Thursday, July 9, 2020
As a wine blogger, I am fortunate enough to taste hundreds of bottles of wine annually. And while most of my friends think that's a glamorous and "lucky" benefit of being a wine writer, I always caution them this: It's hard work. Seriously. If you're just popping a cork and pouring, go get a bottle of grocery store plonk and get drunk like the dude pictured below. That's not drinking wine. Correction - that's not tasting wine. That's not learning anything about the wine, the terroir, the appellation or the story behind the label. To me, that's not only important but critical when sharing my thoughts on this amazing product.
The title of this article may seem brash, but it is a valid problem, at least for some. Those without any perceptible palate won't know, won't care and will just tell you the bottle was, "eh, ok". Is it bad that I'm starting to get a headache by playing that exact scene over and over? Let's move on....
Bad wine. What do you do with it? First of all, you have to recognize that you wine is bad. If you don't know this Wine 101 tip, you should learn. A good rule of thumb is this. If a wine smells bad when you pour it (yes, you must pour it into a glass or decanter and not chug it) then you should follow your nose. If you open your prized 1964 Chateau Claret and it smells like nail polish remover, rotten eggs, garlic or newspaper, then it has crossed the bridge from brilliance to bunko. To me, the most common indicator of rotten wine is the smell of damp newspaper or a strong rubbery odor.
I'm not talking about a wine that has become stale after you opened it and sat it on your kitchen counter for two weeks, expecting it to taste the same as it did during your card party. Oxidation is going to cause your wine go become stale, go flat and lose any hope of recovery. It looks like you should have consumed the whole bottle instead of wasting your precious resource.
So what are we going to do with this wine? We are going to toss it out. Pour it down the sink. Flush it down the toilet. We aren't going to put it in the dog's water dish and you damn well better not be cooking with it! Admittedly, I have had wine that I felt was less than stellar and I used it to cook with for a few days. But I have never used corrupted wine to put in my food. If you won't put shitty wine in your mouth, why add it to your food?
As a wine blogger/writer, what to do with wine that sucks gets a bit trickier. Let me first say that if you are reading a wine blog that tells you how terrible a wine is, then you need to find another blog to follow. We, as writers, should be promoting GREAT wines and the people behind them. Shaming someone who doesn't have a product that is up to par does nothing but make the writer look like a jackass. The blogger probably thinks they are being cute, but they aren't They're a dick.
As a wine blogger, most of the time I taste one or two wines at a time. I know that the large wine publications have a large staff that literally taste dozens and sometimes hundreds of wines per sitting. That's an amazing feat but not for me. I like to really study the wine and not just sip and spit. And I will tell you from personal experience that 98% of the wines that I taste and 100% of the wines that I write about are very good and worth your money. They wouldn't be here otherwise.
Back in 2014 while writing for my previous blog, Midwest Wine Guy, I was sent twelve small sample bottles from a winery in the middle of the United States. I had originally read their wine and travel blog and found it not only entertaining but captivating. I was so enamored by their stories that I knew I had to sample their wines. The wines arrived and I opened the first one. Yikes. Vinegar. No big deal, right? There were 11 more varietals to try. Bottle 2 - spoiled. Bottle 3 - disgusting. Bottle 4 through 12 met the same fate. Bad wine. I guess the only benefit from these bottles is that I did the right thing by recycling them, as I do with every bottle.
Never having experienced this before, I quickly reached out to my dear friend Jim Caudill, a giant in the wine industry with an amazing palate. Although I was panicked and avoiding emails from the sample provider, Jim told me that being polite and direct was the best approach. "I'm sorry, but I don't think that the wine you submitted is the best representation of your craft. There's a chance that the wine became spoiled (in shipping usually) so I'm afraid I'm unable to provide my thoughts on your subsmissions." Wow! I thought that sounded great and I quickly fired an email to the vintner explaining my position. What I received in return was a barrage of insults and curse words and the famous comparison of not knowing my back side from a hole in the wall. Good times.
I actually didn't write for several months after that and began questioning my abilities to taste and write about wines without bias. Then one day I thought "to hell with it" and moved on. I'm a better blogger because of it. This was a good lesson in honestly and humility.
