Veritage Miami Food and Wine Festival – Fine Wine Tasting – April 16, 2015

Yours truly, Mr Wining Daily at Veritage

Yours truly, Mr Wining Daily at Veritage

Over my kids’ spring break in April we made our annual family trip to visit my wife’s parents in Miami. This time we also got to experience a wine and food tasting, thanks to my father-in-law who got us a pair of VIP tickets, for which we were very grateful indeed. Usually we take a few days of the week to head off on our own to places like the Everglades or the Keys or the Gulf Coast. But this year we spent the whole week in the Miami area so this made it possible to include this in our plans.

Clever serving at Veritage

Clever serving at Veritage

The “Veritage” (formerly United Way Miami Wine & Food Festival) Fine Wine tasting was held at the Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables, just a stone’s throw from their house. There were also some spirits there, but we did not try them as I was focused on the wine, of course! The festival also includes a legal mingle wine tasting, an interactive dinner with chefs, a craft beer tasting and an auction/wine dinner at other locations which we did not attend. So this review is just my experience at the wine tasting portion.

Yarden at Veritage

Yarden at Veritage

Let’s get right down to the nitty-gritty. I’m going to do most of this in list fashion so that you don’t have to read 12 pages, and let’s be honest, I was busy enjoying the experience, not taking long notes on every sip. Plus, if I had done that, I’d have missed out on a lot of the enjoyment of it. Maybe when someone is paying me to report on it I will think differently on that matter!

GREATS:

Ch. St Michelle at Veritage

Chateau Ste. Michelle at Veritage

Food Favorites: My top tables were Buns and Buns, BLT Prime and Misha’s Cupcakes to top it off. I admit my curiosity for Buns and Buns was piqued by one attendee’s comment to another: “You’re not going to get better food than at this table.” So I waited in line and it was worth it. Amazing pork buns, and BLT had amazing brisket. And who can resist Misha’s cupcakes? We couldn’t! We even brought some home.

Great Vouvray at Veritage

Great Vouvray at Veritage

Wine Favorites: I was really impressed by the Israeli wines. I know they’ve been making wine for millennia, even if most don’t think of it as a top region. The variety of grapes and styles was also impressive. Favorites were the Portuguese-style Touriga blend and the Sauvignon Blanc. Also, a few producers whose wines I work with were there, so it was a treat to taste some of their wines that were new to me. Chateau Ste Michelle from Washington were also there with two wines from their collective of wineries — Columbia Crest and Anew, representing some of their best Cabernets and Rieslings. Though their rep was MIA for most of the VIP hour, that was nothing a little self-pouring couldn’t remedy! I Also loved the ‘Boneshaker” Lodi Zinfandel, the Domaine Vincent Careme Vouvray (they had another Vouvray there with a higher profile but this one stood out as it was more more unique and complex) and the Nardi Brunello.

The Glass/Tray combo: Loved the food tray with the integrated glass holder. Both were plastic, for no-break convenience.

Twitter at Veritage

Twitter at Veritage

Social media screen: Yours truly’s tweet showed up seconds after I posted. Very interactive and 2015!

The VIP hour: A lifesaver given the capacity crowds at peak! (See follow-up comments below in ‘gripes’.)

GRIPES:

Bathrooms: Where were they? No one we asked seemed to know. While there were many restaurants in the courtyard, I doubt any or many had an open-door policy. Maybe they mentioned it to other guests at registration, but not us. We were among the earliest guests so its possible that’s why. More below on the registration desk questions.

Nightime at Veritage

Nightime at Veritage

Seating: More would have been appreciated. Plenty of nice restaurants here had many open tables while large crowds of guests had to negotiate the aisles with food and wine in hand, post VIP-time. This is something they need to work out, in my opinion. Perhaps work with one or two of the restaurants to provide extra seating. There were also a few spots in the park I saw off to the sides that could have fit 20+ tables for guests, but was not utilized to alleviate the crowding. When people are drinking, and eating, and especially for handicapped or older guests, this is a must. It may not be the majority of the crowd, but it should be a consideration. Park benches and edging comprised of the seating we could find.

