Saturday, August 8, 2020

Drinking Local Is A Delicious Way To Help The Environment And Boost Small Business

Drinking Local shows good tasteShop local? Sure. But what about drinking local in NC?

By Dave Nershi, CSW


When you think of supporting local business, your mind probably goes to stopping by a local shop on Main Street instead of a big box store. Don’t limit yourself to your shopping cart. Drinking local also makes more sense than ever. Supporting your local winery boosts the local economy and supports local agriculture.

Never Miss A Beat – Follow Vino-Sphere On Facebook

“Not only are there environmental benefits of supporting all local farmers — orchards, vegetable farms, meat and grape growers — but, ‘buying local’, keeps money in the local economy,” said Frank Morgan, publisher of the popular Drink What You Like wine blog. “About 68 cents of every dollar spent on ‘local’ products stays in the local economy.”

Wine Isn’t Just From California

Wine is now produced in all 50 US states and the number of wineries has grown by nearly 50 percent since 2009. That’s something you may have missed if you only read the mainstream wine media.

Good times at Shadow Springs VineyardThere is no rule that says all wine has to come from California. In Burgundy they drink French wine made in Burgundy. In North Carolina we should drink North Carolina wine.

Keep up with the latest. Follow us on Instagram!

By the dawn of the 20th century, North Carolina was the leading wine producing region in the nation. Prohibition caused the local wine industry to come to a screeching halt, but today North Carolina has more than 525 vineyards and 185 wineries in scenic landscapes from the mountains to the coast. The economic impact from North Carolina wine and wine grapes is nearly $2 billion. Wine from the Old North State is clearly on the rise.

Time Has Come For NC Wine

“North Carolina’s time has come,” said Diana Jones, co-owner of Jones Von Drehle Vineyards and Winery in Yadkin Valley. “As a state we produce a prism of products based on fermentation of our locally produced farm goodness. Wine (from vinifera, hybrid and muscadine grapes), beer (yep, barley and hops are grown in NC), spirits, ciders, and mead (honey). Let’s not forget the NC goodness that goes with the above: breads and cheese. All from right here. Look local, buy local, eat local and you support your neighbors; they in turn will support you.”

Local wineries create jobs and generate tax revenue for a vibrant local economy. Hotels, restaurants, tour companies and local shops all benefit when you patronize your local winery. Purchasing North Carolina wine helps sustain local jobs and when those employees are off the clock, they’ll be spending their paycheck in the local community. That’s quite a different story compared to buying a bottle of California wine in a supermarket.

Jones points out that there are environmental benefits as well. “Supporting local business such as a farm winery not only lets you enjoy the hands-on goodness of real farm to table but saves fuel burned to transport wine to us from afar, keeps tax dollars in our state and local treasuries, and preserves jobs for the thousands of workers that grow, produce and deliver to your door, favorite restaurant or neighborhood store,” she said.Tasting Room at Jones Von Drehle

Drink Wine Where It Was Grown

Mass produced wine that must be transported across the country before it gets to you is just plain wasteful. Since local wineries are growing their own grapes or sourcing locally and distributing locally, they have a much smaller carbon footprint. It’s also much cheaper – and sustainable -- to enjoy a North Carolina wine tour than it is to fly to France or Italy to visit wineries and vineyards.

North Carolina has a growing reputation as a hotbed for craft beer, but Max Lloyd, winemaker at Grove Winery, points out that regional wine is even more local. "Wine is much more of an agricultural product than beer. At a brewery, the hops and grains are almost always grown somewhere else,” said Lloyd. “Even the water is brought into the brewery with a pipe. At a farm winery, nearly 100% of the ingredients were grown on onsite."

When you visit a North Carolina winery, you not only enjoy an intimate experience where you might meet the owner or winemaker, but you benefit from prices that avoid the middleman. "There's nothing I enjoy more than going to a farm winery, grabbing a glass or bottle of wine and going outside and drinking the wine on the same farm where it was grown,” said Lloyd. “Throw in a nice locally grown cheese and you have the perfect afternoon."

