Archive for the ‘wine travel’ Category

Have a Car? Love Wine? Let’s Travel!

September 27, 2018 7 comments

In today’s world, wine advanced its standing far beyond just an alcoholic drink. Yes, we get a lot of pleasure from the glass of a good wine, but leaving that aside for a moment, just think about the source of the wine – the grapes, the vineyards, the wineries. Think about rows of vines, which are always tended to so they look immaculate, with all those perfectly positioned lines. And then think about all the slopes – vines love hills, so think about all those beautiful rows covering the sides of the hills and mountains and ascending into the fog… And how about all those winding roads, where with every turn you keep repeating “oh my, just look there! Did you see it? Did you see it?” Before the liquid in the bottle, the pleasure comes from admiring all that beauty in its simple, natural form.

Want to see and experience that beauty of the vineyards? Most likely, you will need a car. Of course, you can always hire a driver, but then you are not fully in control as to where you will stop, what you will see, and how slow (or fast) you will go. As most of us, wine lovers, have to travel to see the vineyards, a rental car is our friend. So the CarRentals put together an infographic (love infographic as a concept), presenting 8 different wine routes around the world, giving you all the details you need to enjoy your trip. You can read the detailed descriptions of those eight routes in their blog post.

So, where are you going next? Cheers!

wine Country Routes infographic

Source: CarRentals.Com

Guest Post: Why You Need to Drink Wines From Victoria, Australia, and Where to Try Them

August 3, 2018 4 comments

Today I want to offer you a guest post by Lucia Guadagnuolo who is a tour host and blogger for Wine Compass. When she’s not traveling or indulging in the fried delights of Southern Italian cooking, Lucia enjoys discovering the ever-changing food and wine scene in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia. She’s also recently completed the WSET Level 3 Award in Wines.

Becoming well regarded in the wine world for its cool climate expressions, you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise of an Australian wine region. Warm sunny beaches and rugged Australian outback is what we’re used to seeing, and big bold Shiraz is probably what you’re used to drinking. While this might be true for the majority of Australia’s wine producing regions, Victoria, which is located in the South-East of the continent, experiences quite a cool to moderate climate. This, of course, is due to its latitudinal position, but also the cooling breeze from the Southern Ocean. So what does all this mean for those of us interested in exploring more of the wines from Australia? It means subtle, but varied expressions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The two most planted varieties in the region, in both Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula, where most plantings of these varieties are found.

Australia has somewhat of a more relaxed approach to winemaking than some of the more traditional, old world countries. This means winemakers have the freedom to experiment and create wines from many different varieties that rival those of France, Italy and Spain combined. This same creative nature and desire for something different extends to the cellar door experience. Smaller boutique wineries, producing premium wines, are offering an intimate experience for visitors. You’ll often find the winemakers themselves pouring you a tasting, and giving you first-hand knowledge about the wine in your glass. It really doesn’t get much better than that!

So now you know why you should be drinking wines from Victoria, let’s find out the best places to try them…

Yileena Park – Yarra Valley

Carved into a hillside at the base of the Christmas Hills in the Yarra Valley, Yileena Park offers a unique and homely cellar door experience. They make premium wines that really highlight the great quality fruit being grown in the region today. Most of the wines at Yileena Park are aged for a minimum of four years before release, the reserve range is aged for 6 years, and the reserve Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 8 years before it’s available at the cellar door for purchase and tasting.

While you enjoy your wine, you get to experience endless views of the Steels Creek mountain range and devour a platter of smoked olives, cheeses, nuts and olive oil – all produced using the very barrels that their wines are matured in. Owners Bob and Diane are also always on hand to chat about the current vintage, and those gone by.

Pimpernel Vineyards – Yarra Valley

This quiet little cellar door in the heart of the Yarra Valley, is making a lot of noise in the wine industry, undoubtedly producing some of the best premium wines in Victoria. If you love your Pinot Noir, then you’ll be spoiled for choice with a significant range available and open for tasting. You can even compare different Pinot clones and the different winemaking techniques used to produce wines from each one. They also produce some outstanding Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Syrah, and Shiraz, as well as some amazing blends.

Quealy Winemakers – Mornington Peninsula

A true testament to the Australian spirit of doing things a little bit differently, Quealy Winemakers on the Mornington Peninsula have set the standards in the region for growing unique varieties. The first to plant Pinot Grigio in the region and sell Friulano commercially, they have a range not often seen on the Peninsula. Pioneer winemaker Kathleen Quealy is often on hand at the cellar door to give you an insight into their winemaking techniques, and is always willing to give guests a private tour of the winery. Also, one of the few producers using terracotta amphora to mature their wines, which you’ll be lucky enough to sneak a peak at when you stop by for a tasting.

Ocean Eight – Mornington Peninsula

Set on a beautifully manicured garden landscape, this winery and cellar door really is picture perfect. In fact, the only thing better than the surrounds, are the wines. Not for sale anywhere else in the world outside of this very cellar door, you absolutely must visit Ocean Eight when on the Mornington Peninsula. Their premium range includes Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Not a huge offering, but what they do, they do extremely well. Enjoy a tasting in their underground cellar, you won’t regret it.

Wine Compass are the Victorian wine country specialists and offer private guided tours of both the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula, with bespoke itineraries specifically tailored to you.


Drink Local, North Carolina Edition – Chatham Hill Winery

December 15, 2017 1 comment

Chatham Hill WineryOnce again, I was on the road. And as you know, if I have the slightest chance, I will look for the local wine. If I can also throw in a winery visit – that becomes a double pleasure.

In these terms, this time around, it was exactly a double pleasure. While visiting Raleigh in North Carolina I managed to squeeze in a short visit to the North Carolina winery call Chatham Hill, located in the town of Cary (about 20 minutes from Raleigh-Durham airport).

I had an opportunity to try North Carolina wines for the first time a few years ago while connecting through the Charlotte airport. I had favorable impressions after the first experience, thus was definitely looking forward to the opportunity to expand my “wine map” of the 50 United States.

The Chatham Hill Winery was founded in 1998. When Chatham Hill Winery opened, it was the 14th winery in the state of North Carolina – today, there are more than 185 wineries and 525 vineyards there. Chatham Hill was also the first urban winery in the North Carolina –  they don’t own any vineyards. The absolute majority of the wines at Chatham Hill are made either from the North Carolina grapes, coming primarily from the Yadkin Valley AVA, or from the grapes shipped from California (Lodi).