So what did we learn here today?
Wine = bad? Don't drink it.
Wine submissions that are genuinely bad? Don't write about it and be kind.
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
There is little doubt that the first half of 2020 has been anything less than unexpected from what most would consider a 'normal' daily life. The global pandemic has affected every person in some way, and most people significantly enough to alter their lifestyle, even if temporarily. Work, school, daycare and financial hardships have reached into most homes, creating a fear of uncertainty and anxiety for many. But all is not lost. Whether it is a false sense of security, the need to return to an accustomed lifestyle or a belief that the worst of this virus is over, people are starting to venture out of their homes and travel.
There is no doubt that a large number of the world's population are still cautious and some, even frightened, about the health of the world and those around us. It's difficult to control the actions of those around us, but by using common sense and social distancing, we can begin to appreciate the lives we are customary of enjoying. I, for one, have chosen to travel.
It has been much too long since we visited California's amazing wine country. My wife and I feel very blessed to be able to make this trek with friends later this summer and we are going to maximize the fun, the feels and the fellowship during this long weekend. But wine country (at least online) looks much different than it did previously. Nearly every web site lists COVID-19 precautions and health protocols. Some wineries are asking guests to sign health release forms upon arriving on property. Access to many areas that were once readily available is now off limits. And that mask? You better be wearing one. So how do you drink wine through a mask? Let's discuss that later.
Now that (like it or not) we understand that times look much different than they did just six months ago, how do we navigate California's wine country? What is new and what is required and what is the best way to plan your trip?
- If you're headed to Napa like we are, check out the new health guidelines before you go.
- Bring a mask or several masks. (Nobody wants to wear a wine-stained mask). If you don't have one, stay home. You'll be turned around at the cellar door without one.
- Make reservations because they are required now. Long gone are the days of just "popping into" a winery for a quick tasting.
- Keep your distance and be respectful. Re-opening to the public after being closed for months can be scary and foreign to your hosts. Tread lightly and follow their lead.
- If you like the wine, consider making a purchase and/or joining a wine club. Most wineries are family owned and have suffered greatly because of the pandemic. Show some love and you'll be rewarded with your incredible wine purchases.
Now that we have a few pointers on how to navigate your upcoming wine trip, let's discuss about what you should expect from a winery before and during your visit.
- Communication. Seems easy enough, right? You would be surprised. I have reached out to about twenty California wineries during the planning of our upcoming trip. I am amazed at how many of them never even bother responding to an email. We get it; the wineries and tasting rooms are starting to get busy with re-opening in its infancy. But if we have specific needs or your web site scheduling tool doesn't work, we have to email you in order to plan our tasting experience. The lack of communication sends a message of apathy and we could have been your newest and biggest fans. I call this a "don't be a dick rule".
- Create a memorable experience. We understand that some areas and experiences may still be closed, but wineries still have an incredible opportunity to create lifelong memories for their guests. In lieu of a cave tour or super secret hidden gem tasting room that is inaccessible, maybe a sit-down with the vintner or a special library bottle tasting could be an extra-special treat? Or perhaps it is connecting us with the most special wine tasting room host who would blow our socks off with his/her knowledge, personality, humor and kindness?
- Try not to make things too sterile or uncomfortable. We're all scared. And we, as guests, promise to follow all of the rules and breathe the hot summer California air through our uncomfortable masks. We ask in return that the tasting room doesn't smell of hospital disinfectants and everyone doesn't spray us down with Lysol if we clear our throat.
We are all going to get through this together. We are going to wear our masks and pull them down when permitted (and to drink wine!). We are going to try to get back to a "normal" lifestyle and enjoy everything that wine regions all over the world have to offer. But most of all, we are going to embrace the ability to move freely, travel the world and drink some superb fucking wines. Go explore!
