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Missing Vino Volo at Newark Airport – Oeno is Just Not It

September 11, 2015 7 comments

Don’t know if you can figure out from the title, but yes, this will be a rant. There were a few rants in this blog before (I even have a dedicated category for that) – and every time I contemplate the same question – “should I do it or not”. The problem with the rant is that while it is often a quick “feel good” solution for the “rantee”, it can theoretically have some consequences for the object of rant. But outside of the letting the steam to blow off from a bad experience, I see the rant as a criticism, and criticism is a good thing – it identifies problems which can be fixed (or not, of course). Okay, let me not making this post a rant about rant – let’s proceed to our subject.

I’m regularly traveling for business for the long time. As previously reported in this blog, the situation with food significantly improved at most of the US airports. And not only with food, but with wine as well – on a multiple occasions I wrote happy posts about Vino Volo stores available in many airports – including the one at Newark Airport in New Jersey (here is the link). At Vino Volo, you can always expect to find an interesting wine flight at a reasonable price, especially considering the airport location, and a tasty and thoughtful bite of food.

Now, as it happened last year, Vino Volo was kicked out of the Terminal C, and replaced by the restaurant called Oeno Wine Bar. Oeno tried to replicate Vino Volo’s model by offering wine flights as well as wine by the glass and by the bottle, and of course, food to go with it. So far so good, right?

First thing as you walk into Oeno is that nobody greets you. Okay, quite common at the airport. Next, you have to find the table, sit yourself, and start navigating the iPad on the stand which crowns every table at the restaurant. The iPad presents all the food and wine, grouped in the number of categories. top menu at Oeno

Now, as you try to dig into the wines, there are a few surprises which one runs into. First of all, the prices – there are 6 wine flights offered, priced either at $36 or $54 – most of the Vino Volo flights were priced under $25, so $54 for the tasting flight, seriously? The prices for the glass of wine range from $10 going into the $40s (not bad for the airport, right? – $40+ for a glass of wine on the go). But – for me, an oenophile who was served by Vino Volo very amicably, the biggest gripe is the full lack of information. Despite the fact that you have in front of you an iPad, an electronic device which allows to have pretty much an unlimited amount of information for each and every item offered, Oeno menu provides literally no relevant information. It seems that the only reason to offer the menus on the iPads is to make it easy to charge the customers in dollars or in frequent flyer currency – points/miles. Nobody cares also to provide a service with that, make sure people actually like what you are offering (yes, I mean “information” by the service).

Let me advance my gripe further. Considering complete lack of information, I decided to at least order something inexpensive, so I went with Jelu Pinot Noir, at $10.50 per glass. I couldn’t figure it out where the wine was from, as no information was available. After tasting something pretty much undrinakble – hot, unbalanced, biting wine – I had to look it up. It appears that this was a Pinot Noir from Argentina, and it also appears the the whole bottle cost as much in retail as I paid for the glass. Had I known that this was a Pinot Noir from Argentina, I would simply avoid ordering that – you can hardly go wrong with Malbec from Argentina at any price level, but when it comes to Pinot Noir, you better know the wine and/or producer.

Smoked salmon Panini

Leaving the wine aside (as I did with my glass), the food was also marginally successful. I ordered a Smoked Salmon Panini. While I understand that Panini is a pressed sandwich, I didn’t expect that smoked salmon panini would be put under a hot press. Ever had hot smoked salmon? This is not the most delicious food in the world, as the heat accentuates the saltiness of the salmon, and really makes it marginally enjoyable. Never mind the price of $14.25 – for that amount of money, you can have 2 or even 3 excellent sandwiches in most of the European airports…

The iPad system at Oeno is really focused on getting money or miles (the points) out of you, at the same time providing as little service as possible, as you  do everything on that iPad (you have to place an order and pay before anything gets to your table). To add insult to the injury, the tip of 20% is added to your payment at the time of the order (for some reason it is called “check-out”, even it is the first thing you have to do to get your food). The only service you get is your food placed in front of you, but nevertheless, you are paying as you are at a high end restaurant with great service.

