Archive

Posts Tagged ‘wine’

Daily Glass: Uncomfortable Wine

October 11, 2021 2 comments

“Uncomfortable wine”??? What utter nonsense, right? Did the author had one too many glasses while writing this post?

The wine can be spoiled. The wine can taste bad. We can call it plonk, we can pour it out. But uncomfortable?

Shoes can be uncomfortable. The dress can be uncomfortable. The shirt’s collar might be too tight. Not knowing how to start a conversation with an attractive stranger might be uncomfortable. Not knowing how to answer a live interview question for the position you dreamed of your entire life is uncomfortable. Many, many things can be uncomfortable. But wine?

When I refer to wine as an art, the typical association in my mind is painting. As an art form, I imply that there are similarities between the bottle of wine and the painting on the wall. But maybe a book would be a better art form to compare?

Reaction to painting is instantaneous – you can, of course, spend hours looking at elaborate details and discovering new elements even if you saw the painting a thousand times before – but your first impression is unlikely to change, it might only deepen as time goes on. But with the book, first we see the cover, then we start reading, and if we found the book which speaks to us, by the time we reach the second page, nobody cares about that cover anymore.

When it comes to the wine, the bottle and the label matter – until we take the first sip. If we found “our wine”, the same as 300 pages book can be obsessively consumed within a few hours, a good bottle of wine will be gone in no time. And while you will be enjoying it, most likely you wouldn’t even remember how the label looked like.

What’s with this interlude and our comfort/uncomfort discussion you ask? Don’t worry, this is all connected.

So what can be uncomfortable about wine? Actually, many things. Remember – in the wine world, it is all about perception – except the taste, the pleasure, and your desire to have a second glass – of course, if you chose to be honest with yourself. Otherwise, perception is everything. Enjoying a glass of 2 buck chuck is uncomfortable. Bringing a $5 bottle of wine to your friends’ house is uncomfortable – knowing that it is an amazing bottle of wine without any regard for a price doesn’t make it less uncomfortable. Enjoying the glass of wine while your best friend hates it is uncomfortable. And then there are labels.

Okay, call me “captain obvious”, but this is where I was leading you all the way – the label can make you uncomfortable. There are enough wines in this world that have, for example, sexually suggestive or simply offensive words or images on the label. Ever saw the bottle of If You See Kay? This is a perfect example of suggestive language on the label – the book cover – for a perfectly delicious wine produced by Jayson Woodbridge. And there are wines that don’t even use suggestive language anymore – like the Little Fuck Malbec from Cahors.

When a friend sent me a picture of this label a few days ago, my first reaction was literally WTF – how can such a label be even approved (Jayson Woodbridge had lots of trouble getting his If You See Kay label approved 9 years ago)? But as the wine was available, I decided that I would not judge the book by its cover, and actually try reading it – and so I got the bottle.

I have to say that as soon as I got a hold of the bottle my negative impressions instantly started to diminish. This is hard to explain, as I don’t know if all the oenophiles feel the same way, but there are bottles that express “comfort” with its shape, weight, and overall feel in your hands. Once you take such a bottle in your hands, you can’t help yourself but say “oh, this is nice”. This was precisely the bottle. Outside of the wine name and the image on the label, the bottle was very comfortable and really created the anticipation – “oh yeah, I do want to open that bottle”. Even the label looked well designed in its shape and size and added the overall “comfort” feeling.

The wine didn’t disappoint – 2020 Vellas Père Et Fils Little Fuck Malbec Cahors AOP (14% ABV) was unapologetically a New World Malbec – big and brooding – and in a blind tasting I would confidently place it into Argentina, but never into the old world. The wine was full of raspberries, smoke, and sweet tobacco – on the nose and on the palate. Big, full-bodied, and powerful, but also well balanced and delicious – a very unapologetic Malbec I might be ashamed to bring to the acquaintance’s house but would be happy to drink at home or with close friends.

I’m really curious about the backstory of this wine. I don’t believe the name and images are random. Nicolas Vellas is a vigneron in the 4th generation at Vignobles Vellas, farming 300 acres of vines and producing a wide range of wines in the South of France. If this would be the only wine produced at the winery, yes, we could dismiss it as a gimmick. But this is simply one of many and the only one with such a unique label, so I truly believe there is a story for this wine, which is not easy to figure out – I even sent a message to the winery asking them to share the story if they can, but I’m not very hopeful. Well, actually lots of Vignoble Vellas wines have very creative labels – you can see them here, but I don’t know if there are any more of the “uncomfortable” ones.

Here you go, my friends. Uncomfortable wine which also happened to be delicious. Yeah, I’m okay with that. I’ll take delicious any day. And comfort? It comes after delicious.

Daily Glass: While I Was Out

September 28, 2021 Leave a comment

This September probably was my worst blogging month ever. Whatever the frustrating reasons are, this is not the self-reflection blog (it is, of course, but only for wine, food, and life-related matters), so one thing we are not going to do is an analysis of that “dry period”. However, it was dry only for the words, but not for the wines, so let me share a few of the recent delicious encounters with you.

Let’s start with the 2009 Alban Vineyards Reva Estate Syrah Edna Valley (15.5% ABV), which I opened to celebrate our anniversary. Alban makes some of the very best Rhône-style wines in the USA, and this Reva Syrah didn’t disappoint – beautiful fruit on the nose with a touch of barnyard, layers of red and blue fruit on the palate with spicy, peppery underpinning. Delicious.

Next, we continue with a number of Field Recordings wines. It is no secret that I’m biased toward Field Recordings wines, ever since I discovered them more than 10 years ago (this is the only wine club I belong to). Field Recordings wines don’t cease to amaze with Andrew Jones’ talent to find one-of-a-kind vineyards to make one-of-a-kind wines.

2020 Field Recordings Domo Arigato (Mr. Ramato) Skin Contact Pinot Grigio Central Coast (12% ABV, $25, 52 barrels made)  is skin contact Pinot Grigio, made in Ramato (copper) Italian style. A beautiful complexity on the nose without going overboard, fresh fruit and herbs, clean and unctuous on the palate – when the friend stopped over, we finished the bottle without even noticing. This wine is a blend of Pinot Gris from two sites on the Central Coast, each of which spent a month on the skins and then was aged in the neutral oak barrels.

2019 Field Recordings Festa Beato Farms Vineyard El Pomar District (11.5% ABV, $25, 100% Touriga Nacional, 12 months in Neutral American oak barrels, 6 barrels produced) really surprised me. Touriga Nacional is not the grape California is known for. Also, from my experience with Portuguese wines, Touriga Nacional from the Douro definitely benefits from a long time in oak (I much prefer Douro Reserva over the regular wines), so I opened the Californian rendition without much of the expectations.

