"Drink at, or near pictures of, the beach."

Pinot Grigio. It's the wine equivalent of Taylor Swift, in that it's the number two wine in the country, (for number one singer, Taylor fans, see Beyoncé), it's very popular among young white women, and each of your self-proclaimed wine expert friends living in Bed Stuy hates it because it's "too simple." 
Pinot Grigio is often characterized by it's trademark strong acidity, fervent green apple and citrus flavors, and affordable price. It's an easy wine, for easy days. Lemonade for adults. But recently I found myself wondering, why stop at the lemonade? Why not try the punch, the iced tea, the homemade watermelon kombucha? Point being, sometimes it's easy to stop at the first signs of success. So this post goes out to all my Pinot Grigio-or-bust drinkers, who after another finished bottle are left wondering, what next? What else might I like? The ones who arrive at their corner liquor store only to have the salesperson already walking towards the back shelf to grab your signature $13 double bottle of Yellow Tail Pinot Grigio (or, depending on your budget, a $20 bottle of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio). Lets break it down:

Art by Caitlin Dundon

Listed above are six attributes that are probably part of most Perpetual-Pinot-Purchases. When thinking about wines that might be natural stepping stones from Pinot Grigio, I focused on two attributes: Easy-drinking & refreshing. 
So, let's get it started.

1. Sauvignon Blanc:

I'm actually a big proponent of cooking with Sauvignon Blanc. Though I rarely put it in the food.
To me, Sauvignon Blanc is the most natural successor to Pinot Grigio. One can typically expect green apple and melon flavors to abound. Summer and autumn fruits combine with a bit more of a grassy citrus flavor, and a slighter body than in Pinot Grigios. This means that a Sauvignon Blanc will, quite literally, feel lighter in your mouth, than a Pinot Grigio. Think of it as frozen yogurt vs. ice cream. Like the fro-yo, Sauvignon Blanc is lighter, and typically has a tad less sweetness.
Good Buys: Bayten Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($15), Vignobles Raymond Les Hauts de Lagarde Blanc 2015 ($12), Montes Spring Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($14).
Good Pairings: Drink while cooking dinner, at midday summer picnics, or with most foods from the realm of Poseidon (salmon, lobster, hermit crabs, etc).

2. Riesling:
If Sauvignon Blanc is a lemon biscotti, and Pinot Grigio is a lemon tart, Riesling is a lemon crème brûlée.
Riesling can be a divisive grape. For some it will always be too sweet. For others, the german labels can be rather intimidating. But the diversity offered by Riesling, with its dry (feinherb), off-dry (kabinett), and sweet (auslese) categorizations, means it can pair well with oodles of different scenarios. They often contain lighter, delicate fruit flavors, like peach and apricot, but have a strong acidity similar to those of Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.
Good Buys: Riesling Mulheimer Sonnenlay Zeppelin Richter 2015 ($14), Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2015 ($12) Donnhoff Riesling 2015 $20).
Good Pairings: Drink with friends while prepping for a party, at, or near pictures of, a beach, or with sautéed chicken and fresh vegetables.

3: Gamay:
Characterized by a strong sense of purpose, and a can do attitude, this grape is the gateway red wine.
Maybe you're not one for baby steps. You like to drink now, ask questions later. If so, you might just be a potential Gamay drinker. Made famous for being the signature grape behind French Beaujolais, Gamay is about as subtle as Shaquille O'Neil. I view Gamay as an affordable alternative to Pinot Noir, with a punchier fruit flavor. Imagine biting into a cherry/raspberry tart, and because Gamay is best served slightly chilled, throw a scoop of vanilla ice cream into that image. That's tasty.
Good Buys: Beaujolais Michel Guignet 2015 ($14), Bonnet Rouge Beaujolais Villages 2013 ($17), Dupeuble Pere et Fils Beaujoulais 2015 ($15)
Good Pairings: Drink while watching a Judd Apatow RomCom, on a porch or balcony after getting home from work, 
or with veritable mountain ranges of bread, meats, and cheeses.


Self-serving grape juice 
for serving a self-centered group.

