Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Muscardini Cellars: Grand Sonoma Reds With Italian Twist

Muscardini SangioveseItalian heritage and Sonoma Valley credentials equal an exceptional experience for our wine tasting team.

Sonoma Road Trip

Sometime the best tasting room visits are the result of serendipity. During our recent trip to Sonoma, we were racing from one compass point to the other due to our schedule and far-flung appointments.

After breaking for lunch in the Kenwood area on the Sonoma Highway, we spied the Muscardini tasting room. I’ve seen Muscardini offered for sale on some of my favorite online wine sites, but always hesitated. Now was my chance!

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Although the first Muscardini vintage was 2005, the story begins with Emilio Alchera who immigrated from Italy’s Piemonte region in 1909. He earned a living running corner grocery stores in California where he sold fine bulk wine. In his spare time he made a red table wine for his family.

His business would eventually become the St. Helena Napa Valley Wine Company. Grandson Michael Muscardini owned and managed a construction company for more than two decades. In 2000 he planted his first Sangiovese grapes and decided to continue and expand his grandfather’s winemaking ways.

Photo courtesy of Muscardini Celalrs

Haven For Artisan Red Wines

If you go to Muscardini expecting to taste through a wide selection of white wine, you’d be mistaken. You’ll find a Pinot Grigio or a rosé, perhaps, but Muscardini is focused on the pleasure of drinking wine – more specifically, really good red wine! For our band of six tasters, there was no better scenario.

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We opened with wine for which Muscardini is most known: Sangiovese. The 2014 Unti Vineyard Sangiovese is lush with bright flavors of red fruit and nutmeg. The 2012 Pauli Ranch Barbera, Redwood Valley, is from Mendocino County and was rated a top notch wine by our group. It has complex flavors of plum, cherry and herbs.

Muscardini CellarsMoving from the classic tasting list to the reserve list, we sipped the 2014 Alice’s Vineyard Sangiovese. This wine is “bigger” than the Unti Vineyard Sangio, with vibrant acidity and beautiful cranberry notes. Muscardini, we decided, is a Sangiovese lover’s dream.

A Real Tesoro

Tesoro means “treasure” in Italian and, we found the 2012 Tesoro to be just that. It is a blend of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Syrah and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a well balanced wine with brambly, dark fruit flavors. This library vintage retails for $85 and the 2015 vintage goes for $52.

The tasting experience finished up with two memorable wines. The 2014 Cassata Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon  is a full-bodied wine with 5% Merlot. The “over the moon” wine for us was the 2013 Rancho Salina, Moon Mountain. It’s a Bordeaux-style blend with 66% Merlot and 34% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is incredibly smooth with notes of cocoa and dark berries. A total winner at $65 SRP.

Muscardini Cellars creates masterworks of wine. For lovers of Sangiovese and bold red blends, this is a supreme stop on the Sonoma wine trail.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Piccione Vineyards: A North Carolina Winery Visit

Piccione Vineyards MonepulcianoPiccione Vineyards in Swan Valley North Carolina has a wine history with roots in Sicily Italy stretching back to the early 1900s. We visited Piccione and found it to be a scenic outpost of wine excellence in North Carolina’s wine country.

Italian Heritage, Blue Ridge Attitude

Bill Piccione never forgot his family heritage. His grandfather and grandmother, Giuseppe and Vita lived in Sicily before immigrating to the US via Ellis Island in 1921. Bill took a different path, becoming a Harvard-trained surgeon, but he never forgot Giuseppe’s homemade winery with a handpress, oak barrels and a manual bottling matching.

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Piccione Tasting RoomIn respect for family tradition, Bill obtained Italian citizenship for himself and his family. He pursued wine studies and earned certification as a sommelier. In 2010, in the picturesque hills of Swan Creek, North Carolina, Piccione Vineyards was founded – continuing Giuseppe’s dream of producing the finest wine possible.

Piccione was one stop during our recent visit to the Swan Creek AVA in North Carolina’s wine country. It combines several winning ingredients. The Piccione hillside location has a commanding view of vineyards and farmland stretching to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. The tasting room is nicely furnished, but small and intimate. The outdoor patio makes you feel like you’re sitting on top of the world. Of course, there is the wine…


A Red Wine Rendezvous

Piccione SangiovesePiccione grows eight grape varieties with an emphasis on Italian grapes that thrive in the North Carolina climate. For the reds, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Montepulciano, Nero Amaro and Sangiovese are grown. White varieties include Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Vermentino.