This article does not necessarily convey my personal feelings regarding the current global pandemic. While I encourage my readers and oenophiles to travel and enjoy wine, I also advise everyone to use common sense, be safe and exceptionally courteous to those around you. -Jeff
Thursday, June 18, 2020
I recently followed up with a contact from a Napa Valley winery who I had virtually met about two years ago. We are currently planning a trip to wine country in late August and she had previously left an open invitation to host me and a guest for a private tasting the next time we were in town. I have always been a fan of this particular winery and they make ONE varietal every year. Their inaugural vintage was beautifully crafted, and according to popular ranking publications, each year seems to get better and better (or so the points would leave us to believe). While the winery itself is about 10 years old, the family behind the juice has been making wine for decades, in fact, multiple generations.
Before I get into this article further, let me say that I wholeheartedly believe that wineries should charge for tastings. There is no doubt about it. I think that paying for the tasting experience cuts down on the weekenders who are looking to just get loopy (aka "Wine Country" movie) and not appreciate the hard work and love that goes into every vintage. It also makes people pay attention and want to learn more. Whether you are hearing about veraison for the one-hundredth time or learning some amazing, deep dark secrets about a particular winery, you tend to pay more attention when you are vested in the overall winery tasting adventure.
Excited to visit the aforementioned winery (which shall remain nameless), I reached out to their concierge and we chatted briefly about our previous exchange and upcoming trip. She said she would check availability and get back to me as they are just preparing to re-open next week due to COVID-19. You can imagine my shock and disbelief when the email I received a few days later came, offering to extend a wine tasting of A SINGLE WINE for a whopping $200.00 per person. I stared at the email. Was there a decimal in the wrong place? Two HUNDRED dollars for a single tasting? (And folks, we are talking a "tasting" pour, not a full restaurant pour). I was so put off, I couldn't even respond. Pass.
If you have incredibly deep pockets or have a chance to taste a "cult" wine (this one isn't, but don't even get me started on cult wines) or just like spending your hard earned cash, maybe throwing a couple hundred dollars at a 1 ounce pour is your thing. I would venture to say that for 99% of oenophiles that is not the case. It certainly won't be for me. There are too many wonderful tasting experiences that you can find value in if you do your homework.
So, what should you expect and what are great values for wine tasting experiences?
First of all, you should expect a memorable experience. You should leave the winery wanting more - more wine, more time with the people there and more time soaking in the surroundings. You should expect to be educated, entertained and welcomed. But most of all, you should feel satisfied about your choice to choose that particular winery to spend your money and time with during your trip.
The best values really depend on what you are seeking during your visit. A 'general' wine bar tasting will set you back $25 - $45 most of the time, and it is exactly that - trying wines at a wine bar or tasting room, often not at the winery or estate. These offerings are particularly popular for budget-minded tourists. Often, wineries will waive your tasting fee for a purchase of wine or if you join their wine club memberships. Ask questions during your time at the winery!
I personally like a tasting party that offers a winery tour, a cave tour, barrel tasting or some time with the winemaker or vintner. Often these higher end encounters also include an exclusive or library wine that you can only get at the winery. These more intimate encounters typically range in the gamut of $50 to $80 per person and are an incredible way to make long-lasting memories of wine country. Of course, there are always options for a light lunch, charcuterie board, fresh garden offerings or a number of other additions to your wine affair . There are many destination locations that offer picnic packages or even a romantic dinner for two. The options are endless!
But lets go back to the $200 tasting fee. Maybe I'm just hung up on this, but I really don't think so. At this particular place there are no caves, there are no flights of wine and there isn't a winery tour. There is a single 1 ounce pour for $200.00. That's NOT how I want to remember my time to wine country. Life is too short to drink shitty wine. Life is also too short to waste your time on disappointments.
Saturday, January 26, 2019
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.
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!
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, December 31, 2018
It's really very difficult to pick a singular wine that sums up the best of the best for an entire year. In some ways, it just doesn't seem fair to show your cards, point and say "This. This is the one", but scores of folks clamor each year for every wine publication, including bloggers, to tell them "what a good wine is" that they would like. That question always hurts my head. Let me start by echoing my own sentiment and one that I always say....
Every wine listed on Drink The Bottles is worth your attention. They are all worth your hard-earned money and they would not be here if I did not think you and your tribe would enjoy them. It's that easy. I taste hundreds of wines each year. The ones on this blog are the ones that make it. Some don't. And that's ok. You might still love those and hopefully you've fallen in love with a producer or varietal that is your jam.
