Philadelphia Freedom with Vino Volo

Kevin Neuman
VinoVerve Contributor

Coasters from VinoVolo

Coasters from VinoVolo

No, I’m not talking about Founding Fathers or any such history. I’m talking about securing freedom from flight delays, boring food, and stale bars at Philadelphia International  (PHL). After wading through airport security (“Hey TSA agent, that’s my butt”), I stumbled upon a neat wine bar called Vino Volo. According to an internet search, these oases within airports have been around a few years and can be found in a handful of airports across the country with plans to expand. I can’t wait until they reach O’Hare.

I think the concept is fairly unique. Well, at least in airports. Vino Volo offers a tidy selection of wines available by the glass or in tasting flights based on themes like “Old World Reds.” I chose wines by the glass as a taste just doesn’t do it for me sometime. The picture accompanying this piece shopws the wines I had served on cool “coasters” describing the wine including varietal, winery and year. each “coaster” was accompanied by tasting notes, which according to the website is descibed thusly:

Our wine flavor comparison tool Vino Chart allows you, the wine lover, to easily understand wines based on their flavor profiles, and it doesn’t require you to spend years of academic wine studies to do it. Whether you’re a wine novice or wine pro, you can use the Vino Chart to think about differences between wines and decide which you prefer, and when.

Fruit and complexity. That’s it!

Vino Chart looks at wines based on how much FRUIT and non-fruit flavors or COMPLEXITY each wine has. That’s it.

Wines with richer, brighter, and more varied fruit flavors are higher up on the chart map, and wines with deeper and more-layered complexity are further to the right side of the chart. This wine chart works with both red and white wines.

Oh, and did I mention that they have a food menu that accompanies the wines quite nicely. I stuck with a plate of marinated olives. A perfect match to the variety of wines I had. I look forward to getting stuck in an airport again – as long as there’s a Vino Volo.

Michigan Consumers Lose Access to Wine-Shop Shipments

From the Detroit News an article on impinging consumer rights…

A new tweak in the Michigan liquor laws went into effect Wednesday that makes it almost impossible for state residents to have wine shipped to them by a wine shop.

The new state law specifies that wine shops in Michigan or out of state can ship directly to consumers only in their own vehicles, not by common carriers such as FedEx or UPS.

This bill is not so much aimed at Michigan wine shops. Instead, it targets stores like Sam’s Wine & Spirits in Chicago and high-end stores in New York and Washington, D.C., which ship sought-after labels usually at savings.

“This law is trying to prevent wines from being shipped into Michigan without going through the three-tier system,” said John Lossia, owner of Merchant’s Fine Wine in Dearborn. The proposal was backed by Michigan beer and wine distributors.

There is not a need for most wine shops in Michigan to ship wine to residents, but they do use independent carriers for gift baskets, which typically contain wine.

“This law is going to hurt our gift-basket business,” said Lossia.

According to the Specialty Wine Retailers Association, the Michigan liquor distributors that pushed for this bill contributed more than $522,000 to state lawmakers in the last election cycle.

Meanwhile, Michigan craft distilleries are urging legislators to pass a new bill, State Senate Bill 427, introduced Wednesday, to allow wineries with distilleries to sell their products at satellite tasting rooms.

Most of the small distilleries in the state were started by wineries — Round Barn, St. Julian and Black Star to name a few. Under current law, these wineries can sell their distilled spirits only at the tasting room at the site where they produce it, which greatly limits their ability to sell these products. Round Barn, for example, has satellite tasting rooms in Union Pier and Saugatuck, where they cannot sell their vodka and brandies.

The Chicago Tribune Agrees!

Gretchen Neuman

VinoVerve, Editor

Imagine my suprise when I say this headline from a Chicago Tribune editorial:

End the wine war

I admit that I felt pretty good about that. It speaks to the utter logic of the working being carried out by the Illinois Wine Consumer Coalition. Consumers in Illinois should be entitled to purchase wine from wineries and retailers both in and out of the state. Why? Basic fairness and a little something that we call additional revenue into state coffers. On a day when the new governor of Illinois is starting his campaign to increase the income tax rate paid by Illinois citizens, doesn’t it just make sense to try to maximize the revenues collected from other sources?

Anyway, here is what the Trib had to say on the issue:

End the wine war

March 11, 2009

A 2005 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state laws that barred out-of-state wineries from shipping directly to customers in-state. This decision was supposed to end what Justice Anthony Kennedy called “an ongoing, low-level trade war.”

It did nothing of the sort—at least not in Illinois. State lawmakers just traded one misguided protectionism for another. Oenophiles (OK, it means wine connoisseurs) gained the right to purchase wine directly from out-of-state wineries. But Illinois lawmakers in 2007 took away their right to order directly from out-of-state retail wine shops—something state residents had been able to do legally for 16 years.