Wine placement: I was excited to see a few of my favorite wineries on the list. Only it took me over 20 minutes to track them down, which entailed asking pourers at other tables who happened to be able to find them on a map in a piece of literature. Was this passed out at registration too? I don’t know. As a VIP, we were given passes but not the nice tote that later non-VIP guests seemed to have received, which I am guessing contained that booklet. Maybe this was also just a factor of being there precisely at the VIP hour kick-off, they weren’t entirely ready yet. I think, if you’re not ready with everything yet, don’t let guests in, even VIPs, until you are. I feel some of these details were missed for us and the other earliest arrivals.

Registration: We were dropped off at one of 3 street entrances into the mall/park area, walked past tables being set up in that corridor and looked for the registration area once inside. It took a while to find, and we had to ask. Its possible that we were supposed to come through that main building entrance, but we got dropped off by my wife’s mother on this side street to get around the car traffic. So this is possibly why it was harder to locate. There were police at this entrance but they did not redirect us to another entrance or forbid our entrance here. Perhaps they thought we were staff. But I imagine we were not alone.  Seeing as there are these 3 other street (vs building) entrances, they could have posted a volunteer, or at least a sign at each indicating the direction to/location of the registration area.

All that considered, I only hope the feedback of this one attendee will help them improve a great event. I really enjoyed it and I don’t mean to sound overly critical. We have our own company tasting events and it’s nice to have others to compare it to and take away strengths and weaknesses and offer feedback that I can contribute to both, should they be interested in hearing it. And, I got to enjoy some fantastic wine and food under the palms. Plus it all goes to benefit a good cause, which I am very glad for. Cheers and thanks to Veritage 2015!

Visiting Veramar and Bogati Vineyards in Virginia

Veramar Vineyards, Berryville, VA

Veramar Vineyards, Berryville, VA

A few weeks ago we went to celebrate our 5th anniversary in and around Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. As history, hiking, and wine fanatics, this area had everything we wanted all in one spot. You may know Harper’s Ferry from the famous uprising of abolitionist John Brown, which would eventually lead to our nation’s civil war. We stayed in a bed and breakfast in nearby Charles Town that was built on George Washington’s first land purchased in the area. In fact, Charles Town was named for his brother. Our first morning we spent in historic Shepherdstown and then crossed the Potomac into Maryland for a visit to Antietam National Battlefield, rendered all the more somber and powerful from an overnight snowfall. And the state of Virginia is home to over 200 wineries, with a long history of vine cultivation, but we will get to that in a minute.

With the unexpected weather we had opted to postpone our hike and winery visits until the next day when things would have melted off a bit. This was more for hike safety than for the winery visit, but nevertheless, 1,200 feet up on Loudoun Heights there was still several inches of snow to be found. After heading back down the Appalachian Trail route across the Shenandoah into downtown Harper’s Ferry, we hopped in the car to visit some of the nearby wineries of Northern Virginia.

A friend of mine who lives in the area recommended Veramar winery in Berryville. In complete contrast to the snowy mountaintops, the sun was shining down on the rolling hills and vineyards of the seemingly endless estate, with the expanse of the Blue Ridge extending in the distance as far as the eye could see. This area of the state’s wine industry is Shenandoah Valley AVA. Vine cultivation in Virginia goes back as far as the original Jamestown colony, and Thomas Jefferson himself was growing the first vinifera vines here at his home in Monticello. For more on that subject, read one of my favorite books, “Thomas Jefferson on Wine,” by John Hailman. On this beautiful day, the owner and family were enjoying the weather as well and it sounds like there will be another generation of winemakers in the family. The scenery here is one you could imagine not looking all that different 250 years ago.

Veramar Vineyards' Rooster Red and 2013 Cabernet Franc

Veramar Vineyards’ Rooster Red and 2013 Cabernet Franc

After the tasting we bought a bottle of the Cabernet Franc 2013 and ‘Rooster Red’ blend as well as a few whites we enjoyed, particularly the Seyval Blanc. I am writing this on day two for the bottle of Rooster Red I brought home, so that wine has  opened up a bit since and really is showing well on the nose and palate.