Chatham Hill winery produces a good number of different wines, both dry and sweet, with the total production of about 5,000 cases per year. With this production, it is considered a “medium size” winery by the North Carolina standards. I tasted through many wines the winery offers, but took rather scarce notes, so for what it worth, here is a roundup:

Chatham Hill Winery Whites

2013 Chatham Hill Winery Chardonnay Yadkin Valley North Carolina ($18) – a bit unusual, big body, good balance, nice overall

2015 Chatham Hill Winery Riesling Lodi California ($16) – not a traditional style, doesn’t speak Riesling to me, but still quite drinkable

2014 Chatham Hill Winery Perfect Harmony Yadkin Valley North Carolina ($25, unoaked, 70% Chardonnay, 30% Viognier) – dry, playful, tropical fruit notes

Chatham Hill Winery Reds

2012 Chatham Hill Winery Cabernet Franc Yadkin Valley North Carolina ($20) – soft, round, very pleasant

2014 Chatham Hill Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Yadkin Valley North Carolina ($20) – beautiful, smooth, blackcurrant on the nose and the palate, layered, great extraction, excellent wine overall and lots of wine for the money. Clearly my favorite wine from the tasting.

2013 Chatham Hill Winery Merlot Yadkin Valley North Carolina ($16) – excellent balance of fruit and acidity, dark fruit on the palate, very good overall

2015 Chatham Hill Winery Malbec ($18) – a bit sweeter than previous few wines, but refreshingly light for the Malbec and very pleasant overall.

2015 Chatham Hill Winery Petite Sirah ($22) – good fruit, good acidity

Chatham Hill Winery Muscadine Yadkin Valley North Carolina (11.5% ABV, $15) – Not sure what the vintage was, the wine was just released and not available yet for the public – raisins and dry fruit medley on the nose, touch of Isabella grapey profile on palate, clean acidity – very nice effort

I find trying local wines to be truly a humbling experience, always bringing out great surprises – that Cabernet Sauvignon was just a pure, varietally correct, stand out – would happily drink it again in a heartbeat.

The wine is simply an expression of passion and art, and there are truly no limits to the creativity and obsession wine lovers share, anywhere you go. Drink local, my friends!




Guest Post: 5 Wonderful Reasons Why Should Go a Culinary and Wine Vacation for Your Next Travel Getaway

September 7, 2017 2 comments

Today I want to offer to your attention a guest post by Lystia Putranto,  a personal & professional development blogger for Lystia is a lover of travel, a self-professed foodie, and an amateur cook who admittedly spends way too much time surfing the web.

As the last quarter of the year is around the corner, many of us are taking advantage of this time to plan our next great adventure. If you happen to be a food and wine lover and you’re on the hunt for travel ideas, there’s no better way to indulge in your passions than by going on a culinary and wine focused vacation!

For starters, did you know that by 2015, 77% of leisure travelers can already be classified as culinary travelers? This trend has continued to rise and is predicted to rise even higher in the coming year. So, if you have yet to join in this exciting (and not to mention delectable) bandwagon, it’s about time that you do so.

As a lover of travel, food, and wine, I can personally attest that there’s much to gain and experience through this unique type of holidays. But if you’re not yet convinced, on this post, I’m sharing with you five of the many wonderful reasons why you should sign up for a culinary vacation too:

1.      You’ll Discover New & Exciting Flavors

In order to truly make the most of our travels, keep in mind that we can only grow and enrich our lives by doing something we have yet to try. So instead of setting yourself up for yet another touristy sight-seeing trip, why not try (and taste) something different for a change?

With a new destination comes plenty of delicious local eats & drinks. Through culinary holidays, you’ll get an amazing opportunity to explore a variety of new and exciting flavors through its delicacies and locally produced beverages – and yes, in many sought after destinations such as France, South Africa, Chile, and California, this certainly includes a whole lot of wine!

As you already know, food is almost always much more delicious and authentic when we enjoy it in the country or place of origin. You’d also be interested to know that some local dishes and ingredients are extremely rare and would not be easily found anywhere else in the world so this the time to take full advantage of it.

2.      You’ll Expand Your Knowledge

Looking to deepen your culinary and/or wine knowledge? During a wine vacation, for example, you won’t only be tasting the various wine that the winery produces, you’ll get to learn all about wine far beyond what you would learn in a wine tasting event such as how to harvest grapes as well as the steps of the entire wine production right up to its bottling process.

3.      You’ll Learn How to Prepare Authentic Delicacies

Image credit: Alila Manggis Bali

What makes culinary vacations stand out from the usual “run-of-the-mill” vacations or food tours is that you also get the opportunity to prepare them from scratch yourself! This way, you can learn to recreate them back home. That is the simple yet powerful beauty of a hands-on cooking experience.

As a self-professed foodie, I adore all type of cuisines – but I must admit that Thai food is amongst my top 3 favorites. So, on my last trip to Thailand, I decided to sign up for a cooking class in Bangkok to learn how to prepare authentic Thai dishes such as Tom Yum Goong and Pad Thai.

In the end, not only did I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, thanks to the warm guidance of the school’s professional instructors, I was also genuinely impressed how fun and easy it all was!

As an added bonus, some cooking vacations may include visits to the local markets where you get to purchase the ingredients for your meal or even pick your own fresh produce straight from their own farm. In this case, it’s not uncommon that everything you make is farm-to-table ready, making your holiday that much more special.

4.      You’ll Make New Friends

Image credit: Porto Club Travel Services

Whether you prefer traveling solo, with a partner or in a group, through a cooking vacation, you are bound to meet plenty of new people. This includes both locals as well as other travelers from all corners of the globe. This is your chance to cultivate a better understanding of the diverse culture and languages of the world. Who knows? Perhaps some of the people you meet on your trip may just end up becoming (new) lifelong friends!

5.      You’ll Immerse Yourself in the Local Culture

Image credit: Cris Puscas

They say that travel is the only thing that one can buy that makes us richer. I personally believe this to be true. It allows us to learn more about what our beautiful world has to offer. And there’s no better group of people that will be able to teach us a destination’s local culture than the locals themselves.

Culinary travel allows you to center your trip on cultural immersion – meeting the locals, sampling local cuisines and beverages, and indulging yourself in the local ways of life. It’s an experience that will not only tantalize your taste buds but also one that will open your eyes and mind to a whole new perspective of seeing the world.

Franciacorta: Unique, Different and Authentic

June 14, 2017 10 comments

“Sir, I will be very happy to work with you to improve the quality of your wines, but I have one request”, said young oenologist. “What is it?“ said Guido Berlucchi, the man famously known throughout the whole Franciacorta for his aristocratic, elegant lifestyle. “I would like to make Champagne here, in Franciacorta”.

The year was 1955, and young oenologist’s name was Franco Ziliani. Guido Berlucchi, while may be surprised, was not shy of taking the risk, and Franco Zeliani got to work. First vintages were a total disaster – awfully tasting wines, blown up bottles. But in 1961, the patience and perseverance paid off, and first 3000 bottles of the Franciacorta sparkling wine came into being.

Mr. Berlucchi invited his influential friends from Milan to try the wines, and they all happened to like it. The new chapter in the Franciacorta history was opened.

