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Review: Vacanti Spirale Wine Glasses

I’m really enjoying the upsurge in artistic, yet functional wine accessories. From corkscrews, to decanters, to stemware, form is becoming as important as function. Recently, Patrick Vacanti contacted me with exciting news about his new, innovative wine glass. The Vacanti Spirale wine glass is designed to capture sediment and solids in a specially designed reservoir at the bottom of the glass. If you enjoy aged, unfiltered, or rustic wines, but don’t care for that gritty last sip, this could be the glass of you.  

Patrick and his wife spent five years developing this glass. After sending out more than 600 samples out for review and feedback, and two patents, they recently launched sales of the Vacanti Spirale wine glass on Kickstarter, or via the Vacanti Wine Glasses website.  

My pair of Vacanti Spirale glasses arrived in an unassuming brown cardboard shipping box. Yet, when I opened that box, I was greeted by a beautiful, burgundy-red package declaring my two wine glasses were waiting inside. Opening this product box, I was impressed to find my glasses tightly nestled in dense foam packing, keeping them safe and secure.  

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Each glass is hand-crafted, giving them a unique, individual feel. Like an individual bottle of wine, each Vacanti Spirale wine glass is distinctive; similar to others in the batch, but uniquely different. When I lifted the glasses out of their traveling nest, I was amazed at how sturdy and strong they felt. They are quite hefty, thicker than most wine glasses I’ve handled. However, they maintain an elegant flair due to their attractive design.  

Beyond the aesthetic appeal, however, is the functionality. We put the Vicanti Spirale wine glasses to the test at a special occasion dinner at home. To accompany our grilled Rib Eye, baked potato (with all the trimmings, of course), and fresh green salad, I opened a bottle I’ve been holding awhile, for just such an occasion: 2007 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley.  

Once poured, the red wine makes the Spirale reservoir much more visible at the bottom of the bowl. The design of the glass makes swirling and sniffing a breeze, and efficiently delivers the delightful juice from the glass into the lucky recipient’s palate. As the wine rests in the glass between sips, any sediment in the glass settles to the bottom where it is captured by the swirls in the Spirale reservoir. When the inevitable sadness descends as the wine runs out, rather than ruin that last sip with a mouthful of gritty muck, the sediment remains in the reservoir. Genius!  

An excellent addition to the stemware collection for any serious wine-o, the Vicanti Spirale wine glass is as artistic as it is functional. If you enjoy unfiltered or aged wines, but abhor the sediment, pick up a pair of Vicanti Spirale wine glasses and give them a whirl!  

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Thank you note included.

* The Vacanti Spirale wine glasses I received were submitted as samples for review. No other compensation was provided. All reviews, comments, and opinions are my own. 

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My 100th Post

For my 100th Blog Post, I was planning on something reminiscent, like revisiting the wine that started my journey all those years ago.

However, with the devastating fires ravaging Northern California’s wine country, it seems more appropriate to share a way you, my readers and fellow wine lovers, can help.

I’m moved by the bravery of the first responders. You may not know this about me, but  I am former law enforcement. As such, I know what it is like to leave loved ones behind during a disaster and give of oneself to help strangers.

Living in NorCal, but well out of harm’s way, I’m very impressed by the resilience of the human spirit already arising out of the wildfires. Even as the fires rage out of control, people are looking ahead toward recovery and rebuilding. I am amazed and appreciative of the groundswell of support that has started. I’ve seen GoFundMe pages, numerous national and regional charities, and now NakedWines.com stepping up.

 

As you probably know, I am a supporter and customer of NakedWines.com. Champions of winemakers around the world, NakedWines.com is hosting a site where you can donate to support those affected by these disastrous wildfires. Many of the other donation sites I’ve seen are area-specific, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The NakedWines.com effort covers the whole region. The main recipient of the funds raised will be the Napa Valley Community Foundation, but others will include the Red Cross and other disaster relief agencies in the greater region.

Follow this link if you’d like to contribute: https://us.nakedwines.com/fire-recovery You don’t have to be a NakedWines.com customer to donate, but in doing so, you will truly be an Angel to those in need.

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Please give generously to help those affected. If you would prefer to give to a different charity, please do. This is not a competition, and I won’t be offended.

That post about my first taste of good wine? That’ll have to wait until post number 101.

Thank you.

