don’t forget that you can find your favorite at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00008

Quick! Tell me, what’s an Ampelography? You don’t know? Why an Ampelography is a book that describes the structural characteristics of different grape vines. It is used to identify various varieties of vines.

“Ampelos” means vine and “graphe” means description. An Ampelography will describe all of the distinguishing earmarks of a given grape variety. To an untrained eye, all grapevines look the same but not so when you examine the specifics. Grapevines are as different from each other as Chinese are from Americans or Italians or South Africans. Each grape variety has distinguishing characteristics by which it can be identified.

An ampelographer looks at the vine’s shoots and canes, its growing tip and its flowers. He or she will also examine the young leaves and both sides of the mature leaf including shape, size, lobes and sinuses, color, surface, textures and contours. They will also look at the size, shape, color and density of the grape clusters and the number and size of the seeds.

When all this information is cataloged, an experienced vineyardist should be able to identify a given grape vine.

Of course we are experts at identifying the wine from given grape vines and we can help you make a good choice for whatever meal you are planning. Stop to see us whenever you are near Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00009

Do you know that scientific research suggests that red wine may help prevent cancer?

Quercetin, one of nature’s most potent cancer fighting compounds, has been isolated from onions, garlic and red wine. Quercetin has the ability to block the action of the human cancer gene known as H-RASand keep it from converting normal cells into cancerous ones.

Research studies in 1991at the University of California in Berkeley and Georgetown University in Washington D.C demonstrated the effect if quercetin on cancer cells. Apparently quercetin is inactive as found in food but becomes activated during fermentation (as happens during the wine making process) and when it interacts with “friendly” bacteria located in the human intestinal tract.

Researchers at Cornell University demonstrated the same phenomenon in an experiment with laboratory mice. The administered ethyl carbonate mixed with water, plain alcohol, white wine and red wine. The mice that received the ethyl carbonate in water or alcohol had higher levels of cancer than the control animals. Those receiving it in white wine had lower levels of cancer than the control animals and those receiving it in red wine had the lowest levels of all.

As you know, I have long advocated moderate drinking as part of a healthy lifestyle. When you want to check out the latest red wines, stop by Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00010

“I’d like a dry martini, please.” These words are repeated thousands of times a day. But just how dry is a dry martini? That depends on who you ask.

“Dry” in martini lingo means how much vermouth is added to the gin or vodka that makes up the main portion of the drink. Early recipes called for equal amounts of gin, sweet vermouth, and dry vermouth but today’s recipes prefer only dry vermouth.

The martini has been called the “quintessential American cocktail.” During the 40’s and 50’s almost every movie featured a romantic hero sipping at the contents of a stemmed glass with an olive at the bottom. The martini faded from popularity during the 60s and 70s but is now making a comeback along with other 50s nostalgia.

But back to the definition of “dry.” Some bartenders will use a splash of dry vermouth. Others carefully measure out a quarter of a jigger or less. Some will use only one or two drops. Others will dip the ice cubes in the vermouth and let it go at that.

Nick Charles of Thin Man fame reportedly sprayed his vermouth with an atomizer. One bartender reports that his customers ask him to turn around and just look at the bottle of vermouth. Extra dry martinis are made with no vermouth at all.

However you like to mix them, whether with the classic gin or the new fangled favorite, vodka, you can be sure to find what you need at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00011

Do you know that one of the largest collections of Rothschild wines can be found in England? Yes, I said England. It seems that Lord Jacob Rothschild of the English arm of the famous financial family has been restoring Waddesdon Manor, a French style palace near Aylesbury, an hour north of London.

The manor was originally commissioned by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in 1874. It features a writing table used by Marie Antoinette, portraits by Reynolds and Gainsborough, priceless carpets commissioned by Louis XIV for the Louvre and wooden paneling from the Paris home of the Duc de Richelieu.

The wine cellars contain the largest collection of Rothschild wines in the world. 11,000 bottles from Chateau Lafite Rothschild and 3,000 bottles from Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. Rothschild wines from Portugal, Chile and California complete his selections.
One historic bottle, now empty, dates from 1787 and features the initials of Thomas Jefferson.

Six rare bottles of Mouton from 1867 to 1896 were a special present from Baroness Philippine to her cousin, Lord Jacob. Also featured is a display of the distinctive labels designed by artists such as Picasso, Daliand Chagall that have graced Mouton bottles since 1945.

And don’t forget, Crazy Billy’s is the best place to shop for wines- rare or otherwise.

Tale #00012

Do you know that the distillers of single malt Scotch whiskey claim that the size and shape of their pot stills determines the individual style of their product? So much so that if a new still has to be purchased, it will be made to the specifications of the old still, dents and all!

Single malt Scotch whiskies originate in a 15 mile area at the mouth of the Spey River which empties into the North Sea. It is a rugged country that gave birth to a rugged whiskey. Most scotch that is exported to other countries is blended with neutral spirits to soften the taste, but if you wants scotch as the Scots drink it, you must try a single malt.

A single malt means that the whiskey was made at one distillery. Each distillery has its own style of single malt but they all share an unmistakable style that combines elegance with the style of a thoroughbred race horse.

Names such as Abelour, Glenfarclas, Macallan, Knockando, Cardhu, Glenlivet and Lochneger are a few of the 100 distilleries located around Speyside.

Prices range from $40 for a 10-year old bottle to $400 for a 25 year old bottle. Not for the weak of heart, the single malts are an acquired taste, but one you will never forget.

Of course we feature a selection of blended Scotch as well as single malts at Crazy Billy’s. Why not stop in soon and pick up your favorite?

Tale #00013

Sauvignon Blanc sounds exotic and hard to pronounce. (Not so, with practice. So-ve-nynon Blan. Try it! You can do it!)

But I digress. This luscious varietal often takes a second seat to the ever popular Chardonnay but it is definitely a wine you should consider if you are looking for an elegant white to serve with your elegant white meat entrees.

Sauvignon Blanc is one of two grapes (the other is Semillon) grown in the famous Bordeaux region of France. It is used for the sweetest Sauternes as well as the driest Graves. It also grows in the Loire Valley where it is used to produce Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire. Known locally as Blanc Fume the name translates as “white smoke.”

Sauvignon Blanc is a grape with breed and distinction. Fruitier than Chardonnay, it is less austere and more suitable for pasta, seafood, chicken or fish entrees. It can be enjoyed before, during and after dinner. Light enough to be refreshing but flavorful enough to be satisfying, it is the perfect choice for most white wine occasions.

Drink it slightly chilled but not cold so the full range of flavors can be enjoyed. This is a wine to savor, to sand to sip gently as you gaze into the eyes of your beloved on the other side of the table.

If you aren’t familiar with this romantic wine, why not pick up a bottle the next time you shop at Crazy Billy’s?

Tale #00014

The French Paradox. It sounds like the title of a romantic comedy playing at the local movie theater. Not so. The French Paradox has been termed the nutritional puzzle of our time.

Scientists have observed, but can’t explain, the fact that the French eat a diet heavy in red meat, rich cream sauces, assorted cheeses and buttery pastries yet they have the lowest rate of heart disease in the western world. Why so? Some suggest that the consumption of red wine provides the answer.

It seems that red wine contains phenolic flavonoids which are anti-oxidants that prevent clogging of the arteries. Apparently a glass or two of red wine taken during a rich or fatty meal will counteract the adverse effects of the fat. It has also been shown that alcohol seems to keep the blood from clotting thereby minimizing the chance of strokes.

However, there are other factors. One is that the French get more exercise than Americans. They typically walk to the store or to visit neighbors. They eat more fruits and vegetables and don’t overcook them. Their biggest meal is at noon so most of the calories are burned during the course of the day. They also take meals seriously. They sit down to eat and enjoy their food. And their wine. And they drink in moderation.

If you want to improve your lifestyle and your health with red wine, you can find your favorites at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00015

Have you noticed that restaurants are going up-scale with their house wines these days? Gone are the days when an ubiquitous gallon of “red” or “white” wine would hang out in the kitchen filling the glasses and carafes taken to tables in the dining room.

Today, a restaurant may pay as much attention to picking a quality house wine as it pays to buying premium beef and fresh produce. In recent decades, the quality of wines from California have increased tremendously and even come of the bulk bottling offer auspicious wines.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the “premium” grape of choice for reds while Chardonnay is still the leader in favorites for the whites. White Zinfandel has replaced “pink chablis” as a rose-colored favorite. Made from red zinfandel grapes that are normally vintified as a heavy bodied red wine, White Zin is produced by removing the skins from the fermenting wine before they have a chance to color the wine. That is why white zinfandel has a more full-bodied flavor than most rose wines.

Of course we carry all of your favorites at Crazy Billy’s. When you need a white wine to compliment fish or chicken or a red wine to compliment beef or lamb or a rose wine to compliment pork or turkey, we can help you find the bottle that best meets your needs. Please stop in soon.

Tale #00016

Do you know that Thomas Jefferson once stated, “Wine, from long habit, has become indispensable for my health.”

Jefferson knew two centuries ago what medical scientists are now demonstrating statistically- that a moderate amount of wine everyday can be beneficial to your health. Notice that I said moderate. The negative effects of excessive use of wine or any alcoholic beverage have been well documented. But not as well known is the fact that a moderate use of wine with meals can enhance a healthy lifestyle.

An editorial recently published by the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that 81,000 more deaths would occur each year if the entire adult population abstained from moderate alcohol consumption.

It seems that the moderate intake of wine has a beneficial affect on the heart and statistically reduces the chance of a heart attack, the number one cause of death in the United States.

So if you want to feel happy and healthy, consider making wine a normal part of your evening meal. We can help you choose quality wines at affordable prices. A small glass of wine with dinner can help you unwind from the activities of the day and pave the way for entertaining activities during the evening.

Of course you can find a helpful staff of trained wine experts at Crazy Billy’s. We talk wine to everyone willing to listen.

Tale #00017

Do you know that the Roman poet Horace once praised the merits of an Opimian Falernian wine that was 160 years old?

Now this was no small accomplishment, because it is not easy to age wines for that long without having them deteriorate in quality. Up to a point, wines improve with age, but if they are not stored properly, they can develop off-flavors. Even with modern technology, aging wines more than 20 or 30 years can be difficult, so it is amazing that the Romans were able to do so, given their limited knowledge of the chemical changes that occur as wine ages.

The Romans did learn, probably by trial and error methods, that heating wine in smoke filled rooms would discourage spoilage. This was an early, albeit primitive form of pasteurization, but it must have worked if Horace is to be believed.

2000 years later Louis Pasteur used a microscope to observe wine spoilage chemicals at work and he invented the method of pasteurization to control the spoilage. Today, most bulk wines are flash pasteurized before bottling so wine spoilage is almost unknown in today’s quality controlled wineries.

Now we don’t have any ancient Roman wines at Crazy Billy’s, but we can give you advice on wines that are suitable for aging that can be enjoyed ten or twenty or 160 years from now.

Tale #00018

Have you ever wondered where corks come from?

Although cork looks like a synthetic material of some kinds, it is actually a natural product. Cork grows as the bark of a species of oak tree that thrives in Portugal and southern Spain. There are two distinct layers of bark on a cork oak tree. When the outer layer of bark gets thick enough to peel off, the inner layer of bark will protect the tree while it grows a new layer of outer bark. It takes eight to ten years for this outer layer of bark to get thick enough so that a “crop” of cork can be harvested.

Some cork oak trees are hundreds of years old and they are still producing a crop of cork every ten years. At first, the cork that is harvested from the trees tends to be soft and mushy, but as the tree grows, the cork becomes firmer. A tree must be 50 or 60 years old before it produces cork of a sufficiently dense quality to be of use in stoppering wine bottles.

