Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Zraly’

Holiday Gift Guide 2018 – Your Shopping Stops Here

December 1, 2018 Leave a comment


Yes, it is that time of the year again. The word “Holidays” is the one you hear the most. Holidays are great – it is the time to celebrate family, friends, life. But – of course, there is a “but” for everything – often, the holidays are not just festive, they can also be stressful and frustrating. No, I’m not necessarily talking about all the extra pounds and the desire to break the scales into the thousand little pieces. I’m mostly talking about the gifts.

We always want to see our family, friends, and colleagues happy – but in the holidays season, we especially want to express our gratitude and appreciation with the gifts. And this is when frustration settles in. We want the gifts to be meaningful and want to see the smile of delight on the faces of the recipients – but finding the right gift might be a mission impossible.

I can’t help you solve this, once and for all. However, if you are reading this post (are you?), there is a chance that you and the people you want to please might be interested in wine. In this case, I might be able to help. Of course, I don’t know your friends. But – all I want to do is to give you some ideas. Once you are armed with the idea, I’m sure you can do the rest – and I will be happy that you will be happy. Well, ohh, let move on.

Here are some suggestions which I hope will reduce the holiday stress for you. In the interest of the full disclosure, I have to tell you that I’m not compensated in any way to give you these recommendations. These recommendations are based on my personal experience, and if you got a wine and food lover in your life, you will find something here to please them. Heck, I would be absolutely delighted with any of those gifts myself – but this, of course, is not about me. Here we go:

Jordan Vineyard and Winery Holiday Gift Guide: While Jordan Winery makes only two wines in Sonoma Valley – Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, they make them very well. Jordan Gift Guide goes beyond the wine – it also offers gourmet foods, such as American sturgeon caviar and Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Wrapped with the beautiful packaging, Jordan Winery gifts are guaranteed to evoke a huge smile from your gift recipients.

Knudsen Vineyards Gift Sets: Here is another winery which makes only two wines, now in Oregon – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – but their wines are definitely gift-worthy. I discovered their wines last year, and if you got a Chardonnay or Pinot Noir aficionado you want to please, Knudsen Vineyards wines are up for the task.

Gloria Ferrer Gift Collections: Bubbles and holidays – need I say more? Gloria Ferrer is one of my most favorite sparkling wine producers in California. Classically structured in Champagne style, but with the addition of California’s generous fruitiness, Gloria Ferrer sparkling wines will highlight any celebration. In addition to the beautifully packaged wines, you can find other gift options there – saber, wine glasses and more.


JUSTIN Winery Gifts: JUSTIN Winery is one of the very best producers in Paso Robles. Their range of Cabernet Sauvignon wines is superb and will make any oenophile happy. However, the gift options go way beyond just wine – coasters, candles, wine openers – there is something there for everyone.

Wente Vineyards Gifts: There is a good chance you never heard of Wente Vineyards before – or the Livermore Valley which it proudly represents. Meanwhile, it is one of the oldest wineries in California (established in 1883), but it is not just the history which is important here. Go ask your favorite California Chardonnay producer what type of Chardonnay grape clone they use – and don’t be surprised to hear “Wente clone”. You will find many delicious gift options available from Wente (don’t worry – their reds are excellent too) – go ahead, surprise the wine lovers on your list – they will thank you later.

Pat LaFrieda Gifts: Now, we can’t leave on the wine alone, can we? Sometimes, we crave meat. Discovery of Pat LaFrieda meats was one of the highlights of the year for me, proving that expensive meat can be still worth the money. You will find a range of gift options at Pat LaFrieda website, from gift cards to the amazing meat combinations. This is the meat which worth the money – take the word of the convert for this.

Kevin Zraly Wine Classes: Who thinks that the gift of wine education is the best gift of all, raise your hand! I honestly do. As someone who had a pleasure of going through the Windows on the World Wine School and listening to Kevin Zraly, I have to say – that experience was incredible. Anyone who wants to learn more about wines of the specific region or style will learn a great deal from the master – and taste an incredible array of wines which one can’t easily get an access to. I guarantee you – your gift recipients will tell that this was the best gift ever.

Here, I hope I made your life easier. No thanks is necessary, but feel free to add my name to your gifting registry at any time. Cheers!



Is There an Epiphany For The Oenophile?

May 7, 2015 18 comments

MWWC_logoThis post is an entry for the 17th Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC17), with the theme of “Epiphany”. Previous themes in the order of appearance were: Transportation, Trouble, Possession, Oops, Feast, Mystery, Devotion, Luck, Fear, Value, Friend, Local, Serendipity, Tradition, Success, Finish.