Review: L.A. Cetto Chenin Blanc 2014

If you’ve read my blog more than a couple of times, (thank you), you know that I like variety. More than just variety, I seek out the obscure. Be it a small production bottle, a little-known varietal, or a grape not normally associated with a particular region, if I can get my hands on it, I will buy it and try it.  

Stay with me here, I promise its relevant. A Facebook friend recently posted the following question: “What is your favorite wine?” I assume the idea was to see what kinds of varied responses he would get. Perhaps out of simple curiosity, or maybe as a parlor game. Or maybe he was genuinely looking for ideas or recommendations of what to try. Regardless, I could not provide a simple answer. In my response, I stated that there were simply too many options and variables for me to select a single “favorite” wine. White or red? With what meal would I be serving the wine? The point is, I don’t want to limit myself to a favorite. I crave variety.  

Chenin Blanc seems to be making a comeback in recent months, and I am quite happy with this. Don’t get me wrong; a few years ago, I may have turned my nose up at Chenin Blanc. As a child, I remember my parents drinking Chenin Blanc wine from a gallon jug, so as I got into wine as an adult, I associated Chenin Blanc with cheap, jug wine. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, when I received a sample of a Clarksburg Chenin Blanc from NakedWines.com that I came to appreciate the delicate, floral, tropical-fruity goodness that is this grape. Since then, I’ve enjoyed a number of bottles from California, South Africa, and its native home, France.  

So there I was, cruising the Italian Wines aisle of my local Total Wine & More store, looking for an interesting white wine to enjoy during the last few hot days of summer. Something caught my eye. L.A. Cetto Chenin Blanc 2014. A Chenin Blanc from Italy? Say no more – into the basket it went. I didn’t even take the time to examine the label.  

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As I unpacked the wine at home, preparing to log it into my Vivino app before setting it aside in the chiller until the right moment, I noticed something odd. On the label were these words: Valle De Guadalupe, Baja California. Eureka! I had accidentally stumbles across my first Mexican wine! Clearly someone at Total Wine thought L.A. Cetto sounded Italian, so it ended up in the wrong bin. 

The website listed on their label, lacetto.mx, is in Spanish. Fortunately, I took Spanish in high school, Google Chrome has a translation feature, so I could read the information. From the L.A. Cetto website:

“LA Cetto Winery is undoubtedly the Mexican company that is the leader in the production of quality wine. With 88 years of experience acquired by 3 generations, its wines are now found in Mexico and in 27 countries in the world.” 

L.A. Cetto was founded by Don Angelo Cetto. Born Angelo Cetto Carli in Selva di Levico, Trento, Italy in 1900, Don Angelo arrived in Mexico in 1924. It was he who, in 1928, had the vision and planted wine grapes in Baja California. In 1951, Don Angelo’s son, Don Luis Agustin Cetto, took over and grew the company, hiring an Italian oenologist, Camilo Magoni. In 1983, the L.A. Cetto label was introduced to the wine market, and the third generation of the family, Luis Alberto Cetto, joined the team.  

In my quest for variety and the obscure, I was excited to try this new find. So on a recent, warm Sunday afternoon, I liberated the cork and poured a couple of glasses. Here’s what I thought of it:  

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Light straw color in the glass. On the nose, aromas of apricot and citrus. There are flavors soft citrus, yellow apple, pear, and hints of quince and apricot. The wine has lively acidity and a soft, round mouthfeel. The finish lingers with delightful of tropical fruit notes. A very smooth and easy drinking wine, and a great introduction to the wines of Mexico. At just $8.99, an excellent value, too!  

I encourage you to seek out a bottle of this fun and delicious wine, and give it a try. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!  

Cheers!  

Dinner on a Bridge (#MWWC35)

The weather was perfect; sunny with temperatures in the low-80’s as the event started. We were fortunate to be there. This is one of the most anticipated events in Sacramento. It is so popular in fact, that tickets are sold by lottery. I’ve wanted to go in the past, but have not been able to attend. However, this year, for the Fifth Annual Farm-to-Fork Tower Bridge Dinner, I won tickets in a sweepstakes hosted by the Golden 1 Credit Union, one of the sponsors of the dinner.