Before I get to "the" wine of the year, here are some very, VERY incredible honorable mentions in no particular order:
- Galante Vineyards 2016 Wagon Wheel Sauvignon Blanc (See, I do love whites, too!)
- Hedges Family Estate 2013 Red Mountain Blend (6 varietal blend for under $30)
- Dawn's Dream Winery 2016 Pinot Noir Rose (A true visionary wine here!)
- Bookwalter Winery 2015 Suspense Cabernet Franc (This will make you a CF believer)
- Gamble Family Vineyards 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (Tastes like an aged wine)
- Krupp Brothers 2015 The Water Witch (This is a perfect pairing with smoked brisket)
- Arns Winery 2011 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon (The best 100% Cab of 2018!)
- Jon Nathaniel 2015 Bodacious (If your everyday drinker is $60 invest in this!)
- Treveri Cellars NV Blanc de Noirs (Absolutely incredible bubbly for $20!)
- Mollydooker 2016 Carnival of Love Shiraz (I would drink this every day if I could!)
So, the downside of listing some of my favorite wines is fact that some feelings may get hurt. That may cause some folks to delete my email address and not take my calls anymore. I hope not. Again, every single wine on this blog is a keeper.......or, make that a drinker.
When I was trying to think about the 2018 Wine of the Year, I had to ask myself, "what in the heck does that mean"? It comes down to this. Is the wine readily available? Is the wine memorable? Is the wine affordable to most people who appreciate drinking with friends? This wine was on my radar most of the year and I had no doubt at all that this was going to be the one.
(Drum roll please...............)
The Shepherd 2014 Estate Red
This beautiful wine is only $20 and for that price you need to do yourself a favor and pick up half a case....at least! If you do nothing else today, check out my thoughts on this wine on the blog.
I am really looking forward to 2019 and sharing dozens of wonderful wines with all of you. If you want to be part of the project, connect with me here on or Instagram. Cheers!
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Man, this one is BIG! I received this bottle of 2014 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Armillary Cabernet Sauvignon last week and let it rest a few days before tasting. Tasted over two days, this initially tossed around aromas of plum, leather, cedar, menthol and a touch of sage again big, rich tannins and a lingering finish. Despite the 15%+ alcohol content, this wasn't hot at all. In fact, it was beautifully made and a real pleasure to drink. I was lucky enough to have some of this to taste a second night with a chicken pasta dish that I make regularly and the pairing was spot on. The wine was more Bing cherry, cocoa powder and tea leaves with saddle leather and neither the pasta or wine overpowered each other. I absolutely adore a 100% Cabernet that is completely mouth-coating as this one and if you're looking for an amazing wine to share with friends, this is your huckleberry!
Napa Valley, California
Suggested retail price: $125.00
Drink The Bottles score: 94/100
Monday, October 8, 2018
I recently found out that someone I used to look up to the world of wine isn't who I thought he was. He is an up and coming wine blogger who I followed on social media sites because his posts were entertaining, colorful and inviting. And one day I felt I owed it to myself (and him) to visit his blog and I nearly puked. I was so put off after reading a couple of entries that I couldn't decide what to do first - punch myself in the head for thinking this guy was something that he wasn't, or just walk away.
I guess I should start by saying that as a wine blogger, you generally get one shot. If you don't connect with a reader with your first article or wine review, they probably won't be back to read your work. And everyone needs something different from a wine blogger. Some people just want to know what they should drink. These are generally the people who want to impress someone at a dinner party, because they typically show up with a half a case of Natural Light and some Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill "wine". Don't get me wrong - we love these people. They know very little about wine and it's great that they generally want to find something "good" or "tasty".
But for most of the other readers, they want to be entertained. They want to connect with a writer that thinks, talks and enjoys wine like they do. If you're only interested in first growth Bordeaux wines, then you should find that wine writer. If you don't want to spend more than $9 for a bottle of wine, I'm sure that wine blogger is out there too. Find them. Sparkling wines only? There's a blog for that. Wines for people that identify as gender neutral, are Vegan and are Crossfit instructors that drive a monster truck? Ok, there may not be a blog specifically for that group, but chances are there is a blogger who matches that description. Find them. Connect with them.