I have to admit – when it comes to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, I don’t have a straight record. I participated in many, but definitely not all. Of course lots of it has to do with the theme. Some of them I loved initially, only to find out that they are much harder than I thought (MWWC16 “finish” would be a perfect example). Then there were some which seemed difficult from the get go, and they didn’t disappoint (”devotion” would be my favorite example of an extremely difficult theme). But the key word here is “Challenge”, so let’s just roll with the punches, shall we?

Epiphany is definitely a very difficult theme. Hold your horses – I’m not generalizing, I’m talking about myself. It is a very difficult theme because the word epiphany is not a part of my vocabulary. I don’t think I consciously used the word even once. To me, it has strictly a religious connotation, and I have to honestly admit that I’m not a very religious person. Yes, it is a difficult word for me.

So when the going get tough… one reaches out for the dictionary – sorry, I already played that card before, with the equally difficult theme, “devotion” – but I don’t have a lot of choice. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Epiphany is defined as:


Okay, so we are not going to talk about the first and second meanings – not in this blog for sure. That leaves us with with the range of options in the meaning #3. I feel good about discovery, realization, revelation, sudden perception – still, the epiphany has too grandiose of a meaning for me to be able comfortably use it.

My forming journey as an oenophile was full of discoveries, revelations and realizations, but was the epiphany hiding somewhere along the way? I’m not so sure. Let’s take a look.

My serious introduction into the world of wine happened about 10 years ago, when I took Windows on the World Wine course thought by one of the best wine educators out there – Kevin Zraly. My first major discovery in that class was Amarone, 1997 La Ragose. Amazing dried fruit and raisins on the nose, promising a sweet wine – and then dry, perfectly balanced and well structured wine on the palate. This experience became engraved in my memory, for the good and for the bad. What is bad about it, you ask? Absolute majority (with a very few exceptions) of Amarone I tasted since, including the other vintages of La Ragose, didn’t measure up to that first experience. I keep claiming Amarone to be my favorite wine, which typically only leads to disappointments.

The next memorable moment was during the class on Champagne and sparkling wines. Three or four wines were served blind, and Kevin asked to see a show of hands as to who liked what wine. There was somewhat of an even spread among few wines to be the favorites, and there was also practically a uniformed dislike of one of the wines. Right before the wines were revealed, Kevin said something which again became forever engrained in that same memory of mine. He said “this is why, people, you shouldn’t drink the vintage Champagne”. The wine everybody disliked (myself included) was 1996 Dom Pérignon, one of the very best vintage champagnes ever. Vintage Champagne is an acquired taste – majority of the people have to really get there before they can claim that they like it. I’m really curious how many people never said the truth about that sip of highly acclaimed Champagne, often synonymized with success (if you care to step forward, just do it – you will not be judged, for sure not in this blog). I gradually moved up through the Champagne taste ladder to honestly claim my love for the heavy, yeasty, complex vintage Champagnes, but believe me, it’s totally okay to be indifferent to them.

Many of my other wine discoveries relate to the wonderful wine store in the New York City, PJ Wine. I mentioned that store many times in the different posts in this blog – in my opinion, the store deserves all the praise it can get. In 2009 I attended PJ Wine Grand Tasting event in New York, and the wines which were presented in that event were nothing short of amazing. This is where I was mesmerized by Krug, both vintage and Grand Cuveé, Château Margaux and Château Léoville-Las Cases, both from the legendary 2000 vintage, 1999 Vega Sicilia Unico, 1922 D’Oliveira Madeira – all of those wines created lasting memories. I remember keep coming again and again for another glass of that Vintage Krug – most surprisingly, it was available for a while. Epiphany? I’m still not sure. Boy, what I do truly regret now that I really didn’t start blogging at that time (but I should’ve!).

The year later, I discovered Spanish Rioja. Again with the help of the PJ Wine. The store offered a Rioja tasting seminar on Saturday, it was free, and I decided – why not? The very first taste of the young Viña Real (2004 or 2005), 6 other Rioja wines in between and the last taste of the mature, but still bright and vibrant 1964 Pagos de Viña Real turned my wine world upside down and squarely put Rioja on top of it.

The year after, at a Spanish wine festival organized by … yes, you guessed it – PJ Wine, I tasted 1993 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco and 2000 Viña Tondonia Rosado – again, a revelation. Complex and vibrant white of tender 18 years of age, and still fresh Rosé of 11? Truly impressive.

