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Posts Tagged ‘wine travel’

Tango Tours – A Pioneer In Wine and Culinary Tourism

April 28, 2017 5 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Choose Tango Tours?

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

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

 

Feel at Home in the Old Dominion: Luxury B&B’s in Virginia Wine Country

October 15, 2015 4 comments

Today I would like to offer to your attention yet another guest post written by Stef Schwalb, Director of PR and Marketing at BnBFinder.com. October is Virginia Wine Month, so just in case you are contemplating a last minute getaway to the “Napa of the South”, you might find information below quite helpful. Note – it is not only about places to stay – the innkeepers also share their favorite wine recommendations. Here we go…

The Old Dominion State is celebrating the 27th year of Virginia Wine Month this October, and the region is definitely on its way up as a desired destination for all wine lovers. With more than 250 wineries participating in the event in one way or another, and the media buzz surrounding the area due to its exquisite scenery and record-breaking sales of 2015, now is the ideal time to check out the Virginia wine. Of course in addition to sipping, you’ll need a place to stay – here is a handful of B&B’s that are great finds in Virginia wine country.

Iris Inn

Iris Inn Bed and Breakfast

Iris Inn Bed & Breakfast in Waynesboro, VA is located on 12 wooded acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Overlooking the Shenandoah Valley, the inn was designed with comfort in mind. With beautiful mountain views and a woodsy feel, the modern facility features spacious accommodations with expansive outdoor decks; king beds; Wi-Fi; flat-screen HDTVs; DVD players; refrigerators; writing desks; private baths with hairdryers; and cozy sitting areas. A full gourmet breakfast is served in the great room each morning and includes an enticing entrée along with homemade breads, coffee, juice, and fruit. There is also a “bottomless” cookie jar situated on the sideboard and beverages are available at check-in time. Convenient to numerous local attractions, including the Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive, Charlottesville, The University of Virginia, Monticello, and several local wineries, Iris Inn is an excellent home base for exploring the region. The inn also offers several wine packages, including Sip & Spa, Sip & Simmer (a cabin dinner), Sip & Slip on Your Boots (hiking), Sip & Saddle (horseback riding), and Sip & Scribble (for aspiring writers). Some wineries located near the inn include King Family Vineyards, Flying Fox Vineyard, and Afton Mountain Vineyard.

Innkeeper Heidi Lanford recommends King Family Vineyard’s blended medium-bodied red, Meritage 2007. “And any vineyard’s Viognier in central VA is excellent,” says Heidi, “as this perfumed white is gaining world acclaim as Virginia signature grape.” One must try a Cabernet Franc, since the grape grows so well in this area, she continues, “we like the Cabernet Franc Reserve from Afton Mountain Vineyard.”

Inn at Meander

The Inn at Meander Plantation

Situated near Orange, VA in Locust Dale, The Inn at Meander Plantation is a historic B&B located one hour from Washington DC, Fredericksburg, and Charlottesville. The elegantly furnished, pet-friendly accommodations offer triple-sheeted king or queen beds with luxury linens, down comforters, and pillows; large private bathrooms; lavish microfiber bath robes; bottled water; hairdryers; clock radios with CD players and an assorted selection of CDs; Keurig coffeemakers; gas or wood-burning fireplaces; and air conditioning. Each morning, the complimentary breakfast includes a daily entree choice between sweet and savory options, a fresh fruit plate, and muffin or sweet bread. The inn also has a popular restaurant onsite that features a delicious 4-course dinner made from local produce and served strictly with the best of Virginia wines. Since the innkeepers/owners Suzie Blanchard and Suzanne Thomas work so closely with local wineries, the expansive wine list is quite unique. Guests can also indulge in the Virginia Wine Country Special package as well as tasting coupons for select local wineries. This charming Madison County country inn is just a short drive to Monticello and Montpelier, the celebrated residences of presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (respectively).

Suzanne recommends Gray Ghost Vineyards and Winery in Amissville – “I love their Chardonnay Reserve, Ranger Reserve, and of course, their amazing, award-winning Adieu dessert wine”; Reynard Florence Vineyard in Barboursville – “I’m very fond of their Petit Manseng, an excellent example of this white varietal, which is my personal favorite white wine”; and Ducard Vineyards (in Etlan, located in the northern part of Madison County ) – “I like the Popham Run Red Blend and the C’est Trop, a unique red dessert wine.”