Wow. Festa actually means Party in Portuguese, and what a party it was! Wild berries on the nose – wild blueberries and wild strawberries. The same fresh, crunchy, crispy, fresh wild berries on the palate, but well supported by the medium to the full body of the wine and perfectly balanced in and out, creating one delicious mouthfeel. Another wine you can’t stop drinking once you start.

Let’s take a short break from the Field Recordings wines and let’s go visit Washington with the help of 2013 Brian Carter Cellars Byzance Red Wine Blend Columbia Valley (14% ABV, 53% Grenache, 22% Syrah, 17% Mourvedre, 5% Counoise, 3% Cinsault). I got this wine at one of the Last Bottle marathons, going strictly by the region, age, and price – never heard of the producer before. Turns out that Brian Carter had been making wines in Wahington since 1980, and he has a passion for blending – which this wine perfectly demonstrated. In my experience, 8 years is not an age for many Washington wines, so I opened the bottle not without trepidation. To my delight, the wine was simply superb – fresh cherries and blackberries on the nose, ripe cherries, mocha, and dark chocolate on the palate, soft, round, perfectly balanced, exciting, and delicious. And I didn’t need to wait for it even for a second. Pop, pour, enjoy. This is the wine that brings an instant regret with the first sip – why, why I didn’t buy a full case??

This next wine I want to talk about might surprise you, and this is something I very rarely discuss in this blog – it is Sake I want to share with you. As we planned to have sushi for dinner, the family requested sake to drink with it. I stopped at the wine store on my way to pick up sushi, and this Hananomai Sake Jun-Mai-Ginjo (15%-16% ABV) was recommended. What a great recommendation it was! I almost got the point of regretting buying only one bottle, as everyone couldn’t stop drinking it – nicely perfumed, light fruit notes on the palate, delicate and balanced – it perfectly complemented our eclectic selection of the sushi rolls.

And now, back to Field Recordings.

2018 Field Recordings Happy Accident Alicante Bouschet Vignoble Guillaume Jean Paso Robles (11.1% ABV, 10 months in stainless steel, 5 barrels produced) is another atypical California wine – made from the Alicante Bouchet grape. This is one of the few so-called teinturier grapes – red grapes which have not only red skin but also red flesh, thus producing red juice when pressed, without the need for skin contact (famous Georgian Saperavi is another example of the teinturier grape). Alicante Bouschet is a cross between Petit Bouschet and Grenache, and it was widely planted in California during Prohibition and lately increasingly planted in France, as well as in Spain and Portugal. The name of the wine has its own story, which I simply quote from the description I got with the wine club offering email: “Many things can go sideways in the cellar as we are ushering the fermentation along. In most wineries, a surprise visit from brettanomyces to your cellar could be a curse, but in this situation we are celebrating it. The funky wild yeast that is popular in the beer world brings out a signature funk. This signature funk, though, took 5 barrels of Alicante to another level.  As a famous painter once said, there are no mistakes, just happy accidents.

The wine offered an inviting nose of the fresh berries, continuing with tart, the dry mouthfeel of red and black fruit, and medium to full body. I think this wine would well benefit from another 3–4 years in the cellar, but it was quite enjoyable as is right now.

And that concludes our daily glass ride – hope you had some tasty wine discoveries lately!

A Weekend With Friends

September 27, 2021 1 comment

Here I am, going over the options in my head. I can just start this post like everything is cool. Or I can start it with a little whining about the past. Like the life as we knew it before 2020. The year which didn’t exist. Which continues “not existing” well into this very 2021. Anyone has a time machine to go and fix it all? We don’t need to go far…

Yes, I strive normal. The life as it was. And this past weekend, this is exactly what I had.

For the past 10 years, we have had a tradition with friends – adults’ getaway. It was born out of the need to get away from the kids, to feel ourselves the adults without the need to constantly taking care of someone. Visit a winery, have a great dinner, play some games until everyone is really tired, have more fun the next day, come home recharged. Simple.

Last year was the first time in 10 years when we felt that adults’ getaway was not in the cards. But this year, the spontaneous decision was made not to lose another year to the stupid crap, and the getaway was planned.

We always go to the small towns around the east coast, trying to stay within 3 hours of driving distance from Stamford, CT. As I started writing this post, I decided to check what places we visited over this years. It turns out that this was our 10th trip, skipping 2011 (if 2011 was not skipped, I have zero records of that), and 2020. In 2010, this all started in Milford, Pennsylvania. In 2012, we continued to Grafton, Vermont. In 2013, we stayed in Palenville, New York, with the visit to Hudson Distillery being an absolute highlight. In 2014, it was Norfolk, Connecticut, and then we continued on to Cooperstown, New York in 2015, Greenville, New York in 2016, Lenox, Massachusetts in 2017, then Kenneth Square, Pennsylvania in 2018, and West Yarmouth on Cape Cod in Massachusetts in 2019 (as you can tell by the absence of the links, I failed to properly document some of our adventures).

That brings us to the year 2021, where our spontaneously decided destination was once again the Berkshire mountains region of Massachusetts, and our home base for the weekend been at Harbour House Inn and B&B in Cheshire, Massachusetts. But our first stop on the way was at the Balderdash Cellars winery in Richmond, Massachusetts. It was a random pick – the winery was conveniently located along the way, about 30 minutes away from our final destination, but then it was definitely a lucky strike.

The note on Balderdash Cellars website said that reservations are unnecessary and not taken – this sounded really good especially with the latest trend where you can’t just walk into the winery for a tasting (I get the business side of it, but I’m not a fan). Another interesting thing about the winery is that Balderdash Cellars brings the grapes from California (grapes, not juice), and then they make their wines right on premises, including all of the aging (some of the reds age for 2 years).

We arrived pretty much by the time the winery just opened its tasting room (at noon), and we were the first there. You can get a tasting flight of 5 wines, a glass of wine, or a bottle, all from the current selection. The tasting flight is prepared for you in the neat tiny vessels, and then you can seat anywhere you like and taste at your own speed.

All the wines we tasted greatly exceeded my expectations. 2020 Balderdash Cellars Bao Bao Sauvignon Blanc (13.6% ABV, $29, 100% Stainless steel for 5 months, Napa Valley fruit) was perfectly on point – a touch of freshly cut grass, bright acidity, lemon notes, perfectly refreshing and delicious. 2017 Balderdash Cellars Til Death Do Us Part Viognier (14.3% ABV, $29, 75% French Oak, 25% stainless steel for 8 months, Paso Robles fruit) was possibly even more surprising. Viognier is a very tricky grape, you really need to do it right, especially when it comes from the warm climates. This wine was outstanding – beautiful perfume on the nose, tropical fruit, nicely plump and balanced palate.

