A Sommelier's wine secrets
With the holiday season upon us, one can’t help to think about what to give the person who has everything. Of course, wine is a great answer to this perplexing question. When I give wine as a gift, I try to think out of the ordinary and choose something like Port, Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti or Tokaji wines. These are wines that people don’t normally purchase for themselves, so they enjoy getting them as gifts. Ruby or Tawny Port or a Hungarian Tokaji will please the person who enjoys flavorful red wines which exhibit complex notes of fruits and spices while being lightly sweet. These wines can be stored easily until they’re ready to be consumed. Prosecco and Moscato d’Asti are a spritzy sweet alternative to Champagne and will be enjoyed by the connoisseurs who enjoys fruity and floral notes and a bit of sweetness. All four of these wines can be purchased at various price ranges allowing the buyer a little purchasing flexibility. If you’re not familiar with these wines, I would be happy to post additional information about these wines.
I was stunned during my Sommelier training to learn how much the taste and characteristics of wine are influenced by the soil in which the vines are grown. As the vine roots burrow through the earth, they absorb the mineral characteristics of each soil-type or rock layer they penetrate. Rieslings from Germany are notorious for their slate-like taste derived from the layers of native slate between loose soil. The Terra Rossa soil (clay overlying limestone) found in the Coonawarra region of Australia gives the Cabernet Sauvignon produced there a distinctive, earthy, spicy characteristic. The same is true for the flinty tasting French Chardonnays from the Puligney-Montrachet region, whose roots are deeply entrenched in layers of flint rock.
Oregon wines also possess a regional taste. More specifically, the Willamette Valley possesses a variety of soil types from the various floods, volcanic activity and ocean sediment that has accumulated throughout the passage of millions of years. Each sub-region of the Willamette Valley has its own unique tastes and characterists particular to that individual locale. The red, silt, clay Basalt soils surrounding Dundee create earthy, truffle-like spices and red fruit notes in their Pinot noirs. Yamhill, McMinnville, Chehalem and Ribbon Ridge AVAs contain an ocean sedimentary soil which creates wines that possess black fruit, brown spices, tobacco and chocolate. The Eola Hills are composed of purely volcanic soils and produce a Pinot with notes of dark fruit, spice and mineral.
The next time you enjoy a glass of wine, you may attribute the flavors you detect to the winemaker or varietal of grape, but it is actually the soil that deserves the credit for the experience.
Since there seem to be so many Thanksgiving Dinner wine recommendations, I can’t help but to add my own. After decades of laborious research, drinking and eating. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no one single wine that goes with Thanksgiving Dinner. My recommendation is simply to have a variety of different wines. So, name your wine. You could have Chardonnay, Viognier, Aligoté, Gamay, Cabernet, Mourvèdre, Sangiovese or Meunier. They’re all okay. As far as pairing wine with thanksgiving dinner, the only real culinary faux pas would be to not have quantité.
Gard Vintners 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley) - Vanilla and dark cherry flavors saturate your palate then give way to secondary flavors of sweet tobacco, black pepper, violet and rosemary. The tannins are impressive and create a long, following finish.
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.