After a layer of cork is stripped from the tree, it is taken to a factory where it is boiled in a copper kettle for 30 minutes to remove any impurities. Then the sheets of cork are forced into revolving dyes which stamp out corks of the desired length and diameter.

The next time you pull a cork from a bottle of wine, you not stop a moment to thank the unknown genius that first experimented with placing corks in bottles to preserve wines. Of course we can help you choose a bottle of fine wine at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00019

Fanleaf, Pierces disease, phylloxera, corky bark, leaf roll, mosaic complex, powdery mildew, black rot, grape berry moths, acariose, cochineal bugs and eelworms. These are just a few of the many parasitic ailments that can affect grape vines.

Some of the blights are specific to individual countries; others are common around the world. The infamous phylloxera, for instance, was unknown in Europe until grape vine cuttings from the United States were taken to France in the 19th century.

So what to do? How to keep unwanted pests out of your country or vineyard? The University of California at Davis, which is the leading winemaking school in the United States, is developing a multi-million dollar grape rootstock inspection facility. It will provide rootstock quarantine services for viticulturalists importing grape stock from other parts of the world.

Viticulturalists who want to use the National Grape Importation and Clean Rootstock facility must pay a fee for the services. A full time plant pathologist will study each imported vine to make sure that it is healthy and will not spread any diseases in its new home.

Of course we have wines from California and France and Australia and from all parts of the world at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00020

“Peach blossoms” is the best way to describe the bouquet. “Long and lingering on the palate” describes the taste. “Crisp and dry and perfect for a summer evening.” What are they talking about? Why the wines from the Association of Charta Estates, of course.

So what is the Association of Charta Estates, you may ask? It is a group of 44 wineries from the Rheingau district of Germany. An hour’s drive west of Frankfurt, the Rheingau has been famous for white wines since the middle ages. The wineries that form the Charta (pronounced CAR-ta) Association are willing to meet certain stringent requirements for their wines. To bear the Charta label, the wine must be made from 100% Riesling grapes. It must be dry or semi-dry and made to serve with meals. It must be aged for at least 18 months before being released, it must be made from fully ripe grapes and it must meet certain laboratory tests for amount of acid and residual sugar.

Charta wines come from wineries with such exotic names as Diefenhardt, Johannishof, Georg Breuer, Hans Lang, Balthasar Ress, Schloss Vollrads and Geheimrat Wegler Erben.

The types of wine are designed by even more exotic names such as Geisenheimer Rothenberg spatlese, Johannisberger Goldatzel kabinett and Martinsthaler langberg halbtrocken.

This summer when you plan your evening barbeques, why not try a bottle or two of crisp white German wine? There’s nothing like it. And of course we have German wines galore at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00021

 

Once upon a time the wine and food pairing rules were strict. Serve red wine with red meat. Serve white wine with fish. Don’t serve wine with artichokes, eggs or salad. And most of all don’t serve wine with chocolate!

You will be happy to know that all of these rules can now be broken.

This wine and drinking code was established in the 19th century in France and England when wine choices were limited to heavy bodied reds and light acidic whites. Now, thanks to modern technology, there is a plethora of wine flavors available and one of them can be just right for whatever dish you are serving.

Here’s the good news on serving wine with chocolate. Champagne can be a good choice, but if it was served earlier in the meal with an appetizer, you may not want to use it again.

A genuine French Sauternes with its rich and creamy texture will hold up with any dessert, chocolate or otherwise. So will a foreign or domestic late picked Muscat that is rich and sweet in fruit with orange rind overtones.

Exotic, but not impossible to find, is a Banyulis Domaine du Mas Blanc, a fortified wine similar to port from the southern part of France. It has a chocolate like taste complete with a vanilla bean flavor making it delightful with chocolate.

Whenever you need to choose a special wine, please ask our advice at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00022

Wine writers, including this one, are fond of saying that man has been making and enjoying wine since 2500 B.C.

Now it seems that that date has been pushed back by at least 1000 years. Archeologists have made recent discoveries that indicate wine has been around since 3500 B.C. That’s almost 5500 years of wine drinking pleasure!

Archeologist digs at the Godin Tepe site in Iran have excavated pieces of earthenware jars that they believe were used to hold wine. Scientific analysis of the pre-Bronze age vessels reveals deposits of tartaric acid, which is one of the principal components of grapes.

Also discovered at the site was a large mud bin, thought to have been used to stomp grapes, and a range of drinking vessels in assorted sizes.

A large clay stopper was found near the wine jars, probably a primitive version of a cork.

At the same site, excavators found a stone necklace and a marble bowl, both indicative of an affluent culture. The archeologists feel that the finds indicate a society that was complex enough to grow grapes and engage in foreign trade.

Aren’t you glad that we live in a society that grows grapes and engages in foreign trade? The next time you need a bottle of wine, foreign or domestic, why not shop at Crazy Billy’s?

Tale #00023

Do you know that the Greek word ya-win which translates as “wine” appears in the Bible 133 times?

In Psalms 104:15 we find a reference to the abundance of the earth.

“He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,

And vegetation for the service of man,

That he may bring forth food from the earth,

And wine that maketh glad the heart of man.”

In Pauls first letter to Timothy, we find the words,

“No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your

frequent infirmities.”

Judges 9:12 reads;

Then the trees said to the vine,

‘You come and reign over us!’

But the vine said to them,

‘Should I cease my new wine,

Which cheers both God and men,

That I should go begging to the trees?”

The only thing in the Bible to receive more praise than wine seems to be love. In The Song of Solomon a maiden says to a youth,

“Kiss me with kisses from your mouth,

For your love is better than wine.”

Now if you love wine, why not do your shopping at Crazy Billy’s?

Tale #00024

Do you know that grapes were planted in France back when it was known as Gaul and part of the Roman Empire? In the second century B.C.  there was a thriving wine business from the Greek colony of Massilia, now known as Marseilles. Two great trade routes by river and road were already established. One went north up the Garrone river to Gironde where goods were shipped across the channel to England. The other went up the Rhone and Soane rivers to the Moselle River and points north or across land to the Loire river Valley.

In those days wine was shipped in earthenware pots called amphora. Wrecked ships loaded with amphorae have been found on the bottom of the Mediterranean with jars that contain a liquid that was new wine from the years before Christ was born.

As hardier grape varieties were developed, viticulture spread northward. In the early middle Ages, Rouen was an important port and French wines were shipped to England as well as Spain and Portugal. In those days, many of the vineyards in France belonged to the church – the monks took almost as much pains to spread the vine as they took to spread the word and their wines became an important source of revenue.

By 1750, commercial wine houses were established and they have been exporting French wines ever since –  some of which continue to this day. Of course you can find the wines they export at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00025

Wines from Colorado? Now I’ve heard of wines from California and wines from New York and Oregon and even wines from Ohio, but wine from Colorado?

Indeed, Colorado wines are the new kids on the block. Winemakers are finding that grapes like chardonnay and merlot thrive in the highest vineyards in the country.

It is said that the best wines come from grapes that have to struggle to exist, and Colorado vineyardists are finding that their cool summers produce grapes that make wines with a crisp and flinty finish. There is no hint of modernization, or over-ripeness caused from too much sun, in these wines. They are austere, cool, clean and sharp and reminiscent of the wines from the Rhine Valley in Germany where grape vines cling to the sides of mountains like climbers scaling a peak. The taste has no hint of a mushiness that can be caused from too much sun and the color is clear with no hint of brown overtones suggestive of rosined grapes left on the vine too long.

Wine drinkers who appreciate austerity will be delighted with the latest offerings from Colorado. What better way to beat the heat of summer than with a cool and refreshing wine from the top of the world.

And don’t forget that the best place to find wines from all 50 states is at Crazy Billy’s. We talk wine and our knowledgeable clerks are always willing to answer your questions. See you there!

Tale #00026

Do you know that no one is allowed to enter the vineyards at the famous Chateau Lafite Rothschild during the month of August? After the grapes start to ripen, workers and visitors are forbidden to enter the fields lest the grapes become bruised.

Chateau Lafite is located on the highest knoll in the Bordeaux region of France. Bordeaux is located in the south west corner of France close to the Atlantic Ocean. On a clear day it is said you can see the smoke from ocean-going vessels from the veranda of the main house. The name is derived from an old Medoc word lahite, which means “the height.”

Chateau Lafite has eight centuries of wine making experience behind it. It was founded in 1234 by Gombaud de Lafite and within a hundred years had established its reputation for elegance and prestige. In the 18th century, it was a favorite of Madame de Pompadour, Madame Dubarry and Thomas Jefferson.

Tale #00027

Dessert wines are in a category by themselves. Every gourmet chef knows the value of concluding a meal with the proper sweet treat and matching wine.

Port served with blue cheese and walnuts is a classic after dinner offering.

Sauternes is a sweet white dessert wine from France. The grapes grow next to the seacoast and become affected with a mold known as botrytis, which gives the wine a taste of rich honey. It is best served with a simple dessert such as pound cake or banana nut loaf.

A sparkling sweet wine like Asti spumante will go well with fruit, cheesecake or plain cookies.

The most important thing to remember is to choose a wine that that is sweeter than the dessert. If the dessert is too sweet, it will make the wine taste sour and astringent.

Dessert wines are almost always served chilled except for port, which is served at cool room temperature. Use a small glass, NOT a tiny liquor glass that will hold about 3 ounces of wine.

Try to choose wines that compliment the dessert. A heavy dessert like chocolate torte calls for port or other heavy dessert wine. A general rule to use, like the white wine with the white meat, red wine to red meat rule, is to serve white wine with yellow foods like peaches, lemon concoctions or vanilla cakes. Dark wines like port go best with dark foods like chocolate, nuts and caramel.

Of course you can always ask questions about any dessert wines at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00028

Living in wine country one can watch the rhythm of the year as it is reflected in the life cycle of the grape vines.

Autumn. The grape harvest starts in early September and can last until late October or early November because different grapes become ripe at different times. After the harvest, the vineyards are cleaned and plowed. The loose dirt is raked in place to cover the sensitive graft zones of the vine against the cold of winter.

Winter. Pruning goes on all through the winter months.  Grape vines are pruned very drastically. Most of the year’s new growth is cut back to the center branch. One or two canes are left in place to regenerate the new growth.

Spring. Any vines that may have died during the past year are replaced. Another ploughing occurs and any suckers that are growing below the gaft line are removed. Excess buds are cut from the vine by hand.

Summer. Weeds are removed and shoots are trimmed if they are too long. The shoots are tied to supporting wires and the vines are dusted with sulfur to discourage mold and mildew. A final ploughing eliminates summer weeds and the grapes are left to ripen.

Autumn. When the grapes reach maturity, the harvest starts. After the grapes are picked, the cycle begins once again.

The grapes that were picked are made into wine, which finds its way into bottles that find their way to the shelves at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00029

White Zinfandel has been all the rage for the past few years, so much so that we may have forgotten the delights of Zinfandel as it was traditionally vinified.

Zinfandel is a hearty red grape that thrives in California. Its European origins have become lost so it is often called the mystery grape of California. But when it is made as a hearty red wine, there is none better or tastier to serve with a hearty meal or a flavorful barbeque.

When Zinfandel is produced as its hardiest, it can be a wine for those football fans who like to pull off their shirts during blizzards in Buffalo or Chicago. Big and blustery with a taste as dense as valley fog, the heartier versions are rich in the taste and smell of raspberries, cherries and black pepper with just a hint of chocolate overtones.

