Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

SPEX 60th Anniversary Wines Win Gold and Silver Medals!

Thursday, June 25th, 2015
SPEX 60th Anniversary Wine Awards

SPEX 60th Anniversary Wines Win Gold and Silver Medals!!!

The SPEX 60th anniversary wines were entered in the wine making competition sponsored by “Wine Maker International Magazine”. There were about 50 different categories ranging from various whites to many different reds to sparkling wines. In total there were thousands of entries.

I’m proud to announce that our wines won two awards:

SPEX 2013 Chilean Merlot won a gold medal, the highest award, in the Merlot Category

SPEX 2013 Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon won a silver medal in the highly competitive Cabernet Sauvignon Category

Obie’s Wines: 2002 – 2014

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Obies Wines: 2002 - 2014

# Wine Grapes Blend Vintage Year Origin # Gallons Comments
47 Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot 70%-30% 2013 Chile 60 SPEX Wine
46 Cabernet Sauvignon --- 2014 California 60  
45 Nebbiola-Barbara-P Sirah 50%-40%-10% 2014 California 60 Barolo
44 Malbec --- 2013 Argentinia 50  
43 Cabernet Sauvignon --- 2013 Chile 60 SPEX 60th anniversary
42 Merlot --- 2013 Chile 53 SPEX 60th anniversary
41 Sangiovese-Merlot-Cabernet 50%-25%-25% 2013 California 60 Super Tuscany
40 Sangiovese-Merlot-Cabernet 33%-33%-33% 2013 California 60 Trivino
39 Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah 70%-30% 2012 California 53  
38 Grenache-Cabernet-P Syrah --- 2012 California 60 Chateanueuf-du-Pape, Splits
37 Cabernet Sauvignon --- 2012 California 60 Lanza Vinyards
36 Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot 60%-40% 2012 California 60  
35 Cabernet-Merlot-Syrah 60%-20%-20% 2012 Chile 60  
34 Grenache-Cabernet-P Syrah --- 2011 California 60 Chateanueuf-du-Pape
33 Sangiovese-Merlot-Cabernet 33%-33%-33% 2011 California 60 Trivino
32 Cabernet-Merlot-Cab Franc --- 2011 California 60  
31 Cabernet-Cab Franc-Syrah 50%-25%-25% 2011 Chile 60  
30 Cabernet-Merlot-Cab Franc-Malbec --- 2010 California 60 Splits
29 Amarone --- 2010 Italy 60 Juice
28 Sangiovese-Merlot-Cabernet 80%-10%-10% 2010 California 60 Trivino
27 Cabernet-Cab Franc 70%-30% 2010 California 60  
26 Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot-Carmeniere 60%-10%-30% 2010 California 60  
25 Tempranillo-Cabernet-Merlot 60%-25%-15% 2009 California 60 Won Bronze medal
24 Sangiovese-Merlot-Cabernet 50%-25%-25% 2009 California 60 Super Tuscany - Won Gold medal
23 Cabernet-Merlot-Cab Franc 55%-35%-10% 2009 California 60 Bordeaux Blend
22 Grenache-Cabernet-P Syrah-Alicante --- 2009 California 60 Chateanueuf-du-Pape
21 Cabnernet-Syrah 70%-30% 2009 Chile 60 Won Bronze medal
20 Sangiovese-Merlot-Cabernet 50%-25%-25% 2008 California 60 Super Tuscany
19 Cabernet-Merlot-Sangiovese 33%-33%-33% 2008 California 60 Trivino
18 Cabernet Sauvignon-Malbec 70%-30% 2008 California 60  
17 Zinfindel, Old Vine --- 2007 California 60  
16 Grenache, Cab-Mer-Cab Franc-Malbec --- 2007 California 60 Chateanueuf-du-Pape
15 Cabernet-Merlot-Cab Franc 33%-33%-33% 2007 California 60 Sanatra Blend
14 Merlot --- 2006 Chile 60  
13 Zinfindel --- 2006 California 60  
12 Nebbiolo-Barbera-Petite Sirah 50%-40%-10% 2006 California 60 Barolo
11 Cabernet-Malbec 70%-30% 2006 Chile 60  
10 Ruby Cabnernet --- 2005 California 53  
9 Chardonay --- 2005 California 53 From Juice
8 Cabnernet-Syrah 70%-30% 2005 California 60  
7 Cabernet-Carmenere 70%-30% 2005 Chile 53  
6 Chardonay --- 2004 California 53  
5 Zinfandel --- 2004 California 60  
4 Cabernet-Malbec 70%-30% 2004 Chile 53  
3 Cabernet-Merlot 70%-30% 2003 California 60  
2 Grenache, Cab-Mer-Cab Franc-Malbec --- 2003 California 60 Chateanueuf-du-Pape
1 Zinfandel --- 2002 California 60  

