Thursday, January 23, 2020

“Wine Country Table” Highlights Recipes, Regions And Agricultural Bounty Of California

Wine Country TableJanet Fletcher explores recipes that celebrate California’s sustainable harvest

Janet Fletcher is the author or co-author of nearly 30 books on food an beverage. Her latest effort, Wine Country Table: With Recipes that Celebrate California’s Sustainable Harvest by Wine Institute, Rizzoli, 2019, is a delicious look at the wineries, recipes and agricultural bounty that makes California one of the world’s greatest gastronomic destinations.

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More than a cookbook, Wine Country Table includes fabulous photos by Robert Holmes and Sara Remington that bring the text and recipes to life. In addition to 50 recipes, the book features 23 profiles of wineries and farms that practice sustainable farming.

Napa Valley and Sonoma garner the bulk of international attention, but this book does a balanced job of covering wine regions that stretch the length and breadth of the Golden State. For the Inland Valley area, for example, Heringer Estates of Sacramento Valley and Lucas Winery of Lodi are profiled accompanied by sidebars on Couture Farms asparagus and Enzo Olive Oil Company. Among the recipes in the section are Breakfast Bruschetta, Kale Salad with Red Grapes, Walnuts, and Feta, and Chinese Chicken Soup.

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The style of the book invites you to wander through the pages with a glass of California wine. Each recipe has a wine pairing suggestion. The Gilroy Garlic and Potato Soup will pair perfectly with a glass of California Grenache, Carignane or GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blend. The arresting photo of the soup with a soft-yolk egg on top will have you grabbing a corkscrew and heading to the kitchen.

Wine Country Table is a great purchase for your wine-loving friends or your own coffee table. The list price of the book is $45 and is available on Amazon.

The book was produced in collaboration with Wine Institute, an advocacy group of nearly 1,000 California wineries and affiliated businesses. The organization’s website is a wealth of information about California wine and wine in general.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Jeff Runquist And The Quest For Authentic Excellence In Wine

Jeff Runquist of Jeff Runquist Wines 2Signature wines are fine, but exploration keeps you fresh and alive.

Deep Roots In Winemaking

Award-winning winemaker Jeff Runquist is on top of his game right now. Jeff Runquist Wines in Amador County was named winery of the year in an international competition and took the lion’s share of honors in the prestigious Critics Challenge and San Francisco Chronicle wine competitions.

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Although he focuses on a few select competitions, the accolades are telling. They are the result of years of trial and experience in the California wine industry. Runquist is an overnight success 37 years in the making.

He began in 1977 as an intern with Paul Masson while studying at UC Davis. Stints at Montevina in Amador County and Napa Valley Cooperative Winery followed. In 1990 he became winemaker at J. Lohr and soon got the itch to make his own wine. In 1997 he released 700 cases of Zinfandel under his own label.

“Jerry Lohr planted in Greenfield (in Monterey County) in the ‘70s,” recalls Runquist. “He was the only person who planted more than 250 vines who didn’t go bankrupt. Jerry was nimble. He took the rootstock and grafted to cooler climate varieties. You’ve got to have the right grapes for the right climate. If not, it’s like pushing water uphill.”

Jeff Runquist Trio of WineBeing Nimble And Curious

Jeff Runquist Wines relies on 16 growers from different parts of Northern and Central California. It’s one reason he is able to be nimble and versatile.

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“I built the winery on a bare piece of ground,” says Runquist. “I didn’t have any vines and when I started I didn’t have two nickels to rub together.”

He didn’t want to risk the investment of planting a vineyard and instead looked to source his grapes. “I thought I’d focus on Zinfandel, but I was offered Sangiovese and Barbera,” Runquist said. The availability of an assortment of grape varieties plus his own curiosity resulted in a wide-ranging portfolio of wines.

Many a winemaker would have been satisfied to hang their hat on Zinfandel. Instead, Runquist uses up to 25 different varieties. “It’s like a chef,” Runquist explains, “you may have a signature dish, but don’t you get tired of it?” Working with the different grapes keeps him fresh, alive and inquisitive.