When Zinfandel grows in the warm inland valley regions that push up against the Sierra foothills, grapes can become so ripe that they yield wines with 14 or 15% alcohol. Combined with the rich and full flavor of the natural fruit, this can be a bracing quaff indeed. If the wine is aged in new oak barrels, the fullness of flavor can be downright awesome.

So don’t think that Zinfandel grapes are for white wines only, they also make some of the best red table wines available.

And don’t forget that we have Red and White Zinfandel wines from every major wine growing area in California at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00030

Some experts say grape vines will produce higher quality wines in soils where they have to struggle to survive. Other experts recommend planting grape vines in rich loamy soils that have an abundance of nourishment. So who is right?

In the rich soils debate, evidence suggests that grapes do well in many different soils. In the United States, we tend to assume that soils in Europe are undernourished, but such may not be the case. France and Germany get much more rain in the summer than California does so in that regard, the European vines receive more nourishment than most California vines.

The belief that vines that struggle to exist produce better vines apparently started in Germany where grape vines cling tenaciously to the sides of steep hills in the Rhine Valley. The Yield from these vines is low but the taste and quality is high. In California, modern winemakers want to optimize their yield-per-acre so they use fertilizers and year round cultivation techniques to assure an abundant crop.

Many things go together to produce a great vineyard including climate, the types of grapes that are planted and the way the vineyard is managed. Choosing the right grapes for a given location may well be the most important consideration and is an art as well as a science.

When you need a wine from Europe or California, you can choose your favorites at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00031

Commanderia. The name sounds romantic. The wine tastes delicious. The legends are legion. So what is Commanderia, you may ask?

Commanderia is the legendary wine from the island of Cypress that has been made since the dawn of history and enjoyed by wine lovers from Egypt to France to England and the United States.

Back in Roman and Greek times, the wine was known as Cypriot Nama. It was re-named Commanderia by the Knights Templar who were given custody of the island in 1191 by King Richard I of England.

Commanderia is a lusciously sweet dessert wine that is made from sun-dried red and white grapes blended together. It is aged in earthenware jars coated in the earth, often for several years.

In 1352 Henry Richard, Master of the Vintners Company in London, served a banquet in honor of King Peter I of Cypress. The event has gone down in history as “The Feast of Five Kings” because it was attended by King Edward III of England, King David of Scotland, King John of France and King Waldemar of Denmark as well as King Peter. According to the guests, the Commanderia after dinner was the hit of the evening.

The next time you prepare a banquet, even if it isn’t for five kings, remember that we have a complete selection of dessert wines at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00032

Do you know that Washington State is giving California major competition in the popularity of its wines?

Now it used to be that California had the spotlight when it came to wines from the United States, but no more. Other states are finding that they have ideal growing conditions for grape cultivation and they are getting in the act.

The vineyards in Washington are east of the Cascade Mountains in a part of Washington that has a climate similar to the Burgundy region of France. Unlike California, the rainfall is light (7 to 8 inches a year) and the winters are cold, resulting in dormant vines, late budding and 40-degree shifts in daily temperatures during the growing season. They also have more daylight (as much as two hours) and a longer harvest period. The end product is a wine with strong fruit flavors and intense varietal characteristics.

Chardonnay, cabernet and merlot all grow well under these conditions. Whether red or white, the wines of Washington State demonstrate unique properties- accessible, rich in fruit flavor and deserving of equal being with California in wine quality.

Of course we have wines from Washington State at Crazy Billy’s. We want to give our customers a selection of the best wines the country has to offer. Why not stop in soon and talk wine to the knowledgeable clerks who work for us?

Tale #00033

Do you know that merlot is the wine of the moment, based on a restaurant survey conducted by Wine and Spirits magazine?

Every year the magazine polls the most popular restaurants listed in the Zagat Restaurant Guide. Forty restaurants in each of eighteen different cities are asked to participate. The results indicate the most popular choices of diners in exclusive restaurants, but not necessarily what middle class America is drinking. The wines were generically in the price range of $25 to $40 per bottle.

Chardonnay is still the most popular restaurant wine, but red wine sales have grown from 38 percent last year to 44 percent this year. And it isn’t cabernet that has accounted for the increase, it is merlot. It seems that people are moving away from white wines and looking for heavier bodied red wines, but are not yet ready to take on the full flavor of a cabernet or pinot noir.

Now restaurant wine sales do not necessarily reflect wine sales in stores and of course that is the delight of choosing wines to serve in your own home, you can choose what you like!

So don’t forget that we have merlot wines and chardonnay wines and cabernet wines right here in your neighborhood Crazy Billy’s. Why not stop in soon and ask any questions you may have on any aspect of choosing wines or serving wines? We are always happy to help.

Tale #00034

Do you know that Cointreau was originally marketed as Triple Sec White Curacao? So how did it get the name Cointreau, you may ask? That’s simple. It is produced in the town of Angers in France by a family named Cointreau.

So what is the difference between Cointreau and Curacao you may ask? Curacao was originally the name of a Dutch liqueur flavored from the skins of dried green oranges which grow on the Dutch island of Curacao off the coast of Venezuela. Curacao became so popular during the 19th century that many firms began making it. It is thus now a generic term rather than a proprietary name. Triple Sec is likewise a generic term that refers to any orange flavored liqueur.

Grand Marnier is an orange flavored, brandy based, very sweet proprietary liqueur that is made in France by the Establishments Marnier-Lapostolle in Chateau de Bourg.

Cointreau, Triple Sec, Curacao and Grand Marnier can all be used as after dinner cordials served in small liqueur glasses. Or they can be mixed with other ingredients to make cocktails such as margaritas, side cars, or presidents. They can also be added to cooking to flavor soufflés, cakes, puddings or pies.

Of course we have Cointreau and Grand Marnier as well as Triple Secs and Curacaos at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00035

Do you know that wine has been exported from the island of Cyprus for more than 3000 years? Cypriot wines were prized in the courts of Egypt as well as in classical Greece and Rome.

Cyprus is located in the Mediterranean about sixty miles from the coast of Lebanon. Almost half of the 64,000 farm families on the island devote their lives to growing grapes.

There is a story that a taste for Cypriot wines influenced the Turkish sultan Selim II to conquer Cyprus in 1571. He was a connoisseur of fine wines so he summoned the commander in chief of his army and ordered him to take the island with the words “Within the island there is a treasure which only the King of Kings is worthy of possessing.”

Through the centuries, Cyprus has exported not only wines, but the grape vines themselves. Vine cuttings from Cyprus were chosen by Captain Juan Gonsalves Zarco from Portugal after he burned the native vegetation from the island of Medeira in 1418, but that’s another story.

Cypriot grapes were also carries to the island of Sicily where they are still grown to produce Marsala, the famous sweet dessert wine of Italy. The grape cuttings even found their way to Hungary where they are used to produce Tokay.

Now we have wines from around the world at Crazy Billy’s, so you don’t need to venture far and wide to buy wine.

Tale #00036

The wine taster selects a glass of wine from the table. He holds it up to the light and swirls it gently. He watches it carefully as it runs down the sides of the glass, making an evaluation of the wine’s “legs”.

He then puts his nose into the glass and inhales to savor the aroma and bouquet. Finally, when he is ready, he takes a small sip and swirls it around inside his mouth to release the hidden flavors.

A wine ritual yes, but note the first (and some feel the most important) element that was checked. The color.

Any hint of cloudiness whatsoever in a wine is regarded as a flaw and will automatically down-rate it. A wine’s color should be clear and even throughout.

A dry white wine should have a greenish-yellow tinge and the sweeter types a golden hue. A brown tinge is a bad sign that indicates the wine has oxidized or maderized.

Red wines should have a purplish hue while they are young and acquire a more brownish tone as they age. Pelure d’oignon, or onion skin, is a term that refers to a thin, light brown band that is visible around the rim of healthy, well aged wines.

Beware of any wine that has a muddy appearance. Sediment can make the wine taste harsh and unpleasant.

And remember when you need help in choosing a crystal clear wine that we can help you at Crazy Billy’s.

 

 

Tale #00037

You have a special bottle of fine brandy or cognac. You pick the biggest brandy snifter you can find and pour a sizable amount into the bottom of it, right?

Wrong! So says Georg Riedel of the Riedel Crystal Company in Austria. And he ought to know, because the Riedel family has been making wine glasses since 1756.

Snifters “only show the alcohol,” who was quoted in The Wine Spectator. “You will have very little fruit emphasized.” He recommends a 4 ounce Schnapsglaser flute for serving brandy or spirits. He says that every single glass shape offers different elements in every wine. Choosing the correct glass for a given wine is part of the art of fine wine service.

Another rule in choosing wine glasses is to select only clear glasses. Tinted glassware or cut crystal will make it difficult to judge the clarity of the wine. The purpose of a wine glass should be to amplify the quality of the wine, not disguise it.

When it comes to glasses, bigger is not necessarily better. Riedel clearly demonstrated that the same wine can taste and smell radically different in different sizes and shapes of glassware.

Whenever you need help in selecting glasses or glassware, remember that our friendly clerks are trained to answer questions.

Tale #00038

Do you know what the oldest known wine trademark is?

The name “Vesuvinum” was found on wine jars during the excavation of the town of Pompeii that was buried in volcanic ash after the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

Do you know there is a club for people that collect corkscrews?

Known as the International Conference of Corkscrew Addicts, the club meets once a year to exchange corkscrews and tell wild corkscrew tales. Auctioned at one of the recent meets was an antique corkscrew that was reportedly owned by Chicago gangster Al Capone.

Do you know that there are a number of exclusive wine clubs around the world where wine aficionados can gather to share food and taste fine wines?

The oldest, founded in Paris in 1248, is the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs. More recently founded, in 1933, is the International Wine & Food Society. Then there’s the Commanderie de Bordeaux, the Medical Friends of Wine and the small but important, Society of Bacchus.

Do you know that the best place to shop for wine is at Crazy Billy’s? Our selection of wine as well as spirits and liqueurs are all chosen because they offer quality at affordable prices. Just because you love fine wine doesn’t mean you have to pay high prices.

Tale #00039

If you have any French friends, don’t let them in on this top-secret information. I’m told it is classified.

It seems that French housewives are buying California wines!

For years, France has been the unchallenged harbinger of fine wine making. Now suddenly merchants in France are realizing that they have a new product to sell, wines from California. California wine tends to be heartier and more heavily oaked than French wines and it seems that French homemakers like the California style.

About 65 percent of all wine sold in France is sold in supermarkets and most customers in supermarkets are women. And judging from what they buy, it appears that French homemakers like their white wines full and oaky and their red wines concentrated and tannic.

California wines have the same characteristics as wines from the southern part of France, rich, suave, low in acid and very robust. Now no self-respecting French winemaker will admit to imitating California wine styles, but many have been heard to remark that they understand their neighbors are doing so.

The heartiest and the most robust of all the California wines can be found right here in New York at Crazy Billy’s. Why don’t all you housewives make it a point to stop in soon?

Tale #00040

Do you know that the same wine can smell and taste markedly different in different wine glasses?

The selection of wine glasses can be a science as well as an art. For instance, it has been noted that a Chardonnay served in an 11 ounce glass with sides that taper inward will taste fuller and richer than if it is served in an 8 ounce glass that has an outward tilting lip. These glasses are designed to serve Riesling wines that are fruitier and more delicate than Chardonnays.

The aroma of a well made Cabernet Sauvignon should almost jump out of the glass as you move your nose toward it. It will do just that in a tulip shaped 22 ounce Bordeaux glass, but the nose will be far less pronounced in a small 7 ounce glass or in a larger 37 ounce glass that is designed to serve Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir will show better in a large glass because it is a more delicate grape with fruity and aromatic overtones.

