Monday, December 21, 2015

Vino2 Aerating Glass from Taste of Purple -- Full Review

Taste of Purple was kind enough to send me their Vino2 aerating glass to review. You might have seen the quick and dirty review I dashed off in which I tasted a delicious Oregon Pinot Noir from The Pressing Plant in the Vino2 and in a Riedel Vinum Burgundy glass. I have since done several more side-by-side comparisons and here is my full report.

To cut to the chase, if big bold wines are your thing, this might just be the glass for you! You might also consider the other aerating glass options from Taste of Purple.

To review, the Vino2 wine glass ($39) from Taste of Purple promises to fully aerate wine rapidly, so there is no need to decant a wine to reach its full potential: "The patented design of the VINO2 will fully aerate your wine in just seconds, releasing the components that make up a wines aroma." With the Oregon Pinot, the wine in the Vino2 was silkier but less spicy than when tasted from the Riedel. Which is "better" is a matter of personal preference.

The next wine we tried was a 2012 Pinot Gris from Navarro. The glass on the right is the Vino2. On the left is a glass manufactured by Stölzle. We've owned it so long I have no memory of its price or any other characteristics. In the Stölzle the Pinot Gris showed aromas of stone fruit, jasmine, vanilla and honeysuckle. The wine had bright acid, a textured palate and a long finish. From the Vino2 we picked up less stone fruit, more vanilla, and citrus cream. The wine was similar on the palate but less tart and less textured. The finish was as long. We preferred the wine out of the Stölzle.

Next we tried a 1995 Sagrantino Montefalco from Colpetrone. Sagrantino, in case you are unfamiliar with it, is a grape native to Umbria. It is a rare creature that produces big, tannic wines that age beautifully. The comparison glass on the right is another we have owed for some time. It appears to have been made by a company known as OZ. I have no other information.

In the OZ the Colpetrone showed restrained aromatics, intensity on the palate and little fruit. The wine had a pleasantly soft texture with just a bit of grip and a lovely finish. In the Vino2 the wine had a sharper focus on the attack, more spice and a tight finish. We preferred the Vino2.

Our final comparison was with the Seavey 2007 Chardonnay, a wine that I made. The comparison glass was once again the Riedel Vinum Burgundy. In the Vino2 we got aromas of straw, hay, cut grass, citrus and jasmine. The wine was soft, rich and full on the palate with creamy oak and hints of pear. In the Riedel the aromas were similar but less grassy. The creamy oak came through with a bit more of a bite. Once again, a draw.

The Vino2 clearly influences the perception of the wine. Whether that influence is to the good depends largely on the style of wine. A big bold red wine is the perfect match for this glass, and will seem bigger and bolder but also more approachable from it. For other wine styles, the differences are less compelling. Enjoy!

Have you tried the Vino2? We would love to hear your thoughts.
The Vino2 was sent by Taste of Purple for the purpose of this review. All of the wines mentioned were from my personal collection and were not provided by the producers.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Holidays are here -- Vino2 aerating glass from Taste of Purple (1st look)

A full review of this glass will require comparisons involving several wines and therefore several days. With Hanukkah well underway and Xmas a mere 15 days away, here's a quick preview.

The Vino2 wine glass from Taste of Purple promises to fully aerate wine rapidly, so there is no need to decant a wine to reach its full potential: "The patented design of the VINO2 will fully aerate your wine in just seconds, releasing the components that make up a wines aroma."

The glass has a clever notch in the side that causes the swirled wine to splash and aerate more quickly than it would in a notchless glass.

To fully evaluate this intriguing claim, we'll need to compare many wines side-by-side. Since you might be looking for a gift for a wine lover, here are the results of our first comparison. We'll post a more complete review once all the data are in.

Here's our experimental setup. On the left is the Riedel Vinum Burgundy (Pinot Noir), on sale at present for $50/pair (reg. $60/pair). On the right the Vino2, $39/stem. Neither glass is inexpensive, but if you believe a glass can improve the taste of a wine, and if you don't break your glasses often, this is not an unreasonable investment and might also make a good gift.

Behind the glasses are, on the right, the box the Vino2 came in, and on the left our FIRST WINE: the 2012 Smash It Up Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, from The Pressing Plant ($20/bottle, Yep, $20/bottle for world class Pinot Noir!). Which, by the way, is a outstanding wine that would also make a great gift for the wine lover in your life. Afraid to buy wine for someone who loves it? Don't be! They'll be thrilled! Trust me.

