No Whining About Wining Today!

We’ve celebrated Zinfandel Day, Carmenere Day, Chardonnay Day and a dozen more dedicated wine days – and when the holiday-makers ran out of grapes they wanted to salute, I guess they just decided to drink.

Hence a wine lover’s favorite day: National Drink Wine Day, February 18, designed to help us “embrace the positive benefits” of vino (as if we weren’t good at that already).

Vinitaly med.

[Fans of the grape, tasting at Vinitaly 2017 in Verona, Italy.]

Alaska Airlines will mark the day in a big way: in addition to offering a free glass of wine on most flights Sunday, they’re expanding their super-cool “Wine Flies Free” program. If you haven’t taken advantage of the program, get familiar with it – on flights departing from a long list of cities in Oregon, Washington, California and Idaho, you can take home a case of wine as checked baggage, free of charge. You have to sign up for their mileage plan before you fly, and the offer is ongoing – not limited to Drink Wine Day – on Alaska and their partners Horizon Air and SkyWest.

You can find other special events and discounts Sunday, too, from Miami to Malibu, so Google your town and see what’s being offered. I started my celebration last night, when

Zweigelt

The Niece And Nephew brought me this bottle of this 2013 Hiller Pulkau-Austria Zweigelt, one of my favorite Big Sexy Reds. It was plummy, a little dusty and went down beautifully with our chicken-pesto pasta.

This morning I saw a survey by National Today, an organization that tracks the “cultural calendar,” that said almost 75 percent of Americans believe two glasses of wine is enough for one day. That fits perfectly into my Weight Watchers plan. With zero carbs, zero fat, 125 calories and four “points,” I can drink two glasses without guilt. Fewer than 10 percent of people, National Today learned, drink five or more glasses in one sitting – and thank goodness, because if they pour that much down their gullets, they’re probably also foolish enough to drive in that condition.

More stats that fascinate me: 3 percent of people say they always cry when they drink wine. (Me, I cry when I finish that second glass because I have to cut myself off.) And a whopping 24 percent think a $15 bottle is a splurge. I believe it; there’s so much good wine on the shelves at bargain prices, winemakers and sellers are no doubt paying attention to that trend.

But here’s my favorite factoid: a 40-year study by Harvard researchers found that middle-aged men who drink red wine are less likely to experience erectile dysfunction than those who drink white, or none at all. (Yee-ha! Have another glass, gentlemen!)

National Drink Wine Day is always on February 18 – a Sunday this year, and for most of us, the next day is a work day. Will that keep us from over-indulging? Or will thousands of wine lovers call in sick Monday?

Here’s my suggestion; you’ve heard it before but it bears repeating: for each glass of wine you drink, sip a glass of water. You’ll slow down your drinking and avoid a hangover. I know, keeping that water glass going is a pain. But you’ll thank me in the morning.

Wine Lingo:  Anthocyanins = chemical compounds that give grapes their red, blue or purple color. They’re why red wine is red.

German Pinot Blanc small

Vino ‘View: Drink Wine Day doesn’t mean we should drink only reds! Since it’s winter, this crisp, spicy Dr. Heger Pinot Blanc 2015 (13 percent alcohol, $19.99) will warm you up a little. It’s a Qualitätswein (“quality wine from a designated region”) from the Kaiserstuhl district, reportedly one of the warmest areas of Germany. That accounts for its apple and citrus aromas, and the honeydew I tasted – but without sweetness. This is a light Weissburgunder (the German word for Pinot Blanc) with plenty of mineralogy and just enough alcohol to feel cozy.

[Dr. Heger Pinot Blanc 2015 was sent to Big Sexy Reds for review.]

Cheers!

Mary 

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My Top 10 Wines & Spirits in 2017

As you might guess, I enjoy an adult beverage (or two) pretty much every day. That adds up to a lot of different wines and spirits. Selecting 10 favorites was a challenge – but holy Zinfandel, was the research fun!

These bottles range in price from super-affordable to impress-the-boss splurge, but none are ridiculously pricey. Any would make superb holiday gifts.