NC Wine Guys

Drinking Local Is Important

“We think drinking local is just as important as eating local,” said Matt Kemberling, who along with Joe Brock are the NC Wine Guys, who champion NC wines, mead and cider through their video series, blog and social media efforts. “When you’re eating at a farm to table restaurant, why not also have local wine to make a complete offering?”

“When you drink local, you’re doing many things all at once,” adds Brock. “You’re supporting a small business and keeping your tax dollars in the state. You’re encouraging a local winemaker in their passion. And you’re showing that the local industry is important to you.”

Piccione Vineyards RosatoOften local wines are disregarded because people expect it to taste like something else. But the soil in every region is a bit different, which means the grapes it produces will also be different. You shouldn’t expect it to taste like California. You also have the chance to taste non-traditional grapes. For example, the very first grape cultivated in the US was grown in North Carolina. It is scuppernong, a type of Muscadine grape.

Matching Grapes To The Soil

In North Carolina, you will find a wide variety of wine grapes ranging from the well-known international varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, but also some less familiar, such as Chambourcin, Seyval Blanc, and Villard Noir. Don’t forget about the Muscadines, North Carolina’s native grapes. Muscadine wines are rich, full-flavored, and very fruity. State winegrowers plant just the right grape variety suitable for the soil – and they pair beautifully with meals sourced from local farms and ranches.

Interest in North Carolina wines is climbing, and the public is showing more interest in wines that come from the “other 47” states (other than California, Washington, and Oregon). Drink Local Wine Week is celebrated nationally the second full week in October.

It truly is a cause for celebration. Drinking local in North Carolina means what’s in your bottle has been created with local ingredients and showcases the unique flavors of our state. There is no end to the reasons to drink local – but the best one is the delicious wine right in your glass.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Pick Six! Some Top Picks To Celebrate National White Wine Day

Italian White WinesQuench your summer thirst with these top white wines that won’t pinch your wallet.

Exploring Refreshing Alternatives

The North Carolina summer can try the hardiest soul. With daily highs in the mid-90s and heat indexes in the triple digits the heat is sweltering.

Keep up with the latest. Follow us on Instagram!

Thankfully relief can be found in icily chilled white wine – and there’s no better time to pop open a bottle than right now. National White Wine Day is August 3.

Here’s a refreshing half-dozen picks to tide you over through the summer heat. Many are grapes you may not have yet tried, but all are below $25 – so these wines are refreshing in more ways than one.

Gradis’ciutta Ribolla Gialla 2018 (SRP $21.99)

Ribolla Gialla is a new grape for us. The grape is an ancient European variety that can be traced back to the 13th century and made a comeback in the 19th century. Notes of nuts and apples with creamy texture. No one in our group had tasted this grape before, but it became a favorite. An Italian patio champion!

Vinho Verde and Pinot Grigio

Umani Ronchi Vellodoro Pecorino 2019 (SRP $16.99)

Italy’s Pecorino is known as the “grape of the sheep” for the presence of this grape in sheep grazing territory. This is a dry wine with soft fruit, good acidity and herbal notes. This is perfect with fish, cheeses and pasta. A steal at $17.

Never Miss A Beat – Follow Vino-Sphere On Facebook

Gradis’ciutta Friulano 2018 (SRP $21.99)

Friulano is the grape in the famed white wines of Italy’s Friuli region. Also known as Sauvignon Vert, this wine has notes of peach and apples and a rounded finish with some savory notes for interest. One sip transports you to the sun-dappled countryside of Italy!

Umani Ronchi Villa Bianchi Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2018 (SRP $16.99)

Verdicchio means “little green one” and the grapes are straw colored with green tinges. This is an elegant wine with citrus and minerality and a bit more body than you might expect. It gets brief aging in stainless steel to preserve its fresh flavors.

Azevedo Loureiro e Alvarinho Vinho Verde 2019

Vinho Verde, from Portugal, is know for its amazing refreshment as well as its sub-$10 pricing. Azevedo checks all the boxes. With 70% Loureiro and 30% Alvarinho, this is a fresh, easy-drinking bottle we enjoyed with a patio meal. Citrus and tropical fruit highlight this tasty treat. Vinho Verde is a nice alternative to rosé.