“I have the growers and enthusiasm,” said Runquist explaining the wide range of his limited-production wines. “I like to try things. Sometimes these are things we’ve tasted elsewhere, sometimes it’s a dare or a challenge.”

He explains it is part of his business model. If you want to learn about red wine, he says, you can join the JRW wine club and receive 12 or 24 bottles a year – each different. Indeed, the list of 2020 JRW releases includes rare gems like Teroldego, Charbono, Alicante Bouschet, Muscat Canelli, Dolcetto, Tannat, Graciano, and Touriga in addition to acclaimed Zinfandel, Sangiovese, and Barbera. Some releases are less than 125 cases.

JRW Interior of Tasting RoomGrounded In The Foothills

He could have starred anywhere in California’s wine country, but Runquist chose Amador County in the Sierra Foothills. “This is where I grew up making wine,” he said. “It’s an interesting area. I’ve always felt most welcomed here and economically it works.”

Growing Zinfandel in the area can sometimes be a challenge, but the Barbera is magnificent. “I probably drink the most of Barbera,” Runquist said. “We also make some outstanding Dolcetto. It’s got more color and substance than any I’ve tasted.”

Amador County also provides varied microclimates that yield different nuances to the same grape. The Massoni Ranch Vineyard has a low elevation and its Zinfandel is supple with black fruit. The Nostro Vino Vineyard, on the other hand, is the last to warm up and is picked about a month later than Massoni Ranch. Cooler nights create more acidity and a balanced, darkly colored wine. All told, JRW produces five different Zinfandels plus a Primitivo.

The Dick Cooper Vineyard is famed for its Barbera. “We’ve made Barbera from six or seven other sources,” said Runquist, “Dick’s always has a little extra top note of lavender and violet that you don’t get at other vineyards.”

Runquist sees experimentation with different varieties in the future for Amador County. “The trend is to look for an alternative to Zin,” said Runquist. While the quality is outstanding for Zinfandel, Sangiovese, and Barbera, there has been little expansion in Zinfandel plantings and other red grapes, such as Rhone or Spanish varieties, are being explored. No one has yet found “the” white grape for the region.

Quality In The Glass

A sip of the 2018 Dick Cooper Vineyard Barbera neatly clarifies the excitement around Jeff Runquist Wines. It swaddles your palate with a velvety texture of ripe, red strawberries and raspberries. Toastiness and a touch of earth give a bottom end to the flowing, rounded wine. There are no harsh tannins to interfere with your enjoyment. That’s a theme with JRW.

The wines are all barrel-aged and there are subdued tannins that provide a unifying structure. While the wines can certainly age, they are drinking beautifully right now.

“Our goal is to create a rich, full-flavored wine,” said Runquist. “We try to pack in as much flavor as possible and keep the tannins to a minimum. We want a representation of the grape, not shoe leather, chalk or dust.”

Full disclosure: Wine was received as a marketing sample.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

WIYG – We Answer The Age-Old Question: What’s In Your Glass?

WIYG? That’s a question we are often asked. Here’s a look at what we’re sipping.

WIYGCastel Grisch 2017 Merlot, Finger Lakes

Castel Grisch is one of the first wineries we visited in the Finger Lakes about a decade ago. It was founded in 1983 by a Swiss German couple and the building suggests a Swiss chalet. It’s got a great perch on the western shore of Lake Seneca and we like it as a spot to unwind without the pressing crowds of some of the larger tasting rooms.

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Riesling is the calling card of the Finger Lakes, but we were attracted to this Merlot. It’s juicy with nice minerality and a touch of mint. There’s a hint of oak and round notes of plums and berry.

Famille Perrin 2016 Côtes du Rhone Réserve

This wine wraps the best white Rhone grapes -- Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier -- into a refreshing blend. California may have its Rhone Rangers, but France’s Rhone Valley is the unrivaled home base for refreshing white blends like this. Pops of lime mingle with fresh floral aromas and a nice minerality.

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This is an example of a great winter white and is a great alternative for those looking for a different white wine. Adding to the delight, this wine can be purchased for under $10.

