Wine in the Outdoors: GSI Outdoors Wine Carafe and Nesting Wine Glasses, Platypus PlatyPreserve Wine Preservation System

GSI Outdoors Wine Carafe nd Platypus PlatyPreserve

GSI Outdoors Wine Carafe and Platypus PlatyPreserve

I’ve been off hiking and camping, getting back to nature and cooking and dining under the stars. It is of course a no-brainer that grilled meats go great with wine. In my visits to my favorite outdoor shop I discovered solutions from two different companies for transporting and enjoying the wine without any damage. Although I’m a bit late, you could call this my entry to The Drunken Cyclist‘s monthly wine challenge on the theme of transportation. Despite having had our car at our campsite, I was looking for a lighter, more convenient and outdoors-friendly option than glass.  I also didn’t want to bring along a separate wine cooler or have the bottles cook in the car or get spilled. Each of these products has its own advantages, and both were useful to have along.  The footprint and flexibility of this format has made it a new favorite of mine for traveling with liquids.  In fact I love it so much I poured the orange juice out of its bulky box into an unused kids version I had bought for my son as a lightweight canteen. He ended up using his water bottle anyway,

The GSI Outdoors WineCarafe and The Platypus ‘PlatyPreserve Wine Preservation System’ are both great options, and both cost $9.95 in my local camp store.  Both can also be easily found online. The (red) GSI model was used for the red wines, and the Platypus’s white cap allowed us to designate this the white wine container. Other than that simple logical convenience, having one from each brand allows comparison.  The GSI had suggested storage/serving temperatures listed on the back for different types of wines, in both Fahrenheit and Celsius.  It also has a small strip at the bottom to record date/vintner/ variety/ vintage (a dry erase marker is required for writing) and it is also Bisphenol-A Free. BPA is a chemical often used in plastic polycarbonate food/beverage containers that is thought to have negative effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland.  (The FDA regulates and allows very small levels that it deems safe, but better to not have that to worry about). The cap is a sturdy screw on with a red string attached like a classic Bota bag wineskin. In fact, their packaging reads ‘The Bota Bag Steps into the 21st Century,” so this design tribute is not a coincidence. The bag is 750ml to perfectly fit a bottle of wine. While you can’t see into it because it is opaque, this actually protects the wine from too much sunlight and you have the area on the back to write wine information.

GSI Outdoors Nesting Wine Glasses

GSI Outdoors Nesting Wine Glasses

The Platypus ‘PlatyPreserve Wine Preservation System’ bag had a simple un-attached cap more like a disposable plastic water bottle.  But it is not at all flimsy, just easier to lose.  The instructions are more elaborate, detailing proper filling, storage and cleaning methods.  It is partly transparent which is an advantage if you want to see what type of wine is inside. It also has a strip for writing the wine info, and measurement volume lines for 750ml and 375ml on the back.  They also make a variety of hot and cold liquid storage bags and filtration and pack reservoir systems, as their primary audience seems to be campers and outdoor adventurers. This size was 27 fl. oz. which holds a full bottle comfortably. Just make sure to squeeze out any extra air you can before closing the cap. The Platypus products are also BPA-free.

In both cases filling/pouring was a breeze.  With wide mouths on each, the liquid fills slowly and evenly, making dropping it due to sudden liquid weight gain unlikely. This is another detail that is making me love this format. To wash. just fill it with a little warm water, shake it a few times with the lid on,  then open, rinse and dry.

I was just looking for a camping trip solution, but I can see this application coming in handy on all kinds of weekend jaunts during all four seasons.  These will replace my bulky padded wine bottle tote on ski weekends, and at the beach as well.

Buy a pair or two to cover longer weekends. Or restock an empty one with a new bottle if that option is available for you during your trip. They are especially handy when sharing the table with kids, in case they get knocked over …

I also found these great plastic nesting glasses from GSI Outdoors that provided the final component of enjoying wine in the great outdoors.  Let’s face it, you don’t want to pour that Bordeaux into party cups. They look just like wine glasses, but they are plastic, and they are not flimsy. When not in use, the top half of the glass unscrews from the bottom, with the lip attaching to the base with an easy click. They worked great over the weekend in their first real application and are worth the $7.50 each.