I like to say that I was partially raised 'Fiddler on the Roof' style. Full of traditions. Every Sunday morning, I would trod groggily down our leopard print staircase alongside my siblings to have "Sunday Breakfast" with the parents, consisting of bacon, eggs, and bagels (if you don't eat sesame, we need to have a talk). Then, following a day of sloth, or occasional debauchery, we would return to the kitchen for "Sunday Dinner" with our close family friends. 
These are traditions that were easy to detest as children, and equally easy to yearn for as AITs, or "Adults in Training." These days, I find myself more and more the (self-designated) parent of my friend groups, trying fruitlessly (wine pun definitely intended) to encourage such traditions. During my summer in Old-Bay filled Paradise (Southern Delaware) the tradition was 'Wine Wednesdays.' We also decided early on to combine wine, with board games, in order to satiate our inner children alongside our adult exteriors. However, I discovered relatively quickly that most of my fellow board gamers didn't particularly care which wine I brought, as long as, you know, it had alcohol. I needed to find a wine for when I was the only one who cared what we were drinking. Or, as I like to put it: 
When you're the only one who gives a grape about the wine you will be drinking, and you won't be drinking most of it so it might as well be affordable.
  • The Wine: The Mirassou Pinot Noir 2014
  • The Affordability: $9
  • The Background: The Mirassou family is about as ancient as California Pinot goes, and by that I mean the mid-1800s. In fact, they claim to be the first winery to introduce Pinot Noir grapes to California. So you can check that fact off your quest for knowledge. More info here.
The Mirassou isn't quite as bombastic as some of its bigger brother pinots from California, but for it's reasonable asking price of under $10, it packs plenty of flavor. It's light on the nose, and the flavor is that of warm, stewed berries. There's a hint of oak to offset the sweetness, which rounds the flavor our quite nicely.
A bottle of Mirassou Pinot Noir contains seven glasses of wine. Johnny buys three bottles of Mirassou. If Johnny consumes Mirassou at an average rate of four glasses of wine per hour (GWPH), and his friends work feverishly at a collective rate of 12 GWPH, how many hours before Johnny has to weep tears of untold sorrows because he's out of Mirassou?
But what characterizes the Mirassou best, is its approachability. It's an everyday wine, for everyday people. And I mean that as a compliment. Each wine, in my mind, has a part to play. Whether its a box of white zinfandel, or a bottle of '61 Latour, there's always a time and place. With this being said, the Mirassou isn't a wine for deep contemplation or hard-fought arguments. It's a wine for light times, and raucously amusing disagreements on who truly won that round of 'Don't Break the Ice.' *Spoiler Alert* It was me.

Mirassou should be brought out when you want a pleasant, easy drinking, affordable red. One that friends who don't particularly care what wine they're consuming can enjoy for its exceptionally high drinkability. But also one that you can enjoy for it's honest-to-goodness quality.

The Recap:
  • The Wine: The Mirassou Pinot Noir 2014
  • The Price: $9 - That's a Five Guys Bacon Cheeseburger with a small fries (if you don't get cajun, we need to have another talk).
  • The Pairing: This is an easy going wine that won't get in the way of the intensity of a strategy based board game like 'Settlers of Catan.' Then again, we chose to pair it with 'Don't Break the Ice,' which we discovered is an absolute blast for exactly 12 minutes.....What? Were you looking for a food pairing?
  • The Rating: 2 - Grab a bottle for your next friend-based tradition extravaganza wizbang.

I think I only began to understand my Dutch heritage four years ago. My mother grew up in the Netherlands, only uprooting to the United States when she was swept off balance by my American father in her mid-twenties. Desiring, I think, that we would grow closer to the land she still retains such affection for, we constantly found ourselves traveling to the land of her birth in order to carry out meet-and-greets with exceedingly kind and inviting relatives. But from one particular recent visit developed a lasting impression that originated from her cigarillo smoking cousin:
"The Dutch like a bit of anarchy."

Put another way, the Dutch seem to like establishing certain rules and laws, if only to ensure there are always a few good ones left to break. Smoking is banned in soccer stadiums, yet the number of cigarettes present at the game I've attended have been second only to beers. Now I don't necessarily agree with the old adage, "rules were made to be broken." As we've discussed many moons ago, "all generalizations are dangerous, even this one." But I think we can mostly agree that some rules, are a bunch of codswallop. And at the least, it doesn't hurt, to break them. This post is in honor of one such a rule.

As I mentioned recently, I'm currently inhabiting a big tin can (an airstream) on a local murder-site-to-be (campground). Shortly after arriving at this new home, I was tritely informed by "the management," that there was a strict "no hammocks," policy. Upon inquiring why this odd rule was in place, I was told that they "damage the trees." Indeed, it seems that the true scourge of the planet isn't the wealth of fossil fuels we pump out into the atmosphere with our 47 liter V-50 engines, but us inconsiderate hammock-dwellers. As far as I'm concerned, this is as silly as permanent 'keep off the grass' signs