Hans Wirsching 2017 Silvaner, Franken

Silvaner may play second (or third) fiddle to Riesling in Germany, but in Franconia it has been making great wine for centuries. The Wirsching family has been making wine since the 1630s and Silvaner plays a key role in their estate vineyard. Silvaner has a full body, but less acidity that Riesling. This wine is golden in color with balanced acidity and peach and herbal notes. We savored it with a delicious meal of garlic teriyaki barramundi with caramelized leeks, smoked sausage and Tuscan sea sale. On the side we had citrus honey-glazed carrots. This is a VDP wine, a designation reserved for Germany’s top estate vineyards.

Full Disclosure: Some of this wine was received as a marketing sample.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Many Faces Of Garnacha And Grenache

IMG_20191231_083546_308Whether you call it Grenache or Garnacha, the grape is one of the oldest and widest planted in the world. We uncork three bottles to explore this popular grape.

From Workhorse To Wonder

As one of the world’s most popular grapes, Garnacha can be found far and wide, from Europe to the US and South Africa to Australia. The largest concentration of vineyards are found in Spain (where it is called Garnacha) and France (where it is called Grenache).

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Displaying ripe, fruity and aromatic aromas, it is often blended with other grapes that have more tannins or color. GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blends are popular across the globe. Old-vine Grenache is highly prized for its concentrated flavors. Known at one time for inexpensive, high-alcohol wines or being used mainly in blends, today winemakers are crafting expressive and unique Grenache wines.

IMG_20191128_183347_863Garnacha/Grenache is actually a family of grapes that includes Red Grenache, White Grenache (Grenache Blanc), Grey Grenache, Alicante Bouschet (Garnacha Tintorera) and Hairy Grenache. I haven’t yet tasted Hairy Grenache, which is a mutation of Red Grenache that is resistant to drought.

Getting Into Garnacha

Outstanding examples of Grenache can be found in the southern Rhône Valley and the Roussillon region in France, Australia and Spain’s Priorat region. Grenache is a popular pick for rosé wines. We recently tasted through three enjoyable bottles.

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Château Rombeau 2015 Andréa Vielle Vignes, Côtes du Roussillon -- This is a funky White Grenache that is a delight. It is a blend of 31% White Grenache, 29% Grey Grenache, 14% Marsanne, 13% Malvoisie, and 13% Vermentino. We enjoyed this with a turkey dinner and the savory notes blended perfectly. There are grapefruit highlights and peppery touches. It’s a unique glass that shows how beautiful wines with White Grenache can be.

IMG_20191217_213403Paniza 2015 Última Garnacha, Cariñena -- This is a flavor-packed full-bodied wine with deep cherry flavors and chocolate and earth flavors. The finish is long and coating. Última is a limited edition, made from the last Garnacha grapes of the season, harvested in the highest parts of the vineyard. It will make you a Garnacha believer.

Viñas del Vero 2016 La Miranda Secastilla Garnacha, Somontano -- This wine comes from the Somantano region in northern Spain at the base of the Pyrenees Mountains. It is a blend that includes Syrah and Parraleta, a native Spanish grape. This wine has a full body with berry and plum flavors with an enjoyable earthiness.

Garnacha/Grenache is on the upswing. From 2014 to 2016, its market share has grown by 34% in terms of value. Since it’s yet to become a mainstream variety in the minds of American consumers you can easily grab a bottle for less than $25. There are many tasty options in the $15 range.

Call it Grenache or Garnacha, it’s just the wine to please your curiosity and appreciation for good wine.

Full disclosure: These wines were received as marketing samples.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Perfecting Pinotage: South Africa’s Signature Red Wine

Pinotage is a South African original – a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. With the right crafting, the grapes produce deep, smoky delight.

P1060213In Search of A Heartier Pinot Noir

We can thank Professor Abraham Perold for the delectable Pinotage grape. The first professor of viticulture at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, he sought to create a hearty grape with the qualities of Pinot Noir.

