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?



Let’s Talk Accessories: Wine Tags

Wine tags

Wine bottle tags

One thing I noticed shortly after finishing the assembly of my first sizeable wine rack last fall, was that telling the bottles apart and finding the one I’m looking for the first time is about as easy as finding one of my vinyl records in my collection. Clearly there’s a reason for those alphabetical record shelf dividers, and if they weren’t so expensive (these people know there’s a market here) I’d have a whole set of them already. Fortunately, the wine bottle tags I’m telling you about today are much more affordable.

40 (or more) wine bottles lying on their side, especially in a somewhat dark and light/heat safe environment, are a challenge to navigate without some help. That’s where these tags come in. Surely we’ve all seen these before. If not in our own cellar, than in a restaurant or at the very least a magazine, book or television show.

The wine tags in action

The wine tags in action

While browsing at the new local wine shop, I picked up a box of these to simplify my life. Within minutes I was able to label my most precious, and/or not ready-to-drink wines as such. I know now on first glance most of these are not one to pull out for just any occasion. Some I just labeled with the drink-by date if the name on the tag doesn’t immediately say ‘save me.’ These that I bought came in both red and white labels so you can skip that detail. Wine Enthusiast (no need to thank me, guys) has many different options that are all very affordable. Now, I didn’t label all of them, but I suppose you could go hog-wild at these prices. For me, there is some enjoyment in browsing my collection, without revisiting all those I know I want to save.

As I dream of what the new home I’m buying this spring will look like and how much room I will have to store wine and build more racks, I hope to have the occasion to buy many many more of these handy tags. Not to mention, start my own wine-making experiments I mentioned and label those as well!

Graphic Image Wine Dossier and Wine Enthusiast Label Savers

Wine Enthusiast Label Savers

Wine Enthusiast Label Savers

The holidays were good to me, wine-wise. Not only did I drink a bunch of fantastic wines, but I got lots of great stocking stuffers. Today I’m going to talk about the label saver kit and my new wine dossier.

The label maker works great, if you have a standard size label, and you’re not expecting a perfect peel from the bottle. I was at first. But when I realized the label itself was removed fully intact, who cares that the back of it was still stuck to the empty bottle? The concept is simple: you peel off about 90% of the adhesive from the backing, save for a small tab at the end that is used to remove it. You then apply the exposed adhesive side to the label and bottle and use a hard object (they suggested the back of a spoon, which I used) to smooth out air bubbles and make full contact with the label and bottle. Then you use the tab end to peel it off, your label (hopefully) included.  I had originally tried it out on a different bottle but the label wrapped around fully with the exception of a small area in the back. In that case perhaps you can score the label with a knife and ruler to get a clean result. Will certainly try that tonight. I want to keep that label.

Graphic Image's Leather Wine Dossier

Graphic Image’s Leather Wine Dossier

It’s funny because the beautiful wine dossier my wife got me has its own page on how to remove wine labels for placement within its pages –the traditional hot water and dish soap technique. I have always had mixed results with that method, probably because some producers use stronger adhesives than others depending on their budgets. And maybe some impatience on my part, too. But the label savers worked.They are from Wine Enthusiast and retail at a mere $6.50 for a set of 10.

The task having been successful, I then trimmed the surrounding area of the label to fit it in the page of my beautiful red leather-covered wine dossier. It is divided by wine type – reds, whites, rosé, sparkling  and liquors – each with its own tab. On the left of each page is where you place the label, and rate the quality in the checkboxes below. On the right, you write your notes and pertinent information.  Though they need to be succinct to fit, that can be a good thing. There is also a section outlining all the wine types, varietals, and associated grapes and regions of note for the newbie. Frankly it can’t hurt anyone, newbie or expert or in-between, to have that to refer to regularly and refresh every now and then.

Inside the Wine Dossier

Inside the Wine Dossier

The wine dossier is from Graphic Image and costs $95 and is available at many online retailers. While that’s not cheap, neither is the product. And if you love wine that much, having a place to record and preserve your favorites in style is worth the money. And it’s something, like a fine wine, that you will enjoy more if you spend a little more.

Another visit to the North Fork, Part One

Long Island Wine App

Long Island Wine App

The North Fork of Long Island is an upcoming wine region in the United States, with soil and climate much like that of Bordeaux. Having been to both, I think Long Island weather might be a bit more temperamental, especially after this past weekend.  This is my second visit to date, the first being my second wedding anniversary as you know if you’ve been reading my blog since June. This visit was to celebrate my sister-in-law’s 40th.