I'm not sure why we keep reinforcing this imagined mind-wall between us and nature, but I won't stand for it. Upon learning of these hammock-haters, the Dutchman stirred within me. I found myself wanting to use my hammock more than ever. And, oddly enough, the longer I remained at the campground, the more hammocks I saw hung furtively behind campers, or else within tree-shrouded yards. It seems the Dutch aren't the only ones who enjoy a bit of anarchy. And I for one will be blarmied if I can’t use my hammock on my two perfectly spaced trees behind my own airstream in order to enjoy a glass, above the grass, on a midsummer’s day. So the next time you're looking to rebel quietly, in the peace of your own relaxing, high strung paradise, you might want to grab this bottle as your accomplice:
  • The Wine: Broadbent Vinho Verde 2015
  • The Region: Vinho Verde is the largest wine producing region in all of Portugal!
  • The Name: Vinho Verde literally means 'green wine.' Green is used here with the implication of being young or lacking experience. Indeed, inexperience leads to some of the best rebelling. Youth often hasn't had time to be indoctrinated into the established order. To me, this wine shines with youth.
The Broadbent is like if some fellow, or fellette, had a margarita one time and went: “I like that. Make it a wine!” And I mean this in a good way. It’s delicious, fruit fizzed, and rejuvenating. Just imagine losing some of the lime, and replacing it with mango, yellow apple, and some lemon rind.

The Broadbent, as with many Vinho Verdes, seems almost to be made in the style of what wine nerds would call a ‘pétillant naturel.’ Simply put, it’s got some bubble trouble. Some fizz wiz. It’s a gas guzzler. In layman’s terms, it’s slightly carbonated. Not quite to the extent of a champagne, but it’s certainly noticeable and exceptionally refreshing. It makes it the perfect wine for a perfect lazy summer rebellion, such as fighting the man from the quiet comfort of your own backyard. 

The Recap:
  • The Wine: Broadbent Vinho Verde 2015
  • The Taste: It's astonishing how fresh this wine tastes. Tart, crisp, with a slight, incorrigible fizz. Full of tropical and citrus fruits.
  • The Pairing: To be sumptuously sipped on warm days accompanied by a good book (in my case, 'Travel's with Charley,' by John Steinbeck), and a feeling of light-hearted triumph.  It's a brilliant alternative to Rosé or Pinot Grigio if you've had too much of those in these dying days of summer. With meals, stick to light dishes and sauces, as the wine won't stand up well to anything too hearty.
  • The Rating: 3 - This isn't meant negatively, but you should think before you purchase this wine. Make sure you're looking for such a light and fruit wine before you purchase it. It could not be more different from a buttery chardonnay.
For a brief ratings explanation, check over here.


Guaranteed to soothe tempers, and win nods of ardent approval.

As Prince announced to the world in his 1986 sultry single, 'Kiss,' you don't have to be rich, to be his girl. Alas, we are not all such glorious, open-minded humans. There's a 'Cards Against Humanity' white card that touches woefully on one of our greatest fears, particularly us millennials:
"Getting married, having a few kids, buying some stuff, retiring to Florida, and dying." 
I love this card for the relatable kernel of truth that it touches on, which is as follows: The basis for which many parents seem to measure the successes or failures of their children is whether they achieve a monetarily successful career, get married, and continue the family dynasty (a word that you and I should both use more often). Now I won't go into a whole tirade about how, if you ask me, this is more than a little bit silly. That's not the point of this post. What it's actually about, is one of my favorite things: bullshitting.

I've met many a parent in my heyday. Some can be well reasoned with, others cannot. It's just the way of it. And sometimes the best way to get along with your own parents is to play their game. To show them the success they so crave, even if you haven't truly achieved it, or just don't give a flying fig about it. And what better way to generate perceived maturity and success, than by bringing, to your next family gathering that is, a bottle of wine? The drink so closely tied to bourgeois success, admitting you know anything about it is seen by some as evidence of palpable pomposityBut the problem is, you don't really have the income, or desire, to drop Benjamins, or even Hamiltons, on a bottle. Well brethren, I have a solution, and there's no need to 'make it rain,' because mops are expensive and nobody wants to clean that mess up anyways. 
  • The Grape: Garnacha (Grenache)
  • The Region: Aragon
  • Price: $9
First of all, lets clear this up. Garnacha and grenache are two different names for the same thing. It's like when you pronounce caramel "ca-ruh-mel," and your friend says "car-mul." Well it's a bit different in truth because your friend is a fool. There's another 'a' there, you dolt. Anyways. Whatever you call it, many people believe the garnacha grape to have derived from the Aragon region of Spain. Grenache is simply the name the French and English have ascribed to it.
No, not Aragorn, the rightful heir to the throne of Gondor, but Aragon, a small region in central northern Spain. History nerds will recognize the region as the former location of the Kingdom of Aragon. Today, it contains over four billion square ft. of vineyards. Read more here.
The grape is easy to grow, easy to cultivate, and best of all, easy to drink. In fact, I have several wine nerd friends who affectionately refer to garnacha as 'liquid silk.' Simply put, it goes down smooth. Don't get me wrong, the wine isn't subtle. It's certified FAF (Fruity As Figs), and will pair well with approving looks from your parents as they struggle to ascertain where it was you gained such a nose for fine wine.