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Pinot Noir makes some of the world’s finest wines – but is notoriously hard to grow. Perold created a cross between Cinsault and Pinot Noir. Cinsault is a sturdy French grape used abundantly in Languedoc-Roussillon reds and rosé from Provence. Perold apparently planted four seeds from his new grape and then forgot about them. Luckily some colleagues later rescued the seedlings and the most robust was dubbed Pinotage. (In South Africa, Cinsault is called Hermitage.)

Today, Pinotage is one of the most widely planted grapes in the country and one of the “Big Six” of the South African wine industry. It is not susceptible to mildew and ripens early in the season, avoiding many pests and diseases that strike other late harvested grapes.

Our experience with Pinotage has been mixed. I’ve had some bad bottles of Pinotage, ones that had off-putting odors and flavors. Thankfully the story continues. When we visited South Africa, we were able to taste a wide range of Pinotage that was flavorful and elegant. We are now on the Pinotage bandwagon.

A Grilled Steak And A Big Red

We recently discovered four new South African Pinotage offerings. To taste Pinotage in style we fired up the grill and cooked an inch-and-a-half Porterhouse steak. I heated the grill to (almost) maximum in order to get a nice sear. After cooking each side for a couple of minutes I added a nice coating of olive oil and Tuscan sea salt to create a flavorful crust. A couple of other steaks joined “Big Daddy” on the grill.

South African PinotageOur choice for the Porterhouse was the 2016 Ashbourne Pinotage from Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. This is a limited production beauty, with just 224 cases produced. It is aged for 16 months in French oak and is enhanced with malolactic fermentation. This is a bold yet graceful wine, which is what we love about South African wines in general.

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There are notes of tea and earth while ripples of blackberry and dark cherry permeate the glass. A perfect pick to go with our hearty wine. Retail price is $57.99.

Following next was the 2017 Lievland Bushvine, a blend of 88% Pinotage, 9% Cinsault, and 3% Shiraz. The wine is made from unirrigated bush vines from the Paarl region producing small, concentrated berries.

This is a smooth wine with savory earth notes accented by black cherry and menthol touches. This is a modern style with pure drinking enjoyment and no off-key notes. The finish has a dash of vanilla. SRP is $18.99.

Two Other Pinotage Options

We can recommend two other Pinotage bottles for your enjoyment. The 2018 Southern Right Pinotage, Walker Bay, has complex berry notes with ample red fruit and earth. SRP is $32.99. A part of your purchase goes to help preserve the rare Southern Right whales.

The 2017 MAN Family Wines Pinotage is an affordable intro to Pinotage at $11.99. It is a soft wine that emphasizes the Pinot Noir characteristics of the wine. It’s from the Agter-Paarl area of South Africa.

If there is a mid-point between Old World and New World, South African wines are it. The classic French influence is strong, dating to the Huguenots settling in the Cape of Good Hope in 1688. Yet the wines themselves display the rich, ripe fruit that highlights New World winemaking.

Pinotage, after being overlooked for many years, is now being embraced and is earning top wine awards in South Africa. It’s a wonder that a wine springing from Pinot Noir and Cinsault can display much more power than its parent grapes.

Pop open a Pinotage and don’t forget the steak!

Full disclosure: These wines were received as a marketing sample.

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Top Wines Of 2019: An Exclusive Vino-Sphere List

Yes, it’s here – our annual listing of the best wines we’ve in the last 365 days. Pop open a bottle and savor our reviews and articles with all the details.
Top Wines of 2019It’s been a wonderful year, with an untold amount of wines and winery visits. Highlights included trips to Washington State and Oregon. It was our first visit to the fascinating Columbia Gorge AVA. We also had a memorable trip to Australia and the wine regions of the Barossa Valley and Yarra Valley. Bottles represent some of the world’s great wine regions as well as a few surprises. Pour yourself a glass and enjoy. The asterisk indicates a wine of distinction.