And the last thing which I found extremely annoying: the push to get you to use your frequent flyer miles. If you travel enough, I’m sure you know that all those “rewards points” don’t come very easily, with the airlines constantly looking for the ways to reduce your frequent flyer benefits. Now, every item on the menu has price both in dollars and in miles. For the glass of Prosecco, you could elect to pay $14.10, or use 2,020 miles. As long as you don’t analyze the numbers, and have millions of frequent flyer miles in your account, you probably don’t care about “just 2000” miles. Now, think about this: if you have no status with United, to earn the same 2000 miles, you have to buy a $400+ ticket (it should be $400 before taxes and fees), as you are only getting 5 miles per dollar on United. If you are short 2,000 miles for your award ticket, you can buy them from United, at a measly price of $70 – but here you are, offered to spend that same 2,000 miles on a glass of bubbly instead of $14. And when you refuse to do so, you are asked to fill out a survey to explain why did you refuse the offer to pay with miles. Don’t know about you, but I find this preposterous.

Okay, let’s end this Friday rant. If you  travel through Newark airport, and especially if you are an oenophile, I have only one recommendation for you – avoid Oeno. Unless someone at Oeno wakes up and makes changes to transform it into really a desirable destination, as Vino Volo was. Until then, take your hard earned money elsewhere, and – Vino Volo, I miss you very much… Cheers!

Oeno Wine Bar
Newark Liberty International Airport
Terminal C
Gates 70-89

Oeno Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vino Volo Experience – Mostly a Rant

December 9, 2014 14 comments

Rant? Vino Volo? Really? There must be something wrong with this picture, right?

Yes, on a number of occasions I confessed my love to the Vino Volo wine sanctuaries at the US airports. This time, I was yet again very happy that the ride to the Newark airport in New Jersey was quick and uneventful, and I had enough time to visit Vino Volo. In case you are not familiar with the Vino Volo concept, please take a look here.

Now, I don’t know how the Vino Volo stores are operating. I would assume that the local stores have some freedom to select the wines, based on their locality and, of course, their clientele. It is quite expected that the Vino Volo’s selection at the Seattle airport will be slated towards Washington wines, and San Francisco location will be California-heavy, and the store in Austin will have a flight or a few of the Texas wines. In the Newark store, there was nothing local – no New Jersey, no New York wines. There were a few of the “international delights” and few of the “value delight” flights – none of them generated any excitement. Then I saw a Sommelier Selection flight – two wines at $25, both wines supposedly high end.

To be entirely honest, first I made the mistake I make quite often when it comes to the wine lists – I don’t pay attention to the small details – as an example, one extra word in the name can take the wine from the first growth to the second label. So below is what I thought was in the flight (yep, I was hoping for the coveted Opus One):

Opus OneWell, there was no Opus One in the flight – instead, it was an Opus One Overture (see, one extra word!):

Overture by Opus OneOkay, fine. You don’t expect me to rant about my own mistake, do you? Of course not. Let’s continue.

The flight arrived, and it looked like this:

Vino Volo Sommelier flight winesJust so you can actually read the “official” description, here is the same – without the glasses:

Vino Volo Sommelier flightOkay, so I tasted the first wine, which was a non-vintage second label from Opus One, supposedly made with the surplus Cabernet Sauvignon grapes which were disqualified from the Opus One production. A bit thin, nice profile with touch of cassis, a bit green but palatable (but with the expectation of a lot more at the price  of $145). While I understand that it is a non-vintage, I would assume that it is a young wine, and if it anything like the other top Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon wines, it should be decanted to show best. Okay, let’s put it aside and let it breath, and let’s try the second wine, shall we?

Barolo from 2010. I don’t know about you, but I don’t consider 4 years old Barolo drinkable, unless it will spend good 3-4 hours in the decanter. I didn’t see a decanter at the bar, so I must assume that it was poured straight from the bottle. But even before that, if you want to really showcase the sommelier-selected wines, why would you put Barolo next to Cabernet Sauvignon? Wouldn’t you go to the Super Tuscan as the very least, showing California versus Italy? Okay, never mind all that, the proof is in the pudding, taste, right? Swirl, sip – there was nothing remotely reminiscent of Barolo in this wine – well, at least within my experience with Barolo and my expectation with “king of wines”. Very limited fruit expression, herbal nose, some tannins, very tart. Had it been decanted for the 3-4 hours, it would probably be a totally different experience – and should the folks, the professionals at Vino Volo known better?

Well, may be it was a root day after all. Or not. But there you have it, my friends – my first unsuccessful experience at Vino Volo. Let’s hope it was the last. Cheers!

P.S.  I have my “formal” tasting notes – but I’m withholding them as I don’t think they will be of any use here.