If you’re a Bud man, this might not mean much to you, but it should. The legislature was trying to straitjacket your power as a consumer so it could protect in-state sellers and distributors from price competition.

Bottom line: Your lawmakers wanted you to pay more.

State Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston) is trying to reverse this boneheaded law. She faces an uphill battle. She has a bill to restore the right to purchase wine from out-of-state retail merchants. You can buy just about anything from anywhere—books, TVs, clothes, the entire Vermont Country Store catalog. But you can’t buy wine from a wine shop in, say, California.

Hamos’ common-sense bill would give consumers more choice, lower prices and allow Illinois to collect sales taxes on out-of-state wine purchases. It would finally put an end to Illinois’ wine protectionism.

The bill is likely to be heard Wednesday in a House committee. Illinois wine distributors are working overtime to kill it.

Since the end of Prohibition, the distributors have enjoyed a lucrative position as the middlemen in alcohol sales. A three-tier system of producers, distributors and retailers has driven up costs, limited the reach of smaller wineries and narrowed choice in the marketplace.

It’s a system that wine critic Robert Parker, publisher of “The Wine Advocate” newsletter, has called “absurdly inefficient.”

But it’s a system that has made distributors a lot of money. Distributors are loath to allowcompetition that would break their stranglehold on the wine market. And many lawmakers are loath to defy the wine distributors, because, well, you know why. They drink the nectar of the lobbyists.

Opponents of the Hamos bill claim that it would allow minors to buy wine over the Internet. That’s a specious argument. Minors who want to drink don’t seek out specialty wines from faraway merchants.

“It’s really about consumer choice. They just want the best product for the best price,” Hamos said. “That is what we should be encouraging for consumers, not restricting their choices.”

We can raise a glass to that.

What can you do to further the cause?

Join the Illinois Wine Consumer Coalition and email and call your state representatives and ask them to support HB2462.

Readers’ Write… Open That Bottle Night 2009

Marguerite Barrett

Contributing Writer
Well, I must say I am very disappointed in Vino Verve readers – I only received one response to my request for your Open That Bottle Night celebrations.
Mike from Wisconsin did contact us and let us know that they celebrated with “a 2005 Ancient Vine Mourvedre, Contra Costa County by Cline – outstanding – and a 2005 Old Vine Zinfandel by Campus Oaks – very good.” Thanks, Mike! I’ve made a note of both to try myself some day soon…
Kevin and Gretchen, I understand, celebrated with a couple bottles of Bordeaux – although I wasn’t able to pry more details out of Gretchen. Maybe she’ll read this and be inspired to write up a post on her OTBN celebration.
As for the rest of you? I’m going to assume that you’re just shy – and not that you didn’t celebrate OTBN with some special bottle you’d been saving. If you have any stories or comments you’d like to share – either about OTBN or just something you’ve tried recently – my line is always open (
Mark Your Calendars: February 27, 2010

Win(e)ding Roads: Continuing Adventures on the Connecticut Wine Trail

Merlot Madness!

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer
So, how did I do? Let’s just say Rory doesn’t have anything to worry about from me anytime soon…
Seriously, though, while I identified two of the wines correctly, one was a complete fluke. The other, though, wasn’t, and I was particularly proud of myself for recognizing this because it was the McLaughlin Merlot. And no, I wasn’t too proud to say I told you so. As soon as I smelled it, I knew it was a Northeastern wine. I don’t know if it’s the soil or or that despite the tempering influence of the ocean, it’s colder here than along the California coast, but there is a brightness and a “tang” to the Long Island/Northeastern grapes, particularly the reds, that is very noticeable. I was proud of myself for recognizing it – and I’ll definitely be doing some more research to figure out exactly what it is that I’m picking up.
As for the others…
Wine #1 with a total of 6 points Lindemans, 2005 – South Africa
Wine #2 with a total of 4 points, and 3 votes for this being the Ringer Ravenswood 2006 – California
Wine #3 with a total of 24 points and the overwhelming favorite of the evening Tilia 2006 – Mendoza, Argentina
Wine #4 with a total of 4 points McLaughlin Vineyards – Connecticut (Long Island Grapes)
Wine #5 with only 1 point and 1 vote for this being the Ringer Chateau de Castelneau 2005 – Bordeaux, France
Wine #6 with a total of 8 points and 3 votes for this being the Ringer (this was the one I suspected was the Ringer) Yellow Tail Reserve 2006 – Southeastern Australia
Even knowing this was the Reserve, I was shocked because I have never been a fan of Yellow Tail Merlot. Just goes to show you can’t judge a wine by its label.