This leaves me wondering, when do I get to go camping again?



Evening Land ‘Celebration’ Gamay Noir Beaujolais-Villages 2009

Evening Land 2009 'Celebration' Gamay Noir Beaujolais-Villages

Evening Land 2009 ‘Celebration’ Gamay Noir Beaujolais-Villages

A few weeks ago I wrote about a nice Julienas Beaujolais Cru that I had. And gave a little lesson. Do you remember? If not, you can brush up here. Based on that wine, I know 2009 was a good year here. And it’s still summer, and these wines are a great red for the hot weather, which is hovering in the high 90s and up all week. You can serve them a little cooler and they will be refreshing yet still complex and satisfying.

In Beaujolais-Villages wines, the grape might be Gamay, but the winemaking methods and intended flavor is more along the lines of red Burgundy (Pinot Noir). What’s interesting about this one to me is that it’s made by an American producer who also has vineyards in my beloved Willamette Valley, Oregon (including one in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA) and Edna Valley and Sonoma Coast, California. Willamette is where my favorite Pinot Noir is made and Edna Valley is producing some amazing wines as well as Sonoma. So this producer is a win-win for me to discover. The wines from their various international vineyards range from $22.50 for an Oregon Pinot Noir to $150 for a Clos Veugot Grand Cru. In fact they have many great Burgundies on their website that have me equally intrigued and a bit excited. Pouilly-Fuisse, Romanee-Conti, Meursault, and Côtes-de-Nuit Villages are just some of the French wines they produce.

To quote: “Evening Land Vineyards produces terroir-driven Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Burgundy, France, and the three great growing regions of the American West.

While the Gamay for this wine was actually grown, vinified and bottled in Beaujolais-Villages, they also make a Gamay Noir grown and made in their Eola-Amity Hills vineyards. I would love to, and likely will do a side-by-side comparison of the terroir at work.

This wine poured a deep ruby in the glass and on the nose were bounds of red fruit – strawberry, cherry, and baking spice from a little time in French oak to round it out. A bit of white pepper also adds to the complexity. For a moment this truly smells like a Burgundy Pinot Noir. On the palate were more of the bright fruit and spices, well-balanced acidity and a lush body. And here’s where you get into the true Gamay… a low-tannin, easy drinking beauty. At four years old, this is a good age for a nice Gamay.

This wine currently averages around $17 online but thanks to another great deal from Last Bottle Wines, I paid $12 each and got free shipping because my co-workers and I ordered 6 altogether to waive the shipping. Thank you again Last Bottle for introducing me to another great wine.

Go drool over their selections too at

Finger Lakes Recap – Day 3: Shalestone Vineyards, Atwater Estate Vineyards, Damiani Wine Cellars

Production room at Shale Stone VIneyards

Production room at Shale Stone Vineyards

The day started out like a novel. While drinking mimosas on the 1926 Schooner “True Love” on lake Seneca, we spoke with the first mate who grew up on the east side of the lake. He gave us many recommendations for wineries on his side of the lake, and expounded upon how wineries on this side are more down to earth, smaller operations versus the west side which has more of the commercial wineries. I instantly thought of Bordeaux and the differences between the right bank and left bank, and the economy of scale. To be honest I see the virtue in and enjoy both. But this would not be the last time we heard this on this day. We took him on his recommendations and headed back up the east side of the lake where we had been the day before at Hazlitt 1852 Winery and Red Newt Cellars, but this time trying some of his suggestions. I told him I was a dry red wine lover so he suggested two vineyards a little farther up the road, Shalestone, and Damiani. I explained I hadn’t had many reds from the area yet that had made much of an impression, though there were a few. Understandably the cool climate is not ideal for powerful, tannic, dry red wines. I was about to get a nice surprise.

Shalestone was started by a man named Rob Thomas and his wife. He has also been a consulting winemaker at other area vineyards. We were fortunate to have Rob himself pouring for us. And, part of the joy of making wine for him is talking with customers and sharing his experiences and views. This was great because I love talking to the winemakers and hearing their approaches and philosophy. Rob also spoke of the more personal style of winemaking on this side of the lake. I was thrilled to find that his Pinot Noir was not green but had ripe fruit and nice body. He said he used six different Pinot clones to achieve this. Way more ambitious than most I imagine, and to great results. I bought one on the spot.