The Rooster Red is a red Bordeaux-style non-vintage blend. On the nose are black currant and a seductive smokey oak and baking spices along with distinct soil/earth notes — softer on the palate than yesterday for sure. Some fig in there, and coffee bean. It paired nicely with food yesterday and is standing on its own quite well today. It has a medal from the San Francisco Wine Awards as well as commendations from Decanter’s World Wine Awards and 83 points from Wine Enthusiast.

I also bought a bottle of the 2013 Cabernet Franc. Like the Rooster Red, the oak on this wine and the aromas associated with it are really dialed in and integrated. I don’t think I noticed as much at the winery. Though maybe that was a result of all the visitors that day and us just relieved to finally be tasting after waiting 20 minutes for a bridal shower before us to make room at the tasting bar. I was impressed — these smell like some of the best from the west coast and Europe. It is rated at 87 points on the winery site, though I am unable to find the source. On the palate, this Cabernet Franc is a balanced, elegant wine with very little of the under-ripe or green notes I usually encounter in reds from our part of the country. We enjoyed some warm bread and a gouda as well which you can buy at the tasting bar.

IMG_6339As we were looking over the options for one more stop in the region’s winery list, the staff suggested their sister winery just 7 miles down the road, Bogati.The Bogaty family runs Veramar, hence the name of their sister winery Bogati. (I am unsure of why the spelling was changed in the winery name – perhaps to be more chic?) When they told us it had a modern, Argentian flare, we decided it was defintely worth a visit. I had yet to come across a winery in this part of the country that did South American wines (or rather, a South American style of Malbec, a French native grape finding much success in Argentina of late.)   A quick drive through a gap in the Mountains led us to Bogati. On the outside it looks like a modern art gallery space with some lovely views of its own. But inside it’s all about the wine, and plenty of style. Their wines have a few medals of their own, namingly for their Seyval Blanc, the light Pinot Gris-based wine known as “B-thin,” the “Tango Blu,” and their Malbec.  The Malbec is really what I was excited about most though and it was a tasty and promising example. But equally as unexpected and unique as a Virginia Malbec, was their Touriga Nacional. You may know this as the principal grape of Portuguese red wines, and this one completely surprised and delighted me. As much for the uniqueness as the taste. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by both of these fine wineries – they are each within an hour’s reach of Washington DC.

Hands-On at Harvest 2014

 

"My" row, on the right

“My” row, on the right

Last Sunday was a truly special experience for me. You may recall my entry from last September when I stumbled upon the Cayuga harvest at a local winery, White Silo. Well, I did indeed follow up on a volunteering opportunity with their winemaker early last month, and on Sunday I had the privilege to participate in the harvest activities.  It was not only a barrel-load of fun, but highly educational.

Cayuga is a Cornell-engineered cold-climate resistant white grape that is therefore highly successful in the Northeastern United States. While this winery deals primarily in fruit wines, they do produce a few traditional grape wines. The Cayuga here is the main production, with smaller quantities of Marquette and Frontenac (also cold-hardy engineered hybrid grapes – these from the University of Minnesota), for their red. We stuck with harvesting the Cayuga on this day. All in all there were 7 rows of the grape, and I managed to fill 3 bins when I completed my row – about 250 lbs worth. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed working out there picking grapes. I grew up doing a lot of yard work as part of my household chores, and as much as I moaned about it then, I clearly developed an appreciation for working the land. And seeing as hiking and skiing are two of my favorite activities, I am without a doubt an outdoor guy. So even after four hours in the blazing sun with swarms of bees, spiders and stinging nettle in my midst, and just a cap and a little sunblock as shelter, you heard nothing but laughter from me as I traded stories with all the pickers.

After picking, we moved to the de-stemming and crushing process. Some more nice photos of this process and equipment, as well as the winery itself, can be seen in the original post. I enjoyed loading the de-stemmer and transferring the free run juice and pressed juice (all blended here – no 1st and 2nd wines just yet) into the tank. We netted about 1,250 lbs of grapes, producing about 90 gallons of wine. We wisely set up in the shade for this portion of the afternoon and it took about 3 rounds of pressing with a nice lunch break in-between and a glass of their delicious dry rhubarb wine.