Map of Franciacorta

Map of Franciacorta region

The wine was produced in Franciacorta literally forever. The land surrounding Lake Iseo from the south was strategically located along the trade path between Turin and Rome. In the 11th century, the monks created a special zone called Curtefranca to encourage land development and commerce – “Curte” in this case represents “land”, and Franca, while sounds related to France, has nothing to do with it – it simply means “free of taxes” in Italian. The primary focus in Curtefranca was agriculture, and can you imagine agriculture in Italy without making the wine?

As the time went on, the Curtefranca became known as Franciacorta – however, the Curtefranca name didn’t disappear and since 2008 it is a designation for Franciacorta still wines.

That first 1961 vintage at Berlucchi became a turning point for the whole region which was before mostly known for its red still wines. Producers started changing their ways and make sparking wines, and Franciacorta DOC was established in 1967 with 11 sparkling wine producers. Franciacorta became first DOC in Italy to require all sparkling wines to be produced by the metodo classico. In 1990, the Consorzio per la tutela del Franciacorta was formed and became a major regulatory body for sparkling wine production; in 1995 Franciacorta was awarded a DOCG status, top level of quality for the Italian wines. Starting from August of 2003, Franciacorta became the only region in Italy where the wines can be labeled only as Franciacorta and not Franciacorta DOCG – similar to the Champagne where the word AOC doesn’t appear on the label.

If you are like me, I’m sure you are dying to hear a few more facts. Today, Franciacorta comprise about 7,500 acres of vineyards and produces about 15,000,000 bottles per year; there are about 200 grape growers in Franciacorta, 116 of them produce their own wines. 65% of all the vineyards are organic, and conversion to organic methods continues.

Franciacorta vineyards

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc are the only permitted varieties in production of Franciacorta, with Pinot Blanc being somewhat of a bastard child, as the grape is even more finicky to properly produce than Pinot Noir – while some of the producers phasing it out (e.g. Berlucchi), the others love the perfumy bright character which the grape can impart on the resulting wines.

Franciacorta’s climate is very conducive to getting grapes ripen perfectly. The climate is generally mild, with consistently warm summer days. The Lake Iseo creates a cooling effect during the summer nights, helping grapes to reach the levels of phenolic ripeness which is very difficult to achieve (if not impossible) in the Champagne. During winter, the lake provides a softening effect, protecting vines from the very low temperatures.

Unquestionably Champagne was an inspiration for the ways and means of the Franciacorta sparkling wines – as expected if you use metodo classico production. However, Franciacorta is largely moving past the “Champagne copycat” status and actively seeks and creates its own unique style, not only by stricter aging requirements (both non-vintage and vintage Franciacorta must be aged on the lees for longer than the Champagne in the same category), but by the whole method of production – for instance, by using only stainless steel tanks for the fermentation or relying much less on blending and more on the quality of the grapes from the given vintage.

Franciacorta is obsessed with quality. It starts in the vineyard, where even if not certified, most of the grapes are growing as organic. New vines are often planted at a very high density, to force the roots to go deep down as they have no room to grow to the sides. The yield is well limited to about 4 tons per acre. All the grapes are harvested by hand (this is a requirement of Franciacorta DOCG). The grapes are cooled down before the pressing – and in the case of Ca’del Bosco, one of the premier producers in the region, the grapes are even washed and then dried, using specially created complex of the machines.

Getting the grapes into the winery is only the beginning of the quest for quality. We talked to many winemakers, and they were all repeating the same words – “gentle pressing”. There is a tremendous focus on gentle handling of the grapes, using various types of presses. Arturo Ziliani, the son of Franco Ziliani, who is in charge of winemaking at Berlucchi, gave us the best explanation. “Think about a lemon. Cut it, and right under the skin, you will see the white layer – pith. When you quickly juice the lemon, lots of that pith ends up in the juice, rendering it cloudy – and adding bitterness and extra acidity. If we would juice the lemon slowly without destroying the pith, the resulting juice would be clear – and lemonade would need a lot less sugar to make. While much thinner, grapes also have the layer of pith right under the skin – and when we press the grapes, we want to avoid crushing it as much as possible”.

Even gentle pressing alone is not enough. Franciacorta regulations allow up to 65% of grape mass to be pressed. Most of the winemakers press less, at around 50%, in some cases even limiting only by 30%. At all stages of the process, there is a great effort to protect grapes and wine from oxidation; such focused handling also allows to greatly reduce the levels of added SO2 – while the law allows up to 210 mg/liter, many winemakers limit it at only 50 mg/liter.

Official Franciacorta Glass

Obsession with the quality. Attention to detail. How do you drink your bubbles? The flute, you say? Where you ever able to perceive the full bouquet of your sparkling wine through that small opening on top of the flute? Well, leave the flute for Champagne, but if you want to enjoy Franciacorta, you will have to dump it (whatever way you see fit) and upgrade to something better – an official Franciacorta glass. It is specifically designed to enhance the visual and sensual qualities of your bubbles in the glass. The shape allows concentrating the aromas. And the glass is specifically made with the slight imperfections at the bottom to help form beautiful bubble traces better (perfectly polished glass doesn’t allow bubbles to form).

Glass of Franciacorta

Obsession with quality. Attention to detail. Passion. So what makes Franciacorta unique, different and authentic? It is all of the above. Franciacorta is a unique place, with its own terroir, its own ways of making the wines, and really its own, authentic sparkling wines. Franciacorta shouldn’t be compared to Champagne, for sure not anymore, not based on the tasting of 50 or so wines during our 5 days there. Well, maybe except one thing – similar to Champagne, it should be simply called by the name. You will make all hard working Franciacorta producers very happy next time at a restaurant, when you will have a reason to celebrate (and every new day is enough reason in itself), by simply saying “Waiter, please bring Franciacorta, the best one you got!”

Tango Tours – A Pioneer In Wine and Culinary Tourism

April 28, 2017 5 comments

Wine and Travel – aren’t those the best together? Visit new places, try new wines, then more new places and more new wines. I’m sure this is simply a music to the ears of many. Today I want to offer to your attention a guest post by Mark Davis, Managing Partner at Tango Tours – A Luxury Travel Company ( – the company which can help you realise that dream of having a great time and great wine while travelling the world.  And as we are still in the Malbec Month of April, below you will find the Argentinian wine Infographics, courtesy of Tango Tours. Cheers!

Do wines fascinate you or are you yet to explore about this luxurious drink? Tango Tours will make that happen for you. Whether you are planning a private wine tasting tour or looking to indulge in a world-class and an unforgettable culinary experience, this is the right place for you.

Food And Wine Tour– Tango Tours curates food and wine tour to feature the finest restaurants serving local delicacies.

Exclusive Vineyard Tours– You get to explore some of the exclusive vineyard tours featuring wineries that are publicly inaccessible.

Luxury Wine Tours– Enjoy a guided luxury wine tour and taste some of the most exquisite wines of the world.