Barone Montalto Pinot Grigio 2019 (SRP $12)

This is a light and lilting wine with elegant flavors of orange blossom and pear. Grapes for this Sicilian wine benefit from a Mediterranean climate and clay soil. We loved the flowing lime highlights with clean, fresh flavors. A perfect wine for pizza or fish. This can be an everyday sipper throughout the summer. 

As we close, here are a couple of thoughts about summer white wine. First, you must make sure the wine is properly chilled. You won’t be able to do so if you put the wine the fridge an hour before guests arrive. Put your wine in the fridge the day before. Your red wines, if being served outside, will also benefit from a slight chill.

If you are entertaining guests outside, don’t bring the chilled wine out until you guests have arrived. That summer heat will melt the ice and warm up the wine in no time. If you are serving appetizers, do so a little bit at a time. No one wants to eat shrimp that’s been sitting out in the sun for three hours.

Cheers and keep it cool!

Full disclosure: These wines were received as marketing samples.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Art Of Earth 2019 Montepulciano D’Abruzzo

Art Of Earth 2019 Montepulciano D'AbruzzoThis is one of Italy’s most famous wines. This bottle is also filled with organic goodness.

The Succulent Grape You May Not Know

Italy has more than 2,000 indigenous grapes so you can be excused if you don’t know them all. Chances are you are familiar with Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, the grapes that make Chianti and Barolo respectively. Today we make a case for getting to know the Montepulciano grape.

Never Miss A Beat – Follow Vino-Sphere On Facebook

Montepulciano is widely grown in central Italy, especially in the Abruzzo region. That’s where the the 2019 Art of Earth 2019 Montepulciano originates. Montepulciano is one of the top Italian wine exports. Montepulciano is native to Abruzzo and, confusingly, has no link to the town named Montepulciano in Tuscany. The grape is dark with soft acidity.

Art Of Earth

Art of Earth is aptly named. In my memory banks I recall Montepulciano being a laid back wine with an easy-going character. This wine gave me a new perspective. The grapes are grown in light, sandy loam soil and benefit from a warm maritime climate. It is medium body made with certified organic grapes.

Keep up with the latest. Follow us on Instagram!

Although a young wine, it has some captivating aspects. The Art of Earth really dials up the earthy quality of Montepulciano. Envision tramping on a rocky dirt path in the forest – oh yes, with leather hiking boots. It has notes of dry herbs and leather. The accent is on black fruits (blackberries and black cherry) with more tannins than I expected, but not overwhelming.

This wine is a winner – especially at the $12 SRP. Art of Earth is a savory wine that would pair nicely with robust Italian dishes.

Full disclosure – We received this wine as a marketing sample.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Cellar Angels Does Pandemic Pivot To Aid Wineries, Charities

DTC wine company quickly adjusts to new realities, aids small producers and charities.

Martin Cody, left, in a vineyard conversation

The Virus Crescendo

When the coronavirus first started assaulting American shores in February, Cellar Angels co-founder Martin Cody saw Washington State hit hard and then the virus crescendo across the country. Cellar Angels is a direct-to-consumer digital wine business with a focus on Napa and Sonoma.

Keep up with the latest. Follow us on Instagram!

“We cater to the more discerning wine customer,” said Cody during a recent Vino-Sphere interview. “The focus is on limited-production, high-end wines.”

The pandemic has caused online wine sales to boom but has dealt a major blow to small wineries – just like those featured on Cellar Angels. “The small producer is basically shut out of the three-tier system,” said Cody, referring to the distribution system that requires most wineries to sell their wares through a middle-man distributor. It’s tough for smaller producers to navigate the varied state rules that regulate direct to consumer sales.

The Cellar Angel team is mostly local, so Cody set up a virtual war room in February. “We knew quickly there had to be a way to help wineries,” said Cody. “We are virtual to begin with, so we focused on creating a method or event to bring people together virtually.”