2017 Balderdash Cellars Joyride Pinot Noir (14.4% ABV, $39, 100% French Oak aging for 18 months, Edna Valley fruit) was good, maybe a bit too sweet for my palate. However, 2019 Balderdash Cellars Invincible Cabernet Sauvignon (13.7% ABV, $37, 100% French Oak aging for 2 years, Napa Valley fruit) was simply outstanding – cassis and bell peppers on the nose, classic, unmistakable Cab with a lot of restraint, continuing with the same finesse on the palate – more cassis and bell peppers, all well balanced and harmonious. I would be happy to drink this wine at any time. Last but not least in the flight was 2019 Balderdash Cellars Brakelight Syrah (13.7% ABV, $37, 100% French Oak aging for 18 months, Sonoma fruit), which was also perfectly classic – beautiful black pepper all around, on the nose and on the palate, the nice core of the black and red fruit, delicious.

We also had a bonus taste of the 2020 Balderdash Cellars Kill Joy Late Harvest Viognier (12% ABV, $27, 100% neutral French oak, Edna Valley fruit) which was just outstanding – fresh ripe tropical fruit supported by clean lemon acidity, the element which makes or breaks any dessert wine, and this one was definitely made right.

I really wanted to try Truth Serum Petite Sirah as just the name sounds soooo intriguing, but the wine was sold out, unfortunately.

After tasting we moved from inside of the tasting room to find a nice sitting outside. The winery has stacks and stacks of red Adirondack chairs, my favorite type of chair, and we had no problems assembling a very comfortable sitting. We got a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon to continue, while we were waiting for the food truck to arrive at 1 pm (the winery offers different food options on the weekends). I also want to mention how professional the staff was at the winery – water was added to the ice in the bucket to chill our Sauvignon Blanc better. The foil was cut completely from the bottle before pulling out the cork – these are the little things that make your wine experience simply more enjoyable.

While the winery doesn’t offer vineyard views, they have rows of flowers instead. I love seeing all of the pictures of sunflowers from all the people around, but never really had an opportunity to take sunflower pictures before – until now. This flower field was boasting the sunflowers of more colors ever thought are possible in the sunflowers. Hence let me inundate you a bit here with these beauties:

Three hours later, we left now a very crowded winery to get to our destination – Harbour House Inn B&B. If I would have to describe Harbour House Inn in a few words, that would be “clean, large, spacious, and hospitable”. Hospitable is truly a keyword here – let me explain.

Saturday night dinner is the major attraction for our adults’ getaways, pièce de résistance if you will. We always put a lot of care into finding a restaurant that would be willing to accommodate our group and create a special tasting menu which we would pair with our own wines. On most of the trips we were able to create the arrangements like this, and a few times we were unable to bring our own wines and had the tasting dinner fully arranged by the restaurant. This time around, we couldn’t find a restaurant that would be willing to work with us in creating a tasting menu, and not everybody was even willing to accommodate our whole group for dinner. This is where our hosts, Brandi, Darrell, and Billie came to the rescue, allowing us to get the take-out from the restaurant, set up the dinner table with all the plates and glasses, and thus still have an experience of our traditional wine dinner.

When we arrived, the table was already set with the wines glasses and plates, and there was a fridge where we could stuff all of our white wines.

And here is the same table all set to start the dinner:

Those popocers… Yummmm!

We brought our dinner from the Mario’s Restaurant in New Lebanon, New York (about 30 minutes drive) which also exceeded our expectations. We arrived at 5 PM to pick up all the food. Everything was ready to go, no waiting at all, and all the food was piping hot, just made. The restaurant even included lots of delicious bread and top it all off, popovers, which were simply spectacular – I’m not a big fan of the popovers in general, but this was just something else – I would eat 5 of those by myself and have no regrets.

Now, let’s talk about wine and food. Our first dish was Prince Edward Isle Mussels (Pancetta, leek, roasted garlic, white wine, EVOO, crostini) which we paired with 2020 Bisol Jeio Millesimato Prosecco Rosé DOC. Prosecco Rosé is a hot category right now. As I’m mostly ambivalent to the Prosecco, this new category is also lost on me. However, when I was looking for the wines to pair with the dinner, and I wanted to start our dinner with bubbles, that bottle of Jeio Rosé looked very good – an opportunity to try a new (hot!) type of wine made by the reputable producer (I’m not ambivalent to Bisol wines – these are Prosecco wines in its own category). The Rosé didn’t disappoint – crisp, clean, tart, fresh – anything else you want from the sparkling wine? Yep, I thought so. It paired very well with the mussels which were a riot – lots and lots of flavor, delicious broth – I lost count to the amount of bread I consumed with the mussels.

Next, we had Rustic Beef and  Veal Grande Meatballs (San Marzano sauce, pesto, crostini) and Mushroom Beignet (Caps stuffed with garlic butter, dipped in a beignet batter, baked and topped with hollandaise sauce) which we paired with 2020 Notorious Pink Grenache Rosé Vin de France (100% Grenache). The meatballs were absolutely delicious, as well as the mushroom beignet. As far as the wine is concerned, we already had this Rosé at one of the previous dinners, and looking into my past notes I was equally unimpressed.

Next, we had Baby Arugula Salad (Farm fresh peaches, garden tomatoes, burrata, toasted pistachios, white balsamic vinaigrette) paired with 2019 Ninety Plus Cellars Aligoté Bourgogne AOC. Aligoté is yet another rave of the moment, gaining in popularity as an affordable white Burgundy. The wine was round and creamy and worked quite well with the salad.

For our “intermezzo” we decided to try something new and different – a “pasta” of zucchini – Zucchini “Noodles” (Roasted wild mushrooms and tomatoes, sweet corn, burrata, cheese, white wine, and garlic) paired with 2019 Thevenet & fils Les Clos Bourgogne AOC. The zucchini “noodles” were an absolute standout – amazing flavor and texture, delicious. The red Burgundy was very tart and light – while it was kind of okay with the dish, the pairing was not anything to write home about.

Then there were the entrées. First, we paired Pan Seared Sea Scallops (Risotto alla Milanese, sweet corn, chive beurre blanc) and Grilled Faroe Island Salmon (Maple and mustard glaze, hash of roasted potatoes, English peas, carrots, and scallions, fresh horseradish) with 2013 Montecillo Rioja Reserva DOC. Scallops and salmon were delicious in their own right, each dish being succulent and flavorful. The Rioja was simply superb – dark fruit, cedar box, herbs, perfectly balanced, round and velvety in the mouth – this was another most favorite wine of the dinner (the first one was Prosecco Rosé).

