Showing posts with label tasting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tasting. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Winery Adventure: Porter Family Vineyards


Porter Family Vineyards logo

Nestled 600 feet about the valley floor in the Coombsville Region of Napa Valley, you will find a winery that is off the beaten path.  This isn't just any winery.  It is a very special place with incredibly friendly people and delicious wines.  Porter Family Vineyards farms 14 acres of vineyards, concentrating primarily on Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.  Here are some of the highlights of our recent visit to this magical place.

2020 Porter Family Vineyards Sandpiper Rosé

Our visit started with a semi-sweet and refreshing cool glass of 2020 Sandpiper Rosé.  We arrived at Porter Family Vineyards just before 1:30pm and the sun was in full force with a temperature reaching 90 degrees.  This wine was a welcome sight and very tasty!

Our Porter Family Vineyards Host, Luis

Our host for the tour and tasting was Luis.  He was super friendly, knowledgeable and has a true passion for the wines and the property.  A good winery host can make or break a tasting experience and we felt very lucky to have Luis show us around.  He told us that he is getting married later this year on the Porter property in the cave.  Lucky guy!

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes at Porter Family Vineyards

Looking out at mature grapes never gets old.  The dark purple/deep blue color in the sun is stunning!

Tasting grapes at Porter Family Vineyards

We tasted both Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes from the vines at Porter Family Vineyards.  Shhh!  Don't tell the owners.  Just add it to our wine shipment.  Actually, Luis encouraged us to taste the grapes and while we thought they were perfect, Luis said that they still had about 3 weeks on the vines before harvest.  The Syrah grapes were very sweet and juicy.

Wine barrels at Porter Family Vineyards

We will never tire of this view.  The way the barrels are marked shows not only the dedication to detail that this boutique family winery has, but it also makes for great pictures and a very welcoming presentation when you enter the winery cave.  We just need to figure how to get one of these barrels back home for our wine cellar project.  (Hint, hint Porter Family - empty is ok with us!)

Custom wine storage at Porter Family Vineyards

Now that we have seen this incredible wine rack, we are absolutely obsessed and need one.  Luis told us that everyone asks about these during their winery visit, but they aren't for sale.  This is one of the most beautiful and unique wine racks we have seen in recent years.

The cave at Porter Family Vineyards

This pictures will give you a little better perspective of what our intimate tasting experience was like.  You have to be a wine club member (family member the call it) in order to visit with Porter Family Vineyards.  We are blessed that our friends Sarah & Richard are members here, which is the only reason this experience was made possible.  It was absolutely lovely!

Tasting lineup at Porter Family Vineyards

While the wine tasting line up likely varies throughout the year, this was our offering during our visit:
  • 2020 Sandpiper Rosé
  • 2018 Beverly's Chardonnay
  • 2016 Sandpiper Red Blend
  • 2016 Cave Dwellers Blend
  • 2016 Barre Azure Blend
  • and a "bonus" pour of the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon
The toughest part of tasting these wines was deciding what to purchase.  Everyone in our party gladly purchased wines and we ended up with the 2016 Sandpiper Red and 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon.


As you know, the amount of food that is provided with each wine tasting (not all wineries offer charcuterie or light faire) varies greatly.  Since this was our second winery visit of the day and we had just eaten a tasty Mexican cuisine lunch, we didn't need much.  But the snacks that were served with the wines were perfectly paired.  They included:
  • Rosemary Marcona Almonds (2018 Beverly's Chardonnay)
  • Aged Gouda Cheese (2016 Sandpiper Red Blend)
  • Iberico Cheese (2016 Cave Dwellers Blend)
  • Porter Cabernet Chocolate Truffle (2016 Barre Azure Blend
Melissa at Porter Family Vineyards

Trying to decide which wines are your favorites can be a tough decision.  Luckily we agreed on just about everything.  I love this lady!

Porter Family Vineyards wine

Everyone of the red wines at Porter Family Vineyards was similar to this.  Gorgeous, opaque colors that went to the edge of the glass and boasted fragrant aromas.

Napa Scott enjoys Porter Family Vineyards

Wines, wines and more wines!  Thankfully Napa Scott kept detailed notes on what everyone ordered.  

Intimate tasting area at Porter Family Vineyards

All of the views in the cave are beautiful.  Here is another intimate area to taste the wines.  We felt very lucky to taste the main cave tasting area but this view is not bad either!