Acquiring a collection of proper glassware can be as important as acquiring proper wines. The serious wine lover should pay as much attention to matching the proper wine with the proper glass as to matching the wine with the proper entrée.

Of course we can help you select appropriate glassware or wine at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00041

Some things change, but food and wine combinations seem to be eternal. Case in point; a menu from 1918 from the Hotel Havlin in Cincinnati. On the front of the menu they offered creamed scallops for 60 cents. On the back an extensive wine list(including an 1899 Mouton Rothschild for $5) suggested, “With your oysters, fish or relishes, try a split or white Delaware wine, 20 cents.”  This Native American varietal, probably very sweet, was the White Zinfandel of its day.

A 1908 menu from the Bismarck café in San Francisco featured a full page listing of French wines identified by region. (Prices ranged from 75 cents for a half bottle of Moselle to a high of $5 for a Clos de Vougeot from Burgundy.)

By 1945, information on menus was getting more specific. A menu of unidentified dated January 17, 1945 suggested “light dry Sherries” to accompany appetizers and “a good bottle of sound Moselle, Rhine, Claret, Burgundy or Champagne” with main courses. The more than 100 selections on the wine list included a “very dry, light” 1933 Chablis and a “sweet luscious” Chateau d’Yquem from 1928.

Times change but wine remains the same. Whenever you want advice about food and wine combinations, feel free to ask your questions at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00042

Finesse. The word itself sounds elegant. The quality is hard to define. To Webster, it is “delicate skill; subtle discrimination; refinement.”

When the word is used in conjunction with wine, it refers to the breeding or style of the wine. Finesse is a French term meaning exceptional elegance.

It is a very subjective term that attempts to combine the qualities of body, color and finish. Finesse is that highly elusive element that is found in a superior wine as opposed to a very good or excellent wine.

Finesse implies the absence of any flaws. Flaws in a wine can include a musty nose, which means there is a smell of mildew or mustiness from a leaking cork. An odor of sulfur from the bottling process will also flaw a wine.

Wine must be crystal clear. If there is any hint of sediment, points are automatically subtracted from its rating.

The wine must be well balanced. This means that it should not be too high or too low in alcohol/acid balance must be just right. Just right can vary from wine to wine, but wine tasters know when the balance is off.

When you want your dinner party to be just right, ask a clerk at Crazy Billy’s to recommend a wine that has finesse. We know quality and it shows!

Tale #00043

Fanleaf, Pierces disease, phylloxera, corky bark, leaf roll, mosaic complex, powdery mildew, black rot, grape berry moths, acariose, cochineal bugs and eelworms. These are just a few of the many parasitic ailments that can affect grape vines.

Some of the blights are specific to individual countries; others are common around the world. The infamous phylloxera, for instance, was unknown in Europe until grape vine cuttings from the United States were taken to France in the 19th century.

So what to do? How to keep unwanted pests out of your country or vineyard? The University of California at Davis, which is the leading winemaking school in the United States, is developing a multi-million dollar grape rootstock inspection facility. It will provide rootstock quarantine services for viticulturalists importing grape stock from other parts of the world.

Viticulturalists who want to use the National Grape Importation and Clean Rootstock facility must pay a fee for the services. A full time plant pathologist will study each imported vine to make sure that it is healthy and will not spread any diseases in its new home.

Of course we have wines from California and France and Australia and from all parts of the world at Crazy Billy’s.

 

Tale #00044

“Peach blossoms” is the best way to describe the bouquet. “Long and lingering on the palate” describes the taste. “Crisp and dry and perfect for a summer evening.” What are they talking about? Why the wines from the Association of Charta Estates, of course.

So what is the Association of Charta Estates, you may ask? It is a group of 44 wineries from the Rheingau district of Germany. An hour’s drive west of Frankfurt, the Rheingau has been famous for white wines since the middle ages. The wineries that form the Charta (pronounced CAR-ta) Association are willing to meet certain stringent requirements for their wines. To bear the Charta label, the wine must be made from 100% Riesling grapes. It must be dry or semi-dry and made to serve with meals. It must be aged for at least 18 months before being released, it must be made from fully ripe grapes and it must meet certain laboratory tests for amount of acid and residual sugar.

Charta wines come from wineries with such exotic names as Diefenhardt, Johannishof, Georg Breuer, hans Lang, Balthasar Ress, Schloss Vollrads and Geheimrat Wegler Erben.

The types of wine are designed by even more exotic names such as Geisenheimer Rothenberg spatlese, Johannisberger Goldatzel kabinett and Martinsthaler langberg halbtrocken.

This summer when you plan your evening barbeques, why not try a bottle or two of crisp white German wine? There’s nothing like it. And of course we have German wines galore at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00045

Once upon a time the wine and food pairing rules were strict. Serve red wine with red meat. Serve white wine with fish. Don’t serve wine with artichokes, eggs or salad. And most of all don’t serve wine with chocolate!

You will be happy to know that all of these rules can now be broken.

This wine and drinking code was established in the 19th century in France and England when wine choices were limited to heavy bodied reds and light acidic whites. Now, thanks to modern technology, there is a plethora of wine flavors available and one of them can be just right for whatever dish you are serving.

Here’s the good news on serving wine with chocolate. Champagne can be a good choice, but if it was served earlier in the meal with an appetizer, you may not want to use it again.

A genuine French Sauternes with its rich and creamy texture will hold up with any dessert, chocolate or otherwise. So will a foreign or domestic late picked Muscat that is rich and sweet in fruit with orange rind overtones.

Exotic, but not impossible to find, is a Banyulis Domaine du Mas Blanc, a fortified wine similar to port from the southern part of France. It has a chocolate like taste complete with a vanilla bean flavor making it delightful with chocolate.

Whenever you need to choose a special wine, please ask our advice at Crazy Billy’s.

 

Tale #00046

Wine writers, including this one, are fond of saying that man has been making and enjoying wine since 2500 B.C.

Now it seems that that date has been pushed back by at least 1000 years. Archeologists have made recent discoveries that indicate wine has been around since 3500 B.C. That’s almost 5500 years of wine drinking pleasure!

Archeologist digs at the Godin Tepe site in Iran have excavated pieces of earthenware jars that they believe were used to hold wine. Scientific analysis of the pre-Bronze age vessels reveal deposits of tartaric acid which is one of the principle components of grapes.

Also discovered at the site was a large mud bin, thought to have been used to stomp grapes, and a range of drinking vessels in assorted sizes.

A large clay stopper was found near the wine jars, probably a primitive version of a cork.

At the same site, excavators found a stone necklace and a marble bowl, both indicative of an affluent culture. The archeologists feel that the finds indicate a society that was complex enough to grow grapes and engage in foreign trade.

Aren’t you glad that we live in a society that grows grapes and engages in foreign trade? The next time you need a bottle of wine, foreign or domestic, why not shop at Crazy Billy’s?

Tale #00047

Last year I wrote a column about Carlos Herrera who invented the Margarita at his bar in Tijuana and named it in honor of Marjorie King, a popular actress and showgirl in the 1940’s.

Not so, says Margarita Sames of Fort Worth, Texas. She claims that she invented to Margarita and first served it to a group of Hollywood guests at her vacation home in Acapulco. The year was 1948 and the season was Christmas and she wanted to create a daytime cocktail that could be served by the pool. She tried it first with rum, but that didn’t work, so she tried tequila. Voila! The guests loved it and she has been serving it ever since.

Her recipe calls for one part freshly squeezed lime juice, one part Cointreau, and two parts tequila poured over ice in a salt rimmed glass.

Margarita reports that her husband named the concoction a Margarita. Before that time it was known simply as “the drink.” One day her husband presented her with some champagne glassware etched with the name “Margarita” and from that day on, the drink was called a “Margarita.”

I don’t know. Maybe both stories are true. I know that in the field of science, an invention will often be discovered almost simultaneously in two different parts of the world.

But no matter who invented it, it is still one of the most pleasant cocktails available. And don’t forget that we have Cointreau and tequila in all varieties at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00048

Festive occasions. Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, christenings. Any event where you want to celebrate. What do you think of first? Why a bottle of Champagne of course.

But how to choose? You go to the store and there are so many. How do you know which ones are good?

In my experience, it’s hard to find bad champagne. The bubbles themselves are so much fun that it seems the winemaker can’t go wrong.

The more expensive Champagnes come from France and are made by time-honored traditions that consume enormous amounts of time so the prices tend to be higher than domestic sparkling wines. The good news is that wineries in France have cut their prices on expensive wines in order to stay competitive.

One way to check for quality on a wine label is to look for the words “method champenoise” whether the wine was made in Australia, Spain, California or France.

Whether the wine is called “champagne” or “sparkling wine” makes little difference. All can be good and most of them are made from quality grapes like pinot noir or chardonnay.

If you have a special occasion that demands a special bottle of wine of champagne, please feel free to shop and ask questions at Crazy Billy’s. Our clerks are trained to be helpful.

Tale #00049

You’re serving an elegant meal with chicken or fish as the main course. You want an elegant white wine to accompany it. You go to Crazy Billy’s and pick out a premium chardonnay from a well-respected winery right?

Not necessarily. Before you purchase the Chardonnay, you might consider that other “noble” grape, namely Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc has not had the publicity accorded to Chardonnay, but it can be just as elegant if it is vinified in the same way, barrel fermentation, malolactic fermentation, long time aging on the lees in a cask or barrel. Sauvignon Blanc has an assertive herbaciousness but also carries refreshingly tangy notes of peaches and melons.

It is higher in acid, which makes it slightly crisper than Chardonnay. The taste is more pungent and rolls off the tongue with a vibrancy and vitality that can enhance a full flavored entrée.

Sauvignon Blanc can be just the right choice for certain entrees that need a spicier and fuller flavor than Chardonnay. So don’t think there is only one “noble” white varietal. Sauvignon Blanc may surprise and delight you.

Of course we have a superb selection of Sauvignon Blanc wines and Chardonnay wines from the most elegant boutique wineries in the world.

Why not stop at Crazy Billy’s as soon as possible?

Tale #00050

Have you ever wondered about the proper way to open a bottle of Champagne?

Pointing the cork away from you and pushing with both thumbs may be dramatic, but it is not recommended in homes that contain breakable knick knacks. To say nothing of the fact that this technique often causes the Champagne to foam up and spill all over the floor.

To do the job properly, it must be realized that one is dealing with a delicate product. The wine must be handled as gently as possible so that the bubbles will not be released until after the wine is in the mouth.

If the bottle is very cold, as all champagne should be, it is advisable to wrap a towel around the bottle. Carefully remove the metal wire that holds the cork in place. Then holding the bottle at a 45 degree angle with your right hand, cover and hold the cork with your left hand. Gently twist the bottle, not the cork, until the cork pops out. Continue holding the bottle at an angle for a few seconds while the pressure inside the bottle equalizes with the pressure of the room.

To pour champagne, chilled glasses are recommended. It is advisable to hold the glass at an angle and pour the wine onto the side of the glass so that as few bubbles as possible are released. These techniques will guarantee that the “bubbly” will indeed be bubbly when the time comes to drink it.

And don’t forget that the bubbliest Champagne can be found at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00051

Summertime. Picnics. Barbeques. Beach parties. Lazy Sunday afternoons in the backyard. What do all these have in common? They are all appropriate times to enjoy a bottle of ice-cold wine. What you need is  a quaffing wine. One that is fresh, fruity, spicy, tart and easy to drink.