Evodia's flavor evokes some dark cherries and pleasant, peppery spice. It's hue is that of a deep purple, though less the 70s English rock band from Hertford, and more that of Prince's Purple Rain. Much like that God of Rock, the Evodia is classy, maybe even sensual, and exceptionally fruity. So when you're next craving a bit of filial affection from that good old pater familias (another term that should be employed with more frequency), throw this bottle in your bag. Inform your parents the grapes grow on one hundred year old vines that trace their history back to the ancient Kingdom of Aragon. Then take a deep breath, and savor their dazzled faces. Your mom's pork roast will never taste this good again.

The Recap:
The Evodia Garnacha 2014
  • The Price: $9 - Less than a 1969 Westclox alarm clock!
  • The Taste: There's plenty of fruit to go around here. Big, bold cherries, even blueberries. But folks, don't be intimidated by those "B" words. While it's rich, it's also a friendly fruit, not overwhelming. You can always decant it ahead of time for desired lightening.
  • The Pairing: The smiling faces at your dinner table as your parents nod in approval to your newfound maturity and clear success. As the saying goes: Red wine, success!
  • The Rating: 1 - The honest issue I have with this wine is that I don't have any left. Buy it, or regret it forevermore.


I've finally found the wine to present as tribute to a fearsome 
foreign 17th century Shōgun. 
You're welcome.
It's fascinating how a three-hour drive can alter your identity. Not who you truly are, but how you are perceived by others. Coming from New York, I'm considered a pretty average, skinny jeans wearing, man bun sporting, adult male. But upon arriving in Delaware three months ago, I seem to have evolved into Tom Zacharia - Lord of the Hipsters.
I can't count the number of times I've been asked, "But...what are you doing in Delaware?" This in mind, it seems like little coincidence that I'm currently deeply entrenched in James Clavell's 'Shōgun,' a romping adventure about the fictional English pilot, John Blackthorne, who after being marooned in 17th century Japan on an ill-fated cross-Pacific voyage, is forced to navigate the complex web of an entirely foreign culture.
And although Blackthorne's tale is one of substantially more intrigue and supreme swashbuckling grandeur than most of us can hope for in ten modern lifetimes, most everyone can probably attest to the following notion: There's nothing quite like being the new guy (or gal) in town. The balance of life is upset by your presence. Heads turn, postures stiffen, and lips tighten. I recently ripped up my roots for the first substantial time in my life, leaving the sleepy New York suburb of my birth for the worldly wonders of Southern Delaware (turns out there are almost one million people here). Alas, while it's taken more time than necessary, I've finally discovered a wine to loosen the tongues of recently introduced strangers, or else to present as tribute to a fearsome foreign Shōgun:

The Cotes Du Rhone Reserve Perrin Blanc 2015 
And you know what, for a moment folks, lets get winey up in here. #letsgetwiney
  • The Producer: Famille Perrin
  • Why Should You Care: For starters, the Perrin family founded Chateau de Beaucastel (a fantastically famous winery located in the Rhône region of France), as well as Tablas Creek Vineyard in California (a big name for any American wine buff). Lets just say they've been around the vineyard a few times. Plus, if you're the type for celebrity endorsements, look no further: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie actually picked the Perrin family as collaborators for their own rather delicious, but somewhat pricey rosé, Miraval.
If heaven were a sunny day, it would be filled with Perrin.
Alright we're done. Back to normalcy. #thatwaseasy #Staples
The Perrin Blanc is a blend of four different grape varietals, but the one I want to touch on briefly is Viognier. Here are a few quick things to remember if you encounter this grape while looking for Pokemon in the wild:
  1. When it comes to flavor, think of a wine with the sturdy body of the chardonnay, and the pear and citrus aroma of a Sauvignon Blanc.
  2. It's pronounced 'Vee-Own-Yay,' as in, We-Own-You, because cash rules everything around thee (though fortunately not this wine, as the price rings in at a reasonable $12).
  3. Much like 90s boy bands, Viognier wines are best consumed young. They'll only let you down later in life.
The Perrin Blanc, in particularly, is the perfect wine for drinking outdoors, midsummer, around 4 hours prior to 5pm (the wine ought to be versatile because you never know when you'll have to quell a stranger). For the taste, think sliced ripe peaches served on a warm summer day. It has a light acidic finish, crossed with a peach note that quite literally turns frowns upside down(s). 