Tasting at Atwater Estate Vineyards

Tasting at Atwater Estate Vineyards

I tried and bought a great Lemberger blend (AKA Blaufränkisch) with Merlot and a bit of Syrah called the “Lemberghini,” a custom blend of  Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot called “Harmony,” and two Cabernet Sauvignons. One was a delicious and complex 2008 reserve and the other a 2010, both which were fantastic and reminded me of some of the great California and French cabs I love. The decor reminds me in an endearing way of the Shire in the Lord of the Rings, consisting of an elven style tasting room building and a production room built right into the hillside, in this case to keep temperatures perfect for winemaking and aging. It is located in Lodi, NY.

Rob recommended some other wineries down the road to try next so on we went to Atwater Estate Vineyards. They have a nice tasting room perched high up on the edge of the sloping vineyards and a deck overlooking the lake and several tasting counters with views. The whites tasted were the 2011 Dry Riesling, 2012 Pinot Gris, 2012 Cecil Chardonnay, 2011 Reiwürz (Riesling, Gewürz blend) and Stone Bridge White (house blend). In reds, the 2010 Pinot Noir, 2010 Blaufränkisch, 2009 Cabernet-Merlot and the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. I bought this delicious Cab as well.

Wine exploration classes at Damiani - Sign me up!

Wine exploration classes at Damiani – Sign me up!

We both tried a sweet wine made from Chancellor, the 2012 Celsius – a dessert wine made from Vignoles (a Seibel 8665 and Pinot de corton hybrid), and the 2012 Dry Rosé which is made from Pinot Noir in the French style and which we also purchased for a mere $16. Also brought home were the Stone Bridge White which features the art of Robert Gillespie depicting 1951 Watkins Glen Race winner Phil Waters as he crosses a stone bridge on the Grand Prix circuit in his white Cunningham C2R, and the 2011 Dry Riesling. The Stone Bridge White is the official wine of the International Motor Racing Research Center here and every bottle purchase benefits their research. Watkins Glen, in case you don’t know, is home to a raceway, going back many decades. At Atwater, you can also make your own custom wine labels as gifts that they will make and place on bottles for your special occasions. And, they host gourmet dinners in their vineyards. All of this information you can find on their website.

Last stop for the day was Damiani Wine Cellars, in Burdett, which had a nice selection and some nice dry reds.  I liked their Lemberger and their Cabernet Franc very much, and the Semi-Dry Riesling was nice as well. They also do winemaking classes and harvesting opportunities, into which i inquired. While they are only 2 hours long and I think I’d like to do at least one full day if I could somewhere, I think it is great that they offer these experiences in the first place and I’ll take what I can get. They also have a chocolatier on site and offer chocolate and wine matching as well as wine release parties, wine club member events and regular art exhibits.

Finger Lakes Recap – Day 2: Glenora Winery, Hazlitt 1852 Winery, Red Newt Cellars and Bistro

Vineyards, Glenora Wine Cellars,

View of the vineyards and Seneca Lake from Glenora Wine Cellars

For day two, the winery visits started in the late afternoon after a day in nearby Corning visiting museums. Located near our B&B is Glenora Wine Cellars. Situated on the western edge of Seneca lake, the vines stretch out into the distance down the slopes from the winery almost to the lake. They also have a restaurant (called Veraisons) and rental villas lower down the hill from the winery that you can stay in, as well as tasting tours and chocolate and wine tastings which we did not do on this visit but may come back for. The winery is a large building and there was a large store full of cheeses, wine-related gifts, and of course, their wines. The tasting areas consisted of two long tasting tables, one in each of the large rooms. Being a holiday weekend it was a bit crowded. There was a nice view behind the tasting counters but not as nice as some of the others we’ve seen on this visit.  We tried several local wines such as Niagara, Cayuga and Seyval Blanc as well as several of their vinifera wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling and their ‘Signature White’ which is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling. The favorites that came home were the Dry Riesling and Cabernet Franc. These have both won several recent local and international awards.