Deluxe Accommodation– You will be offered deluxe accommodation during your tour so you can sink into the silky soft beds of a luxury five-star hotel after a long and fulfilling day.

Tango Tours covers the most popular wine destinations around the world and the tours include:

Argentina Wine Tours– The itinerary features tasting the Argentinean Malbec, luxury food and wine adventure across Argentina and a visit to the reputable Argentina vineyards, along with discovering the local cuisine and culture.

Napa/Sonoma Tours– The luxury wine tour packages of the Napa and Sonoma valley offer you with a unique wine and culinary experience. From the sprawling vineyards of the region to delectable dishes from the finest restaurants, you get to explore everything.

Chile Tours– The highlights of Chile Tours include deluxe tour packages for wine connoisseurs who wish to explore the best of Chile.

Custom Wine Tours– If you have a specific destination in mind, Tango Tours helps you plan the vacation of your dream. Pick a place of your choice and we will make all the arrangements.

Why Choose Tango Tours?

At Tango Tours, we have an extensive knowledge of wines and food from the famous wine regions of the country. We work closely with some of the best winemakers and restaurateurs in the food and wine industry through which you can access private wineries and prestige vineyards across the region.

All ready to enjoy the fruity Merlots of Chile and Napa/Sonoma Valley or the dark, smoky flavors of the highest-quality Argentine Malbec? Just pack your bags and let us plan it for you and give us a chance to take you on a remarkable food and wine adventure.


Magnificent Portugal

May 24, 2015 27 comments

Douro Valley 2Two years ago I was lucky to discover the Portugal. A beautiful country with wonderful people, great wines and delicious food. This year, I had an opportunity to experience the Portugal again, and once again I want to share my experiences with you as much as possible. There will be a few posts, as there is absolutely no way to squeeze all the impressions into one (nothing is impossible, yes, but I’m sure none of you are interested in a post with a hundred+ pictures and ten thousand words), but still please prepare to be inundated with the pictures. Let’s go.

I want to start from the wonderful trip we had on Sunday. I’m subscribed to the updates from the wine travel web site called Winerist. An email I received from the Winerist about a week before my scheduled departure contained a section about wine trips in … Douro, Portugal! How could they know, huh? This was my very first time using the service, so not without trepidation I filled up booking form for the tour called “Wine Tasting & Sightseeing in the Douro Valley” (€95 per person), requesting the specific date – actually, the only free day I had during the trip. I was informed that my credit card will be charged only after the trip availability will be confirmed with the local provider. Two days later the confirmation arrived with all the tour provider information and pickup time (the pickup is arranged at any of the hotels in Porto). The day before the trip, I got a call in my hotel room from JoÃo, who informed me that the pickup will take place next day at 9:10 am in front of the hotel’s lobby.

The next day, a red minivan showed up exactly at 9:10 am (at least according to my watch), however the first thing JoÃo did after introducing himself in person, was to apologize for arriving at 9:12 instead of 9:10 – from which I figured that we will have fun in our tour. This is exactly what happened – after picking up two more people for the total of 8 passengers, off we went to immerse into the beauty of Portuguese nature, culture, food and wine. I will not give you a detailed account of everything we heard during of almost 11 hours of out trip (we were supposed to come back at 6:30 pm, but nobody was in a hurry, so we came back very close to 8 pm) – that would make it for a long and boring post. But I will do my best to give you a good idea of what we saw and experienced.

Our first stop was at a small town called Amarante. On the way there, our guide and driver had to really work hard – out of our group of 8 people, 2 of us needed all explanations in English, and the rest of the group was from Brazil, so JoÃo had to alternate between Portuguese and English – have to say he had no issues doing that for the duration of the trip. The second problem JoÃo had to deal with was … a marathon, which forced closure of many roads, so he had to find his way around. Well, that was also a non-issue, so we successfully arrived to Amarante. Our intended destination was the church of São Gonçalo (St. Gonçalo), which had an interesting story of the saint whose name is associated with male fertility. I had to admit that I missed some parts of the explanation regarding the origins of this belief, but the bottom line is very simple. Inside of the church, there is a statue of St. Gonçalo, with the hanging rope. Any male who needs help with the  fertility, have to pull that rope twice, but not more (don’t know if it would be equivalent to the Viagra overdose?). Besides, the Priest gets very unhappy when people get crazy with that rope, so all the pulling should be done quietly and without attracting unnecessary attention. I guess that same fertility power led to the appearance of so called St. Gonçalo cakes, which you will see below – I’m assuming the picture is self-explanatory. No, I didn’t try one, nor did anyone from our group, so can’t tell you how it tastes. After leaving the church, we had around 20 minutes to walk around the town, before we had to leave to our next destination.

Our next stop was the town of Lamego, which is one of the biggest in the Douro valley. As food was an essential part of our tour, first we visited a place called A Presunteca. I would probably characterize it as a food and wine store, somewhat geared towards tourists. No, “tourist trap” would be rather diminutive, as the food and wine were genuinely good and prices were absolutely on par with any other store. We had a taste few of the local sausages and cured meets, as well as cheese. We also had an opportunity to taste some of Porto and dry wines, as well as sparkling – the Peerless sparkling wine was excellent, on par with any good Cava or Cremant. I also really liked a Niepoort Dry White Port. If we wouldn’t have to spend the next half of the day in the hot car, I don’t think I would’ve left without a nice chunk of a cured meet, but oh well…

Next we got into a race with a long (very long!) line of honking old Minis, and we lost the race despite creative local street navigation by JoÃo. We still successfully arrived to our next destination – Cathedral of Santa Maria, Lady of Remedy. According to the explanations, the beautiful structure was erected as promised by the Bishop to show a gratitude for sparring the city of Lamego from the Black Plague. There are more than 600 steps which lead to the Cathedral on top of the hill, which people seeking the cure for the illnesses often concur on their knees. We walked around the cathedral and then used the steps to get down to the town level, admiring the beautiful view and exquisite architectural elements, also with the great use of traditional Portuguese painted ceramic tiles. This place needs some serious restoration work, but it is still absolutely magnificent.

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Our next stop was for lunch. The restaurant called Manjar do Douro was located very close to the bottom of the staircase we ascended from. It was somewhat resembling a big dining hall, with many groups occupying communal style tables. The bread, cheese and cold cuts were outstanding. For the entree I’ve chosen veal, as still was suffering from the fish overload from the night before (more about it in another post). This was rather a mistake, as the meat was really chewy (well, the sautéed vegetables were excellent). We had a few wines with the meal. 2014 Incantum Vinho Branco had inviting nose of a white fruit, a bit more tamed fruit on the palate, overall very enjoyable (and added another grape to my collection, Sìria). The 2013 Incantum Douro Tinto was nice, but a bit simplistic. As JoÃo learned from our conversation that I was all into wines, he showed me a few of his favorite wines, one of them you can see below in the picture (no, we didn’t try it).

