Showing posts with label wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wine. Show all posts

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!
















Friday, May 28, 2021

2019 Upshot White Wine Blend - Rodney Strong Vineyards

 

2019 Upshot White Wine Blend

Once in awhile we are introduced to a wine that really opens your eyes, especially at this price point.  The 2019 Upshot White Wine Blend by Rodney Strong Vineyards is just such a find.  If you're looking for a daily drinker for summer or a fun treat for your guests at your next outdoor dinner party, we think this one is a great choice!  Stone fruits on the nose joined with new spring flowers and a fresh summer rain.  In the mouth are ripe peaches, fig jam and just the perfect touch of salinity that opens up for an incredibly crisp finish.  You'll likely want this one chilled (but not over chilled) and we think this wine would be a great accompaniment to some hard cheeses and cured meats.  Enjoy!

2019 Upshot White Wine Blend Label

ABV:  13.0%

Healdsburg, CA

Suggested retail price:  $19.00

Drink The Bottles score:  85/100



Wednesday, January 13, 2021

2017 Ravines Wine Cellars Pinot Noir

 

2017 Ravines Wine Cellars Pinot Noir

It's not every day that we get to taste wines from New York's Finger Lakes Regions.  But if you're going to have the experience, then the 2017 Ravines Wine Cellars Pinot Noir is a great place to start!  All of the berries are estate grown and there are two things that instantly got me excited about this wine even before tasting it.   The color of the wine on the cork was exceptional for a Pinot Noir and the familiar Pinot aromas were hurdling out of the glass.  The color was medium burgundy and crystal clear to the rim.  Aromas of late season violets, dusty book, damp earth and muddled red fruit blended seamlessly and kept our interest throughout the tasting.  There's a very bright and definitive acidity that marries cranberries, damp earth and cigar box flavors to make way to a medium finish.  Wine was tasted over two nights - the first right out of the bottle - with similar notes.  This Pinot Noir would easily hold its own against more expensive Oregon Pinot and we highly recommend this!  Well done.

2017 Ravines Wine Cellars Pinot Noir Label

ABV:  13.0%

Finger Lakes, NY

Suggested retail price:  $24.95

Drink The Bottles score:  92/100




Monday, August 31, 2020

2017 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon


Any time we are afforded the opportunity to taste a Cathy Corison wine, we know that we are in for a real treat.  The soon-to-be-released 2017 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) is absolutely no exception.  This bottle was tasted in a line up of other Napa cabs about seven weeks ago and we have purposely held off writing about it until the release date is near.  

What immediately struck us was how mature and fine this wine appeared in the glass and on the nose, introducing layers of fresh violet bouquet, cedar plank, dusty spice box and whiffs of tar.  The wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvingon and it rewards the taster with black cherry, plum, blackberry pie with a sweet crust and dried spices.  The violets are always dancing in the glass.  The finesse on this work of art is evident by the long and memorable, effortless finish.  You get mesmerized by the amazing fragrances and stunning color of this wine and it is truly one that makes you wish your glass was bottomless.   Incredible!


ABV:  14.2%

Napa Valley, California (St. Helena)

Suggested retail price:  $100.00

Drink The Bottles score:  97/100



Thursday, July 9, 2020

What To Do With Wine That Sucks

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.

Cheers!








Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Navigating Wine Country During a Pandemic (aka let's help each other)



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

The $200 Wine Tasting Fee and Why You Should PASS!

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.

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.

Author:
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

Drink The Bottles 2018 Wine of the Year!

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:


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
Drink The Bottles 2018 Wine of the Year

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

2014 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Armillary Cabernet Sauvignon

2014 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Armillary Cabernet Sauvignon

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!

2014 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Armillary Cabernet Sauvignon label

ABV:  15.3%

Napa Valley, California

Suggested retail price:  $125.00

Drink The Bottles score:  94/100

Monday, October 8, 2018

Find Your Wine Tribe: Why The Connection is Important

Don't Be A Wine Snob!

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.

Drink What You Like and Like What You Drink

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!

Fine Your Wine Tribe

Friday, September 28, 2018

2013 d'Arenberg The Custodian Grenache

2013 d'Arenberg The Custodian Grenache

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.

2013 d'Arenberg The Custodian Grenache label

ABV:  14.3%

McLaren Vale, South Australia

Suggested retail price:  $20.00

Drink The Bottles score:  90/100

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

2017 Farmhouse White

2017 Farmhouse White wine

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.

2017 Farmhouse White wine label

ABV:  13.5%

California

Suggested retail price:  $15.00

Drink The Bottles score:  87/100


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

2014 d'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz

2014 d'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz

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!

2014 d'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz label

ABV:  14.4%

McLaren Vale, South Australia

Suggested retail price:  $70.00

Drink The Bottles score:  95/100

2019 Mollydooker Two Left Feet

  We were recently in Chicago visiting family and, of course, we had to check out the local wine store.  It's always fun shopping for wi...