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Holiday Gifts for Wine Lovers, 2016 Edition

December 21, 2016 Leave a comment

bottle_wine_presentsIf there is one overarching theme for my 2016 posts, it can be expressed with one word: “late”. No matter how useful my advice will be, the major present-buying holiday takes place in mere two days, so yes, it is truly late. But – the comforting thought is: if you got a wine lover, an oenophile in your life, wine is always, always an excellent present. Or anything related to the wine for that matter. Except for the 5th identical book – oh well, nothing wrong with re-gifting, right?

Now, when it comes to the presents for the wine lovers, I already covered the subject quite extensively over the past few years. I checked what I wrote before, and was happy to realize that all or practically all of my advice still stands – thus, allow me to simply give you a reference to the older posts – if you are still looking for the present, you might find my suggestions helpful.

Back in 2014, I wrote a series of posts on the subject of wine gifts which I called “Practical and Pragmatic Guide”. It is practical and pragmatic, as I not only tell you what to buy but also provide recommendations for the gifts I wouldn’t buy – definitely practical and pragmatic. The series consisted of 3 parts:

Part 1 – Wine gifts – this post provides a general introduction for “practical and pragmatic”, and it is talking about various wine gifting options.

Part 2 – Wine Accessories – openers, pourers, decanters and lots more – what makes sense, what doesn’t.

Part 3 – Wine Education – books, classes, experiences – everything the wine lover might really appreciate.

Here is also a post on the same subject from 2011 – while it will not give you much new information conceptually, it has more recommendations as to where to buy the wine.

Before we part I want to mention that I created now a collection of useful wine gift items on Amazon. All the books there are personal recommendations and all the accessories are split into different categories to simplify navigation.

That’s all I have for you, my friends. Better late than never, eh? Happy Holidays and happy last minute gift hunting! Cheers!

[May Not Be The Best In The World But] Great Gifts For Dad

June 12, 2015 11 comments

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project was closed and  even the web site is down, but as I still like the posts I wrote, I decided to re-post them in this blog. To tell you the truth, if I would write such a “Father’s Day Gifts” post today, I would write it differently. But I can always write it differently some other time, and for now – here is the original.

Note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

Considering that Father’s Day is rapidly approaching, let’s talk about gifts for Dad. Even if Father’s Day is not celebrated in your country, remember – any day is a great day to get a present for your hard-working Dad.

This is the wine blog, so of course our gift suggestions will be related to the wine. And while I’m sure everybody wants to buy the best gift ever, not all of us can afford that ideal present, so let’s look for a few options in different price categories. Let’s start.

Under $15:

You think it is impossible to get a great bottle of wine under $15? Think again. Here are two suggestions:

What: Bodegas Volver La Mancha DO, Spain

Why: This is a serious man’s wine. There is nothing wimpy about this wine. It has super-broad shoulders, it is bone dry, and it has strong tannins grip, strong as dad’s handshake. At the same time, it is very balanced and elegant, and if you will try it with a mildly sharp cheese with some fig jam on top of it, you might find heaven on earth.

Bodegas Volver

What: Le Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny, Loire, France

Why: Same as the one before, this is the wine for a real man. Brighter than sun acidity, supported by good fruit, very balanced. Another trait which many dads possess – it needs patience, as it will greatly improve with age. Give it 10-15 years and prepare to be amazed.

Cour Cheverny 2007

Under $100:

A different game, seems to be lots of choices, but it is not always the case. Let’s look at some suggestions.

What: Peter Michael Chardonnay (there are many options, but either one will do).

Why: When Dad will try this wine, he will experience [very strong] emotions. Who knows, he might even cry. This wine will remind him of his true love – wife, if he is happily married, and his dreams – if he is not. Incredibly balanced, with all components (fruit, acidity, vanilla, toasted oak, tannins) being in perfect harmony. Once Dad will experience this wine, it will be one and only Chardonnay he will be willing to drink.

Peter Michael Chardonnay

What: Adrien Camut Calvados 6 years old

Why: It is reminiscent of a Dad in a tuxedo. Calvados is a cognac’s relative, only made out of apples. Calvados has the same alcohol content as cognac, but it is not aggressive at all compare to many cognacs which are. It is pure elegance and class, exactly as a man in tuxedo feels like.

Camut Calvados

What: Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal

Why: Because it will make Dad to think of adventure. May be he will finally go to safari, after dreaming about it for more than 20 years. May be Dad will recall the warmth of campfire under an open starry sky. Pleasant roughness paired with deep smoke flavor – it will make dad’s heart to pump faster and happier.