Are you tired yet? There were more, lots more. How about 48 years old wine, mature, but yet delicious? No, not Hermitage, not Bordeaux, not Burgundy. 1966 Louis M. Martini Pinot Noir from Napa Valley. The wine which was just honestly made, without any expectations of longevity – yet a beautiful wine, still bringing a lot of pleasure? Was drinking this wine an epiphany? I don’t know – to me, it was simply a stunning and memorable experience. Then there was 1947 Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja – how can the wine much older than me be so alive and beautiful? Fiction by Field Recordings – the wine which transports you to the blooming summer meadows on the first smell – should that be called an epiphany? Or the Antica Terra Phantasi from Oregon, the white wine with pungent, savory aromatics which taught me that there are white wines which taste amazing at the room temperature (many Roussanne and Marsanne wines do).

You are not going to stop me now. There was Rozès Over 40 Years Old Porto – the fragrant, effervescent, uplifting wine, sip of which says “nirvana” – nope, still no epiphany though. My first taste of the wine directly from the tank – cloudy, still an “ugly duckling”, but delicious Chenin Blanc at Paumanok winery on Long Island – may be? The Merlot grape juice, dripping right from the sorting table with just harvested grapes – was that it? Or may be it was the wine which most likely will never be bottled – a 1970 White Port right from the tank, right in the cellar of Quevedo winery in Douro?

Let’s draw the line here – that memory lane is getting longer and longer. Was there an epiphany in any or all of what I told you? I don’t know. There were a lot of amazing discoveries, revelations, special moments and memories – what is even more important, these special moments continuing – it is really easy to get me excited with the good wine. I will have to let you decide if there is an epiphany for the oenophile – best if you would write your own post. And for me? Can I please have another glass of Vintage Krug? Cheers!

P.S. I would like to thank John The Wine Raconteur , the winner of the #MWWC16, for the great theme which facilitated this highly enjoyable memory trip for me.

Ten Wine Blogs I’m Reading

January 15, 2012 3 comments

In the world of wine, reading is second most important thing next to actually drinking the wines. Yes, of course, you can say that no, visiting vineyards and talking to the winemakers is a lot more important – and I would agree with you, however, it is reading that you can do at any time and a lot more often than actually visiting the wineries – at least for someone like me, where wine is a passion but not a profession.

When it comes to reading, books and magazines and indispensable – and there are hundreds and hundreds of them to read, starting from encyclopedias such as The World Atlas Of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, great day-to-day books such as Kevin Zraly’s Complete Wine Course to the Wine Spectator magazine which reviews thousands of wines in every issue.

Then there are wine blogs, like the one you are reading right now. Wine blogs deliver information in much timelier fashion than any books or magazines, and they also express  a lot more of the author’s personality in a much more direct way than any book or magazine article – which makes them a great fun to read. I like reading blogs when I get a chance, and generally I come across many different blogs as lots of them are referring to each other (very common practice in blogging world). However, while my blog reading is often sporadic, simply based on available time, there are some blogs which I’m making an effort to at least skim through on the regular basis (using Google Reader) – and this is the list which I would like to share with you. The list below has no prioritization whatsoever, and I add few of my thoughts as to what kind of content you can find in the respective blog.

  • 1WineDude – IT-convert Joe Roberts provides great insight into the world of wines. Lots of wines are reviewed using the A to F ratings ( no, I didn’t see a single F yet) as opposed to the popular 100 points scale.
  • Fermentation – very interesting blog, covering a lot from the world of law, consumer rights, politics and more – of course all centered around wine.
  • Serious About Wine – wants to see lots of new cool label designs? Flip through this blog’s pages, its worth it.
  • The Feiring Line – Alice Feiring is a book writer and a blogger with “unique and different” point of view. Love her wine descriptions written directly on the bottle’s label.
  • Dr. Vino – one of the best wine blogs overall, lots of interesting information tidbits from the wine world.
  • The Wine Economist – Great source of information about wine, lots of stats of all kinds – merlot versus pinot noir consumption in the numbers, most requested wine of the past year and so on.
  • The Gray Report – W. Blake Gray writes one of the most insightful and controversial wine blogs – I always love reading his posts. You should judge for yourself, though.
  • Vinography – Superblog of wine blogs – lots of information plus a comprehensive list of wine blogs on the Internet
  • Steve Heimoff Wine Blog – exactly as it says, a wine blog by Steve Heimoff, a wine writer and Wine Enthusiast magazine’s West Coast Editor. Lots of interesting information, especially as it comes to California wines.
  • Paul Gregutt Unfined&Unfiltered – Paul Gregutt is a wine writer and a Northwest Editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine. He writes about wines of Pacific Northwest.