Bellangelo 2018 Kashong Glen Riesling, Finger Lakes*
Bells Up 2018 Helios Estate Seyval Blanc, Willamette Valley
Blue Rock 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley
Boundary Breaks 2017 Ovid Line North Riesling, Finger Lakes
Bowers Harbor 2017 Block II Riesling, Old Mission Peninsula*
Cameron Hughes Lot 638 Petit Verdot, Red Mountain
Cameron Hughes Lot 660 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
Château des Crès Ricards 2017 Stécia, Terrasses du Larzac

Chateau Dauphine Rondillon Loupiac 2009 Cuvee d’Or
Chateau Royaumont 2016 Lalande de Pomerol, Bordeaux
Chateau Yaldara 2012 1847 Wines Pappy’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Valley*
Day 2018 Babycheeks Rosé, Rogue Valley
Domaine LeSeurre 2017 Riesling Terroir D’Excellence, Finger Lakes
Dry Creek Vineyard 2014 The Mariner, Dry Creek Valley
Faustino V 2013 Reserva Rioja
Force Majeure 2016 SJR Syrah, The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater*
Finca Torremilanos 2016 Los Cantos, Ribera Del Duero*
Gunderloch Nackenheimer 2014 Rothenberg Riesling Trocken, Rheinhessen*

Hawk Haven 2016 Signature Series Syrah, Outer Coastal Plains*
Hightower 2015 Red Mountain Reserve, Red Mountain
Iris Vineyards 2015 Areté Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley*
Jones Von Drehle 2013 Stone and Steel Red Blend, Yadkin Valley
Junius Lindsay 2015 GPS Red Blend, Yadkin Valley
Ken Wright Cellars 2011 Abbott Claim Vineyard Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton*
Kiona 2014 Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
Langmeil 2016 Orphan Bank Shiraz, Barossa Valley*
Le Cadeau 2016 “Merci” Reserve, Chehalem Mountains
Left Coast 2017 “The Orchard” Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley
Left Coast Cellars 2013 Blanc de Noir, Willamette Valley
Lenné Estate 2016 cinq éluse Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton*
Marshall Davis 2017 Chardonnay, Yamhill-Carlton*
Mt. Hood 2016 Gewürztraminer, Columbia Gorge
Môreson 2013 “The Widow Maker” Pinotage, Franschhoek*
Muscardini 2014 Cassata Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley
Old Westminster 2017 Home Vineyard Cabernet Franc, Maryland*
Papapietro Perry 2016 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley*
Phelps Creek 2015 Lynette Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge
Raffaldini 2014 Sangiovese Classico, Swan Creek
Rocheford 2016 Blanc de Blanc, Yarra Valley
Schöne Tal Cellars 2016 Pinot Noir, Meredith Mitchell Vineyard, McMinnville
Tablas Creek 2018 Patelin de Tablas Rosé, Paso Robles*
TC Collector 2018 Gamay Noir, Columbia Gorge
The Walls 2016 Concrete Mama Grenache, The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater
Wy’East 2016 Pinot Gris, Columbia Gorge
Youngberg Hill 2015 Jordan Pinot Noir, McMinnville*

Friday, December 27, 2019

Domaine LeSeurre: Finger Lakes Winery Visit


French sensibility with Finger Lakes terroir equals a winning combination for Domain LeSeurre.

Rising Star on Keuka Lake

Our recent visit to the Finger Lakes included some old favorites as well as a mix of new. One winery that garnered our attention was Domaine LeSeurre. Sébastien and Céline Leseurre hail from France. Sébastien has rich experience in Champagne that spurred a passion for wine that took him around the world. Céline is from the Toulouse region and worked at a winery in the Languedoc-Roussillon region before she too started a globe-trotting wine career.

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Their paths initially crossed in New Zealand and their travels continued together in Australia before they landed stateside. They visited many different wine regions, but fell in love with the Keuka Lake and the Finger Lakes wine region. The first vintage for Domaine LeSeurre was in 2012 and their tasting room opened on the east side of Keuka Lake in 2013.

Céline Leseurre

Artistic Approach To Wine

New World wines typically focus on bold flavors with plenty of winemaker intervention. In France and other Old World wine bastions the wines focus on reflecting the terroir of the vineyard area.

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While the Finger Lakes region is a laid back and beautiful area, it can be a challenge to carve out an existence in the wine business. Domaine LeSeurre approaches the Finger Lakes region in an Old World style, devoting time and attention to each wine.