Our next stop was finally a full immersion into the wine world of Douro. After about an hour driving, we arrived at Quinta do Tedo. Vincent Bouchard of the Bouchard Père & Fils fame from Burgundy, fell in love with the Quinta do Tedo vineyards (can you blame him? take a look at the pictures), located at a crossing of River Douro and River Tedo, and he bought the vineyard in the early 1990s. 1992 was the first vintage produced by the Quinta do Tedo. The vineyards, located on the hilly slopes around the picturesque River Tedo, consist of the vines of 30 to 70 years old. Quinta do Tedo makes only red wines, but they make both dry wines and number of Port styles. Winery’s logo has a picture of the bird on it – according to the local traditions, the birds would show up to eat the grapes when they are perfectly ripe, so that bird on the label signifies perfectly ripe grapes.

Quinta do Tedo Vineyards

Douro Vineyards

TedoThe winery still uses all of the old traditions of winemaking – the grapes are harvested by hand, into the small baskets to prevent them crushing under its own weight. The grapes are fully destemmed, and then are crushed using the … feet, yes, exactly as you expected. Grapes are stomped over the course of a few days by the men. The juice flows into the tanks (no pumping), where it is fermented for two days (in case of port production) or longer, and from there on the wines are made according to the style. Ahh, and I need to mention that the vineyards of Quinta do Tedo are certified organic. Also note that it is illegal to irrigate vines in Douro, so you can say that all of the producers in Douro are using dry farming methods.

I love the fact that wine offers endless learning opportunities – every time you talk to someone passionate, you learn something new. Let me tell you why I’m talking about it. As you might know, all the wine production in Douro is regulated by so called Douro Institute (IVDP). This is a very powerful organization, which assess all the wines made in Douro, both Port and regular dry wines, to make sure that winery’s declaration is up to the right level. I was always under impression that it is IVDP then which declares vintage year for Port. Turns out I was wrong – it is actually up to the winery to declare a vintage year (however it would be an IVDP will confirm or reject the designation). 2010 was an excellent year, and many Port houses produced Vintage Port. Then there was 2011, which was not just good, but simply spectacular. But if you mention 2009, people raise their arms defensively – it was not a good year. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop Quinta do Tedo from producing delicious 2009 Vintage Port, including their single vineyard flagship, Savedra.

The learning didn’t stop there. Our guide very simply explained concept of the so called LBV, or Late Bottled Vintage Port, which has the year designation similar to the vintage port, but typically costs a fraction of price (and something which I couldn’t figure out for a while). It appears that concept of LBV is as follows. The wine is first made with the intent of becoming a Vintage Port – 2 days fermentation which is stopped with neutral brandy, then about 2 years of aging in stainless steel or neutral oak tanks. After that the port is sent to the IVDP to get the vintage approval – and if it fails to get the approval, it is aged for another 2 years or so, and then bottled as LBV. Simple, right?

Of course it was not all talking – there was also tasting. Technically our official tasting included only two types of port, but you know how that works – once the passion starts talking, the tasting becomes “no holds barred” event.

We started with two of the dry wines. The 2011 Quinta do Tedo Tinto Douro was what can be called a “BBQ Wine” – nice fresh fruit profile, with some depth, but limited power, allowing for easy sipping. But the second wine was the whole different story. 2011 was so good that the winery simply decided to skip the Reserva level, and to make Grand Reserva only. Wine spent 22 month in French oak. The level of finesse on that 2011 Quinta do Tedo Grand Reserva Savedra Douro was unparalleled, something which you really have to experience for yourself – elegant dark fruit, spices and touch of fresh herbs on the nose (you can smell the wine for the very, very long time). On the palate, the wine is multilayered, dark, full-bodied and powerful, and it combined firm structure with silky smooth goodness. At €25, it can be only classified as a steal – or definitely a tremendous value, if you prefer that definition.

We also tasted 2010 Quinta do Tedo LBV, which was absolutely delicious, with good amount of sweetness and fresh acidity, making it perfectly balanced; Quinta do Tedo 20 Years Old Tawny had beautiful complexity with hazelnut and almonds, and dry fruit sweetness. Elegance of 2009 Quinta do Tedo 2009 Vintage was simply outstanding – fragrant nose and very balanced palate. That was one delicious tasting, that is all I can tell.

We need to round up here – and I thank you if you are still reading this. Good news is that after that tasting where I think we spent double the time versus the original plan we went back to the hotel, with one last stop to suck in the greatness of the Douro River – so no more words here, just a few pictures.

Douro Valley 4

Douro Valley

Douro valley 5

Douro Valley 2

And we are done (can you believe it?). If your travel will take you to Portugal, I would highly recommend that you will give the LivingTours a try – I think this is the best way to explore that magnificent country. Also keep in mind that Winerist offers a variety of the wine tours in many regions, so do check them out.

As for my Portugal escapades – I’m only getting warmed up. Prepare to be inundated further. Until the next time – cheers!

Discovering Texas Vineyards

January 25, 2015 20 comments

Glasses at Duchman WineryAbout 10 years ago, one of the people I was working with was living in Texas, and I remember he mentioned in one of the conversations – Texas makes world-class wines. I said – really? He insisted that he knew some people visiting from France who were literally raving about the Texas wines. This stuck in my head – but I had no way of verifying that claim – no Texas wines can be found in the stores in Connecticut.

About two years ago, during one of the business trips to Austin, it suddenly downed on me – I will be in a close proximity to the Texas wines – I just need to make an effort to find them (you know how those business trips work – airport/hotel/meeting/airport – to step outside of the routine actually requires determination). I found some addresses on Internet, for what I thought were the wineries and drove there only to find myself in a middle of a small business park, with no wineries in sight.

Luckily, at that time I already had my blog, through which I met Alissa, a wine blogger at SAHMmelier, who lives in Austin. You know, if you ask me – what is the best part of the blogging – it would be an easy question. The best part of blogging is meeting passionate, interesting people and making new friends – this was my case with Alissa. So Alissa helped me to literally plunge into the Texas wines head first, by bringing me into the wine tasting event called Texas versus the World – we tasted whole bunch of Viognier wines both from around the world and from Texas (you can read about that tasting here). So yes, I tasted Texas wines, but still didn’t make to the wineries yet.

This time around, as I knew I will be coming to Austin, I reached out to Alissa and asked if she can help me to visit some of the wineries, in a short few hours which I had free after my meeting was over. Alissa came back with the long list of options, for which my answer was simple – surprise me, please.

Finally, I was done with my meeting and met up with Alissa. Short 30 minutes ride, and here we are – Duchman Family Winery. Clean, non-presumptuous building, reminiscent of an Italian villa. Not surprisingly so, as absolute majority of the grapes grown at Duchman are Italian varietals. Turns out that when the Texas wine industry was starting, the first desire for many was to grow the mainstream French varietals – only to understand later that Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay don’t work all that well in the Texas climate. But what does is Sangiovese. And Trebbiano. And the number of other grapes, some perhaps even more surprising, which you will see in the tasting notes below.