That’s all, folks for my list of ten blogs I’m reading – if you like wine, check them out for yourself. Cheers!

What Are [The World’s] Your Best Wines?

December 6, 2010 6 comments

This post was prompted by a Share and question posted on Facebook by my dear friend Kfir Pravda. He shared an article from The Art Of Life magazine titled “Some of the World’s Best Wines“. As I skimmed through the article, the very first feeling which came up was … anger.  Anger is a very bad adviser, and in the most of the cases people regret the actions taken while angry. If you are angry, the best thing to do is to do NOTHING, and this is pretty much what I did – well, to be more precise, I promised to write a blog post on the subject, so here we go. Warning: this will be most likely long and mumbling post, more of thinking out loud in search for a truth which might not exist – if you are not in the mood for that, you should probably stop reading right now.

All the feeling aside, let me just explain what triggered the initial negative reaction. The article presents the list of “some of the best wines in the world” – all the wines cost in excess of $350 per bottle (with two exceptions), and many cost more than $1000 per bottle. All the wines except one come from France (one is from Germany). Last thing – I’m missing the logic behind the selection of the particular group of wines with designation of being “some of the best in the world” – if such claims are made, it is always good to see a logic behind it. With so many amazing and rare wines coming from all corners of the world, the top list must include the wines from Italy, Spain, Portugal, US and Australia, as a bare minimum.

Taking it one step further we can come up with an interesting question – is there a such thing as “best wine in the world”? Or even can there be such thing as “best wine in the world”? Yes, we like to designate objects to be “the best in the world”. Why is that done? I guess we need something to aspire to, something to adore, something to be moved by. It is also gives us something we want to experience – somehow, one day, yes, that would be great. When it comes to many “best in the world” things, such as art, architecture and places in general (like mount Everest), chances of “experience” are quite decent. We can experience such things ourselves – no, not own that Picasso painting, but to see it and to be as close to it as we want to at the art exhibit, for instance, or we can travel to Paris and take a tour of Eiffel Tower. If nothing else works, we can read a book or watch a movie – if good, this will bring us fullest possible experience of object of our desire, “the best in the world”.

When it comes to wine, it gets a little tricky. To begin with, I mentioned in a number of posts the definition of a good wine – in the words of Kevin Zraly, “the one which will give you pleasure”. How much pleasure can you get from reading the description of the wine, even if the wine is designated as best in the world and it is very expensive. Yes, from reading the description I can appreciate the fact that someone else thinks that this wine has a flavor of black currant, and that it costs more per bottle that trip to Paris to see Eiffel Tower, including cost of the meals – I don’t know about you, but I don’t get that much pleasure from reading about particular wine as from actually tasting it. Tasting of many “best in the world” wines will be difficult at best, due to the price and sheer availability of those wines. Therefore, the whole concept of “best in the world” is very challenging when it comes to wine (I’m sure it is true for the food in general).  Let’s call the wine amazing, outrageous, unbelievable, divine, incredible, “to die for”, “a must try” (ok, enough, you got the point), but not “the best in the world”. Remember, the one which gives you pleasure – it is your own, personal, individual palate we are talking about. If we are to conduct wine tasting, with inclusion of the supposedly “best in the world” wines, but fully blind (you taste the wine without any information regarding what can it be), I wonder how “best in the world” wines would rate… I can bet that in a lot of cases they will not be even designated as “best in the tasting”, as tasting wines blind brings out ultimate truth – I mean your personal version of it.

So, what do you think, should the concept of “best in the world” be applicable to wine? I think the answer is no for the most of the cases (well, I will give it a benefit of a doubt, may be there one wine which is actually the best in the world, the one which I will never try…) For me, someone’s “favorite wines list” concept works a lot better – as long as I trust that “someone”. The someone can be magazine, like Wine Spectator or Wine Advocate, wine store owner, a wine writer or a blogger or your friend – all you need to establish is how your palates align, and then you are on the road to have fun with every bottle you open. Or not – in which case let’s just hope that you didn’t pay the price of “best in the world wine”…

Well, now, please tell me – what wine is the best in your world?

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