Mezcal Del Maguey 

Unlimited, or at least above $3000

This is the category for those who has everything – but even when you have everything, something is probably still missing… Let’s look for some options – and I guarantee you, it will not be easy to find.

What: Taylor-Fladgate Scion Very Old Port

Why: Because I want one for myself? Okay, but on a more serious note, this port is made out of the pre-Phylloxera grapes in approximately 1855, so this wine is about 160 years old! It is awe-inspiring for any wine lover, and to say it has limited availability would be an understatement. But – if you can afford it, make an effort, find it – and Dad will thank you profusely.

What: Domaine De La Romanee-Conti La Tache, Burgundy, France

Why: Because I want this one too? Domaine De La Romanee-Conti, or DRC for short, makes literally the most amazing wines in the world. These wines are literally impossible to find, so it you will present such a bottle to Dad, I’m sure he will really appreciate the sacrifice(s) you had to make to get it for him.

DRC La Tache

Our session is over – hope I was able to help! Good luck with all the presents, and Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there!

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!

Wine Gifts – A Practical and Pragmatic Guide, Part 2

December 11, 2014 7 comments

Happy HolidaysHere we go again – as promised, a continuation of our Wine Gift Guide (here is the link for the first part, where we were talking specifically about wine as a gift). Please remember our guiding principals – practical and pragmatic. Know what your gift recipient needs or wants. Measure it up for yourself – would you be happy getting the same exact gift. Spend the money as you would for yourself, not as you would think you have to spend to look good.

The theme of today’s installment of the Wine Gifts Guide is Wine Gadgets, often also called Wine Accessories. This category includes everything which helps you to handle the wine or the bottle, and the whole idea behind gadgets is that they help to enhance the pleasure of drinking wine. An elegant glass, a beautiful decanter, an easy to use wine opener, a pourer which protects the bottle’s label, your hands, and white tablecloth – all are the tools helping you to enjoy wine to its fullest.

The subject of gadgets is much bigger than the wine itself – there are myriads of them. Remember, you are presenting the gift to the person you care about. Know what the person needs, or even more importantly, what the person already has. As it was mentioned in the previous installment, getting the second bottle of your favorite wine is never a problem. Getting 3rd set of glasses the recipient has no room for, which will end up in the basement and will never be used, is not what you want, period. Think before you buy. On the positive side, many wine accessories are often small and inexpensive, so they make ideal “stocking stuffers” or can be easily combined for a bigger gift. Last note before we talk about particular gadgets – I wrote about some of the wine gadgets before (wanted to create a whole series, but that didn’t work), so here is the link where you will find detailed references to the accessories I will mention below. Let’s go.

