A Sommelier's wine secrets
Start a fun Halloween tradition with this tasty wine. This bold, earthy red wine, known as Bikavér in Hungary, is a blend of kadarka, pinot noir, baco noir and tempranillo. This wine stampedes across your palate, imprinting flavors of plum, blackberry, licorice, vanilla and black pepper.
Did you miss your fight to Los Angles (LAX)? Inclement weather strand you at Chicago O’Hare (ORD)? How about that 4-hour layover in Washington Dulles Airport (IAD)? Why not turn these unplanned, unforeseen and potentially unpleasant circumstances into an opportunity to visit the closest airport wine bar? There, you can discover a new favorite wine while enjoying beautifully paired tapas or light fare. Sinking back into a comfortable, welcoming wine bar will make the worst travel situation tolerable, if not somewhat enjoyable. Historically, most international airports have had an excess of fast-food restaurants, coffee kiosks and seedy lounges, but during the past few years, more and more airports have introduced wine bars that offer quality wine selections. The most impressive wine bar network is VinoVolo Wine Bar and Café which has 28 airport locations within North America including New York (JFK), Dallas (DFW), Boston (BOS), Washington Dulles (IAD) and San Francisco (SFO). Beaudevin, another airport wine bar chain with locations in Chicago (ORD), Charlottesville, NC (CLT), San Diego (SAN) and Miami (MIA), offers an array of wine flights and food offerings to suit the needs of any traveler. In the next few months, while planning your upcoming holiday travel, make sure you verify your flight information, TSA Pre-Check status and most importantly, the location of the closes airport wine bar. Nothing beats tasting a flight before taking a flight.
Wine is inexorably linked to special, festive occasions, relaxation, and to a certain extent, decadence. The imagery and symbolism of sipping a glass of wine can elevate a simple travel narrative into a sensory experience. For this reason, travel writers should seriously consider slipping a mention, sidebar or descriptive paragraph about wine into their articles. There are numerous ways to approach this enhancement of your essays. Perhaps you might reflect on the wines of the region you’re exploring. Every destination on earth has some type of regional or desirable wine. We all know about the beautiful Tuscan wines surrounding Sienna or great Champagnes near Paris, but what about the wines in Andalusia or Dalmatia? Another consideration is to cater to the demographics of the people who typically visit your travel destination. For example, the majority of tourists who visit Fiji and Bora Bora are oenophiles from Australia and New Zealand, so of course the island resorts have a plethora of coveted Shiraz and Pinot Noir available. A particularly simple way to introduce wines to your readers is to identify any wine-related activities happening during your trip. Oenophiles love to discover unexpected wine tasting events or stumble upon vineyards. I once attended a wine tasting on a Cruise ship repositioning to Alaska. Including wine in your articles will not only provide additional opportunities for your readers to discover a sense of the location, but it provides your writing with a sense of indulgence and pleasure that makes your travel experience that much more enticing.
When visiting new locations, nothing is more rewarding or fascinating than exploring regions that may be off the beaten path or require a bit of travel time out of the city. There is just something alluring about losing oneself in the local landscape, people and culture and experiencing the country first hand. The challenge is formulating where to go and how to get there. Fortunately, there is a simple solution to both of those problems. Wineries tend to be found somewhat off the beaten path, in the heart of the countryside and often around picturesque winding rivers. If, instead of simply focusing on a mode of transportation that gets you from point A to point B, you consider incorporating wine as part of the peregrination, you just may add a whole new dimension to the journey.
Why just take a regular train from one city to the next when you can take a wine train? Instead of merely going horseback riding through the countryside, consider a trail ride between wineries. Not only do you get to experience the landscape close up, you get to immerse yourself in the local culture, wine and cuisine. Getting to know the topography from a hot air balloon is great, but even better if it starts and ends at a vineyard where you can literally taste the terroir that you just flew over. Mundane river cruises take you from one heavily visited site to the next, but a wine river cruise will take you to parts of the country that are rarely seen. The simple trick of considering wine transportation when contemplating travel arrangements not only provides easy options for getting around, it adds more opportunities for an extraordinary vacation.