Last we had Pan Seared Duck Breast and Leg Confit (Chive mashed, cherry & port wine reduction, grilled asparagus) – melt in your mouth delicious, and succulent, generous, flavorful Red Wine Braised Short Rib (Roasted summer vegetables, chive mashed, red wine jus). These two dishes were paired with 2015 d’Arenberg The Laughing Magpie Shiraz Viognier McLaren Vale, which didn’t meet my expectations. Maybe the wine needed some time, but it really didn’t do anything for me.

The dessert was good, but after all of the food, nobody really cared about the dessert…

My next day started from the quiet early walk in the fog. Fog has a special ability to underscore the silence. And there is no better time of the day than a cool and quiet morning with a cup of hot coffee in your hand and the knowledge that the whole day is fully ahead of you.

Our breakfast (it is a B&B, remember?) consisted of freshly baked blueberry muffin, fresh fruit, and eggs Benedict casserole – an unusually creative dish, resembling the eggs Benedict without the need to properly poach the eggs for the large group of hungry guests.

We always like to include at least a bit of the hiking into our trips, so our first stop after we left the Inn was at the old marble quarry repurposed into the nature park. Lots of steps and some beautiful views:

We then went to the cheese shop along Berkshire cheese trail where we were hoping to taste some cheese – unfortunately, this was a cheese shop at the functional dairy farm, but no cheese to taste, only to buy.

We ended our day with a late lunch at Pera Mediterranean Bistro in Williamstown before starting the drive home.

Here we are – another adults’ getaway became history, but I’m already craving the next one.

 

WMC21: Day 2 Highlights

August 26, 2021 2 comments

We started the 2nd day of WMC21 with the breakout sessions, no keynotes. There were two sessions run in parallel, so you had to choose the topic which would be more of interest to you.

My first session, The Art of Storytelling for the Wine Industry, was presented by Jill Barth, a seasonal wine writer who writes for Forbes, Wine Enthusiast, Decanter, and other wine publications. Jill also won multiple awards (best wine blog 2016, Millessima wine and food pairing award, etc). Jill had a lot of good advice on how to build your story, what would make it a good story, how to pitch your story to the editors, and more.

Next, I listened to Scott Fish from 32 Digital, who was talking about taking your Instagram account to the next level. There were a lot of good information presented in the session – what are the best and worst times to post (it appears that Sunday is one of the worst days for the posts), how many tags to use, the optimal number of pictures in the gallery and so on. There were also some interesting tools recommendations, such as Answer To Public – a service that allows finding the most popular searches at the moment for a given keyword(s), all presented in an interesting format. You can see an example below of the search results for the keywords “red wine”.

You can definitely play with the tool, however, note that with the free search, you get a limited number of searches per IP address per day (I think 3 or 4), so play wisely.

Another interesting tool I learned about was Geolmgr which allows you to geotag your photos to a specific geographic location.

The next session, Digital Marketing for Wine Media, was presented by Mike Wangbickler, wine blogger, long-time WMC attendee, and owner of Balzac Communications agency. Mike started with some hard questions to the audience, such as “why do you have a wine blog” – it appears that literally no one had a wine blog to make money. Then Mike went on to talk about a plethora of tools available today to the bloggers in terms of SEO, content management, optimizing your delivery to your customer audience, and lots more.

After lunch, we had an excellent panel on Oregon sparkling wine. Before the session started we had an opportunity to taste three of the Oregon sparkling wines from the wineries participating in the panel. One of the wines was delicious sparkling Tannat from Troon Vineyards which we tasted on the first day. My other favorite was the 2017 Willamette Valley Vineyards Brut Sparkling Wine, which had all the classic Champagne traits – a touch of toasted bread on the nose, crisp, tight, and elegant on the palate.

The panel discussion was joined by Craig Camp, Troon Vineyard, Christine Clair, Willamette Valley Vineyards, Jessica Thomas, Sweet Cheeks Winery, and moderated by L.M. Archer.

It was a good discussion, starting with the history of sparkling wine in Oregon, and going through all the aspects of sparkling wine production. What was particularly interesting for me is a different approach to selecting the grapes for the sparkling wine. Willamette Valley Vineyards found out that one of the Chardonnay clones in the specific vineyard doesn’t perform well enough to be vinified into the still Chardonnay, but it happened to be well suited for the sparkling wine which requires much lesser ripeness. At the same time, the Sweet Cheek Winery harvests grapes for their sparkling wines from the same vineyard used for the still wine, but in the earlier pass, leaving the grapes for the still wines to ripen further.

Our next session was a wine discovery session where we had a choice of learning about Italian wines of Marche or Abruzzo – my choice was Marche, and we will talk about it in a separate post.

And then there were Lightning Talks. Lightning talks is an interesting concept. These are the sessions presented by fellow bloggers and wine writers. Each presenter submits a presentation with any number of slides, however, the slides change automatically and should be presented in exactly 5 minutes. This is the amount of time given to everyone – either you are done or not, but your time slot will stop exactly at 300 seconds. All the presenters did an excellent job – Gwendolyn Alley talked about being a cellar rat, Jeff Burrows spoke about starting your own blogging group, Brianne Cohen spoke about the virtual tasting business she started in 2020. My favorite talk though was the one presented by Steve Noel, who spoke about creative wine descriptors – I couldn’t stop laughing the whole 5 minutes while Steve was talking. While it will not be the same as Steve’s live presentation, he graciously allowed me to include his presentation in my post – you can find it here.

Our last session of the day, and essentially, the conference, was Wine Live Social for the red wines, which I already covered in this post.

Customary, the conference ends with the announcement of the next year’s location. Unfortunately, Zephyr folks, organizers of the conference, didn’t have a chance to work on securing the next location, as they had to operate with minimal staff, so the location will be announced later.

This was the end of the official conference, but you can probably imagine that we couldn’t let it go so easily, so after dinner, many of the attendees reconvened in the lobby to … yes, you guessed it – drink more wine and talk. There were lots of wines, but one particularly interesting for me was the 2009 Ranchita Canyon Vineyard Old Vine Cabernet Pfeffer – Cabernet Pfeffer is the grape I never tried before, and I recently saw it mentioned by someone, so it was definitely interesting to try. Not sure when this bottle was opened, so the wine was not super-enjoyable, but hey, I get to increase my grape count.

When I went to my room at around 2 am, there was still plenty of wine left, as you can see below. When I came out for breakfast the next morning, the foyer had no traces of wine bloggers partying all night.

There you are, my friends – if you missed the conference, I hope this gives you some idea as to what was going on there, and I hope next year it will be at the place and time good enough for all of us to get together.