The region got its start about 40 years ago (Paumanok being the second winery and vineyard to open in the region), and the results are getting a lot of attention, and prices are rising. Only 90 minutes from NYC, wines from the region have been served at the White House, the Four Seasons, the Gramercy Tavern and hundreds of other famous restaurants around the country. We love going to local wine regions as you know, and supporting their local growers, inns and restaurants (and the farm stands are pretty fabulous too). Brooklyn Oenology who I wrote about a few weeks ago, also gets some of the juice for their own wine, as well as selling many of the wines, from the North Fork. So they too, are on the list of participating wineries, which number in the 40’s. There is a great website covering all the region has to offer –,  and an app as well that came in very handy on both visits. It features information on all local dining, attractions, events, services, lodging, and of course, wineries.

There are also three or so successful wineries on the south fork, more known for beaches, surfing and celebrity mansions – Duck Walk South, Wölffer Estate, and Channing daughters. I will visit those when I’m down there next. Just waiting for a millionaire to invite me to stay…

Paumanok Vineyards

Autumn on the deck at Paumanok Vineyards

This time we stayed in Riverhead, a larger town right at the mouth of the two forks. There are outlet malls there as well if you get rained out and like to shop. Whereas last time we stayed in the romantic and wonderful Harvest Inn Bed and Breakfast in Peconic, the Holiday Inn was clean and well-appointed and provided the necessary accomodations for a less romantic visit. And it is perfectly located at the start of the wine trail and conveniently close to our dinner spot. But I will get around to reviewing the Harvest Inn experience soon, because it was a very special one and the owners really went out of their way in every sense to make us and the other guests happy. Plus, they have WINE CAMP! This is a must-do on my list, and that I will write about for sure, I just have to save up for a while.

We work with a few of the North Fork vineyards to market their wine, and our company liason was able to set up a special visit at Paumanok again like in March. He also recommended the other two vineyards we visited this time around, as well as the restaurant we went to for dinner. He’s a native of the region and his recommendations have not let us down ever.

With Hurricane Sandy on its way, we had a shorter visit then planned so we could escape Sunday morning with our lives and our wines intact. The wineries too, all made sure to complete their harvest by this date, as that storm surely would have destroyed any remaining crop. But that didn’t stop them from making time for us.

Mrs Massoud treating us to Cab Franc from the tank

Mrs. Massoud treating us to Cabernet Franc still pumping over from the tank

At Paumanok we met with owner Ursula Massoud for the first time, after tasting through a flight of their whites. She then took us in back where we got to try a grapefruit-laden still-fermenting Chenin Blanc 2012. This was something I got to do in Bordeaux (though that was a Sauvignon Blanc) and I am so glad my wife and her sister got the chance here. After all, I wanted this to be a special birthday.  We then got to try a 2012 Cabernet Franc right from the tank as well. It was delicious and one of my favorite varieties being made very well in this region. This is the first place I had Cabernet Franc on its own and I bought two bottles of the 2011 on this trip. Both are gone already… Lastly we got to try an ice wine right from the press. It was sweet and sultry and oh so good.

We then went to the tasting bar again and met with Saleem Massoud, one of the owners’ three sons who work at this beautiful family winery and who we met in March. We caught up and tasted through their reds. All the winemakers told us 2012 has been a great year. I can’t wait to taste the finished results. But in the meantime I again had the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, which I loved and reviewed here.  At $60 a bottle its the most expensive I’ve had from the region, but the best. We also enjoyed the new “Assemblage” – a mostly Merlot Bordeaux blend with stunning flavor and balance. I picked up another bottle of this also pricey, but ‘worth it’ wine. ($50). I reviewed the equally amazing 2007 here. At the end of the visit we took home a full case of their wine, including a couple of their 2011 Cabernet Franc, 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, 3 of the 2010 Assemblage, The 2005 Cabernet, 2 of the 2011 Dry Riesling and 2 of their dry Rosé. My wife and I loved all the whites I mentioned as well and the Rosé was a great, Provence style dry wine. I will review those as I open them in the coming weeks. It’s not fair to only just mention them. But if you want to hear about the Assemblage and the ’05 Cab in more detail, definitely click through the links above.