DSC_0602 Wine Gadgets

  1. Wine Glasses. Often an excellent gift, best if you know that the other person needs them – wine glasses are bulky and require dedicated storage space. There are multitudes of glasses available. Yes, you can go to the extreme of varietal-specific top notch glasses from Riedel, which will set you back about $50 a piece. You can also get a universal Riedel tasting glass at around 1/4th of that, or you can get 5 Zwiesel glasses for the same amount. You don’t have to get Riedel varietal glasses – 95+% of the people (I’m generous here) will not notice the difference – but of course do what you think is right. And measure it up for yourself. Example – I don’t like Riedel O stemless glasses – therefore, I will never give them to someone as a present. Okay, I think we are clear on this subject.
  2. Wine Decanters. I love decanters, I own 3 of them. In some cases, you simply need them (think Barolo). Even if you don’t really need the decanter, it typically adds to the pleasure of wine consumption. Don’t buy decanter by the price – if it looks good for you, get it. Nobody will feel the difference in the wine decanted in the $30 and $130 decanters.
  3. Wine Pourers. I personally love those – they greatly contribute to the enjoyment of wine by preventing the spills, red circles on the tablecloth and red fingers. They are also small, so it shouldn’t be a problem for anyone. Some pourers also serve as aerators, so you get the double bonus.
  4. Wine Opener. An interesting category. Yes, there are always new fancy designs, promising to simplify that tough task of opening that bottle of wine. But then so-called “waiter corkscrew” is all you need to open 95% of the bottles… Unlike pourers or wine charms, you generally don’t need a lot of bottle openers (it helps to have more than one, though, as you can always forget where did it go). So again, this is the category where it helps to know what the recipient wants or needs. Also remember that they can be bulky. And – the worst part – some of them don’t work by design, plain and simple. Know what you are getting…
  5. Wine Preservers. I love my Vacuvin, and I use it daily. But – you really need only one, as they are extremely durable. Then again, maybe you want to give your dear friend a Coravin ($250) – it is your choice. Generally, wine preservation solutions are good to have, so go for it.
  6. Wine Stoppers. If you find something super-cool – go for it. But remember that average wine aficionado has about 10 or 15 of those already stuffed in all the corners of the cabinets. Unless yours is amazing, there is a good chance that it will end up last in line – and nobody needs to use 16 bottle stoppers at once.
  7. Wine Chillers. Some look nice (like the frozen sleeve ones) and they actually work. A lot of wine chillers don’t work. I don’t like the icicles, and any electronic chiller is an absolute waste of money and storage space (I have mine stuffed in the corner of the closet – used it once – if you need it, I will ship it to you). Remember that bucket of ice with water will get any wine to the proper drinking temperature in 25 minutes tops – and it doesn’t take any space until you actually have to use it.
  8. Wine Charms. These are typically the least offending – they are tiny, can be stored easily anywhere, and kind of fun at the parties.
  9. Wine carriers. I like this category. They often come handy when traveling with wine, so yes, this gets my vote. Make sure they are actually sized right and can accommodate bottles of different sizes – I have one which will not take a burgundy shaped bottle no matter what, so make sure to check the one you are planning to get.
  10. Wine Luggage. It is generally expensive and would make a great gift – only if you know that the other person actually wants it. Taking a specific piece of luggage to travel with wine requires determination – find out before you will spend money on something which will never be used.
  11. Wine storage solutions. This is a broad and generally useful category – if the other person wants it and needs it. Wine storage solutions are usually bulky – know that the person will be able to fit that 36-bottle wine rack or a wine fridge. This type of present usually requires full coordination on both sides. In this category, avoid tiny wine fridges (6 bottles or less) – they take space, and their utility value is non-existent. As soon as you will store 6 bottles, you will end up with additional 24 requiring storage. It’s a rule, remember it.
  12. Eclectic gifts, or gifts for geeks. Okay, you will be surprised how many accessories can fit into this category. Port Tongues. Porrón. Wine Thermometer. There is no limit to the unusual gifts – and they are generally fine, but you better know your gift recipient. The person who drinks Chardonnay with the cube of ice might not really appreciate the concept of Porrón, so be discerning if you are looking into this category.
  13. What no to get. Anything which promises to manipulate the taste of wine (outside of decanters and pourers/aerators) by putting it in contact with something, or subjecting it to heat, cold and voodoo dolls – those products are a waste of money. In general, if you don’t want something for yourself, don’t give it as a present – that simple.

I honestly think I exhausted my list. Yes, there are many more wine accessories which I didn’t cover here ( open any wine accessories catalog) – but I hope that I gave you some of the ideas which might help you in your wine gift shopping, where it is not that difficult to get lost.

And … we are done for today, but we are not done with the subject. To be continued…

Wine Gifts – A Practical and Pragmatic Guide

December 10, 2014 9 comments

Happy Holidays Wine Gifts. I see a smirk on your face – come on, there are millions of advice shared already, by millions of people – aren’t we had enough? Yes, I hear you – but before you click away, give me a few seconds to explain myself.

I generally resist the urge to write holiday wine recommendations and wine-related gift guides, primarily for the reason that I’m sure the plentiful advice is available, coming from all possible sources – wine catalogs, wine writers, bloggers, magazine columns and so on. And I also often think “I already wrote about it – why again?”. To my surprise, it appears that I have never written a Wine Gifts post in this blog. I swear I had it in my head numerous number of times – but apparently, it never made it out of it. So that gives me a justification to write this post, and share my views on the wine gifts. That and an upcoming Off The Vine Radio talk show segment with yours truly, where we will be talking exactly about the subject of wine gifts on Friday, December 19th.