This artistic approach has earned them accolades and the label of a winery to watch in the region. To enjoy the artistry, we sampled a horizontal tasting of LeSeurre Riesling and a selection of reds.

Rocking The Riesling

Domaine LeSeurre Riesling Trio (1)The various soils of the Finger Lakes allow Sébastien and Céline to paint like artists. Shale soil brings the depth of mineral flavors while the clay soil highlights the fruit flavors.

The 2016 Dry Riesling is sourced from three different vineyards and is aged in stainless steel for nine months. Battonage (stirring of the lees) adds complexity to the balanced mineral-driven wine.

For the 2016 Barrel Select Riesling, neutral French oak barrels are used for 11 months of aging. It’s a touch that adds elegance to this bottle, which retails for $26.99. The Barrel Select also undergoes battonage. There are citrus notes and a mellow acidity.

The pinnacle of LeSeurre Riesling is the 2017 Riesling Terroir D’Excellence. All the grapes for this wine come from a vineyard planted in 1971. The shale soil provides a nice mineral base for the lime and smoke flavor notes. It’s a complex swallow that will bring a smile to your face. SRP is $34.99.

Red Renaissance

Domaine LeSeurre Barrel Select Pinot NoirRiesling has been the calling card of the Finger Lakes for decades. Steep, sloping vineyards and the moderating the temperature and reflecting sunshine work wonders for the white grape.

We’re fans of Finger Lakes reds too, particularly Cabernet Franc. In recent years Blaufränkisch (also known as Lemberger) has had great success.

Domaine LeSeurre has a full line of reds including Lemberger, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and a red blend. As climate change continues to cause upheaval in the wine world, the Finger Lakes may gain equal acclaim for its reds.

The husband and wife winemaking team aim to change the conversation about Finger Lakes reds with Domaine LeSeurre. An example is Pinot Noir, a finicky grape and famously difficult to grow. The wine is only produced in the best vintage years. So far only two years, 2012 and 2016, have made the grade. The 2016 Pinot Noir is light in body with traces of raspberry and a delightful earthiness.

View from Domaine LeSeurre tasting roomPart of the rationale for setting up shop in the Finger Lakes is not only the terroir, but the rising tide of climate change. One of the reasons the Finger Lakes is known for whites rather than reds is the cold winters. As the climate warms, the Finger Lakes will become more hospitable for reds.

Two more Domaine LeSeurre reds of note are the 2015 Cabernet Franc Barrel No. 1 and the 2015 Réserve Spéciale Red Blend. The Barrel No. 1 Cab Franc comes from limestone soil and is aged for 22 months in new French oak with tight grain. The resulting wine offers delicious fruit with toasted highlights. Production is very limited – only 48 cases. The Réserve Spéciale is a blend of 52% Cabernet Franc, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Lemberger. It’s all that’s good about Finger Lakes reds rolled into one bottle.

Domaine LeSeurre is ideal for fans of hand-crafted artisan wines. Special touches like the battonage and neutral oak aging of their whites and extra barrel time for the reds make these wines distinctive. Say “oui” and pay them a visit on your next Finger Lakes wine excursion.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Surprising Travel Trends For 2020

This is the time of year when we gaze into the crystal ball and make predictions for the future. With the help of a recent Allstar Coaches poll, we present some interesting predictions and travel trends for 2020.

The Palm Atlantis, DubaiConcerns Over a Potential “Travel Recession” Persist

Travel and tourism marketing agency MMGY’s Global Traveler Sentiment Index has seen declines for eight-straight quarters, which suggests American’s leisure travel plans are softening. Price sensitivity is also growing. Thirty-four percent of travelers now cite travel costs as the number-one concern — versus only 18% in 2016.

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These softening travel numbers could reflect concerns about the broader economy. Many experts believe we’re due for a near-term economic recession, though the exact timing is unknown.

Bloomberg places the chance of a recession in the next 12 months at 26%. However, members of the National Association of Business Economics place the odds of an early 2021 recession at 69%.