White wines are ideal because they can be chilled as much as desired so they are very refreshing to drink in hot weather. Blush wines will also fill the bill. But light bodied red wines can also be served chilled if they are simple drinking wines rather than fine aged clarets or burgundies.

The best way to chill a wine is to leave it in your fridge for a few hours before leaving the house. It can be transported to the outing in thermal bags that are designed for the purpose. Or you can wrap the bottle in foil and roll it in several layers of newspapers and secure the package with rubber bands.

Cold chicken and potato salad can be accompanied by any number of white or blush wines. Hamburgers and barbequed ribs call for a red wine. Just be sure to pick a light bodied red that is easy to drink.  A French Beaujolais or a California Zinfandel is a good choice.

And if you want help in selecting just the right wine for any summer occasion, please feel free to ask the friendly clerk at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00052

Rain, rain and more rain has plagued Northern California farmers this year, including wine growers in the Napa and Sonoma valleys. Word from the vineyard is that the grapevines are very little affected and there should be no compromise in the grape harvest this year.

Vines are dormant during the winter, so even though some vineyards are immersed in water, the vines will survive. As one wine maker put it, “you can’t drown a grape vine.” Indeed, grape vines are hardly plants that can survive lack of water ( as witnessed a few years ago during the drought) or heavy rain ( as is being observed now during the flooding).

Many premium vineyards are planted on hillsides, so they are protected from flooding, although soil erosion can wear down the topsoil. Some vineyards that are underwater are in a current of runoff water and floating logs or other debris can damage wire trellising that supports the vines.

The biggest anticipated problem from the flooding is the spread of phylloxera, a vine louse that attaches itself to the roots of grape vines. Many vineyards in Napa Valley have been attacked by the pest and floodwaters can spread phylloxera from one vineyard to the next. Many wineries are in the process of replanting their vineyards with phylloxera resistant rootstock to avoid problems in the future.

California wines of all types can be found in profusion at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00053

Ernest and Julio Gallo are to wine making as Orville and Wilbur Wright are to airplanes and the Smith Brothers are to cough drops.

The brothers Gallo gambled their family savings to buy land in Modesto, plant grapes, bottle wine and market it to middle class Americans as the beverage of choice for the evening meal.

Market it they did and it did work because Gallo soon became the largest producer of generic wines in the country. Gallo Hearty Burgundy outsold all other reds and was the introduction to the intricate world of wine tasting by many now famous wine experts. Jug whites and generic reds were the main stay of frat parties across the USA and their sherry and port became a popular after dinner libations.

But times change and so does Gallo. The name Gallo will now be reserved for only the top of the line varietals coming from premium vineyards in Napa and Sonoma countries. The generic wines are being renamed and will appear as Sheffield, Fairbanks or Livingston Cellars. Quality will stay the same as will affordable prices, only the name will be changed to ass prestige to the Gallo name itself.

Of course we keep up with all the latest market developments at Crazy Billy’s. The next time you drive by, why not stop in and get acquainted with us? Our friendly clerks love to talk foreign or domestic wine.

Tale #00054

Is expensive wine really better than inexpensive wine? Sometimes yes, Sometimes no.

The fabled 1990 Romanee Conti from Burgundy retails for a staggering $950 a bottle, if you can find it. Richebourg and LaTache are slightly less, only $400 to $600 a bottle and just as tasty. Some wines from California’s boutique wineries are now hitting retail stores at prices from $100 to $300 a bottle. So are they worth it?

Only if you are extremely wealthy and want prestige at any price. Sometimes people with a modest income will spend $200 on a bottle of wine just to brag about it. Some collectors buy well-known wines to add to their cellar but have no intention of ever drinking them. Such a collector would no more open a bottle of 1928 Chateau Haut-Brion than a stamp collector would use his 1919 upside-down Air Mail stamp to post a letter. It would create a hole in his collection.

At Crazy Billy’s we try to stock wines that offer quality AND value. The wines we feature are meant to be enjoyed now. One to five years of proper cellaring will often improve the quality of red wines, but it is not necessary to keep them for decades unless they are wines for a special occasion, like a bottle of wine from your wedding day saved for a 25th or 50th anniversary.

Stop in to see us if you are picking wines for a special event, we can help you choose right.

 

 

Tale #00055

Cognac. The name itself sounds romantic. It conjures up images of the 17th century soldiers gathered around the lord of the castle raising a toast to the success of the battle planned for the next morning.

Cognac has the reputation of being the finest brandy in all the world. All Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac. Genuine Cognac is produced only in the Charentes region of France which is north of Bordeaux on the Atlantic coast.

180 million bottles of Cognac are shipped around the world each year from the small town with the same name. Cognac is made from a white grape called St. Emilion. As a table wine, St. Emilion tends to be thin and acidic. In the 17th century, Dutch traders discovered that magic happens when the wine is double distilled in a pot still and aged in oak barrels from the Limousin and Troncais forests in Central France.

Through the years, the reputation of Cognac has grown so that today it is the standard bearer against which all other brandies in the world are measured. Vanilla, citrus, caramel, smoke, plums,nuts,heather,figs,cloves,honey,oranges,lemons,soft,silky, floral, earthy, woodsy, peppery,luxurious and harmonious are only some of the adjectives used to describe Cognac. It is used for a toast when only the finest will do.

To pick up a bottle of your favorite Cognac, why not stop by Crazy Billy’s?

Tale #00056

The perfect Kir. The best place to find one is in the French countryside, but you can also mix one in your own home. So what is Kir, you may ask.

Kir (pronounced keer) was originally called vin blanc cassis until it became the favorite drink of Felix Kir, leader of the anti Nazi resistance in Dijon, France during World War II.

Kir is France’s most spectacular yet simplest aperitif. It is a mixture of white wine and a black current liqueur called cassis. It is cool and refreshing, whets the appetite, is low in alcohol and leaves no lingering aftertaste that could conflict with the dinner wines to be served.

In Burgundy, Kir is made with a wine called Aligote, the name of the white grape that produces the wine. It has a perfect level of acidity to balance the sweet taste of cassis, but adjustments can be made to satisfy the individual taste.

It is important to choose a sprightly white wine with a high level of acidity. A white wine that is low in acid produces a Kir that is dull and cloying and overly sweet.

There are other versions of Kir including the Kir Royale that is made with Champagne and the Kir Rougee, which uses red Beaujolais wine instead of white.

The next time you whip up a recipe, why not go authentic and serve Kir as the aperitif? If you need help in choosing an appropriate white wine and bottle of fine cassis, we can help you at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00057

Do you know that there are two types of professional wine tastings, horizontal and vertical? (No, a horizontal tasting isn’t when you lie on the floor because you can’t stand up).

A horizontal wine tasting chooses wines from the same vintage but from different wineries. A vertical tasting  features wine from the same winery but from different years. A vertical tasting can provide important information about how climatic conditions affect the quality of wine made from the same vineyards but in different years. Even if the winemaking procedures are identical, sugar content of the grapes and when they are picked can affect the outcome of the wine.

There are also single blind and double blind tastings. In a double blind tasting, no information about the wine is provided to the tasters. In a single blind tasting, the name or region of the wine is disclosed.

Sometimes wine tastings are based on regional comparisons, for instance, tasting Pinot Noirs from California against Burgundy wines from France. A tasting with an international flavor might feature a French Bordeaux and compare it to Cabernet Sauvignons from California, New York , Australia, Spain and Argentina.

The next time you plan a wine tasting, why not stop by Crazy Billy’s to make your selections? We talk wine, both domestic and international.

Tale #00058

Do you know you can purchase an app to take with you when you shop for wine that contains a buyers guide to more than 7,500 wines? It is just the thing when you are considering several different bottles and have to make a choice.

You can search out information about price, quality, vintage conditions and food compatibilities. If you know your menu just enter the entrée and accompany dishes and The Wine Guide will supply a list of appropriate wines. Or you can choose the wine first then ask the computer to design the menu.

A glossary of wine terms can help when trying to understand labels, especially those from France or Germany. Have you ever been frustrated in a store because you couldn’t remember the difference between Edelbberenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese? Now you can whip out your handy Wine Guide for instantaneous answers.

Maps of famous wine regions of the world will tell you the origin on the wine you are considering. Specific information on wineries in France and California is included as well as historical notes and ratings of the wines through the various years.

And of course we can help you make a good choice at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00059

Should one garnish a martini with an olive or a twist?

That question is as loaded as asking someone if they vote for the Republicans or the Democrats.

There are two distinct opinions among martini lovers. One camp holds that the olive was the original garnish for the martini and should NEVER be changed.

The opposite camp holds that a twist (in this case a thin strip of the yellow part of a lemon peel, known as the zest, which is twisted over the martini just before serving) is the only way to go. It seems that the oil from the peel covers the liquid and makes the martini smell citrusy. No flavor, say the experts, just a slight aroma.

Back to olives. Most purists go with a large unstuffed green olive. Artistic types prefer the visual delight of an olive stuffed with red pimento. Some exclusive clubs use olives stuffed with anchovies, blue cheese or garlic cloves. If a black olive is used, the drink becomes a Buckete martini.

Some adventurous souls have experimented with red peppers, orange slices and raspberries but these never caught on with the hip crowd.

The only constant seems to be that if the drink is garnished with a cocktail onion, it becomes a Gibson. Named for the Gibson Girls they say, but that’s another column.

However you garnish your martini, you can be sure to get the finest gin and vermouth at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00060

Why drink wine?

Good question.

William Rice, wine writer for the Chicago Tribune answers, “Because wine is fascinating, a living liquid from a natural source that bring pleasure, glamour and a sense of civilized well being whenever it is invited to share in a meal. It is unparalleled variety attracts people up and down the social scale all around the world.”

I couldn’t agree more. Wine has a universal language that is understood in all nations. A glass of rose with lunch turns even cucumber sandwiches into a treat. A hearty red served with a barbecued steak or a just pink rib roast balances the richness of the meat. Dieticians who know about such things say that a glass of wine with red meat minimizes the adverse affects of cholesterol.

A crisp glass of white wine chilled to perfection is a wonderful cocktail choice to accompany hors d’oeuvres. Chips and dip or finger food munchies.

And don’t forget that you can get excellent advice on wine choices at Crazy Billy’s. We train our clerks to answer questions and be aware of new trends in the world of wine.

We also watch out for your pocketbook and will give you hot tips on how to make your wine buying dollar really pay off. If you haven’t been in to see us recently, please stop by soon. We talk wine.

Tale #00061

I was reading a column on wine the other day and I found this sentence. “When selecting an unfamiliar wine, ask a good wine merchant for advice.”

I couldn’t agree more and I hope that this is how you think of all us at Crazy Billy’s, as good wine merchants who will give you knowledgeable recommendations about the best wines to serve with whatever kind of meal you are planning.

The next piece of advice was, “Eschew xenophobia.” So what is xenophobia you may ask. A fear of xenos? Well, sort of. According to Webster, xenophobia is a fear of foreigners. “Xeno” is a combining form meaning guest or stranger. The point is that there are many delightful and easily affordable wines being imported from Chile, Argentina, Australia, Portugal, Spain and Africa. So don’t think that France and California are the only wine producers in the world. Again, ask one of our clerks for information on any bottle of wine you are considering.

The last piece of advice in the column was “Don’t be a wine snob.” If you like White Zinfandel, that’s fine. If you want to serve Cabernet Sauvignon with lobster, that’s your choice. The important thing is to enjoy wine, whenever and however you like it. And don’t forget the best selection of wine in town can be found at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00062

Plain brown paper bags are the usual way to disguise wine bottles during a blind tasting. I have also seen socks, scarves and pieces of paper taped into place over the label.