So, let's go back to my blogging "friend" from the beginning of this article. When I use quotes around the word friend, it's not because I don't care for the guy anymore, but we've never actually met in person. We are in a circle of bloggers, a community of vino enthusiasts, connected by wines and vines. Gosh, that was corny. I digress. So anyway, I go to this guy's blog (which will remain nameless) and read a few wine descriptions. At first, I thought he was just screwing with his readers. Here's a small excerpt from a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: ".....baby carriage rubber tires and wet diaper aromas, but not the offensive kind. The wine is extraordinarily blue after decanting in a smoke free, deodorant and fragrant-free home for seven hours. It's the most unusual thing I've put in my mouth since my cousin Robert kissed me when we were much younger."
Get the hell out of here. What? Did I read that right?
Thinking this was surely an inside joke towards someone named Robert, I initially shrugged this off and continued reading. I am a HUGE fan of Cabernet (aren't we all?) so frankly, I got pissed when I read this wine description from the same blogger. In part, "......pencil shavings, black currant, red currant, barnyard scraps, licorice, vanilla, bees wax, nutmeg ice cream, coffee, leather and tobacco gently caress your face with the first whiff of Montana air." Uh.................huh? I don't know what the air in Montana has to do with the wine in the glass, but I'm pretty sure this guy is nuts. I think he opened a Wine 101 book and started copying and writing descriptors for the major reds. And these were just the FIRST aromas that he "discovered". Shit. How many more will there be when he actually puts the glass to his mouth?
So, long story short. This guy has great pics and really does drink some fine wines, but his approach is all wrong. He's a snob. Or he wants to be a snob. Even if you have WSET degrees and are a master sommelier at the finest New York City steakhouse, you can't talk to people like this. Well, you can talk to people like this if they too are snobs and if misery loves company. But the majority of the world want to engage and understand how a wine tastes and whether or not it is something they can cellar for years and years and bring out a little Johnny's Bah Mitzvah someday.
The greatest compliment a wine blogger can receive is kind words from a reader. I recently received a couple of emails from wine industry folks, telling me that I was entertaining and they enjoyed my style of writing. For a wine blogger, no matter how large or small, this is what it is all about. It's about making a connection, developing a community of like-minded wine lovers. And I've had a few people tell me how I sucked too. There was this winemaker of a small, boutique winery in Missouri many years ago who had sent samples. They were horrible. All of them. I didn't write about any of them and he attempted to lambaste me to as many people who would listen, which thankfully wasn't many. Obviously, he and I didn't make a positive connection.
There are literally thousands of wine bloggers available to you via the internet and social media. Each one with a different style, some with a different angle but all with the same passion. Some will tell you about "The 1,348 wine terms you must know", some will tell you about Robert's kiss, and some will just tell you about the wine and why it is so damn good. I personally only tell you about wines that I would serve on our back deck to friends. If the wine sucks, you won't hear it from me.
Find your wine tribe. Connect with the writer. Follow them on social media. Become a friend. Get to know them and it makes wine education and enjoyment so much more fun!
Friday, September 28, 2018
Going back a bit on this one (the 2015 is currently available) with the 2013 d'Arenberg Grenache wine - The Custodian. For between $15 - $20 you can get a ton of enjoyment with this solid wine that boasts aromas of black raspberry, plum, pepper and licorice. It's a straight forward crowd pleaser that would really be an exception add-on to your thick, medium rare steak. The finish is quick but memorable on this one and it would be hard for anyone to think otherwise. I really enjoy d'Arenberg wines and this one should be on your radar.