If you just so happen find yourself passing by the quaint college town of Chico, California, you should definitely go out of your way to experience the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Hoptimum Beer tour. Not only will you be blown away by the caliber of the tour itself, but the amazing beer samples at the end are a treat not be missed. As a bonus, you’ll come out much more knowledgeable about the craft beer brewing process, such as how the quality of the ingredients affects the final product, what hops are and even learn about the illustrious history of the founders.
The wine-producing region of Piedmont, often called the “Burgundy of Italy,” is one of the most viticulturally versatile areas in the world. Located in the foothills of the Alps in Northwest Italy, Piedmont consists of 142,000 acres of vineyards. The region produces 7 wines that have received the highest distinction of quality, DOCG status*. There are also 44 DOC wines* with styles ranging from lightly, delicate whites like Moscato to the viscous and velvety Nebbiolo. The seven DOCG wines in this region consist of Asti, Gavi, Brachetto d’ Acqui, Barbaresco, Barolo, Gattenara and Ghemme.
Just a few decades ago, if you asked any wine expert to name the preeminent winemaking regions of Tuscany, they would place Chianti Classico and the surrounding sub-zone of Chianti at the top of the list. This latter expanse includes the prestigious hilltop towns of Montalcino, birthplace of the Brunello grape and Montepulciano, producer of the renowned Vino Nobile. Along the Tuscan Coastline, a mere 60 miles away, lies the remote winemaking area of Maremma.
There’s no doubt in my mind that wine fermented in oak barrels has a very different and distinct flavor than wine fermented in stainless steel. The phenolic material from an oak barrel ultimately imparts a variety of flavors depending on the growing region of the trees, tightness or width of the wood grain and toasting levels (light, medium or strong) of the barrels. The flavors that the wine barrels impart into the wine are technically called organoleptic characteristics.
The French oak used in making barrels comes from three particular growing regions in northern, eastern and central France. In general, French oak possesses organoleptic characteristics of butter, smoke and clove. Each region imparts additional, unique flavors in the wine. For example, oak from the north-central region possesses flavors of spice, while the south-central regions impart vanilla. Eastern France produces oak barrels that taste greenish or like spicy pears or apples. Milky, cinnamon spices are found in oak from the central regions of France. American Oak imparts organoleptic flavors of dill, cucumber, coconut, baking spices and vanilla.
If the winemaker wants, he or she can request additional oak related flavors via toasting level such as almonds, tobacco, aniseed, bacon, coffee, pepper, walnut and chocolate. So the next time you have wine that has flavors of creamy vanilla and peppery bacon you’ll know it was from the barrel and not the grapes or terroir.
I recently participated in a barrel tasting and noted something that was quite interesting. All of the barrels contained wine made from Pinot noir grapes grown at the same vineyard site, cared for in the same manner and produced by the same winemaker, yet they had strikingly different characteristics. The only difference was the type of Pinot noir vine that produced the grapes. Pinot noir has a tendency to mutate easily, and over the years, subtle deviations from the original have demonstrated qualities that winemakers wanted to capture. The specific mutations have been duplicated by grafting, resulting in vines that are identical to each other (clones), yet subtly different from other Pinot noir vines, just the same as a violin, cello and viola are related and similar, yet not exactly the same. Winemakers and vineyards use these differences to their advantage and select specific clones to suit their tastes and environment. So when you get a bottle of Pinot noir, the wine may be produced from one single clone or a combination of several clones depending on the intention of the winemaker.
Syrah is one of my favorite wines to make and drink. Shiraz, on the other hand, is not one of the wines on my list of favorites. I find this amazing since the wine is made from the same grape. It’s just the climate and winemaker that creates the vast differences in the style, aroma and flavors of the wine. Rhône style Syrah wine possesses a certain elegance, along with an earthiness and notes of black current, white pepper, violet and olive. On the other end of the spectrum, Shiraz wine possesses a denser, fruit forward and tannic characteristic with notes of blackberry, plum, jam, violet and licorice. One grape, two totally different wines.