Paper bags and socks work, but they aren’t very elegant. They are inexpensive and ubiquitous but they are dull and unimaginative.

Specially designed wine bottle sacks are the most elegant answer. You can find them made up in richly elegant fabrics or plain cotton gingham. Either way, they disguise the bottle of wine so the tasters can evaluate the wine on taste alone, not through other means of identification.

A drawstring at the top holds the sack in place so it won’t slide down the bottle. It is easy to grasp and doesn’t slip during pouring. The sacks are decorative, inexpensive and fun to make if you can’t find them for sale.

Blind wine tastings are the best way to learn to identify the various flavor components of wine. It is relatively easy to distinguish the taste of alcohol, acid, tannin, fruitiness from the grape and oak from the aging barrel in any given wine. Having no preconceived ideas of what the wine is or how it should taste can allow you to make evaluations based on your own perceptions and preferences.

We are always happy to help you choose wines and plan a wine tasting. We taste wine ourselves so we can give you some good pointers. Stop in soon at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00063

Bernkasteler Doktor. The name sounds romantic. What’s the story?

In 1360, so goes the legend, the Archbishop of Trier, one Bremond the II, took a fever that baffled local doctors. He lay in bed for several days until his good friend Ritter von Hunolstein arrived with a bottle of wine from the German town of Bernkastel.

Von Hunolstein slipped into the sickroom, poured a hearty beaker of wine for the Archbishop and said “Drink this and it will cure you.” The Archbishop fell into a deep sleep and upon waking the next morning, found that the fever had subsided. He called for his good friend and elatedly declared to the attendants, “This wine, this splendid doctor, has cured me!”

Since that day, the wine from Ritter von Hunolsteins vineyard has been known as Bernkasteler Doktor. Of course the property has passed to various owners during the past six hundred years. But to this day it is one of the most famous wines from the Moselle River region in Germany. It is fresh and fruity and best while young, as are most white German wines. The unique flavor of Moselle wines is attributed to the slate found in the earth. Vineyard names frequently end in –lay or –ley which indicates that the soil is salty.

Exploring the world of German wines can be fun and exciting. If you need help in understanding the complexities of German wine labels, please feel free to ask questions at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00064

Now everyone knows that red wine is recommended with red meat and white wine goes with fish and chicken, but what would you choose for a vegetarian meal?

As we all get more health conscience, we may find more and more vegetarian recipes cropping up in our cookbooks and newspaper columns. No fat or cholesterol to worry about and an endless array of tasty combinations of vegetables and grains that can produce exciting entrees.

The trick in choosing a wine to accompany vegetarian dishes has to do with matching the acid level of the veggies. For instance, asparagus and Brussels sprouts are strong in flavor and high in acid so they need a strongly-flavored, high-acid wine such as a sauvignon blanc, a gewurztraminer or a beaujolais. Salads often have a high acid dressing on them so again, they would call for a high acid wine. Blush wines can also be a good choice because they are flavorful but light bodied. If the veggies are low acid types like squash or celery or carrots, choose a low acid wine like chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon.

The basic rules are much the same as with meat dishes, rich wines with rich dishes, herbal wines with herbal food, slightly sweet wines with spicy foods and high acid wines with high acid foods.

When you need help in choosing wine for your vegetarian dinner, please ask for help at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00065

What is the one wine that can be served with such diverse dishes as sweet and sour figs, curried calamari, clams with pine nuts and almonds, basil marinated mushrooms or a fresh fruit tart? Champagne would be a reasonable answer, except for the fresh fruit tart. But if you said sherry, go to the head of the class.

Genuine sherry comes from the area of Spain known as Jerez de la Frontera in the Andalusian province. Choosing the proper sherry to accompany a culinary delight requires knowing the difference between the different sherries.

FINO is a young, fresh and very dry sherry with a  pale color and nutty, yeasty flavor. MANZANILLA is bone dry and has a salty tang often attributed to the fact that it comes from the seaside town of SanLucar de Barrameda. It is often served with seafood dishes and shellfish. AMONTILLADO is higher in alcohol than the others and has hints of oak and vanilla from longer barrel  aging.

OLOROSO is a full bodied and rich with a slightly burned flavor. It is darker in color with just a touch of sweetness. CREAM SHERRY is an old sherry that has been sweetened with juice from the Pedro Jimenez grape. It has a pleasing raisin taste with hints of fig, toffee and chocolate. It can be served after dinner with any variety of delectable desserts.

We talk sherry at Crazy Billy’s. Please stop by if you need advice.

Tale #00066

Do you know that George Washington’s Whiskey tax of 1794 forced the infant whiskey industry out of New York and into the back hills of Kentucky?

It seems that Washington was having difficulty financing his newly formed government and decided that a tax on whiskey distillers would provide needed revenues. The distillers did not agree. Their resistance provoked the famous Whiskey Rebellion, which the federals won by sending in national troops to put down the protests.

The distillers who still wanted to avoid the federal excise agents therefore moved their base of operations deep into the hard to reach areas of Kentucky and even into Indiana and Illinois. Now this turned out to be a provident move because they found a perfect source of distiller’s water, bountiful streams with water that was pure and clear but rich in sulfate of lime and earthy carbonates. There is a deep base of limestone that runs through the Kentucky Hills and this area provided a perfect home for the whiskey makers. To this day, more than half of the distilleries in the United States are located in Kentucky and the others are not far away in western Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, and Maryland.

And don’t forget that you can find the lowest prices in town on all American whiskies at Crazy Billy’s. Why not stop to see us soon?

Tale #00067

Have you ever been to a barrel auction? No, that’s not an event where everyone bids on oak barrels and casks.

A barrel auction is an auction of the wine in the barrel. Potential bidders taste wines from the latest vintage which are still aging in barrels and attempt to predict how the wines will develop. They look for the taste of the fruit. The level of tannin and the presence of acid. If the wine shows promise, the bidders will try to get the lot. When the wine is bottled several months later, it is automatically shipped to the buyer.

A barrel holds the equivalent of 20 to 23 cases of wine and can sell for as much as $5000. Several bidders will often pool resources and divide the cases appropriately.

Barrel auctions occur at annual fairs and festivals in most of the major growing regions of the world. The Bordeaux and Burgundy regions in France have been having annual wine auctions since the 19th century. In California, the Napa Valley Wine Association holds a yearly event that has generated as much as one million dollars with profits going to local charities. The Sonoma County Showcase and Wine Auction is a smaller event, but becoming more popular each year.

Now, we don’t have barrel auctions at Crazy Billy’s, but we can sell you wines that have been in barrels in all the major wine regions of the world.

Tale #00068

Would you pay $55,000 for eight bottles of wine?

Are they old wines?

No, they are new wines, but they are big bottles, Imperial size, which contain six liters of wine a piece. They are sandblasted and hand painted by Napa Valley artist Gaye Frisk and they contain Cabernet Sauvignon which has won the highest scores in blind tastings for the 1985 and 1986 vintages.

What is the art work like?

Reproductions of eight posters created by Toulous Lautrec in Paris in the 1800’s of scenes for the Belle Epoque bistro.

Well, I don’t know.

Do the proceeds go to charity?

Well, maybe.

Such a decision doesn’t happen everyday, but this was the decision made by restaurant owner Pat Cetta at a 1991 auction to raise money for the New York chapter of City meals on Wheels. He bought the wines to display at his restaurant, Sparks Steak House, but he did say that he would open the bottles and drink the wine when it was ready to be enjoyed.

Now we don’t often have such elegant wine offerings at Crazy Billy’s, but we do have a wide variety of wines to choose when you need a special bottle for a dinner party or an important event.

Tale #00069

Do you know that The Wine & Food Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan has a collection of 15,000 rare books dealing with food and wine? They also have a collection of wine lists from American restaurants that date back to the 1830’s.

It seems that very few changes have been made in wine lists through the years, except for prices! An 1838 list from Delmonico’s in New York listed 20 French Bordeaux wines including an 1825 Chateau Margaux. In 1851, the Clinton Hotel in New York offered 75 beverage items, from beers to brandies, including 20 table wines. “Margaux” sold for $3, “Palmer” was offered for $2 and you could get a good “Medock” for $1. (To keep this in perspective, it should be noted that dinners were also $1.)

In 1894, the Waldorf in New York served a birthday dinner to honor President Ulysses S. Grant. Eight wines accompanied the 15 course meal, including an 1887 Barsac that was served with Squam Beach Clams. Mumms Extra Dry Champagne was served with Orange County Spring Lamb and a Pommard accompanied the Roast Plover. As a palate cleanser between courses, diners were offered Camp Fire Punch with Virginia Cigarettes.

Whenever you need advice on appropriate food and wine combinations, you can ask your questions at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00070

Taltarni. Wolf Blass. Wynns Coonawarra. Seppelt Dorrien. McWilliams. Barwang.

Sounds like a lineup of Scotch clans at a bagpipe contest, right? Wrong. The names on the above list are names of Australian wines and wineries. Add Grange Hermitage, Lindemans, Rothbury Estates, Penfolds, Orlando Wines, Jacobs Creek and Hunter Valley and you have a working acquaintance with the most well known Australian wines.

There are more than 600 wineries on the tiny continent of Australia. 35% of their wine production is shipped to England and about 10% of it finds its way to the United States where wine buyers appreciate the high quality and reasonable prices.

The Karadoc Winery on the province of Victoria is almost the size of our Gallo winery. They produce up to 1.5 million gallons of white wine every year. Most wines are released as bag-in-the-box wines, a packaging technique that was invented in Australia. More traditional bottles with corks and screw tops are also available.

Grapes are harvested in Australia in March and April and often bottled by July or August. They aren’t exported until the fall, however, because it seems to unnerve Americans to see a 1992 wine for sale when their 1992 wines are still grapes in the field.

If you would like more information on Australian wines, please feel free to ask your questions at Crazy Billy’s.

 

Tale #00071

Do you know that in the Medoc region of France (home of many of the world’s most famous wines) there are nearly twice as many octogenarians per 100,000 population as there are in the rest of France?

There are also more golden wedding anniversaries in Medoc than in any other part of France. Locals attribute the longevity to the fact that claret forms a part of the daily diet of most adults in the area. In fact, wine is called “the milk of the aged”.

There is a popular myth that wines from Medoc (located in the Bordeaux region of France) are beyond the pocketbook of most of us mortals, but such is not the case for the informed wine buyer. While it is true that some Bordeaux wines fetch the awesome price of $600 a bottle, there are others of excellent quality that can be found for $10 to $15 a bottle.

The First growth wines such as Chateau Latour, Chateau Margaux and Chateau Mouton-Rothschild are famous around the world and their prices reflect their scarcity and demand. But there are many lesser-known chateaux that produce excellent wines, often from vineyards that are right next to the famous estates. A knowledgeable wine buff can rattle off the names of 100 or so estates, but there are over 7000 wineries in the region.

Ask a knowledgeable clerk like those found at Crazy Billy’s to recommend some good buys if you want to explore the mysterious world of French wines.

 

Tale #00072

Do you know that toddy is the oldest known fermented liquor?

But, you may say, I always thought that “toddy” was the name of a mixed drink from the British Isles. Indeed it is, but the hot toddy got its name from liquor made from the fermented juice of the palmyra palm.

Historians who have researched such things report that toddy was invented in India around 800 B.C. Now the ancient Egyptians made beer and the Assyrians made wine, but it was left to the Indians to invent liquor. And aren’t we glad they did?