Telling The Story Of Wine

Cellar Angels developed the SIP (Shelter In Place) tastings held every Friday night. The virtual tastings feature a winemaker or winery owner. Cellar Angels offers a wine tasting kit with six wines from featured wineries. Viewers can sip along while Martin interviews winemakers or owners over Zoom and Facebook live.

Never Miss A Beat – Follow Vino-Sphere On Facebook

“This really tells the story of the wines,” said Cody. “People can stay safe and sit on the patio and watch.” The series is booked up through October.

Small producers face difficulties during the pandemicSmall producers are getting a needed boost from the SIP series, but Cody also recognized that fundraising for charitable groups was also being decimated because of the cancellation of wine galas. “What’s missing during a pandemic is physical contact,” he said. “Even though we are physically distant, we don’t have to be social distant.”

To respond to this need, Cellar Angels works with their charitable partners and creates a custom landing page and a curated wine kit of three to eight bottles which is sent to the home of the fundraiser participants. When the supporters tune in, they get a high-level overview of the wines with details. The tasting also features video clips of the wineries and even a Google Earth fly-over of the specific vineyard.

Tough Times Ahead For Wine Country

No one knows when the world will see some form of normalcy. Cody says California wine country may experience similar conditions to the financial collapse of 2008 when wineries were acquired for pennies on the dollar. He terms that prospect “soul-crushing.”

The 2020 vintage is expected to be a good one, according to Cody, but adds that it will also bring big challenges. “The grapes don’t know that there is a virus,” Cody said. “They still need to be brought in.” Revenues for many small producers are shrinking while winery operational expenses are ongoing. Wineries are trying to cope through belt-tightening and staff reductions.

There are downstream casualties too, with the travel industry, restaurants, and hotels all suffering. The average consumer also has seen a drop in spending capability.

The good news, says Cody, is that despite the pandemic people can still share superb wine and help others from the comfort from their own home through events such as SIP tastings and virtual fundraisers. Through creativity and savvy marketing, Cellar Angels is providing a boost to wineries, charities and wine lovers alike.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

VinGardeValise Piccolo A Premium Luggage Choice For Wine Tourists

Need a safe way to transport your wine in style? This dual purpose bag has you covered.

Dual life of VinGardeValise PiccoloDon’t Leave Home Without It

As you might suspect, we do a lot of traveling to wineries and wine country. If we are going by car, this usually means we have an empty cardboard case in the back of the car to fill up with bottles as the trip progresses.

Never Miss A Beat – Follow Vino-Sphere On Facebook

If we are going by plane, we sometimes take a large piece of “wine luggage,” which is basically a case carton with Styrofoam inserts that is has a fabric cover with a handle and wheels.
And then there was our trip to South Africa. For that adventure, we actually emptied our suitcase of clothes along the way as we filled up our suitcase with bottles enclosed in bubble wrap. There’s got to be a better way – and indeed there is.

Dancing In The Streets

When my VinGardeValise® Piccolo arrived, I unpacked it and literally was dancing with it around the house. This is how a traveler transports their wine in style.

Keep up with the latest. Follow us on Instagram!

VinGardeValise® bills itself as the safest way to travel with your wine. I’ve had my eye on it for quite some time. It is a suitcase specially fitted with foam inserts and pads to protect your wine when the bag is checked on your flight.

There are three different models: the Grande (12 bottles), Petite (eight bottles) and Piccolo (five bottles). The advantage of the Piccolo is that it is sized to fit in an airline overhead compartment. You can carry it on going to wine country and check it coming back, maybe saving a baggage charge.

VinGardeValise Piccolo detail

First Impressions

Easy rolling VinGardeValise PiccoloWhat caused me to start dancing was the overall feel of quality of this product. If I never drank another bottle of wine (which is unlikely), this would be a piece of luggage I’d be proud to own. It has a durable hard-shell exterior that is reinforced in multiple stress points. Your VinGardeValise® even includes burst straps made from seatbelt material.

There are double handles that look rock-solid on two sides. An integrated TSA-compliant lock is easy to set and helpful to secure your bag during your flight and hotel stay.