London Downtown… interesting places (Updated!)

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Restaurants and Wine Bars

Gordon’s wine bar… A MUST, basement down Villiers St. next to Charring Cross Station. Very old, buy a bottle and drink it in the arched candle lit rooms or outside in the courtyard.

Bedford & Strand Wine Bar… 1A Bedford Street just off the Strand near Charing Cross, nice selections and atmosphere.  Not as crowded.

Bibimpap Korean restaurant in SOHO at 11 Greek Street London, W1D 4DJ  (020 7287 3434) 2 streets away from Ronnie Scott’s.  Very casual. Cheap and cheerful, queue in the evening.  Try Kimchi Pancake, Pork & Vegetable Mandoo and raw beef and egg Bibimpap.  Bibimpap cooks itself in a very hot stone bowl as served.

Bierschenke, German Bier Kellar at the corner of The Strand and Essex Street across from the Royal Courts of Justice, lots of Barristers, 020 7936 2536

Café Des Amis… upscale wine bar near royal Opera House and Covent Garden, Bow St to Horal to 11 Hanover Place (alley) 020 7379 3444

Café Pacifico Mexican bar and restaurant… 5 Langley St, Covent Garden WC2H 9JA, near Covent Garden tube station,  020 7379 7728,

CnR Malaysian restaurant in the heart of China town near the W hotel, Leicester Square.

4 Rupert Court W1D 6DY very small side street off Rupert Street near the W and pizza express).   Try the Roti Canai and Singapore Laksa if you don’t know what to order

Cork and Bottle Wine Bar… almost as neat as Gordon’s….wider wine and food selections.  In the basement with interesting little carved-out rooms.  44-46 Cranbourn St. Just off Leicester’s Square near the tube stop.

Cicchetti, fine Italian food and dining, 215 Piccadilli, London W1J 9HL, 020 7494 9435,

Covent Garden, nice wine bar/restaurant in bottom of stall area, great restaurants and pubs.

Daly’s Wine Bar, at the corner of The Strand and Essex Street across from the Royal Courts of Justice, better wines.  Owner Gerry Hanratty, 020 7583 4476  Lots of lawyers.

Dirty Dick’s Pub, near the Liverpool Street Station, financial district,  (One of) The oldest Pubs in London, est 1745.

Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilli (downstairs) wine bar;  red and white flights, live music.

Great Queen Street, Queen Street… Traditional English food

La Perla Mexican Bar… 28 Maiden Lane WC2, near Covent Garden.  Mexican food and drinks.  Also Café Pacifico…  5 Langley Street WC2  Locations in Paris also.

Little Italy Ristorante/Bar across the street from Ronnie Scott’s, 21 Firth St.,  London W1D 4RN  0207 734 4737

Madeira Portuguese Restaurant, open until 2am, live music.  Vuxhall station Embankment.

Wahaca Mexican Market Eating… Neuvo Mexican, Maiden Lane Covent Garden

Rules Resturant, 35 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden,  020 7836 5314, Horse themed, claims to be the oldest running restaurant in London, also great cocktail bar upstairs

The Ritz Hotel, THE RITZ near Piccadilly Circus.  Marvelous décor, great high tea but have a cocktail right at the cocktail bar so you can watch the cocktail preparers preform their art.