Tasting Room, Hazlitt 1852 Winery

Tasting Room, Hazlitt 1852 Winery

We then drove around to the other side of the lake to Hazlitt 1852 Winery which came recommended to me. They are known for a very popular fruity and sweet red wine called “Red Cat” which is made in very large volumes – I saw in one piece of literature that they make 450,000 gallons of it and apparently it’s known all over the east coast as an accesible wine for BBQs, boats, picnics, and the like. It is very well marketed, with fun labels and branding all over a large line of merchandise. Frankly, it is not my thing but it is obviously very popular and my taste is only that – my taste. I do like lighter dry fruit-forward reds like Beaujolais and some Pinot Noirs. I did a dry reds tasting – a Pinot Noir, a Cab Franc, a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon – all 2010s. I also tried their “Schooner Red” which is a blend, and of course the Red Cat. I bought a bottle of the Cabernet Sauvignon which had a nice body and tannin/acidity balance. This is one of the dry reds from the region so far that stood out to me. I really enjoyed the tasting room decor, hunting lodge-themed with a wooden horseshoe-shaped bar.  Wine Enthusiast called it one of America’s Top 25 tasting rooms. They also awarded the 2011 Dry Riesling #34 of the Top 100 Best Buys and gave it an 89-point rating. And they make wine ‘slushies’ which we did not get a chance to try before the tasting room closed.

Dry Reds Tasting Flight, Hazlitt 1852 Winery

Dry Reds Tasting Flight, Hazlitt 1852 Winery

Last but certainly not least, was Red Newt Cellars. We went for dinner in their bistro so while we skipped the tasting room, we did a paired three-course dinner. They also had a few wines from other local wineries with whom they have relationships with such as Fox Run and Anthony Road. They have made a label together, “Tierce” Dry Riesling, that is the brainchild of these three Seneca Lake cool-climate winemakers and their individual winemaking philosophies all rolled into one great wine. The 2010 was served at the Presidential Inauguration. Read all about the Tierce here.

Speaking of which, we had the fortune to be seated at the table next to these winemakers and others (maybe owners or others on the winemaking teams?) that night as they met to do a round of blind tastings and discussions of each others’ latest releases. I felt like a schoolboy eavesdropping but I considered myself very lucky to have been in the right place at the right time, to hear these men talk about their philosophies and personal tastes in wine and winemaking. After all, I often dream of being one of these winemakers. I hope should they ever read this that they know it just inspired me more towards one day realizing that goal. The Red Newt Cabernet Franc was a very nice pairing with the ribeye and the 2006 Fox Run Vidal Dessert wine was perfect with the brownie sundae with coffee ice cream, and… bacon! Another great day!  I will be visiting Fox Run and Anthony Road on the next trip up here.

Finger Lakes Recap – Day 1: Ravines Winery, Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery, Heron Hill Winery

Watkins Glen State Park, Seneca Lake NY

Watkins Glen State Park, Seneca Lake NY

Well after nearly making it up here to visit wineries last summer, we (my wife and I that is) finally succeeded and day 1 was excellent. After a delicious home-cooked meal at the lovely B&B we are staying at, The 1922 Starkey House, we headed for a morning hike through the incredible gorge at Watkins Glen State Park, at the southern end of Lake Seneca. 800 stairs, 700 vertical feet and 1.6 miles up through the winding trail that follows the deep gorge was definitely enough to get our thirst on. I really recommend you visit and do the hike.

On we went to our first winery, Ravines, in Hammondsport on the eastern side of Keuka lake. I had their Pinot Noir last fall when I saw it in a local wine section of our new wine shop in town. I had even written a tasting note to put on the blog but I believe this was right before I went to the Harvest festival and then Bordeaux so it got lost in the excitement. So I picked up another bottle, so that perhaps this time I will get around to it.

We did a tasting through five of their wines, which cost us only $2. The winery building is set up off the road on a hill so the view from the tasting room overlooks the slopes below and the entire Keuka lake and the slopes leading uphill on the other side. The 2012 Dry Riesling was quite nice, and the 2011 Cabernet Franc as well, but our favorite, and maybe it had something to do with the bright sun and hot temperatures was the 2012 Dry Pinot Rosé. It is made in the saignée method and has nice aromas of strawberry and a medium body. The dry Provence style is really the preference in this family so this fit the bill and was just $14.95.