If you read my previous post, you know that Sacramento, California, is the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America. As part of the annual festivities, the Tower Bridge Dinner brings together farmers, farm workers, renown chefs, local celebrities, politicians, and foodies of all stripes, for an epic and magical evening. Dinner on a bridge! The Tower Bridge is an iconic landmark in Sacramento, spanning the Sacramento river from Downtown to the city of West Sacramento. It is an active roadway and drawbridge, yet one evening each year, the bridge is closed to traffic and white-linen covered tables are stretched from end to end. The goal of the event is to be “a truly spectacular culinary event…” A meal that “showcases the incredible bounty being grown and raised by some of our region’s most prolific farmers and ranchers who are at the heart of the farm-to-fork movement.” Some of the region’s best chefs work their magic on the ingredients, and the resulting experience is spectacular!

Upon arrival, guests are welcome to grab a glass of local wine or beer, and wander the bridge while nibbling on a variety of amazing appetizers. We sampled oysters, caviar, carpaccio, and other delicacies. The wine was free-flowing, and throughout the evening we enjoyed glasses of Muddy Boot Clarksburg Chenin Blanc, Conduit Amador County Viognier, Turkovich Yolo County Tempranillo, Divergent Vine Amador County Barbera, and Rancho Victoria Amador County Petite Sirah. Each wine complemented the food and enhanced the magic.

The four-course meal started with Chile en Nogada, a roasted poblano chile with picadillo, and walnut crema, prepared by Chef Ernesto Delgado from the Mayajuel restaurant. The farms that provided the ingredients were were Rancho Llano Seco and Stephens Ranch. The poblano was a little hot for a few folks at our table, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and the Chenin Blanc paired nicely to cut the heat.

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Next up was Smoked Mount Lassen Steelhead Trout, with cucumber, crème fraiche, flowering herbs, and cured roe. This was prepared by Chef Kurt Spataro from the Paragary Restaurant Group. The trout was sourced by Passmore Ranch, from Mt. Lassen Trout Farm, and the vegetables came from Soil Born Farms. The trout was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and absolutely delicious!

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The third course was a Smoked Grassfed Ribeye, with curried turnip puree, pickled onions and sweet peppers, Easter Egg radish, cherry tomato, and chimi-churri sauce. Prepared by Taylor’s Kitchen Chef Casey Shideler, it was cooked to medium-rare perfection and fork-tender. The beef came from Richard’s Grassfed Beef, and the produce from Riverdog Farm and Aldon Leafy Greens. I went with the Petite Sirah with this and it was amazing!

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The fourth and final course was a two-parter. First was grilled lamb loin with bronze fennel yogurt, compressed cucmuber and tomato salad, and nasturtium. The farms providing this delectable delight were Azolla Farms, Emigh Lamb Co., and Laughing Duck Farms. The dish was prepared by Chef Chris Barnum-Dann from Localis restaurant. I lack the vocabulary to adequately describe this sensational dish. Exquisite. That’s the best I can do.

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Finally, we ended the meal with “Pork and Beans.” No, not your campfire can of Van Camp’s. This was sliced prochetta with a late harvest corn and bean medley, and stone fruit gastrique. This round was prepared by Chefs Michael Tuohy and Santana Diaz from Legends Hospitality at the Golden 1 Center, Sacramento’s new sports arena. The ingredients came from Rancho Llano Seco, Dwelley farms, and Twin Peaks Orchards. Another amazing dish that was immensely satisfying on all levels.

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Once dinner was over, guests were invited to stroll the promenade and indulge in small desserts and dessert wines. As if we needed more to eat and drink! Still, we’re not quitters, so we made our way over to enjoy the view of the river, and just a few more bites and sips. The Late Harvest Viognier from Legendre Cellars in Fiddletown was a real treat and a perfect way to end the evening. Completely satisfied, and full of great new memories, we summoned our Uber for the ride home.

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I cannot thank Golden 1 Credit Union enough for sponsoring the sweepstakes that allowed us to attend the Tower Bridge Dinner. It was a night we will never forget. The food, the wine, and the wonderful people of Sacramento created a dining experience that has eclipsed all others I’ve enjoyed.

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

In addition to describing this heavenly event, this post is also my submission into Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC35). Last month’s winner, Erik of Red, White & Cru, selected to topic “Eclipse” for this month’s theme. The Tower Bridge Dinner certainly accomplished an eclipse of astronomical proportion in my culinary experience.

Cheers!