Four legged friends at Porter Family Vineyards

We met this four-legged cutie.  Winston belongs to one of the owners and he was quite happy to introduce himself to all of us on our way out.  Seeing this guy made all of us miss our pups back home.

Wine Tasting at Porter Family Vineyards

The team at Porter Family Vineyards knocked it out of the park for us.  Ken Bernards makes some amazing wines and the passion that the owners (and winemaker) have is evident in each bottle.  We couldn't ask for a better group of friends in which to experience wine country and make these memories.  We look forward to returning to this amazing gem during future Napa visits.  For more information on how to acquire wine or become a club member, please visit the Porter Family Vineyards web site.  You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Wine Tasting Fees: A Necessary Evil


Wine Tasting Fees
Wine tasting fees.  How much are they and why do I pay them?

We recently returned from an incredible wine country adventure that took place in Sonoma and Napa, California over three full days.  While we were there, our wine-loving group of six had the opportunity to visit nine wineries.  Wait, that's not right.  We added a tenth winery, but it was literally for just a glass of wine as they couldn't squeeze us in for a tasting.

Prior to the trip, we had combed over our options, created a whiteboard and mapped out best practices based on location, time of day and whether or not we had any "must see" properties.  It turns out that we did.  So much has changed since the last time we were in Napa ... including the wine tasting fees!  Don't get me wrong.  We weren't blindsided and we had our eyes wide open when creating our plans.  Most of the wineries we were visiting were what we would classify as very special places.  These weren't the 5,000,000 cases of box wines for $3.99.  About half of the wineries on our tour were very low-production, no-distribution gems that you could only visit if you were members.

As a professional courtesy, I reached out to 6 of the wineries that made our final cut.  Our good friends who we joined on the trip were wine club members or had connections at 3 others, so they made those contacts.  After the professional courtesies and wine club member discounts that we all had, we were looking at right around $250.00 in wine tasting fees for nine wineries.  When you break it down, it is really very reasonable!  Only one tasting room required payment up front, which ironically, was our least favorite of the trip and no wine was purchased there.

Wine Tasting Experience
You have to pay to play!  Wine isn't free and either is your tasting.

So are wine tasting fees just a racket?  Are they a way of adding a few bucks to the bottom line and vintners wring their hands together and salivate as the tour buses of blue hairs arrive daily?  While there may be a small hint of truth to the second point, wineries really are NOT making anything from you off of their tasting fees.  In our case, we opted for an "elevated" tasting experience at most of the places that we visited.  We weren't keen on bellying up to the wine bar with a crowd of sweaty tourists who had just left their 5th winery before noon.  We sought out and asked for private tastings (or semi-private if that is all that was available).  For the general population, our fees would have ranged from $45 - $100 per person.  Again, we were afforded some professional discounts and gratis tastings.

Private Wine Tasting With Charcuterie
A private or elevated tasting experience will cost more, but it is worth it.

Why do wineries charge fees and why have increased substantially over the last five years?  To answer the question, you have to look back at history.  The smaller, boutique or low production wineries are constantly in fear of being swept about by the Constellation Brands and the E&J Gallo of the world.  Keeping a foothold in an area of the world where a plot of land can sell upwards of $500,000 for an acre of grapes is extremely daunting as well as constantly tempting - to cash in!

Low production means just that.  Wineries that produce 1000, 3500, or even 7500 cases of wine annually have to be very select on how that wine is consumed.  If that winery uses 10% or even 5% of their annual production for wine tastings, it hits their net income hard.  

Remember the horrific fires that consumed various parts of Sonoma and Napa in 2020?  Even if a winery and/or its vineyards remained physically untouched, many red wine grapes were affected with smoke taint and could not be harvested.  Imagine raising, nourishing and encouraging your crop for an entire year, only to have it wiped out days before harvest.  The folks at CADE Winery told us that because of the smoke taint, they will not have any 2020 vintage red wines at all.

And then there was a little thing that we all recall because we are still living with it in some fashion. The worldwide pandemic known as Covid-19 left no stone unturned, including wine country.  For safety reasons, tasting salons were closed completely for extended periods, forcing wineries to seek alternative tasting options.  It also forced those companies to reach out to their membership, offer deals that would have never seemed possible before and in some cases, sit on inventory.

