An Up-Close Look At Californian Vineyards Saving Their Crops

It’s more important than ever to keep an ear to the ground. Becoming emotionally detached in this stressful snowball of a year is a helpful short-term reaction, but a devastating long-term one.

This behind-the-scenes peek from Insider News shows the hard — and often desperate — work being put in to protect Californian vineyards from wildfires. Many of these yields aren’t even fully ripe, but it’s either that or risk the entire crop being tainted by smoke and ash. They don’t even need to be on fire to have their flavor changed entirely from all the changes in the air. According to multiple historians, these wildfires could very well be California’s worst in history.

Wine farmers and businessowners are given a rock and a hard place: let the grapes rot and file an insurance claim or try to sell what little they can.

When I visited one of Townshend’s local winetasting events early this year (right before COVID-19 started making waves), I tried some wildfire-tainted wine myself. It’s no minor side-effect: at best it has a smoky tang that drowns out the bottle’s subtle flavor notes. At worst it’s like trying to drink a cigarette. Just one sip and I was coughing. While this was from one experimental barrel surrounded by successful harvests, this video shows just how heartbreaking it is to see months (even years) of love and toil whisked away.

History in the making sounds grand on paper, but it’s usually an exhausting, demoralizing affair. If you’re thinking of buying wine soon, go for the smaller, local businesses. There are some truly stellar brands out there that don’t have grocery wholesale or household names on their side that could use your support.

Upcoming Budget Wine Review Series

I’ve been reviewing a lot of decaf coffee lately, but I definitely haven’t forgotten about wine. It’s kind of impossible in these pandemic times.

Just in the past week I’ve been gifted some bottles, supplemented with a few grocery store purchases, and I’m eager to share. That Ava Grace Vineyards rosé was perfect with a bowl of pot roast and I’m already a longtime fan of Dreaming Tree. There is a ton of goodness out there that doesn’t require you break the bank. As such, I’ll be starting a budget wine review series to supplement my decaf coffee review series. Red wine, white wine, blushing wine: all of them at $30 or less.

It’s all about spreading the good word and saving money these days. These reviews will explore flavor notes, aroma, mouthfeel, packaging design, and food pairings. The rare time I step out of my $30 threshold and purchase a more expensive wine I’ll still review the bottle, but separately. If you like wine, or want to get into it, stay tuned. If not, I’ve still got plenty of coffee-related pieces on the way.

You Don’t Need To Shell Out $50+ For A Great Bottle Of Wine

Expensive wine and good wine aren’t always one in the same. Who knew?

A lot of people, as it turns out. Just unlikely the ones pricey bottles are actually aimed at. Vox released this short and amusing video on the convoluted nature of the wine market: already infamous for gatekeeping and snooty attitudes, it always goes a step further with its pricing model. The idea that expensive = quality is so pervasive that experienced wine tasters will outright contradict themselves on taste tests.

I rarely spend more than $30 on a bottle of wine, with my range usually between the $15 to $25 mark. If you could use a little more convincing that affordable is the way to go, my roommate’s parents are long-time wine drinkers who are all too happy to share their wine knowledge. When I asked if they’ve ever had a really expensive bottle of wine, they told me yes. When I asked if it was worth the price, they promptly told me no.

And there it is. At the end of the day, what you like is what you like.

Are You A Fan Of Sparkling Wine? You’ll Want To Keep Your Eye On Brazil

My favorite wine really depends on my mood and what I’m eating. That’s nothing new. What is new is how Brazil is set to take center stage.

Beverage Daily has a brisk, yet detailed breakdown on Brazil’s sparkling wine scene and why it’s set to dominate over the coming years. According to a few studies and interviews, it’s a mixture of several factors colliding at the perfect time: rising interest in sparkling varieties, high-quality flavors and very proactive marketing campaigns. That latter’s importance cannot be understated, as a lack of wine knowledge and exclusionary attitudes can be a huge barrier for new drinkers.

If you’re like me and are a fan of wine and coffee, Brazil is the perfect place to start looking.

You don’t have to be a wine expert to know the most prestigious wine origins hail from France, Spain and Italy. Following close behind is the ever-popular California, as well as a smattering of notable Canadian and South African producers. Wine is undergoing a very vivid cultural shift these past few years as drinking demographics change and the environment sees yet more blows to stability. What we know as traditional quality may very well not apply in the next decade. Why shouldn’t Brazil toss its hat in the ring?

Sparkling wine is fun. It’s tasty. This is far from the first time I’ve heard of its growing popularity and it won’t be the last.

Terroir and your…coffee? — Coffee with the Queen

Terroir, that magical, elusive word is most often associated with wine but applies just as much to coffee. So what is terroir?

Terroir and your…coffee? — Coffee with the Queen

For all that coffee and wine are incredibly different, they’re also incredibly similar.

They’re both highly sensitive crops with nearly endless potential for variety. They’re both considered ‘lifestyle’ drinks and are just as much a culture as they are a product. This brief piece takes a look at the French term ‘terroir’ and how this wine-specific term can also be used to describe the environmental details that go into coffee beans’ subtle flavor notes. Boost your vocabulary on a Saturday and use it to support your next purchasing decision!

party clinking wine glasses

What Improves Wine Quality? It’s Not Just The Aging Process That Brings Out The Flavor

‘A little goes a long way’ is an age-old adage many of us are familiar with. It stresses the need for appreciating smaller details and how they make up a better whole. It’s why my mother’s chai tea always tastes better than anything I could get in a cafe: there’s nothing quite like a dollop of love.

This mentality stretches far and wide, up to and including the wine industry. Unsurprising, as a mere year difference in the barrel can completely transform flavor notes and aroma. Viticulture, in particular, is rising as a subtle and extremely important touch-up to the winemaking process: it involves tiny changes in how vines interact with their environment, from sunlight exposure to leaf trimming. Even fruit thinning, an idea that can seem odd at a glance in a quantity-focused world, is considered paramount in creating robust, subtle flavors.

If you’re looking for a little more insight into the ever complex winemaking process, give this Forbes piece a look. It’s a little lengthy, but all the better for it. I’m walking away this afternoon with a whole new appreciation for how the little things add up.

Happy National Wine Day! How Much Do You Know About The Drink?

National Wine Day is upon us. That means being given a more plausible excuse to pour yourself a glass at three in the afternoon.

I got a real kick out of this piece earlier today: ABC’s short video talks about common misconceptions about wine, as well as validates what are thought to be misconceptions. Swirling the drink? It’s not just for show, as the oxygen brings out the wine’s flavor. Need to spend hundreds of dollars on a bottle? Probably not. The $15-20 price range is actually pretty good for most occasions.

I can definitely attest to that. Shout-out to my local Washington wine brands: you keep me buzzed.

For those that are getting into wine and struggling to figure out how to pair it with their meals, I like to look at wine flavors like a painting: just add contrast! If you’re eating something salty, pair it with a sweet wine. If you’re eating something savory, pair it with a fruity or tart wine. The more different the flavor notes, the more they bring out each other’s best. Don’t let a lack of knowledge keep you from trying new things. Even today’s leading wine experts are still learning something new about this old and delicious craft.

If you’re feeling like wine isn’t for you, for whatever reason, consider giving it a try this year. It’s a lot easier to get into than it seems and there’s a wine variety for just about everyone. All the French and Italian terminology will come later.