Ravines Winery 2012 Dry Pinot Rosé and 2010 Pinot Noir

Ravines Winery 2012 Dry Pinot Rosé and 2010 Pinot Noir

We also bought two local cheeses and some crackers and went out to the tables and chairs on the lawn in front to enjoy the rosé and our snack. Sitting under the umbrella, with the delicious wine and cheese, overlooking the lake was a great way to start our winery visits.

After a 30 minute drive around the southern tip and up the western coast of the lake we arrived at the one and only Dr. Konstantin Frank winery. If you are not familiar, Dr. Frank was a German man who came here in the early 1950s after running large vineyards in Ukraine and lecturing on viticulture and agronomy, in hopes of making wine in the USA.

He was the first to push for growing vinifera vines in this area, though many thought he was crazy trying to do that in the harsh northern climate. While the region was known for only local varieties that could handle the cold, he excelled at cold-climate wines and knew the region had potential to make great vinifera wines as well. He also recognized the similarities to the Mosel region of his native Germany and the moderating effects of the lakes and the ideal growing conditions of the slopes that surrounded them. He got a job at the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment station at the head of Lake Seneca and began to put word out. He finally got the attention of Dr. Charles Fournier, former winemaker of Veuve Cliquot fame who was now making Gold Seal Champagne in New York. He realized Dr. Frank might be on to something and made him his director of research. With his help, eventually Dr. Frank proved that it could be done, and the region is now known for quality in several vinifera wines, particularly Riesling.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery, Hammondsport NY

Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery, Hammondsport NY

We were told that these vineyards also had the oldest plantings of Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir, but I don’t know if they meant in this area or in this country.  Their tasting room also overlooks the lake, but from the other side. We got a good view of where we were at Ravines just before. Their FREE tasting took you through about 5 rounds of wines, with one sweeter option and one drier option from which you could choose. It worked out perfectly having my wife with me as we could each get one and try both. We started with two “Chateau Frank” sparkling wines – one a sweeter Sekt (German) style, and one a drier French style, both made in the traditional method. I preferred the Sekt, called “Célebre” which costs $20.95.

We then went through a Pinot Gris, Semi-dry Riesling, a Muscat Ottonel, reserve Gewürztraminer and a “Rkatsiteli,” which is one of the world’s oldest vinifera varieties originating in Georgia (the country, not the US state) and dating back to about 3,000 BC. It is a bone dry white that is very popular in Russia. Of all the whites, the Semi-Dry Riesling, the Dry Riesling and the Muscat Ottonel stood out, with excellent quality and richness in the case of the Muscat.

The reds we tried included a few from their “Salmon Run” line as well as a few of their estate Dr. Konstantin Frank wines. The Salmon Run wines are less expensive wines made from local fruit but not their estate.  The Salmon Run “Coho Red” was a light, sweet and fruity Gamay-based wine that would be nice for a beach wine but not my preference for much else. I did enjoy their 2010 estate Merlot and 2010 Cabernet Franc.

Just some of many medals awarded to Dr. Frank wines

Just some of many medals awarded to Dr. Frank wines

Dr. Frank’s original home and winery next door to the tasting room is a lovely stone house covered in vines (not grape vines) and its cellar are where their wines are still aged today.  We left with a full case of wine, and a few other nice souvenirs. They have the most amount of medals in the region. You can see some of those in the photo on the right.

Our last winery stop was at Heron Hill Winery.  This is just south of Dr. Franks and is situated higher up on the slopes, with vineyards stretching far below down to the lake edge. Their tasting room was voted one of the most spectacular in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine. It was a beautiful day for wine tasting and to celebrate our independence and the tasting room was full.

View of Keuka Lake and Heron Hill Vineyards

View of Keuka Lake and Heron Hill Vineyards

We managed to get spots and tried 6 wines each.  Our favorites were their 2011 Muscat, their 2011 Semi-Dry Riesling, the 2010 Reserve Cabernet Franc, and their 2011 Late Harvest Vidal Blanc dessert wine, which was lush and rich and not too cloying at all. We bought one of each of these. We also enjoyed a nice meal at their café, and the incredible view below.