Before we get to the details of my view on the wine gifts, let me make a few things clear. First of all, if you just need a random wine present for the person you only have to get the gift for, but don’t care about for real, you can stop reading this post right now – I’m sharing my personal viewpoint on the gifts for the wine lovers you actually care about. Now, with that disclaimer in mind, did you notice the words which appear in the title – “pragmatic” and “practical”? I really mean it, so again, please allow me to explain. Let’s start with “pragmatic“, and let me give you an example. I don’t know how many of you aware of Laguiole steak knives, but they are beautifully designed and perfect for the job of both enhancing the aesthetic pleasure of dinner and actually cutting the meat. If you buy them from the catalog, you will pay in the US roughly $200 for the set of 6. If you go to the Home Goods store in the US, you can find (yes, you have to look for them, they are not always available) the same knives for under $20. Did you get my point? No, I’m not asking you to be frugal with your dear friends – if you can afford to present someone with the bottle of Screaming Eagle, by all means, go ahead and do it. But at the very least, you have to know what you are paying for and you should go after the good quality at the price which makes sense to you, not at the price you think you need to pay to feel good about your present.

Now, the second word, “practical“, is probably even more important. You will make the best present if you will have an idea of what your gift recipient actually wants, or at the very least, needs. Nobody needs the 15th bottle opener, 56th cork stopper or an Estate Bottle Opener which will force the gift recipient to make a decision – keep a microwave in the kitchen or through it out to install that Estate Opener thingy on that counter. Also, to make the gift practical, measure it up for yourself – would you like to receive it? If you don’t believe that bottle icicle is a good idea, don’t give it to someone only because you don’t have any better ideas. Make it practical, make it useful. Capeesh? Now, let’s talk about wine gifts.

Ahh, sorry, one more note – I don’t want to make this post super-long, so instead of trying to sketch it and somehow lump all together, I will split it out into a series of a few posts. Now we are done with all the disclaimers, so let’s get to it.

Wine Isle

Let’s start with the most obvious – Wine. This is the most obvious, but not a straightforward present. All depends on your budget and the taste of the recipient. If someone hates Chardonnay, you better know about it in advance. If someone is dreaming about that special Burgundy bottle, you better know about it. Knowledge is power, as you will be able to make the best gift. Wine is actually one of the few presents where you don’t need to worry if the person already has the same bottle – two bottles of Chateau Lafite are always better than one. But even if you don’t know exactly what the other person want, don’t despair – there are a few strategies you can use. Let’s look at your choices again.

  1. Wine, when you know what the other person wants. The easiest case, as we said. If current vintage of the wine is readily available, go to the store and buy it. If the vintage is not current or the wine is not available, start from the wine-searcher – it will help you to locate your wine at one of the online retailers. If you are looking for the collectible or an old wine, your best bet is a reputable retailer. I wouldn’t buy it on eBay, but rather look online at the store like Benchmark Wine Company (you can find all the relevant links on my site in the section “buying wine”. Or ask the person at your local store – you never know what you can find in your local store – remember that not all the wines are put out on the shelf. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  2. When you don’t know the exact wine the other person wants. Now, if you know general preferences, do your research online or go to your local store. Don’t be afraid to surprise the person. If someone likes Cabernet Sauvignon wines, you don’t have to buy only California or only Bordeaux. Look for the other regions and countries – Argentina, Australia, Chile, South Africa, sometimes Italy and even Spain can be a source of wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon wines. However, if you don’t want to take the risk of gifting the wrong bottle, there are still more options.
    1. Go by the special date. Know a person’s birth year? Anniversary date? The date the kids were born? Aware of any other date which has a special meaning for the recipient? This might be your best solution! Wine-searcher might be a great tool for you, as you can simply type in just the vintage and hit search – you will get a full list of what wines are available, and where. This will not work for the current vintages, of course, but if you will put in something like 1984 or 1995, your selection will be quite manageable. And – don’t be afraid to miss the mark – an old wine will serve more as a memento, and even if it doesn’t taste amazing, it will still be greatly appreciated. But again, don’t be afraid – you will be surprised how good some of the old wines are. I recently had 1966 Pinot Noir from California, and it was outstanding…
    2. Buy a mixed set. Within your budget, get a few different bottles. Get creative – go for the different regions, do a mixed case of white and red, buy a few different wines from the same producer. With the mixed set, first of all, I’m sure the recipient will greatly appreciate the thought, and there is a good chance that the person will like at least some of the wines. But – beware of the pre-packaged wine gift sets. If you know the wines in the set – go for it. If you just see a random set in the store, don’t get it without the recommendation of the store clerk you know and trust. Very often, wineries would package together wines which sell well and the wines which don’t sell at all.
    3. Get a gift set from the winery. Have your favorite winery? Check if they are offering the gift sets with the direct delivery to the recipient – I know that a lot of wineries in California, and I’m sure other states, are offering beautifully packaged special wine sets. It might be a touch expensive, but if you are willing to pay, this might be a present which will be remembered for a long time.
    4. Give a gift of the Wine Clubs. If you don’t know what the other person wants, give a gift of the wine club! Many wine clubs, like an International Wine of the Month Club, will allow you to get a fixed duration subscription – not sure about 1 month, but you can do a three-month subscription. There are of course many other choices – again, do the research online. But – I don’t recommend the newspaper clubs, like Wall Street Journal, New York Times and so on – their wine selection generally sub-par. Don’t forget that many wineries are offering their club subscriptions, and so do many wine stores and online retailers.
    5. The Wine Store Gift Certificate. This sounds like a last resort, but it might be an excellent choice too! Unless you are strictly against giving money as a gift for the holidays, a gift certificate will allow the recipient to enjoy your gift twice – first time when receiving it, and then the second time when using it to buy the wines of her choice.