Different format bottles at Duchman WineryBy luck or by knowledge (Alissa – it is your call, but thank you!), but Duchman Winery happened to be a great place to get acquainted with the Texas wineries. They were the first winery to bring in the Aglianico, the staple of Campania and Basilicata in the … south of Italy, of course, pretty much at the bottom of the boot. An interesting side note – while working on this post, I read that some call Aglianico a Barolo of the South – not a bad designation, right?! Going back to Duchman Winery – not only they were the first to bring the grape into the US, but they also have single biggest planting of Aglianico grapes outside of Italy!

We had the great time at the Duchman Winery. Jeff, the winery manager, took us on a tour. We saw the cellar, full of wines in the making. We even saw something sad – a full 2013 harvest of all white grapes (Trebbiano, Vermentino, Viognier), aging in one (single) medium-sized stainless steel tank. Yep, that is what happen when mother nature doesn’t cooperate. But then we tasted 2014 Sangiovese Rosé right from the tank, and it was stunningly delicious. We saw the lab and the bottling line – Duchman makes about 20,000 cases of the wine a year, so it makes sense to own the bottling line. All in all, we had a great time at the winery and learned a lot. But yes, of course –  we got to taste the wines, and below are the notes for all the wines we had an opportunity to taste:

2012 Duchman Trebbiano Bingham Family Vineyards Texas High Plains (13% ABV, $14) – nice nose, white fruit, lemon peel. On the palate, crisp acidity, very refreshing. Drinkability: 7
2012 Duchman Vermentino Bingham Family Vineyards Texas High Plains (14.4% ABV, $18) – muted white fruit on the nose, touch of minerality. Lemon notes on the palate, clean acidity, nice balance. Drinkability: 7+
2012 Duchman Viognier Bingham Family Vineyards Texas High Plains (14.8% ABV, $18) – intense nose of caramel and baked apples. On the palate, lemon zest, nice bite, touch of minerality. Drinkability: 7
2012 Duchman Dolcetto Bingham Family Vineyards Texas High Plains (15% ABV, $25) – On the nose, tobacco, earthiness and dark fruit. Light and elegant on the palate, with touch of tobacco and roasted notes. Drinkability: 8-
2011 Duchman Montepulciano Texas High Plains (13.9% ABV, $30) – red fruit on the nose. Palate is somewhat unexpected, more of a Northern Rhone style with dark roasted fruit, good acidity. Drinkability: 7+
2012 Duchman Tempranillo Bayer Family Vineyards Texas High Plains (13.5% ABV, $34) – on the nose, classic open Tempranillo, cedar box, touch of plums. On the palate – excellent fruit, but the finish is a bit astringent, needs time. Drinkability: 7
2011 Duchman Aglianico Texas High Plains (14.2%, $30) – nose of the roasted meat and fresh, dense, dark fruit.On the palate, outstanding! Delicious, touch of sweet fruit, tobacco, clean acidity, perfect balance, very complex. Drinkability: 8
2012 Duchman Nero d’Avola Texas High Plains (winery only) – On the nose – amazing complexity, raspberries, tar, roasted notes. On the palate, bright and balanced fruit, excellent acidity. Drinkability: 8-

NV Duchman Texas Rosso Texas High Plains (Dolcetto/Montepulciano) – traditionally produced as Dolcetto/Sangiovese blend, but new edition is produced with Dolcetto and Montepulciano grapes. Pinot Noir – like nose with a touch of smoke and mushrooms, very expressive, nice balanced fruit on the palate. Drinkability: 7
2014 Duchman Sangiovese Rosé (barrel tasting) – outstanding. Beautiful sweet nose, delicious full body. Might be a bit too sweet on the palate, but excellent overall. Drinkability: 7+

We also tasted one more Texas wine which Alissa very kindly brought with her:
2012 Kuhlman Cellars Roussanne Texas High Plains  – Touch of almond on the nose, lychee. On the palate, nice plumpness (typical of Roussanne), some salinity, good balance. Drinkability: 7+

We spent close to an hour and a half at Duchman family winery (you know how it works when you have fun), so we really didn’t have much time left to drive too far – but luckily, we didn’t have to. Our second stop was at the Salt Lick Cellars tasting room, about 15 minutes drive from Duchman. Salt Lick Cellars produces a number of wines from their own vineyards, but also in their tasting room they offer a number of wines from the other Texas wineries, which makes it a great “one stop shop”. A side note – adjacent to the Salt Lick Cellars there is a Salt Lick BBQ – very simple and very traditional Texas BBQ restaurant, where you can have all the barbeque favorites – ribs, brisket, sausages and more, made right there in the huge barbeque pit. And you can chose the wine you want to drink at the dinner right at the Salt Lick Cellars tasting room – a complete experience.

Here is what we tasted at the Salt Lick Cellars:

2013 McPherson Les Copains Brother’s Blend White (13.1% ABV, $24, Grenahce Blanc/Roussane/Viognier) – what a great start of the tasting. Bright and oily nose, elegant, white stone fruit on the palate, perfect balance. Drinkability: 8
NV Salt Lick Cellars BBQ White ($20, Trebbiano, Pinot Grigio, Orange Muscat) – Gunfling on the nose, very much reminiscent of Chablis. A bit too sweet on the palate. Should be fine as a summer BBQ wine. Drinkability: 7
NV Salt Lick Cellars BBQ Red ($20) – excellent – simple, soft, warm, or rather even heart warming, with perfect balance. Drinkability: 7+
2014 McPherson Tre Colore ($24, Cinsault/Carignan/Viognier) – Great acidity, soft and approachable, nice fruit, excellent overall. Drinkability: 7+
2012 Wedding Oak Winery Tioja Texas High Plains ($35, 80% Tempranillo, 10% Mourvedre, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon) – Fire pit on the nose, smokey, plums, vibrant acidity, perfect balance. Drinkability: 8-
2012 Salt Lick Cellars Hill County Blend ($29) – very unusual nose of freshly fermented apples, a touch of root beer, lots of tannins, a bit off on the palate. Drinkability: 7-

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2011 Brady Vineyard Petite Sirah Paso Robles ($36) – Outstanding. nice power on the nose, soft fruit and good structure. Drinkability: 7+
2012 Fall Creck GSM ($48) – great nose, but slightly overdone on the palate. Needs time. Drinkability: 7
2011 Fall Creek Tempranillo ($42) – nose of fermented apples, palate is off. Dense, astringent, tannic and overdone. Drinkability: 7-
2012 Dotson Cervantes Gotas de Oro ($29) – a dessert wine. Nice sweetness on the nose, but flat on the palate, needs a bit more sugar and more acidity. Drinkability: 7-

Here you go, my friends – a wonderful deep dive into the Texas wines. While Texas wine industry is still young, the passion for the land and for the vine really works as a great matchmaker for the grapes and terroir. I think the Mediterranean varieties are really showing the best results, and this is only he beginning of the journey. If you are into wines, I highly recommend you will make an effort to find and to taste Texas wines (can someone finally fix all the demented, archaic, draconian alcohol shipping laws in US, please?) – Texas makes lots of wines worth of any oenophile’s attention.