P.P.S. If anyone had the 2010 Mauro Veglio Barolo and wants to say I have no idea what I’m talking about, please be my guest – your feedback will be greatly appreciated…

Few Last Words About Washington Wines

November 5, 2014 9 comments

All the good things come to an end – so did my trip to Washington and the series of the blog posts about Woodinville wineries (if you missed the series, here is the link to the first, “MWWC-award-winning” 🙂 post – you can explore it from there).

What is my main outcome of that trip? First, at the “duh”  level – great wines are made in the state of Washington. Yes, yes, I understand how pathetic this revelation is. However, outside of Chateau Ste. Michele, Columbia Crest and may be  Cayuse and Quilceda Creek, how many Washington wineries can you name if put on the spot? Meanwhile, the wines I tasted in Woodinville, where literally one better than another. When it comes to the focused winery visits and large tastings, I do have a bit of experience – 7 wineries, about 40 wines, and not a single wine wine I really didn’t care for? That is a serious result in my book. Couple that with most of the wines reasonable priced in the $25 – $50 range, and the picture gets even better. Spectacular Bordeaux blends with such elegance and finesse – these Washington wines definitely worth seeking out. Well, today you would have to mostly travel to the area if you want to experience the wines – but this is the only problem you might have with the wines. Bottom line – I was very happy with my discovery of Woodinville and its wineries, and in the words of the Terminator, “I’ll be back”.

So you think we are done here? Nope. I still have a few more Washington wines to mention – thanks to Vino Volo. I wrote about Vino Volo a number of times in the past – the company manages wine bars in [mostly] various airports around US and Canada. While good wine at the airport is the most welcome development of the past 5 or so years of the flying experience, my favorite part about Vino Volo is that whenever possible, the bars offer tasting flights of local wines – you should expect to find Texas wines in Austin, California wines in San Francisco and of course, Washington wines in Seattle!

I had about 2 hours before my flight back to New York, and when I saw the Vino Volo sign, that was a happy “Yes!” moment. A number ofthe Washington wine flights were offered, but when I saw the one with Leonetti Cellars Cabernet, I had to go for it – I only heard the name before and they considered to be an excellent producer, so I was definitely curious.

Washington Cabernet Flioght at Vino Volo in seattle

The flight consisted of 3 different Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Washington.

Washington Cabernet description at Vino Volo

Here are my notes:

2010 Pepper Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, Walla Walla Valley – Raspberries and blackberries on the nose. On the palate, great depth, cassis, blackberries, pencil shavings, medium to full body, sweet tannins, elegant. Drinkability: 7+/8-

2011 Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley – herbal nose with sage and lavender, touch of cassis. On the palate – dark chocolate, earthiness, nice mineral profile, good acidity, elegant. Drinkability: 8-

2011 Leonetti Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley – Rich and concentrated nose, with the hint of forest floor, herbs, eucalyptus and great complexity. On the palate – round, spectacular, herbal profile with nutty aftertaste, more eucalyptus, long finish. Drinkability: 8+

Well, now it is the time to conclude the series for real. What can I tell you? If you are looking for the great wine experiences, put state of Washington, and Woodinville in particular, on the top of your  list. For those of you who can experience the Woodinville wines and wineries at any time – lucky you. For the rest of us? Well, at least we know where to find them. Cheers!

Pinot Noir On The Go – At Vino Volo in Newark Airport

May 18, 2014 8 comments

This is not the first tine I write about Vino Volo wine bar (you can find previous posts here). Just in case you are not familiar with Vino Volo, it is a great chain of the wine bars, offering all the wine lovers a refuge, alleviating dreadful and tiresome airport travel experience. Vino Volo is the place where you can sit down and enjoy a glass of good wine, or a tasting flight, at the reasonable price, accompanied by a tasty bite of food – a sandwich, olives, a little cheese platter and more.

Actually, this was my first time at Vino Volo wine bar at Newark airport. Generally, I’m flying in the morning, way before Vino Volo would be open, so I walked past the restaurant many times, only promising myself to hopefully come back at some point. This time, on the way to California, I had an early afternoon flight, so Vino Volo sounded like a perfect late lunch option.