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During the day we had visited several wineries and Piccione was our last stop. A tasting of all 10 Piccione wines was not in the cards, so we decided to do the red tasting – which was a more manageable five wines. We are enthusiastic Sangiovese fans and weren’t going to miss out.

It’s hard to find Sangiovese outside of Italy, but it thrives in Swan Creek. The 2014 Piccione Sangiovese has beautiful, red fruit flavors balanced with rounded tannins. There are notes of cherries and cranberry.

We are always up for a Super Tuscan, and the 2014 L’Ottimo is Piccione’s take on this famous style of wine. Grapes include 80% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot and 5% Montepulciano. This is an excellent wine, but we favor the Sangiovese by a nose.

Chosing the next wine at Piccione.The 2014 Montepulciano was outstanding with a sour strawberry flavor with traces of coffee and tart cherry. The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon was very good. Most North Carolina Cabs can’t go toe to toe with Cabernets from California, but we were pleasantly surprised by the Piccione Cab. It has extracted flavors of cherry and coffee. It has medium body and an engaging complexity.

We wrapped up with the 2014 Merlot. Swan Creek, as well as the Yadkin Valley AVA, has a way with Merlot and this bottle didn’t disappoint. It is light in body with just a touch of sweetness. Berry jam flavors are predominate.

After the tasting, we lingered a while on the patio, chatting with other visitors and soaking in the expansive view. The end to a Piccione Vineyards visit comes far too soon! We encourage you to visit soon – if you are too far away, Piccione ships to 38 states. Cin cin!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Summer Refreshing Wine Round-Up: Five to Open Right Now

Looking for some suggestions for summer sipping? We have rounded up a quintet of great wines sure to please your palate including a some tame and some offbeat.

LBD RoseLBD Rosé, Mendocino County, CA. This epic photo was taken during our camping trip to Jordan Lake in NC. Our tent felt more comfortable after we enjoyed this bottle during a perfect sunset and then around a campfire. The LBD rosé (aka Little Black Dress) is Zinfandel and Petite Syrah from California. Very nice chilled down on a steamy day like today. Strawberry and juicy watermelon. SRP – $11.99.

El Paso del Lazo 2015 Viura – Verdejo, Spain. This Spanish blend is 80% Viura and 20% Verdejo. Virura, also known as Macabeo, is the most widely cultivated white grape in northern Spain. Verdejo is added to give additional body. This fresh wine is finished in stainless steel and has citrus notes of lime and fresh pineapple. SRP – $12.99.

Carne Humana & El PasoCarne Humana 2014 White Blend, Napa Valley, CA. This wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon plus a dash of Chardonnay. Pale yellow with tropical fruit flavors of guava and passion fruit. Napa has world class Chardonnay and it contributes pear and lemon flavors. This is a surprising and enjoyable white. SRP – $19.99.

Sterparo Greco, Basilicata, Italy. Greco is an ancient grape brought to Italy by the Greeks. We enjoyed this at a nice Italian wine dinner at Cellar 55. Basilicata is a region in southern Italy. Lemon yellow in color, this had notes of apple and minerality with a fresh round taste. This wine lets you chill out like ancient people did. A winner at a price of $15.99.

Susumaniello & GrecoRuggero di Bardo Susumaniello, Puglia, Italy. We can’t leave red wine lovers hanging! We admit, we were first attracted to this wine because of the unusual squat bottle that caught our eye at Trader Joes. Susumaniello is a rare red grape grown in the Puglia (the heel of Italy’s boot) region. This is a fuller bodied wine than we expected with notes of leather, plum and dark chocolate. The label has the inscription, "va dove ti porta il vento" meaning “go where the wind takes you.” SRP is a tasty $10.99.

