That's right. Don't let the haters nor the reputation fool you. Canned wine is here and it's - actually - pretty damn good. Over this summer, I drank a lot of wine. A fair bit of Aperol and Campari too, but mostly wine. For me, summer is a chance for spontaneity: impromptu trips to the beach or lake, long bike rides or hikes, and big group get-togethers. The one challenge with wine is that it always required a little bit of planning. Spur-of-the-moment wine pairings were challenging, whether that meant I had to quickly chill down bottles of Donnhoff and Saetti before a barbecue (if you've never paired Riesling or Lambrusco with your grilled meat, then you haven't lived). For picnics or day trips, it's easy enough to saber a bottle of Stolpman Vineyard's Pet Nat, but much harder to crack open a bottle of Dufaitre's Côte de Brouilly when you've forgotten your corkscrew. On the flipside, cans have always been supremely easy to pack and even easier to quaff. As drinkers, we've always accepted beer in a can and, with the world domination of La Croix, canned water is now as ubiquitous as its bottled brethren.
All Stories in "vinoweekend-1"
And just when I thought the rosé bubble was about to burst, along came...frosé. The French upstart was showing many of the signs that it was about to jump the shark. Albertson’s and other garden-variety supermarkets were featuring huge rosé displays near checkout counters. The price of Miraval, suavely marketed in happier times by its owners, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, was creeping ever skyward. Neighborhood restaurants were offering more than one rosé by the glass, often charging the same prices for this throwaway wine as they would for good-quality chardonnay. But then some wiseguy/girl mixologist tried freezing it, mixing it with a tasty liqueur, and viola! A new summertime concoction was born. Frosé first appeared last summer. This summer, it’s everywhere. At Daniel Boulud’s Bistro Moderne in Manhattan last month, we tried an elegant variation of the drink, and we noticed it at many Manhattan bars. Orange County, California mixologist Gabrielle Dion has come up with a version for the bar menu at Broadway, a popular Laguna restaurant that features the cuisine of Top Chef finalist Amar Santana. Dion combines two ounces of Blackbird Rosé with Cappelletti Aperitivo, strawberry-rhubarb jam, lemon and grapefruit oils. Many recipes I found online recommend puréed strawberries and a little sugar to sweeten everything. Another frequent point of advice is to use a stronger, darker rosé. “This is NOT a moment for that nearly clear, Whispering Angel kind of rosé. Look for Pinot Noir or Merlot rosés,” Bon Appetit advises. A couple of recipes even call for a little vodka to strengthen the concoction. We recently tried Bon Appetit’s frosé recipe and found it hassle-free and tasty: 1 750 ml bottle hearty, bold rosé (such as a Pinot Noir or Merlot rosé)½ cup sugar8 ounces strawberries, hulled, quartered2½ ounces fresh lemon juicePour rosé into a 13" x 19" pan and freeze until almost solid (it won't completely solidify due to the alcohol), at least 6 hoursMeanwhile, bring sugar and ½ cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan; cook, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Add strawberries, remove from heat, and let sit 30 minutes to infuse syrup with strawberry flavor. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl (do not press on solids); cover and chill until cold, about 30 minutes.Scrape rosé into a blender. Add lemon juice, 3½ ounces strawberry syrup, and 1 cup crushed ice and purée until smooth. Transfer blender jar to freezer and freeze until frosé is thickened (aim for milkshake consistency), 25–35 minutes. Blend again until frosé is slushy. Divide among glasses. Bon Appetit says that frosé can be kept fresh for a week. It would never last that long in my icebox...
Our professional, well-spent time cruising the internet produced the discovery of Tacomode. If you haven't heard of it, Lyft is adding an app feature to take you to the nearest Taco Bell location - for free - on the way to your destination. Maybe you’re running late to a meeting and decide, "Meh, I could go for some TB (not the infectious disease) and pick the boss up something too". Or maybe you get hungry during a 10 minute car ride. Oh, what a time to be alive. As if Tony Hill read our minds, his tweet gets the wheels turning: “...Makes you wonder what other 'modes' they should explore…” Naturally, as grape lovers, this was an easy one for us to answer. Winemode. We want this. You want this. EVERYONE wants this. Wineries typically aren't right next door and often require a roadtrip. Even us spoiled Southern Californians aren't about to shell out coin for a 30+ mile Lyft ride whenever we crave vino straight from the source. What if these wineries were magically closer AND you didn’t need to spend that extra fair? What if you don't live close enough to any wineries at all? Imagine if they came to you, ride included. Here's our proposed solution: a Lyft-sponsored wine event at mystery locations.