As Vino Volo wine bars located in the different airports throughout the country, the wine offerings very often include local wines. You can expect to have an opportunity taste Texas wines while in Austin, and Virginia wines while in Washington, and Oregon wines in Portland. Typical selection on the Vino Volo wine menu would include 6-8 different wine flights, white, rose and reds. While Vino Volo in Newark didn’t offer any New Jersey wines (not sure I’m courageous enough even if they would), it was not easy to make a decision. Somehow, I settled on the Pinot Noir flight, which consisted three wines from Germany, Oregon and California. While I’m well familiar with Oregon and California Pinot Noirs, I have very limited (and until now, unsuccessful) exposure to the German Pinot Noirs – however, so many bloggers had being raving lately about German Pinot Noir wines, that I simply had to try it.

Pinot Noir tasting Flight at Vino Volo

Pinot Noir tasting Flight at Vino VoloHere are my notes:

2012 Borell-Diehl Pinot Noir Estate, Germany

Color: Garnet
Nose: Blackberries, red fruit, clean, hint of minerality
Palate: Fresh, clean, bright acidity, very good balance, herbs, nice red fruit.
Verdict: Perfectly worked with my warm Tuscan chicken sandwich, great pairing. Overall very nice, food friendly wine. Drinkability: 7+

2009 Maysara Pinot Noir, McMinniville AVA, Oregon

Color: Ruby
Nose: Mocha, herbs, lavender, hint of root beer (I can’t believe I would say it, but Kirsten The Armchair Sommelier was right!)
Palate: Complex, delicious, nice acidity, good structure and backbone
Verdict: Also worked perfectly with the warm Tuscan chicken sandwich, very good wine overall. Drinkability: 8-

2011 Stephen Ross Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, California

Color: Ruby
Nose: Concentrated, dark chocolate, pencil shavings, smoke, roasted plums
Palate: open fruit, bright, perfect balance, medium-long finish.
Verdict: didn’t work with the sandwich, but was delicious by itself. Drinkability: 8

There you have it – three excellent Pinot Noir wines on the go. Next time you are in the airport – remember, you have options. Vino Volo is continuing expanding, so there is a good chance that your airport experience will not be that dreadful after all. Cheers!

Vino Volo
Newark Airport
Terminal C, Gate 74
Phone: (973) 565-9250
https://www.vinovolo.com/
Hours:
Monday – Saturday: 9 am – 9 pm, Sunday: 12 pm – 9 pm

Vino Volo on Urbanspoon

Wine Experiences … In The Airport

April 18, 2011 1 comment

You can look at it as a sequel to previous post about Vino Volo. Yes, I’m talking again about Vino Volo, which continues to deliver great wine experience on the go.

What I really like about Vino Volo is the fact that wine selection is always changing. Different locations offer different wine selections, which are changing throughout a year – what can be better for the wine experiences seeker?

In addition to being able to try a number of different wines at a reasonable price (I’m specifically referring to the price of wine flights – most of the individual bottles are overpriced, unfortunately), there are other positive elements of overall experience at Vino Volo. One of them is a very good service. Beyond just being nice and pleasant, Vino Volo’s staff knows quite a bit about the wines they are serving, and they also can handle challenges quite well. One of the wines in the Northwest Stars flight we had at San Antonio airport was spoiled – it was borderline corked and lacked all the fruit. When I mentioned that that to our waitress, the wine was replaced, no questions asked. This doesn’t always work that good, based on my own and fellow bloggers experience.

Another thing which I like is that fact that Vino Volo is always trying to go local when possible. When you are in Portland, Oregon airport, you should expect to find few tasting flights dedicated to Pacific Northwest wines. When in Virginia, I was very glad to find a flight of Virginia wines – all of this definitely adds up to unique experience.

Let me tell you about the wines I tried during my last two visits to Vino Volo in San Antonio, Texas and Dulles airport in Virgina.

We tried two flights at the San Antonio airport. First was Northwest Stars, which included three reds. 2009 Cummins Road Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton district, Oregon ($39 at Vino Volo, $19.95 on internet) had too much fruit for me. 2008 Mibrandt Vineyards Traditions Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington ($25 at Vino Volo, $14.99 at the winery) was very nice, with good balance, but needed a bit more body to be appreciated fully (might be young, though). Last in the flight was 2006 Powers Parellel 46 Meritage, Columbia Valley, Washington ($43 at Vino Volo, not easy to find but about $27 on Internet). This was the wine which was spoiled and replaced. It is a classic Bordeaux wine, with characteristic  green notes – definitely needs more time, but this was a very good wine.