Full Disclosure: The LBD wine was received as a marketing sample.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Wine, Travel & Food News From Vino-Sphere: June 13, 2018

The Po' Ramblin' Boys

Jam In The Trees Releases 2018 Schedule

Jam In The Trees, an annual music festival nestled in western North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains, just outside of Asheville has released the full schedule the lineup for the 2018 festival, which will be held on August 24-25. The annual music festival returns with a diverse lineup for the third year to Pisgah Brewing Company in Black Mountain, North Carolina. The roster includes legendary artists The Travelin’ McCourys, Jerry Douglas, Shooter Jennings, Elizabeth Cook, Gangstagrass, and Jim Lauderdale, and ever popular artists The Steel Wheels, The Stray Birds, Fireside Collective, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, The Slocan Ramblers, Jane Kramer, and Andy Buckner.

Why Different Wine Calls for Different Glasses – And Why You Don’t Need Them All

That awkward moment when the server brings an extra-tall wine glass for you, a tulip-shaped one for your dining partner, and narrow ones to the next table. It makes you wonder if you’ve been doing it wrong all along.

“The world of wine glasses can seem intimidating,” acknowledges Gabe Geller, a top sommelier and Director of Public Relations for Royal Wine. “The varieties are endless. The truth is, it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.”

Anglim CabIt’s all about physics, says Geller. “The bowl of the glass is designed with surface area in mind. Red wines generally need to breathe, so a fuller, rounder bowl with a wide opening suits them best. Whites stay cooler in bowls that are straighter on the sides.”

Rosés can be served in white wine glasses because the two are produced similarly. But, says Geller, there are glasses made specifically for rosés. They have shorter bowls that are slightly tapered and sometimes have a flared rim. “The rim affects the way you sip,” he explains. “The flair helps direct the wine directly to the tip of the tongue.”

Before you go online for a wine glass spending spree, Geller adds, “A good universal wine glass is perfectly suitable for anything, from your summer afternoon Roman Cardova Rosado to a vintage Bordeaux such as Baron de Rothchild Haut-Medoc.”

Mango Festival Slated in Miami

The first ever of its kind, South Beach Mango Festival, is being unveiled on August 5 at South Beach’s beautiful, white sandy beach in Lummus Park, adjacent to Ocean Drive. With the mango craze hitting an all-time high, ranging from mango shampoo to mango beer, South Florida wants to commemorate and celebrate the importance and peak of its famed fruit. The event is aimed at tropical fruit lovers and culinary enthusiasts, as well as the domestic and international visitors who flock to South Beach. The event will also benefit a vital non-profit philanthropic organization, Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

There will be a farmer’s market offering more than 40 varieties of juicy, sweet, locally farmed mangoes; mango tastings; cooking classes for kids and adults, featuring the golden fruit; a children’s play area; and an entertainment area with live music and dancing; top chef demos, and a memorable mango-mixology competition. 

Pour Yourself A Glass of Soju or Hemp Milk

Korean soju is the number one selling distilled spirit in the world, outselling vodka by nearly three to one.  While nearly all soju in the U.S. is imported from Korea, West 32 Soju is one of the only Korean-style soju made in the U.S. Made in New York City, the product is available in New York, California, New Jersey, and Washington D.C. West 32 Soju is also the only soju in the world made with distilled corn. It is both gluten-free and all-natural.

BOM BOM Brands, is introducing Fully Baked, a creamy blend of chocolate chip cookie and brownie flavors with premium Caribbean rum and hemp milk. Other flavors include Coco Mochanut and Nilli Vanilli.

Our Favorite Vegetable? I Demand A Recount!

New survey findings name broccoli as America's favorite vegetable. In an open-ended survey timed to National Eat Your Vegetables Day (June 17), Green Giant® polled nearly 4,000 Americans to determine the most popular vegetable in each state.

Key survey findings include:

  • Broccoli is the most popular vegetable in 47% of U.S. states
  • Corn is the second most popular vegetable, chosen as the favorite in nine U.S. states
  • Idaho, known for its potatoes, was the only state to choose peas as the favorite veggie
  • Onions, peppers, celery and spinach are noticeably absent from the list of favorites

Railblazer

Roller Coaster Fanatics Hail New RailBlazer Ride

The wait is over for those ready to ride the groundbreaking new single rail steel coaster, RailBlazer, at California's Great America. Opening to the public on Thursday, June 14, the much-anticipated coaster is the first of its kind on the West Coast, featuring a single rail track.

The design requires the rider to straddle the rail, creating an extremely low center of gravity that amplifies every move and enables more dynamic turns and rotations than have ever been possible on a coaster. With an eight-passenger single file train hugging the rail, riders will speed smoothly over the twisting track as they experience an abundance of airtime and steeply banked turns. 