In tropical countries, toddy is usually served as a cold drink, mixed or unmixed but served in a cocktail glass with ice. When toddy made its way to Great Britain they warmed it up a bit by adding sugar, lemon, cloves and hot water. Today hot toddies are made from rum or bourbon or any flavorful liquor. The cold and foggy nights of the English countryside call for a warm and bracing quaff to ward off the chill.

As a matter of fact, many of our hot cocktails have come from Britain. Hot Buttered Rum was a colonial favorite that is enjoyed to this day. And Irish coffee wouldn’t be what it is without Irish whiskey. The list goes on and on and next winter I’ll share some of my favorite recipes with you.

Of course we have liquors galore from all parts of the world at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00073

The nest wines come from the best grapes and the best grapes come from the healthiest grape vines. The healthiest grape vines come from vineyards that are carefully tended and expertly managed.

Growing grapes is a bit more complicated that plowing the land and setting out grape vines. First, the varietal of grape must be chosen taking into consideration the composition of the soil, growing conditions and the micro climate of the area where the vineyard is located. Then rootstock has to be planted that is known to be resistant to viruses and vineyard pests such as phylloxera. But the budwood must be chosen from healthy and productive grape vines. (Budwood is the varietal that is grafted onto the rootstock.)

It takes four to five years before vines begin to produce grapes and up to 20 or 30 years before they produce top quality grapes. As the vines grow, they must be checked every year. Any that are found to be unhealthy are promptly uprooted and burned. Sometimes it is necessary to uproot an entire vineyard after 10 to 15 years if it is not producing properly.

Good farming practices are as important to the production of fine wine as state of the art fermenting vats and new oak aging barrels.

If you need tips on choosing fine wines you can always get good advice at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00074

Have you tried the sauvignon blanc, the chardonnay or the cabernet sauvignon from the Huadong Winery co.? Neither have I, but that’s because I haven’t visited China recently.

China? You mean they made varietal wines like cabernet in China? Indeed they do, thanks to an Englishman names Michael Parry who smuggled thousands of cuttings of European varietals into Hong Kong.

Michael Parry was a larger than life entrepreneur who pioneered the art of fine wine making in China. A staggering 6 ft 5 inches tall, he towered over his Chinese workers and growers. He was known to have a will of steel and he demanded the best. He was born and educated in England and moved to Hong Kong as a young man. He started a food and wine importing business and opened several wine shops and restaurants. When he sampled the local Chinese wines, he found them not to his taste.

Wines had been made in China for thousands of years but they were not of the quality of European wines. He imported wine makers from Australia and grapes from France and Germany and the rest is history.

Quality is consistent the world over whether the wine comes from France, from the United States, from Australia or from China, we know good wine at Crazy Billy’s. Please stop by soon and talk wine with us.

Tale #00075

Do you know that the Daiquiri got its name from an iron mine located in Cuba?

Legend has it that a group of American engineers were sent to Cuba to help develop the Daiquiri Iron Mine following the Spanish American War of 1898. After work each day the engineers would stop at the Venus Hotel in Santiago for a “pick me up”. The bartender would serve them a drink made from ice, rum, lime juice and sugar.

One afternoon the chief engineer christened the drink with the “Daiquiri” and thus it has remained.

Perhaps the world’s largest Daiquiri was concocted right at the entrance to the mines. It was mixed in honor of the visit of Charles M. Schwab, then the president of Bethlehem Steel Company, who was making an inspection tour. The hosts filled a wooden barrel with two pails of ice, the juice of one hundred limes, a pound of sugar and ten bottles of rum.

As Schwab emerged from the mine, he was handed a drink, whether to refresh him after his labors or to take his mind off what he had just seem is not recorded.

Now you probably don’t want to mix a ten gallon Daiquiri, but the next time you are going to mix a batch for your friends, why not do your shopping at Crazy Billy’s. We have an excellent selection of all the world’s most famous and finest rums.

Tale #00076

When was the last time you ordered a Tiger Tail, Macaroni or a Kiss Me Quick? What do you mean you’ve never heard of these drinks? They are all cocktails based on anise-flavored spirits and they are all excellent.

Ever since absinthe got a reputation for causing erratic behavior, anise flavored liqueurs have gotten the attention they deserve. Please note: It was the wormwood in absinthe (as well as the excessively high alcohol content) that caused the problem, not the anise. In fact, anise has been used as a remedy for digestive disorders since the time of the Egyptians.

To this day in Paris bistros you can find tourists and locals drinking pastis. A shot of cold Pernod or Ricard is splashed into a tall glass. Water is added until the liquid turns mily and opalescent. The heady fragrance of licorice fills the air as the drink is passed across the bar or sent to the table.

Anise seems to be soluble in alcohol but not in water. When the clear liquor is diluted with water the anise crystallizes and the liquid becomes cloudy.

In the United States, New Orleans is the largest market for anise spirits. More is used for cooking than for drinking which may be due to the contribution of Jules Antoine who invented Oysters Rockefeller around the turn of the century.

Anisette. Marie Brizard. Sabula Romana. Pernod. Metaxa. Herbsaint. Richard. Why not pick one up the next time you visit Crazy Billy’s? Licorice: you might find that is isn’t just for kids anymore.

Tale #00077

They turned out in droves for the first annual Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival.

The gates opened at 5am so that early morning hot air balloonists could lift off into the sunrise. As the balloons swept over the valley, it was reminiscent of similar events in the Napa Valley and the Sonoma Valley and the Alexander Valley. But those valleys are in northern California and the Temecula Valley is in southern California.

As the day progressed, the visitors tasted wines, attended seminars on food and drink, sampled gourmet foods and listened to rock & roll music. By evening everyone had concluded that it had been a grand day and no one was more pleased than the winemakers. Twenty years ago a handful of progressive winemakers ignored the advice of experienced wine growers and planted some experimental vineyards around the tiny town of Temecula. It was on the way to nowhere with no reason for any tourist to stop at a tasting room. But the tens of thousands of people who attended this year’s festival proved that if you made a better wine, the world will beat a path to your doorstep.

At first temecula wines were available only in southern California, but as word of their excellence spread, they started showing up in wine shops around the country. The handful of winemakers has now grown to 30 or 40 and the wines are winning prizes at the California State Fair.

We keep up with all the newest developments in the world of wine at Crazy Billy’s. Please come see us.

Tale #00078

Wines in Oregon? But, you may say, Oregon is too far north to grow grapes. Not so, say the wine experts. Oregon is at the same north latitude as the world famous Burgundy wine region in France.

Oregon farmers are finding that the pinot noir grape thrives in the Willamette Valley. We may soon be seeing more and more estate bottled wines from Oregon wineries.

Pinot Noir is a delicate grape with a soft but elegant flavor. It grows well in northern climates where the perfumey quality of the aroma can develop to its full potential. It is a grape that likes cool temperatures. Excessive heat can cause it to burn and undesirable flavor nuances to develop. That is why it has been difficult to grow the grape in sunny California where warm temperatures abound. Perhaps Oregon with its cooler nights and shorter days will provide the American home that Pinot Noir growers have been trying to find.

Pinot Noir is the grape responsible for the elegant wines of the Burgundy region in France. It is also the grape that is used to make French Champagne. It is a temperamental vine that is well suited to the growing conditions of northern France, but it has been difficult to find other geographical regions where it can thrive.

Whenever you are searching for an elegant wine to accompany beef, lamb, pork or venison, pinot noir will always be appropriate. You can use your most exotic recipes like Beef Wellington or Rack of Lamb when you are serving a pinot noir. And don’t forget that we can help you make a good choice at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00079

A movie about a bottle of wine? Well, when the bottle of wine is worth one million dollars, I guess it could be cast in a leading role.

The name of the movie is “Year of the Comet” and the starring wine bottle is a Nebuchadnezzar of 1811 French claret. So what’s a Nebuchadnezzar you may ask? A Nebuchadnezzar is equal to 22 normal bottles of wine and is the largest size bottle used for wine. Many of the French wineries bottle one or two a year, but they are a rarity. The one in the movie is appropriately encrusted with centuries old layers of dust and cobwebs.

Louis Jourdan plays the villiam who wants to get his hands on the priceless bottle. The adventuresome plot includes murder and romance and cat and mouse chase scenes all the way from the French Riviera to the Scottish Highlands. The bad guys steal it and the good guys want to get it back and no, I’m not going to tell you how it comes out. Suffice it to say that the plot keeps you on the edge of your chair hoping against hope that the 180 year old bottle of wine doesn’t get broken.

Now we don’t have any 1811 Nebuchadnezzar’s of wine at Crazy Billy’s, but we do have an excellent collection of contemporary wines that could well be collector’s items in years to come.

 

Tale #00080

Egyptian wines? Hardly a leading name in world-famous wines, but thanks to a gentleman named Nestor Gianaclis, there is such a thing.

Now it is well known that in ancient times, wines from Egypt were all the rage. Greek and Roman writers like Virgil, Horace and Pliny all praised the merits of wines from Egypt. It is said that Cleopatra served wine from the upper Nile Valley to Julius Caesar during their infamous association. But that was 2,000 years go. What happened to the old time Egyptian vineyards?

That was the question that Gianaclis set out to answer at the beginning of this century. Most of Egypt is now covered with sand, hardly terrain that is conductive to the cultivation of the grape. Using clues from ancient writings and hieroglyphics scratched on the walls of tombs and pyramids, Gianaclis located an area at the edge of the desert with chalky soil that is surprisingly similar to the soil in the Champagne region of France. In 1903 Gianaclis planted his first vineyard and by 1931 he had produced wines that were winning prizes at the Chamber Syndicale des Courtiers Gourmet in Paris. The wines of the Pharoahshad been resurrected and once again the world could drink the wines which had been praised by Virgil.

Of course we have wines from all over the world at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00081

Good chefs know that adding a little dollop of wine to most dishes will enhance the flavor will greatly enhance the flavor. The secret is to choose a good quality wine, preferably the same wine that will be served with the dish, and not to use too much. Herbs and wine were made for flavoring foods and the best chefs in the world know just which herbs and just which wine to choose to create the effect they desire.

There is a story from the memoirs of Careme, a famous French chef who cooked for George IV of England as well as for the Rothschilds. He recalled that as an almost starving child, he had stood outside the kitchen of a famous Parisian restaurant and had been tantalized by the enchanting aromas coming from within. The aromas were being produced by the wine in which the dishes were being cooked and from that moment on, Careme knew that he would grow up to become a culinary master.

Careme used wine like a painter uses colors- he chose just the right wine in just the right amount to produce an infinite variety of nuances and flavor tonalities. Too much wine can overpower the flavor of the food and too little can get lost in the dish, but the right amount …ahhh!- that is the stuff poetry is made of.

When you are looking for a wine to please your palate, remember that we have the best at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00082

What is tannin in red wine?

Tannin is naturally produced in red wines as a result of fermentation and more is added during barrel aging.

When you buy a carton of grape juice all you get is the juice of grapes. When you buy a bottle of wine you get much more even though the contents started as the juice of grapes.

The process of turning grapes into red wine starts with the action of yeast cells that convert sugars in the juice into carbon dioxide and alcohol. After the yeasts have done their job they die and are removed along with grape skins, pips and any remaining stalks.

What is left is wine but the fermentation process has created complex chemicals, not all of which are fully understood, and red wine is usually aged in wooden barrels which again adds to the complexity of compounds in the finished product.

Most tannins are extracted from grape skins pips and stalks during fermentation and more is added during wood.

Tannin gets its name from the French term for the acids extracted from oak bark used to convert animal skins to leather.