Next one was a flight of whites (I know, going in reverse) called Bright Whites. 2009 Colome Valle Calchaqui Torrontes, Argentina, was very nice, blight and flavorful. 2007 Efeste Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington ($29 at Vino Volo, about $16 on wine-searcher) was the most unusual wine in the tasting – it had a very pronounced “rubber” on the nose, and lemongrass on the palate, and it was very nice overall (once you overcome the initial rubber sensation). Lastly, 2009 Racines de la Terre Chardonnay Pays d’Oc, France was very nice, with good balance of fruit and acidity, very approachable. I would say that the last two are worth seeking.

Now let me tell you about two tasting flights in Washington Dulles Airport.

First was the flight of Rose wines (very appropriate – summer is coming!). All three were very interesting, with #2 being my favorite. First was 2009 Vidal-Fleury Cote-du-Rhone, France – blend of Carignan and Syrah. This wine was a too fruity with limited body expression. Next one was Conde de Subritas Brut Rose NV, Spain – most unusual wine in the tasting (and the best). This sparkling wine had a lot of vegetable and pungent flavors – I definitely would like to try it with the salad. Last one was 2009 Avondale Estate Rose from South Africa, which tasted practically like a red wine ( it is made out of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes). I have a suspicion that if I would have this wine in a blind tasting, I would fail miserably to identify it as a rose – may be I should try it one day, just for fun.

Last one was a flight of local Virginia wines, which I was glad to find on the list and was looking forward to trying. First wine was 2008 Annefield Vineyards Arrowhead Viognier – this wine was lacking fruit and had oak which was not integrated. After tasting Viognier at Chrysalis Vineyards last year (you can read the story here), which was outstanding, I was really looking forward to trying this wine, but apparently it didn’t work out. The next wine was 2009 Old House Vineyards Estate Vidal Blanc, which was simply too sweet for my taste. And last one, 2008 Pearmund Cellars Ameritage, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, was simply classic Bordeaux, with all the necessary traits – acidity, fruit, tannins. I put drinkability of this wine at 8-, but at $29/bottle I would expect more from the wine.

This concludes the story of airport wine tastings. Yes, the airports are still a hassle – but Vino Volo makes traveling experience a lot more palatable and even something to look forward to. If you are at the airport, remember – you can have fun on the go!

Vino Volo: Great Wines On The Go

January 7, 2011 3 comments

Did you have any good wine at the airport lately? I hope you have, because I did. No, I didn’t need to sneak anything past security or convince myself that no name Merlot for $15/glass is great wine and great value. Your gateway to the good wine experience at the airport is called Vino Volo, and I recommend that you will look them up next time you are in the airport and in the mood for a good glass of wine.

Great thing about Vino Volo (actually, there are multiple) is that they have good wine selection and good prices, and you can also buy a bottle if you like something. On top of that is my favorite feature – wine tasting flights, opportunity to experience and learn. At any given moment they offer 4-5 different wine tasting flights, with selection slanted towards local wines – as much as possible, of course. So if you are in California, you should expect to find more Californian wines, and if you are in Portland, Oregon – you will find more wines from Oregon and Washington.

I stopped by Vino Volo in Oakland airport in California, and selected tasting flight of 3 California Cabernets (there were 6 different tasting flights available). I think spending $19 to try 3 different California Cabernets ranging from $48 to $87 per bottle represents a very good value.

All three wines were good and solid – no, they were not amazing, but they were good. Bremer Family Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 was the best of tasting – it had all the classic cedar and blackberry aromas, and had good balanced tannins and acidity. Blackbird Vineyards Contrarian 2007, which is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, was not ready to drink. It was way to aggressive on the palate and will probably open up in another 5 years. And Flora Springs Trilogy 2007 had all the great aromatics, but unfortunately was disappearing in the mouth leaving you with the impression that something is missing (needed more structure). I might be totally wrong on this wine, however, as it might be simply too young – well, the time will tell. And last note I want to make here – out of curiosity, I wanted to check how bad Vino Volo’s prices are. I checked prices on the wine-searcher, and happy to report that all the prices were within $5 range from the best price which can be found on the wine-searcher (and it doesn’t include shipping), plus Bremer Family is available only from the winery so it is also a great find.

I can only thank folks at Vino Volo for their great service to all the wine lovers – and next time you are in the airport, remember – you CAN find good wine there…

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