Friday, 29. August 2008
Whether you are traveling far and wide or staying at home, you very likely have an opportunity to visit a winery tasting room nearby. While many wineries charge a small tasting fee, others do not charge for tastings. If you are looking for wineries to visit and want to know what to expect before you arrive, check out the 250 or so winery reviews on Wine Trail Traveler. Our Partners have more detailed information under the Partners menu.
Many wineries are family friendly and may have picnic grounds for visitors to use. Call ahead to get details. Consider purchasing a glass or bottle of wine from the winery.
Thursday, 28. August 2008
As the Wine Trail Traveler team visits wineries, we discover that tasting rooms vary not only in size but also in temperament. While one would think that the smaller the winery, the more individualized the tasting would be, there are those occasions where the larger wineries have more staff with more training. The best winery experiences for visitors are at wineries who know the importance of friendliness and wine knowledge. As the Wine Trail Traveler team continues to visit wineries, we write articles that are not only informative but also emphasize the experience visitors can expect when they visit any of these wineries. At all times we try to be fair both to the winery we are visiting and to our readers who may decide to visit a winery based on what we write.
We do not rate wines we taste. There are enough people and organizations who like to rate wines. However, we do write about the aroma, taste and aftertaste of wines. What would you like to know about before visiting a winery?
Wine Trail Traveler is devoted to emphasizing the good to be discovered in visiting wineries.
Wednesday, 27. August 2008
The vast majority of people we meet in winery tasting rooms are wonderful people to talk to. On rare occasions we run across someone who may be having a bad day or simply arrogant by nature. When one tastes wine, their tastings are personal. What they believe they see, smell and taste is unique to them. To attempt to force someone into what someone else believes is a wine’s color, bouquet and taste is not a helpful practice. Sure many tasting rooms have notes for a structured tasting, but those tasting notes are someone’s opinion and not gospel.
It is hard for a visitor to taste rhubarb if they never had rhubarb. The same can also be said of the hundreds of other tastes. I know and like the taste of rhubarb. However, I would be hard pressed to recognize the taste of lychee. To say there is a taste of apple is quite general. There are hundreds of apples with their own unique tastes. Tasting a wine is a personal experience. One person may say a wine has a coffee taste and someone else may say leather. Life experiences come into play here.
The next time you’re in a tasting room, form your own opinion of the wines. Go ahead and read the tasting notes if they are provided, but form your own conclusions. If you have an opportunity, discuss the wine with other visitors. Be leery of those who want to impose their opinion on you.
Tuesday, 26. August 2008
Kirkland is Costco’s brand of products. We had the chance to purchase a bottle of wine at a Costco that is allowed to sell wines and spirits. It was an Ameritage Blend of predominately Merlot, some Cabernet Sauvignon and a touch of Cabernet Franc. We were curious to learn what type of quality would we discover in a warehouse brand wine. We sampled the wine before dinner and were pleasantly surprised with the fruit forwardness of the wine. The color was a deep purple and the wine had an aroma of black cherry and blackberry. There was an intense flavor of blackberry on the first taste. We did discover that the finish was hot. However, the wine was quite good for a $10 bottle. What store brands of wine have you tried? How did you like them?
Monday, 25. August 2008
After twelve days of visiting wineries we were ready to head home. Our dilemma, however, was to either remain in New York or travel home on our anniversary. Since the urge to return home was greater we spent the day in the car, often bemoaning the most unpopular phrase in the English language, “Road Work Ahead.” Upon arriving home we were face with how to celebrate. Too tired to fix a meal and not wanting to eat out, when you’re on the road you do a lot of that, we decided to go simple. We bought some fresh fruit and bleu cheese to match with a bottle of Cabernet Franc Icewine. The icewine was from Colio Estate Wines in the Lake Erie North Shore area of Ontario. The strawberry nose and taste of the icewine paired well with the pineapple, peaches and grapes. I enjoyed the icewine with the bleu cheese. The cheese was salty and the icewine cut the salt. The cheese took a bit of the sweet edge off the wine. The icewine had a crisp finish. Although we spent most of the day in the car, the icewine, fruit and cheese was a relaxing and refreshing combination for an anniversary.
Thursday, 21. August 2008
As Wine Trail Traveler travels to review winery tasting rooms from region to region, we notice a variety of tasting fees. While some tasting rooms do not charge a fee, others charge a tasting fee in different ways. There is a trend that wineries in well known viticulture areas charge fees while those wineries in areas that are not popular frequently do not charge a fee. Fees make sense if visitors are only coming to “drink” and leaving without purchasing any wine. After all when visiting food markets, do you expect to taste tomatoes or peaches before buying? Do bars have free tastings? Another reason fees make sense is that if one pays for something, it is perceived as having value. Therefore it might be reasoned that if there is no fee, there is no value. Those wineries who do not charge a fee are attempting to encourage visitors to try their wines. Wineries that do not charge a fee may consider it their way of advertising.
Do you believe tasting rooms should charge for tasting wines? What is fair both to the consumer and the winery? Would you buy an unknown wine without tasting it first?