If the wine itself is your gift, I hope I gave you some useful choices, so let me stop now. But – we are not done. There are plenty more wine-related gifts to be considered, therefore, I’m not saying good bye. To be continued…

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, #MWWC5 Vote, Peter Mondavi Turns 99, The Oldest Wine Cellar?, and more

November 27, 2013 7 comments
While not Carménère, this gives you an idea of color

While not Carménère, this gives you an idea of color

Meritage time!

First, let’s start with the answer for the wine quiz #83, grape trivia – Carménère.

In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about red grape called Carménère. Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Explain the name of the grape Carménère

A1: The name Carménère originates from the French word for crimson, carmin that relates to the fact that the leaves of Carménère turn beautiful crimson color in the fall.

Q2:Similar to Merlot/Carménère confusion in Chile, the discovery was recently made in one of the well known old world wine producing countries – the grape they thought was ___, actually happened to be a Carménère. Name the grape, the country, and the region within this country where confusion took place.

A2: For the long time, winemakers in Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Italy thought that they were making the wines from Cabernet Franc – only to find out that it was actually a Carménère!

Q3: As the sequel to the previous question – the confusion also spread into the New Wolrd winemaking country. Name the grape been mistaken and the country.

A3: New Zealand imported Cabernet Franc vines out of all places, from Italy – oops? Yes, It was actually a Carménère!

Q4: Wine Spectator calls wines rated in 95-100 range Classic (the highest and the most prestigious category). True or False: there are no Carménère-based wines rated in the Classic category

A4: False . A number of Chilean wines from Casa Lapostolle got the 96 rating, and they are a Carménère-based blends

Q5: Name three grapes, often blended together with Carménère.

A5: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are often blended together with Carménère.

“We had rather a low participation in the quiz, but – we do have a winner” – was my opening line here. Now, with the last second entry, we have two winners! Patty from P’s 2013 photo project and Namie from Eat with Namie both  correctly answered all 5 questions, and they both get the prize of unlimited bragging rights. Well done!

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web!

The next article I want to bring to your attention is from the Wine Spectator, and it is dedicated to the Peter Mondavi – the older brother of Robert Mondavi. As amazing as it sounds, Peter Mondavi turns 99, and he still actively runs his winery, Charles Krug in Napa Valley. You can find the article here – definitely an interesting read, very relevant to the past and present of California wine.

How old do you think the oldest known wine cellar is and where do you think it is located? An archaelogical excavation in the norther Israel unearthed a cellar, which is estimated to be 3,700 years old. I think this is a very respectful age. No, the wine didn’t survive for that long, but nevertheless, I think this is a fascinating find. Here is the link for the Wall Street Journal article with more details.

Thanksgiving, an American holiday we will celebrate on Thursday, prompts lots of conversations about wine, and American wine in particular. I want to bring to your attention a very interesting article written by Mike Veseth at The Wine Economist blog, where he is talking about American wines. When we say “American Wines”, we actually don’t mean the wines made only in California – the wines are produced in all 50 states, and 12 of those states have more than a 100 wineries each! I find this information very interesting. Also from Mike’s article you can jump to the web site called Wines and Vines, which seems to offer a wealth of data regarding the wine industry – check it out.

Last but no least – don’t forget WTSO Gift Marathon on December 2nd (full details can be found here). WTSO just announced some of the wines which will be a part of the marathon – Beringer, Insignia, Philippe Prie, Caymus – I think it will be a very interesting event, so point your browser to the WTSO on Monday, December 2nd and happy hunting!

