Category Archives: Wine Gear

TRAVELING WITH WINE – HERE ARE THE AIRLINE FEES AND POLICIES

A great article from the Lazenne website (LINK) that takes a comprehensive look at airline baggage fees and policies for those who want to travel with wine. The company who makes wine suitcases and other wine carriers wants you to know what you can and cannot do. It also has links to just about every airline and its policies regarding traveling with wine.

(LINK TO ARTICLE)

Wine - Lazenne Suitcase

SOMETHING NEW IN WINE GEAR

The D-vine Gravity Machine by 10-Vins is a recently developed wine dispenser for the home. The idea is really two-fold. One, to serve wines-by-the-glass to give you options that you do not get by opening a single bottle, and two, to serve the wine aerated and at an ideal temperature without need for refrigeration. Here is an image of the machine:

Wine - 10-vins-d-vine

Of course, the real idea is to get you to subscribe to home delivery of the tubes of wine, which retail in France for from 2€ to 16€. This device is apparently not yet available in the US. So we shall see. I don’t think I’ll be buying one. What do you think?

Wine - 10 D-vine-2015-selection

HEY, IT’S THE HOLIDAYS – GIFT GIVING GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED WINE LOVER

Wine-related gift giving is always a bit of a challenge. Do you give wine, wine gadgets, wine books, wine experiences? Do you have some entry-level wine lovers on your list? Some experts (God forbid a Wine Blogger)? Is price a big concern? Are you a bit panic-stricken in the wine department?

Wine Angst

Well, I know how you feel. The thing to do is to approach your holiday gift giving with a calm sense of purpose and a willingness to give someone something that they may not fully appreciate. Or even like.

Now no one wants to disappoint a loved one or a business colleague, but you’re not a mind reader are you? So do your best, be willing to be flexible, and relax. ‘Tis the season to ENJOY giving and receiving gifts. After all, you are probably more likely to receive a wine basket full of Barefoot Wine than you are to give one, right? (HINT: Do not give Barefoot Wine, Two-Buck Chuck, or “critter wines” – you know, the cheap Australians). No one wants those (they really don’t & they are filled with additives that nobody wants either) and you look, well, cheap and thoughtless for giving them. They are the equivalent of the fruitcake in Holiday wine gift giving.

My recommendation is to give wines that you personally enjoy and that, ideally, have a story. Maybe a little Syrah that you enjoyed at a restaurant or found at a winery that was off the beaten path somewhere; or a gadget that you particularly cherish. When a gift has a personal touch, it is both more fun to prepare and give and more special to receive.

If you live near wine country, or if your gift recipient has a trip planned to a wine region, you might consider the gift of a private tasting that includes a bottle of wine to take away. Most wineries can accommodate such a purchase and you get or make a certificate to give to the recipient. You can gift a wine class to a beginner, or a special wine pairing dinner to someone with more knowledge. And I can help you with the gift of a wine tour in France (if interested, PM me at JimLockardTravels@yahoo.com).

Gadgets are good gifts up to a point. A nice decanter or a set of nice wine glasses are good choices; it tends to go downhill from there. I probably do not keep about 2/3 of the wine gadgets I receive, either because I already have one or because they don’t work, or because it is something I just don’t use. Here is an example:

Wine - Wine Stopper Novelty

This stopper-thing is goofy and was given in fun. It might be okay except that it did not provide a good seal on the bottle. I would rather use the cork or twist cap that came with the wine bottle, because the goal is to preserve the wine.

Wine openers are a good choice, but a personal one. We all have our preferences. Here are links to posts about two openers that I have blogged about that I can recommend. However, you should remember that wine openers are personal and your gift may not be used.

 

(LINK TO CO2 GAS OPENER)

(LINK TO TRAVEL OPENER)

Wine - Santa Wine

What about wine as a gift?

Always a welcome idea, however, there are some inherent issues in giving wine that you may want to pay attention to.