Features of the ride include: a maximum height of 106 feet, a 90-degree, face-down first drop, over 1,800 feet of track, a top speed of 52 miles per hour and three inversions, including a zero-gravity roll.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Iapetus 2016 Tectonic, Vermont

Iapetus TectonicCan an orange wine made with hybrid grapes in Vermont win the hearts of critics? We say yes!

It Ain’t Easy Being Orange

We recently had an odd experience during our Wine Studio online education program. Typical fare for our online tasting is an upper echelon wine or two from a famous wine region.

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On this night, however, we were given a curveball. Instead of sipping a Cabernet from Sonoma or Argentina, we had a wine from Vermont.

We actually have had wine from Vermont before, a nice honey-elderberry wine from Caledonia Winery. Honestly, though, Vermont isn’t a hotbed of wine production, ranked as the 26th state in this category. So, we weren’t expecting to be reviewing a wine from the Green Mountain State.

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Iapetus Tectonic is a surprising wine in many regards, especially the color. It is a stunning orange color. Tectonic is, in fact, an “orange” wine – a wine style thought to have originated in the Republic of Georgia 5,000 years ago. Juice from white grapes spend significant time macerating with grape skins to extract tannin and color. Normally in white wine making, the skins and juice have minimal contact to keep the flavors fresh and yield a light, bright color.

Winemaker Ethan Joseph crafted Tectonic with 100% LaCrescent grapes. This is a cold-resistant hybrid grape, perfect for the cold Vermont winters. Many wine connoisseurs sniff at the mention of hybrid grapes – but we’ve tasted many and have several favorites. Tectonic shows just what magic can be made with hybrids.

Iapetus Tectonic2A New Wine Dictionary

This is a micro-production wine. Only 132 cases were made – displaying the craftsmanship you might expect from a Vermont artisan. The grapes spent 50 days macerating on the skins. After that, three quarters of the wine was sent to neutral oak to age sur lee with weekly battonage (stirring) for three and a half months. The other quarter was aged in stainless steel. The lots were then blended prior to bottling.

Iapetus wines use wild fermentation and are unfiltered and unfined. The curiously attractive bottle looks like an orange lava lamp with swirling sediment creating a cloudy visage.

Sipping the wine, I remarked that a whole new dictionary was needed to describe the wine. This is not your usual bottle of vino. We had the wine chilled down as we typically do for whites. The first sip had a blast of brininess – salt-like. As we puzzled about that, the wine began to warm up and the prominent flavor was an explosion of tangerine rind with notes of clove.

Iapetus, named for an ancient ocean that once covered Lake Champlain, is a collection of experimental wines. Tectonic is engaging and fascinating and one of the most unique wines we’ve tasted in a while.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

González Byass Wines Offer Spanish Refreshment For Summer

González Byass winesThe “lighter side” of Spain is perfect for warm weather sipping.

Heavy Reds Need Not Apply

Blockbuster reds with tightly wound tannins and booming alcohol levels have their place. It’s just not on the patio as the mercury climbs past 90 with the humidity level close behind.

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That’s the time when the sensible person opens a light, crisp white or rosé. González Byass is a family-owned collection of wineries that cover Spain’s most important wine producing regions. We recently had a chance to pop open four of their wines well suited for the summer heat.

The González family has a tradition of making fine sherries and brandies in Jerez, including the well-known Tio Pepe Fino Sherry. Tio Pepe sherry has been produced since 1844. Don’t confuse this with the brown, sweet sherry sipped by your grandmother. Fino sherry is dry and should be chilled and served like a white wine. The Tio Pepe Fino Sherry is fresh and bright with notes of citrus and almond. It retails for $19.99.

Beronia RuedaThree For Dinner

We brought the remaining three bottles to a dinner party at our friends’ house. We started by noshing on melon and prosciutto skewers and homemade guacamole. To accompany this, we opened the Beronia 2017 Rueda. Rueda is known for producing some of the best white wines in Spain.

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The Beronia Rueda is made with 100% Verdejo grapes. In the glass it is yellow with green highlights. On the palate it has a lush, rounded texture. There are notes of honey and pear. Although it is a dry wine, it has 1.5% residual sugar, enough to give it a nice sense of fruitiness. SRP is $12.99.