This is a “spinner” with 360o Hinomoto wheels, generally found on the most expensive luggage. I verified their silky roll during my dance through our living room and sunroom. The telescoping handle is made from aircraft-grade aluminum.

The design for VinGardeValise® is just so well thought out, the suitcase exudes premium quality. The attention to detail shows. VinGardeValise® products feature a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty, in case you have any doubts. All replacement parts and shipping are free.

The Piccolo can handle five bottlesThe Inner Game Of Wine

While the outside is impressive, the inside is where the Piccolo needs to perform. The suitcase has two main sections, one is for your clothing and non-wine items. The other side has a foam insert for you to pack in five bottles. As any wine lover knows, bottles come in all shapes and sizes. It also seems that ultra-premium wineries are determined to have the biggest, bulkiest bottles – as if the weight itself would earn a 95-point rating.

I packed in a variety of bottles to test it out. The main challenges come from non-standard bottles, like really tall Riesling bottles or very wide Pinot Noir or sparkling wine bottles. It’s ideal for standard Bordeaux-shaped bottles (straight sides, high shoulders) and Burgundy-style bottles (lightly sloped, pear-shaped). The storage area can be adjusted by removing small pieces of pre-sliced foam to accommodate the wider or taller bottles. Getting the bottles in just-so could take a little effort, but once in place, they are as secure as Fort Knox.

There is an inch-thick foam pad that is secured by straps over the wine area. For good measure, there is a second foam pad placed over the clothing compartment.

Piccolo has enough room for an overnight or weekend trip
VinGardeValise® also offers optional foam inserts to boost your versatility. There are inserts available for magnum bottles, wine glasses, craft beer, even a do-it-yourself insert. They also offer a wine chiller sheet to help keep your wine from getting too hot during its journey.

The weight when empty is less than eight pounds. Fully loaded with wine and a few clothes, it weighs in at about 25 pounds.

If you are going on a weeklong excursion, you’ll need another bag to complement the Piccolo. The clothing compartment is suitable for a weekend trip but not much more.

VinGardeValise® Piccolo is a thing of beauty. As wineries begin the reopening process, now is the time to pick up this essential travel tool. You’ll be dancing down the airport concourse.

Full Disclosure: We received this product as a marketing sample.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Silk & Spice 2018 Red Blend, Portugal

Silk & Spice 2018 Red BlendFrom Portugal’s Spice Route comes an exotic wine with robust flavors.

Wine Tasting In A Pandemic

Wine tasting with friends is sure different than it used to be. In days gone by, before COVID-19, friends would arrive, we’d share appetizers or a meal while carrying on conversations, giving hugs and handshakes and sharing plenty of wine.

Never Miss A Beat – Follow Vino-Sphere On Facebook

Now a wine tasting involves methods previously reserved for handling radioactive materials. When our friends stopped by the other night, we had chairs on the patio spaced out for social distancing and disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer strategically located. Filling a wine glass meant placing the glass on a table between us, then I’d fill it up and retreat before our guests grabbed their glass. Sharing food? That involved tongs, individually wrapped food and elaborate maneuvers.

Of course, the evening with our friends was worth all the safety procedures. Everyone needs to be safe these days, not only for their own sake but for the sake of others. The wine we tasted certainly justified the effort.

Enjoying The Indigenous Grapes

We uncorked the 2018 Silk & Spice Red by Sogrape Vinhos from Portugal. The Spice Route was created by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century to bring exotic spices like clove and nutmeg to the Western world. This wine aims to capture the mystery and flavors of that famed trading route.

Keep up with the latest. Follow us on Instagram!

Silk & Spice is a blend of indigenous grapes: 40% Touriga Nacional, 30% Alicante Bouchet, and 30% Baga. For whatever reason, I thought we’d be sipping a light-bodied red. I was therefore surprised by my first sip of deep, silky wine. This wine would do well with a nice steak or a big cheeseburger. Have I mentioned I’ve really been craving a cheeseburger lately?

The flavors are intense and the body is lush. There are rich extracted notes of raspberry and leather. The fruit is bold and there are pleasing vanilla highlights. The finish is long and lingering. The wine is finished in stainless steel to keep the brightness.