Paumanok Wine Kegs

Paumanok Wine Kegs

This is really the best winery I have been to to date in this country for as long as I can remember. So while the prices can be high, there’s a reason. Top that with the gorgeous location and tasting room and the wonderful family who work there, you’re paying for the experience as much as the great taste you get to bring home with you. They are also one of the region’s wineries trying out the ‘wine keg.’ While not new it is becoming more popular. Several restaurants with larger volumes of popular wines benefit from the faster serving and less shipping and storage costs and space that these kegs offer. They are also more environmentally friendly as they don’t need to be recycled, and take up less trash space than bottles. They hold 5.15 gallons, or about 25 bottles of wine. The nitrogen gas in the tap system line prevents oxidization. Paumanok is currently experimenting with their Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.

Visit Paumanok at:

1074 Main Road  Aquebogue, NY 11931

(631) 722 8800

Next week in Part Two: Shinn Vineyards.

Lenz Blanc De Noir 2008

Lenz Winery. Chalkboard art by Dan Krupin.

Lenz Winery. Chalkboard art by Dan Krupin.

As promised, I wanted to tell you about yet another amazing wine I tried in the North Fork.  I of course enjoyed several of their wines, but this was an event for me because, like the white Merlot at Sherwood House Vineyards, this was my first white Pinot Noir. And most of you know by now, that Pinot Noir is my all-time favorite variety. And that being my first trip to a large number of different wineries in one visit, I underestimated how much I was going to want to bring home. It adds up fast, so I was sparing overall, amassing about 2 cases from 8 wineries and only one or two of each favorite. This was a major failure on my part because most of these I would kill to drink again right now, though I’ve been able to locate a few in shops in New York City as mentioned with the Bedell first Crush and some of the Paumanok. And every single one I want to write about, and probably will! I was able to get hold of another bottle of this one from a co-worker when he visited the region and winery in May.

Seeing as how my father-in-law introduced me to my first love in the grape world, I was eager and waited to share this 2008 Blanc de Noir from Lenz Winery with him. We had an opportunity in June but never got around to it, so it stayed in my fridge for a month, so as not to risk spoiling it with any drastic temperature changes. This was an ordinary kitchen fridge, but I have plans to pick up a temperature-controlled wine refrigerator when I have a home with more room. I was nervous it would spoil, but fortunately, it did not. I chalk it up to it being a new refrigerator with reliable temperature control.

2008 Lenz Blanc De Noir

2008 Lenz Blanc De Noir

Anyway, I not only shared it last weekend with my father-in-law, but my wife, my dad and my sister-in-law. It was a hit. My wife had tried it at the winery with me in March but it was amazing all over again, for both of us. The color was a pale gold, similar to that of Champagne, for obvious reasons. (okay well if you don’t know, Pinot Noir is one of the three grapes and one of the two red grapes used in traditional Champagne.) It was nice and dry and made in the same style with the same methods as its European red counterparts, though lightly pressed and the skins removed before fermentation. This is not a bulk-made, blended sweet rosé unfortunately now associated with America due to white Zinfandel. So of course on the nose you had French oak and baking spice — I picked up some noticable cinammon — and white cherry. The palate echoed the nose, with more white, and red cherry. It had medium acidity, body, and finish. It had such a unique character, really like nothing I’ve had yet. An absolute prize of a wine and one of their top five most popular.  I will be back for more, you have my word.

We also picked up an amazing two-bottle wine tote in their shop, which included two plastic wine glasses and a corkscrew for the consummate picnicer. We use this on a regular basis – for outdoor concerts, camping, the beach and whatever occasion calls for it. It is padded on the inside and canvas on the outside. It doesn’t have any cooling elements but you can easily wrap those little freezer cooling bags around a white and slip it in to its compartment.

There is also a talented artist on the staff, Dan Krupin, who does custom chalkboard art for the winery, and also their friends at the Harvest Inn, where we stayed that weekend. I will be telling you about that great place, people, and the amazing time we had there soon.