The de-stemmer at work

The de-stemmer at work

I spent the rest of the afternoon with the winemakers doing the acidity and pH tests as well as calculating, activating and acclimating the yeast to then add to the tank and get things going. This really took me back to my chemistry days, as we created solutions, and used beakers and pipettes to very accurately measure the acidity level. It was fascinating – I don’t think I ever enjoyed chemistry as much. The pH test was done by a simple device that saves some time, and a calibrated scale measured the right proportion of yeast. I enjoyed stirring the must while adding the final ingredients and we sealed the tank.

As my reward I got to take home a few of my favorite bottles, including their “Upland Pastures Dry White” which I watched them harvest and press last year. This is the wine I helped create the next vintage for today. This weekend I will be back in the area for another overnight hike and am going to stop in to see how fermentation is going. Stay tuned!

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2006

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de LaLande 2006

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de LaLande 2006

This is a very special wine from my collection that I open today for a very special reason. This was a wine I intended to keep many more years, and share with a new friend and colleague, Jon. We visited Bordeaux together in 2012 on a work trip, and visited Pichon. While we actually visited the brothers’ chateau across the street – Baron de Pichon Longueville, the two chateaux straddle the same stretch of road through the heart of Pauillac, and from my tasting today, the terroir and style of the sisters’ Ch Comtesse de Lalande is a beauty of equal nature. 2006 is aged enough to enjoy, though I have no doubt it would only become exponentially elegant with age. And there’s always more, when I have the money. I had wanted to try theirs as well on the trip, and its close enough for me in regards to the Pichon Baron to drink in tribute for this reflective occasion. That day our group toured the vineyards that stretched on for what seemed like eternity, observed the famous gravelly soils of the region at the roots of the vines, toured the winery, had lunch with the winemaker, negociant and winery manager (drinking plenty of Pichon and their sultry Sauternes the Ch Suduiraut) and then tasted through a vertical of these amazing Bordeaux. While the prices weren’t really easily affordable, I’ve had my eye on these wines at a few local retailers ever since, just in case. And I was lucky enough to receive this bottle for Christmas from my wife and father-in-law.

During this outing, and the rest of the chateaux we visited in Bordeaux, Jon and I became close friends with a strong bond over wine, and later, the Tottenham Hot Spurs who we’d go see together a year later in London. Despite being separated by the Atlantic, we talked regularly about wines, particularly Bordeaux, for which he was a huge fan and collector. We continued to share our love for wine and talked about when we would drink this, and many other of our prized bottles together. And I was doing everything I could to get him a position on my team in the American office so we could one day work together doing what we love.  We spoke up to the last, until I received the unexpected tragic news of his passing just over a week ago while on vacation. It has been a rough go. But I knew one thing for sure, that I would open this bottle as soon as I returned home, and pay tribute to his memory.  Price and maturity were no longer giving me pause – this is a celebration of his life and our friendship and bond over wine.

The color is deep purple with some color variation on the rim from the age. On the nose, developing elegant black fruit abounds, with notes of perfume and spicy French oak, of course! On the palate, while still young, it is an incredibly supple wine with a perfect balance of fruit, tannin and acid which will all mellow in time. The body is of medium weight and it has a nice finish for its age. An excellent wine by any standard, and worthy of such an occasion. I will be pairing it with some steak shortly to much success I have no doubt.

 

 

North Fork, Old and New

North Fork Long Island Wines

North Fork Long Island Wines

A few weeks ago, my wife and I went back to the North Fork of Long Island to celebrate another anniversary. We tried a new B&B just outside the seaside town of Greenport which we became enamored with on previous visits. We stopped at some favorites wineries we’ve visited since we began exploring the region, and ventured out to some new wineries on the scene. Without going into too much repeat detail on visits already documented on this blog, I will name drop the old favorites we re-visited:

Croteaux (home to nothing but great rosés), Lieb Cellars (for some more Bridge Lane Chardonnay-natch), One Woman (great Grüner Veltliner) and ordered some of our favorite Anthony Nappa wines while dining at Noah’s in Greenport and A-mano in Mattituck.

And now on to the new!