Other than the notch, the glasses are fairly similar. The Riedel stands 8.25" and has a 25-oz bowl (I think). The Vino2 is 10.5" and boasts a 32-oz bowl. Both are lead crystal.

Out of the Riedel, we got a rich, fruity nose and great fruit on the palate. We described the wine as driven and pure, with black and red fruit that comes across as sweet, though the wine is dry. There is beautiful spice and the wine has a long finish.

Out of the Vino2 the wine was not much different. Aromatics were similar but the wine was different on the palate. It was much silkier and less spicy. The fruit profile was more black, less red. The finish was still long and beautiful.

Round 1 results--DRAW. The Vino2 certainly revealed a different wine, but whether those differences are preferable are up to the drinker.

One more note: despite the Vino2's large bowl, swirling was a bit difficult. I'm sure it's just a matter of practice, but the notch causes the wine to jump (as it should).

Preliminary conclusion: this glass would make a welcome gift and you might enjoy it yourself, as well. We need to evaluate it with more wines before we make a final recommendation.

The Vino2 was sent to us by the manufacturer. We purchased the Smash It Up Pinot Noir.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Holiday Bubbles -- Faire La Fête Crémant de Limoux

Wine writers nag that we should drink bubbles whenever we please, but most of us please to do so during the holidays and for other celebrations. The holidays are upon us, and as Champagne prices have increased without remorse in recent years, it is certainly wise to seek alternatives.

Faire la Fête Brut ($18) is an alternative worthy of your consideration. Like Champagne, it comes from France, but from hillside vineyards in the Southwest near Spain. Like Champagne, the wine is a blend of Chardonnay (70%) and Pinot Noir (10%), but with Chenin Blanc (20%) in the mix rather than Champagne's Pinot Meunier. The wine is made in the same manner as Champagne. In fact, Limoux claims to be the birthplace of sparkling wine because the secondary fermentation, which produces the fizz inside each bottle, was invented there.

The principal differences, then, are climate, soil and price. As for climate, the Southwest is certainly warmer than Champagne, though this Crémant still weighs in at a mere 12% alcohol. As for soil, Limoux claims to have both chalky clay marl (similar to Champagne) as well as limestone soils (similar to Burgundy). Price? Well, good luck finding a Champagne anywhere close to $18/bottle.

One more important difference is taste. No one familiar with sparkling wines who is paying attention would mistake this wine for a Champagne. Not because it is not good, but because it tastes different. Generally I would expect a more full-bodied wine to emerge from a warmer climate, but a good many Champagnes have more weight and body than this. This wine is delicate and pretty. It has hints of yeastiness (think fresh bread), is floral but not perfumey, and has a suggestion of lime/citrus. It is crisp and refreshing, and would serve well anywhere you would use a Champagne--on its own for celebratory sipping, or with appetizers ranging from toasted nuts to caviar.

It may not astonish with its finesse, but I have found still less finesse in Champagnes retailing for triple the price.

Many people present sparkling wine as a gift, and this wine would make a fine one. The packaging is quite attractive, with the pale lavender foil playing brilliantly off the bright green label. And no one will be disappointed with the contents.

At $18, this is a bargain in French sparkling wine. Though different than Champagne, it tastes great, and has more in common with its more expensive cousin than do most wines from Prosecco, Cava, or elsewhere.


This wine was provided by a marketing agent for the producer.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Wine for All Seasons -- Toad Hollow 2014 Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir Sonoma County

Pink wines can be wondrous things, and we are pleased to see that they are ever more popular. (If calling it Brosé makes you comfortable with a pink drink, my friend, then go right ahead.)

Pink wines are delightfully refreshing on a brilliant summer day, on a picnic, at the beach, or at poolside. But there is no reason to stop drinking pink simply because the season has changed. If you have ever enjoyed a pink sparkling wine on a cold New Year's Eve, you probably understand how well pink wines -- some of them, at least -- can stand up to winter. They can also be marvelous companions for fall. In a word, the best pink wines are versatile.

We always make sure to have pink wine on hand to enjoy with our Thanksgiving feast. The savory autumnal flavors are brightened by the wines' lively fresh fruit aromas, and there is no tannin to get in the way.

But there is no need to wait for Turkey Day. Rosé works with all weather, so why not enjoy it during a late resurgence of summer, or let it help you welcome the first hints of fall.