 

Farm-to-Fork Legends of Wine

Among other things, Sacramento, California is known as America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital. Each year, the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau hosts several Farm-to-Fork events, celebrating the region’s agricultural heritage and commitment to farm-fresh, local dining. This includes not only food, but wine as well. This past Thursday, we were fortunate to attend the annual Farm-to-Fork Legends of Wine event.

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Held on the front steps of the California State Capitol building, the Legends of Wine event features wine tastings of several local wineries from the region. Attendees had the opportunity to sample the some of the best wines produced in the Lodi, Sierra Foothills, and surrounding areas, and enjoy small bites like lamb sliders, gourmet cheeses, fresh-baked bread, and gelato. Many winery owners and winemakers were on hand to pour and answer questions about their wines.

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Darrell Corti, left, and David Berkley, right. Dude taking a picture, in background.

Sacramento’s wine legends Darrell Corti and David Berkley help to prepare the event by selecting the best wines and wineries. One of Mr. Corti’s claims to fame is the long-running Corti Brothers market. Originally opened in downtown Sacramento in 1947, and relocated to its current East Sacramento location in 1970, the store features an authentic Italian deli and one of the best independent wine shops in the region. So beloved is Mr. Corti and the Corti Brothers store that, in 2008 when on the verge of losing the lease, Sacramento’s top celebrity chefs turned out in support and helped keep the market open.

David Berkley started his journey in wine as a part-time wine merchant at Corti Brothers. He went on to open his own wine and specialty-foods store in Sacramento, which sadly closed after 25 years in business. Yet, his story doesn’t end there. Mr. Berkley has served as a wine consultant for the White House, serving President Reagan, both Presidents Bush, and President Clinton.

After several weeks of scorching heat, the weather cooperated and graced us with a perfect, late summer evening. Clear skies, and temperatures in the low-80’s at the start of the event, created a delightful atmosphere for tasting, noshing, and mingling. I lost count, but there were well over two-dozen wineries present. We tasted several old favorites from wineries we know, and found a number of new favorites. Our weekends will be full over the next few months, visiting all the new wineries and winemaker friends we met at the event.

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Unintended cool photo effects when the flash accidentally went off.

If you happen to be in the Sacramento area in a future September, check out the Legends of Wine event. Perhaps we’ll see you there!

Cheers!

Canned Wine – A Review of Underwood Pinot Gris

Wine in a can? Seriously?  

Actually, there are many advantages. Portability is the most obvious. But also consider weight (aluminum weights less than glass, which reduces carbon footprint when shipping), durability (aluminum doesn’t break like glass could), and accessibility (No glass containers allowed at the pool? No problem.) Taking these factors into consideration, it’s definitely worth giving this latest wine trend a try.  

In addition to it’s traditional bottled wines, Union Wine Co., located near Portland, Oregon, produces and markets wine in a can under the Underwood label. You’ve probably seen it in Trader Joe’s, Target, Total Wine & More, or pretty much any other local supermarket. The can is 375 ml, half of a traditional 750 ml wine bottle, and about the same as a standard 12 ounce (355 ml) beer or soda cans. No corkscrew required, as the cans are equipped with the standard pull tab familiar to, well, everyone. Five different wines are produced: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Rosé, Sparking, and Sparking Rosé. As best as I can determine, all are Non-Vintage.  

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Photo Credit: unionwinecompany.com

With reasoning similar to the recent upsurge in boxed wine, Union Wine Co.’s philosophy is that “it’s more important what goes into the glass than what type of glass it is“. That is, the quality of the wine in the vessel is more important than the vessel in which it comes. Concerned about metallic tasting wine? Don’t be. The cans have a liner that prevents the wine from contacting the aluminum.  

And let’s get real about this. If you were to swig your wine straight from the bottle, you’d get some serious side-eye from your neighbors. From a can? No problem. Half the folks around you probably wouldn’t even notice its wine, and not beer or soda. Slip on a Koozie, and you’re home free!  

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Hmm. I wonder what’s in that can.

But the all important question is…how’s the wine? On the day I shopped, only Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris were available at my local Trader Joe’s, for $4.99 per can. That makes them the equivalent of a $10 bottle. I picked up a can of Pinot Gris, and after adequate chilling, I gave it a try. Here’s what I thought:   

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Is it pretentious to pour canned wine into a glass?