I’m done with my report from the conference, but not with Oregon wines. I spent the next 4 days visiting wineries with Carl Giavanti, so as they say, watch this space…

Thanksgiving Day Experiences – 2020 Edition

November 28, 2020 2 comments

2020. What a year.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, as it revolves around family, food, wine, and friends. Close friends, who are more a family. Friends we celebrated Thanksgiving together with for the past 29 years. And 2020 managed to put a damper on that too, among a vast array of destruction this year will leave behind. Thanksgiving 2020 was about immediate family, food, and wine.

But even in 2020, the proverbial silver lining can be found. This probably was the most relaxing Thanksgiving ever. The menu was dramatically reduced – the family of 4 doesn’t need much of the elaborate appetizers and a vast array of side dishes, so cooking was mostly stress-free. Mostly, however, is a keyword here, as the cooking of the turkey became an unintended study of the operations of our oven.

I’ve cooked the turkey using most of the possible ways over the years, with the exception of deep-frying – roasted, roasted in the bag, turducken, deboned and roasted, smoked (smoked was the house favorite for the past 3 years). I’m also a big fan of slow cooking when you cook low and slow for a long time, so we decided that this was the way to go this year. Turkey was all buttered up with cavity stuffed with aromatics (garlic, lemon, celery, herbs), and the turkey went into the oven at around midnight at 200°F. Or at least I thought that it was 200°F. In the morning, the thigh registered only 152°F (you really need 185°F there) – this is when we decided to check the temperature in the oven using the same meat thermometer, and found out that it was at least 20 degrees lower, barely reaching 180°F, which greatly extends cooking time. We spent the next 6-7 hours playing with that temperature until we finally reached the desired doneness. 40 minutes at 450°F uncovered rendered a beautiful bird with crispy skin. So as long as you trust your oven, slow cooking is the way to go. Added benefit – the best ever turkey gravy, made from the drippings (here is the link to the recipe in case you need one).

The rest of the food prep caused no heartburn, everything came out quite well. We did the same stuffing for the second year in a row. While the recipe is very simple (but it takes time), the result is simply a delightful dish loved by everyone. One more standout was Nantucket Cranberry Pie, which is incredibly simple to make but yet again, the result is superb.

What didn’t work well at all (every occasion needs a flap, right?) was my attempt to recreate childhood memories. I ordered black caviar from Costco (yes, guilty as charged), which came pre-packaged with Creme Fraiche and tiny blinis (a dollar-coin-sized Russian pancakes). First, the caviar itself was just so-so, both in texture and in the taste. But following the instructions and serving it with blinis was a complete disaster, as those dry nibbles resembling poorly made English muffins were, in a word, disguising, both in the taste and texture, especially the texture. Talk about disappointments… But as I said, this was the only flap.

And then there were wines. Over the years, I developed an “All-American” approach to my Thanksgiving wine selection. 2020 was not an exception, and I decided to open definitely more than we could drink, but still have fun with the wines.

Two out of four wines came as part of the mystery pack from Last Bottles which were offered during Thanksgiving. I always missed that deal, but this year I managed to grab the 12 bottles for $144, which made it a great deal. So far I tried 5 bottles out of those 12, and they were all excellent, so the white and Rosé were coming from that set. Vinum Cab Franc was a sample that I received as a preparation for the upcoming #CabFrancDay celebration. I also managed to get cellar-aged Cayuse as part of this year’s offering (directly from Cayuse), so I decided that it might make the Thanksgiving celebration quite special. And yes, it did…

For what it worth, here are my wine notes:

2017 Casino Mine Ranch Vermentino Shenandoah Valley (14.1% ABV)
Light golden
Honeysuckle, white flowers, inviting
Delicious. Whitestone fruit and tropical fruit, a touch of honey undertones, Gewurz-like spiciness, good acidity, good balance.
Should play well with food (pre-dinner notes)
8-, it was good with food

2018 Azur Rosé Napa Valley (12.5% ABV)
Gold with a copper hue
Similar to the previous wine, honeysuckle, ripe strawberries
Good acidity, strawberries all the way, fresh, vibrant, full of energy. Excellent.
8-/8, tremendous acidity on the second day. Worked well with food.

2016 Vinum Cellars The Scrapper Cabernet Franc El Dorado (15.18% ABV, $35, 26 months in 2 year French Oak)
Dark garnet
Red and black fruit, a touch of black currant
Black currant, dark chocolate, sweet cherries
8, good balance, well-made wine.

2011 Cayuse Syrah En Cerise Vineyard Walla Walla Valley (13.9% ABV)
Dark garnet, almost black
Liquid rocks, a touch of barnyard, iodine, can’t stop smelling
Liquid rock, tart cherries, tar, pepper, iodine, firm structure, layers and layers of flavor. Wow.
9-/9. Surprising pairing – worked amazingly well with Nantucket cranberry pie. Worked well with turkey as well.

As you can tell, the wine program was a complete success – and I definitely can’t complain about spending the holidays with just the closest family

That’s my Thanksgiving story. Hope you have fun too!

Hunting Down The Value

October 5, 2020 2 comments

Wine and value – isn’t that a topic that is near and dear to every wine lover’s heart?

In the world of wine, “value” has lots of meanings – and to make it even more complex it also depends on a personal perspective. In the majority of the cases, value is relative. And while value concept is important and it is something we seek, it is the pleasure we are really after. We want to drink wine which gives us pleasure. Talking about value, we often refer to the concept of QPR  – Quality Price Ratio – instead of just the value, as QPR simply stresses what we are looking for, the pleasure, the best possible experience for the money. In other words, we equate quality and pleasure. Maybe we should introduce a new concept – PPD – as in Pleasure Per Dollar? Hmmm… maybe not.

I was trying to find an example of absolute value in wine, and I don’t believe such a thing exists. Is $4.99 bottle a value? Unless you enjoy that wine, it is really not – if you don’t enjoy that $4.99 bottle, it is wasted $4.99. Is $200 bottle of wine is value? “Are you nuts???” I would expect a typical reaction being to such a price. Well, if this $200 bottle of wine is on the huge sale, and that wine typically sold, let’s say, at $300 – and this is something you will enjoy, and most importantly, can afford? Of course, it is a value. Then if you can easily afford it but don’t enjoy – this is again a waste of money.

There is another spin in our discussion of relativity of the wine value, where the value is not expressed directly in the money amount, but in comparison to the wines of similar styles. For example, I would say that an Israeli wine, Shiloh Mosaic, an [almost] Bordeaux blend in style, which retails around $60, can be easily compared to the $200+ Bordeaux blend wines from California, such as Vérité. At $60, Shiloh Mosaic is not an inexpensive wine, but nevertheless, if my comparison would hold true for you, it will become a great value in your eyes too.