Friday, 15. August 2008
My first trek to wineries in Ohio was met with some disappointment with the tasting experience at two wineries. These winery tasting rooms serve their wines in small one ounce transparent plastic cups. Fortunately the third winery I visited used glass stemware. I realize that using plastic cups is a money saving practice but it does a disservice to tasters. Transparent cups make it difficult at best to judge a wine’s color and the color of the wine along the edge of the wine. These small cups also limit the wine’s bouquet. You can’t stick your nose in the cup or you’ll hit bottom and your nose is likely going to over shoot some of the cup if you place it along the top. One’s tasting is limited to the taste and after taste of the wine. I like to look at a wine’s color and smell the wine then swirl the wine and smell several more times before tasting it. Unfortunately I am biased against wine served in small transparent plastic cups. My first thought is “What are they trying to hide?”
The vast majority of wineries use ISO stemware. There are a few wineries that use fine stemware. The ISO type stemware levels the playing field. It allows one to compare wines from different wineries taking the vessel out of the picture. However I applaud those tasting rooms that use fine stemware. Several of the tasting room visited in Oregon, Italy and Ontario use fine stemware. Fine stemware enhances the tasting experience. It also enhances one’s ability to detect faults in the wine.
What type of vessel do you like to taste wine from?
Wednesday, 13. August 2008
I finished The Billionaire’s Vinegar over the weekend and was delighted with it. Have you read it? What did you think of it? Below is my brief description without giving too much away.
The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the world’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine Author: Benjamin Wallace
Crown Publishers, 2008
This recently published non-fiction piece of work is a delightful real-life mystery. Did Thomas Jefferson cellar wines in Paris and were these the bottles found and ultimately auctioned or sold to the public? Who engraved Th. J on the bottles? When and how was the engraving done? Searching the history of Thomas Jefferson’s interest in wine and relating Michael Broadbent’s success in discovering old wines in England, Benjamin Wallace traces the purported discovery of Thomas Jefferson’s bottles in Paris and an auction in 1985. Discover the relationship between Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Broadbent and Rodenstock as well as other influential people and their interest in old wines. Learn how these auction houses and individuals along with other wealthy influential individuals began with an interest in old wine that later became a competitive match. Discover vertical wines and other tastings that lasted not for hours but for days. Can one really determine the age of a bottle of wine? Wallace is able to weave history, culture and science into an intriguing well-written mystery. This is definitely a fascinating book.
Monday, 11. August 2008
Friday night we enjoyed dinner at the Tomato Palace in Columbia, Maryland. We decided to order a bottle of wine. While browsing the wine list, we noticed it was definitely weighted toward Italian wines. This shouldn’t be surprising as the restaurant is an Italian restaurant. Still, I was disappointed that the restaurant did not have any local wines but had one from Napa Valley. The greatest point about the wine list was that it listed a wine from Mormoraia in Italy. It was the 2006 Vernaccia di San Gimignano. We had visited Mormoraia and stayed in one of their apartments in 2007. It was a delightful and relaxing vacation. The rooms we stayed in were converted into Tuscan-style rooms which were originally a convent. We were allowed to meander through the vineyards and in the distance we could see San Gimignano with its renowned towers. For more information go to Italian Vineyard Destination.
Vernaccia is a grape that grows well in the San Gimignano immediate area. The grapes produce a lovely white wine with a fruit nose. The 2006 Vernaccia di San Gimignano paired well with our dinner of crab cakes and vegetables. The wine was fruity and medium bodied. It brought back fond memories of our stay in Mormoraia. We visited an exceedingly small wine museum in San Gimignano, Museo del Vino Vernaccia di San Gimignano that is devoted to the Vernaccia grape. As you travel, look for unusual grape varieties and be sure to check them out.
Friday, 8. August 2008
If you have a few grapevines in your backyard, what do you do with the vines you prune off? Sarah O’Herron and Ed Boyce, owners of Black Ankle Vineyards in Mt. Airy, Maryland tackled that question this past winter. They do however have a few more than a couple of grapevines. Their vineyard has thousands of vines planted on 22 ½ acres. That’s a lot of pruning. Sarah and Ed are about to open a tasting room on the estate in a few weeks. They are using sustainable practices to build the tasting room and much of the material came from the estate. After learning about a countertop manufacturer in Minnesota, Shetka Stone, that makes countertops from consumer waste paper, they decided to send the company some of their grapevine prunings and ask them to see what they could come up with.
The result was an awesome countertop with pieces of grapevines, grape seeds and skins. The countertops will be used in the Black Ankle tasting room. It is beautiful and my immediate thought was how much I’d like to have this as a counter top in my kitchen or bath. You can actually take the time to stare at the countertop identifying the parts of a grapevine that was pruned off.
With the numbers of wine enthusiasts perhaps Shetka Stone should market their grapevine counter tops to consumers. I would certainly love a piece in my house.
Shetka Stone: website
Black Ankle Vineyards: website