This is a wine to drink now, although it could age for up to five years. You can find Silk & Spice for less than $15, quite a bargain.

After finishing the bottle of Silk & Spice, I resolved to drink more wine from Portugal. We already enjoy wines from Spain, but we’re eager to seek out vinho from its Iberian Peninsula neighbor.

Full disclosure: We received this wine as a marketing sample.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Passion And Perfection Of Italy’s Lugana DOC Wines

IMG_20200607_134531_310Are you a lover of Italian wine? It’s time to become familiar with the Lugana DOC.

Learning Lugana

I’m a Certified Specialist of Wine. I’ve spent countless hours studying obscure Italian grapes and memorizing the location of wine regions from the top of the Italian boot to the tip of the toe. Yet I must admit I drew a blank when the name of Lugana was raised.

Keep up with the latest. Follow us on Instagram!

Lugana DOC is a small wine region that straddles the border between Lombardy and Veneto in Northern Italy. It produces white wine only and uses the high-quality Turbiana grape variety, also known as Trebbiano di Lugana. during a recent Wine Studio education program, we dug into the finer points of these wines and this unique region.


Lake Garda Grown

Lugana lies just south of Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake and one of the most beautiful and popular tourist destinations in Northern Italy. Centuries ago the area was covered by “Selva Lucana”, a really dense marshy forest. 
Vines in the area date back to the Bronze Age. As early as 1595, Lugana was praised by philosopher and author Andrea Bacci as “lusty, agreeable wine.”

The soil is sedimentary clay deposited by movements of the glaciers. It is chalky and rich in limestone and mineral salts. The wines are some of the top whites in the country. They have clean, powerful scents that combine hints of almonds and citrus fruits, as well as acidity, tanginess and a well-balanced structure.

Lugana rocks in the “climate cradle” created by Lake Garda. The lake moderates the temperature with breezes that are mild and fairly constant. There is little difference between day and night temperatures, making it ideal for the grape Turbiana.


The Turbiana Touch

For years Turbiana, also called Trebbiano di Lugana, was confused with Verdicchio. Studies have shown that it is indeed its own unique cultivar. The grapes are medium-sized and thick-skinned with a lower yield than other Trebbiano.

Winemakers produce five different styles of Lugana DOC wine: standard Lugana, Superiore, Riserva, Vendemmia Tardiva (Late Harvest) and Spumante (Sparkling). Ninety percent of Lugana wine is the “standard” Lugana – fresh and young with citrus and floral notes.

Lifting A Glass Of Lugana!

We had a chance to taste through four bottles of Lugana. Here are the food pairings and tasting notes:

Citari 2019 Sorgente - We started with a raw summer squash ravioli with vegan almond "ricotta" followed by linguini in a white clam sauce. The Sorgente is a light-bodied white wine with tart citrus and bright acidity. There are floral and starfruit notes on the nose.

Lugana DOC Wine
Marangona 2017 Tre Campane - The Marangona 2017 Tre Campane is fresh with citrus notes of orange, a body that mellows in the glass. Blossom notes and a dash of salinity. Tre Campane means 'Three Bells.' The wine is aged in cement -- no hiding the great flavors behind oak! Our culinary team whipped up Tomato and Corn Whole Wheat Rotini and White Bean & Beet Green Sauté.

Olivini 2016 Brut - Our meal choice was white pizza with herbed Alfredo sauce and lemon garlic kale. The wine has floral and apple notes and a good savory side thanks to 48 months on the lees. The metodo classico is used. That's the same way Champagne is made, with a second fermentation in the bottle.

Cà Maiol 2018 –
This was the most complex of the Lugana wines we tried. It starts with a nice aroma of flower blossoms in the rain. It is tangy with waves of salinity and minerality. Flavor notes include apples and roasted fruit. Served with chicken and penne pasta in pesto cream sauce and a beet salad with herbed goat cheese and walnuts.

Lugana is a premium white wine that should be on your radar in your hunt for elegant Italian wine. It’s food friendly with a lively flavor profile that’s sure to please.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Lauriga Rosé Delights With Grenache Gris

Domaine Lauriga Le Gris RoséA hot day grilling on the patio? These French bottles are sure to refresh.