But why, you're probably now asking, would this wine be helpful in a foggy, foreign situation? Well friend, thanks for asking, let me tell ya: It works for both wine novices and nerds. Those who are brimming to the bursting bunghole (that's actually a wine term) with wine knowledge will be wooed by the Perrin family name. Those who could care less what cold concoction they consume can simply enjoy it for the delicious, approachable flavor, roundly reasonable price, and your topical humor when you relate my aforementioned 'Vee-Own-Yay' joke to them. Take it, it's yours.

The Recap:

  • The Wine: The Cotes Du Rhone Reserve Perrin Blanc 2015
  • The Price: Sacrifice three Grande Caramel Frappuccinos from Starbucks, and you'll have made up the $12 it costs to enjoy this bottle. 
  • The Flavor: Peaches, tart apples, and a cloudless sky. That's where this wine takes me.
  • The Application: The next time you yearn for a refreshing drink on a sunny day, that's when you should consider reaching for this bottle. For maximum impact, share with tight mouthed strangers at a barbecue, or in my case, a neighborly gathering at the campground.
  • The Rating: 2 - You'll want this bottle, but not so badly that it creates an itch for daily consumption.

There are days where we think internally, and others where we are forced to project our cares towards those around us. I know, thinking of others is hard. But sometimes, even where wine is concerned, it pays, metaphorically anyways, to buy a few bottles with another's enjoyment in mind. So this is a post for pleasing other drinkers. Specifically, a lot of drinkers.
There's a foolproof strategy I've adopted when attending gatherings, parties, or fiestas of any sort. It's what I refer to as an ABA system: Always Bring Alcohol (patent pending). At best, hosts and attendees are happy that you brought more booze. At worst, you have a six pack or a bottle of wine to commiserate with in your quiet, reclusive corner. Either way, you've succeededSo well done. Good on you.

If you do decide to give this system a try, I've found the wine to be your 'plus one':
The Viña Zorzal Graciano 2014
  • The Price: $10-15
  • The Grape: Though it's not "on fleek," as the kiddies say, Graciano is a lovely indigenous Rioja varietal characterized by a laid back, go with the flow attitude.
  • The Kicker: They literally put a bird on it.
When bringing a wine to a party, there are two roads to travel: You can bring a wine that nobody will want (for you), or instead pick a wine nigh everyone will consume (for them). We'll get to the first option in another post, but here we're going to focus on drinkability, or presumption of widespread consumption.
Vina Zorzal
They've literally been making wine in the Navarra region of Spain since the Roman times. Drop that little tidbit while pouring out a glass of this juice to literally blow an inebriated stranger's mind.
Viña Zorzal embodies "drinkability" to the utmost. The flavor is characterized by delicate, feather light fruit. Now it's time to bring in a wine-tasting term, and I apologize in advance: The Zorzal remains solely on the "front of the palate," (this is where you detect fruitiness, or sweetness). Simply put, we taste different parts of a wine's flavor in different regions of our mouth. That deep, red, fruitiness that you get from some red wines is registered in the "front." 

A simpler explanation? The wine has light, plummy fruitiness, and not much else to distract from it. The simplicity of it is what makes it so approachable for everyday wine-drinkers you will no doubt encounter at your next friend-fest.
It's got that deep ruby pour we all adore.

The Recap:
  • The Strategy: ABA - Always Bring Alcohol.
  • The Wine: The Viña Zorzal Graciano 2014
  • The Price: One manhattan, in Manhattan. ($10-$15)
  • The Value: This wine is about doing the math. Purchasing a bottle that's going to maximize the positive vibes you bring to a gathering. It's not particularly complex, it's simple, easy drinking, and maximizes presumption of widespread consumption. Plus, they literally put a bird on it.
  • The Flavor: Graces the front of your palate with wild berry and plum notes, and rounds off the journey with a tinge of spice. A lack of bitterness or acidity makes it supremely friendly.
  • The Rating: 1 - Grab a few bottles of the Zorzal for any upcoming group shenanigans. 


Reviews of the Round Table

Pairing good friends, good food, and good wine.
The majority of the time.
"I have nothing funny to say."

It's the third installment in my ongoing 'excuse post' that lets me cook, drink, and chat with good 
friends. This week, a change in venue! 30/30 Wines heads into NYC to meet up with local friend/mentor/aunt-by-choice/chef extraordinaire, Melanie, to learn how to cook a 
mediterranean meal in minutes. Well, 120 minutes.


Character Profile: Melanie
(Not a) Pro Tip: While cooking with Mel, I recently noticed I was criminally underusing anchovies in my cooking. Whether it's salads, roasted vegetables, or sauces, they're oh so strange, but oh so good.
When I storm the kitchen, or "cook," as some call it, I frequently rely on recipes from other 'real' chefs. For this reason, cooking with Melanie is always quite refreshing. Her cooking style is best described as adventurous nonchalance coupled with irksome modestyTogether, we've cooked beef heart eight different ways, and carved pigs. Noshed on pig's ears, and made beef tongue stew. If I want to cook against the grain, she's the person I turn to. Theres never a recipe to be found, and never a worry to be had. 


