Sideways Movie Night at Gordon's Waltham, MA

Friday, October 30, 2009

This event from featuring the movie Sideways at Gordons has been canceled. I'll leave my related commentary posted here- sorry for pointing you to a non-existent event.

One of my favorite wineries featured quite prominently in the movie is Sanford. It's one of the first tasting rooms Miles and Jack stop in. If you watch closely there's a few other wines that play bit parts that are a little harder to find. Specifically, I always enjoy the scene where they're enjoying dinner with Maya and Stephanie for the first time and they're cranking through way too many wines. A nice bottle of Burgundy, a bottle of Kistler...on and on. At around 42 minutes in is a Pinot Noir that I've wanted to try for a while and just recently did- Sea Smoke:

I wrote-up my impression of the 2004 Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir HERE. Really oustanding stuff I'd encourage you to buy if you see it around, and if not- seek it out.

I'm headed to a Chef's Table dinner tonight at one of my favorite restaurants- The Capital Grille on Newbury Street. Some friends and I won it in a WGBH auction earlier this year- really looking forward that.

Whatever your plans are, I hope you have a great weekend!


Store Review: Wine ConneXtion North Andover, MA

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Just back from a soft opening of a new wine shop: Wine ConneXtion in North Andover, MA. I'll cut right to the chase and say that the pricing is the lowest I've seen in the state, with a product mix that compelled me to buy nearly a case of wine when I intended to limit my purchases to only 1 or 2 bottles. Here's what I bought:

'06 Martinelli Pinot Noir Bella Vigna $36.99
-I've never seen Martinelli in stores in MA. I think the release price on this is $60, and it's sold mostly through mail order.
'05 Chateau Montelena Cab $34.99
-$45 release price. 82 WS, but a CT median of 90. I think I've had this wine by the glass at The Capital Grill ad I loved it. And let's face it- a nice looking bottle. Strong brand.
'06 Groth Cab $34.99
-I thought the pricing on this was insanely low. $55 release price, 88WS, 91 CT median. Really beautiful brand and bottle. You always see this one at steakhouses for $100+.
'07 Ridge Lytton Springs $24.99
-I liked this '05 vintage of this wine at $32 ($40 less 20% discount for a case purchase). I gave it 93 points and thought it was the best Zinfandel I've ever had. I think at $25 this is an amazing buy.
'07 Adelsheim Pinot Noir Willamette Valley $23.99
-I thought this was a great price for a legit Oregon Pinot Noir I've been looking for based on comments I've gotten from friends on this site. Also have their Pinot Gris at a great price. UPDATE: This wine received 90 points from Wine Spectator with a release price of $32.
'08 Two Hands Angels' Share Shiraz $22.99
-This is a fantastic wine that's hard to find for less than $30 (the release price is $35). Also had the '07 Gnarly Dudes for $19.99 but I've enjoyed the Angels' Share more in the past.
'07 Grgich Hills Fume Blanc $13.99
-Not sure why I bought this one, other than it looking like a nice bottle of white wine from a producer I've visited and enjoyed wines from in the past. Just looked it up- 89WS and a release price of $30. Wow. I see a store in MA selling this same wine for $13.99- for a half bottle.
'06 Castle Rock Napa Valley Cab $9.49
-I tried this at a shop that was considering bringing in the '05 vintage. They said they were afraid to carry it because it would cannibalize sales of $15-$20 Cabs. WS panned this one- 79. CT users don't like it much more. May have been a mistake.

Although the selection wasn't deep in France (I'd say the store was probably two-thirds new world) I also bought:
'07 William Fevre Chablis $15.99
'07 Marcel Martin Vouvray $9.49

There are no case discounts offered on top of these low prices, and sales are subject to 6.25% Massachusetts state tax. I like the model where you don't have to buy quantity to get the best pricing. Some stores closer to me make it necessary to buy 2 cases to get the pricing down out of the stratosphere. Even after 20-25% discounts at other stores, the pricing isn't as good what I saw at Wine ConneXtion.

For the most part, wines are stored in on simple folding tables right out of the cardboard boxes they came in. They do have a small walk-in area (where I found the Martinelli) where they keep higher end wines:

They also have a tasting bar and a "Back Wall Deals" area. I was hoping this would be a close-out area, but it was more of a collector wall for 1.5L bottles of Meridian Chardonnay and such:

I had a chance to talk with Wine Director Sam Messina and his co-owner/sister Tina Messina about the store and their unique business model. They bring 40 years of experience (ie, they know how to pick good wines) and are hyper-focused on being the area's ultimate low-cost provider of fine wine. They even went as far as to consider efficient heating and lighting systems to further keeps costs down.

I learned that they used to run a more traditional liquor store at the location (lotto machine, nips, cigs, etc). They decided to re-vamp the way they do things as part of a revitilization of the First & Main Marketplace it's located in and I'd say they hit a home run. It's actually the closest thing I've seen in MA to one of my favorite stores in the country- San Diego Wine Co. Minimize the number of SKUs, focus on the wines people want that turn quickly, and offer them at unbelievably low prices.

I'll look forward to seeing the product assortment change over time. I'd also like to see them develop their internet presence so I can be aware of their inventory to justify the trip up there (it took me about an hour with traffic at 6:00 PM). I'm not looking for anything fancy here- just a monthly newsletter with their latest best deals and E-mail blasts with closeouts they're able to obtain. A simple reply to the E-mail if I'd like to take advantage of one of their offers is all I'm looking for- no e-commerce site is necessary. Effective use of Twitter would be nice too. It's how I like to shop.

I'd encourage you to check this store out. It may have redefined the baseline for rock bottom pricing north of Boston.

Interesting in reading more about this store?

Check 'em out:
Wine ConneXtion
117 Main Street
North Andover, MA 01845
Follow @WineConneXtion on Twitter


Tasting Report: 2007 Paraiso Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

One of the top values in Wine Spectator's 2007 California Pinot Noir report was the 2007 Paraiso Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. Of the 384 wines they tasted, only 8 earned 90 points or more and carried a release price of $30 or less. The Paraiso retails for $25, so I was ecstatic to receive an E-mail offer from one of my favorite local wine merchants offering the wine at $20. I bought 3 bottles.

Over the past month I've had all 3 bottles, but not because I thought the wine so great. Because they were all so different. The first bottle was, for me, entirely over-ripe (and I love big California style wines typically). It went beyond ripe fruit straight to raisins. Not good.

The second bottle was dominated by dill aromas. I'm told that dill is commonly imparted by American oak, and in moderate levels I can enjoy dill nuances. But in this bottle it was so overpowering I couldn't notice any thing else about the wine.

The third bottle was fine- a very good California Pinot Noir. I'd probably rate it 88 points.

After tasting these bottles, I'm left thinking about bottle variation. I don't know of any flaws that lead to over-ripe or exessive dill aromas, so I'm assuming these bottles were all solid. Further, I assume they all came from the same lot (since I bought them at the same time from the same retailer).

I'm thinking of 2 people tasting the same wine from different bottles at the same time. Like during TasteLive sessions- 2 people can get entirely different impressions of the same wine at the same time and I typically chalk it up to different palates. Maybe sometimes the wine is significantly different between different bottles?

2007 Paraiso Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands
11,618 Cases
14.4% Alcohol
$25 Release Price
92 Wine Spectator (subscription required)
90 CellarTracker
Click here for more info from the winery

Further Reading:

Question of the Day: If you've had this wine, what did you think of it? Either way, what are you thoughts on bottle variation?


Cakebread Wine Dinner at Morton's Back Bay

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

As self-appointed chairman of the (non-existent as far as I know) Boston Cakebread fan club, it's my pleasure to pass along a heads-up about a paired wine dinner at Morton's Back Bay Boston coming up this Wednesday November 4th, 2009.

Bruce Cakebread will be on hand and the event includes an opportunity to bid on some large-format bottles of Cakebread wine with proceeds going to Feeding America. Here's the menu:

Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes
Oysters on the Half Shell
Tuna Tartare, Diced Tomato and Avocado
Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Napa, Cakebread Cellars

Mixed Field Greens topped with Grilled Colossal Shrimp, Toasted Walnuts, Blue Cheese and Apple
Chardonnay Reserve, 2006, Napa, Cakebread Cellars

Filet Mignon
Chive Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Tomato Stuffed with Saut�ed Spinach
Shiitake Mushrooms
Cabernet Sauvignon, Dancing Bear Ranch, 2004, Napa, Cakebread Cellars

Cheese Course
Green Hill (Jersey Cow Milk Cheese)
Roasted Wild Rice (Gouda)
GoreDawnZola (Gorgonzola)
River's Edge Full Moon (Goat Milk)
Zinfandel, 2006, Red Hills-Lake County, Cakebread Cellars

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
Taylor Fladgate, LBV

For more information, visit the Back Bay location's events page HERE.

There's a Morton's Cookbook Tour event at the Boston Seaport location *tonight*. More info HERE.

Further Reading:

You can follow @Morton's and @CakebreadWines on Twitter.


Wine Glass Towel Review

Monday, October 26, 2009

Everyone likes drinking out of a sparkling clean wine glass and while it's not the most important purchase decision you'll ever make, finding the right wine glass towel can really make a difference in how clean your wine glasses are. You'd think it would be easy to design a great wine glass towel. It's just a matter of finding the right fabric and slapping a logo on it, right? It must be harder than it seems because my testing revealed tremendous differences in the performance of the 5 towels tested.

Over the past year I've been testing every wine glass towel I could find. After purchasing a set from Wine Enthusiast, I've been able to track down a total of 5 towels specifically designed for cleaning wine glasses. Of the 5, I'm able to give positive recommendations to 2 of them, and one receives my top pick.

How I Use Wine Glass Towels

Although they're dishwasher safe, I don't run my wine glasses through the dishwasher. They're too large and awkward, and the dishwasher is usually full of regular dishes (and sippy cups). I typically wash my wine glasses by hand, turn them upside down on a dish towel for just a moment to let the water run off, and then I dry them with a wine glass towel to remove water spots.

I've tried using a regular kitchen dish towel, but the towels tend to be wet and dirty from regular kitchen use. If I do pull out a fresh kitchen towel, it tends to leave lint residue on the wine glasses. For these reasons, for me, dedicated wine glass towels are a legitimate accessory.

What I'm Looking For in a Wine Glass Towel

  • Lint-free The primary reason I sought out dedicated wine glass towels in the first place was because my kitchen towels left lint residue. This is the most important characteristic of wine glass towels because the last thing you want is a glass with lint residue that ends up making the glass look dirty -or worse- leaves lint floating around in your wine.
  • Odor-free Fortunately, none of the towels I tested left a noticeable odor.
  • Absorbency If the towel isn't absorbent enough it'll take a long time to get the water off the glasses.
  • Size/Weight It's the combination of the two that is important because you want a towel that's large enough to substantially fill a large Bordeaux-style glass so that you can spin the towel around and clean out the inside of the glass. If the towel is too small, it will be difficult to reach the bottom of the inside of the glass. If the towel is large but thin, it just collapses in the glass.
  • Pliability If a towel is too rigid it'll be difficult to to drape it around the glass and remove all of the water.
  • Grabby-ness/Buffing Quality The best towels I tested not only got the glasses dry and clean, they seemed to have a buffing quality to them.
  • Towels-per-package I think a 2-pack is the perfect size. If you have 2 towels, you can have one being laundered while the other is being used. Or if both are clean you can have a back-up in case you need to dry off a lot of glasses all at once.
How I Tested

I tested all of the towels over a period of months. I put them each through multiple laundry cycles with other towels and often with baby bibs with velcro. As I noticed flaws in each of the towels, I'd use it less and less. After a while it was clear to me what my preferred order was and when I'd go back and try one of the non-preferred towels I was instantly reminded why I stopped using it.

Here are my thoughts on each of these towels, written up in the order in which I discovered them. With the exception of the 1st towel that I purchased, all of the towels were samples I solicited.

Wine Enthusiast Suede Microfiber Wine Glass Towels

These are the first towels I tried. I was not happy with them.

  • Due to their small size and pliability, good for cleaning eyeglasses.
  • Major large-lint problem. Left nearly as much lint as kitchen towels.
  • Not absorbent enough. Takes a long time to dry and clean each glass.
  • Too small. Very difficult to reach the inside of large glasses.
Recommendation: Not recommended.

Where to buy: Discontinued, but here's a link to where they used to be sold on Amazon:

Wubeez Glass Polishing Cloths (1st Generation)

I first heard of Wubeez from THIS REVIEW on The Second Glass. I received a sample of the towels and I was *very* impressed. This towel worked very well.

  • Perfect balance of absorbency, weight, and pliability. They seemed to get the material just right on this one.
  • No lint- very good.
  • Very good buffing characteristics. Leaves the glasses sparkling.
  • Design isn't the most elegant in the world. Looks a little bit like a shop rag.
  • Just a little too small- hard to fill up a Bordeaux glass with one of these.
  • Edges become frayed after several washes- especially prone to getting snagged on velcro:
Recommendation: Favorable, but this product has been replaced with a new towel. See 2nd Generation review below.

Riedel Large Microfiber Crystal Cloth

This is strong entry from the Riedel wine glass company (rhymes with needle) . The product is thoughtfully designed and marketed consistently with their industry-leading glassware products (see my review of Riedel wine glasses HERE).

  • Size. This was the largest towel of the group.
  • Aesthetics. This was the most refined and elegant looking towel I evaluated. Its white background makes it easy to see when the towel has gotten dirty and needs to be washed. Its red trim with black Riedel logo look crisp.
  • Pliability. The Riedel towel's silky material enables it to easily drape over and around a glass
  • Absorbency. It takes me a couple of passes to dry a wet glass with a dry towel.
  • Weight. Although the towel is by far the largest, the lightweight material it is made of collapses on itself when you try to bunch it up inside a large glass.
Recommendation: Recommended.

Where to Buy:
Directly from Riedel USA

Wine Enthusiast Microfiber Wine Glass Towels

I really had high hopes for this one. I was ready to fry the first Wine Enthusiast towel when I noticed that Wine Enthusiast was carrying this new towel.

  • Lowest per-towel price of the group. These are sold in 4-packs.
  • Poor durability, especially in conjunction with velcro items in a laundry cycle.
  • Leaves noticeable fibrous lint remaining on glasses after use. Take a look at this picture below (and click on it to increase the resolution). It was a little difficult to capture in a picture, but the glass on the left was cleaned with the towel that was my top pick. The glass on the right was cleaned with the Wine Enthusiast Microfiber Wine Glass Towel. The Wine Enthusiast towel consistently leaves an obvious and problematic amount of lint on the glass. The nature of the lint is different than the first towel I mentioned in this review, and also different than what I see from regular kitchen towels or paper towels. The lint is small and fibrous (as opposed to more of a natural cloth-like lint). Very peculiar and definitely not good.

Recommendation: Not recommended.

Where to Buy:

Wubeez Glass Polishing Cloths (2nd Generation)

Mid-way through my testing, just as I was getting ready to write a fairly positive review of their 1st Generation towel and mention some areas for improvement, Wubeez contacted me and told me they had a new version of the towel they were releasing. I received a sample of this new towel and it addressed all of the areas I noted for improvement.

  • Same great fabric as their 1st generation towel, but this new version is more elegant and refined.
  • Larger than the original, this new version fills a large Bordeaux glass nicely.
  • The border of the towel is stitched more cleanly and it no longer gets frayed in the laundry in my tests.
  • Dries glasses quickly and easily. The perfect balance weight and absorbency while still being pliable.
  • For better or for worse, this product hasn't reached wide distribution yet.
Recommendation: Top Pick (and a suggestion to Wine Enthusiast to evaluate this towel)

Where to Buy:

The towel was developed by Robert Hendrickson, who works in the hospitality trade in California. He was frustrated with how long it took to dry/clean glassware with the towels he had available so he created his own. The towel is sold to consumers, but also makes a good fit for restaurants and wineries. Here is a prototype of what the Wubeez would look like with a custom logo:


Like many wine accessories, glass towels aren't a necessity. They do make for a nice stocking stuffer, small item to pair with a gift of a bottle of wine, or small item to round out Amazon Free Super-Saper Shipping. If you drink wine a few times a week they're definitely nice to have. If you work in a restaurant or a winery tasting room, you'd probably agree they're a must. Either way, I hope you found this review useful.

I'd like to thank all of the companies that submitted towels for review. I truly appreciate it.

If you have a question or a comment, leave it below by the end of the week and you'll be entered in a random drawing for your choice of any one of the wine glass towels featured in this review. If you don't live in the continental US I'll send you a $25 Amazon gift card.

Spread the word about this giveaway on Twitter and you'll also be entered in the drawing. If you leave a comment -and- spread the word on Twitter you'll get 2 entries: Click here to pre-populate a Twitter status update (you'll have a chance to edit the tweet and click "Update" before the tweet is sent): Tweet this

If you're not into Twitter, or want an even better chance of winning, subscribe to this site via E-mail for yet another chance to win.

The more interest, the more towels I'll give away! I'll announce the winner(s) Monday November 2nd, 2009.


City Winery NYC Hosts an Evening with Kermit Lynch

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Who says this site only focuses on Boston events? Here's one for our friends within striking distance of New York City. Wine importer Kermit Lynch (love his 2005 Chateau Aney by the way- delicious stuff if you ever see it around) has released a CD and will be promoting it at this upcoming event:

On October 27th, City Winery, New York’s first functioning winery in over 40 years and innovative concert venue, welcomes wine importer extraordinaire, Kermit Lynch, to celebrate the release of his new CD Man's Temptation. The music and wine extravaganza will feature a tasting of twelve distinctive Kermit Lynch wines imported from all across France, and Lynch will share music from his brand new album Man’s Temptation distributed by Dualtone Music, as well as talk about his many adventures as proprietor of the Berkeley, California based Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant that is currently celebrating its 37th year anniversary.

Copies of the new CD Man’s Temptation, as well as both of his best-selling books Inspiring Thirst and Adventures on the Wine Route, will be available for sale that night, and Lynch will be on hand to sign autographs.

The event will begin with a forty-five minute walk-around tasting followed by a ‘Charlie Rose’ style interview with Kermit Lynch and a special guest celebrity emcee.

“This is a party for all my friends and long time customers to celebrate thirty-seven extraordinary years of wine adventures,” Lynch says. “We’ll try to make it a night to remember: full of delicious wines and some fine music.”

Tickets are required, and space is limited. The event is scheduled to begin at 6 PM. Tickets are $25, which includes entry to the tasting; or $35, which includes entry to the tasting and a copy of Lynch’s new CD Man’s Temptation. To reserve tickets, please call (212) 608-0555, or visit


Bin Ends Flea Market to Benefit Hugs for Healing

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bin Ends Wine in Braintree, MA (the area's premier off-price wine retailer) is holding their now-monthly fine wine flea market this Sunday October 25th, 2009 from 1-5PM. This time, they've selected a charity to benefit from the festivities- Hugs for Healing.

I asked Bin Ends Managing Partner Craig Drollett for some additional information about the event. Here's what he had to say:

Question: It's great to see the event provide support for a local charity. How did you chooose Hugs for Healing, and why is the cause special to Bin Ends Wine?

Craig Drollett: The charity was actually chosen by our store manager Dan Comer who has a family member dealing with cancer. He came to us with the idea back in August, and we wanted to do everything we could to help support the cause.

Question: How can people support the cause at the event?

Craig: There will be multiple ways to support. Representatives for Hugs for Healing will be here in the store accepting donations, we'll have special wine offers throughout the day that the proceeds will go towards the cause and there will also be a very exciting raffle in which we'll be giving away large format bottles, (via a giftcard) and gift cards to local businesses.

Sounds great. I'll look forward to attending the event and I hope you will too.

Click here for more information about the event


5 Can't-Miss Sonoma Winery Recommendations

Friday, October 23, 2009

This is part 2 of a 2-part guest post from Todd Broderick. Check out Part 1: Essential Tips for a Great Trip to Wine Country.

Now for some wineries I think you will enjoy, some more well known than others but worth the stop. These are all in northern Sonoma County, not because that’s the only place you should try, just because it’s a good starting point! Not in any particular order:

  • Forchini
    Run by the Jim and Anita Forchini. The wines are fantastic; the tasting room is attached to their home on the vineyard property. They have some really interesting red blends and it is always cool to talk to the people who make the stuff not just sell it! Call ahead.
    Follow @forchinicom onTwitter
  • Silver Oak, Geyserville
    Now, I know you are thinking, come on – everybody knows Silver Oak, why would I want to go there. I’ve got 2 reasons; 1) A great tour, that doesn’t make you feel like an idiot for being a novice and 2) Unbelievable cabernet, they are usually pouring current release and something from the library that you likely wouldn’t find by the glass anywhere. Call ahead.
    Follow @SilverOakWine on Twitter
  • Zichichi
    Run by the owner, Steve and his staff. They do barrel tastings on a regular basis, for a moderate fee you can try some interesting wines, tasting room is nice, good views. . .a little boring, but damn good wine. The pre-release purchases I made arrived in April this year were exceptional. Try the petite syrah and the zinfandel.
  • Ridge, Lytton Springs
    There are always some very good and interesting wines you will only find in the tasting room. The staff has never been particularly engaging and there are no tours, but do the tasting and take a walk around outside, the vineyards is beautiful. To sum it up great wines and amazing scenery. The gnarly old zin vines and the afternoon sun are a thought that always makes me smile.
    Follow @RidgeLS on Twitter
  • Mazzocco Winery
    Right down the road from Ridge, not exactly what I would call a terribly impressive facility, but they don’t need one, the wine speaks for itself. Simply put, the wine was awesome and the tasting room staff was great. I made it there in the fall of 07 the first time, and tried the first vintages from their new winemaker, and have found consistently great wines very time.
So with that, I wish you luck in your travels and encourage you to explore, talk to people and taste something new. When you get back, email me your favorite!

Further Reading:
Question of the Day: What are some of your favorite wineries in Sonoma? We'd love to hear about them.


Essential Tips for a Great Trip to Wine Country

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This is a guest post from Todd Broderick, a fellow Boston-based wine enthusiast.

It’s October and it is snowing in Boston. . .oh, how I long for a visit to the beautiful hills of wine country.

Over the past several years I have been fortunate enough to make several trips out to wine country from Boston with my wife and friends. We usually stay in Sonoma for 3 or 4 days and make our way over to Napa, up to Healdsburg and Dry Creek and several other stops throughout the region. I find that I love traveling there virtually any time of year, but if you have never been, the fall is a beautiful time to go. Depending on the weather that year, you’ll catch the end of harvest or you will be in the midst of crush, either way both valleys are awash with activity. Even for those that don’t have an obsession with wine; it is still a pretty cool sight to see the magic happen from grape to bottle!

I could write about both Sonoma and Napa for days, but I’ll keep this brief for the benefit of all, and focus on Northern Sonoma. When traveling to wine country, you can’t lose, even if you choose to spend your time on what I call the “auto-mile of wineries” known as route 29, running though Napa. However, the advice I have given friends is to take the less traveled path and make your way through Sonoma. You will be enamored with the sense of place and the spirit of the people and you will leave with a definite plan to return. This is not meant to be comprehensive, by any means, I am simply making an effort to provide one possible starting point for your travels. If you ask friends who have been, to recommend their favorites, you will get just as many differing opinions back as inquiries made. I tried to base the advice below on my experiences over multiple visits. I feel like this takes out some of the emotional ties to a place based on who you were with, the weather that day, the extra large pour from the tasting room host, etc.

While all of Sonoma is beautiful, if you head north into the Healdsburg and Geyserville you will be rewarded with beautiful landscapes and phenomenal wineries.

But before we get to where you might want to start, I’ve got a few general tips to make your trip a little more pleasurable:

  • Call ahead. Think about the wineries you might like to stop by and give them a call. Many have open tasting rooms, but if you are not sure, give a ring and see. Most of the people I have encountered have been great and many are willing to set up a specific tasting and/or tour, which can make the visit a lot more interesting. You may get the winemaker or owner on the phone, which has resulted in some of our best visits.
  • Start with a plan! If you aim for 3 to 4 wineries in a day you will give yourself plenty of time and not feel rushed or stressed. It also leaves you time to make random stops at places that look good along the way.
  • Bring some cheese! Always stop for a good lunch and dinner, the quality of the food is as amazing as the wine. But you should definitely start your day with some snacks for later. Find a cheese shop or deli and grab a hunk of cheese, a loaf of bread or some crackers (some water can’t hurt either) when you head out in the morning, you’ll be thankful by noon that you did. Don’t forget to pick up a little knife to cut the meat and cheese. Aside from trying some of the best artisanal breads, cheeses and cured meat you will ever taste, it is worth keeping your stomach full and your palate refreshed with something other than Zinfandel. The cheese factory on the plaza in Sonoma and the Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg are two great spots for provisions.
  • Bring a portable GPS! Especially if traveling with a spouse or someone that likes to navigate. Shell out the $200 if you don’t have one already, or the extra $10 in the rental car and program in your destinations. You will see some beautiful roads and not be distracted by a map!
This story is continued here:
5 can't-miss recommendations for wineries in northern Sonoma County.

I'd like to thank Todd for contributing this piece. He can be reached via E-mail at:

Question of the Day: Any other tips you'd like to share to make a trip to wine country more enjoyable?


Blanchards West Roxbury, MA Grand Wine Experience

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blanchards Wine & Spirits in West Roxbury, MA is hosting their semi-annual Grand Wine Experience tonight, Wednesday October 21st, 2009 from 6PM- 9PM. This is a free tasting of more than 100 wines, each on sale at a 20% discount. Click HERE for more information.

I attended their similar event earlier this year and thought it was great. I wrote up my thoughts HERE. There's some really excellent people who work at Blanchards. As a result of their helpful nature, the wines they carry, and their competitive pricing, the shop has earned a large portion of my wine spend in the past year. I'd encourage you to check them out.


Legal Sea Foods Vina Errazuriz Wine Dinner at The Prudential Center

Legal Sea Foods is offering a paired wine dinner featuring the wines of Vina Errazuriz at their Prudential Center (Boston) location Wednesday October 21st, 2009. The dinner costs $75. Click HERE for a menu and more information.

This event caught my attention because earlier this year I had a chance to taste through 8 Chilean wines as part of an online tasting conducted by Wines of Chile. The wine of the night, for me, was a 2007 Errazuriz Single Vineyard Carmenere at $26. I thought it was *fantastic*- definitely look forward to that wine in particular if you go.

If this date or location doesn't work for you, you might be interested in these other dinners featuring Chilean wines at other Legal Sea Foods locations (like Garden State Plaza, Tyson's Corner and Kendall Square).


The WWP Celebrates 1 Year (or: What to Expect in Your First Year of Wine Blogging)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The image above is a picture of what this site looked like when it was born. A year ago today, I launched this site with an announcement on our family blog:

"I started The Wellesley Wine Press for a few reasons. First, I have a lot of information about wine running around in my head and increasingly it felt unbalanced to include all of that content on Casa Dwyer. Second, I wanted to try my hand at launching a website and making a tiny bit of money on small ads and product links. I don't have grand visions for making a fortune- my goal is to pay for the $8 domain registration within the first year."

I was amazed, flattered and humbled to receive 109 page loads from 72 unique visitors on the first day. Traffic died down quite a bit after that initial push (when mostly family and friends checked the site out once). Some days the site received as little as 4 visitors:

But I kept at it, and was encouraged to see gradual growth. It was exciting to see Google index a piece I'd written and people finding their way to the site as a result of a search. As we entered the holiday season, and I added more and more content (usually about 3 new posts a week) I was really starting to see some encouraging growth. It seemed that the more new content I posted, the more new search engine traffic I was receiving:

Things slowed down a bit at the beginning of the year (wine interest always peaks during the holidays) but after that there's been steady growth in traffic over the course of the year. On a monthly basis, here's what it looked like over the year:

The dip in traffic in August was due to there being only 8 new posts which was coincident with our discovering Mad Men. Gary V is right when he says "Stop watching Lost" if you want to be successful online. It takes work, and work takes time, and the time has to come from somewhere.

A typical day on the site is now around 200 page views. There are days when it spikes up, and days that are a little slower. What's interesting about watching traffic is that it's all relative to what you're used to. For some people, these numbers are so small they're a joke. For others, they're amazing. For me, it's still pretty amazing to think that there are enough people out there on the Internet who are interested in the subjects I'm writing about that they find their way to the site. My point: I think about every person who visits the site like they're a customer. I'm always thinking- is there anything I could do to be more useful to someone who's visiting the site?

I'm still flattered when someone sends me an E-mail to ask my opinion of a product I've reviewed. Or a winery sends me an E-mail asking if I'd like a sample of their wines. Or a PR firm sends me an E-mail asking if I'll mention an event they're promoting. I appreciate all of these things. But the most precious thing to me, in terms of this site, is people who subscribe to my site via E-mail or in their feed reader. I think about them every time I publish a piece. Is what I'm writing good enough to warrant triggering an E-mail to these people who have shown enough interest in what I'm doing that they subscribed to updates? If you've subscribed to the site over the past year: THANK YOU. It really means a lot to me.

Looking back on my goal of recovering the $8 I spent to buy the domain ""... A lot of people I talked to when I launched the site were surprised to hear that I was interested in monetizing a blog. While making money is not my primary goal with this site, the exercise of learning how a blog works and how money can be made online has been fascinating to me. Blogging is far from passive income. In fact, it's probably the lowest hourly wage I've received for anything productive I've done in my life. More on that later, but for now I wanted to share an annual report on income and expenses for those of you who might be interested in starting your own blog (whether it be about wine or not).

Total cash expenses for the year came to about $50. This included domain registration/renewal (I switched from Name Secure to Go Daddy because I found Name Secure difficult to work with) and business cards (I've used Overnight Prints). I use a number of free services to run and/or promote this site:

  • Blogger (I still haven't found a need to switch to WordPress yet)
  • StatCounter (everyone seems to like Google Analytics, but I'm a fan of StatCounter)
  • FeedBurner
  • IntenseDebate (I've been really pleased with IntenseDebate over Blogger's default commenting mechanism. The commenting interface is more meaningful than the blogging platform in terms of user experience in my opinion.)
  • PostRank
  • CellarTracker (Huge fan of CT and glad I made the switch last year- it'll enable me to pull some interesting year-end reports on where I buy wine.)
  • Twitter/TweetDeck/TwitPic (huge fan of Twitter over Facebook fan pages for reaching a wider audience in a non-annoying way)
  • YouTube (moved away from Viddler for the most part as YouTube improved and Viddler annoyed with their revenue program)
  • PrintFriendly
Total cash income for the year totalled about $700. This included a combination of:
I've been very pleased with the Amazon Associate program. It's very easy to use, and it seems like everyone enjoys shopping through Amazon online.

A quick aside on affiliate links... Around the time I started this site, I was in the market for a webcam. I didn't want to spend a lot of time researching the purchase, and as I started looking online I quickly found a website dedicated to webcam reviews: Cowboy Frank. I loved the hyper-focused no-nonsense easy-to-understand reviews he provided and it was a no-brainer to purchase a webcam through one of his Amazon Associate links. It was the least I could do! I hope my wine accessory reviews are similarly useful to people, and judging from the number of wine aerators that have been purchased through affiliate links on this site they have been. I'm genuinely pleased each time I see a purchase made through a link, and especially when people reach out with questions about wine accessories I've reviewed. I hope to continue this focus in the coming year.

I've dabbled with a number of other affiliate programs but they've not generated meaningful revenue. Although I've looked into a number of them, I haven't found a good wine affiliate program. I attribute this to a combination of the fragmented wine shipping laws from state to state in this country -and- the lack of a well-run wine affiliate program. I'm hopeful that Amazon will sell wine some day because I like their affiliate program and would love to be able to link to wines sold through an Amazon Wine store. Maybe some day.

In April of this year, I met Joe Roberts from 1WineDude at Wine Riot. I was talking with him about how hard it was to make money off ads on a wine blog. He pointed out that I might want to consider the retail value of wine I received as samples as a benefit of wine blogging. I hadn't received any samples at that point, but he suggested that samples would come if I kept blogging long enough. Indeed, he was right.

Shortly after that conversation, I started receiving wine samples. To date, I'd estimate the retail value of wines received as samples at about $1,500. I don't make wine reviews the main focus of this site but I do enjoy trying wines I wouldn't normally try if not for samples. My thanks to the wineries that have sent samples to date. I hope that my occasional wine review has been fair and thoughtful. I'm always afraid of boring readers with mundane descriptions of wines received as samples. Looking forward to next year, I'd like to bring more focus to tasting reports, and a large part of that is going to be establishing a more regular review cycle which enables me to compare a number of wines from the same category. More on that in a future post. For now, if you happen to be in the wine trade and would like to send samples please have a look at my sample policy HERE.

In addition to wine samples, I felt fortunate to be invited to a number of wine tasting events and dinners. Retail value of events attended was around $600. My favorite part of these events was gaining access to events normally reserved for those in the wine trade. Increasingly, as the year went on I felt like I was straddling the fence between "consumer" (which is indeed the unique perspective that I hope I bring to the wine conversation on this site) and "trade". More on that in a moment.

Back to income- direct advertisers are where it's at. Earlier in the year, I came across THIS ARTICLE in the Wall Street Journal about traffic levels on blogs and income. I use information in this article to determine pricing levels for direct ads placed on this blog. The reason blogs like this one are smart money for advertising is because they have the potential to target such a precise audience. For example, where else can you find so many Massachusetts wine consumers interested in 90-point wines at bargain pricing? Where else can you find authentic, unbiased discussion about wine accessories? If you're interested in advertising on the site, please contact me. I'd love to chat with you about how advertising on the site can make sense for both of us.

There were 3 people who were particularly influential/inspirational/helpful in getting this site started. I probably wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for these people:
The reason I want to thank them, and this ties back to a couple of points I left hanging previously, is that blogging isn't about making money. It's about giving you a reason to go deeper into a hobby that already interests you. That's been the reward I've discovered over the past year, and I'd encourage anyone who's passionate about a hobby or an interest to start blogging. It has accelerated the rate at which I've tasted new wines, learned new things, and connected with people in the wine trade I would have never connected with. I've been amazed at the generosity and kindness of so many people I've come across online and in person of the past year. It's really given me a chance to do things I never would have otherwise done.

There have been some amazing highlights (and lowlights) over the past year that I never wrote about. I got to meet with one of the most influential wine critics in the world in his tasting office. I was threatened with a lawsuit. I requested interviews that were granted and some that were ignored. I visited wine shops trying to convince store owners to work with me unsuccessfully, and wine businesses that I never heard of reached out to me. Wine businesses that are adverse to publicity still confuse me.

In the coming year, I'd like to push in a number of directions I hope you'll find interesting. I'd eventually like to take on one or two more contributors to get the site to the point where it's publishing new content every weekday. I've got a couple of people in mind, but it's hard finding people with similar sensibilities and an interest in devoting time to wine writing. If you'd be interested in contributing to the site (even on a single-post basis) please drop me an E-mail. I'd love to chat with you. I'm looking forward to continued growth and continuing to provide useful information to people. It's in my blood- I want to provide people with helpful information.

In closing, a sincere thank you to each of you who's visited the site, subscribed, linked to me on your site, re-tweeted something I've said, sent me a wine sample, advertised on the site, clicked on a link, bought a product through one of my links, made an introduction, invited me to an event, helped me write a piece, responded to an interview request, drank wine with me, participated in a product test, invited me to check out your wine shop, or otherwise made me feel part of the wine community.

And especially to my wife and kids for giving me the time to devote to the site. I really appreciate your support and enthusiasm for what I'm doing.


Tasting Report: Forrest Wines from New Zealand

Sunday, October 18, 2009

New Zealand is an exciting wine region and a promising area to explore for value hunters. In addition to their notable Sauvignon Blancs, they're producing excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in addition to Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurtztraminer. I had a chance to taste through 3 wines from Forrest Wines over the course of a week. My notes are below.

2008 The Doctors' Riesling Marlborough
20,000 cases produced
8.5% alcohol
My Notes:
I don't think I've ever seen a wine label so spot-on in its description: "Lime sorbet and juicy green apples...some lovely sweetness balanced by the fine acidity..." Indeed. This was the first of the 3 bottles I tried and I was on a major Riesling kick at the time. Comparing this wine to (what else) a German Riesling, this one didn't quite have the density or "zing" that my favorite Germans bring.
A touch of sweetness for sure, which I liked, but more flavor and weight and I would have enjoyed it more. Still, a very enjoyable bottle.
87 Points WWP: Very Good

2008 Forrest Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
1,500 cases produced
13.5% alcohol
My Notes:
Okay, now we're on to a grape variety that New Zealand has done very well with. Although the classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc delivers intense, pungent aromas, this wine showed restraint. In discussing this wine via E-mail with Trevor Loomis from Forrest Wines, he described the wine as one that bucks the trend in New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and goes for a more Loire Valley style wine. Yeah- I can see that. I could easily mistake this for a Sancerre blind. Very clean, nice acidity, and enjoyable citrus aromas and flavors. Really nice stuff.
89 Points WWP: Very Good

2007 Forrest Pinot Noir Marlborough
3,000 cases produced
14% alcohol
My Notes:
I'm thinking of going on a New Zealand Pinot Noir kick after trying this (and other wines) recently. If I tasted this wine blind and had to guess whether it was from Burgundy, California or Oregon I'd likely guess Oregon. It's lower in acidity and more full-bodied that red Burgundy, yet it brings enjoyable mushroom/forrest floor aromatics that I really enjoy. I don't find these characteristics in most California Pinot Noirs I've tried.
I would have rated this one a little higher if it delivered more flavor, but what I tasted I liked very much.
88 Points WWP: Very Good

Where to Buy:

These wines are available in the following states:

  • California
  • Nevada
  • Arizona
  • Texas
  • Southern Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Ohio
  • Washington DC
  • Pennsylvania
Related Reading:
I'd like to thank Forrest Wines for giving me the opportunity to taste through these wines.

Question of the Day: Have you seen Forrest Wines in stores in your area? Ever had 'em? What did you think?


Gary Vaynerchuk Book Tour Comes to Boston

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Gary Vaynerchuk from Wine Library TV will be signing books at the Boston University Bookstore on Friday October 16th, 2009 from 1:00-3:00 PM. For more details click HERE.

I haven't picked up a copy of Crush It! yet, but I bet I'd enjoy it. I liked his first book (which was more of a Top 100 Wines list). Especially the introduction where the writing was more biographical and insightful.

Stop by and check it out if you're in the area.

Want more GV? Check out THIS EVENT from 6-10PM.


Hall Wine Dinner at Upstairs on the Square

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What are you doing Thursday night? Here's another one of those events that brings together a number of things that I really like. I gushed on and on about a couple of wines from Hall Winery earlier this year, in particular the 2006 Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon. I gave it 96 points calling it "one of the most enjoyable wines I've ever had". Wine Spectator loved it too- the wine was pictured on the cover of this month's Cabernet issue.

Upstairs on the Square in Cambridge, MA is hosting a wine dinner featuring Hall Wines this Thursday October 15th, 2009. I attended a previous wine dinner at Upstairs on the Square featuring wines from Hirsch Vineyards and thought it was fantastic. Upstairs on the Square is a great restaurant and they price their wine dinners very reasonably. Click here to learn more about this event.

Check 'em out:
Upstairs on the Square
Call 617-864-1933 for reservations

On Twitter:

Thanks to reader DK for the tip on this one. Appreciate it.

Questions of the Day: Are you planning on attending this dinner? Are you a fan of Upstairs on the Square or Hall Wines?


Morton's Boston October Events

Monday, October 12, 2009

Two events at Morton's Boston locations coming up for your consideration:

Roses & Reds for Ribbons

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Morton’s Back Bay will host a four-course dinner paired with fine wines donated by Ruby Wines. 100% of proceeds from the silent auction (post-dinner) will go to the Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the Cure. Some auction items include a pink, leather Beijo ribbon purse, a baseball signed by Kevin Youkilis and an official NHL hockey stick brandished with the Boston Bruins players’ signatures, among several others. $95/guest (includes tax & gratuity). Monday, October 19th, 2009. Learn more...

Cookbook Tour Event

Celebrating the release of its second cookbook, Morton’s Seaport will host VP of Wine & Spirits and celebrated Cookbook Co-Author Tylor Field on the last stop of the corporation’s 41-city tour. On Tuesday, October 27th, 2009, the tour will stop at Boston’s Seaport location for a benefit and book signing event. For this tour, Morton’s has launched its 'Recipes for Feeding America' campaign. They’re hosting cocktail receptions and silent auctions at Morton's locations from coast to coast, with proceeds benefiting the local chapter of Feeding America. $59/guest – includes array of signature dishes and wine & cocktail pairings from Morton’s The Cookbook. 100% of silent auction proceeds and a portion of ticket cost will be donated to Feeding America. Learn more...

Follow @Morton's on Twitter, and while you're at it a @SommelierSara who works and tweets from one of their Chicago locations.


Riesling: The Wine Everyone Can Agree On

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Numero Tokyo Apr 09 Claudia by Liz Collins.jpg

I had a great time last Friday night taking part in TasteLive's Wines of Germany online tasting. We had a chance to taste through 4 Rieslings from S.A. Prüm and they were, like many German Rieslings, fantastic. At this point, I'm having had a hard time finding a $15-$20 German Riesling I don't like. It's an outstanding category full of value.

The thing that's great about Riesling is this: It's fruity and delicious and therefore a delight to drink. Even people who normally don't like the taste of wine like Riesling. However it's no White Zinfandel- wine geeks get really excited about Riesling for its complexity and balance.

Another nice feature: It tends to be lower in alcohol than other wines so you won't get parched and wake up the next morning slow-moving after drinking a couple of glasses.

One of the few things I don't like about German Rieslings is that their labels can be maddeningly confusing. Although German wine labels are full of information, it's extraordinarily difficult to track down a recommendation. If I told you to go buy a "Prüm Riesling" that could be referring to any one of a hundred bottles of wine. For these reasons, German Riesling reminds me of Claudia Schiffer: Beautiful, but perhaps a bit difficult to approach. (and hey, who doesn't like a blog entry with a pretty picture at the beginning?)

Some German wine makers seem to be taking an interesting approach in this respect: They maintain traditional labeling for their estate/higher-end bottles while offering easier to remember wines at lower price points. Like the "Dr. L Riesling" or the "S. A. Prüm Essence Riesling".

That said, you may be able to find these wines in stores near you. Here are my notes on each of the wines we tasted:

2008 S. A. Prüm Essence Riesling Mosel
  • The nose reminded me of an old candy I used to enjoy: Certs Mixed Fruit. Imagine crushing some of these up and smelling them- you get minerality and fruit.
  • On the palate, nice heavy fruit. Apricots more than peaches.
  • I think this wine would be great to serve at a gathering. It's a crowd pleaser.
  • WWP 86/Very Good around $12
2007 S. A. Prüm Blue Riesling Kabinett
  • This one is more serious than the Essence, and offers more of what I'm looking for in a German Riesling. Wet stone, green apples and citrus.
  • WWP 88/Very Good Around $19
2006 S. A. Prüm Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett Mosel Estate Bottled
  • The first bottle I reached for the day after the tasting and my favorite wine of the night.
  • Stunningly pure. Here's what I mean by that: You let some of this wine rest on your tongue to get a taste and it radiates a delicious sunbeam of Riesling goodness. Radiant.
  • Just the slightest hint of Petrol. A textbook example of what Riesling can be.
  • 92 WWP/Outstanding around $20
2007 S.A. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett Mosel Estate Bottled
  • The only wine that came with a cork enclosure (the others were screw cap).
  • Too much Petrol for my taste, but otherwise a very good wine and similar to the Urzinger.
  • 89 WWP/Very Good low $20s
Recommendations: If you haven't had a German Riesling, seek one out for between $15 and $25. If you've had German Rieslings but haven't tried wines from S.A. Prüm then give them a go.

Further Reading: 1 Wine Dude's take on this event (including Kung-Fu comparisons!)

Check back soon (or better yet subscribe!)- I'll be offering up my opinions on Finger Lakes Rieslings after tasting through a dozen of them recently. In the mean time, head over to The Passionate Foodie to read his take on Finger Lakes Rieslings.

Thanks to Wines of Germany the chance to taste through these wines.

Photo Credit: Tammy Manet

Question of the Day: What are some of your favorite Rieslings?


Event Report: Taj Boston Loire Valley Tasting

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Last Wednesday, the Loire Valley Wine Bureau hosted a tasting on the top floor of the Taj Boston. What a venue to taste through an interesting collection of wines, and meet some great people. I had the pleasure of meeting the following folks from the Boston wine community for the first time:

Judging from the wines presented at the tasting, the most popular wines from the Loire Valley are made from Sauvignon Blanc (Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé), Chenin Blanc (Vouvray) and Cabernet Franc (Chinon and Bourgueil).

I'd estimate that close to 75% of the wines at the tasting were white, so if you're more into red wines at this point this region may not be for you. With the exception of their earthy (and sometimes downright barnyardy) Cab Francs, there isn't much red wine to speak of from the region.

I enjoyed tasting through the Sauvignon Blanc based wines from Sancerre and Pouily-Fumé. Not a whole lot of difference between the two, but a huge difference between these wines and Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Whereas SB from New Zealand is more pungent, these wines are more restrained aromatically. On the palate, they have wonderful minerality and acidity- very food friendly.

They say these wines are a value play, but unfortunately New Zealand is hard to undercut on price in this category. You can get a really tasty bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for around $10-12. Still, if you're more of an old world type these are the benchmark by which all Sauvignon Blancs are measured.

Recommendation: Try a Sancerre in the $15-20 range if you like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc but are looking to switch it up a bit or serve it with a light dinner.

I've enjoyed Vouvray in the past, and the ones I tasted at this event were no exception. Such an intriguing, multi-faceted wine. One I tasted in particular brought some amazing asparagus/vegetable components, but at their core the wines were more fruity and flavorful than the Sauvignon Blancs. More of a crowd pleaser I think.

Recommendation: Definitely try a bottle of Vouvray next time you see one in the store. It shouldn't be hard to get a good one for $15.

I only tried a few of the Cabernet Franc-based reds at the tasting. They weren't nearly as barnyard the first one I tried (which was so funky that I'm still avoiding the category). The wines I tried were reasonably enjoyable, although I'm in no hurry to seek them out. I'm still hard pressed to pass along a recommendation in this category.

Recommendation: Watch this Wine Library TV episode to learn more about what to expect from Loire Valley Cab Franc.

Question of the Day: What do you think of Loire Valley wines? A source of value in France? A category you'd like to learn more about? Been there/done that?


Robert Parker Tastes Blind (for once)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

There was a really interesting post on Dr. Vino's wine blog last week about blind tasting 2005 Bordeaux with Robert Parker. The piece is generating quite a buzz (coming up on 100 comments) because Parker normally does his tasting privately and therefore nobody really knows whether he tastes blind or not. Click through and read the piece to see how Parker fared in this tasting.

I left a comment mentioning that the thing my mind wandered to while reading was the matter of whether The Wine Advocate's stated blind tasting policy aligns with how they taste in practice. I blogged on this subject earlier this year at length. Since then, The Wine Advocate restructured their tasting methodology statement (probably because of pressure generated from Dr. Vino as described in this piece) to have different standards for Robert Parker vs. other people who write for him. Though they now reveal that others who taste for the magazine do so both blind and non-blind, Parker still maintains that he tastes blind "when possible" which technically could mean "never". I'm still not satisfied with this disclosure and that's why I don't subscribe to the Wine Advocate. I do subscribe to Wine Spectator because they're more forthcoming in describing how they taste and I believe they actually taste the way they say they do.

At any rate, I thought to mention this piece in case Dr. Vino's blog isn't yet on your radar screen. It's a good example of why he's one of the best.



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