Busting The Heat Wave

It’s getting hot here in North Carolina. I mean really hot. The other day I was moving some chairs around on our patio and the metal armrest has so hot I had to put on gloves to move it.

Never Miss A Beat – Follow Vino-Sphere On Facebook

When the heat ratchets up, we need to cool down. Our favorite solution is nicely chilled rosé.

We’ve found the brands of Paul Mas to be a dependable source of high quality, high value rosé.

Recently we popped open the 2019 vintages of Château Lauriga Rosé and Domaine Lauriga Le Gris Rosé. Château Lauriga joined the Paul Mas family of wineries in 2016.

Skewering Some Fine Rosé

For our cookout we decided on skewers of shrimp and grilled veggies. As if it weren’t hot enough, I cranked the grill up and put on the skewers. The combined ambient heat and the blazing grill made we feel like I was working in a smelting plant.

Château Lauriga Rosé As you can imagine, I cooked the food perfectly! We opened both bottles of the Lauriga rosé in order to get a good side-by-side comparison – to stay hydrated too!

Keep up with the latest. Follow us on Instagram!

Coming from the Côtes Catalanes, the Domaine Lauriga Le Gris is 100% Grenache Gris. The grape is relatively obscure and is a mutation of red Grenache. It’s grown mostly in southern France, but not much is grown because it isn’t commercially appealing. We, however, found it extremely appealing.

The grapes come from a vineyard about 40 years old with pebbly clay and limestone soil. The wine is salmon in color. On the palate there are bursting flavors of raspberry, strawberry and stone fruit. There is a good balance between tartness and a slight sweetness. This was a perfect pairing with our dish and our tasting crew loved it.

More Grenache Gris S'il Vous Plait

Château Lauriga Rosé is 75% Syrah with 25% Grenache Gris. It hails from Côtes du Roussillon, a great region for value. The bottle is elegant with a glass stopper – but the fun begins when the stopper is removed. Although both rosés have the same residual sugar, the Château Lauriga comes off drier. The acidity is popping. The wine is fruity and floral with red fruit notes. We normally don’t talk about a rosé evolving in the glass, but his one did. It presented a well balanced symphony of fresh flavors.

Vegan cheesecakeWe ended our meal with a vegan cheesecake made with almond milk, bananas and chia seeds. The chilled creation was topped with blueberries and strawberries. The dessert really doesn’t have a wine pairing, but was a cool finishing touch.

The Château Lauriga Rosé has an SRP of $20. The Domaine Lauriga Le Gris sells for $14. These are great prices and that means you now have the power to break the stranglehold of searing summer heat!

Full disclosure: These wines were received as marketing samples.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Wine, Travel and Food News From Vino-Sphere

A roundup of travel, wine and food news from our worldwide sources.

Popular Vintners Resort to Reopen With New Health and Wellness Measures

Vintners Resort
Vintners Resort, the AAA Four-Diamond Sonoma County luxury hotel, was scheduled to reopen on July 1. The property is now accepting reservations for overnight stays, as well as dining at John Ash & Co. restaurant and The Front Room Bar & Lounge; River Vine Restaurant, Vi La Vita Spa and the Events Center will remain temporarily closed.

“We are eager to see guests enjoy Vintners Resort once again,” says Rhonda Carano, who owns and oversees the 92-acre resort complex and adjacent vineyards. “Over the past three months the incredible team, led by General Manager Percy Brandon, has considered every aspect of the Vintners Resort experience and operations to ensure the health and safety of both guests and staff. With the recent sale of Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, my focus is now entirely on Vintners Resort and ensuring that those wellness measures are coupled with hospitality excellence.”

New and returning guests to the property will discover both physical changes and service enhancements designed to preserve health and well-being, from enhanced bell service to exchanging in-room amenities like coffeemakers to the newly-created staff position of “Resort Care Coordinator,” who will constantly walk the property to ensure all wellness measures are being followed.