Oaks Victorian Inn

Oaks Victorian Inn Bed and Breakfast

Built in 1889 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Oaks Victorian Inn Bed and Breakfast is at home in the quaint historic town of Christiansburg, VA. This classic Queen Anne Victorian bed and breakfast inn seamlessly combines Victorian elegance with modern day amenities within the backdrop of its stunning surroundings. It features six spacious guestrooms, each comfortably appointed with antique furnishings, private baths, and personal refrigerators with complimentary beverages. Select accommodations feature claw-foot tubs, fireplaces, body showers, and jetted Jacuzzi tubs. There is also a separate facility, The Garden Cottage with gazebo, that has a bathroom complete with sauna and shower, a 400-gallon private hot tub, a microwave, and a refrigerator with complimentary beverages. Guests enjoy downtime in the parlor and library onsite, and they can also relax and take in the scenic landscape on the large wrap-around porch lined with rockers, comfy chairs, and small tables for wine, cheese, and other goodies. The property is highlighted by meticulous landscaping, a fish pond, gorgeous perennial gardens, and oak trees that are more than 300 years old. Just two miles off I-81 in the center of New River Valley near Roanoke, the inn is a quick ride to Blacksburg, Floyd, Roanoke, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and more. The gracious hospitality and unforgettable breakfasts are hallmarks of The Oaks Victorian. With the Virginia is for Wine Lovers Times 2 Package, wine lovers can stay two consecutive nights at the B&B and receive two pairs of tasting passes to the innkeepers’ favorite local wineries – Whitebarrel Winery in Christiansburg and Beliveau Estate Winery in Blacksburg.

At Whitebarrel, the Chambourcin, which used to be called 325 AD, is a favorite of innkeeper Linda Wurtzburger. “And for a white, my favorite is Yesterday’s Song, which is a Chardonnay.”

Time To Travel: Experience Wine-Friendly Inns

June 25, 2015 2 comments

Today I would like to offer to your attention a guest post written by Stef Schwalb, Director of PR and Marketing at BnBFinder.com. I don’t know about you, but I love staying at the Bed and Breakfast Inns when I travel for fun. All those B&Bs offer so much charm and personality, it is totally different and much more relaxing experience compare to any of the major hotel chains. And as this is a wine blog, of course we will be talking about wine-friendly places. Here we go…

At long last it’s time for summer travel, and thankfully, there are several destinations where oenophiles will feel right at home. In fact, it may surprise you to know that B&B’s across the country are not only located in several industry hot spots, but many also offer amenities with wine lovers in mind.

Inn on Lake Granbury, Granbury, Texas

Image courtesy of Inn on Lake Granbury & Jumping Rocks Photography

Granbury, TX is located in the heart of Texas Hill Country, a region that’s increasingly becoming ripe for wine tourism, and Granbury’s Historic Town Square provides travelers with plenty to enjoy, including outdoor activities such as golfing and biking, live theater, concerts, fine dining restaurants, specialty shops, festivals and wine tours. Plus, a visit to the D’Vine Wine of Texas store includes onsite wine making, daily tastings, and more. All of this is found within a short distance of Inn on Lake Granbury. Situated on three acres of landscaped gardens, this cozy lakefront retreat offers guests unique, upscale accommodations, ranging from elegant rooms and luxurious suites to fully-furnished guest house rentals. Each one features hardwood floors, European decor with Hill Country accents, heated bathroom floors, steam showers, stone fireplaces, outdoor porches and balconies. In the morning, guests can indulge in a five-course breakfast, and in the afternoon, there’s an enticing wine and appetizer hour too. Other amenities include a saltwater pool with waterfall, conference facility, and plenty of personalized service. Romantic walks down the winding pathways to the edge of Lake Granbury, coupled with relaxing on the bluff beneath stunning live oak trees overlooking the lake, make this wine country retreat more than memorable.