Pale straw color. Aromas of green apple, pear, and lemon-lime. On the palate, bright acidity gives it a tangy profile with flavors of green apple, lemon, pineapple, and the slightest hint of stone fruit. Fairly short finish. Less fruity and higher acidity than many PG’s. All in all, pretty good, but not my regular go-to. However, for a picnic, camp out, or other outdoor event where one wants a light weight and portable container, and an easy drinking refresher, this is a nice choice. 

So, while I wouldn’t necessarily buy this to pair with a nice meal or take it to a restaurant (would they charge a “tabage fee?”), it is a solid, affordable wine, and an excellent choice for a day at the lake or pool, weekend camping trip, or “alcohol-permitted” concert in the park. Portable, recyclable, and lighter-weight for easy transport, give Underwood wine-in-a-can a try.  

Have you tried Underwood or any other canned wine? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments.  

Cheers!  

A Visit to LangeTwins

What do you think of when you hear about a family owned winery? If you are like me, you envision a small, mom-and-pop operation, with a quaint, small tasting room, producing perhaps a few hundred cases of wine per year. What you probably don’t expect is a massive winery operation on the scale of LangeTwins. What? Never heard of LangeTwins? That may be because producing their own private label wine is just a portion of what they do here.

I recently visited LangeTwins Winery, located in Lodi, California, with friends Robyn, Anthony, and Kim. Despite living only about an hour from Lodi for 14 years, and being something of a wine guy (as suggested by this blog), this was my first tasting trip to Lodi. Yes, I am ashamed of myself and have no valid excuses. Anyway, as I rounded the bend and the facility came into view, I thought perhaps I had missed my turn and was arriving at a Gallo or Mondovi facility. Yet the monument sign that greeted us confirmed we were at the right place.
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We had arranged a winery tour with winemaker David Akiyoshi, who Anthony and I know though our mutual affiliation with NakedWines.com. In addition to his responsibilities and LangeTwins, David also produces wines under his own label that are sold by NakedWines.com. David has worked in the wine industry for more than 30 years. His tenure includes 25 years at Woodbridge. An interesting fact that David shared is that as children, during World War II, his parents were both sent to internment camps. As an adult, David’s father rose to success in the wine industry, including oenology research at U.C. Davis. David later followed his father in a wine career. David is a personable and engaging guide. He is clearly passionate about what he does, and gets great enjoyment in sharing his passion with guests. As a result, what was supposed to be a one-hour tour, stretched into nearly three hours!

The Lange family has been growing grapes in the Lodi area for five generations. In 2006, Brad and Randy Lange – the “Twins” of LangeTwins – started the winery operation. They brought David Akiyoshi in as winemaker and together, they built a state-of-the-art winemaking facility. The Langes gave David virtually free-reign in designing and constructing the operation. As David explained, when he asked for equipment or supplies, the Langes only wanted assurance that they were the best available for the production; they never asked about cost. The result is an impressive, sustainable, and continually expanding winery with the latest in technology and production equipment. The crush pad is topped with bifacial photovoltaic solar panels, capturing both direct sunlight and reflected light from below, while providing shade for workers below. They generate enough electricity to fully power their operation, and provide surplus energy back to the grid.

In addition to their own wines, LangeTwins offers a variety of services to other producers in the region. These include vineyard management, grape sales, winemaking, and bottling. They recently installed the most up-to-date bottling line, capable of churning out 120 bottles per minute, and provide bottling and labeling services to several wineries that you would readily recognize. (For proprietary reasons, those names could not be revealed, and photography in the bottling area is prohibited.)

David showed us around the grape hoppers (originally designed for pickling cucumbers but better suited for grapes); conveyers; four massive crushers; fermentation tanks ranging from small-lot to some of the largest, custom built tanks I’ve ever seen; and the barrel room, where we had some fun with barrel thieving.  

After the tour, David delivered us to the capable hands of the LangeTwins tasting room staff, where we enjoyed samples of the finished product. LangeTwins makes a large variety of wines, from light and lively whites, to a crisp, zesty Sangiovese Rosé, to big, bold red blends and varietal wines. Everything we tasted was exceptional. So much so that we decided to join the wine club, thus ensuring return visits, at least quarterly, for the foreseeable future.

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No trip to Lodi is complete without a stop at LangeTwins Winery. If you are in the area, I encourage you to stop in for a tasting. If time allows, click here to schedule a private tasting and winery tour. If you happen to run into David Akiyoshi while you’re there, tell him I said “hi.”