Don’t be afraid to admit it: you’re a red wine snob. You’re cuckoo for cabernet, super-fond of Super Tuscans, mad about merlot. In the summer, it can get pretty lonely out there, can’t it? Picnics and parties are an endless round of buttery chardonnays, sweet rieslings and (God forbid) rosé, which you dismiss as little more than pink Kool Aid with a bad aftertaste. I’m here to help. There are a number red wines that drink perfectly well in warm weather. Many somms use a simple rule when recommending summer reds: stick with the thin-skinned grapes. The most common ones are pinot noir, grenache, sangiovese and tempranillo. Nebbiolo is also a thin-skinned grape, but it doesn’t behave like one. It’s the main ingredient in barolo and barbaresco. It’s powerful, tannic and hard to tame. But the other four can be fashioned into light-bodied, fruit-forward wines that often benefit from being chilled or at least served at what I can “northern European room temperature” – 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. Pinot noir The most popular wine in the light-red world. For summer, stick with Burgundian-style pinot – light in color and body, often barnyard-ish and funky when you sniff it, dominated by cherry notes and very light on tannins at the end. The Burgundy region of France is obviously the first choice for pinot noirs, but Oregon and New Zealand also make excellent Burgundian-style pinots. In California, the northern regions produce the best light-bodied examples of pinot: Anderson Valley, Russian River, the Santa Lucia Highlands. ($19, BUY HERE!) Go for the 2015 Cloudline Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley - THE region for Oregon pinots. Granacha A Spanish grape that also does well in France’s Southern Rhône Valley, where it’s called grenache. It’s the backbone of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. But they’re often pretty meaty; far better in summer to go with lighter Côtes du Rhônes grenache. Or, if you want to save some green, go with Spanish granachas, which often have more backbone than their French counterparts. Run with a 2015 La Maldita Garnacha. A summery version of the grape with bright acidity, lighter fruits, and silky texture. ($11, BUY HERE!) Sangiovese From Italy’s Tuscany region. Makes an excellent, all-purpose barbecue wine. Some are blends; Montefalco Rosso, an inexpensive mélange of sangiovese and sagrantino, carries delicate flavors of strawberry, tart cherries and white flowers. Most Chianti is made with 100 percent sangiovese grapes. It’s medium bodied, with crisp acidity and light tannins. The 2012 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso will do very well. A nice representation of the blend. ($22, BUY HERE!) Tempranillo Another light-bodied Spanish grape, medium ruby in color. It delivers tastes of cherry, plum, tomato and sometimes dried fig, with mild to medium tannins. New World tempranillos from Argentina, Mexico and the U.S. usually deliver more fruit than their Spanish counterparts – a taste profile highlighted by cherry and tomato sauce, followed by tannins and earthy notes. Crianza rioja tempranillo, which spends a minimum of one year in casks, has long been prized by fans of the grape because it finds a sweet spot of quality and price – it often tastes more expensive than it is. Let's pop open this 2012 Crianza by La Rioja Alta Finca San Martin. It's fresh yet mature, energetic yet refined. ($15, BUY HERE!) Beaujolais Made in France, generally from the Gamay grape, it’s a wonderful wine for summer barbecues. It’s not at all tannic and has a strong acid backbone, and it’s ready to drink as soon as it’s put in the bottle. But if you’re tired of the late-summer Beaujolais habit, consider a similar grape that’s unjustly overlooked: Austria’s Blaufränkisch. It can be spicy and juicy yet elegant and structured – and it’s seldom expensive. Before you ease into the adventure that is Blaufränkisch, let's roll with Georges Duboeuf's take on a classic Beaujolais. ($22, BUY HERE!)