The Inn at Gothic Eves, Finger Lakes, NY

Image courtesy of The Inn at Gothic Eves & Jumping Rocks Photography

The Finger Lakes region of New York is fast becoming a go-to destination for wine lovers. Initially known just for its renowned Rieslings, the area continues to expand in varietal offerings as well as things to do for travelers headed to there. Whether it’s fishing in spring, swimming and boating in summer, skiing in winter or foliage tours in the autumn, visitors will find a wine to pair with every season and activity, including the many hiking trails and overlooks to breathtaking waterfalls. Centrally located to the Seneca and Cayuga Lakes’ Wine Trails, Watkins Glen International Race Track, and the Taughannock Falls State Park, The Inn at Gothic Eves in Trumansburg, NY is a great place to take it all in. This historic B&B, built in 1855, features eight luxurious suites, six of which are named after wines including Riesling, Syrah, and Bordeaux. All accommodations come with private baths, fireplaces, fine linens, sitting rooms, wet bars, period furnishings and modern amenities including flat-screen TVs. The plush accommodations perfectly complement the comfort guests enjoy at the onsite spa, complete with hot tubs and massage treatments. It’s an ideal spot for relaxation and revitalization. Each morning breakfast is made from fresh local produce and organic ingredients for a farm-to-table meal. Situated close to Cornell University and Ithaca College, The Inn at Gothic Eves is also a popular destination for families of college students.

Stanford Inn by the Sea, Mendocino, California

Image courtesy of Stanford Inn by the Sea & Christine Gustafson

Mendocino, CA is a paradise for nature lovers, foodies, and arts and culture enthusiasts alike. Visitors can enjoy outdoor activities in breathtaking scenery, attend a variety of music and arts festivals, and best of all, indulge in culinary adventures including wine and craft beer tastings year-round. There are 100 wineries in the county, so ensuring a good night’s sleep is paramount for the palate. At the pet-friendly Stanford Inn by the Sea, guests stay nestled atop a meadow overlooking the beautiful Mendocino Bay in comfy accommodations that feature wood-burning fireplaces, private baths, and exquisite views. Quality of life is what it’s all about at this eco-resort. Here cyclists and paddlers can find their groove on the Big River and beyond at Canoe & Bicycles too!, while those looking to recharge physically and mentally can head to the Wellness Center for spa services, yoga, gardening and cooking classes, nature tours and more. The inn’s certified organic gardens serve as the primary ingredients for the Ravens’ Restaurant’s exceptional vegetarian cuisine that could easily convert even the most hardcore of carnivores. The menu is also complemented by an award-winning wine list which focuses on the finest selections from Mendocino County. These wines are primarily organic or produced according to traditional methods, without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, or pesticides. If you find one you like it’s easy to enjoy more since many of the wines are also available for purchase at the inn’s store onsite.

Prospect Hill Plantation Inn Charlottesville, Virginia

Image courtesy of Prospect Hill Plantation Inn & Wowi Zowi Photography

Charlottesville, VA is for wine lovers, and as the “Napa Valley of the East Coast,” there numerous vineyards to visit as well as a plethora of activities travelers can enjoy during their stay. History comes alive at historic sites such as Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello and the University of Virginia, while the arts and entertainment scene flourishes at downtown marquees that features both local artists and famous names. Outside the city, the scenic countryside provides an idyllic drive over winding hills and low mountains punctuated by exquisite vistas of open space. Hiking and biking trails and kayaking the James or Rivanna attract the active crowd, and nature fans find the appeal of roadside orchards a huge draw during harvest time. Speaking of which, we’d be remiss not to mention the Monticello Wine Trail and area’s award-winning small-batch breweries you’ll find along the Brew Ridge Trail. At the elegant Prospect Hill Plantation Inn, the oldest continually occupied frame manor-house plantation in the state, the Findley Family will provide all the guidance you need to navigate the area – in addition to comfy accommodations that feature private entrances and baths, working fireplaces, air-conditioning, and a full gourmet breakfast in bed. Most rooms also include revitalizing whirlpool tubs. The onsite restaurant features a creative menu, with a distinct European character that is influenced by the season and the availability of fresh, local, and organic ingredients. Situated on 40 stunning acres, the breathtaking grounds of this authentic 1700’s former wheat plantation are just 15 miles from downtown and within 30 miles of more than 25 boutique wineries.

Magnificent Portugal

May 24, 2015 27 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quinta do Tedo Vineyards

Douro Vineyards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Douro Valley 4

Douro Valley

Douro valley 5

Douro Valley 2

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

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

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!

