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Locations Wines Online Wine Tasting

Online wine tastings, usually accompanied with social media especially Twitter, are becoming more popular. Kathy and I have participated in several of these online format wine tastings during the last two years. Last week we participated in an online tasting of the wines from Locations Wines. We were sent Locations E, F and I. Each wine was a blend. The E was from España (Spain), the F from France and the I from Italy. The online presentation included winemaker Dave Phinney, who talked about the Locations Wines’ philosophy and answered questions from the tasters as well as questions previously submitted.

The uniqueness of Locations Wines is the disregard of defined appellations and the rules that govern the use of those appellations on the wine labels. Rather, the blends created are from some of the best vineyards from a country or state, regardless of appellation. In most of the world these wines would be classified as table wine. In reality they are a creative blend of varieties from different vineyards in different appellations, and not common table wines.

The Locations E was a blend of Spanish grapes from different areas of Spain. The blend included Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell and Cariñena. These grapes were sourced from Priorat, Jumilla, Toro, Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

The Locations F wine was a blend of French grapes sourced from Rhone, Roussillon and Bordeaux. The grapes in the blend consisted mostly of Grenache and Syrah with a splash of Bordeaux varieties. During the online tasting, Dave Phinney mentioned Cabernet Franc.

Finally the Locations I was a blend of Negroamaro, Nero d’avila and Barbera. Grapes were sourced from Puglia and Piemonte.

During online tastings, I commonly write haikus to describe the wines. Since I am constantly tweeting, the haiku format lends itself to a tweet. It is also a creative form of restricted description of a wine.

Locations E Haiku

Sunny Spanish blend
Dark fruits captured the landscape
Fruit forward, oak touch.

Locations F Haiku

Floral, fruity notes
Tobacco, licorice touch
Dégustation food.

Locations I Haiku

Bold kissing tannins
Black cherry, spices, leather
Bottle, rocking chair.

Both Kathy and I as well as a drop-in guest felt that our bottle of Locations F was off. On. Further review Kathy thought the wine had low levels of cork taint. I’ll comment on the two other wines. The Locations E did remind me of the time we spent in Priorat. It was a delicious blend that paired nicely with Spanish cheese. The wine would also make a nice aperitif. Our favorite was the Locations I. This Italian blend was bold, fruity and had the type of tannins, kissing tannins, that cause you to pucker. I enjoy these tannins and delighted in this particular blend. All three of these wines retail in the $16 – $20 price range at Total Wine. If you would like to experience uncommon blends of wines from Europe at reasonable prices,  consider Locations Wines.

On a side note, I did send the question: “Have you considered making an ancient wine in buried qvevri showcasing varieties and vineyards south of the Greater Caucasus Mountains?”  Dave Phinney did answer the question. He had not considered it but would keep the idea in mind for a possible future Locations Wine blend.


Jelly Beans Aren’t Just for Easter! Pair with Wine

Pair gourmet jelly beans with wine!

Rather than just chomping down jelly beans during Easter, why not enjoy gourmet jelly beans throughout the year? Wine lovers may be intrigued with the idea of pairing gourmet jelly beans with wines.

The first wine we paired with jelly beans was an Albariño from the Rias Baixas region in Spain. Terry’s suggestion was that the light colored jelly beans emphasized the fruity characteristics of the Albariño wines, especially those jelly beans that had tropical fruit tastes. The You & Me Albariño also had tropical fruit tastes and when paired with the jelly beans, those tropical fruits tastes were more pronounced.

A couple of days before Easter, I was enjoying the Locations E wine, a red blend of Spanish grape varieties. The Locations E wine paired delightfully with the jelly beans. The biggest take I had on the pairing was that it reminded me of sweet and sour dishes. The pairing created that sensuous mouthfeel leaving one with the feeling of wanting more.

Gimbal’s Fine Candies

If you are wondering, we were tasting the wines with Gimbal’s gourmet jelly beans. We had received a package of the gourmet jelly beans and were delighted to try pairing them with wines. The bag of gourmet jelly beans offers 41 flavors. We still have a few of these special jelly beans reserved for a few more wine tastings and pairings.

About Gimbal’s Fine Candies

Made in the USA, Gimbal’s Fine Candies is located in San Francisco. The candy company claims the gourmet jelly beans are made with real fruit juice. The Gimbal family has been making candy for four generations.

In addition to making the packages of gourmet jelly beans, Gimbal’s makes: Sour Gourmet Jelly Beans, Licorice Scotties, Red Scotties, Cherry Lovers and Cinnamon Lovers candies. Also, look for seasonal candies.