Despite These Concerns, Travel Spending will Remain the Same

These long-term economic concerns don’t appear to have impacted travel spending habits just yet. In their 2019-2020 Portrait of American Travelers study, MMGY found that America’s travel spending will increase slightly in the near-term.

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Travelers reported spending $5,025 in 2019, which is even with 2018. Travelers also anticipate spending 17% more on travel than they did in 2018.

Road Trips are a Growing Trend

Millennials are literally driving one new travel trend, however, as the great American road trip comes back in vogue.

  • Since 2015, the MMGY Portrait of American Travelers study has tracked a 64% increase in road trip travel.
  • 51% of all travelers took at least one road trip in 2018, up five points from the previous year, and 60% of travelers said they were likely to take a road trip this year.
  • 62% of millennials intend to make one or more road trips in the next 12 months.

mont-blanc-77877_1280The Concept of Hybrid Vacations are Growing Among Younger Travelers.

Millennial families are now adding road trips to their air travel vacations because they enjoy the flexibility of using a car. Fifty-seven percent of millennial families are taking road trips that begin from another city, compared to 41% of singles and 28% of couples.

These so-called “wings and wheels” vacations evoke a sense of nostalgia for millennial families who want to create cherished vacation memories.

Everything Old is New Again

Not only are millennials busy creating new travel trends, but they’re also returning to a few vacation staples that have gone out of style with older travelers. For example, while the use of travel agents is still down in total, millennials are more likely to use travel advisors than any other group.

  • MMGY’s travel study shows that 16% of respondents had used a traditional travel agent in the last 12 months. This was up from 14% in 2018 and down from a peak of 19% in 2016.
  • 24% of millennials, however, reported that they plan to use an agent for at least one vacation during the next two years.
  • That compares to 16% of Baby Boomers and 15% of Gen Xers, who reported plans to use a travel agent.

MMGY believes that the millennial generation’s focus on experiential travel drives this new trend because they think agents can deliver the best travel experience possible.

Millennials are also more likely to buy travel insurance than other generations.

  • In a recent study, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection found that 23% of travelers said they are going to purchase travel insurance more often in 2020 than they did in 2019. This finding represents a substantial increase over last year’s reports, which only showed a 14% year-over-year increase.
  • Those numbers increase dramatically when looking at younger travelers. The survey found that 71% of millennials said they plan to buy more travel insurance in 2020.

Social Media Drives Travel Behaviors

Travelers also report that social media will influence where they travel and what they do during their vacations.

In its 2020 travel predictions report, global travel company Amadeus found that Instagram heavily influences behavior among younger travelers. They report that 40% of Instagram users under 33 said that Instagrammability was one of their top factors when selecting a vacation destination.

Many travelers also plan on engaging in risky behavior during their vacation to gain social media credibility. According to the Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection report, 69% of respondents said they plan on doing something dangerous so they can post it to social media.

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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Château des Crès Ricards 2017 Stécia, Terrasses du Larzac

SteciaLanguedoc, located in the south of France, produces flavorful wines at a great price point. We pop open the cork to find a pleasant surprise.

Champion of Sud de France

Jean-Claude Mas can certainly be considered the champion of France’s southern wine regions. The founder of Domaines Paul Mas, he is carrying on a family tradition that dates back to 1892 when his grandfather bought the first family vineyard.

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Today Domaines Paul Mas encompasses a number of different labels. Mas has developed what started as a 61-acre gift from his father into an enterprise than spans more than 1,800 acres in the heart of Languedoc wine country.

The region is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the south and mountains in the north. Temperate conditions contribute to thriving agriculture. More than 45 different grape varieties are available for Domaine Paul Mas wines.

In the past Languedoc has been regarded as a fountain of unremarkable wines. Winemakers in the region today are turning heads with their bottles. Mas has been a leading advocate for the region and its wines.

Silky Stécia

Upon uncorking, Stécia came on strong. At 14.5% ABV, this is a big wine. This  surprised me since many Languedoc wines are simple and a bit meek.