Of course, the tangible costs associated with a wine tasting.  With most of our tastings, we had 4 - 8 wines (which means 4-8 glasses to clean per person), a custom tasting menu, charcuterie, a host or hostess and the costs associated with set up and tear down of the tasting.  Is that worth $50 per person?  In our eyes, it's a resounding YES!

Support Your Local Wineries
Need we say more?  Show them some love.

So the $64,000 question then is "Is there a way to avoid wine tasting fees"?  The super-simple, quick and sarcastic answer is yes;  don't go to a winery!  I know that's not the answer you were looking for, but it is very honest.  However, if you are going to visit your favorite or soon-to-be-favorite wine slinger, understand the expectations before you go.  Often times, wineries will be clear on their wine tasting/wine purchase policy.  For example, for every "X" number of bottles that you purchase during your visit, they will waive the tasting fee.  

What we found out in our personal experience was that nearly every winery we visited waived the tasting fee for us if we purchased wine.  There was never a "set amount" discussed, and truthfully, our group of six purchased several thousands of dollars total at 8 of the 9 wineries.  The only exception was the pre-paid $45 tasting fee for one of our visits, and that winery was a flop.  Maybe a major source of their income is from tasting fees because people aren't buying the wines?  Just a thought.

The proverb "A Fool and His Money Are Soon Parted" never held truer words that in wine country.  But the memories you take from a trip like this will last you forever, or at least until the next time.  I compare a trip to Napa and Sonoma like a trip to Las Vegas.  Stay with me here!  The $3.99 buffet is comparable to the $5 wine tasting.  They are unicorns.  They don't exist any longer.  Traveling to wine country is not cheap and quality wine is worth every penny!  If you don't want to pay, stay home and drink wine from a box.

Trips To Wine Country Are Pricey
Your trip to wine country will leave you with wonderful memories and a lighter wallet.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Rodney Strong Wine Estates REJUVENATION Virtual Wine Tasting


Rodney Strong Wine Estates Wine Lineup

It was a great day for a wine tasting.  But then again, isn't any day perfect to gather for some vino?  

Rodney Strong Rejuvenation Power Point

Our group of six gathered at our home (aka DrinkTheBottles HQ) for a virtual wine tasting provided by our friends at Rodney Strong Wine Estates.  This tasting was promoted as a media tasting and we invited our friends to enjoy some new wines.  Whenever we have a virtual tasting we always try to include others.  It would be a shame to "waste" six bottles of wine on two people.

Rodney Strong Wine Estates Portfolio

The folks at Rodney Strong Wine Estates have been going through a makeover, or a REJUVENATION as they call it, for the last 3 years.  They have touched every part of the business from the estate, the vineyards, the tasting room, the personnel and, as you may notice, the logo/label!

Rodney Strong Wine Estates Wines

The lineup consisted of six unique and flavorful wines.  The winery proves that you don't have to be expensive to enjoy quality wines.   We tasted these wines in order:
  • 2020 Rodney Strong Rose of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley:  $25.00
  • 2019 Rodney Strong California Chardonnay:  $17.00
  • 2017 Rodney Strong Sonoma County Merlot:  $20.00
  • 2018 Rodney Strong Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon:  $22.00
  • 2018 Rodney Strong Alexander Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon:  $28.00
  • 2018 Rodney Strong Old Vine Zinfandel:  $25.00
Rodney Strong Wine Estates note taking

Everyone had the chance to taste all six wines and choose their favorites.  Jeff took notes.

Rodney Strong Vineyards Rose of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

We started off with a bang!   Collectively and unanimously our group thought that this Rose of Pinot Noir got two thumbs up!  Strong strawberry finish with a medium acidic finish.  At only $25.00 suggested retail, this is an incredible deal.

Charcuterie Board

Melissa and Jeff tried their hands at their first charcuterie board.  You simply cannot have a proper wine tasting without charcuterie.  This is only a small sampling of all of the food that we had!

Rodney Strong Vineyards California Chardonnay

Great golden color and bright Chardonnay.  Some people tend to look down their noses at Chardonnay, like Merlot.  But this one full of flavor and you won't believe it is only $17.00 when you taste it!