Those who suffer from allergies may want to learn about Gimbal’s Fine Candies. According to the company’s website, “Gimbal’s candies are peanut-free, tree nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and egg-free. These ingredients are responsible for countless allergic reactions across the nation. Many Gimbal’s consumers have personally thanked us for making our candies available to them. We are happy to create delicious treats that can be enjoyed by so many  people, including those living with food allergies.”

For those looking for Kosher foods, Gimbal’s gourmet jelly beans are labeled Kosher  Pareve.


Opening our Qvevri for the 2016 Vidal Blanc

On Sunday we opened our qvevri and tasted our Vidal Blanc that was sealed in the qvevri on its skins since December. A pictorial essay follows. For a detailed description, check out our post on our winemaking site.

The qvevri is buried under the sand. We first removed the sand.


The qvevri was sealed with a coil of clay between the qvevri rim and glass. The clay was still moist after four months underground. It took a bit of effort to break the seal.


A few inches of wine at the top of the qvevri was clear. 


The wine was a yellow color and the silky mouthfeel reminded me of jammy yellow stone fruits. Mild tannins were noticed.


The 18-liter basket press was a new purchase. Kathy scooped out wine and skins and placed them in the press.


The free-run wine and pressed wine was cloudy. It is now in a carboy to clear.



28th Annual Culinary Evening with California Winemasters

Caymus Vineyards is one of many wineries to participate in the Annual Culinary Evening with California Winemasters charity event.

Save the date: May 20, 2017 to attend the 28th Annual Culinary Evening with California Winemasters, a charity event that benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The event will be held at Warner Bros. Studio, Gate 7 – Forest Lawn Drive, Burbank, CA.

General tickets are $375 but there is a tax deductible amount of $250. Premium VIP tickets are $500 and includes valet parking and early entrance.

Sponsorships for the event are also available. I enjoyed learning of the names for the different sponsorship levels as they represent the many wine bottle sizes. Names include: Magnum, Jeroboam, Imperial, Salmanzar, Balthazar and Nebuchadnezzar. Details of tickets and sponsorships are available online.

Gloria Ferrer of Sonoma will attend the Culinary Winemasters’ event to support Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

According to the California Winemasters website, “This extraordinary event showcases 50 international chefs and 75 of California’s Finest Wineries.  “Winemasters” has raised nearly $29 million in support of the mission of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.”

One of the features of the event is an auction. The auction has several categories of lots including: Lifestyle, Wine, Domestic Travel, International Travel, Super Silent, and Live Auction. Descriptions of the lots can be download directly from the auction page.


Spring is in the Air! Wine & Herb Festival

View of Cayuga Lake from Long Point Winery

The Cayuga Wine Trail in the picturesque Finger Lakes region of New York is hosting its 25th Annual Wine & Herb Festival on April 28-30 and May 5-7. Sixteen Cayuga Lake wineries are planning to participate in this event. It is sure to bring out the wine and food lover and gardener in you.

Knapp Winery & Vineyards also has a delightful restaurant.

The three key words of the festival are Drink, Eat and Garden. What more can you ask for as spring weather comes rushing in?

Participants with tickets will have the opportunity to enjoy herb inspired cuisine with a wine that complements the dish. Attendees can also pick up herbs and vegetables and a matching recipe collection.

Possible plants to collect include: Jalapeno Pepper, Marjoram, Iceberg Lettuce, Cilantro, Parsley, Sweet 100s Tomato, Oregano, Celery, Dill, Sage, Roma Tomato, Lavender, Sweet Banana Pepper, Meatball Eggplant, Basil and Chives.

This festival includes the opportunity to be eligible for a Grand Prize.

  • The Hotel Ithaca
  • Deerhead Lakeside Restaurant & Bar
  • Cobtree Vacation Rental Resort
  • La Tourelle
  • Cayuga Lake Cabins
  • 34 State “Historic Luxury Suites”
  • 10 Fitch Luxurious Romantic Inn
  • Finger Lakes Wine Fest
  • Experience! The Finger Lakes

For those who want an early start to the weekend festival, four wineries will be open on Friday from 1 to 5pm.

Tickets are $45 each and $65 per couple. Designated driver tickets are also available.

Visit the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail website, for more details about the Wine & Herb Festival.

If you haven’t visited wineries along Cayuga Lake, check out the Wine Trail Traveler articles.