McLaren Vale, South Australia
Suggested retail price: $20.00
Drink The Bottles score: 90/100
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
The 2017 Farmhouse White from Cline Cellars mixes it up and stands out from most white blends because of the uniqueness of the six varietals that are the backbone of this refreshing beauty. Medium golden with loads of honeycomb and warm tropic fruits on the nose. Hints of wildflower appear as this wine warms to (my) proper drinking temperature (which is room temperature). Blended with Palomino (41%), Muscat Canelli (25%), Roussanne (22%), Marsanne (6%), Viognier (5%) and Riesling (1%), this wine provides a crisp and slightly sweet flavor profile of tropical fruits, pear preserves, key lime pie and cantaloupe. The finish is solid and this wine should be taken seriously, because it is one that will bring you back over and over again. I would recommend this with raw veggies and dill dip or bruschetta that is high in garlic content.
Suggested retail price: $15.00
Drink The Bottles score: 87/100
Wednesday, July 25, 2018
I first tasted d'Arenberg wines about ten years ago and fell in love instantly. Fast forward a decade, they have an incredible offering of wines and price points for just about every taste bud and pocket book. The Dead Arm Shiraz is wildly popular and this 100% varietal is leaping out of the glass with spices, black fruit, coffee bean and damp earth. This is one of those wines that get better with each sip (if that's possible) and you can't help but to be mesmerized by the deep purple color, so much that you find yourself helplessly swirling this wine throughout the drinking experience. It's enchanting! Ripe, dark berries with hints of farm pasture are on the flavor wheel with this one and there is a definitive, long and welcoming spicy and slightly woody finish that begs for more. There is absolutely no doubt that this wine is going to evolve into a beautiful butterfly and despite the wonderful flavors you experience now, it will be more incredible in 10+ years. By then, it could be considered "the" perfect wine!
McLaren Vale, South Australia
Suggested retail price: $70.00
Drink The Bottles score: 95/100
Thursday, July 5, 2018
Full disclosure: I have absolutely no experience with Idahoan wines. Well, that's not true. The first one I tried a few weeks ago was corked, but that happens to wines from any region so it's a loss and shouldn't be symbolic of the wines in general. Now that we have that out of the way, let's discuss this 2016 Ste Chapelle Special Harvest Riesling from the Snake River Valley AVA of Idaho. I actually leaped at the chance to taste these wines because I love discovering AVA's and producers that I'm not familiar with. If this 100% Riesling is indicative of what this region can produce, they've got a real winning combination with grapes and terroir.
If you love sweet white wines then this is your jam! If sweet wines turn you off, find something else to drink. I started out with this well-chilled and the honeysuckle, pear, peach and wildflower aromas were really prevalent. As I've said dozens of times, I taste nearly all of my wines around room temperature to get a true picture of the flavor profile, but chilling this wine seemed appropriate, and it was indeed! When you put this in the back of the throat, it is literally mouth-watering and overall, this wine is very welcoming with mellow flavors of apricot, and hints of powdered graphite and candied lemon rind. This wine wants you needing another sip and I think it is a very agreeable with salty ham and cheese pinwheels, New York style cheesecake or even spicy Thai food. If you're unfamiliar with wines from Idaho, I highly recommend you give this one a try.
Snake River Valley, Idaho
Suggested retail price: $11.99
Drink The Bottles score: 89/100
Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Here's a brand new wine label that I frankly, hadn't heard of but of course, I'm always eager to learn something new. This 2015 MERF Cabernet Sauvignon is staight out of Columbia Valley, Washington, where many of my favorite red blends were born and raised. A combination of Cabernet Sauvignon (81%), Merlot (17%) and Merlot (2%), this easy-to-imbibe red is a little fruity on the nose and at first sip. Blueberry, vanilla and sweet spices predominantly fill the glass and if you like a softer, more subtle Cabernet blend, this is your jam! In the mouth is more of the same but black raspberry and sweet tobacco round out the flavor profile with a very short finish. My recommendation is to drink this with a bloody, salty, bone-in slab of beef or some hot Virginia ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches with spicy mustard. It would be a match made in heaven.