Markham Vineyards Honors Veterans, First Responders and Community Heroes With Release Of New Red Blend "The Altruist"

Markham Vineyards
Markham Napa Valley Vineyards has released a new wine, "The Altruist," a Bordeaux-style red blend dedicated to honoring our nation's veterans, first responders and community heroes who courageously defend and preserve our freedoms and security 365 days a year.

The release of "The Altruist" launches with Markham's charitable donation to, and partnership with the Gary Sinise Foundation, whose mission is to serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need.

"The Altruist" is a Merlot-based red blend of Napa Valley grapes predominantly from Markham's estate vineyards from the 2017 vintage and releases in June nationally at $29.99 retail.

Tranquility Bay

Play it Safe at Tranquility Bay Resort's Unique Florida Keys Beach Houses

Visitors can rest easy at Tranquility Bay Resort in the Florida Keys after the palm-lined paradise reopened June 1. The property offers space to relax with unique standalone beach houses with private entrances, onsite water sports, a private beach, three pools and its new Safety & Well-being Promise.

General Manager, Bob Bauersachs said, “Tranquility Bay's open-air public spaces and uniquely private beach houses provide the perfect solution for guests concerned about safety and well-being while wanting to get away. With private entrances and no public hallways or elevators, our customers appreciate this peace of mind.”

The 103-room resort attracts mostly couples, families and small groups traveling together. “Our guests can be completely apart from the crowd and still see the most remarkable sunsets and enjoy amazing Florida Keys activities,” said Bauersachs.

Tranquility Bay is located 90 miles south of Miami (a 2-hour drive) and 45 miles north of historic Key West. For more information, visit

Alder Springs Vineyard “A Case for a Cause” Program Extended

In response to the unprecedented hardships caused by world events, Alder Springs Vineyard is re-committing to and re-naming its philanthropic program to offer support to more beneficiaries, over an indefinite period of time. For every 12-bottle case of wine purchased from Alder Springs Vineyard, owner Stuart Bewley will forward a $200 donation to any beneficiary that the customer chooses.

“The world’s never seen anything like these times,” said Bewley. “I wanted to do something to help as so many people have lost jobs and loved ones and suffered loss of personal property. Non-profit organizations of every kind are hurting for funds. So, I’m letting my customers choose where the donation from each case goes.”
The Case for a Cause program launched on April 29 as the Shelter-in-Place Support initiative, but after stay-at-home orders were lifted, Bewley decided to keep the program in place indefinitely – which called for a new name: A Case for a Cause.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Rollicking Wine Executive Felix Hart Returns In New “Firing Blancs” Adventure

Firing BlancsI’ve been a fan of Felix Hart, Peter Stafford-Bow’s lusty and adventuresome hero who works for British grocery giant Gatesave, since the publishing of Corkscrew, the first in a series of three Felix Hart adventures. In Firing Blancs, the latest tale published in May, Felix is trotting the globe again, this time to South Africa.

Reading the book without first perusing the promotional material, I was delighted to find the story was located in one of our favorite wine destinations: South Africa. Through the book, we were able to relive some of our favorite stops such as Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and the Helshoogte Pass. 

After choking his CEO to death (accidentally) during a boardroom presentation, Felix is off to South Africa to try to avoid a public relations disaster. Gatesave’s largest South African supplier has been discovered to have brutal and oppressive working conditions. Felix must somehow work with the recalcitrant winery owner to triple his workers’ pay and earn a certification of fair and humane work practices -- certainly a daunting task.

Working undercover as a representative of the Tears of Pity charity, Felix finds himself assaulted, blackmailed and imprisoned in a sketchy township guesthouse. Our hero bounces from one dire situation to another, eluding the jaws of vicious guard dogs, the clutches of a revolutionary leader and the insanity of the tyrannical new CEO of Gatesave.

Felix and Stafford-Bow handle each situation with panache and hilarious results. This book could not have come along at a better time. We all need a laugh right about now. Firing Blancs is a perfect escape into the wine world of South Africa and an adventure filled with mayhem, some madness and complete fun.

Firing Blancs is published by Acorn Publishing and is available on Amazon for $11.99.