Lusco AlbarinoAs the main course of chicken with lemon caper sauce was served, we moved to the Pazo de Lusco 2016 Albariño. Albariño is Spain’s greatest white wine in the opinion of many (including us). The Lusco Albariño comes from Rias Baixas in the country’s northwestern coastal region of Galacia.

This is a beautiful wine with flowing minerality and flavor threads of grapefruit and pineapple. It is a dry and lively wine with good acidity. This is perfect for poultry or seafood. It is priced at $24.99.

A summer party wouldn’t be complete without rosé. We opened the Beronia 2017 Rioja Rosé. A salmon pink color, this wine is made with 100% Tempranillo grapes. Rosé from Spain, often called rosado, tends to be more flavorful than a Provence rosé. Ripples of sweet strawberries and cherries intertwine in this fresh and lively wine. SRP is $12.99. This is a winning wine for almost any occasion.

Spanish sherry, whites and rosé provide perfect warm weather satisfaction. Put on some extra sunscreen and grab one of these affordable bottles!

Full disclosure: We received these wines as marketing samples.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Wine, Travel & Food News From Vino-Sphere: May 31, 2018


Velas Chocolate Clams

Cabo Resort to Feature Chocolate Clams

Luxury AAA Five Diamond resort Grand Velas Los Cabos in Mexico has been rolling out innovative culinary creations since opening in late 2016. The latest is a fresh take on Baja California’s “Candy of the Sea” courtesy of a new chocolate clam tasting menu.

Each of the signature five restaurants at the resort have prepared one version of the dish paired with a wine, including a few from Mexico’s wine region in the north of the peninsula. Highlights of the menu include a chocolate clam with white bean, lardo and piccalilli from Cocina de Autor’s two Michelin starred chef Sidney Schutte and, from its Velas 10 steak and seafood restaurant, Clam Au Gratin made with chocolate clams, creamy baby spinach, bacon and grated Grana Padano cheese.

Buy Dad Some Grapevines for Father’s Day

We just showered mom with love and it’s time to do the same for dad. This year, there is a new gift for wine-loving fathers: planting his very own grapevine! Through Wine on the Vine you can gift dad with his very own vine to be planted in a top Israeli winery. After the grapevine is planted, the majority of the donation goes to charities doing important work in Israel. Wine on the Vine works with elite wineries some of which include Carmel, Psagot, Tabor, Tulip, Yatir, Jezreel, and Gush Etzion as well as other Israeli non-profit organizations. The goal is to create a way for people to support and help build Israel’s wine industry in both a meaningful and enjoyable way.  

Costs range from $18 for one vine to $1,800 for 100 vines. For $90 and above you get one or more bottles of wine from the vines you planted – after a four-year wait for the grapes to grow.

Opry City InteriorGrand Ole Opry Comes to The Big Apple

New York City’s newest entertainment destination is a piece of Nashville in the heart of Times Square: Opry City Stage – the iconic Grand Ole Opry’s first and only satellite location outside of Tennessee. The four-floor venue features daily live country music and serves finger lickin’ Southern food.

This past weekend, in honor of Fleet Week New York 2018, Opry City Stage hosted the sailors, coastguardsmen and more for night after night of entertainment, food & drinks. They feature Two Step Tuesdays, Dueling Pianos Country Style, among other promotions and activities.

Hotel Package Features Vintage Baseball

The Hotel Saugatuck, an 18-room luxury bed and breakfast in Michigan with stunning views of Lake Kalamazoo, is offering a vintage baseball package. In June, this nostalgic getaway features an old-fashioned vintage baseball game at Beery Field with the Douglas Dutchers.  The Douglas Dutchers were fashioned after a local club, the Douglas Athletic League, which first played in 1905. After, return to the nearby Hotel Saugatuck, where a dimly lit room, split of champagne, and flutes will complement the complimentary in-room dessert.

Packages start at $848 and vary by room selection and length of stay. Built in 1865, The Hotel Saugatuck, formerly the Twin Gables Inn, is the only original mill in the area still standing from the busy lumbering era.

Would You Like Avocado Mayonnaise On That?

June is Avocado Month and, believe it or not, you can now celebrate with Avocado Mayonnaise a new product from Better Body Foods.  Flavors include regular, lime or chipotle lime!