Columbia Valley, Washington
Suggested retail price: $12.99
Drink The Bottles score: 82/100
Monday, July 2, 2018
I am really digging this 2016 Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Sangiovese and think it is drinking very well right now. This is definitely a great Chicken Parmesan pairing now or you could hold it for 5 years to enjoy more depth and less brightness. This wine is slightly peppery with berries and a bit of funky, wet earth on the nose. In the mouth, this light-to-medium wine shows off some gorgeous dried cherry bits, hints of candied apples and vanilla. There's a suggestion of cedar box towards the end and I think it would be great to taste this vintage again in 3 years to see where that goes. This is a very flavorful wine and one that I think is best enjoyed with the aforementioned meal. Great value!
Sonoma Coast, California
Suggested retail price: $25.00
Drink The Bottles score: 89/100
Sunday, July 1, 2018
This post is a couple of weeks overdue, but the timing is right considering the scorching heat that most of the US is experiencing right now. Many people feel that heavier red wines are cumbersome when the heat index is hovering around triple digits and while I am not one of those people, I think some white wines (slightly chilled) are better suited for the sweltering heat. With that, I give you the 2016 Frank Family Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay. This is Chardonnay exactly - e x a c t l y - how I like it to taste. Whether or not oak is your thing, this 100% varietal has just enough that isn't overpowering, but it definitely helps bring the flavors together. This wine has a really welcoming light gold color with lemon candy and warm buttered bread dominant on the nose. Extremely creamy on the palate (again, just how I love it), lemon cake, baked cinnamon apple and baking spices combine beautifully and create a finish that clean and extremely satisfying. This is definitely the best Chardonnay I have tasted in recent memory and it takes me back to our first California trip 9 years ago. Frank Family Vineyards has really knocked this wine out of the park and as a side note, they have some of the most beautiful wine labels, which really adds to the conversation. With 25,000 cases produced there is enough for everyone, so add this to your tasting line up.
Carneros, Napa Valley, California
Suggested retail price: $38.00
Drink The Bottles score: 95/100
Thursday, June 28, 2018
Today I want to explore the wine glass industry and whether or not different styles of wine glasses are really that important in how you smell, taste and enjoy your wine. For many years, I purchased dozens of different styles of wine glasses, from port to Champagne, to Cabernet, to Riesling, to............well, you get the point. Why did I do this? While I'm still asking myself this question, at the time, as a fledgling wine writer, it made sense to me. I mean, in literally every wine publication I read or web site I visited, including forums, were ads for beautiful, lead-free crystal wine glasses that were the "best" for enhancing my wine enjoyment experience. Well heck, these people must know much more than I do, so I better get them all! (Or so I thought).
So why do we buy so many styles of wine glasses? Or maybe a better question is, why do the larger wine glass companies create and market so many styles of wine glasses to the masses? Do you really care if you're drinking a Cabernet out of a Syrah glass or a Gewurztraminer out of a glass that is labeled ideal for Riesling? Maybe the bigger question here would be can you even tell the difference? My answer would be no. No, you cannot tell a difference. Even if you are the very top sommelier at the pinnacle of your career, I challenge that you are full of crap if you think that there is a real need to stock a dozen or more different styles of wine goblets in your cabinets because they each pair wonderfully with your 1982 Chateau Overpriced Plonk. Let's get real.
So then, why do we purchase different wine glasses and why are some of them ideal for different types of wine? Red wine. Ahhhh, let that soak in for a minute. It's lovely and my personal favorite - Cabernet, Shiraz, Tempranillo, Petit Syrah, Merlot - I'll take it all! And I'll drink it all from one wine glass. For these lovelies, I use only one style (which is ironically called the One Red Wine Glass, which I purchased off of Amazon for about $12.50 each in bulk) and this glass has a 19.5 ounce capacity, a medium-to-long stem and a very well rounded bowl, great for cupping the glass and swirling. I constantly swirl when drinking, probably to a fault, but I can't help it and I love the way the aromas waft upwards out of this glass. If your budget only allows for one type of wine glass, get a "red" wine glass. It's versatile enough for nearly everything you will be serving and 95% of your guests have no clue or care about varying styles. So check off the first glass you need - RED.