Just in time for Spring, 2 Refreshing Cocktails!

Cool Cucumber Cocktail (photo: Santa Margherita)

Santa Margherita, an Italian winery and Sparkling ICE recently provided two refreshing  spring-like cocktail recipes. If you are a fan of lavender, you’ll want to be sure to try the Lavender Lemon Sparkler. The recipe for the Lavender Lemon Sparkler requires a lavender syrup. I would suggest making the syrup in advance.

To celebrate spring, why not add these recipes to your recipe box?

Cucumber Lime & Basil Prosecco Spritzer


1 lime juiced
4 basil leaves
4 cucumber slices
Santa Margherita Prosecco Superiore DOCG


1. Muddle lime juice, basil and cucumber in a shaker glass. (For extra flavour infusion allow mixture to marinate in the fridge for at least one hour.)

2. Add ice and shake mixture.

3. Strain the juice only (about ½ oz.) into a Prosecco glass.

4. Top with Santa Margherita Prosecco Superiore DOCG and garnish with a basil leaf and cucumber slice.

Lavender Lemon Sparkler (photo: Sparkling ICE)

Lavender Lemon Sparkler


1½ oz. gin
1 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. lavender syrup (recipe below)
4 oz. Sparkling Ice Classic Lemonade
Lemon twist and lavender sprig for garnish (optional)


Fill a glass with crushed ice. Pour the gin, lemon juice, and the lavender syrup over the ice and stir. Float with Sparkling Ice Classic Lemonade, garnish with a lemon twist and lavender spring then serve.

Lavender Syrup


4 tablespoons dried lavender
½ cup sugar
½ cup water


Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stir to dissolve sugar. Add lavender and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, and allow the lavender to infuse for 30 minutes. Pour syrup through a finer strainer into an airtight container. If you have any leftover syrup, search the internet to discover the many uses for lavender syrup.

Santa Margherita Prosecco is available at Total Wine stores. Sparkling Ice beverages are available at various stores including some Food Lions, Safeways and Rite Aids.


You’ve Hear of New World Wines and Old World Wines. How About Ancient World Wines?

There is such a thing as ancient world winemaking and wines. The process of making wine in buried earthen vessels, called qvevri, is the only winemaking process to have been placed on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. There is very little qvevri winemaking outside the country Georgia. However there are a few winemakers that enjoy this ancient process of winemaking.

Qvevri are vessels made from clay and fired. The vessel wall is thick. Sizes range from a few liters to 3,000 liters. The inside of a qvevri is sealed with beeswax. In order for the beeswax to seep into the pours of the clay, the qvevri needs to be heated to around 160ºF. Many qvevri artisans coat the inside of the qvevri after it reaches the desired temperature while cooling down after firing. The outside of the qvevri may have a coating of a lime-based mortar mix. This helps to protect the qvevri from roots. The qvevri is buried underground. Glycol jackets or air conditioning is not needed to provide what the earth can already do. Depending on the region of the world, there is little temperature change between the temperatures inside the qvevri throughout the year.

We bought our 24 liter qvevri in the country Georgia and dug a whole in the ground for it burial.

Red wines are made by placing the red wine grapes into the qvevri for fermentation. The wine is often racked out of a qvevri into a clean qvevri after fermentation or after a short time of maceration. It then ages for months to years. Our experience is that red wines produced in qvevri are similar to red wines aged in oak barrels without the influence of the oak. White wines are very different than old world and new world white wines.

White grapes fermenting in our qvevri.

Like the red qvevri wines, white grapes are placed into a qvevri and ferment and macerate on the skins. Unlike red qvevri wines, the maceration on the skins, seeds, a few stems and dead yeast cells continues for months. Many qvevri winemakers that produce white qvevri wines open their qvevris in late March and April. The results are white wines with a noticeable tannin structure and often an amber color. I used the phrase “kissing tannins” to describe the Georgian qvevri white wines I have had. The tannins cause you to pucker as if you were going to kiss someone.

In December, we sealed a cover onto the qvevri and covered it with eight inches of sand.

Kathy and I have been aging Vidal Blanc in a buried qvevri for six months now. I did taste the wine prior to affixing a permanent sealed covering over the qvevri in December. At that time the wine was fine and I did notice the tannins. I then filled the area around the qvevri (eight inches deep) with sand. Now that April has arrived, the qvevri is ready to be opened. This is our third vintage of qvevri winemaking. In a few days we’ll discover how this year’s qvevri wine turned out.