Searching for An Italian Villa with a Basilica? Look No Further

Looking for an villa in Italian wine country? Concierge Auctions is to sell Villa Badia, a former Benedictine convent featuring its own basilica, incorporating monuments granted national heritage status, in Piedmont, Italy. Dating back to the 11th century, the villa and its adjacent historic abbey have been recently restored but retains unique period features including 14th century frescoes. Originally listed at €10million, the estate will sell without reserve to the highest bidder on 29 June. Bidding will open on 26 June. Piedmont is known as a culinary destination, attracting visitors keen to sample the gastronomy and Barolo wine for which the region is famous.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Dry Creek Vineyard 2016 Vintage Yields Winning Pair

DCV 2016 Chardonnay & Heritage Vines ZinLooking for surefire wine selections for your next soirée? Here are a couple of California wines certain to please the crowd and not break the bank.

DCV Estate Block 10 Chardonnay

Our two wines come from Dry Creek Vineyards, a favorite winery in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley. They are located in the Dry Creek Valley appellation, where they are celebrating their 45th anniversary as a private family owned winery. For this first wine, they source the grapes from 30 rows of their Russian River Valley property. RRV is known for producing some of the best Chardonnay in California.

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The cool climate allows the vineyard to ripen slowly, resulting in deliciously balanced grapes. The grapes are gently cluster pressed resulting in complex aromas and flavors. The wine is aged in 100% French oak, 22% new. Just over 1,200 cases of the DCV Estate Block 10 Chardonnay was produced.

Balance is the key with this Chardonnay. The judicious use of oak blends with apple, citrus and honeysuckle flavors. There is a nice riff of pineapple as well, and looking at my photo, I notice that the pineapple on our counter actually shows through the bottle. Purely accidental, but a great visual reminder of the taste.

This is a classy Chardonnay ready to uncork at your next party. SRP is $32.

Heritage Vines Zinfandel

Are you ready to graduate from cartoon labels with jammy juice inside? Then step up to a winning Zinfandel that delivers on both flavor and value – the 2016 Heritage Vines Zinfandel.

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Dry Creek Vineyards is known for their dedication to the Zinfandel variety. We love Heritage Vines Zin because it melds the old and new. Cuttings from a pre-Prohibition era vineyard were grafted onto young, disease-resistant rootstock, creating an heirloom or heritage vine.

The Heritage Vines Zin is a blend of 79% Zinfandel, 20% Petite Sirah and 1% Primitivo from Sonoma County. Aging is done in French, American and Hungarian oak. It offers a swirl of dark chocolate and fruit berries with a rich, round texture. There is no edge to the tannins, just a refreshing fruit forward glass.

Do you really want a bottle with a great pun on the label – or one with great wine inside? I think you know the answer. Heritage Vines Zinfandel is widely available at $24.

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

Monday, May 28, 2018

Rosé To Rock Your Summer: Five Top Picks

When the summer heats up, the Vino-Sphere tasting team swings into action. Our quest? To identify for you some of the best crisp, refreshing rosé available. Here are five of our top picks.

Adama Vivanco Arrogant Frog Rosé


Spanning The Globe For Heat-Busting Rosé

Okay, to be honest we’re not venturing very far from our barbecue grill and back patio. It’s just too hot! But we still do have a thirst for outstanding rosé and our latest tasting adventures covered three different countries and five great wines.

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Interestingly, none of the five wines share the same grape blend. They all do have one thing in common. Each is immensely satisfying and also light on the wallet.

Jezreel and Amelia RoséHere are our capsule reviews:

Amelia Bordeaux Rosé, NV – France. Surprise! They have great rosé in France in places other than Provence. Made with Merlot, it has strawberry notes and crisp acidity. Pair with barbecue or seafood dishes. $15.99

Arrogant Frog Lily Pad Pink Rosé, 2016 – Languedoc, France. The Arrogant Frog wines from Paul Mas set the standard for French value wines. This is 100% Syrah and delivers citrus and candied cherry refreshment. You can afford to buy several bottles! $9.00.

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Jezreel Valley Rosé, 2017 – Galilee, Israel. Our new favorite winery in Israel blends 45% Carignan, 40% Syrah, and 15% Sauvignon Blanc for this delicious blend. Strawberry and wild cherry predominate in this racy rosé. I don’t recall having a rosé with a white grape in the blend, but the unique mix sets this Kosher wine apart. $22.99.