Like A Kid In The Candy Store…

October 13, 2014 51 comments

I’m traveling again (for my daytime job), and of course when I travel, I’m always looking for the local wineries to visit. This time I’m in Washington state, and of course there is no shortage of wineries to visit here. Well, let me critique myself here for that beaten up “of course”. This is not the first time I’m in Washington –  however, last time I was here, I couldn’t think of anything but the Chateau St. Michelle as a winery to visit (which was the great visit, by the way, and I love their wines). While the Washington wineries had been on my radar for quite a long time, there was no realization that those wineries are actually the places which can be visited. Until this time.

First, I tried to arrange a visit to the Quilceida Creek, a cult producer. Unfortunately, they were smack in a middle of harvest at the time of my visit, and said that they allow no visitors at that time (oh well, I will try to time my visit better next time). Then I tried Google, and got back way too many results. My next step was Twitter, where I got some name recommendations and was given a few posts to read – one from the Wild 4 Washington Wine blog (this is not just one blog post, this is a series), and another one from the Jameson Fink blog. Based on all the information, I wrote down the few wineries I wanted to start from, and decided to figure out the rest on the fly. I also only had about 3 hours available to taste.

I had a bit of a trouble programing my GPS, so I just put whatever address it took. When I arrived to the area called Woodinville Industrial Park, and electronic voice proclaimed the familiar “you have arrived at your destination”, my first reaction was “wow”!

At the entrance to Woodinville Industrial ParkHow would you, wine geeks and aficionados out there, feel – greeted with such a view? A Christmas in October? Yay! I was looking for the right way to describe my state of mind once I saw all these signs, and the best I could do was “a kid in the candy store” – wow, I can taste all of these – incredible!

It appears that what started less than 10 years ago from only 5 wineries, finding an inexpensive rent in the Industrial Park, became a 60+ setting now (and there are more than 100 wineries in the Woodinville overall). Going from winery from winery, I met very passionate and very talented people, who are living through their dream. Most of the people I met – winemakers and owners – have another full time job – an engineer, a police officer, a reporter. And despite the fact that winery is “just a hobby” (who am I kidding – it is not, it is a product of obsession), the wines were simply outstanding. I found it also fascinating that at every tasting room I was given a recommendation on what to visit next. I tasted about 40+ wines during this visit overall – and I literally would be glad to drink any one of those wines again and again. Lots of Bordeaux blends, few of the whites, a bit of Syrah – this was a general line up at all the wineries, and again, the wines were beautifully executed, balanced and with the sense of place. The local wines you would be glad to drink all the time.

What I decided to do is not to produce a monster post trying to cram all the impressions into one, but instead, to make a few posts talking about individual wineries. During this trip, I visited Elevation Cellars, Pondera Winery, Des Voigne Cellars, Sparkman Cellars, Guardian CellarsFidélitas and Mark Ryan Winery – and this is what you should expect to see coming in the next few posts. Therefore, I’m not finishing up this post, but instead, as they like to say, it is “to be continued…”

P.S. Once I started writing this post, I realized that I was really talking about “local wineries”, and “local” is a theme of the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #12, so let it be my entry into that.

P.P.S. I love the power of internet – you can link backward, but you can also link forward. As the individual winery posts will be written, I will add the links to the posts under the names above.

Wine Gadgets: Traveling With Wine

June 20, 2013 32 comments

Few weeks ago, a fellow wine blogger Jeff, better known as The Drunken Cyclist in the wine blogging world, decided to challenge the wine bloggers to create blog posts relevant to the specific theme (this is a very popular trend among photography bloggers). The theme of the first challenge is Transportation. The post I’m about to present to you was supposed to the written in any case as part of the Wine Gadgets series, but it also very conveniently fits the theme of the challenge, so here we go.

A little intro: this is the fourth post in the Wine Gadgets series, where we are discussing different tools enhancing wine appreciation. In case you missed any of the prior posts, here are the links: Series Intro, Wine Pourers, Wine Preservers.

Can we use the words “wine” and “travel” interchangeably? Of course not, what kind of silly question is that! But think about your travel for a second. How often your travel plans include visiting the winery, no matter where you go? If you are reading this blog, I can safely say that for the most of you, if you are within the day travel from the winery, you are willing to make a detour. Do you visit the wine stores when you are visiting a different state or a different country? Of course you do! Thus it is safe to assume that your travel includes some happy encounters with wine.