Dish of the Night:
Saffron Rice with Almonds and Dates - It wasn't an easy decision here, as the heavy Moroccan flavors of the chicken tagine we made (above left) was fantastic. But gold medal and full marks have to go to that golden rice alongside it. A man is only as good as his word, and it appears I'm going to have to eat mine, friends. Saffron threads are freakin' amazing. Sure, they're more expensive than the all queen's jewels combined, but they seem to add an other-worldly freshness to dishes. It was as though the rice had been stuffed with lilacs and roses. For now, let's put them in the "Treat Yo Self," category of spices. The added slivered almonds and sliced dates gave this dish a crunch and a punch which ensured no leftovers were to be found.

Wine of the Night:
The Montes Alpha Syrah 2012 - This wine had us all won over. The stand out favorite. I grabbed a syrah because I wanted something bold to stand up against the commanding Moroccan flavors we would be messing around with. 
Tasting the Alpha is like being wrapped in a quilt on Christmas. It blankets the mouth with broad, spicy flavors. One individual commented that beneath the surface, it has a bit of a toffee characteristic, almost akin to caramel. Warm and enveloping, it was the perfect accompaniment to the eclectic music - ranging from Gnarls Barkley to Nina Simone - and the intense food offerings.

  • While perusing the Montes website, I noticed a particularly casual name-drop: "We never overprocess or manipulate our wines: we let them rest and mature...guarded by our angels." 
  • Did....did you catch it?

"It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." - Love him or hate him, Albus Dumbledore dropped knowledge in Harry Potter. With that quote in mind, while I may have lacked the ability to remember to conduct my weekly "Guess the Price" routine, I'm still making the choice to write a recap. Does that mean I get to be in Gryffindor?

The Recap:
  • The Wine: The Montes Alpha Syrah 2012
  • The Price: $15-$19 - Depends on where you're situated, friend.
  • The Characteristics: The Alpha is everyone's teddy bear. Big and bold upfront, but in truth, it just wants to be loved. Perfect for accompanying rubbed meats, cigars, and, of course, moroccan flavors. Plus the winery is Certified GAF (Green As Fuuu....dge?). Check out their entire website devoted to sustainability here.
  • The Rating: 2 - We really loved this wine. Seriously. Half my notes from the night are different descriptions and rambling superlatives about it. That said, it's not exactly an everyday sipper you need to buy bushels of. Grab a bottle, and when the time comes, pop it and sip.

We found love in a hopeless grape.
Human beings are incredibly talented at being foolish. We are fantastically mediocre at knowing what we want, and we search for our deepest desires with such verve and certainty, that we often overlook new possibilities that arise from unexpected places.
Simply put, we suck at knowing what we want. And we're crap at actually finding it. 

We know our "type." We're certain of who we want to date and who we don't. But that's all hogwash and noise if you ask me. Until you sit down and honestly get to know a human, you often don't know whether they are someone you want to create a deeper connection with. So this is a post about being, a bit more open minded. Saying yes to the dress, and to someone you're thinking might be a hot mess. This is a wine for establishing intimacy with another individual, someone you might not be 100% certain about. For when you want to truly discover what angles and curves compose his or her life, rather than just seeking the ones that fit into your own jigsaw-puzzle.

Let's say you've invited him/her to your place for dinner. You have the meal planned, the mood set, and you've gone through the vague potentiality of whether they would be a good parent, oh, I don't know, three to four times. You want to cook pork and asparagus, but you don't know if they like asparagus, but you're really good at making asparagus, and you would text them so that you can be certain that they like asparagus, but there's no reception in the supermarket because first world problems are hard, so screw it you bought chicken. 

Once you pass this point of no return, turn to this fellow for the assist:

The Bodega Chacra Barda Pinot Noir 2014.
  • The Price (Trigger Warning):  $27
  • Theme Songs: "Smooth," by Santana and Rob Thomas, and "Bridge Over Placid Water," by Simon and Garfunkel.
Forget turning water into wine, the people over at Bodega Chacra have turned velvet into wine. Describing the Barda is not unlike reciting the lyrics to any pop song written by a 90s boy band. It's smooth, soft, and silky. But to simply apply a trifecta of broad terms doesn't begin to do the flavor of this wine justice. Open the curtains, cue the orchestra, and.......action:
Bodega Chacra is located in the Rio Negro Valley. We wine-nerds, both aspiring and realized, will appreciate that because the region is surrounded entirely by desert, they have escaped the transfer of vine diseases and phylloxera. Literally an oasis of flavor and happiness.
Imagine yourself strolling through Patagonian farmland, eating blackberry and plum right off the vine. You're not worried about getting in trouble with the farmer, because you own the farm. You bought it, for $27, in your local wine-shop. That is the feeling the Barda evokes. Barring some juiced up monstrosity from California (not my style), pinot noir often has soft but forward fruitiness. Though not your typical pinot, this wine is not the exception, it is the yardstick by which others ought to be measured. It tastes rustic and earthy, rather than pungent and overly sweet. Not restrained, but delicate.

