Archive for the ‘Wine Gear’ Category

Hillary Clinton likes Cabernet over ice cream, Bernie Sanders is a beer man, Donald Trump doesn’t drink, and Melania Trump will have whatever Michelle Obama’s having. As we find ourselves mid-convention, there seems to be no shortage of alcohol-oriented trivia to reel off about the major political players of the moment—from the weird amount of wine loot Sanders has inspired to the Virginia winery that Trump owns “100 percent” of (and also not at all).

But today, I want to briefly mention a drink inspired by someone who’s more of a bit player on the current political scene—albeit an endlessly fascinating one. So it’s time to pull out a mug, fill it with ice, pour the white wine, and enjoy yourself an Ivana.

Now of course Donald Trump’s first wife didn’t invent the wine-over-ice phenomenon—but it’s apparently a favorite of hers, according to an anonymous Home Glass source who was hired many years ago to remove the storm shutters from her Florida home. And never got paid. To be fair, when Ivana realized she was short on cash, she offered to pay her helper in Champagne—before further realizing she’d mislaid the key to her wine cellar. No matter, said helper was amply rewarded with an introduction to a beverage he named for his former employer and happily imbibes to this day—although he drinks his Ivanas in a glass.

Like Ivana, I won’t hesitate to plop an ice cube into a glass of white on a hot day—and I know that we’re in good company because the internet says so. Search “ice cubes in white wine,” and the first three results are articles about why wine on ice is “totally OK.” (The fourth says Diane Keaton does it, so . . . further evidence.)

A reasoned counterargument comes from my favorite wine expert, Jancis Robinson, who actually thinks white wines are generally served too cold—especially full-bodied whites whose aromas are constrained by too much of a chill. She writes that serving wine at the correct temperature “really can transform ink into velvet and, conversely, zest into flab,” and she recommends storing only the lightest, sweetest wines at the standard fridge temperature of 40º, serving the biggest white wines at closer to 60º. And forget about that mug—anything but glass messes with a wine’s mouthfeel, Jancis says, but even a paper cup is better than pottery.

I think it’s fair to say that encouraging aroma and optimizing mouthfeel were not Ivana Trump’s top priorities when her shutter-remover noticed her enjoying that mugful…. But the woman who famously said “Don’t get mad, get everything” presumably has no qualms about defying convention. If only she could do something about the one that’s happening right now.


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I experienced some major lifestyle envy yesterday after reading an article about a Marin County couple—Béa and Scott Johnson of Mill Valley—and the extremely minimalist way of life they’ve recently adopted.

I’m a wannabe minimalist, and I was intrigued by many of the practices the Johnsons have established. There were the obvious things, like keeping firm limits on the volume of clothing, toys, cooking equipment, and memorabilia in the household (never mind paper products and books, which are absent altogether), but also some less obvious ones like using compostable toothbrushes and sourcing wine locally from wineries that offer refillable bottles.

This last item caught my eye in particular because of the winery mentioned: Guglielmo. The Guglielmo brothers have a long family history in the Santa Clara Valley—a region near and dear to the winemaker in this household—and I’ve written in the past about the winery’s new-ish line of value wines, Tré Cellars.  The brothers have a reputation for being good to their neighbors, and with their reusable bottle promotions they’re also good to the environment.

For Guglielmo’s next “Bottle Your Own” event, February 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., customers are encouraged to bring their own clean bottles (or buy them at the winery for a dollar) and then fill them with a Guglielmo red for $5 —all while Italian delicacies beckon from a “chef’s table” and accordion music fills the air.

Know another local winery that offers to fill used wine bottles? Let us know here…

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A few nights ago I opened a bottle that some friends gave us in October—the 2004 Tyrus Evan Del Rio Vineyard Claret. As is my habit these days, I inscribed the bottle with the names of those friends and the date—and upon opening it two months later, I noticed that they had done the same whenever they received the bottle, which seems to have been at a fund-raising auction. I love the scribbled-on, personalized look of the bottle now (or at least I did before I recycled it), especially since those notes gave the wine a sense of history.

Years ago I worked at a magazine where Anne Fadiman—who later became the editor of The American Scholar—wrote a column about all things literary, and my favorite of those columns concerned the proper place to inscribe a book. (In case you’re wondering, it’s the flyleaf—that blank page in the front—rather than the title page, which is reserved for the author.) Revisiting Anne’s column recently made me wonder: As the printed book slowly (and sadly) goes the way of the telegram, could inscriptions on wine bottles become the new, hot way to say ‘I care’? And if so, what’s the proper place to inscribe a bottle of wine?