In no particular order, these are my 2017 picks:

 

 

  • When I served Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva (40 proof, $38) to a few friends, none of them knew they were sipping rum – they thought it tasted like brandy or a honey-infused bourbon. That’s not too far-fetched, since this Venezuelan beauty is aged for up to 12 years in bourbon barrels. Long aging bestows elegance on a fine rum; this one carries notes of fennel, caramel, oak and corn. I wouldn’t mix Diplomatico – savor it neat or cool it with one ice cube.
  • If you haven’t tried reds from northern Italy, the 2016 Colterenzio St. Magdalener, DOC Alto Adige (12.5 percent alcohol, $14) is a good introduction. Its vegetable tone is delicious, tinged with parsley and, as it rests, tea and black cherries. It’s a bit stony, and the ashy aroma continues into the taste with milk chocolate and smoke in the finish. If you don’t like tannins, you’ll love this wine, but keep it for a year or two before you crack the bottle.
  • I drank my 2014 Yarden Malbec (14.5 percent alcohol, $32.99) while I munched on olives, cheese and pepperoni – a typical lazy supper for moi – and it held up beautifully. This Israeli wine, produced in the Golan Heights in Galilee, is a real Big Sexy Red – plums and smoke aroma, followed by bacon, blackberries and a bit of dark raisin tastes. It reminded me of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate covered shortbread stars, but with heat.
  • Whenever I see Zweigelt, I buy it because it’s not that common in the U.S., but I had never tried a Zweigelt rosé. Earlier this year, a friend gave me a bottle of 2015 Josef & Philipp Bründlmayer Grafenegg Rosé vom Zweigelt (12 percent alcohol, $50) and I’m on a mission to find more. Although Zweigelt is a relatively obscure grape in the U.S. it’s actually the most-planted red in Austria. The soft salmon-colored wine is a high-acid gem – “almost fizzy,” my friend said – but creamy and earthy at the same time.

 

 

 

  •  Pinot Noir isn’t always a big-bold red, but the 2013 Gloria Ferrer Pinot Noir       Carneros (13.5 percent alcohol, $27) is almost chewy, and dark like a California tan. I got an aroma of dark grapes, blackberries and a bit of turkey sausage (and I mean that in a good way). Add black pepper, raspberries, plums, bell peppers and pomegranate on the palate – a well-ordered structure with smoke and mocha on the finish.
  • I discovered Hanson of Sonoma Small Batch Cucumber Flavored Vodka (80 proof, $26) on a trip to Sonoma last spring and when I returned in November, I brought home two bottles. Don’t let the “flavored” deter you; these certified organic artisan distillers infuse their grape-based vodkas with real produce, and you won’t be drinking a cucumber salad – that taste is barely a kiss. It’s only distributed on the West Coast, but I found it online at MissionLiquor.com. Shipping cost for one bottle is exorbitant, but if you buy three or more it gets reasonable.
  •  One of the hottest wine regions these days is Eastern Europe, and 2015 Patricius Tokaj Dry Furmint (12 percent alcohol, $15) is a great example of the quality wines produced there. Tokaj in Hungary is the world’s first designated wine appellation, and Furmint, one of its most abundant white grapes, is used for making both sweet and dry wines. This one is as dry as wine gets – zesty, fresh, with strong minerality and stone fruit flavors, along with a touch of pineapple and banana.

 

 

 

  • I haven’t tasted every rye in the world, but Russell’s Reserve 6 Year Old Small Batch Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey (90 proof, $49.99) is the best I’ve tried. Developed by Wild Turkey’s master distiller Jimmy Russell, it’s one smooth drink. The tastes are a delicious blend of toffee, rye, pecan and cinnamon – and don’t you dare mix it; this is a fine sipping rye. Just make sure it’s labeled “6 Year Old,” because the regular Russell’s Reserve Rye is 104 proof and not nearly as refined-tasting.
  • Casal Thaulero’s 2009 Thalé Montepulciano D’Abruzzo (14 percent alcohol, $40) is that special-occasion bottle you set aside – but just for a short while, because it’s at its peak now. After aromas of red fruit and vanilla, expect a big, bold mouthfeel and tastes of maple, pumpkin spice and dry leaves – perfect for fall and winter drinking.
  • It’s probably not fair for me to include this bottle because a friend bought it in Italy, but Limoncello is my favorite digestivo and always makes a great gift. It’s traditionally made with Sorrento lemons in southern Italy, but I’ve come across some terrific limoncello produced here in the U.S., too. Get recommendations from your liquor merchant; the best limoncello is sweet enough that you know you’re drinking liqueur, but not cloying; and tart but not bitter. Like any fine liquor, it should be smooth and balanced. You can find quality limoncello for less than $40.

Bonus picks – Three choice drinks didn’t make the list: Ferrari Grappa Segnana Solera, omitted only because it’s not distributed in the U.S. (but worth ordering online if you can find it); OYO Bourbon Whiskey, Michelone Reserve, distributed only in eight states but also available online; and Maker’s 46, a great option when you want a not-ordinary bourbon to sip by the fire. All three are in my cabinet…So many bottles, so little time!

Next up – uncommon, last-minute wine gifts for any wine lover – or treat yourself!

Cheers,

Mary