Ahh, and before we part – Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah!

That’s all I have for you for today, folks. The glass is empty – but refill is on its way. Until the next time – cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, Wine Spectotor Top 100, Perfect Holiday Gift Solution, and more

November 20, 2013 4 comments

Duboeuf Beaujolais wines 5Meritage time!

First, let’s start with the answer for the wine quiz #82, grape trivia – Gamay.

In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about red grape called Gamay. Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Gamay is closely associated with every third Thursday in November. Can you explain why?

A1: Beaujolais Nouveau is coming into town! While Beaujolais Nouveau was always the first wine of the harvest to be delivered to the restaurants and shops in Europe, in 1985 the phenomenon became more organized, settling on the third Thursday of November to make the new release available.

Q2: Carbonic maceration is an important method in production of wines made out of Gamay. Can you briefly explain what is carbonic maceration and how does it helps here?

A2: Carbonic maceration is a process where the grapes in a sealed tank are subjected to the flow of CO2, which start fermenting the juice inside of the whole grapes before they will be crushed. The resulting wine becomes fruity with very low presence of tannins. This process is particularly used inproduction of Beaujolais Nouveau and other Beaujolais wines. For more information, please refer to Wikipedia article.

Q3: Fill in the blanks: In Beaujolais, Fleuri is considered to produce the most ___ wine, and Moulin-à-Vent produces the most ___ wines.

A3: In Beaujolais, Fleuri is considered to produce the most feminine wine, and Moulin-à-Vent produces the most masculine wines. Feminine and Masculine are the descriptors typically used by wine professionals to describe the wines of Fleuri and Moulin-à-Vent wines.

Q4: Which one doesn’t belong and why:

a. Brouilly, b. Côte de Brouilly, c. Côte Chalonnaise, d. Juliénas, e. Régnié

A4: c. Côte Chalonnaise. The other four names are part of Cru de Beaujolais ten villages, but Côte Chalonnaise doesn’t belong there (it is an AOC in Burgundy).

Q5: True or False: Beaujolais Nouveau wines can be aged for a few years before consumption.

A5: False. The whole point of aging the wine is to wait for it to develop further in the bottle and become more enjoyable. Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be enjoyed right away and should be consumed by May of next year – it doesn’t improve in the bottle.

So for the winners, Jeff the drunken cyclist continues his winning streak – he got correctly 5 out of 5, including the difficult question #3. Great job, Jeff – unlimited bragging rights are yours! I would like to also acknowledge Wayward Wine,Whine And Cheers For Wine and Eat with Namie  who all correctly answered 4 questions out of 5. Well done!

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web!

On Monday, November 18th, Wine Spectator published their Top 100 list of Wines. Yes, I know, many dismiss the whole notion of Wine Spectator ratings and Top lists as closely associated with the advertizement dollars spent with publication. True or not, but I still have a lot of respect to Wine Spectator and definitely curios to see their “top wines” list. As Wine Spectator celebrates 25th anniversary, they whole web site is open to the public (typically it requiressubscription). I would highly recommend that you will take advantage of this opportunity and explore the site which has a great wealth of wine information. Also, here is the link to the WS Top 100 wines of 2013. I have to admit that I’m happy with Wine Spectator’s choice for the wine of the year – 2004 Cune Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva. In general, Cune Imperial makes great wines, and I think it is an excellent choice for the wine of the year.

Thinking about holiday gifts? Does your list include any wine lovers? If yes, you are in luck, but you will need to act quick. On December 2nd, WTSO will conduct a Gift Marathon (full info can be found here). As a traditional WTSO Marathon, there will be no announcements of new wines. But each wine will come gift packaged, with one bottle and two varietally correct Riedel glasses in the box. Most importantly – free shipping on each package (no minimums), and each packaged can be shipped directly to your gift recipient – this is the best part! Prices start from $44.95 per box (free shipping). I think this is a deal not to be missed, so point your browser to WTSO on December 2nd and happy hunting!

You know Wine-Searcher is a great resource for finding the wines online and comparing the prices. Are you curious what the other people looking for on the wine-searcher? Here is an interesting article, which tells you what the consumers in America are looking for. Based on the article, looks like most of the times people are looking for red Bordeaux blends – which makes sense, as there are a lot more Bordeaux blends produced nowadays. Anyway, for your own analysis and lots more data, take a look at the article.