  1. Shipping. If it needs to be shipped, this can be an issue. There are all kinds of restrictions, most importantly that the USPS, UPS and FEDeX do not take alcohol shipments from private parties. You can have a winery or a wine shop ship for you, but that will often cost more than the wine. I would stick to wine gifts that can be given in person or dropped off. Ship the gadgets.
  2. Shipping Part 2. One exception (and it’s too late for this Christmas) is to use an online service like WTSO.com (LINK) to ship gift wine. You are limited to what they are offering, so you may have to check the site repeatedly, but it is an easier way to ship wine.
  3. Giving the wine. If you take your gift of wine to a holiday party given by the recipient, it may just become part of the bar for the party. That may be fine, but it is not ideal. So bring a bottle for the bar and put your gift, well wrapped, under the tree.
  4. Selection of the wine to give can be a minefield (see the idea of being willing to give something that the recipient may not enjoy). I try to avoid their favorite wines because I know that they will get them for themselves. I go for something unusual for them. Maybe a Petite Sirah for a Cabernet drinker or a Semillion for a Chardonnay drinker. Or a Port or Sauternes, and even Champagne or Cava or a local sparkler for anyone. If they like whites or reds, give them that, but help them to explore a bit. You can also get something like an Australian Cabernet for a Bordeaux drinker. Another idea is to get a mixed case for a new wine drinker; or for me for that matter.
  5. Wine Baskets. The key to a good wine basket is the wine. Rather than picking up a pre-made basket, ask the staff at your wine retailer to make you one that you design yourself. (HINT: Instead of cheese, get a gift card for the cheese and put a description/photos of the recommended cheeses in the basket). Avoid the kinds of cheese that are usually in baskets that are full of preservatives and other non-cheese stuff.
  6. Labels. it is said that 80% of wine purchases are made because of the label. Fine, do that if you must. Get some Skinny Bitch as a joke for a female friend, or some Fat Bastard for that male friend with the not-too-sophisticated sense of humor. Just be aware that it only encourages the bottling of mostly bulk wine with clever labels, thus entrapping another generation of new wine drinkers in rivers of barely drinkable wines full of additives. I’m just sayin’.
  7. Price. It is easy for you to go overboard here. Those top-shelf wines are awfully appealing, especially when you want to impress someone (and many have nice labels, too!). I recommend that you know your budget and stick to it; that will make for a happier January when the credit card bill comes.
  8. Get help. Your local wine shop, or even Costco (but probably not Target – don’t buy gift wine at Target) has someone who knows wine and will help you. Get their advice – you don’t have to take it, but a good wine department employee can be a big help. The same is true if you are buying from a winery. Tell them what you are looking for, they love to talk about their wines and will be helpful.
  9. Status. I know that some are getting wines to give as corporate gifts. I will leave that to you, because you are clearly trying to impress people, which is fine, but that is not what the individual giver should be doing. The sad part of corporate wine giving is that many, if not most, of the wines go to people who do not appreciate them. I had a friend who does not drink wine and who received a case of Joseph Phelps Insignia Cabernet Sauvignon one year. He gave some away and used the rest in spaghetti sauce.

In short, wine-related giving is a field rich in opportunity with a few land mines here and there. I recommend again that you give thoughtfully, within your budget, and that you do your best to enjoy the process. Use your gift-buying time on-line or in stores to explore and expand your own wine experience.

Thanks so much for visiting this site, or even following it, this year. And have a very Happy Holiday Season and a Prosperous and Wine-filled New Year!

Wine - Christmas and Drink Wine

 

GREAT WINE INVENTIONS – A NEW SERIES

Every now and then, something really creative is invented in the wine world, despite its ancient origins and long traditions. So, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, I present to you the latest such invention: THE CHAMBONG! The bong for Champagne.

Wine - Champagne Bong

From Drinks Business publication: “The drinking vessel, which fits up to 4 fluid ounces (120ml) of liquid, is available online at a price of $25. It is made of borosilicate glass and is dishwasher safe.