If you’re not sure what tannin tastes like, it’s like a tea bag-proper black tea, not herbal or flavored and preferably English Breakfast-place it in a cup and add freshly boiling water to fill the cup. Now leave it for fifteen minutes and take a drink. Don’t add sugar or milk, just sip the tea as is. That taste you are getting is tannin.

Red wine drinkers have become used to tannins, it is part of the taste profile that we learn to like and we expect it of fine wines. New wine drinkers prefer red wines with few tannins or where tannins are hidden behind sweetness.

But tannins give a backbone, and while maybe overpowering when the wine is drunk on its own, become into their own when accompanied by food by helping to aid digestion.

And tannins play an important role during winemaking by helping extracting color from the skins and stabilizing them so they don’t fade over time, essential for red wines, and they also enable wines to age during which they soften throwing a deposit.

Tale #00083

Abreast of Invention: The Wine Glass

Typically, we probably don’t concern ourselves with the history of the wine glass, being more focused on what’s inside. But, according to legend, the invention of the wine glass was a bit more unique than the typical run of the mill appearance at the US Patent Office.

Dating back to Greek Mythology, it is rumored that the first wine glass was molded from the breast of Helen of Troy. Because the Greeks believed that there was something very sensual in the essence of wine, they wanted the glass that held it molded from the breast of their cultures most beautiful woman.

However, in what may have been one of history’s first cat fights, Marie Antoinette, centuries later, decided she would create a new glass, molded from her own breasts. But, because Marie Antoinette was better endowed than Helen of Troy, the wine glass went from the equivalent of an A-cup to a D-cup, changing the shape of the glass entirely, and ultimately, changing how much wine a glass would hold.

Tale #00084

Women Invented Wine

The male species is credited with the invention of both the wheel and the fire, and we can probably attribute farting and belching to them as well. Thus, it seems only fair that, in love, women would be credited for a great invention, the invention of wine.

As Persian legend goes, wine was invented when a woman, plagued by a headache, drank fermented juice from a jar used for grape storage. After consumption, she became relaxed and at ease, eventually falling asleep and waking up cured.

However, it is believed in Greek Mythology that wine was invented by Dionysus, appropriately named the God of Wine, Intoxication and Fertility (the coupling of Intoxication and Fertility can probably explain the Greeks booming population). As was commonly accepted, he invented wine on Mount Nyssa and soon began to cultivate grapes around the world.

While the Persians and Greeks disagree on who invented wine, chances are they both breathe a sigh of relief at the fact that at least it was invented by someone.

Tale #00085

Red bearded Emperor

We all know that red wine can stain. But, what we might not know is that its ability to stain ultimately led to the offspring of white wine in Burgundy. According to Burgundy legend, an Emperor by the name of Charlemagne was an avid red wine drinker for the majority of his life. However, the more red wine he drank the more red wine would fall into his beard, leaving his naturally white beard, well, burgundy. He felt that the look wasn’t one an Emperor should possess and so he began to switch to white wine, demanding a portion of the vineyards of Corton Hill be replaced with white grapes. This ultimately, is how Corton-Charlemagne found its way into the world of wine.

Tale #00086

When in Rome, Don’t Spill Wine

Everybody has always lived by the notion that there’s no use crying over spilled milk. Spilled wine, on the other hand, is another story. The Romans possessed a belief that spilling wine inadvertently was an omen of disaster, as ominous as crossing paths with a black cat or having a snake fall from a roof into a yard. When wine fell to the ground or on a table, bad things- a storm, a plague, a betrayal by Brutus- were bound to be imminent.

In fact, this is a belief that many people generally possess. Perhaps it’s because there is some validity to it or perhaps it’s because spilling wine is wasting wine, and therefore bad luck in itself.

However, spilling wine when done on purpose is believed to bring luck. The breaking of a wine filled glass is typically thought of as a good omen when performed at marriages. A token for a happy life, this act will lead to unyielding love and affection.

Wine lore is undoubtedly a part of our culture. Because wine is essential to history, it’s only natural that legends, stories, and superstitions come with it, packaged in the bottle of every vintage. Because wine is so magical, having its lore in our lives has the potential to replace other types of Folklore: who needs a Bloody Mary when you can have a glass of wine?

Tale #00087

Do you know that in the past, sales of California varietal wines have more than doubled?

In 1985, varietal wines accounted for 19% of sales of California wines with 81% of the sales being made up of generic wines. But by 2005, varietal wines comprised 70% of all wine sales and the generics accounted for 30% of wine sales. Volume had increased in both categories, but the relative proportions of varietal to generic sales showed a difference.

So what is the difference between varietal wines and generic wines, you may ask. Varietal wines are those that carry the name of a specific grape, i.e. Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. Generic wines are often called “jug” wines. They are usually made from a blend of grapes and the grape variety does not need to be specified on the label.

White Zinfandel and Chardonnay are the leaders of the “varietal boom”. When White Zinfandel was introduced about 15 years ago, it was considered a fad by many industry observers, but it proved to be very popular with consumers so more and more wineries are adding it to their list of wines.

If you need help in selecting a varietal wine to suit your taste and your pocketbook, please feel free to ask for suggestions at Crazy Billy’s.

Tale #00088

Do you know that the urban developers and the grape growers are in a race for the remaining open land in California’s Sonoma Valley?

Sonoma has traditionally been an agricultural are because the climate is just right for producing grapes that make excellent wines. But since 1980 the population on Sonoma County has increased by 27%. Commuters from the San Francisco/Bay Area region have discovered that property is more reasonable than it is in the city and if they are willing to drive every day, they can live in a country-like setting and work in the middle of the city.

Unfortunately, wineries and housing developments don’t necessarily make good neighbors. Even though the wineries were there first, homeowners have been known to complain about the noise from early morning tractors, the truck loads of grapes being brought in during the harvest and the bees and fruit flies that tend to hover around wineries and vineyards.

Fearful that the newcomer residents would push out the old-timer ranchers, the county adopted a plan in 1989 called the Agricultural preservation and Open Space District which allows the county to purchase open land and to guarantee that it will not be sold for development.

I hope this plan is successful because many of California’s best wines come from the Sonoma Valley. If you need help in choosing one, why not drop by Crazy Billy’s?

Tale #00089

Have you heard about the Napa Valley Wine Auction? For the past eleven years, wineries and wine collectors have donated wines that have been sold at auction to benefit various Napa Valley charitable organizations. It is the charitable event of the season.

The Big Event attracts wine aficionados from all parts of the country who gather at the Meadowood Resort to bid on their favorite wines. For three days before the auction, wineries host small dinner parties for selected guests who have the opportunity to taste some of the wines that will be offered for sale. The artistry of the local restaurants is called upon to provide scrumptious fare to complement the wines that are being showcased.

At the latest auction in June of this year, sales were going well, but toward the end of the bidding, auction chairman Michael Mondavi became concerned that sales would not top the previously held record of $847,000. To make sure they would break the record, he auctioned off a vest he was wearing for the tiny sum of $3,000. His father Robert joined in the excitement and sold the shirt off his back for $2,800 and the hat off his head for $1,600. The record was broken and $584,000 was raised which was donated to charity.

Of course we feature prime Napa Valley wines at Crazy Billy’s. Why not stop in soon and talk wine with one of our informed clerks?

Tale #00090

Do you know that James Zellerbach introduced the use of new oak barrels for aging wine to the state of California?

James Zellerbach was an heir to the Crown Zellerbach paper products fortune who enjoyed the fruit of the vine. He was an ambassador to Italy and during his years in Europe he developed a taste for French wines. When he retired in the late 1950’s, he settled in California’s Sonoma Valley and bought a parcel of land where he planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. He named the tiny winery Hanzell after his wife, Hanna Zellerbach. His goal was to produce wines that would equal the French Burgundies he had come to know and love.

When he researched wine making techniques between France and California, he made an important discovery; French wines were always put into new oak barrels for aging whereas in California the practice was to use redwood tanks or oak barrels that were used year after year.

Zellerbach therefore contacted a maker of French oak barrels and imported some to use for his wines. The toasty and buttery vanilla flavors from the new oak added a revolutionary taste to the wines he was producing. As word of his innovation spread, other California winemakers began to use new oak barrels and it is now common practice in California’s boutique wineries.

When you are looking for a perfectly aged California wine, why not do your shopping at Crazy Billy’s? We can make a good selection.

Tale #00091

Do you know that rum is made from blackstrap molasses?

Molasses is produced as a by-product when sugar cane is refined into crystallized sugar so rum has been around since the sugar industry began to thrive back in the 16th century.

It seems that Columbus had a hand in creating the sugar industry in the West Indies. He took cuttings of sugar cane from the Canary Islands to the West Indies and found that they grew easily in the tropical climate. It didn’t take long for someone to discover that the thick and gooey residue called molasses contained some residual sugar. Now when sugar ferments, it produces alcohol, so someone put some yeast into some molasses and created and alcoholic beverage. After distilling, it produces a mighty fine drink so someone exported some to the United States and it soon became popular with the colonists who were busy populating the land they had discovered.

How rum got its name is pure conjecture. The exact origin of the name seems to be lost amid legends of swashbuckling pirates, rum runners, slave traders and the like. One theory holds that it is a contraction of the word saccharum which means sugar. Others claim that rum was a slang word meaning good that was in popular use in England at the time. Since rum was considered very good, it took the popular name.

The next time you need a bottle of rum, why not stop at Crazy Billy’s for your selection?

Tale #00092

Do you know that the first attempts to classify wine was done by the Roman historian Pliny in the 1st century A.D.? He classified grapes as to color, time of ripening, diseases, soil preferences, and types of wine that might be produced.

As a matter of fact, the art of winemaking was relatively advanced during the Roman Empire. They fertilized their vineyards and knew that pruning the vines would increase the yield of grapes. The pruning knife seems to be their invention. Emperor Numa Pompilius even passed an edict that specified that no wine could be offered to the gods unless it was made from the grapes of pruned vines.

The biggest problem faced by early winemakers was spoilage. Young wines can taste harsh so aging wine is desirable, but keeping air away from aging wine can be difficult. The Romans had learned the art of glass blowing from the Greeks so they were able to make amphora which they used to store their wines, but they also experimented with wooden cooperage. This was a real innovation because it takes a high degree of skill to build an air tight cask or barrel.

But they must have had some success at producing high quality wines, because passages from the poets Horace and Virgil abound with references to the glory of the grape and the wines of that period. There is even a reference to a wine that was 160 years old being enjoyed by a wine lover of the day.

The next time you need a bottle of well aged wine, why not do your shopping at Crazy Billy’s?

Tale #00093

Do you know that the need of the Church for wines probably kept the art of winemaking alive during the Middle Ages?

When the Roman Empire fell in the 4th century, the making of red wine and the growing of grapes was a thriving industry. But as chaos spread throughout the European nations in the next few centuries, it became more and more hazardous for private individuals to make a living by tilling the soil. Marauding groups of starving peasants could wipe out a crop overnight so the only safe place to grow grapes was behind the high walls of a protected monastery.

Between the 10th and 15th centuries, large monasteries in France and Germany and Spain grew to prominence. Most of the important wine districts of Europe were either discovered by or preserved by monastic organizations. They made wine, and, for the first time, set up a system of regional classification. They knew how to build wooden casks so they were able to store wines and to ship them to other parts of the world.

As the social situation stabilized in the 15th century, private individuals once again turned to cultivation of the grape, but we should always remember the debt we owe to the religious organizations that kept the art of fine winemaking from being lost.

The next time you need a bottle of wine, why not do your shopping at Crazy Billy’s?