There doesn’t seem to be much authoritative commentary on this, so let’s decide for ourselves: The front label makes the most sense to me, since the winemaker’s signature usually appears on the back label. There’s also the option of just writing on the glass, and while there are pens made for just this purpose, any gold or silver pen from an art supply store will do.

While wine experts may not have much to say on where to personalize your bottle, many do suggest marking the bottle with the date you opened it, so as not to let it sit too long and turn to vinegar. In my house, wine is rarely open and unconsumed long enough to run that risk—but if it’s a problem in your household, you might try that system. Or, consider buying this gadget: a wine stopper with twistable date rings, created by designer George Lee. A great last-minute gift for your favorite wine lover….

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Philip James, CEO and cofounder of the interactive wine database and social network Snooth, has been a busy guy lately. The ink was barely dry on press releases announcing Snooth’s new iPhone app when another was issued announcing the launch of Snooth’s sister Website, Lot18.com. Below are details on both offerings, along with information about a third new tech tool aimed at automating the wine appreciation experience. Blogging aside, I personally like keeping that experience as tech-free as possible, but… no judgment on the early adopters.

  • The newish app Snooth Wine Pro lets you take a picture of a wine label with your phone and, once the wine has been identified in Snooth’s database, quickly find a bottle of it in a store near you. You can also create wishlists and maintain a virtual cellar, instantly read reviews, and add reviews of your own. Snooth Wine Pro is available for $4.99 in Apple’s App Store. A free, ad-supported version is also available.
  • The just-launched Lot18.com is selling wines in a flash-sale-style format at savings of up to 60 percent. It’s a membership-by-invitation marketplace, but securing an invitation involves nothing more than clicking a Get Invite Code button on the site and filling in your name, e-mail, and zip code. Alder Yarrow offered a good list of these sites last summer on Vinography, and his post mentions some interesting views from Good Grape on the same topic.
  • Argentina’s Argento Winery has released its 2009 Argento Malbec with a QR barcode that, when scanned with a smartphone equipped with a QR code reader, provides access to winery and winemaker information, tasting notes, food pairings, and videos. Other wineries jumping on the QR code bandwagon include Kendall-JacksonJUSTIN Winery of Paso Robles; Kind Vines of Arizona; and wineries in Portugal and Australia. Free QR code readers are easy to find online; here’s a good CNet review of a few.

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I’m speaking, of course, of Metrokane’s “Rabbit” corkscrew, which many of my friends swear by, and which my husband loves to hate. (I think for him this product goes firmly in the category of fussy wine gadgets that are unnecessarily fancier than the simple tools he uses at work.)

I was thrilled when we received the Rabbit as a wedding gift, as I’d been pinching myself on Peter’s old-school wing corkscrew for months. The Rabbit wasn’t perfect (common complaints include its short lifespan and incompatibility with synthetic corks and certain bottle styles), but it was certainly easier on my hands—until it died (from overuse?) about a year in.

Enter the Torkscrew, a new corkscrew hybrid I recently had the opportunity to sample. The manufacturer, BellaSvago, is billing the Torkscrew primarily as an opener for screw-cap bottles, but it also functions as a conventional handheld ‘sommelier knife’ corkscrew with a foil cutter and beer-bottle opener—and it features a magnet to keep it handy on your fridge. This last feature prompted Peter’s first complaint: it failed as a beer opener, he said, because of the distance between the lever used to remove the cap and your hand. The large rubber magnet-cum-screwcap gripper that is the Torkscrew’s claim to fame gets in the way. As for its screwcap capabilities, I found it easier to simply unscrew the cap by hand.

But as a plain-old handheld corkscrew, the Torkscrew is my new favorite. I can’t quite explain why it works for me when most handhelds have me attempting to revive my dead Rabbit out of frustration, but one theory might be its size. That same bulky magnet/screwcap gripper that ruined the beer-opening experience for Peter is actually the perfect size for gripping while twisting out a cork—especially if your hand is, say, smallish.

In fact, I think the BellaSvago folks—who are pushing the idea that fine-dining establishments need the Torkscrew to “fancy up” the service of screwcap wines—might have this all wrong. Stop marketing your project to fusty restaurateurs, and instead start selling it as the Corkscrew for Women. Hell, the timing’s right—you could call it the Sex and the City corkscrew! It’s lightweight, it’s cute, and with six colors to choose from, you can get one that matches your iPod.

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