Rodney Strong Vineyards wine close up

The nearly hour-long virtual wine tasting presented by Director of Communications Christopher O'Gorman and Director of Winemaking Justin Seidenfeld started out with a history lesson and background about the winery and vineyards.   Rodney Strong (or "Rod" as they referred to him) started off as a dancer and became a wine pioneer not just in Sonoma County, but throughout California.  The winery has been active for over 60 years and Justin is only the 4th director of winemaking in those 6 decades.  

RSV is a Certified Sustainable Winery that believes heavily in conservation, water management and solar energy.  The focus is now more on micro farming while they also plan extensive vineyard replanting over the next 7 years.  

The original tasting room at the winery was opened in 1970 under Rod's watchful eye and just went through a complete remodel.   The focus now is flighted wines by appointment, which will give wine lovers a better tasting experience.  

Rodney Strong Vineyards 2017 Sonoma County Merlot

I really have to applaud the entire Rodney Strong Vineyards (Rodney Strong Wine Estates) team for their vision.   While it may have been a bit overdue to some, they clearly have the right people making decisions both aesthetically and with their winemaking.  Change can be difficult.  But change is inevitable and often necessary to survive in business and to attract a new or emerging audience.  

If you haven't tasted any wines from the Rodney Strong portfolio recently, we would encourage you to do so.  You might find a new favorite.  While they do offer more expensive and exclusive wines like Alexander's Crown or Rockaway Cabernet, the bulk of their offerings are in the $20 - $30 range and affordable for most people.  FYI, our favorites of the day were the Rose of Pinot Noir and Old Vine Zinfandel.  Thank you for Alicia, Christopher and Justin for spending some time with us last week and sharing your labor of love.  Cheers!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Why Digital Ambassadors are Important to Wineries

Things in the world right now are weird, to say the least.  No matter which side of science you are on, the current global pandemic has wreaked havoc in everyone's daily lives, including their business.  As of this writing, many wineries are still closed while others are offering outdoor tasting experiences.  Long gone are the days of intimate cave tours, barrel tastings, winery tours and unique experiences - at least for now.  Virtual tastings are becoming a 'thing' with smart savvy winery operators, but there are so many options in the world.  What's the best wine on the market?  This article will explain some of the ways that digital ambassadors (wine bloggers) can help wineries.

In today's digital world of electronic payments, on-demand everything and the universe at our fingertips, the visibility of wine is absolutely crucial.  Wine bloggers can help wineries and wine brands expand their digital footprint with exposures to new audiences.

Whether it's Gen-Z, millennials or basically anyone with a smart phone, wineries need to be in front of their audience.  And while most wineries are family-owned and operated, posting to social media and reaching potential customers can be a daunting task.  Wine bloggers thrive for this type of work.  They love posting their pictures, videos and stories.  And they do it well!  Let's look at some other reasons wine bloggers should be considered for brand growth and awareness:

Using the services of a wine blogger is much cheaper than hiring an advertising agency.  Instead of purchasing cookie-cutter ads with a bottle against a white background and paying dearly for it, use a wine blogger.  The costs?  Zero.  Nada.  The only expense is a few bottles of wine and they can often reach the same or larger audience than a marketing agency.

I've said it a million times.  "What's a good bottle of wine" is the most common question wine bloggers get asked.   The majority of wine consumers have never purchased wine outside of their local grocery store or liquor store.  They are completely blind to the infinite number of selections that are available from wineries around the world.  Wineries looking to fill their seasonal allocations, build their wine club memberships or just sell more wine should find a team of bloggers and join their tribe.  

Selling more wine isn't always as easy as it sounds.  If you're like us, you don't just write about the wines.  If the wine knocks your socks off, you will tell EVERYONE you know about how great it is.  We also encourage our readers to visit the winery web site and sign up for their newsletter.  In a recent experiment, when we signed up for a mailing list from a winery web site, 82% of those sites sent us an automated email within 30 minutes welcoming us to their mailing list.  Of those, just over 70% also included a sale or special as a potential buyer.   Bloggers can get those new users to wineries.  And if a blogger isn't providing a link directly to the wine or winery and/or tagging them in social media, you need to find another digital media ambassador!