The Savoy Hotel on The Strand is a famous old hotel and really neat to just go, have a glass of wine in the New York Bar and take in the atmosphere.  Be sure to check out the “historical display” on the way to the bar with artifacts from all the stars of yester year that stayed there, Monroe, Astaire, Gable to name a few.

The Wolseley restaurant, 160 Piccadilly, 020 7499 6996, great atmosphere located in the old Woseley motor car showroom.


Interesting Places & Music

Camden Town, lots of “crazy” young people too much “flea market” to imagine, ethnic food, old London Locks/Boats, very crowded on weekends…

Covent Garden, good shops, stalls, good street performers

There is a series of markets near Liverpool tube stop that are similar to Camden Town:  Old Spitalfields Market, the Brickline Market, Petticoat Lane Market, and the High Sunday Market.  New and old things and lots of ethnic food from everywhere in a very crowded and diverse neighborhood. Mostly only open on Sunday.

Near Spitalfields is the “Market Coffee House” with jazz every Monday starting at 7:30, 50 Brushfield St.  020 7247 4110

Great Indian restaurant district near the Sunday markets on Brick Street.  Go to the Aldgate East tube stop, down Whitechaple to Osborn which becomes Brick Street. Try Aladin among all the other eateries that try to talk you in as you walk down the street.

SOHO, “Bohemian” area, very, very interesting people watching, china town… be careful

Ronnie Scott’s, premier jazz club of London. Frith street in SOHO, go to listen not great food, some great acts open late book in advance at

Jazz After Dark, in SOHO, 9 Greek St W1D 4DQ, small venue with live music open late Tuesday through Saturday, book in advance.  020 7734 0545, 077 7480 3328

Carnaby Street, Oxford Circus, good shopping, trendy shops, Liberty dept store, great Soccer/Rugby store, interesting pubs

“Ain’t ‘nuthin But” Blues club on Kingly St., near Oxford Circus and Carnaby Street, young crowd, somewhat seedy,  may not like it, local blues bands, open mike Sunday starts 4pm.

“Spice of life” Blues, Cambridge Circus, Tuesdays

“Adelaide Road Pub, blues, Clark Farm tube station, Tuesdays

“Heathcote Public House” blues jam Leytonestone tube station, E11 bus, Wednesday

“Globe Public House”, blues, Morning Lane E8, Monday

“Town Hall”, blues, Mare St., Bethnal Green tube station, Bu 254

Tourist musts…Greenwich observatory museum, take the Thames river boat shuttle, great views, stand on the prime meridian, read about the longitudinal clocks before you go, I love mechanical antiques.  Tower military museum, really great dark ages armament neat tour by the beefeaters, royal jewels.  Westminster Chapel, very historic.  War rooms.

A Week in Tuscany… Put It on Your Bucket List

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
Cinque Terra

Cinque Terra, Manarola from the Water

Our group, actually 22 people, recently spent a week in Tuscany. It was well beyond, and very different from, my expectations and I would recommend it to anyone. What you will find is lush rolling hills, a temperate climate, interesting hill towns, culture and fine art… and of course great food and wine.

Tuscany is a product or it’s history and civilizations. The Apennine culture dominated the late second millennium BC, followed by the Villanovan culture (1100–700 BC). Tuscany, and the rest of Etruria, was then dominated by City-states before the Etruscan civilization rose in the 7th and 6th centuries BC. Then came the Romans in the first century AD followed by the medieval period. Tuscany (Florence) is often referred to as the birthplace of the Renaissance. I didn’t realize how many people died in the “black death” which started in 1348, 50% of the population overall and up to 75% in some cities.

We spent about two weeks in Italy but “the group” all stayed at Villa Ponte in Bettolle for 7 days (previously called Il Casale Del Marchese or La Bandita). The villa dates back to the 18th century but has been beautifully restored and the manager/chef, Gian Luca, is a hoot. While at the villa we did day trips on our own, mostly by car.