If you don't care what you serve your wine in to your guests or what you're drinking your Boone's Farm Strawberry wine in (other than straight from the bottle), you can stop reading now - if you even made it this far. Game over. You're welcome. But, if you want a little variety and want to enjoy your Champagne (sorry America, all of ours is actually "sparking wine" made Methode Champenoise but we generally call it "Champagne" similarly to a tissue is a "Kleenex" for most), then you need to get some flutes. No, this isn't that one time at band camp. These are Champagne flutes. Why? Because they look pretty and classy? Sure, let's face it. That's one aspect of why we quaff from these dainty glasses. But there is actually truth that the smaller, narrow, elongated design helps keep the bubbles in check and dancing around in the glass, which is why we drink Champagne, right? It's the tasting experience that counts. It's the lovely tickle in our noses and the yeasty tastes that are accentuated by the thousands of little bubbles that make this wine fun, delicious and memorable. Truth be known, if I didn't have a flute and only had a coffee mug, well, this blogger would be partaking anyway! But if you want the best drinking experience and have a budget for it, then check off your second wine glass here - Champagne flute.
You need nothing else. No port glasses, no $200 Sommelier glass. That's it. But I will suggest that if you have regular wine parties, have some extra bucks that you aren't spending on one of your many wine club memberships or hell, maybe you just don't like to re-use wine glasses, then consider a white wine glass. But don't get cute and don't get fancy. Don't stress over Chardonnay versus Sauvignon Blanc or any other fake, commercialized, make-believe styles that are the "best" for your wine. Just get something that has a smaller bowl than your red glass, has a good stem for gripping and for God's sake, don't get a stemless set! More on that later. A simple white wine glass with a stem will keep your wine the proper temperature, allow you to enjoy the flavors of your juice and if on a table setting, will remind your lovers that you have class damnit and you serve both red and white wines at your house! The days of rinsing out red glasses for white wines and vice versa are over. Spend a few bucks. Get some whites. Enjoy. And we're done! The third and only wine glass I would recommend is a white wine glass, and it's totally optional!
I'll finish this ramble with a few pet peeves. I guess I should start by saying that if you invite me over to your house, I'm not going to poo poo any of your drinkware and I'm confident that you and I and our band of hearty drinkers will have a hell of a good time. But, if we can avoid a few things, I want to put those out here right now. Stemless wine glasses. I'm on the fence here. I have actually used these recently with our neighbors and I admit that I really like the way they fit in my hand and there is much less of a chance that I'll knock one over and break it while sipping by the fire pit. For that I am very thankful and they immediately generate a more relaxed atmosphere. Ok, I have it! Let's call these outside-only glasses, ok? I now ban everyone from using these indoors, but have at them outdoors. I have to add that the idea that the stemless wine glasses are "bad" because the temperature of your hands messes with the wine temperature and creates a lesser tasting experience is a bunch of shit. There. I said it. Unless you are Marvel Comic's Human Torch, I don't think you'll have to worry about your "hotness" screwing with your wine. And if you're sipping on one glass of wine all night while I'm opening my second bottle, then this will probably be the last time we drink together, so there's that. Fingerprints on these glasses are the devil's work and the real problem with these glasses. But if you concentrate on the friends and the wine, you can most likely get past your paw prints all over the glass.
Finishing off my pet peeves are glasses that I just don't like. I don't care for them one bit. They're wildly popular with the gift-giving crowd who occasionally sips the Moscato and thinks they are "big wine fans". I'm not judging here (ok, maybe a little). I guess I don't have a dog in this game because I'm not crafty and I won't drink from these. I give you, the novelty wine glass...
I will say that anyone who can create a wine glass that is unbreakable, beautiful, affordable and not full of poisonous materials will be my new best friend. If these are your glasses, send them to me and I'll promote them until the cows come home. That's a midwestern phrase and for those of you who don't know, that's a really, really good thing. I've had too many accidents over the years that ruined a delicate wine glass and beautiful wine, just like the overpriced Riedel pictured below. RIP.
At the end of the day, you're going to drink wine out of whatever you want and I'm not mad at you. But whatever you do, drink wine! By the end of the night, we're all going to be having a grand old time and might even be following our buddy Miles and drink whatever we can get ahold of however we can get it down our throats! Cheers!
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