For wineries, they shouldn't just expect to just send a couple of bottles to be tasted, written about and forgotten.  Once a blogger gets the nod, it should be a deeper and long-lasting connection with the new wine partner.  We encourage our wine partners to keep us informed of any promotions they have so we can pass that information along to our readers.  Continuing partnerships build bridges between the consumer and the proprietor, hopefully evolving into long lasting relationships and lifelong customers.

If you take only one point away from this article, this next detail is probably the most important one that should resonate with winemakers, owners and people who control the purse strings.  Are you ready for the secret sauce?    People.  Trust.  Bloggers.   Let's face it.  Wineries do a phenomenal job at creating their labor of love and they can publish a two-page mini essay about the terroir, the rocky slope that helped shape the unique grape clusters with blah blah blah.....   But consumers are realize that wineries are in the business of making a profit.  Believe it or not (this is tongue in cheek), we have actually purchased wines that do not smell or taste anything like what was described on the bottle, point of sale card or tech sheet.   Digital wine ambassadors will always be honest and readers appreciate that!

Wine bloggers and bloggers in general are part of an all-inclusive and growing community.  Their main goal is to reach audiences that seek information about products without feeling intimidated.  There are no dumb questions when it comes to readers/followers/fans.  They feel comfortable from behind their keyboard in the comfort of their own home and they can learn at their own pace.  Bloggers are a vital connection between businesses and customers.

Finally, let's discuss a few considerations when your winery is choosing a blogger to partner with:
  • If a blogger is going to post about how much they did NOT like a wine, they're not for you!
  • If a blogger doesn't take the time to research your business and learn more about you, find someone else.
  • If a blogger doesn't stay in touch with you and follow up with their reviews, why would you use them?
  • If a blogger isn't informative, entertaining and knowledgeable about the products they are reviewing, you need to keep looking!  (Hint:  Check out their work).
  • If a blogger wants to charge you to taste and share your wines, they have a disconnect with reality.  Your wine samples are in lieu of any fees.  Move along.
In closing, remember this.  The next time you receive an email from a blogger asking to share your wines, take a few moments to consider these points before tossing that note in the trash.  If it's not a good fit or not in the budget, that's completely understandable.  If you think there is a good opportunity for a partnership, we would obviously love for wineries to consider Jeff & Melissa (that's us!) at Drink The Bottles.  Cheers!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Destination: Portugal - Wine Tastings & Mysterious Tales

Destination:  Portugal - Explore Port Wine

Spring is the most pleasant time of the year. Days start to get longer and warmer, and spending time outside suddenly feels very inviting. The green gets greener, the blue sky turns brighter and flowers blooming everywhere it all seems magical. Well, and it is, at least here in Portugal!
Porto is Portugal's second largest city and was elected Best European Destination 2017 and awarded as European Leading Destination 2018. Every year the city attracts thousands of tourists eager to discover the ancient downtown, the typical riverside with colorfully painted houses, to get lost in century old streets, to enjoy the Portuguese cuisine and, of course, to taste wine.
It´s great to be outdoors during the spring months. To take a walk along the lavish green Douro's landscape taking your time to relax or to sail the Douro River and breathe for a while. Moreover, if you are thinking that the perfect setting would include a Port Wine tasting and maybe some delicious food as well, we are going to make that happen.
Here is a list of the Top 4 Experiences you just can't skip this Spring.

Picnic in the Vineyards
Picnics are a fun thing to do. But when do you have the opportunity to do it right in middle of secular vineyards sightseeing the snake like Douro river in the background?
Some wine estates in Portugal are able to provide that unique experience perfect for everyone. Enjoy it with your family, friends or even in a romantic getaway. Some wineries sell the tour and picnic is included, so be ready to choose your spot in the vineyard and unveil what is inside your basket to celebrate the moment. Everything you are about to taste was carefully selected and the wine will be the perfect pairing. Only the best regional wine and delicacies (or in Portuguese: Petiscos) combined with some charming and distinctive details selected for you will be inside your basket. Immerse yourself in the magnificent scenery and enjoy each flavor and each minute.
Explore Portugal with a picnic in the vineyards

The must go Port Wine Cellars Tour
  You don't need to go a specific winery or vineyard in the Douro Valley to taste the best Portuguese wines (though we strongly recommend you do!). If you're in Porto and haven't planned a trip to the Douro but find yourself in the mood for a Port wine tasting, there are plenty of choices, mainly on the other side of the Douro River, in Gaia.
In the cellars, you will learn more about the history of Port wine and the Douro region and discover its most iconic figures. Powerful women that controlled a so-called men world back in the 1800’s, piracy tales and Barons that had a doomed faith to drown in the Douro River and never to be seen again.
Each visit is different, featuring a tasting room, artesanal cheese or chocolate pairings, on-site sommeliers and much more. To become a real Port Wine connoisseur keep reading and download the free Guide to the Best Port Wine Cellars and book your tour in Portugal.