When you make dinner, how often do you think about what wine should be opened for the food you are serving? Sometimes the pairing can be quite difficult, so I have no problems taking my food and wine separately. But when you hit the mark and the wine and food “work” together, it becomes the whole new level of experience. To help you in this process of pairing food and wine, here is the link to the web site I recently came across – I think it has a lot of good suggestions. Take a look – you might be able to pleasantly surprise yourself and your guests during your next dinner.

That’s all I have for you for today, folks. The glass is empty – but refill is on its way. Until the next time – cheers!

Re-post: Holiday Gift Guide For Wine Lovers

December 10, 2012 Leave a comment

It is this time of year again – the time when we strive to bring little happiness to those who make our lives complete. Often we endure some frustration in the quest to find that “just the right thing” which will make our friends and families to say “thank you” as they actually mean it.

Last year I published an extensive post about variety of wine gift options available to you – I think this year, it is still every bit as actual, hence I take the liberty of re-posting it here. Hope you will find it useful. Cheers!

Holiday Gift Guide For Wine Lovers.

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Holiday Gift Guide For Wine Lovers

December 14, 2011 4 comments

Got a wine lover, wine aficionado or a wine geek in your life? You are in luck, as finding the right gift for someone who enjoys wine is easy, and I would dare to say it gets easier every year.

Looking at a big picture, your three big gift categories for the wine lovers are wine, wine accessories and wine education and experience.

Let’s start with wine. Don’t dread it – giving someone a bottle of wine she or he will enjoy is not as difficult as it seems. You should start with a good wine store – it can be neighborhood store or an online store (at the end of this post there is a listing of my favorite wine stores). Now, based on what you know about wine preferences for the gift recipient, there are few possible approaches for selecting the wine. If you only know the type of wine the other person likes (let’s say California Pinot Noir), the easiest bet is to get the wine at the actual “brick and mortar” wine store, where you can ask for the advice. If you know particular wines and/or wineries the other person likes (let’s say Catena Zapata Malbec or Peter Michael Chardonnay), it is equally simple to buy the wine in the store or online, as long as you can find it at the price you are willing to pay.

Now, in case you are unsure about the wine preferences, you can try a different approach. Do you know of any dates which are special in other person’s life? Birthday, anniversary, children birthdays, buying the first house – as long as you know the year of that special event, you can look for wine, port, scotch or champagne made in that specific year. Think it will be too expensive? Not necessarily – check Benchmark Wine Company’s selection of the older wines, and you might be pleasantly surprised. You can also ask your trusted wine retailer – many back vintages are still available, and often are quite affordable. Try it – I’m sure you will make someone very happy.

I’m not going to give you any particular wine recommendations (it really depends on the preferences as we discussed above and your price range), but I would like to suggest what not to get the wine lovers – stay away from the wine clubs. There are many wine clubs offered by various newspapers and “thingy of the month” establishments – the wines in such club selections usually don’t have a good value (you get a case of wine which looks inexpensive as a case – problem is that the person might enjoy only one or two bottles from the whole case, which immediately makes it a bad value). You can give a winery club as a present – if you know that the other person would enjoy the wines from that particular winery. However, if you still set on the wine club idea, the only clubs which I can wholeheartedly recommend are the ones run by D&M ( please see reference below) – their scotch, cognac and champagne clubs are amazing and represent a real value.

Let’s move on to the wine accessories. All wine lovers appreciate good accessories which make wine drinking more enjoyable. Everything goes – glasses, decanters, bottle openers, pourers, glass charms, bottle stopper, wine preservers, bottle holders – the list goes on and on. However, you need to keep in mind two things:

  1. it would help immensely to know what the other person might need/want, or at least doesn’t have already. Glasses and decanters take space, and nobody needs three estate wine openers.
  2. keep it simple. If the accessory is super fancy, like electronic bottle chiller, there is a good chance that it will be used only once or never. Wine accessory should be simple to use and “obviously” useful for the person to actually enjoy it. If someone is going to spend lots of time thinking “what am I going to do with this and where am I going to put it”, I wouldn’t call it a good gift.

The easiest way to buy wine accessories is through the catalogs (few recommendations are at bottom of the post), but don’t forget to check Home Goods stores – they offer a lot of different wine accessories at the great prices.

Last but not least category – wine education and experience. You don’t need to know anything about the wine in order to enjoy it – however, knowing something about the wine you are drinking greatly adds up to that enjoyment. When it comes to the wine education, there are many resources. First, there are books and magazines. Many wine books are truly enjoyable and educational at the same time – try the books by Matt Kramer, for instance. Some of the books contain a tremendous wealth of information – for instance, the books by Jancis Robinson. Any of these books would make a great present for your wine loving friends (Important! Try to make sure they don’t yet have the book you intend to give!).