We could not resist reviewing the Toad Hollow 2014 Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir from Sonoma County because it delivered on all its promises and, in fact, on all of the promises of the best pink wines noted above.
Eye of the the Toad!
The producers promise fine wines at fair prices. That vision certainly resonates with us. We are quick to praise when that promise is fulfilled, as here, and quick to condemn when that promise is betrayed. At $11.99/bottle retail, Toad Hollow certainly delivers with this wine.

With less than 12% alcohol, this wine is full-flavored and not overpowering. It is bright (but not too tart) on the palate, with flavors immediately suggesting strawberry lemonade that resolve to something more like guava and kiwi. Despite the low alcohol there is a pleasing viscosity, and the finish is long.

Talk about versatile! This wine is delicious all by itself. I enjoyed it with a chicken stir fry with sweet and hot peppers, onion, spinach and basil. Toad Hollow's recommendation of roast pork loin with caramelized apples and sweet onions would also be great, as would any dish prepared with traditional autumnal seasoning.

It can be difficult to find serious domestic wine that is artisanally produced and affordable. The Toad Hollow Rosé fits the bill. We also love the packaging. Screwcap, of course, playful but not calculated front label art, and a back label that is wonderfully informative about what's in the bottle and how the consumer might enjoy it.

We look forward to trying more Toad Hollow wines, and we encourage you to give this wonderful pink wine a try: it is delicious, and a bargain to boot.

How do they fit so much information onto the back label?

Note: This wine was received as an unsolicited sample.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Corporations, Independent Producers, and the “Soul” of Wine – is there a wine market anymore?

Part 1 -- Beer

Never take a straight path when you can meander—me, just now.

I'd been kicking the ideas for this piece around my head for a few days when a friend asked me what I thought about a looming takeover of a small, independent beer producer by the largest beer producer in the world. I think it's sad, that's what. But it also highlights how beer production is different than wine production, most of the time, anyway.

When the “craft” beer scene took off in the '90s, big brewers ignored the problem, then tried to muscle the problem aside by creating their own “craft” brands, and finally gave in and started buying those brands. I'll never understand why they thought they could ignore the problem. I suppose they imagined they could strongarm the small brands out of existence by the dual power of their marketing and distributing strength. In what appears to be a violation of Post-Prohibition tied house laws, Anheusuer-Busch its own distributors. At many grocery and liquor stores, the sales reps for these distributors all but own shelves, determining where the Bud products go, and where everything else goes. If the store objects, well, no more Bud for them, and how do they like that?

So the bigs figured they could keep the smalls out, and to make up for it, they invented their own “craft” brands, such as Millers's Plank Road Brewing (I have never understood the branding behind that one). Those interested in beers with flavor were not impressed, and apparently had the clout to prevent the bigs from muscling the smalls out of markets entirely.

The bigs started buying. The first big purchase that I remember was A-B's buying Redhook Brewing Company. There are two paths a company can take when it buys another—keep things more or less the same, or change things. As I recall, A-B mostly tried to keep things the same with Redhook. Quality took no apparent hit, and the product line grew—in mostly uninteresting ways for me—with offerings such as a branded Starbuck's Espresso stout.

We can turn back to wine for a moment for contrast. When the big (mostly liquor) company Heublein bought Inglenook long, long ago, they changed everything about the winery. The wines were no longer made from Napa grapes, no longer varietally designated... the only thing the new wines had in common with the old was the name. Why did Heublein think that people who had been paying real money for a bottle of Inglenook Napa Cabernet Sauvignon would buy a jug of Inglenook “Rhenish”, and why did they think that people looking for an inoffensive jug wine would be impressed by, or even aware of, the hallowed name Inglenook? I have no idea, but Heublein sure drove that brand into the ground quickly.

Here's an important way that beer is different than wine. Given a good water source and an intelligible recipe (here's where Heineken may run into trouble with its recently purchased Lagunitas), beer really can be mde to order. In fact, a number of recent lawsuits express consumer outrage that their “imported” Bass, or Tsingtao, or any number of brands, were actually made in the US. To me, these consumers might have a case on misleading packaging, and should certainly demand that the prices for these beers fall since no import duties or import costs are associated with them any more, but they should not complain that the beers are any different, because they are not.

In Part 2 we'll finally get to the point. We promise. Unless we get distracted again.Never take a straight path when you can meander—me, just now.
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