A little of this, a little of that
Amid the frenzy of packing and last-minute chores before I take off for a couple of weeks of wine tasting, reporting and meeting an international group of friends in France, let's devote today's space to a quick round of short topics that catch up on several recent subjects.
VIRGINIA OKs WINE SHIPPING: Here's a bit of good news from Virginia amid the ugly scene of protective state laws and politics that makes it difficult for wine lovers in many states of the U.S. to buy wines directly from wineries or out-of-state merchants.
A new state law will permit Virginia residents - subject to certain restrictions - to purchase wine directly from wineries outside the state. The law, which will go into effect July 1, limits Virginians to a maximum of two 12-bottle cases per month, only from wineries that are licensed to sell direct to consumers and that purchase a $50 Virginia state license.
The new rule was prompted by a court decision that had struck down the previous state law, which was declared unconstitutional because it banned sales to Virginians by out-of-state wineries while allowing similar sales by wineries within the state.
MORE WINE SHIPPING: You may recall our Jan. 29 report on a similar anti-consumer law in Florida that prevented Gov. Jeb Bush from collecting his winning bet on home-team Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl, because the law forbade California Gov. Gray Davis to send the prize - a case of Groth 1999 Reserve Cabernet - into the Sunshine State.
As it turns out, the governors took care of the problem informally, just as less politically connected Florida wine lovers have to do: The Miami Herald reported that Gray hand-carried the booty to Bush at a meeting of governors in neutral Washington, D.C.
WINE IN THE BOX: In my March 3 report on Black Box Wines 2001 California Chardonnay, a wine of relatively good quality packaged in the "bag-in-box" format traditionally reserved for forgettable "jug-type" wines, I mentioned that the big advantage of this packaging method is that wine purportedly remains fresh and palatable much longer than it would in an opened bottle.
As you may recall, I found the Black Box wine significantly superior to two less pricey mass-market boxed wines, although a bit on the simple side in comparison with competitors in traditional bottles. But how would it last in the shelf-life test?
To find out, I carelessly stashed the partially consumed box at room temperature on the floor of my office for a couple of months. Last week, I tried another glass.
Somewhat to my surprise, it had fared quite well. After a period long enough to have turned wine in an opened bottle into something like cheap Sherry, the Black Box still tasted just about as it had 60 days earlier: Clean and light-bodied, with delicate apple and spice aromas and crisp apple flavors. Just as before, it was certainly palatable, if not particularly exciting. At $25 for the box, the equivalent of $6.25 a bottle, it's on the low end of the "super-premium" range. But if you're in the market for a modest "house wine" that will keep, Black Box is worth considering, provided you live in the limited Northern California market where it's currently available.
WINE ADVISOR ADMIN: As usual while I'm on the road, The 30 Second Wine Advisor will be in travel mode for the next couple of weeks. For those who subscribe to the daily edition, there'll be no Wednesday or Friday issues, and we'll skip the Wine Advisor FoodLetter. But I will make every effort to distribute the weekly Monday edition more or less on schedule. Regular publication will resume around May 21.
I'll update WineLoversPage.com with occasional travel reports, tasting notes and photos from our visits to Paris, Champagne, Alsace and Bordeaux, including - I hope - some early tastings of the 2002 vintage still in barrel. Check our Front Page periodically for updates.
WINE NOTE: Let's finish up today's report with a tasting note on a quality white from Alsace, the quaint region along the Rhine where France meets Germany, where I'll be touring and visiting wineries later this week. In contrast with their usually sweeter and often light German counterparts, Alsace Rieslings tend to be full-bodied and dry, steely and mineral-tinged whites that balance boldness with elegance.
Trimbach 2000 Alsace Riesling ($16.99)
Very pale straw color with a brassy hue. Complex aromas blend white fruits with a hint of pine needles and a distant whiff of wool. Full-bodied and dry, full fruit and appealing "mineral" qualities are shaped by steely acidity. U.S. importer: Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines, NYC. (May 1, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Beautiful with an Alsatian fish dish (matelote de poissons) crafted to match, a light stew of trout and walleye pike with vegetables; it would do well with just about any fish, poultry or pork main course.