Cruising 2019 in Portugal  
Wine cruises can be relaxing, fun, romantic, you set the tone we provide all you need on board for the smoothest sailing either for a short escape of one or two hours or to spend the night on board.
The view is stunning and the wine, by the moment you already know how it is, unique and produced in the man-made slopes along the Douro river as far as the eyes can see.  A truly delight for those who need a moment out of the real world, a moment of indescribable beauty.
To set sail in Douro River you will be able to go on board of modern sailing boats or boats with a vintage feel to it accordingly to your preference. 
In addition, if you are visiting Algarve in the south of Portugal a Yacht cruise will take you along the immense bright blue of the Atlantic Ocean and you will be able to spot secret beaches hidden between the rocks.
Wine Tourism in Portugal has cruises that are able to suit your particular taste. Everything for the perfect spring day!
A wine cruise in Portugal is an incredible experience

Cultural Tours - The Locals Choices
Yes, cultural tours can be exhausting, if the only thing you do is to walk around a town and visit platitudinous churches or museums. But what if this tour takes you only to the most beautiful European historic sites and shows you the true cultural heritage? A cultural richness that adds up some top quality wines and delicious petiscos. Yes, your cultural tour magically turns into a once in a lifetime experience. What about now? A Wine Tour in Porto with a River Cruise and Tour to The Port Wine Cellars, or a  Full-day Wine Tour in Alentejo?  Maybe you are more into a city feel, and if that is so: Wine and History Tour in Lisbon will be the most appropriate choice.

Adventure and sustainable tours
As a wine lover you know wine goes with any activity, mostly if you are on your Spring vacations. So, why not to mix it up with some adventure and nature experiences? OK, as long as the only thing you are driving is a Bike or a Kayak! And since spring is also the last chance you have to stay fit before summer, we have some excellent suggestions for you, that goes from an unique Wine and Golf Tour to Health and Wellness stays. In fact you can mix them and do it all during you stay. What about Bicycle Tours and Bird Watching,  Kayak and Bike Tours or get the adrenaline running in the 4x4 Wine Tour?
We have so many incredible experiences waiting for you in Portugal all year long.  Did you know that Portugal is the European country with more sun hours? Yes, it is true.  So now, it is time for you to see, taste, and feel for yourself.  Create your own unforgettable memories of 2019, here in Portugal.
For more suggestions, visit Wine Tourism in Portugal website and have a look at the list of all the experiences you can book in the Douro region.

Wine Tourism in Portugal is leading the path in making Wine Lovers discover what a great wine country Portugal is.
The only hub for booking the finest and most awarded wine places and wine experiences in Portugal.
Nowadays with more than 130k visits per month from travelers all around the world, Wine Tourism in Portugal is a key company and inevitable business partner for the wine related industry.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Your First Impression of Wine Could Be Your Last

Drink Good Wine or Don't Drink Any Wine At All
As I sit here in a hotel room in Ohio for business for a few days, I decided to unwind a bit after a fifteen hour day of travel and work.  Luckily for me, the hotel is brand new, modern, comfortable and yes - it has a relatively-fully stocked bar.  The day didn't call for two fingers of straight Kentucky bourbon as travels often do.  So, against my better judgement, I decided to order the "house" Cabernet.  Those of you who have followed me both with this and the Midwest Wine Guy wine blogs know that I'm a Cab snob.  No, not a snob, but rather an aficionado of Cabernet and really any wine that is made well.  So, I order the Cabernet, walk outside to the lounge area and make a phone call.  

