Archive for March, 2010

Stellar lineup for Food & Wine Classic in Aspen

March 31, 2010 Leave a comment

I just received the lineup for the 2010 (and 28th annual) Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen (June 18-20) and the list of chefs includes Mario, Jacques, Giada, Thomas Keller, David Chang and other great names. And that’s just the chefs.

Hundreds of winemakers and thousands of wines to try make the Grand Tastings almost too much to handle. But only almost.

The deadline for early tickets has passed but you can still find tickets (all three days, $1,185, includes seminars, demos and Grand Tastings) on the Web site here. That’s a lot of money in this economy – heck, it’s a lot of money in any economy – but the experience, just once in your life if your a food or wine lover, is unforgettable.

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Can one more wine-in-a-box be a step up?

March 25, 2010 1 comment

With the wide selection of boxed wines available, you might wonder, “Why one more?”

Looking through the selection of boxed wines at a local liquor store, I’m struck by the choices facing the consumer.

A whole section of boxed wines, wines from around the world, at least the New World from Australia to New York and California, with all the familiar varietals represented.

Boxed wines usually are considered value wines, costing less because of the savings in packaging. Typically, producers put together a 3-liter box, the equivalent of four .750-ml bottles, using a plastic or plastic-lined bladder inside a cardboard box, all of which is less-costly than heavy glass bottles.

The value ranges immensely, from a few dollars to many dollars, depending on the level of wine being offered. Some boxed wines are awful, cheap bulk wines packaged and ready to sell to anyone whose only real concern is convenience.

Some boxed wines are surprisingly good, which isn’t really a slam against boxed wines but means initially it can come as surprise to find something drinkable inside a box instead of a bottle.

Finding these gems makes you feel you’ve really discovered something special – a decent wine at an affordable price in a package designed to let you drink a glass or two now and put the rest aside (or in the refrigerator). Three liters can be a lot of wine, as can a whole bottle when you’re not up to finishing it all at one sitting (not that that ever happens to any of us).

That you have to open the package by punching a hole in the outer layer and turning a spigot takes only a bit of getting accustomed to, and it’s really not much more work that twisting a corkscrew and pulling out a cork.

Which brings us to Our Wine of the Week.
I recently received a sample of Underdog Wine Merchants’ Monthaven Vineyards Central Coast Chardonnay, a three-liter boxed wine in Underdogs’ unique eight-sided Octavin Home Wine Bar collection.

Priced at $23.99, it’s the liquid equivalent of four 750-ml bottles at roughly $4 a bottle.

(I edited this blog after being shown that this price isn’t equal to roughly $4 a bottle but rather $6 a bottle. Woe to my bad math and thanks to a watchful reader.)

The wine was bright and fruity, with a bit of green apple and grapefruit and good acidity, making it a delightful accompaniment for an outside lunch on the first day of spring.

The box protects the wine from light and oxygen, wine’s two biggest enemies, and the easy-to-use twist-open spigot allows you to pour one glass at a time.

Boxed wines aren’t new but Underdog is aiming to lift the bar of quality, offering 10 well-made wines, including a 2008 Central Coast Chardonnay and a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, non-vintage pinot grigio and pinot noir from Hungary and Big House’s 2008 Big House Red and 2009 Big House White. All are in the $22–$24 range.

The wines, some of which previously have been available only in bottles, are made by well-known winemakers including Silver Birch Vineyards of Marlborough, N. Z., Big House Wines of Soledad, Calif., and Bodegas Osborne of Spain.

Distribution still is being worked out or at least it seems that way. Earlier this month I couldn’t find any of the Octavin line in local stores.

Unfortunately, the Web site doesn’t have a state-by-state list of where the wines are available.

Categories: Uncategorized

Chilean earthquake rocks wine industry

The news of Friday’s 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile brought concern for many people and places. Reports filtering out of the country, where damage has severely interrupted all types of standard communications, are coming mostly through the social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and many diverse Google sites. There’s a good story about these sites here.

Damage has been reported particularly heavy in wineries and infrastructure in the regions of Maule and Rapel (including Colchagua), reports Tyler Coleman on his excellent blog Dr. Vino. Also, the Wine Spectator’s Jim Molesworth has been tweeting reports here. If you are a member of the Wine Spectator’s Web site, you can get reports here.

Coleman said on his blog that witness reports to Molesworth say “One can smell wine along the roads in front of the wineries. Tanks laying, collapsed buildings, barrels and glass everywhere.” In some places, it’s been estimated that in addition to the widespread destruction and loss of life, millions of liters of wine have been lost.

Molesworth has been tweeting what he hears from wineries (follow his feed for the latest). Another source told him, “Big damage to the industry. Millions of liters on the floor.” He also tweeted that Montes and Lapostolle were hit hard in Colchagua, an area that had seen lots of investment in the wine industry.

We won’t downplay the sadness that accompanies the news that many friends and acquaintances stiill are missing and that homes and families have been ripped apart. As Susannah Gold reports in her blog avvinare, “It is quite distressing to think of all the work that has been destroyed and how many people are affected by the quake. Nature can be quite unforgiving but surely after the dust settles the Chilean wine industry will pick itself back up.”

It seems almost trite to think about wine so soon after the earthquake, but wine and winemaking was the life of so many wonderful Chileans, and we’ll celebrate this lives the best way we can, by toasting to their health and safety with a Chilean wine.

Many wineries was just preparing to harvest their white grapes, and without power, equipment and most important, the human aspect that means so much to the industry, much of these grapes and the many efforts to produce them may go to waste. We wish the Chileans well and “buena suerte.”