Rather than commanding your attention, it seduces you taste by taste. It ends up being perfect for finding love, even in an unexpected place. I've never searched for a pinot noir from Argentina. The label is unassuming. It probably won't align with your expectations. And much like that new person sitting across from you, when you delve into the bottle, you might find something else. Something new. A wine you had no idea you wanted to try, and no possibility of leaving. Strangers, no more.

The Recap: 

The Bodega Chacra Barda Pinot Noir 2014.
  • The Price: Can you really put a price on connection? Yes. It runs you about $27.
  • The Taste: Clearly, Bodega Chacra took their budget for label design and put it into wine-quality. It's like Hansel, from Zoolander. The art is inside the bottle. It glides over your tastebuds like a leaf on the wind. Think wool socks on a freshly waxed floor. Or, if its more helpful, earthy fruits, a delicate, but rounded body, and a dry finish. Open it up a bit ahead of time to let the flavor develop fully.
  • The Pairing: This wine sets the mood for a romantic night of "getting to know you." It will go great with the aforementioned pork and asparagus. It's soft texture smoothes the bumps and soothes the nerves.
  • The Rating: 2 – It'll cost you an arm, though no leg fortunately. But let down you shall never be. You may score the goal. You may kill it on that date. But this fellow gets the assist.
For a (super) brief ratings explanation, check over here

On Another Note: I borrowed that final tagline from a beautiful place. If you don't have a friend to share this wine with, or don't want to, you should check this place out. It's called "Strangers," a warm and unique podcast hosted by Lea Thau, former director of "The Moth," and owner of the most soothing voice ever to cross the airwaves. Her show shares the stories of chance encounters, and the love, laughter, and heartbreak that can ensue. It has become one of my favorite companions. Check her out on facebook here, or listen to her newest episode, "Dumb Shit We Do - Part 1" here.

Reviews of the Round Table

Pairing good friends, good food, and good wine.
The majority of the time.
"I had half a liter of Russian beer before this."
Hello and welcome to a smaller, more intimate, Review of the Round Table. For the first in our ongoing series, feel free to check back here. In this installment, a revelation: The wine can go in the food.
Dish of the Night:
Coq au Riesling - We had the unnamed cooking gods, and food writer Nigella Lawson, to thank for this spring play on a classic French dish. Typically, coq au vin is a slow cooked, savory dish involving red wine, cream, and of course, chicken. But I'm all for messing with tradition, and Nigella's change of pace was a rousing success. Ditching the heavier red wine and cream combination for (an entire bottle of) riesling, adds a liveliness and acidity to the dish that we found altogether scrumptious. Perfect for those upcoming April summer days. Any wine-salesman worth his grapes can recommend a dry riesling for cooking this dish.

Learn from our mistake: We did not eat until 9pm. Why? Nearly a collective century of schooling between the four of us, and yet we still haven't quite mastered the art of reading directions. This dish takes around 2 hours to prepare. Don't be like us. Plan ahead folks.
Takes two hours to cook. Takes ten minutes to devour.

Wine of the Night:
The Raats Chenin Blanc 2014. My friends and I reached a swift agreement soon after arrival: We should dutifully start tasting wines as soon as possible. Therefore, most of this bottle didn't make it past the cheese and crackers. But we'll just chalk that up to over-eagerness. The Raats has the fruit of a bombastic sauvignon blanc, with only a slightly reduced acidity. Simply put, a slight bit less of that tartness leaves this bottle light, bright, and summer fresh. If you have more self control than us, drink it alongside light chicken dishes, and easy conversation. 

Winemaker Bruwer Raats wisely writes: 
"Our wines should essentially be enjoyed in the company of good food, by people appreciative of the passion and dedication that go into the making thereof."
Couldn't have said it better friends. Appreciate your winemakers, and your cooks.
The Raats Family Winery hails from the Stellenbosch region of South Africa, which makes up part of the aptly named, "Cape Winelands." 10 points from Hufflepuff (who would definitely be the winemakers in the Harry Potter universe) for lack of originality. But 30 points to Hufflepuff for making such a good wine. 

Net Profit: 20 Points.