Wanting to unwind from the day before dinner, I thought I'd sip a bit and catch up on emails and text messages that had been given their pecking order throughout the day.  And when I put the wine to my lips, I immediately shook my head.  I wasn't mad at the hotel for serving the wine.  I was ticked at myself for ordering it.  While I'd like to believe that this mid-level hotel chain had a top sommelier picking their offerings for the national brand, I suspect instead that it was the general manager perusing the bargain aisle at the local Pick 'n Save who was eyeing the clearance section in order to save a few bucks and make the liquor budget for the month.

The wine was putrid.  It was a far cry from the wines around the world that I've enjoyed for many years and not even in the same stratosphere as those that I've shared with you.  It was purple.  It was wet.  And those were the good qualities!  But for someone who has tasted hundreds - actually thousands - of wines, I can ignore the obvious crap and force a few swallows while I am enthralled in my iPhone.   Maybe I'm a glutton.  Maybe I just expected this experience.  Maybe I didn't care.

A quick dinner at a local pub with a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale (that was the star of the evening) and I was back to the hotel.  I'd been up for about seventeen hours at this point and really, REALLY needed a night cap.  I strolled over to the hotel bar again, nearly laughed at the thought that the "bartender" (who also served as the bellhop and night time security guard) probably didn't know how to concoct an old fashioned, so I...............opted for................another glass of wine.  But this time I ordered...............wait for it............................................................a California Merlot.

I ordered the Merlot because I knew the producer and was very familiar with their work.  Keep in mind, this was still the low.............VERY low.........think bottom of the barrel offering from this producer.   Grocery store end cap is where you normally find this wine, but dammit I was going to have this and enjoy it, even if it gave me heart burn.   It didn't, but it still wasn't good.  It was almost marginal at best and I was glad I was alone and hadn't suggested this for anyone else.

What the hell is your point, you ask?  About fifteen years ago I got into red wine and it was really by luck.  Up until that point I was almost completely a white wine or sparkling wine drinker.  One day I thought I'd broaden my horizon and expand my palate, so I ordered a case of red wine online, knowing almost nothing about the wine, the producer, the AVA - nothing.  But, lady luck was on my side that day.   The case of 2004 Chateau Whatever the Hell it Was arrived and within a day or two I popped open the bottle.  It.  Was.  Beautiful.    A Google search later led me to learn that this wine was a top wine under $20 from Wine Enthusiast that year and had received warm accolades my professional and amateur critics alike.  Lucky me!

But what if I hadn't been so lucky?   What if my first wine experience was at the hotel in Ohio, or at a Lakers game, or at a restaurant that is trying to move their Chateau Poop because it tastes like vinegar and they don't want to be stuck with it any longer?  What then?   Would I try wine again or would I stick with my familiar Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer and find an excuse to shy away from reds at dinner parties?  I lucked out, but not everyone does.

When someone makes wine, they don't need to tell you how it tastes.   They need to tell their story.  They need to tell you about their land, their weather, their vineyards and their talents.   By the time they taste a wine until it is actually released to the general population can be many months.  Wine changes in the bottle and tastes so different as time inevitably has its way with the juice inside.   I want to hear from the people who drink dozens of different bottles of wine every year or every month from different producers.  I want to hear from the people who have no stake in the game and who aren't trying to sell you wine.  I want to hear from the wine bloggers and the amateur wine tasters.  They can really pick some wines and they won't steer you wrong.

There are bad wines in the world.  Avoid the bad wines.  Do yourself a favor.  Find a wine blogger and connect with them.  Get to know their wine tasting preferences and writing style.  Do you think certain flavors and aromas are appealing and important?  Do they paint a picture of the wine and make you feel like you are tasting it with them?   Those are the people you want to pay attention to.  Drink good wine.  Read about good wine.   Get to know good wine.

I used to ride motorcycles for many years.  I would often debate with friends about American versus Japanese bikes and why this one or that one is better.   At the end of the day I usually concluded that it didn't matter.   I thought that any motorcycle was better than having no motorcycle at all.  But you can't think that way with wine.   Wine doesn't have to be expensive, rare, single vineyard or any of the BS that wine snobs think it needs to be.  But it has to be good.  It has to provide enjoyment and create a good memory.  Life is too damn short to drink bad wine. 

Don't drink bad wine!
Don't give me a reason to buy you this shirt!

Frey Ranch Bottled In Bond Straight Rye Whiskey

On a 1,500 acre farm in Fallon, Nevada comes some of the best whiskey we have tasted to date.  The Frey family has been farming this ground ...