But (oh, you knew the “but” is coming) – how many of you dreaded the trip back home, with all that wine you fell in love with, especially if that trip home include the scary, shiny beast called…a-e-r-o-p-l-a-n-e? The thought of the bottle of red wine in your luggage and then red liquid thinly covering your favorite shirt and dripping blood-like from the suitcase all over the luggage carousel can be paralyzing, no questions. But – there is no reason to be afraid of that scary, shiny beast. All you need to do is to use … of course, the wine gadgets.

So let’s talk about wine travel tools which you have at your disposal. And of course, not all the trips which include carrying of the wine include air travel – most of them will not, absolutely – thus we will talk about different tools, suitable for long distance wine travel and not.

Here is the list of some of the useful wine travel tools:

  • Wine Picnic Carrier (can be called a Picnic Tote) – usually a short haul solution
  • Wine Skin – pretty universal, but more applicable for the long haul
  • Wine Luggage/Wine Transporter – mostly for the long haul
  • Wine Tote – there are multiple versions, all for the short haul
  • Wine Bag –  definitely short haul, but most useful when visiting the wine store

Now, here are some pictures:

DSC_0700 wine bag

Wine bag

Now, let’s talk about these tools one by one.

Picnic wine carrier is a simple tool, suitable for short distance travel, or at least a travel where your luggage is not a subject of rough handling – having that wine tote in the trunk of your car is really not considered a “rough handling”. Added bonus is thermal insulation – if you will put a cold bottle of wine inside, the temperature will be preserved for a while. Many different kinds of the picnic tote are available, with capacity varying from 1 to 6 bottles.

Wine luggage is a serious tool. I bought mine about 5 years ago. For the most of those 5 years, I kept contemplating whether it is suitable for the trip or not. Problem is that this suitcase is really suitable just for wine, so traveling with two suitcases in the times when you only want to have carry on, doesn’t really sounds exciting. Besides, every time I would look at that suitcase, a fearful thought would visit – will it be actually able to protect the wine? Finally, for my last trip to Portugal, where I knew I will be around the wine I decided that it was now or never moment, and just went ahead. That was actually an excellent decision – wine suitcase performed perfectly, and I brought home 12 bottles of wine, all safe and sound. As you can see in the picture above, all the bottles are secured by the two straps, with the dividers between them. The suitcase also has sturdy sides and top and bottom, which protects your precious content quite well. From now on, when my plans will include carrying around substantial amount of wine, the wine suitcase is “it”.

Wine Tote is a simple tool to conveniently carry around a bottle or two of wine, also keeping it at colder temperature if it was previously chilled. I typically use it when I need to bring a bottle of white wine to the party. Then again, if you primarily travel by car, this tool has very limited value. If your travel includes public transportation and/or long distance walking, this can be quite convenient.

Next tool is called Wine Skin. Bubble wrap padded thick and sturdy plastic poach cut in the shape of a bottle – this tool is pure genius in my opinion (here is a link which explains how wine skin works). The poach has a bottom flap with adhesive, so you can completely enclose the bottle inside, air-tight. Even if your bottle will somehow break, the liquid will stay inside. Theoretically, this is single-use device, but I have my set of wine skins which I’m using and reusing for the past 4-5 years, and yet didn’t discard a single one – the adhesive still holds quite well. The great thing about wine skin that it has no weight, and it takes literally no space in your suitcase. Thus you have it with you in your trip, and in case you come across the wine you want to bring home, you can do it safely and without worrying – and if you don’t, that’s okay too.

Last tool for today is Wine Bag – at some point many wine stores carried them, and they were typically sold for $2.99. The wine bags are great for their intended purpose – to bring wine back from the wine store. Same way as it is popular now to go to the store with your own bag, the same idea works here. Wine bags are definitely a lot more convenient than a cardboard box which is hard to carry and then they should be disposed of, or the paper bags. But – I guess the problem is that a lot of wine store visits are very spontaneous, and people forget to bring the bag! Anyway, I have a few of those, and when I remember (!), I always bring them over.

If you are interested in any of these wine travel tools, here are few links from Amazon: Picnic Wine Carriers, Wine Skin, Wine TotesWine Luggage. Also, specifically for the wine luggage, I believe IWA Wine (an online/print catalog) has better selection than Amazon – take a look here.

And as we have done before, here is our gadget poll:

So, what do you say? Do you have your preferred wine travel tools? What do you think about tools we discussed here?

In the next Gadgets post, we will talk about chillers. Until then – cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, Round and Around WBC and more

March 27, 2013 4 comments

Meritage Time!