And yet one more important detail about value – value is often defined in the categories – either price or wine type categories. I’m sure you heard quite often the wine is defined as a “great value under $30”, or a “great value for Pinot Noir under $100”. This simply means that someone who tasted a group of wines priced under $30, found that that particular wine tasted the best in that group. Don’t forget our general relativity of the value though – if you don’t drink Chardonnay, the best value Chardonnay under $30 has no bearing in your world.

We can easily continue our theoretical value escapades, but let me give you an account of my recent encounter with great values, courtesy of Wines Til Sold Out. I’m sure most of you in the US are well familiar with WTSO, possibly the best wine flash sale operator. In addition to the standard offerings which change as soon as the current wine is sold out, WTSO offers so-called last chance wines, premium selection, and occasional offers of the wines at $9.99 – all of which can be acquired in single bottle quantities with free shipping. Two of my last value finds were $9.99 wines, and one of them (Cahors) was from the last chance wines selection, at $13.99.

All three of these wines were simply outstanding, especially considering the price. 2012 Casa Ermelinda Freitas Vinha Do Rosário Reserva Peninsula de Setubal (14% ABV, 70% Castelao, 10% Touriga Nacional, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, 12 months in French oak) had a core of red fruit, good acidity, dark earthy profile a touch of coffee. Think about it – 8 years old wine, $9.99, delicious – is that a great value or what?

The 2017 Pure Bred Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino County (14.2% ABV, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon) was an absolute surprise. At first, I got just one bottle, as Cabernet Sauvignon from California for $10 can’t be good apriori. On contrary to my expectations, the wine was generous and balanced, not jammy at all, with good undertones of the classic Cab – cassis and eucalyptus, and a pleasant herbaceous finish. Was if the best California Cabernet Sauvignon in absolute terms? Of course not. But at this price, it would give a perfect run for the money for many California Cabs priced under $30 – $40. I would say taste it for yourself, but WTSO is sold out of this wine at the moment.

Last but not least – 2016 Château Vincens Prestige Cahors (14.5% ABV, 80% Malbec, 20% Merlot, 10-15 months in French and American oak). This was just supremely delicious – earthy, with the core of dark fruit, densely and firmly structured, with a dollop of sweet tobacco on the finish – dark and powerful wine. I don’t know if Cahors wines returned yet to their old glory, but this is the wine I’m willing to enjoy on any day.

Here you have my excursion into the world of wine value, also known as QPR, and maybe in the future, as PPD? Hope I didn’t bore you to death. And by the way, what are your thoughts on wine values? Any great discoveries to brag about?

Wednesday Meritage: Where To Get Wine [Values]

June 4, 2020 1 comment

Meritage Time!

This is a bit of an unusual Meritage post, as it is focused on one single subject – how to maximize your hard-earned dollars while continuing to enjoy your beloved beverage. Plus, I want to share with you my case buy recommendation at the end of this post.

The inspiration for this post were the notes I receive via subscription to the blog by Robert Dwyer called Wellesley Wine Press which I had been following for a long time. Robert has a special talent for finding wine deals and discounts, and he shares all that information in his blog, so we can all benefit from that.

In addition to Robert’s finds, I also want to suggest another source of discounts which might or might not work for you – the American Express credit card. If you don’t own the American Express card, you should skip all this Amex talk and advance to the case discount section. For those of you who has the card you can’t leave home without, please continue reading.

When you log into your account at the American Express website, you can find a section of “Amex Offers & Benefits” at the bottom of the page. There are 100 different offers that are available to you on any given day. I believe those offers are targeted, and I’m not sure if everyone will see the exact same set of offers. Today, out of those 100 offers, 12 are wine-related. These are real savings, I used those offers many times in the past and those are real deals, saving you $20, $30, $50. These offers are easy to use – find what you are interested in using, apply the offer to your card, then make a purchase in required amount before the offer expiration date on the American Express card you applied the offer to, and your credit will be posted automatically within a few business days.

Here is the list of the offers which are currently available for my American Express card – I’m also adding the additional discount information which can be found in Robert’s blog:

Wine.com

Spend $100+, get one time $30 credit. Expires 6/30/2020.
You can add to this a $50 off $150 purchase with the code CN50 – see Robert’s post for explanations and additional discount codes. So technically, you can spend $150 on the wine, and with the combination of these two offers, your cost will be only $70. I took this opportunity to get a few bottles of Grosset Riesling from Clare valley – definitely a great deal.

WineaAcess.com/amex

Spend $250+, receive $50 credit. Expires 9/30/2020. Limit of 3 statement credits (total of $150). Wine Access offers many interesting wines – you can read about my experience here.

Parcellewine.com

Spend $100+, get one time $20 back. Expires 9/1/2020

BenchmarkWine.com

Spend $250+, get a one-time $50 credit. Expires 8/22/2020. Benchmark Wine Group is one of my favorite online stores to shop for wine – lots of unique and different finds.

The restaurant at Beringer Vineyards or online at beringer.com

Spend $200, get a one-time $60 credit. Expires 8/28/2020. Beringer Vineyards needs no introduction – and this sounds like a good deal.

Vinfolio.com

Spend $250+, get 5,000 additional Membership Rewards points (one time). Expires 7/31/2020. Considering that American Express points can be valued at about one penny per point, 5,000 membership points would equate $50 – a good deal.

FirstBottleWines.com

Spend $250+, get a one-time $50 credit. Expires 8/23/2020

Benziger.com

Spend $200,  get a one-time $40 credit. Expires 7/20/2020.

Bcellars.com, the restaurant at B Cellars Vineyards and Winery

Spend $300+, get a one-time $90 credit. Expires 8/18/2020.

StagsLeap.com

Spend $200+, get a one-time $60 credit. Expires 7/27/2020. Another coveted winery on the list.

Vinesse.com

Spend $50+, get a one-time $15 credit. Expires 7/3/2020.

WineInsiders.com

Spend $20+, get $20 credit. Expires 10/31/2020. Limit of 3 statement credits (total of $60)

These are all the American Express offers which I found available today for my credit card.

Rabbit Ridge Wines Paso Robles

And now, for the case recommendations.

You see, when I find a good value wine, I’m always a bit hesitant to share that information with the world – what if there will be not enough left for me? Well, yeah, it is really not about me, right? It is all about delicious wine which you can afford to drink any day. What is also unique about these wines is that they don’t come from Spain, Italy, or France, where you can still find great bargains – these wines are made in California – at Rabbit Ridge Winery in Paso Robles.