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Stécia is a blend of 60% Syrah, 25% Grenache, and 15% Carignan. The Syrah, grown in pebbly soil on steep, terraced vineyards, leads with power. After opening up, the finer points of this wine are on display with a delicate interplay between the three grapes.

The wine has a unique aging regimen, with 45% of the wine getting eight months of oak aging in French and American barrels. The barrels range from new to two-year old. Carbonic maceration is used for the Syrah and Carignan.

We found the wine to be complex and rewarding, especially at a $19.99 SRP. The flavors are deep with blackberry notes and herbal undertones. This is an outstanding French wine available for a song. Pair it with a nice steak, grilled lamb or a casual evening with friends.

Full disclosure: This wine was received as a marketing sample.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Cameron Hughes Cabernet Sauvignon Trio Tackles Washington State Terroir

Cameron Hughes Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington

Looking for a premium Cabernet experience on a budget? Check out these blockbusters from Washington State.

A Game Night

So our holiday weekend was winding down. We still had house guests and wanted to continue with our escapades. We decided to have a game night and make the night truly “game” by doing a side-by-side tasting with three bottles of Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon by Cameron Hughes.

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If you like wine and are not familiar with Cameron Hughes, you should be. Cameron Hughes is a négociant – without vineyards or winery – that purchases surplus wines and negotiates the best price for you. The wine is given a lot number and sold under the Cameron Hughes label. At a time where a 90-point Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is more than $150 a bottle, you can get the same wine at about a third of the price through Cameron Hughes.

The vintage for our tasty trio is 2016 and the prices are all $25 or less.  We were to discover that each pleasantly exceeded our expectations.

Lot 660 is a delicious Red Mountain CabernetHail Columbia

Our wines for the evening were: Lot 637 2016 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Lot 660 2016 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and Lot 628 2016 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Being familiar with the big Cabs of Red Mountain, I poured Lot 660 into a decanter to mellow.

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We started with Heads Up, a version of charades where you put your cell phone or tablet on your forehead while your friends give you clues to help you guess the word. After a period of chaos that caused my mother-in-law to go scrambling to her Hallmark movie, we moved on to the word game Quiddler.

The first sip was Lot 637 from Columbia Valley. This wine, retailing for a mere $14, is from a boutique producer using grapes from Wahluke Slope and Yakima Valley.

This is a plush wine with blackberry and cherry notes. There’s just the right amount of earthiness. It’s aged in French oak for 16 months yet remains soft and juicy. Lot 660 was the top pick of our daughter and her boyfriend.

So Nice They Named It Twice

One of our favorite cities is Walla Walla, Washington. It has a great small town feel and its dotted with outstanding restaurants. Tasting rooms featuring bounty from its famed namesake wine region line the main streets.

The Lot 628 Walla Walla Valley Cab is from “one of the oldest wineries in the Walla Walla Valley with perhaps more Cabernet growing experience than anyone else in the entire state.” We have a pretty good idea of the winery – and that’s great news. At only $19, it drinks like a $40 or $50 Cabernet.

While we sipped this great wine, our players started getting creative with their words, coming up with some gems like “zirt” and “sterger.” The wine turned out to be much better than their word choices. It offers plums and blackberry with accents of pepper.

Red Mountain Summit

Two visits to Red Mountain have captivated my palate. The wine from this small (1,500 acres) AVA are big, bold and beautiful.

Decanting is highly recommended for Lot 660, which retails for $25. This is an intense wine, but the decanter works wonders. On first sip this is vibrant raspberry and cola exploding in the mouth. Following the elegant fruit notes, more savory notes of leather and cocoa are evident.

It’s a reserve quality bottle that I’d expect to pay $75 or more to enjoy. After a couple of glasses my attitude changed: “It’s obvious that you are creating a fake Quiddler word, but go ahead, I’m just going to continue sipping my Red Mountain Cabernet and enjoy. Happy sterger!”

Cameron Hughes is ideal for wine lovers and bargain hunters. The wines are only available via their website. The wines are highly recommended. Please note that the wines on offer change frequently, so if you see something you like, don’t delay.

Full Disclosure: These wines were received as marketing samples.