Before we part, I want to again thank Alissa for arranging this great Texas wine experience. Cheers!

Wineries of New England: Connecticut Winery Trail

January 17, 2015 15 comments

Passport to Connecticut Farm WineriesI was back and forth on this post for a while. One one side, an experience is an experience, and it is worth sharing in the blog, as this is what it is for. On another side, what if the experience was not on par? Not on par with your expectations, not on par with what you thought it should’ve been – is that something worth sharing? Or is it not? I’m talking about an experience which was not bad – in general, bad experiences are worth sharing as you might help others to avoid repeating them, or at least you can shout to the world and feel better.  The tough case is when the experience was simply mediocre, just an okay type – what do you do then?

Well, I only have two options here – keep the internal debate going, or write the post and share the experience for what it was. Considering that you are reading this post, you already know what route I took, so let’s get to it.

I live in Connecticut for more than 20 years. I’ve caught the wine bug at least 12 years ago. All these years, while I knew that wines are made in Connecticut, I never visited a Connecticut winery – and was actually kind of ashamed of it. During the summer of 2014, the opportunity presented itself, and I was very happy to finally get acquainted with the Connecticut wines at the source.

It appears that modern winemaking started in Connecticut in 1975. Haight Vineyards, now known as Haight-Brown Vineyards, was the first winery to open, and the first vineyard in Connecticut to successfully grow Chardonnay and Riesling. From there, the industry had grown to about 37 wineries in the state in 2014. While Connecticut is not a large state by all means, the wineries are located all over it, so you can only visit a handful of wineries in one day.

Before we talk about wines and wineries, I want to mention an interesting program, called “Passport to Connecticut Farm Wineries”, which is a very smart way to get people interested in visiting more wineries than they otherwise would. The Passport is a small booklet which lists participating Connecticut wineries and allows you to collect special stamps from all the wineries you visited. In case you are wondering, this Passport booklet can be picked up at any participating winery. New “Passport” is issued every year, and it is sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. However, it is worth noting that to be listed in the Passport, each winery have to pay an X amount of money ($2,400 in 2014), and some of the wineries simply skip on participation as they don’t find that worthwhile.

As you collect the stamps at the wineries you visit, you have an option to turn the Passport in by the certain date (it was November 16th in 2014). If you happened to collect all the stamps in the Passport booklet (i.e., visited all the wineries listed, 33 of them in 2014), you will be entered into a drawing to win a two week long trip for two to Spain. With less than a hundred people accomplishing it every year, your chances of winning are quite high. Also, if you will visit 16-32 wineries, you can still participate in the drawing for many interesting prizes. Prizes are good, of course, but even the sheer idea of collecting the stamps makes people to visit more wineries (works on yours truly as a charm).

Okay, now – let’s talk wineries. We only explored 4 wineries during our trip in August, all located in the north-west corner of the state. As a generic note, most of the wineries in the Northeast grow mostly an American hybrid grapes (Vidal Blanc, Cayuga, Marechal Foch, Chambourcin and so on), with the addition of the traditional staples such as Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Also, most of the wineries we visited charge $10 – $12 for the tasting ($12 tasting also includes the winery logo glass), which is not that bad.

Our first stop was Hopkins Vineyard, one of the oldest in the state – it was founded in 1979, as the result of conversion from the dairy farm to the vineyard. I was very excited to start my discovery of the Connecticut vineyards – but somehow, that enthusiasm was quickly extinguished with the cold and indifferent demeanor of our host. The guy who was running the tasting for us, couldn’t care less about the group. He was not interested in conversation. He barely answered questions, with his whole attitude been “I’m so tired of you people”. And the wines themselves were not helping. For what is worth, below are my brief notes:

2011 Hopkins Vineyard Duet Estate Bottled ($14.99, Chardonnay/Vidal Blanc) – nice acidity, good white fruit, medium-long finish. Drinkability: 7
2012 Hopkins Vineyard Vineyard Reserve Estate Bottled ($14.99, Seyval Blanc/Traminette) – nice nose, flat palate. Not recommended.
2013 Hopkins Vineyard Lady Rosé Estate Bottled ($15.99, Dornfelder/Lemberger/Pinot Noir) – nice, strawberries on the nose, crisp, but acidity is overbearing. Not recommended.
2010 Hopkins Vineyard Cabernet Franc Estate Bottled ($21.99) – excellent nose, green bell pepper, nice earthiness, good earthy palate. Drinkability: 7+

NV Hopkins Vineyard Red Bard Red ($14.50, Corette Noir and other hybrid grapes) – nice, young, simple, fresh fruit, touch of spices, raspberries and blackberries. In addition to the fact that this was one of the better wines in the tasting, Corette Noir was also a new grape! Drinkability: 7+
NV Hopkins Vineyard Sachem’s Picnic ($14.50, Boca Noir, Dechaunoc) – touch of sweetness, nice for Sangria. Drinkability: 6+

As you can see, this was not a very exciting beginning of the discovery of Connecticut wineries. The actual highlights of this first stop were found outside of the winery in the form of the beautiful sunflowers:

Our next stop was a Haight-Brown Vineyards – the winery I already mentioned as the very first in Connecticut, opening its doors in 1975. The winery was known as the Haight Vineyards until 2007, when it was acquired and renamed into the Haight-Brown Vineyards.

Haight-Brown Vineyards WineryHere we received a better reception, and things started to look up a bit compare to the first visit. Still, no revelations and really no wines which would leave any memory marks. I’m also curious why none of the tasting notes list any vintages for any of the wines. You would think that the notes are reprinted for every new wine, so it shouldn’t be very difficult to add the vintage there – however, none of the wineries we visited had this information on. Another interesting note was a proud mention of the 15% ABV for the Big Red wine (none of the other notes have ABV listed) – it was almost shown as a point of achievement, which was really mind boggling to me. In addition to the wines, you can buy different olive oils at the Haight-Brown tasting room. And, most importantly, Haight-Brown offers meat and cheese boards, which came in very handy as the group was ready to eat. For what it worth, below are the wine notes:

Haight-Brown Vineyards Chardonnay ($16.98) – Chablis nose, restrained, green apple, good acidity. Drinkability: 7+
Haight-Brown Vineyards Railway White ($14.98, Seyval Blanc) – tropical fruit and lychees on the nose, nice creaminess on the palate, ripe golden delicious, good acidity. Drinkability: 7-
Haight-Brown Vineyards Riesling ($16.98) – Finger Lakes fruit. Nice nose, but needs more acidity. Drinkability: 7-
Haight-Brown Vineyards Picnic Red ($15.98, Foch/Dechaunoc) – simple, nice, open grapey nose, the same on the palate. Drinkability: 7
Haight-Brown Vineyards Morning Harvest ($19.98, Ruby Red Cabernet) – green bell pepper nose, classic, light and balanced Cabernet palate with a touch of sweet oak. Drinkability: 7+
Haight-Brown Vineyards Big Red ($19.98, 15% ABV, California Cabernet Sauvignon) – Classic, big flavors, nice green notes, okay balance. Drinkability: 7-

Our next stop was at the Sunset Meadow Vineyards, which probably was the highlight of the day – for sure in the terms of very friendly service. And then the wines were a bit better than at the previous two wineries. Interestingly enough, the Shades of Risqué Sparkling Wine, simple and unassuming, was my personal favorite.  Here is what we tasted, with the notes:

Sunset Meadow Vineyards Riesling ($21.99) – interesting, acidic, light. Drinkability: 7
Sunset Meadow Vineyards Cayuga White ($16.99) – beautiful nose of pear and apple, good acidity, good balance. Drinkability: 7+
Sunset Meadow Vineyards Vidal Blanc ($18.99) – nice residual sweetness, good balance. Drinkability: 7+
Sunset Meadow Vineyards Blustery Blend ($16.99, Cayuga/Seyval Blanc/Chardonel) – nice nose, palate too sweet. And new grape – Chardonel! Drinkability: 7
Sunset Meadow Vineyards St. Croix ($24.99, 24 mo in oak) – nice earthy nose, a bit astringent on the palate with some salinity. Drinkability: 7-
Sunset Meadow Vineyards Merlot ($18.99, 24 mo in French oak) – tobacco and green pepper on the palate, overall missing the balance. Drinkability: 6+
2012 Sunset Meadow Vineyards New Dawn ($22.00, Landot Noir/Frontenac/Petit Verdot/Merlot) – astringent, sharp, spicy. Drinkability: 7-
Sunset Meadow Vineyards Shades of Risqué Sparkling Wine ($16.99) – round, simple, good balance. Drinkability: 7+
Sunset Meadow Vineyards Root 63 ($16.99) – nice and round, good balance. Drinkability: 7+

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To be entirely honest, we also stopped at the Miranda Vineyards, but – I don’t have any notes to share. I remember tasting the wines (no standouts), and I remember taking the pictures – I even have a stamp in the Passport book – but no notes. So here are a few pictures for you:

There you have it, my friends – my first encounter with the Connecticut wineries. Not a great experience – but still an experience, which will leave a memory mark. I would think that 40 years should be a good time period to figure out what works, what doesn’t, what grows well, and then make interesting wines – but it was not really the case. Yes, there are more wineries in Connecticut, and so there is a hope for the memorable wines to be found close to home. And by the way, if you visited wineries I mentioned, and had a different experience – let me know – may be it was a root day after all. Cheers!

Wine Gifts – A Practical and Pragmatic Guide, Part 3

December 12, 2014 7 comments

Happy HolidaysAnd we are on the finishing stretch! Third and the last installment of the Wine Gifts Guide. We already talked about wines and wine gadgets as two large gift categories. This post will be a bit different from the previous two. If I pressed and pressed the need to be practical and pragmatic when it comes to the wine and wine gadgets, it will be hardly applicable to this last group of potential wine gift recommendations. You will easily see why it is so, and without further ado, let’s get to it.

Here is the last of my list of potential wine-related gifts:

  1. Wine Books. Yes, wine lovers still read books. If anything, we use books as a reference. There are plenty wonderful wine books which will make any aficionado happy – the famous World Atlas of Wine, Wine Grapes Guide, Jura Wine, Food and Travel, and hundreds and hundreds of others. It is hard to go wrong with the book – the only issue might be if the recipient already has the exact same book, so I guess our principle of “practical”, knowing what the other person has, would still come handy. Nevertheless, the wine book would make a great present for the most of the wine lovers.
  2. Wine Education. Wine education is fun, it is almost priceless for the wine aficionado. You can never know it all, and even if you think you do, you will still learn a lot, given the opportunity. There are many wine classes and wine schools offered around the country and I’m sure, the world. Yes, you will need to spend some time to find the reputable wine school and wine educators. But the gift recipient will really appreciate it. For instance, a famous Windows on the World Wine School taught by Kevin Zraly – you can buy a gift certificate for a single class at $125, and the series of the 8 classes would cost $995. Yes, it is a lot of money, but hey, my job is to give you ideas, it is your job to get from the dreams to the reality.
  3. Wine Experiences. Yes, this is a broad category, and it includes a lot of possibilities – but these are the experiences we are talking about. I don’t want to sub-divide this category too much, but you definitely got options. Here are few:
    • Grand Wine Tastings. A ticket to the Boston Wine Festival Gala Dinner will cost about $250 per person. Wine Spectator Grand Tour is $225 per person. You will create memories forever by sending special people in your life to such an event.
    • Wine Master Classes/Dinners/Vertical tasting. If you can score tickets to the event of this kind, they will run about $450 – $600 per person – but hey, I’m sure you have people in your life who are well worth it. Again, guaranteed memories for life.
    • Wine Travel. Send your grown up kids on the 10 days wine tour in Tuscany – I guarantee you will change their life forever. Or – grown up kids, remember how much your parents did for you? Send your parents on the trip of the lifetime while they can still enjoy it! Remember, the best things in life are not things. Collect the experiences and help others do the same.
  4. Wine Art. Similar to the books, I’m sure most of the wine lovers will be happy to get a beautiful painting. Yes, there are lots of options, in all different price ranges. If you live in the US, you can find very nice paintings in your local Home Goods store, where it will cost you $25 – $50. Yes, it will be mass produced art, but I personally own a few of those, and they make me happy when I look at them. But you don’t have to be confined to the home decoration store selection – you can look for the actual artists who creates paintings and other forms of art, all wine related. Here are two references for you – Leanne Laine categorizes herself as “The Women in Wine Artist” – she has a lot of beautiful wine-themed paintings which are available from her website. Another artist I know of, Ryan Sorrell, creates beautiful mosaics from the wine bottle foil tops – here is the link to Ryan’s website. These are just two artists I know of, but I’m sure you will find more artists – and again, I think wine art is a great gift category on par with all others.

Well, believe it or not, but we are done! I don’t have any more wine gift recommendations for you, and this series is over. I only hope that I was able to give you at least a tiny amount of useful information, and if you got a wine lover in your life, your shopping task will be a little bit simpler. If you will find this information useful (and especially if you will not), I would love to hear from you. Happy Holidays and Cheers!

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