I recently met winemaker and the owner Erich Russell and his wife Joanne at the virtual event organized by John Fodera. We were going to discuss Rabbit Ridge wines, and I ordered a few bottles for that discussion – 2017 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles Paso Robles (15.4% ABV, $10(!), Rhone blend), 2018 Rabbit Ridge Zinfandel Westside Paso Robles (114.9% ABV, $15), and 2013 Rabbit Ridge Petite Sirah Paso Robles (14.8% ABV, $20).

Opening a $10 bottle of California wine is hardly possible without trepidation – finding great wines at that price is really challenging. And nevertheless, Allure de Robles was delicious – soft, supple, well-present, and perfectly balanced. Would it compete head to head with the wines from Saxum or Alban – no, of course not. Yet this is an excellent, delicious everyday wine in its own right.

$15 Zinfandel is also not an easy find. Rabbit Ridge West Side Zinfandel was superb – the core of raspberries with a touch of smoke. Yep, delicious is the right word.

$20 Petite Sirah, drinkable upon the opening of the bottle – this doesn’t happen often, if ever. Petite Sirah is tricky and finding drinkable one at that price is also quite difficult – again, Rabbit Ridge perfectly delivered dark and firmly structured core, with the fruit leisurely weaved around it.

If these wines are not the case buy recommendations then I don’t know what is.

Here you go, my friends. I hope you will be able to take advantage of at least some of the offers and don’t miss on those Rabbit Ridge wines – nothing lasts forever… Cheers!

Latest Wine News and Updates

April 1, 2020 5 comments

Of course, it would be too much to say that wine is in the center of everyone’s attention – but it is a beloved beverage for hundreds of millions, and some tens of millions are involved in wine industry one way or the other, so the wine news definitely gathers some attention.

From time to time, I share in this blog some of the interesting tidbits of what’s going on in the wine world, so here is the latest round of newsworthy happenings around the globe.

When you hear Chateau d’Yquem, what do you think of first? Of course, the quintessential Sauternes, the magical elixir not even produced in all the years. But – do you know that Chateau d’Yquem also produces dry white wine? It is called “Y”, and it is a tasty blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Last month, Chateau d’Yquem announced that they will be expanding their portfolio and adding … wait for it … a red wine which will be called Y Not. It appears that 5 years ago, Chateau d’Yquem replaced some of their Sauvignon Blanc plantings with the Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, and now it is ready to produce the first vintage. The 2019 Y Not will be released in 2022. The price had not been disclosed at the moment, but considering the total production of 300 cases, you can imagine that it will not be inexpensive.

We are not done with Chateau d’Yquem yet. It leaked to the press that venerable Harlan Estate from Napa Valley, one of the topmost cult wine producers in the USA, enlisted the help of Chateau d’Yquem to start production of the dessert wine! The wine will be produced from the late harvest Cabernet Sauvignon. It is expected that the wine will be aged for at least 2 years in the mix of old and new French oak barriques, and probably 1 year in the bottle. The wine will be called Sweet Baby Harlan, and the 2020 vintage will be offered to the mailing list members at one 375 ml bottle per customer with the starting price of $1,100. Considering the tiny production, this wine will be impossible to get for a while.

Our next news is really bazaar. It’s been reported in The Eagle-Tribune in North Andover, Massachusetts that a number of Market Basket supermarkets experienced a little mayhem in the bottled juice section of the stores – the juice bottles (narrowed down to the grape juice bottles only after the few incidents) started to blow up at random, covering customers in sweet and sticky liquid. The culprit was traced to the popular brand of grape juice – Welch’s. Welch’s recalled all of the grape juice bottles sold in Massachusetts supermarket and opened the investigation into the incident. Based on the initial analysis, it appears that the yeast was added to the bottles at the final steps of the production, and as you know, the combination of yeast and sugar is how the wine is made, so blown up bottles come at no surprise. Apparently, some of the customers who managed to get the unexploded bottle to the homes were pleasantly surprised with the bubbly version of the popular grape juice, and some are even planning to start a petition to Welch’s to make this new type of grape juice a new product, possibly using some reinforced bottles.

It is not a secret that Australian winemakers are always eager and willing to step away from traditions and try the pioneering technologies, no matter how unorthodox they are. A simple example is a so-called screw cap, also known as Stelvin, which was developed in the late 1960s, and Yalumba winery in Australia become one of the early adopters introducing new bottle closure in 1973. Now another Australian wine producer, Penfolds, maker of the legendary Grange, decided to step in with a brand new solution for reducing the carbon footprint of the wine, which the wine industry is constantly grilled for. With the help of scientists at The University of Adelaide, Penfolds developed a brand new plastic bottle that is completely safe for storing the wine. Not only it is lightweight, but it is also made from the recycled materials and – get this – biodegradable. The bottle is guaranteed to fully disintegrate in 5 years’ time. The only culprit? The bottle will disintegrate in 5 years no matter what, so it will not be any time soon that we will see Penfolds Grange offered in this form of packaging. But for all the regular wines, which should be consumed as they are acquired, this will be a perfect vessel. Just don’t “leave and forget” such a bottle in your cellar – or you will remember it for a long time…

While the wine industry is squarely rooted in traditions, it is never shy to enlist the latest technology to help to advance its cause – helping people to enjoy their life a little bit more. Knowing when to open the bottle of wine to ensure the best possible experience is one of the most difficult problems of any oenophile, whether he or she is a Master Sommelier or an occasional drinker consuming two bottles of wine a year. Some of the most technologically advanced companies in the wine industry, world-famous specialty glass producer, Riedel, and Coravin Wine Systems, maker of the popular wine dispensing solution, teamed up to create a product which they called Smart Bottle. Seemingly indistinguishable from the regular glass bottle, the Smart Bottle is equipped with the array of sensors which constantly monitor the state of the wine inside the bottle, and will inform the owner when the bottle reached the ideal consumption phase via embedded Wi-Fi transmitter directly to the owner’s phone. While working on the design of the Smart Bottle, both companies filed about 25 patents. Apparently all leading wine producers in the world – DRC, Petrus, Chateau Latour, Screaming Eagle, Sine Qua Non and many, many others already lined up to get the Smart Bottle as soon as it will be released. An important and attractive feature of the Smart Bottle is the ability for producers to set up the proper aging profile specific to their particular wine, as it is clear that ideal indications, let’s say for DRC and Sine Qua Non will be quite different. Riedel and Coravin reported that they are finishing field trials and the production is slated to start in 2021.

That’s all the latest news I have for you, my friends. Until the next time – cheers!

Limited-edition bottle released by Zorzettig to sustain local hospital amid Covid-19 emergency in Italy

March 18, 2020 5 comments

I rarely (never) post someone else’s press releases on my blog. However, considering the dire situation in Italy, I hope this will be a tiniest, but still help to this beautiful struggling country.