Below is the list of towns and places visited:

Cinque Terra:
Actually 5 towns on the Italian Riviera, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. It’s a fairy tale land with multicolored houses built on the steep hills and terraced gardens. Take the (underground) train and the ferry. Be prepared for lots of walking up and down the steps.


1929 Mercedes

1929 Mercedes SSK in the Mille Miglia

A very quaint walled city. We just happened to be there on the day that the 1000 Miglia, passed through town. The Mille Miglia started in 1927 as an open road endurance race and is now limited to cars made before 1957. I lost count at 100 vintage racing cars.

Castello Banfi and Banfi Wines:
A very large vineyard and winery producing 12 million bottles per year… olive oil. We had a tour then a great lunch in the restored castle.

Yet another quaint hill town/commune famous for the Brunello di Montalcino wine made from the sangiovese grosso grapes grown within the commune.


Siena Cathedral

The Romanesque-Gothic Siena Cathedral

Spend some time people watching in the Palazzo Pubblico where the Palio horse race is held twice a year. The Romanesque-Gothic Siena Cathedral is a must see as well as the home of Saint Catherine of Siena, one of the two patron saints of Italy.


Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio on the Arno River; Get out Your Wallet

What can you say about Florenza?….Santa Maria del Fiore, The David, Uffizi Gallery, Piazza della Repubblica….the cradle of the Renaissance. And of course Ponte Vecchio, the Medieval bridge over the Arno river, now home to jewelers, art dealers and souvenir shops.

Bagni San Filippo:
Hot springs, a great surprise and change of pace. We “sort of” stumbled on hot springs that were a bit of a hike back into the woods and with few other people there. There was a series of rustic pools people had damned up going down the hill with the top pool at the source about 96 degrees F.

A hill town/commune with beautiful panoramic views. The town was originally called Corsignano, the birthplace of Aeneas Silvius Picolomini who later became Pope Pius II and entirely rebuilt it as an ideal renaissance town.


Bridge To Civita

Don’t take the bridge to Civita if you are afraid of Heights

A very interesting hill town, less restored then the others because it was isolated for years after the original land bridge collapsed. You can still see Etruscan caves in the area. I got vertigo for the first time in my life while walking up the bridge.

Another interesting hill town perched on vertical cliff faces with a subterranean city of caves and tunnels one can tour. The Duomo, the Orvieto Cathedral, is striped in travertine and basalt.

Other cities people in our group visited included Rome, Venice, Pisa, Cortona, Bologna and Milan.

RO 6-14

A Better Way to Determine Calories in Alcoholic Beverages

Monday, June 16th, 2014

A while back I reported a table of the approximate calories in an average (115 ml or 4 oz) glass of wine (also see here and here). However there is a more accurate way to calculate how many calories alcoholic beverages contain which actually contribute towards your body’s use of calories. In other words how will the alcoholic beverages you consume affect your weight?

Wine contains about 13% alcohol by volume (actually I’ve seen one that reports 16.5%) and beer any where from 3.2% to 10% or more, and distilled spirits vary widely. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. So you might assume the more alcohol you consume the more weight you will gain. It turns out that many studies have determined that calories from alcohol do not necessarily lead to weight increase. The reason is unclear but the research suggests that alcohol is not effectively metabolized and that alcohol can increase overall metabolic rates causing more calories to be burned rather than stored. (Read this). For scientists the “calories” reported in foods are actually kilocalories but we will just call them “calories” here.

So for a correct comparison of the “metabolic calories” in various alcoholic beverages you have to back out the calories due to the alcohol. Note for comparison: one gram of fat contains about 9 calories; complex carbohydrates and protein each contain 4 calories per gram; and as above pure alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. So if you know the total (T) calories in a given volume (Xoz) of a drink and the percent alcohol (P) it’s simple to calculate the net (N) metabolic calories you will consume:

N = T – 7(cal/gm alcohol)*0.28(gm alcohol/oz%)*P*X = T – 1.96*P*X

  • N = Net calories in your drink of X ounces
  • T = Total calories in your drink of X ounces
  • X = Number of ounces of the drink
  • P = Percent alcohol of the drink