Let’s start fromt he answer for the Wine Quiz #51 – Hiding in the plain sight, part 2.

In that quiz, you were supposed to identify as many wines/wineries as possible in my fictional writing. Here is the same fragment, with the actual wines shown in bold and underlined:

– Hey, Gloria, Mr. Giribaldi is here. You really have to tell me if you are going to Sicilia with him. The ticket will cost only $890. Your aunt Elena and cousin Ben will be excited to see you. Your great-grand aunt Olga is turning hundred! Everybody will be there. Remember Livio, the blue eyed boy? He was such a little angel… Anyway, he is coming with Virginia, and I’m sure you will have lots of catching up to do. 

– okay, mom, I will go. By the way, if you see Kay, tell him that I’m through with him.

Now, in the order of appearance:

Chateau GloriaFamous French winery from Saint-Julien

Mario Giribaldiwinery and winemaker in Piedmont

Vega Sicilialegendary winery from Ribero del Duero, Spain

La Rioja Alta “890” Gran Reserva – one of the top wines from La Rioja Alta

Elena Walch  – great winery and winemaker in Alto Adige region

Olivier Cousinrebel natural wines wine maker in Anjou area of Loire

Ben Ryè – spectacular sweet wine produced by Donnafugata in Sicily

Olga Raffault – great winery in Chinon

Turning Leaf – Vineyard in California

Hundred Acre – a cult wine from California

Livio Felluga – great Italian producer from Friuli

blue eyed boyname of the Shiraz wine from the great Australian producer Mollydooker Wines

Ballet of Angels – white wine produced by Connecticut winery Sharpe Hills

Virginie de Valandraud – second label of legendary Château Valandraud (had a mistake in the spelling – should be Virginie and not Virginia, sorry about that)

if you see Kay red wine from Lazio region in Italy, produced by Jason Woodbridge

Whew, this was a very long answer. I guess it was a tough quiz, as there were not that many players, but – I can tell you for sure I had lots of fun putting it together. VinoInLove came up with 10 good answers, even though many of the names he came up with didn’t match my intended answers, but as I mentioned in the description of the quiz, this will be still qualified. Thus VinoInLove is our winner, and Frank from WineTalks get honorable mention for coming up with 5 right answers. Great job!

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine web. I got an e-mail from Wine Bloggers Conference, and it lead me to the collection of noteworthy information on Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC) web site. First, a few weeks ago I got an invitation from WBC to complete the wine blogging survey, which I did. Preliminary results are already available here, and you can learn there a few interesting things. For instance, it appears that average wine blogger has 3,418 follower on twitter – I guess I’m well below of an average wine blogger, as I have less than one third of that number. Another interesting fact is that less than 19% of the wine bloggers had being blogging for 6+ years. Anyway, check it out for yourself, and if you didn’t take the survey, you still have time to do it ( you can found the link on that same page with preliminary results). WBC site holds other interesting links – for instance, here is the link for so called Citizen Wine Blogs in America ( which includes both US and Canada) – the WBC web site is definitely worth exploring.

WBA_logo_rotatorAnother important news is that the call for nominations for 7th Annual Wine Blog Awards is now open! It will be open until Sunday, March 31st, so if anyone thinks this very blog worth a nomination, you can do so using this link (needless to say that I will be forever grateful).

Moving on, I still have a few interesting things for you. There are new wines on the market from the state of Washington, produced by Paul Gregutt, who you might know by his blog called Unfined and Unfiltered. The wines are produced under the label of Waitsburg Cellars. While I’m sure it will be difficult to find those wines, at least you can enjoy the descriptions coming under the theme called The Aromatics.

While this might be an old news for many of you, but it is interesting to see that now Parker is suing Antonio Galloni for the breach of contract. The world of wine, as everything else under the sun, becomes anything but boring once the big money start talking. Not sure if wine lovers will benefit, but the lawyers will be able to afford a few extra bottles of Petrus.

Last for today is a local update. I added a few links to the blogroll for the blogs I follow, and I also created a new link category called Wine Travel. American Winery Guide, To-Tuscany, Winerist and Napa Now are the four web sites listed there. If you have a blog or site dedicated to the wine travel, please let me know and I will be glad to add it to the blogroll.

It was a long post – but the glass is finally empty. Enjoy your Wine Wednesday and until the next time – cheers!