Kontokosta Winery

Kontokosta Winery

The first stop was Kontokosta, started by brothers Michael and Constantine Kontokosta. Owners of local inns in Greenport and Aqueboque, the brothers took an interest in winemaking as a result of the locale and, I would assume, their Greek backround. The first vines were planted between 2002 and 2004 with the first wines produced in 2006. With no formal winemaking training, the first wines and the art of winemaking was taught to Michael by Peconic Bay founder and Ackerly Vineyards’ Ray Blum until his passing in 2007. Eric Fry from Lenz helped with the next few vintages at his winery, and Gilles Martin of Sparkling Pointe is currently winemaking consultant and assisted on the 2012 vintage. They sell some of their fruit to other local wineries, and some of the wines are made from the fruit of other local vineyards (including a tribute to Ray Blum from Ackerly Pond), rounding out a nice current line of 8 wines.

It is a stunning state-of-the-art winery replete with modern architecture and sound-side views.There is no detail missing here. The winery building is made with 90% recycled steel and wood and is powered by a giant windmill on the property, with an energy and environmental award to show for it. It is elegant and high-class yet surrounded by beautiful vineyards and a short walk to the northern coast of Long Island with commanding views of Connecticut across the sound.

Duck Walk Pinot Meunier 2010

Duck Walk Pinot Meunier 2010

The rosé and the Cabernet Sauvignon were favorites of mine and I brought one of each home and enjoyed them recently.  Their 2012 Sauvignon Blanc won Best of Class and Double Gold at the International East Meets West Wine Challenge. We enjoyed that one as well. While Chardonnay shows well in the region, they specialize in Loire grapes Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc which also do well here and they do not make a Chardonnay.  If you want their wines, you will have to go to the winery to purchase them.

After a visit to Croteaux, we also made it to Duck Walk North, the other Duck Walk being on the South Fork. We enjoyed many of their wines but the most interesting to me was the Pinot Meunier. This you may know as one of the three grapes used in the production of Champagne and other fine sparkling wines. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the others, and in varying combinations including just the red grapes (blanc de noir) or just Chardonnay (blanc de blanc). Pinot Meunier is a grape I’ve never had on its own before, and you know I can’t resist a new wine experience. It pours out a bright ruby red of medium body. Blackberry, bramble and oak fill the nose and continue on the palate. The tannins were firm but not harsh. A pleasant red wine and a fortunate discovery, as no one else on the east coast makes a Pinot Meunier on its own.

Goose at the Old Field

Goose at the Old Field

Next stop was The Old Field. We tried the first day we were there but they weren’t open (weekends only it turns out) so we were pleased when we tried again that it was open and went in for a visit. This is really an old farm, and is still occupied by numerous chickens, turkeys, and a curious goose, who enjoyed staring at us through the tasting barn window as we tasted through their wines poured by our host and family winemaker Perry. Maybe the goose is a Cabernet Franc fan? We enjoyed their wines and the conversation with Perry and some other customers who we saw earlier in the day at Croteaux.

There was none of the Pinot Noir to be had that day but we did enjoy the wines we tasted, particularly the Cacklin’ rosé, Cabernet Franc and Commander Perry Merlot. This winery’s vines go right down to the water and a private beach, and the space is available for weddings. The property’s documented history goes back to the 1600s and has been in the family’s ownership for 95 years. The first vines were planted there in 1974 and bio-dynamic and organic practices are used, with the chickens providing extra natural fertilizer as well as eggs. Everything is done by hand, from harvesting to labeling each bottle.

Wines on Tap at Martha Clara

Wines on Tap at Martha Clara

We finished the weekend with a visit to Martha Clara Vineyards, owned and operated by the Entenmanns, just across from their family farm. This potato farm was purchased in 1978 to raise thoroughbreds after Robert Entenmann sold off the family bakery business.  In 1995 he caught on to the local vinifera craze and began planting what would become 100 acres of vines.  He named it after his mother, Martha Clara Entenmann.

The tasting room was a beautiful building adorned with large scale classic movie posters, several tasting tables, a private tasting room for events, a gift shop and a large gathering space for snacking while enjoying newly purchased wines. Also to note is all their wines were on tap! They have a new winemaker and the wines were definitely showing well. I was pleased to find the Pinot Noir more developed and ripe than many from the region, and bought myself a bottle. And the nose on that Pinot pleased as well, so you know I was happy.

Harvest at White Silo Winery, Sherman, CT

White Silo Winery

White Silo Winery

Last weekend after a great hike on the famous Appalachian Trail, my wife and I visited the White Silo Winery in Sherman, just a few miles from where the trail enters Connecticut. Simply expecting a nice way to celebrate and loosen up the muscles a bit with a few glasses of wine, we stumbled into harvest.

While sad to have missed the opportunity to volunteer earlier that day, I got my nature fix on the trail and winemaker Eric Gorman was more than happy to give me his card so I could volunteer next year. We chatted briefly about our WSET experiences and he and his staff were also more than happy to let me watch them as they went about their work. A small but efficient operation of de-stemming, harvesting and pressing the whites was underway, the reds having been done the day before.  Once a you-pick-it fruit farm, the good folks of Cornell came along years ago with recipes for making fruit wine and the experiments began. They became a winery in 1990, with the first grape vines planted in 2010. The first crop of traditional grape-based wines were harvested in 2012.

These days they have found much success with the fruit wines, winning several awards including the Big E for their sparkling Blackberry wine. Only 2 wines are not fruit based – the white being Cayuga-based (I do not know what grape is used for the red). My guess is Cornell also provided/inspired them to grow the grape, which they bred to tolerate the cold climates in the region to much success. I’ve had this variety in many Connecticut and New York wineries so far as a result.

Cayuga grapes ready for vinifying

Cayuga grapes ready for vinifying

There were a few baskets of the just picked Cayuga bunches and we were invited to taste a few of them. We then witnessed the pressing of the grapes in their bladder press. This press was a smaller, water-based press that works in the same way as pneumatic presses I’ve seen but is vertically oriented. When the press is full of the grapes, the stems and pips were added back in both to keep the bladder shape from deforming and potentially being damaged, and to of course add some tannin. We also got to taste the just-pressed juice which was another treat! The last step was pouring it into the steel fermentation tank and checking the brix. As the next batch was being prepared, another staff member was using a de-stemmer just like the one I saw in a winery in the Finger Lakes and did my best to resist buying on the spot! Well that and the fact that I don’t have any OTHER winemaking equipment other than a carboy, some yeast and a fermentation stopper from WSET class.  I also saw the bottling machines – all the wine is grown, vinified and bottled on premises – a nice small family operation that had my wheels turning… One day.

Pressing the grapes

Pressing the grapes

We then went inside for a tasting ($7 pp including a free sangria made with 1 part dry rhubarb and 1 part blackberry over ice) where we tried several of the wines including the dry blackberry, blackcurrant and blueberry wines, the rhubarb sangria, a semi-sweet rhubarb wine and the “Upland Pastures” (Cayuga) dry white and dry red. All were interesting and refreshing and we came home with 3 bottles, one of each of those I just mentioned. We enjoyed most of the blackberry wine with dinner last night. You also get to keep your tasting glasses as is traditional in most wineries. Many local shops carry the wines as well as the winery (call to order while they set up the online store).

The beautiful winery is in an old 1800’s dairy barn on a hillside in the foothills overlooking the vineyards and fruit plants below. There is also a nice terraced area to enjoy the wine, custom box lunches (reserve in advance), local cheese plates or you can bring your own. To celebrate their fruit and vegetable crop, they have the Asparagus Festival every May, The Rhubarb Festival in June, and the Raspberry Festival in September.

Dry Blackberry Wine

Dry Blackberry Wine

They also make their own mustard from berries, quince, blackcurrant and rhubarb that are all grown on their property. The Quince mustard took 1st place in the 2011 CT Food Specialty Competition, and there’s now a jar in our pantry. There was a nice art gallery in the winery with paintings and pottery from local artists on display and on sale.  If you’re a hiker, they have 3 miles of trails behind the winery called “Elaine’s trails.” Definitely give them a visit at:

http://whitesilowinery.com/
32 Rt 37 East
Sherman, CT. 06874

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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?