With flavorful food, and rich wine, comes shallow conversation:
On Location:
"I'm sitting here so I can keep track of everything. Mainly the cheese."
On Love Lost:
"I've seen 'Hitch' upwards of 10 times. Will Smith knows how to plan a date."
"What happened to Willow? I mean, 'I Whip My Hair Back and Forth?' Seriously, nothing has really topped that."
On Wine:
"I don't know if this wine is getting better, or if I'm getting less critical."

"Helios, it doesn't matter what it is. You have it."

The Wine Recap:
Mid-consumption, I typically ask my friends how much they would be willing to pay for the chosen wine (no relation to "The Chosen One" Anakin Skywalker).
Raats Chenin Blanc 2014
Willing to Pay: $17, $12, $17.
Actual Price: $11
The Rating: 2 - The Raats Chenin Blanc is great bang for your buck, and, for some, might be a nice detour off the well-trodden road of Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays. Refreshing and crisp on a weary day.
Historical Note: Grapes were first planted in South Africa by the Dutch East India Company, in order to ward off the 17th century scurvy scourge. It didn't work.

Take Note, Ye Readers:
I'd also be farmisht (link if you need to brush up on your yiddish) if I failed to mention that you should probably own the New York Times Cooking App. My mother turned me onto it a while back, and I often wonder how I got on without it. Whether you cook once a day, once a week, or once a lightyear, it offers a plethora of dishes that are bound to please those special food-eaters in your life (yourself included).
Combating climate change, one bottle 
at a time.

It's never easy to impress someone who is already quite impressed with themselves. This existence can manifest in many ways. Perhaps they compost all their leftover vegetable bits, and only buy groceries from someplace named "Holy Grains," the local vegan-ite superstore. And they never. Ever. Let you forget it.
This isn't to say i've got a problem with composting, or veganism for that matter (although I would question why we worked our way to the top of the food chain, over the course of several millennia, to just give up meat). Commendable beliefs, carried out by commendable people. But the next time you're invited to that oddly intimidating dinner party, sitting at a table made of what you've been vehemently assured is entirely reclaimed oak, and hearing about the latest "Holy Grains" organic quinoa sale, why not bring along a bottle that fits right into the discussion?
The Poggio San Polo Rubio 2011
  • The Price: $14. 
  • One Grape to (almost) Rule them All: This baby is (nearly) 100% Sangiovese.
  • Disclaimer: Neither this wine, nor this post, is in any way associated with any former United States presidential hopefuls. 

The first time I gave my glass of the Rubio the good ole' swirl and sniff, I was floored. Well, chaired, I suppose. I remained sitting. 

For such a bargain priced wine, the flavor from simply smelling this fellow really is out of this world. They're going to have a hard time convincing me they didn't stuff some violets and cherries into this wine right before it was bottled. 
Takes two to tango. Takes two to Rubio.
But while some wines with such accentuated noses can be overwhelming in flavor, the Rubio is actually pleasantly balanced, and delectably smooth. Not to mention the finish is lingering, and teases another glass out of you almost without thought (I easily finished this bottle with only one fellow drinker). It's tasty.

But enough about that. Let's get down to brass tax. Your hip, trans-fat-hating, kale-loving, friends will love this wine. And to prove it, I've compiled a handy print-out that you can paste to the bottle in order to shatter your friend's connected mind-waves:
A (mostly) true list of why you should drink me:

Only natural fertilizers in the form of organic compost are used to foster my rise to adulthood.
All of my grapes are hand harvested by 100% 'grass-fed' workers (no high emission tractors).

My entire cellar is naturally cooled via underground tunnels and springs.

My cork has a zero carbon emission footprint. Like you can't even see it in the mud. Seriously.
My label is printed on recycled paper, and my bottle is made of 90% recycled glass.
more info here

The Recap:
  • The Wine: The Poggio San Polo Rubio 2011
  • The Price: Cheaper than your friend's re-release Neutral Milk Hotel vinyl that they insisted you listen to. Twice.
  • The Taste: Two hours later you'll still be wondering how they got so much flavor into the smell, and so much refinement into the taste. Cherries and berries, pepper and spice. 
  • The Rating: 1 - This wine can be a bit hard to find, so if you can get your hands on it, definitely do so. It's a noteworthy, intro level, Tuscan wine. They're currently on the 2013 vintage, which I tasted recently and am happy to say is just as worthy of praise.
For a (super) brief ratings explanation, check over here

This is the first post where the wine was actually recommended by a friend! A huge shout out to my friend Hannah P, who, in search of a Chianti one evening in Saratoga Springs, stumbled upon this gem instead, and noted it for further investigation.

If you have a wine that I should post, thoughts for a pairing, or have any questions at all, shoot me an email, write me on Facebook, or send a carrier pigeon. I'm not picky.