The well-know winery from Friuli has taken practical steps to support the Hospital of Udine in fighting back Covid-19.
A limited-edition bottle has been released with special Everything will be alright label in eight different languages

Zorzettig Andra Tutto BeneZorzettig is not new to challenges, having survived World War II before becoming an ambassador of regional viticulture, in Italy and abroad. Now, the winery has taken another important step in sustaining the local community and its well-being. The Zorzettig family has organized a fund-raising project aimed at economically supporting the intensive care unit of Ospedale Universitario Santa Maria della Misericordia in Udine which is fighting at the forefront of Covid-19 emergency.

Starting Monday, March 16th, the winery will be selling on Tannico.it a limited edition of Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso made from the eponymous native red variety. Grown only locally, Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso is well-known for being a resilient grape which has endured many a challenge in the past. Proceeds will be used to buy the necessary and much needed equipment. The limited edition will display on the label the sentence Andrà tutto bene, everything will be alright, in eight different languages. Eight is a lucky number in China, where emergency has started and which is now experiencing the first positive signals. The disposition of the sentences aims at representing a hug, a familiar gesture we cannot share right now. The bottles will be on sale from today by writing at info@zorzettigvini.it and on Tannico in the next days.

“Andrà tutto bene is a good wish for the future that needs to be translated in a practical action right now” explains Annalisa Zorzettig, who runs the family business. “We love our land and our community and we asked ourselves how we could help. This is how we came up with the idea of a limited edition with a good wish aimed at going beyond space and time. We love the idea that families will buy this bottle to share it with beloved ones seated around the same table. In the future, this will be a reminder of a challenging time we were able to overcome and of a moment which has taught us, once more, how precious are little joys and beloved ones”.

Source: Studio Cru Press Office

How It Is To Be A Wine Lover in Finland

September 29, 2019 7 comments

How it is to be a wine lover in Finland? I have to honestly tell you – I have no idea.

Okay, I have a very limited idea, based on my first trip to Finland and about a week spent in Helsinki and Kuopio.

So yes, keep that in mind – as I don’t live here, my whole claim for expertise is simply a fresh eye of a passionate wine lover, who treats wines stores as toy (candy) stores – one of my indulgences when traveling solo – I can spend an unlimited amount of time in the wine store, slowly walking from the shelf to a shelf.

As I spent half a day in Helsinki, staying in the downtown area, the small-ish wine store was my first find. At first sight, I thought that the prices in Helsinki were higher than in Kuopio, but I’m not sure this is correct as alcohol sales in Finland are government-controlled. I saw beer and a few types of wine in the supermarkets, but if you want to buy wine or liquor, you have to head over to Alko, state-owned stores.

In the downtown Helsinki store, French Champagne seemed to be quite expensive – at least 1.5 times or some even double of what you would typically pay in the USA. However, Spanish, Italian, Californian, and even Australian wines were priced rather reasonably, especially taking into account the current exchange rate for euro. That ’06 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva at €37 looked like a steal to me:

Somehow, the Australian wines attracted my attention first (maybe it is my subconscious trying to compensate for the years of neglect, or maybe it is related to happily drinking Shiraz just a few weeks ago). It was not easy to make a choice – but I settled for the 2015 Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz Clare Valley. One of the reason was that Jim Barry McRae Wood is one of my most favorite Shiraz wines of all times. I like the wines from the Clare Valley, they are usually lean and focused – and 2015 was giving at least some age for it.

The wine didn’t disappoint at all. Dark fruit, blackberries and a touch of blueberry, subtle pepper note, perfectly firm texture – delicious wine all in all. And let’s not forget the view…

The next morning I flew to Kuopio, a small town up north from Helsinki. Before we talk about wine, we need to talk about a beer. We had a bit of free time on Sunday after arrival to Kuopio, and we took a nice hike to the observation tower. There, in addition to the beautiful nature views, I also found a delicious local beer. I generally prefer dark beers, such as stouts and porters, so I just pointed to the darkest bottle I saw on the display. That was a lucky strike, as Iso-Kalan Mestari Stout from Kuopio (we could see from the top the brewery buildings where it was produced) was just superb – yes, don’t forget that it is a wine drinker talking about beer – but this beer had a perfect balance of malt, dark chocolate, and coffee – had to slow myself down not to gulp it all in an instance.

As a small town (118,000 people live there), Kuopio probably serves as the best proof that Finns love the wines. The wine store which I found in the mall at the market square, was a complete standout. Just gobs and gobs of a great finds, with Champagne section, almost pushing me to ask if this house is for rent 🙂 I was happy to see Rosé, Bordeaux selection looked simply excellent, and some of the unique finds, such as Chinese Changyu looked ultra attractive too – if I would’ve stayed there for longer, that bottle wouldn’t escape my attention.

Once again, the Australian section looked mysteriously attractive. First, I saw the words “second pass” on the label of Australian Shiraz. Reading the back label confirmed that yes, it is by design similar to Valpolicella Ripasso, and that there is also a Shiraz made in Amarone style. Looking up one shelf, I was happy to see the words “Dried Grape Shiraz” – here we go, the Amarone-style Shiraz itself. Of course, I had to buy it.

The 2015 Alfredo Dried Grape Shiraz Nugan Estate South Australia was delicious from the get-go. The wine is made in Amarone style, with the grapes drying out for a few months before they are pressed into the wine. The wine opened up with a touch of the dried fruit on the nose, dense and powerful on the palate, with the dark fruit medley and again a touch of dried fruit, full-bodied and smooth, with a long playful finish. In a blind tasting, Amarone would be definitely one of my strong guessing options. While it was good on the first day, it became literally amazing on the 3rd day with the last sip of blueberries, blueberry compote, sweet oak, and long finish.

Right next to the Australian wine section in the store there were Austrian wines. The label with octopus instantly attracted my attention. The wine name was also intriguing – Beck Ink. Back label was suggesting that this is a “natural” wine – of course, this was the next wine I had to try.

2017 Beck Ink Austria (12% ABV, 80% Zweigelt, 20% St. Laurent) opened up with the punch of acidity. The first sip literally had the level of acidity which can make you cringe. There was a hint of underripe raspberries coming with it as well. As the wine was opening up, a little gaminess showed up, the acidity softened, letting more of dark berries to come into a play. The wine had a medium body and smooth, playful texture – if anything, it was really reminiscent of a very good Beaujolais Cru. While craving food, I kept adding from the bottle into the glass until I realized that it was already late – and I almost finished the bottle.

There you go, my friends. Based on what I saw, the wine is well regarded in Finland, and the wine lovers there have a very reasonable choice at very reasonable prices. Have fun peering through those pictures 🙂 Cheers!

%d bloggers like this: