Viewing entries in


Get uncorked on Cape Cod: One roadtrip you'll NEVER regret!

Diving In
Diving In

It's no secret we've been long-time advocates of Massachusetts' very own Westport Rivers Winery. Their sparkling wines are consistently head-turners (see the White House wine list...) and their diverse selection of single varietal wines additionally worthy of exploration each vintage. They are a family-owned operation that is truly in it for the love of it. And we heart passion - because without heart, we'd be relegated to drinking mediocre plonk (and the craft beer market wouldn't have any competition at all)! But we're not the only ones, as Westport, MA, where this winery cultivates its fruit and produces its wine, is a Right to Farm Community; agriculture is king, with 100% protection (so if you don't like the neighbor's chickens crowing at dawn or the horses down the street, you better find alternate real estate). Such an attitude certainly can't hurt a winery as dedicated to farming and the expression of terroir as Westport Rivers Winery. Last week we were able to get out of the office for the day and take a few curious friends with us down to the Cape to enjoy our first-ever, long overdue, in-person visit at the Winery. In only an hour and change we arrived at our destination - it is so close, yet such a world away, we immediately wondered how we hadn't cut the cord from our usual day-to-day sooner.  The grounds offer that certain New England charm you can't help but love, and beckon a picnic or at least a pause on your way to the beach. But with our Official Business hat on, we clamored inside the welcoming Tasting Room first and saddled up to their Tasting Station to see what they had open.

2012 Chardonnay vintage gets enthusiastic thumbs up
2012 Chardonnay vintage gets enthusiastic thumbs up

Their very reasonable $10 Tasting Flight delivered a sample of SEVEN of their selections - several of which we hadn't ever had the pleasure of exploring (some of the wines are available at the winery only and not available in retail/restaurant locations due to limited production):

We kicked things off with one of our favorites (and the White House's), the RJR Brut; Farmer's Fizz was next in line, a delightful thirst-quencher more reminiscent of a sparkling cider given its gentle carbonation and apple/pear flavor profile. Next we moved into their still wine offerings: and the current (2012) vintage of their Chardonnay KNOCKED OUR SOCKS OFF - the last vintage we tasted lacked the uber-clean, mineral-rich perkiness that this wine delivered with aplomb, and which we seek out more often in acclaimed French Burgundy! Another FAVORITE was their 2012 DRY Riesling, a wine which balanced prettiness and restraint to tantalize our taste buds with grass, honeysuckle, traditional "petrol" notes and ripe stone fruits in a silky sweep of flavor. With only 1% residual sugar, this wine delivers a flavor explosion that refreshes as much as it delights, and suits a wide-range of cuisine!

But all this isn't to say the whites or sparklers don't have worthy competition from WRW reds. Their 2010 "Second Flight" Pinot Noir was ANOTHER SHOW-STOPPER, more reminiscent of the great Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs with beautiful cress and earth notes buoyed by cranberry and cherry fruit (and, available at the winery, comes in at a remarkable $29.99 price tag!).

Perhaps in another post we'll wax poetic about how the unique terroir at Westport Rivers Winery impacts the truly remarkable wines they are creating.... but for now, we want to just encourage you to take a road trip this summer. There are ample opportunities to make an even bigger day of it, with their picnic style Sunset Music Series rolling out ALL Summer (Fridays, and some Saturdays) June 20 through September 13.  And, along with other participating wineries on the Coastal Wine Trail, they will celebrate 30 years as an AVA with their much-anticipated Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Festivaloff-sight at the Westport Fairgrounds on June 21.

Shop local. Support independent businesses. And toast to a happy summer excursion!



Buying wines for your wedding - made easy!

This time of year in particular we get numerous inquiries from anxious brides and grooms who rightfully care about what wines they will serve at their wedding, but are stressed to the max about choosing them for their big day. While some weddings have specifications which call for a professional consult, many others are more streamlined. For the latter case, we thought it might be time to write up a few How To's to take the stress out of this project!  

The three most common criteria couples present to us:

1.  User-friendly: We want wines that everyone will enjoy, whether they are "usually" an X-wine drinker or not.


2.  Food-friendly: We want the wines to work with what we're serving, whether someone opted for the fish, chicken or tenderloin.

3.  Cost-effect: We don't want to serve anything "cheap", but if we could keep things under(?!) or around $15 per bottle, that would be great...

You can address all of these concerns in just a few steps:

TIP #1: Streamline your offerings

There are reasons (yes, plural) "His and Her Cocktails" are so popular... It's festive, for sure, and fewer options for guests tightens up your liquor order (read: budget), focuses consumption, AND expedites service! So approach wine offerings similarly and CHOOSE "HOUSE" WINES: by offering your sparkler plus a crowd-pleasing white and red (with maybe a beautiful dry rose thrown in for good measure), you will satisfy the majority (if not all!) of your guests. Remember, these three options offer enough variety themselves. So have fun with it! You could even come up with creative or personal names for each choice.

TIP #2: Pick a Perky White

Wines with higher acidity are food-friendly by nature; but their mouthwatering effect also comes in handy when your best friend just got stuck talking to crazy Aunt Edna or you've got dancing on the agenda. Sauvignon Blanc works, sure!, but one of our other "sneaky" tricks is to select grape varietals that guests may not have ever heard of, let alone tasted. Case in point: as popular as Austrian Gruner Veltliner and Spanish Albarino are becoming, these are not grapes that everyone knows (though they should!). Offering something people have no expectations about means they just simply sip and enjoy!

TIP #3: Select a Smooth Red

When it comes to selecting your red offering, you want something that strikes a middle ground - something not too bold and dry, and something not too light so that guests use that dreaded wine word "thin". You also want something that goes down smooooth - something with nice fruit and soft edges. Here again, a way to work around the grape varietal fatigue (aka I only drink California Cab...) is to choose wines that are named for their region, with no varietal labeling evident. Smart picks are red wines from the Cotes du Rhone (fabulous, food-friendly red blends) or wallet-friendly Spanish Rioja (the more expensive options often mean the wine has spent more time in oak barrels, which puts the wine into the "too bold" camp). Both of these regions have prolific, 100% delicious options that are exceptional values!

TIP #4: Bubbles!

Some say you should splurge in this category; we don't necessarily agree. While you certainly can splurge here, remember that the nuances that a higher priced bubbly offer are likely going to be lost in the equation. More often sparkling wine is consumed per tradition, or to add an additional festive flare.  And there are SO many great options from outside of Champagne, France that lend exactly the helping hand you desire, with plenty of Delight on offer at oh-so reasonable prices. For some suggestions beyond the happy usual suspects Cava and Prosecco, check out other alternatives here!

So now the question of quantity: how much is enough?

The good news is, there is a formula for this quandary! While consumption as a whole tapers off over the course of the festivities, some people will hit it harder as the evening progresses. Taper-ers tend to beat the Hard-hitters, but either way, if you assume one drink per person per hour* you'll have more than enough to go around.

There are five glasses of wine in every bottle, six when it comes to a sparkling wine toast.

So if you have 100 guests and a six hour event, figure 600 total drinks. Divide 600 by 5 to figure out how many bottles are needed (120) and then by twelve to get the number of cases needed (twelve bottles in a case) = 10 cases of wine. You can then decide how many cases of each wine you'd like to have on hand based on your knowledge of your guest list, wedding date and venue (e.g. more red wine drinkers than white, hot summer day under a tent vs. cold and wintery, etc.)

*Note:  This is number of DRINKS, not just wine. If you are serving beer, wine and liquor, estimate the number of wine drinkers and go from there to gauge your wine purchase. Alternatively, you can adjust the number of hours you think people will be drinking wine, e.g. cocktail hour (1.5 glasses) + dinner hour (1.5 glasses) + dancing (1 glass) = 4 wine drinks per person, or 400 total glasses = 80 bottles of wine = 7 cases (always round up).

With this approach you'll be setting yourself up for success! Now all you have to do is taste a few wines in each of these categories and make the final decision.

Stuck or have a bigger wedding wine quandry? Give us a shout! We'd be happy to help you navigate this component.



Fun in the sun - with red wine!

It's summer in the city and yet I am drinking just about equal parts red, white and rose. What gives? The temperature - of my red wines, that is! Talking to people every day about wine I know there is a misconception out there that red wine shouldn't go in the fridge. Believe me when I tell you that's far from the truth. Personally speaking, I've found the notion is reinforced when you go out to eat. More often than not if you go to a nice restaurant they are missing the mark with the temperature they serve their wines; it is a challenge for them to keep their glass pours cold enough because they are often refilling glasses or uncorking new bottles and the wine either never goes back into the wine fridge due to the turnover, or it comes from too warm a place on the shelf behind the bar where it is easily accessible.

At home you have the 'luxury' of getting it right. Remember, nowadays room temp is higher than it used to be. And in the summer that's even higher! My house sits at about 80 degrees during the day. My cellar is around 72 degrees in the summer. Red wine (depending on the grape and region it comes from) shouldn't really be served higher than 60 degrees! Here's a chart which breaks it down fairly well.

If you're wondering if it really matters at the end of the day, it does. A wine that's served too warm is wearing a mask - none of its personality has a chance to show let alone shine. Wake up the wine by simply putting it in the fridge for 20 or 30 minutes to get it to serving temperature. That's about the time it takes me to kick off my shoes after my day, flip through the mail and get dinner started. All you have to do is grab the bottle off the rack and get it in the fridge before you start your Unwinding Process!

Of course, there are also wines that fall into the "Chillable Reds" category. These wines don't just loose their mask they virtually frollick in the glass once they get the 40 minute fridge treatment! Beaujolais (France - grape type: Gamay) and Loire Valley Cabernet Franc are fans of a little enclosed "AC" aka your fridge; Nebbiolo, Barbera, Sangiovese, Sciava and Frappato are Italian grapes that are also chill-loving; Spanish Tempranillo that hasn't seen a lot of oak mind it either. If you are entertaining grab the chill bucket and give the wine an ice bath for 10 minutes and you are good to go. Refill the bucket with ice and let your guests enjoy the good life - and learn a new trick!



it's a crazy good time of year for some holiday cheer!

Apologies for the virtual hiatus, but Pour Favor tastings have been keeping us awfully busy this holiday season! We've traveled the world grape by grape with myriad interested parties and are coming off of our whirlwind tour just in time to plan our own holiday soiree. And that's when I realized it is quite possible we've never discussed the most important thing about The Holidays (aside from what to pour, of course) - how MUCH to have on hand! Are you in this particular predicament as Christmas looms or New Year's RSVPs flood in, too?

First things first, consider how many people in your crowd will be drinking wine with you. If you have 50 people coming but only about 30 people who you think will imbibe vinously, use that as your base number.

Next, think about how much, shall we say decorum?, is anticipated. If you have a moderate drinking crowd, figure 2.5 glasses per person. Multiply that number by your base (2.5 * 30) and achieve your total number of drinks expected (75). A healthy pour would mean 4 drinks per the standard 750ml bottle. A more moderate pour will be 5 per bottle. If you prefer to strike a middle ground, use 4.5. Carrying our example of 30 moderate drinkers forward, you are looking at nearly 17 bottles needed. It never hurts to round up, so consider buying a case and a half and you should be good to go.

The other variable we've alluded to above is whether you think all of your folks will be wine drinkers. Play with the 'formula' above to adjust accordingly (e.g. 30 wine drinkers, with 15 others more interested in beer) and make your final call on how much to have on hand. Then, put on your party shoes and fire up the iPod! It'll be time to celebrate like it's 2012 in no  time.

Wishing you and yours a safe, healthy and happy New Year!



Is it all greek to you?

Greek wines get a bad rep in "mainstream" wine consumption - here in the US, at least. Did you know it was the Greeks back in 4000 BC that started cultivating grape vines? They believed that wine was a gift from the gods and worshipped Dionysus, a creature with the mind of a man and the instinct of beast. Fortunately  modern times have not only brought back a resurgence in Greek wine production, but now in the 21st Century, we have a MUCH great chance of enjoying delicious Greek wines on our shores. I'm serious. Because of my connection with Ball Square Fine Wines in Somerville I've been fortunate to have been exposed to these wines and have tasted what I believe is the best of what Greece has to offer. And the offering is ample. There are serious, well made, sometimes even "nerdy" wines on the market. Sure, you might be lulled by the new "My Big Fat Greek Wine" that has recently come to Boston. And no, I by no means think that this is a good example of fine Greek wine; (in fact, I think it is a disservice to Grecian wine making and American consumers alike that they've used such a clever marketing ploy to pimp what I find is a fairly insipid wine, regardless of origin. I'm just saying...)

So why hasn't Greek wine taken off? Well, the names are a bit of a mouthful. Greece excels at producing wines from indigenous, local varietals that you really can't pronounce. I'm still working on it, admittedly, and I've been tasting them for 4 years now! Yes, there are some wineries that are blending in "international varietals" like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Syrah. But it is the Moscofilero-s and St.George's (aka Aghiorgitiko-s) of the world that set Greek wines apart from the rest.

Moscofilero is a white grape that gets its name from the Greek words for Mosco (meaning fragrant) and Filo (meaning leaf). It is an ancient varietal for sure, but it's aromatics are so fresh you'll be thinking of spring in an instant. It is a wine that I often suggest is akin to Sauvignon Blanc (especially from the Loire Valley, France) or even Viura or Verdejo from Spain. Earlier this week at a Greek-themed wine dinner at Bistro 5, one of the guests said the same thing.

One of my favorite red varietals at the moment (i.e. a grape I have been showing a little "favoritism" to on the home-front, yes, something that is hard to do and admit in this trade) is St. George, aka Aghiorgitiko. (Specifically, I'm enamored with the Skouras Nemea St. George, which for a mere $14.99 is a FIND as far as I'm concerned. It definitely "over delivers" - and would be perfect with your Thanksgiving feast.)  Back to the grape, Aghiorgitiko translates to St. George and is a name change that came about back in antiquity, when the wine was known as the Blood of the Lion. It got its name St. George during the conversion to Christianity - something about the parallel between Hercules killing the lion and St. George killing the dragon.... New wine name, new religion and poof! Rebecca has a new wine find to share with universe in the making. Un-oaked styles are fruit forward and lively, yet display a truly Old World earthiness in perfect moderation. I can't get enough.

Bottom line: Most consumers only seek out Greek wines after they've returned from a vacation or honeymoon in Santorini, for example. I say let your curiosity guide you home.

BSFW will be having a Greek wine tasting this Wednesday, Nov. 17. Check it out!

Are you familiar with Greek wines? Which is your favorite varietal?



Food and Wine Lovers can enjoy a taste of everything

This week we have a little something for every food and wine lover! Let's start with the "real" juice: Just a few days ago launched a new version of its old self, Who does this new site benefit? Those looking for more rare, esoteric or otherwise small production, lesser available/known stuff. The site also features special deals of the day by way of email blasts. Do you think you'll investigate this new wine buying opportunity? We also learned this week about a specialty vinegar on the market, which apparently has chef's jumping out of their skin. Minus 8 is an Ontario-based outfit that harvests grapes  at precisely that temperature - sort of like ice wine, but for food lovers! Check it out.

Last but not least, our friends at Divas Uncorked are gearing up for their annual food and wine fest out out the Vineyard. The event is a weekend affair August 12 - 15 and features various festivities all about the island. You can choose to attend certain events "a la carte" or buy the all-access pass. More information is available here.



Wine and the Environment - plus an event in Maine

With Earth Day just barely behind us, a flurry of writing in the wine world as it pertains to issues like global warming and the use of natural cork hit the web-waves. We've narrowed the reading field to just two articles since they are a bit lengthy (and you likely have to get some work done today, too!). But before we get into all that, check out this link to get more info about a wine and food festival fundraiser for the York Education Foundation up in Maine this Saturday, May 8th.

Ok, now it's time to settle in to the "meaty" stuff....

Here Slate presents a piece on global warming and the world and the world of wine. Something to bear in mind as you read it: there is NO replacement for a place's unique terroir. I'll say it again, European nations (and specifically their respective wine areas) in particular offer a distinct terroir that is unquestionably irreplicable.

Next, go here to take in this Wall Street Journal article on cork closures. It's a well written piece that captures BOTH sides of the cork debate. Which side do you land on? Are you pro-cork or pro-synthetic?



Making wine, tasting wine, and drinking wine...

We've got the full spectrum of wine fodder this Friday! Of course, the beginning of wine is really the making of wine.... Turns out the UK is experimenting with a new version of city wine-making. Rather than purchasing fruit from here there and everywhere and then inviting you to come crush and blend,  a London-based company called The Urban Wine Company uses local grapes to make uber-local wine - and you are involved in the whole process. Here I am trying to keep from killing my house plant, but it sounds like these guys might even be able to help turn my brown thumb green - while giving me the chance to make my own wine. I'm terroir believer when it comes to making great wine - and am certain great grapes can make great wine, while bad grapes have no chance of doing so. But the project sounds like a great opportunity to understand first-hand how all this works, more or less. Too bad I'm Boston-bound! Would you be interested in such a project if given the opportunity?

On the trade side of life, this week we've been on "the trade circuit" tasting quite a bit of vino at various Spring Tastings being hosted by our suppliers to get us excited about new vintages and new wines in their portfolios. I had the pleasure of running into Mike Helman of Shawsheen Liquors. Turns out he's gearing up for the annual "Hair of the Dog" wine/beer tasting event, supporting the MSPCA. This event features a wine and beer tasting, art show and the White Street Band. Raffle prizes will abound, too. Tickets are $30 at the door or $25 in advance. Pop over to Shawsheen Liquors to find out more! The event is scheduled for next Friday, April 30th, 6 - 9pm.

Last but not least, we have wines that are made with a bit more... oomph. There is definitely a conversation in the wineosphere about The Hot Factor... Are wines over 14% alcohol bad? Not necessarily, I believe, so long as the wine is in balance. But that's a bigger story for another day. In the meantime, check out this Wall Street Journal article on "Wines That Pack". What's your opinion about alcohol content in wine?



What's new(s) in wine and tasting it

I'm not sure I will ever fully understand why some known wines get a make-over largely in name only. A few years ago it was Moet doing away with their White Star Champagne bottling and replacing it with a slightly different iteration (in terms of the style of wine itself) and calling it Moet Imperial Brut. White Star was a really recognized name in the marketplace and today it is still a point of confusion for many looking for the White Star, and being handed the Imperial Brut. Is the wine different? Yes, a bit. But why not roll with the old name? Now it looks like La Mission Haut Brion is making a similar name shift. Check out this brief Decanter article on why the change.  Then tell us, as a consumer, does the reasoning make sense to you? Do you care? Next up we have an article that three different friends sent to me (from two different sources), to ensure I didn't miss it: the latest in wine health news reports suggests that women who drink have a better chance of avoiding obseity. Egad, will these studies ever cease? An entertaining read if you, like me, don't mind another guilt-free reason to keep pouring your nightly glass of wine.

Last but not least, we have a fun Old World vs. New World showdown on The Tasting Docit! On Friday March 19 you and other foodie nerds at WGBH can enjoy the fun for a mere $25. And there will be music to further enrich your tasting experience. Check it out!



Chilean wine news

It's probably no surprise that all news on the Pour Favor blog this Friday - one week after the Chilean earthquake - is dedicated exclusively to Chilean wine. Ironically, I had the pleasure of meeting winemaker Jean-Pascal Lacaze just last Thursday in the early evening, just before he headed back to New York to catch his flight home - and resume business as usual (harvesting) after the weekend, the unofficial end to summer. I haven't heard if he's made it home yet or what impact the quake had on his lot. No doubt agriculture and wine are an important part of the Chilean economy and will play a role as the country gets it's bearings again. Check out these few articles to learn more, then pop back this Monday for some great wines to seek out as we unleash March's Wicked Wines, Chilean style.... Prior to the quake, the skinny on Chilean wine exports via the LA Times.

A more humanized view of how things looked last Friday, Feb. 28th via my old fav, Dr. Vino.

And an updated, trade-oriented snapshot of where we are a week later via Decanter.

Generally speaking, do you think the buzz around the  magnitude of this quake will generate new or even greater interest in Chilean wines?