The Chambong’s creators said the invention came about in early 2014. It was inspired by the Super Bowl and was originally intended as a device for smoking marijuana.

“We had an epiphany the week prior of the big event to create a ‘super bowl’,” they explained.

“The resulting device of our imagination harnessed an ability to hold an extraordinary amount of cannabis, however was sadly non-functional as a smoking apparatus.

“Fortune would prevail several evening later, while onlookers examining the piece remarked at how it looked like a fantastic wine ‘shooter’.

“They promptly filled it with Champagne and experienced the resulting magic. And thus was born the glory that is the Chambong.”

The Chambong has reportedly sold out its since its launch.”

There was no comment from anyone in the Champagne industry.

(LINK TO ARTICLE)

THE BEST WINE OPENER I’VE FOUND

Which Wine Opener to buy is always a big issue. Like most wine lovers, I have quite a few, not counting the half dozen or so now in the possession of the TSA.

A while back, I was given the Cork Pops Legacy Wine Opener, a gas-operated little gem that includes a foil cutter in its excellent design. Priced around $25 to $30, this gadget makes opening wine a joy, even with tricky corks. This isn’t a corkscrew, as it has no screw – just a straight hollow needle that pierces the cork and puts gas between the cork and the wine to force the cork easily out of the bottle neck.

The Cork Pops Legacy Wine Opener
The Cork Pops Legacy Wine Opener

It works like this. You can use the foil cutter (four sharp disks on the bottom of the legs) to remove the foil cap, then push the needle through the center of the cork. Once the device is fully seated on the bottle, you simply press the top with your thumb. This activates the gas canister and pushes gas into the bottle, easily removing most corks. The taste and aroma of the wine are unaffected. To remove the cork, you twist the opener where the legs join the body, and the cork slides back down the needle.

This has become my go-to wine opener at home, and I have given several as gifts.

Now, let’s look at some drawbacks.

1. This device does not travel well. It comes in a clear plastic case, so taking it to a friend’s home or on a picnic will work. But you can’t take the opener with gas on an airplane, so you will still need a good travel opener if you are flying.

2. The Legacy does not work on large format bottles or with very long corks where the needle cannot get all the way through (a very small percentage of corks, fortunately). Nor will with work with bottles that have a wax cap over the cork – you might bend the needle trying to push it through the wax, and the wax makes the bottle neck too wide to fit the device over it.

3. Some have reported problems using it with plastic corks, although I have never had a problem with this.

4. You have to develop a bit of a “touch” with this opener. Too much force on the top of the canister (which is the “button” you push) and too much gas goes into the bottle causing the cork to fly out of the bottle often followed by some wine. It may take a bottle or two to practice with – start with the “value” wines.

Beyond that, I have nothing but good things to say about this wine opener. If you have any experiences with this one or with an opener that you like better, please comment.

GREAT WINE SHOP AT PIKE PLACE MARKET

We are in Seattle, getting ready to lead a group on an Alaska and British Columbia cruise on the Celebrity Solstice, where I will be blogging about the wine experience aboard ship. Today, we visited Pike Place Market, the legendary Seattle landmark. If you go through the amazing Delaurenti gourmet market, just past the newsstand, you will find a staircase to a wonderful little wine shop. 

2014-09-11 12.56.55
The Reds of the Northwest Section at Delaurenti’s
2014-09-11 12.57.26
Some of the higher-end wines from Europe.

The selection is relatively small, with the exception of wines of the Northwest, as you might expect. But even the selection of European wines is just large enough and well-chosen enough to give you a sense of real choices. There are great wines in most categories and they have been pre-selected by the owners. There really aren’t any wines here that you would not want to drink. There is also a large selection of great wines in half-bottles to use for a picnic with some of the delicacies downstairs in the gourmet market. And lots of bubbly choices, too.

2014-09-11 12.57.33
Large Format Bottles at Delaurenti’s

If you are in Seattle, this is a real gem, along with Pike & Western Wines, at the north end of the market complex, another regional gem.