VALUE: Not cheap, but certainly competitive with fine white wines in the mid-teens.
WHEN TO DRINK: Fine now, but like all fine Rieslings, it will live and gain complexity for years if kept under careful cellar conditions.
WINERY WEBSITE: The Trimbach Website is available in French and English at
A Perfect Gift For Mother's Day
Rosa Regale Brachetto d'Acqui (Bra-KET-oh da-KWEE), a distinctive red sparkling wine from Piedmont, Italy makes a unique and lovely Mother's Day gift. Brachetto d'Acqui has the flavor of fresh raspberries. Its effervescence is softer than that of champagne, yet it yields a persistent and delicate pink froth. Served chilled and with a low alcohol content, it is a refreshing choice as either an elegant aperitif or a dessert wine, one of the few that is an ideal match to chocolate as well as fruit and pastries.
The Brachetto bottle, created by Vigne Regali winery family proprietor John Mariani, is made of clear glass to highlight the bright ruby red color of the wine. The bottle's shape resembles the soft-shouldered Burgundian style package with scalloped edging around the base as well as the neck. The label features a single red rose, symbolizing the wine's single-vineyard La Rosa estate in the small town of Acqui.
Rosa Regale makes an attractive gift and it is also an appropriate beverage for special occasions such as weddings, Christmas, New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day, along with Mother's Day. Nationally distributed, Rosa Regale is sold in fine wine shops in 750ml and 375ml size bottles.
Wine Lovers' Voting Booth:
What wine with barbecue?
The word "barbecue" means many things to many people, and to those who take their smoked meat seriously, barbecue falls somewhere between a religion and a cult.
According to legend, Columbus found the native Taino Arawak people of Haiti grilling meat on sharp sticks over coals, and the rest of the world has been enjoying the practice ever since.
Just about every region has its variation on the theme, but for the purposes of this week's Wine Lovers' Voting Booth, we throw up our hands and make no effort to specify the exact meaning of barbecue. We simply invite you to think of your own preference in barbecued, smoked, charbroiled or grilled meat (or other grilled food) as we ask, "What wine goes best with barbecue?"
To cast your ballot, simply click to the Voting Booth,
Penfolds Brings Red Wine Recorking Clinics to the United States
Penfolds, Australia's most famous wine, brings the ultimate in after-sales service to the United States with its Penfolds Red Wine Recorking Clinics. In October 2003, Penfolds will hold two Red Wine Recorking Clinics – in New York City on Oct. 24 and Chicago on Oct. 28. Penfolds has been conducting these clinics in Australia and the U.K. since 1991. In the last 12 years, Penfolds has opened more than 50,000 bottles of wine for over 7,500 consumers and trade. The clinics are popular with personal collectors and those that trade on the secondary market.
At the clinics, Penfolds winemakers will open and test any bottle of Penfolds red wine 15 years or older. After tasting, the Penfolds winemaking team will top, recork, re-capsule and certify that the wine is good, if the condition is found to be sound. Penfolds provides this service at no cost to the customer. To register for the clinic email email@example.com or call 1-800-255-9966. To find out more about the clinics visit
Australia's most famous wine, Penfolds Grange, today holds iconic status around the world, and has been described by esteemed wine writer, Robert Parker, as a leading candidate for the richest, most concentrated, dry red table wine on planet earth. To stay in the know about events like the recorking clinics, sign up for the Penfolds quarterly newsletter – Work in Progress. This educational publication is full of tasting notes on new releases, including the much-anticipated 1998 Grange, information on the winery's history and heritage and events in your area where Penfolds is participating. To sign up, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-255-9966.
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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Oak or not? (May 2, 2003)
Wine without boundaries (April 30, 2003)
A quick julep break (April 28, 2003)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Pasta with walnut sauce (May 1, 2003)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, May 5, 2003