There are a number of sources that report the calories and percent alcohol in various drinks. The values differ quite a bit from source to source, but below I have selected some wines and beers to provide a few examples:

Calories in Wine

  Total Calories Net Calories
Non-Alcohol Wine 4oz, 0% 37 37
Champagne 4oz, 12% 105 11
Dry Red 4oz , 13% 115 13
Dry White 4oz , 12.5% 120 22
Dry Rose 4oz , 12% 100 0

Calories in Beer

  Total Calories Net Calories
Non-Alcohol Beer 12oz, 0% 60 60
Beer 12oz, 5.5% 150 21
Light Beer 12oz, 4.0% 100 6
Stout 12oz, 4.3% 153 52
Double Dock 12oz, 9.5% 323 99


There are many references but these will get you started if interested:



James Beard Foundation

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

SPEX attended a fundraiser in support of the James Beard Foundation on Monday June 15, 2013. The function was held at the headquarters on West 12th street in the heart of the Village in New York City, which just happens to be where the culinary legend lived for many years. The foundation’s mission is to celebrate, nurture and preserve America’s diverse culinary heritage and future.

The excellent wine tasting was hosted by Maynard James Keenan of Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards of Jerome AZ. Mr. Keenan is, of course, a music icon as well.

Maynard James Keenan

Maynard James Keenan

The hors d’oeuvres followed by a great five course dinner were created by Chef Mike Carrino of the “Pig and the Prince” in Montclair, NJ. Chef Mike was assisted by his staff and several of the students from the James Beard Culinary Arts School.

LCGC Europe Webinar: “The Comprehensive Analyses of Wine”

Monday, October 29th, 2012

LCGC Europe recently held a very informative webinar detailing the analysis of wine.  You can register on the LCGC Europe website to view a recording, or download the slides.

You can also watch the webinar I hosted last year on the Art and Chemistry of Wine.


If you analyze wine, be sure to check out SPEX CertiPrep’s growing selection of wine standards.

Check out our webinar on “The Making and Chemistry of Wine!

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

The production of wine has been an art form and a business for thousands of years. Join SPEX CertiPrep as we discuss the vintner’s art, from wine production to the chemistry of wine. Our presentation includes not only the various steps in the actual production of wine from crushing the grapes to bottling the wine, but also a discussion of the different chemical aspects of wine from flavor profile agents to contamination and spoilage agents. We invite you to take part in our interesting and informative look at the art and science of wine!



You can view other webinars from SPEX CertiPrep on their YouTube Channel

Download the slides from the SPEX CertiPrep website

For more information on SPEX CertiPrep’s Wine and Pesticide Certified Reference Materials, visit  To learn about the Geno/Grinder, visit

Obie’s Out of Bounds wine wins Gold Medal!!!

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

A few months ago one of Obie’s wines was entered in a wine making competition sponsored by “Wine Maker International Magazine”. There were about 50 different categories ranging from various whites to many different reds to sparkling wines. In total there were thousands of entries.

Obie’s 2007 California Chateauneuf-du-Pape blend won a gold medal, the highest award, in the “Red Vinifera Blend” category, as shown in the certificate below. The blend contained approximately 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Grenache, 20% Petit Syrah and 10% Alicante grapes.

Obies Wine Gold Medal Certificate

Obies Wine Gold Medal Certificate

Chemicals Responsible for the Oak Aromas in Wine

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

I like red wine, I admit it.  But I’ll also admit that I have trouble identifying the individual tastes and aromas in wine.  I can always tell if I like a wine or not, I just can’t say “It’s spicy with hints of almond and cedar”….or whatever.  I guess my nose isn’t what it should be after too many years in the lab.  But that certainly doesn’t stop me from enjoying a glass.  Being a chemist, I can appreciate the analytical approach of identifying the source and chemical compounds responsible for at least some of the aromas from a nice, heavy red.  I believe that red wine should be aged in oak barrels.  The oak is responsible for a lot of the character of the wine.  “Obie’s Out of Bounds” performs the primary fermentation, perhaps 95%, in a large plastic tub then the very, very young wine is pressed and pumped into French oak barrels to age.