In the meantime, visit the Lenz website or winery, and order some for yourself before I drink it all…

Lenz Winery
38355 New York 25  Peconic, NY 11958

Wine Enthusiast 40-Bottle Modular Wine Rack

Wine Enthusiast 40-bottle modular wine rack

Product shot – full capacity

Last week I used a father’s day gift certificate to buy something I wanted on While I was dying for one of those cool silent, temperature-controlled storage fridges, the fact is we are living in a small apartment, which is already maxed out on space and there just is no room. I will get one of those down the road. Besides, in my business I often have at least a case of wine at home at any one time, thanks to such nice employee discounts. Our current wine rack only holds 6 bottles, and we end up stacking them on our dining room table or atop our bar next to the fish tank. And lets be honest, it’s not very nice to show off all the great wine those poor fish can’t drink. I’m a caring person, and don’t want my fish to feel such envy. Also, it doesn’t really look right, my fine wine collection piled against the side of a fish tank. More storage was definitely needed. But as we are buying a house at the end of the year or so, I wanted something that would fit here for now, but also be flexible enough to use in a larger space in the future. Enter the Wine Enthusiast 40-bottle modular wine rack. I read about 100 of the reviews before purchase. Some people complained that it was difficult to assemble and line up all the pegs and beams properly, while some said it really was not that hard if you took your time and had some patience, and some skill. You can build multiple smaller racks, or one large one. What is also great is it holds larger Burgundy and Champagne bottles as well.

My results - currently 10 bottles

My results – currently 10 bottles

Not having the rubber mallet recommended when it showed up so soon, I took others’ advice and used a small hand towel and a normal hammer. With just a little bit of thought and planning, and making a few adjustments, I was able to put together the size I had space for now in about 1 hour. Sure, there were a few pieces I had to detach and re-set, but with the towel and the hammer, I was able to line up everything pretty easily and without marring the wood. I made sure to lay the two rows I was assembling on top of each other as I built it to see where pieces needed to be adjusted so they would line up as I connected them. I didn’t have any trouble with broken pegs, and they give you extra anyway. We only have room currently on the bar for 10 bottles so I made 2 rows of 5 for this space. But knowing that when I have a lot more space, I can stack it up 4 times higher, there really was no better option. I chose the mahogany finish, which was only $10 more. It was already on sale so the whole thing only cost me $89 plus $15 shipping due to weight. Knowing I have proper storage now, and flexibility later, is a great thing. Being the fourth of July, we will do some damage to this collection at our BBQ today, but I always know I have a place to re-stock my collection. Happy 4th to my American friends!

Cork Art

Things are off to a good start here on the blog, and I am thrilled to have some followers already. Thank you, and I have added you and your great blogs to my blog roll.  I enjoyed reading your wine and winery reviews and learning about more wines I haven’t had. Keep it coming.

A few hours after I wrote my blog entry on the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir the other night, I was again remarking on the prickly alcohol and said out loud, “this has to be at least 13 1/2 %”.  I took a look at the label and guess what, 13.5% abv! That made me feel good, to be sure.  Clearly all that studying and tasting blind and otherwise has paid off.  For $12.95 this is a good bottle.

I thought Sunday would be a good day to talk about some fun wine art.  As part of my rabid enthusiasm for all things wine, I have had a taste for cork art recently. There’s a million and half projects out there from holiday wreaths, reindeer and candle holders to more elaborate sculptures, trivets and even large pieces of furniture (although most of those you can’t really make yourself). With a decent collection of corks at my disposal, I was eager to try a few of the ‘try-this-at-home’ projects, and get the family involved. Last Christmas we made a few reindeer using some corks, toothpicks and googly eyes from a tutorial I found online. The wreath projects I found online were impressive but I was actually short on corks as these required a few hundred corks at least. Also, it really was quite complicated and elaborate and not so kid-friendly.  I saw a few in some boutique shops that may just be easier to buy, but lets see how daring I feel this year.  So for now, the reindeer fit the bill perfectly and made for a quick, cute, and festive decoration.  Have a look at my results (above).

I also found some of the wine spectator cork trivet kits in the wine shop and I admit I have wanted one of these for a while. It actually took almost a week of reordering and moving around all the corks until I was happy with the arrangement. Also, I wanted to make sure the labels and names were visible as much as possible, and any other unique and interesting art or text. Then it was just about an hour with a glue gun to lay it all in place.  My only comment would be that there’s more space in between them in some places than I’d like, but with the diversity in sizes and shapes of corks, and the bottles they came from, I suppose there’s no real way to make any and all corks fit snugly in every case. Once I got over that I got down to the fun. While I don’t think its shop-quality craftsmanship (my handiwork, not the product itself), it was a fun creative experience and every time I look at it, those corks will tell their stories and remind me of when I drank those wines. And that’s the best part. I have another one I intend to do with more expert results once I have stocked up again on enough corks, which shouldn’t be quite as long with the two cases that just showed up.