Tabor “Adama” Barbera Rosé, 2017 – Galilee, Israel. Barbera isn’t the most common grape for rosé, but after this bottle, we’d like to see more. Brilliant pink in the glass, it’s very dry with a touch of minerality. Red fruit flavors abound in this fresh, limited production Kosher wine. $21.99.

Vivanco Tempranillo Garnacha, 2016 – Rioja, Spain.  Red licorice and roses highlight the flavors of this Spanish beauty. Primarily Tempranillo, this is a playful wine that was the centerpiece of a great dinner on the patio. Spanish has a bit more muscle than its French counterpart, perfect to enjoy on its own or with a variety of summer dishes. $14.99.

Full disclosure: These wines were received as marketing samples.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Vidrio Dishes Up Style Along With Tapas And On-Tap Wine

Looking for the “wow factor” in Raleigh dining? Look no further than Vidrio, a Mediterranean restaurant that delights the eye and the palate.

Vidrio SightsThe Art of The Meal

Deciding to avoid conventional choices, we recently opted to try out Vidrio on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh. It was a memorable evening for all the right reasons.

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Vidrio means “glass” in Spanish and you won’t wait long to discover why it is an appropriate name. The feature attraction in the expansive main dining room is a soaring wall of more than 350 glass discs created by an Ohio artist.

In every direction it is a visual treat with unique lighting fixtures, a hanging rope sculpture, intriguing textures and a setting that exudes style. Even if we didn’t eat a bite, a visit to the restaurant would be satisfying.

Of course, we were there to eat (and drink). So we did.

Tip Top Tapas

We are tapas aficionados. The main reason being that you end up with what amounts to a tasting menu. In some restaurants if you don’t like your entree, you’re out of luck. You can come back in a month or two and try something else. With tapas, if you don’t care for one small plate you can sample one of the other four or five dishes.

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The Vidrio mantra is “earth, flavor and wine” and we were ready to experience it all. Although it took a while to get service and wade through the many options, our ticket was soon on the way to the kitchen. Our picks included green chickpea humus, Moroccan beef skewers, charred octopus and a fig flatbread.

VidrioI told my wife that I wanted to treat her to dinner at a very special restaurant – and Vidrio met that expectation. Of course, the fact that Vidrio also has more than 50 wines on tap was certainly at top of mind!

There are a couple of problems with wine by the glass in restaurants. First, you are usually much better off buying a bottle because if you each have two glasses, you’ll pay more and get less ordering by the glass. The second disappointing problem is that in many restaurants partially consumed bottles sit around in less than ideal conditions, sometimes for days.

Enter wine by the keg! Wine by the keg dispels those issues. The kegs are pressurized so each glass should be good to the last drop. I also like the sustainability angle. There’s much less packaging involved with a reusable keg versus a glass bottle, label and cork for every 750 ML of wine.

Tapping The Wine

For the hummus and octopus, we went white. With the flexibility of the wine on tap program, and very reasonable costs ($8 for a 6 oz. pour of many great wines and half that for a 3 oz. pour), we went by the glass.

The charred octopus was stellar! When in Spain, the octopus I tried was cut into medallions, usually served with olive oil and potatoes. At Vidrio, the tentacles were charred whole and we sliced them to enjoy with our chorizo vinaigrette and beans. We started with a glass of Greek Asyrtiko and French Muscadet. My wife assumed that the Muscadet would be sweet, but this great wine made from Melon de Bourgogne was fresh, delicious and off-dry.

For our later plates, we enjoyed a glass of Truth or Consequences Wahluke Slope (Washington) Merlot and a glass of Spanish Garnacha. Each of the glasses we enjoyed was fresh, fresh, fresh! Like a new bottle was just opened.

The tap system serves not only the bar on the first floor, but also runs up to the bar on the second floor. No matter what unique space you enjoy at Vidrio, you’ll have the freshest wine. There is also a wealth of craft cocktails and craft beer available.

Vidrio is a destination restaurant. You can hang in the downstairs bar, which opens to the night air, soak in the aesthetics in the main dining room or explore the upper regions. Meals are artfully prepared and the vibe combined with the great food and drink means we’ll be returning to Vidrio in the very near future.