Another great educational resource is wine schools and classes. One of my favorite wine schools is Windows on the World Wine School (link below). During each class, you learn about different wine regions and taste different wines – all hand selected by Kevin Zraly, who teaches the classes for more than 20 years. You don’t have to buy the whole series – you can get gift certificates good for individual classes.

As far as wine experiences are concerned, the sky is the limit. Wine travel, wine cruises, wine master classes,  wine appreciation dinners, winemaker dinners – there are endless possibilities for anyone who wants to know more about the art of wine. Okay, let me leave this topic for you to explore – if in doubt, start with Google, it always works for me.

I think this was the longest post in this blog ever (at least as far as the word count is concerned). I hope I was able to give you some ideas, and so I would like to wish you and yours Happy Holidays! Cheers!

Holiday wine gift giving Resource Guide:

Wine:

Benchmark Wine Company – great source of old vintage, rare and unique wines from all over the world – all at very fair prices. Benchmark Wine buys collections, and then sell the wines at a fair market price, no auction. Don’t forget to check their Clearance Bin!

Bottle King – Chain of discount wine and liquor stores in New Jersey. Offers excellent values and great selection, some of the wines being unique just for the chain. Selection of California, France, Italy and Portuguese wines worth specific mentioning. If you are in the area of any of the stores, make sure to stop by.

Cost Less Wines and Liquors – if you live in the area of Stamford, CT or visiting the town, make sure to stop by Cost Less Wines – there are many great values in stock every day for any discriminating wine lover. Just worth mentioning that store was voted “Best in Stamford” a number of times. There are great wines from all over the world, but the portfolio of wines from California, France, Israel, Italy and Spain worth specific mentioning, plus the selection of Scotch and Bourbon is outstanding.

D&M – great wine store in San Francisco. The biggest selection of Scotch, Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, Champagne, Mezcal (you got the idea, right?) of any store that I know of. D&M also has a number of clubs for all the different spirits – well worth the money, as all the shipments are rare and unique.

PJ Wine – One of the best wine stores in New York. Selection of Spanish wines is truly amazing (may be best in the country), French and Italian wines are also well represented. Lots of unique wines, particularly biodynamic and organic. PJ Wine also provides great educational opportunities such as seminars, wine tastings and so on.

Pop’s Wine & Spirits – I have never been to the store personally, however, some of my friends swear by it, and I have seen great values acquired there, therefore I believe the store is worth mentioning here. The store is located on Long Island, but you can also buy the wines online.

WTSO.com – I talked about Wine Till Sold Out many times in the past. Great source of value wines, very simple model (only one wine is offered at a time, free shipping if you buy recommended quantity, ranging from 1 to 4). Might be a challenge to get a specific wine for a specific occasion but well deserves an e-mail subscription in any case.

Last Bottle – another source for amazing “value wines”. Operates similarly to WTSO, periodically offering amazing wines at amazing prices, with the minimum number of bottles to buy (typically 4 – 6, can be less, depending on the type of wine/price) to get free shipping. Selection is amazing, up to and including Petrus, DRC and Screaming Eagle. Last Bottle also runs referral program – sign up a friend, friend gets $10 discount on the first purchase, you get $30 discount after friend’s first purchase. If you are not a subscriber yet, I will be glad to sign you up – use this link.

Wine Accessories:

IWA Wine – offers a full range of wine accessories, from glasses to wine cellars and wine cellar piece parts to wine memorabilia and even wines.

Wine Enthusiast – same as above, offers a full range of wine accessories for all needs and occasions.

Home Goods stores – on any given day, there is a great selection of various wine gadgets and accessories in the store – be sure to check it out, and keep in mind that inventories are changing daily.

Amazon – No question everything can be found on Amazon today, so yes, don’t forget to shop there!

Wine Education:

Windows on the World Wins School – an excellent source of wine education. Taught by Kevin Zraly for more than 20 years, the school offers a series of classes which are very informative, educational and enjoyable. I can’t recommend it high enough.

Wine Spectator Magazine – magazine contains lots of interesting articles, wine ratings, restaurant reviews and chef recipes. I’m subscribing it for the past ten years, and still very excited with each issue. There is also an online version, which requires its own subscription.