The species and source of the oak itself can be a major factor in the variation in the aroma profile of a wine. Oak species differ greatly.  The French Pedunculate Oak (Quercus pedunculata = Q. robur) is known for its relatively faint aromas compared to French Sessile Oak (Q. sessilis and Q. petraea). American White Oak (Q. alba) can have a strong, distinctive aroma, sometimes considered overpowering in certain wines.  In contrast, Oregon White Oak (Q. garryana) seems to have more similarities to the French oaks than to American White Oak.

Other factors are geographic origin, hybridization, growing conditions, age and genetic variation. The stave’s position on a trunk can influence its aroma composition as well as stave seasoning and kiln versus air drying.  The cooperage process adds additional variability with barrel to barrel and even stave to stave variations from toasting.

Toasting: Lighter toasting aromas are usually attributed to oak lactones. As toasting increases, vanilla and caramel aromas associated with vanillin, furfural and 5-methylfurfural increase. At even higher toast levels these compounds decrease and are replaced by spicy (eugenol, isoeugenol, 4-methylguaiacol) and smoky characters (guaiacol, 4-methylguaiacol).

Fermentation in barrel: When fermentation is done in the barrel aldehydes such as vanillin, furfural, and 5- ethylfurfural can be partially transformed by yeast into non-aromatic alcohols.

Synergistic effects: Compounds with chemical similarities are often released from oak together (such as eugenol, isoeugenol, or other volatile phenols). The combination of similar molecules can result in perceived synergistic sensory effects even when they are below their individual sensory thresholds. This can even occur between unrelated volatiles; for example oak lactone’s sensory threshold has been found to be 50-fold lower in the presence of vanillin.

Piney, resin, cedar  and dill aromas: These aromas are often associated with American White Oak Quercus alba, and can be linked to high levels of cis oak lactone.  Quercus alba can also contain relatively high amounts of terpenes; however, key compounds have not been identified.

Nutty, roasted almond and roasted hazelnut aromas: Nutty aromas may arise at least partially from the combined sensory effect of known  volatiles coming from wine or oak.  These include diacetyl (fatty, butter), free fatty acids (fatty, rancid), furfural  and 5-methylfurfural (caramelized tones).

Cinnamon and nutmeg aromas: Cinnamon and nutmeg have both woody and spicy aromas and can be attributed to the combination of woody, coconut oak lactones and spicy compounds such as eugenol and isoeugenol.

Bread crust, toast and gingerbread aromas: Bread crust or toast character can be described as a yeasty flavor (from yeast byproducts in bread as well as in wine), or caramel aromas from carbohydrate byproducts such as furfural and 5-methyl-furfural, or smoky aromas from guaiacol, 4-  ethyl-guaiacol.  A gingerbread aroma, which may be less yeasty, can have additional contributions from spicy flavored compounds such as eugenol.

Disagreeable dusty or cardboard aromas: Chloroanisoles (TCA, TeCA and PCA) are powerful odorants with a musty, moldy odor generally referred to  the “corked” smell.  If wine seems “corked”, even prior to bottling, oak is one possible source of chloroanisole.  Of course cork is the usual source.

Pharmaceutical, band-aid or horsy, sweaty aromas: Compounds responsible for these odors are 4-ethylphenol (4EP) and 4-ethylguaiacol  and are byproducts of the yeast Brettanomyces.  One should periodically screen for Brettanomyces activity during oak aging.

The information above was obtained largely from ETS laboratories, 899A Adams St., St. Helena CA 94574, 707 963-4806.
ETS analyzes oak aromas using solid phase microextraction headspace technology for sampling (HS/SPME) followed by analysis by gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy (GCMS).

SPEX CertiPrep sells a selection of single and multi-component wine standards (pdf) for GC, GC/MS, HPLC, and HPLC/MS analysis.