The weather is hot and girls are dressing less. And checking out the fellas to tell 'em who's best. Summer essentials: friends, a hot grill, some old-skool hip hop, food, and a perfect wine that brings the afternoon together as it easily blends into a hot evening. Ignore tradition and go for taste combinations that reveal surprising synergy for your summertime grilling. Grilled salmon: Be good to your body, your guests and the world by purchasing wild caught; skip the farm raised nonsense. The rich, oily and powerful taste of salmon can be counterbalanced by Albariño from northern Spain, with its zesty profile and minerally finish. Our choice: Martin Codax ($13). Hot dogs: No bbq is complete with it; Summer itself isn’t complete without a beautifully chilled Provencal rosé. Bone dry and crisp, it works perfect. Our choice: Chateau de Brigue ($12). Ribs: Earthy, chewy, messy -- a rustic pleasure. Perfect pairing is France’s great rustic wine, Syrah. (America makes some great ones too.) Our choice: Barrel 27 “Head Honcho” ($28). Shrimp: Naturally a bit sweet, delicate, and only lightly oiled and spiced if you know what you’re doing. Perfect pairing: Gewürztraminer. Our choice: Claiborne & Churchill “Dry” Arroyo Seco ($20). Hamburgers: Juicy and unctuous, with surprisingly subtle flavors underneath the grilled veneer. If it’s unadorned with cheese or other big flavors, don’t go gargantuan. A great pairing would be a Sicialian Nero d’Avola – it’s medium-bodied with moderate tannins. Our choice: Gulfi Nerojbleio ($20) Chicken: This is where your can really break from tradition. If your bird has some kick to the rub or the sauce, go light red rather than white. A bold California Pinot will do nicely. A more unusual choice is a Beaujolais-like red that is best served chilled: J. Lohr Estates Wildflower Valdiguié ($10). Tri-tip, brisket or steak: This is where Old School holds sway. The heavy-hitter of the barbecue world should really be paired with its traditional partner, a Cabernet Sauvignon or big Bordeaux. However, explore beyond Napa; California is blessed with many fantastic wine regions. Explore: 2013 DAOU Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($25). If you’re secret sauce tends be on the sweeter side, then go for a Zinfandel like Tobin James “James Gang Reserve” ($25). Potato salad: Settle your eyebrows back down! Some of us are happy to park ourselves in front of a big ol’ bowl of mashed -up comforting spuds, especially if there’s some great barbecue sauce handy. A cool-climate Californian Sauvignon Blanc works beautifully with the often delicate, pleasantly vinegar-y taste of potato salad; go for a Tangent Sauvignon Blanc ($11). Party Music: Bump this #VINOMUSIC playlist to keep all your guests grooving and be sure to salute America!
I don’t mean to sound like Donald Trump, but damn it, people, I called it! I’ve been writing for a while now about the incredible quality of Bordeaux blends from Paso Robles, especially the last few vintages, which I’ve been tasting since they were still in barrel. (You can check out my rather technical rave in the August/September 2015 edition issue of The SOMM Journal. It's pdf only online.) Essentially my message has been “Sweet Jesus, they’re great! Fundamentally different from yet equal to what's coming out of Napa these days. And an incredible bargain too.” Have your doubts? The best of them are a fraction of what the big boys from Napa are charging. For example, cult winery Ovid just announced its newest wine, the 2013 Hexameter Cabernet Franc, is selling for -- are you sitting down? -- $285 per bottle. Even for precious Pritchard Hill, that’s a lotta green, especially for a lesser Bordeaux varietal. You'll find even the best Bordeaux houses in Paso charging $50 or so for quality wine. (Above is the view from beautiful Daou Vineyards, where two billionaire French brothers are making some of the finest Bordeaux in California in a hilltop winery the looks like frigging Versailles.) OK, so I wasn’t the first one on the Paso Bordeaux bandwagon. They grow a lot of it there, and Dr. Stanley Hoffman was making great Cab in the region a half-century ago. But the wide world hasn’t really noticed, until now. In the latest issue of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Paso Robles CAB Collective (PRCC) members were awarded dozens of scores well above 90 points for their red Bordeaux-style wines, including 98 points and 96 points for DAOU Vineyards & Winery’s 2013 Patrimony and 2013 Soul of a Lion; 92 points for Adelaida Vineyards & Winery’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Signature Viking Vineyard; Ancient Peaks Winery’s 2013 Oyster Ridge Margarita Ranch; 93 points for The Farm Winery’s 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Cardinal; and 91 points for J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines’ Cabernet Franc-based 2013 Cuvée St. E, among many more. Want to check out these big red beauties yourself? There’ll be a major tasting next month at the new Allegretto Vineyard Resort just east of Paso (it's sort of a Boomer fantasy take on a Tuscan villa). More than 75 wines from the 22 members of the Paso Robles CAB Collective will be poured as you come face-to-face with winemakers on Friday, October 14th from 4 to 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here: www.pasoroblescab.com/events/cabs-of-distinction-grand-tasting. ____________________________________________ Best $6 book on quickly learning French wine basics. Decoding French Wine. Buy Now.