Ideas for Pairing Wine and Easter Dishes!

Easter Wine Suggestions

In a recent newsletter from Pearmund Cellars, I noticed several suggestions for wine pairings with typical Easter foods. Check out the winery’s suggestions below.

Spiced Lamb Chops–2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
Honey Glazed Ham—-2015 Viognier
Seared Salmon———2014 Chardonnay
Chocolate Bunnies—2014 Petit Verdot

For those living in the Washington DC metropolitan area, Pearmund Cellars is one of the closest wineries to DC and easy to reach in Broad Run, Virginia. The winery has a good-size tasting room with seating and a vineyard within view of the tasting room

When planning your Easter dinner, you will find some yummy special recipe ideas on the Wine Trail Traveler website. Suggestions for Easter range from appetizers to desserts. Also check out the additional recipes here.


A Spanish Food and Wine Night

2015 Martin Códax Albariño from the Rias Baixas pairs with paella.

Kathy and I provided wine for a food group that meets quarterly for a themed dinner. The spring dinner focused on Spanish dishes. We were asked to provide the wines. An appetizer prior to the presentation included Spanish-Style Garlic Shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo). For the dinner there was paella, gazpacho and Spanish-Style Grilled Vegetables with Breadcrumb Picada. The wines we selected included a sangria we made with Bobal, a 2011 Mas Codina Brut Nature Reserva, a 2015 Martin Códax  Albariño from the Rias Baixas wine region and a  2012 Lan Rioja Crianza.

For wine dinners, I like to make a short wine presentation before we sit down at the table. During the 20-minute presentation we served the sangria made with Bobal from the Utiel-Requena wine region. The presentation ended with the origin of the word tapas, and to extend the concept, we made tapas while I poured the cava. The tapas of choice was Pa amb Tomàquet (Catalan Tomato Bread). These simple to make tapas include a slightly toasted or grilled slice of bread. You rub a garlic clove on the bread followed by rubbing a tomato onto the bread. Sprinkle olive oil and add a pinch of salt. We paired the tapas with the cava. This idea was a result of two visits to the Penedès, the heart of cava country. We had several meals where we would make Catalan Tomato Bread and drink cava.

The paella included mussels, shrimp, chicken and a spicy sausage. We suggested that the group try all three wines with this dish. The cava was palate cleansing, the Albriaño worked well with the shrimp and chicken. The spicy sausage worked well with the Lan Rioja Crianza, mostly Tempranillo. To the tomato based gazpacho there was a tray of items such as different peppers, onions and crabmeat to add if one wished to. Once again the wines paired well with this dish. The Albariño matched with the eggplant dish.

We enjoyed matching the wines with the foods. Spanish wines are very food friendly. They pair well with a variety of foods.

We enjoy offering dinner wine presentations and everyone seems to appreciate the insight regarding the various wines.


Stagecoach Vineyard Sold to Gallo

Normally a headline like this would not grab my attention. However, I have two vintages of wine in my wine room that Kathy and I made with grapes sourced from Stagecoach Vineyard in the Atlas Peak and Pitchard Hill sub-AVAs of Napa Valley. My attention was on a Wines & Vines article about the sale of the vineyard to E & J Gallo Winery. In this article it was noted that Gallo intends to honor contracts to more than 90 wineries. Some of the famous wineries that use Stagecoach Vineyard fruit include Chateau Montelena and Darioush Winery. Lesser known on this list would be California Wineworks in New Jersey. We received our Stagecoach Vineyard fruit from them via Tin Lizzie Wineworks in Clarksville. Maryland, where we made the wine.

On our drive to the tasting pavilion we passed a stagecoach.

In 2014, since we were making a 2014 blend using Stagecoach Fruit, we visited the vineyard while touring vineyards in Napa Valley. At the time, the vineyard was owned by Dr Jan Krupp. The sustainably farmed Stagecoach Vineyard is the largest vineyard in Napa Valley. It is on a south facing mountain. There are 16 varietal wine grapes planted in 175 blocks. Of the varieties planted, over half of the vineyard is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon. Together with the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot account for 85% of the varietal grapes planted.

Terry & Kathy at Stagecoach Vineyard weeks before the Cab was to be harvested.

We toured the vineyards. Near a summit, there was a pavilion built out of rocks. We enjoyed a wine tasting of some of the portfolio of Krupp wines. It was a lovely spot for an outdoor wine tasting with panoramic views.

Views from the wine tasting pavilion.


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