Wine #7 with no points was THE RINGER! Palestra – Portugal. The label says only that it’s made from grapes indigenous to Portugal. None of us were impressed, but also none of us thought this was the ringer.
Wine #8 with a total of 7 points and 4 votes for this being the ringer Casa Lapostolle 2006 – Rapel Valley, Chile. I had guessed this, but it was a total fluke – I was down to two wines I hadn’t selected yet, so I flipped a coin.
Wine #9 with a total of 9 points Chateau Ste Michelle – Columbia Valley, Washington
All in all a very successful evening. As we left, we all signed up for next month’s seminar, The Wines of France

Chilean surprises

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Taking a break over the weeked to celebrate my father’s birthday, this delightful bottle was opened.

Casas del Bosque was a Sauvignon Blanc from the Casablanca Valley of the Valparaiso Region of Chile.

For me, there are two really interesting aspects to Chilean wine. The first is that while the main European influence in Chile is Spanish, their wine typically has a very French flair. When the Chilean people visited Europe, they fell in love with French wines and brought vines back with them. This helped Chile become a repository for French grape varieties that ended up being hard hit in Europe by phylloxera. Which leads me to the second really interesting thing about Chile. The country has never been hit with an outbreak of phylloxera so as a result the grapes are not grafted onto more resistant rootstocks.

The Casas del Bosque Sauvignon Blanc shows that French influence. It smelled of grass and tasted of piquant grapefruit that was so initially strong that I said, “GRAPEFRUIT!” when Kevin asked me what I thought of it. In all fairness, while the citrus flavor it was strong it did give way to raspberry and a slightly tart (under ripe) peach. Overall it was very pleasant and I would go out of my way to find it again.

Merlot Madness

Merlot Madness!

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer
As Dee Dee poured the first wine of the tasting, we were assured that this was NOT the ringer – other than that, we were on our own (sort of). We took our time with each tasting; Len walked us through each step as a group, so we could compare notes and learn from each other as much as from him.
Wine #1 The color reminded me of ripe figs, that lovely mild garnet color that has both depth and richness. The nose was delicate with notes of cherries, slight acidity and very low oak. In the mouth the wine was light-bodied, but very nice, light notes of cherry and a lovely chocolate smoothness with a nice finish. While not one of my top three favorites of the night, I did like this wine. My guess: Chateau de Castelneau 2005 – Bordeaux, France.
Wine #2 Another garnet colored wine, this one had almost no nose. The notes that were detectable were grass and green pepper but they were extremely light. As with wine #1, the wine is light-bodied, but very dry. I suggested it might be a young wine, and overall I was not impressed. My guess: Lindemans 2005 – South Africa.
Wine #3 This was a beautiful wine. The color was lovely deep plum color, a jewel-tone purple. The nose had notes of cherry, plum and was soft and deep. Slightly dry, this was a medium-bodied wine with lovely notes of cherry and a vanilla caramel from the oak. The wine was also soft and deep on the palate with a very lush “mouth-feel.” I starred this as my #1 favorite of the evening and My guess: Chateau Ste Michelle 2004 – Columbia Valley, Washington.

Wine #4 A lovely deep garnet/medium-ruby color, this is a light-bodied wine. The nose is bright with strong notes of cherry and berry. The cherry is also noticeable in the mouth, and the wine has an earthiness to it which is nice. Others noted green notes – such as green olive – and felt it was a leaner wine than #3, with not as lush a mouth feel. As soon as I smelled the nose I told everyone that I knew this was the McLaughlin Merlot. Not only did I recognize the nose, but there’s a brightness and a bite to the nose of Long Island / New England red grapes that I recognized. No one believed me, so I told them, “you wait and see.” My guess: McLaughlin Vineyards 2004 – Connecticut (from Long Island grapes).
Wine #5 A deep garnet colored wine, the nose had strong green notes – I detected grass. It was a very light-bodied wine, slightly dry, with light notes of oak. Overall I didn’t really like this wine. My guess: Yellow Tail Reserve 2006 – Southeastern Australia

Wine #6 This was a beautiful wine, and my #2 vote for the evening. The color was dense, a deep, deep red, it was too dense to have that jewel tone quality that the ruby color often brings to wine. The nose was lush and soft with strong notes of blackberry and other dark berry fruits. Equally lush in the mouth, the wine was very smooth with notes of caramel and sandalwood with a very slight peppery finish, which I attributed to the sandalwood notes. From the first, I strongly suspected this was the ringer, as it felt heavier and lusher than Merlots, leading me to believe it might be a Syrah. My guess: The Ringer

Wine #7 Deep plum color, with a light nose with slightly grassy notes. This was a medium-bodied, slightly dry wine with delicate herbaceous notes. Not a bad wine, but not one of my favorites of the evening. My guess: Ravenswood 2006 – California

Wine #8 This was a really interesting wine. The color was a deep, deep purple with blue undertones. The nose was deep and smoky with notes of both spice and dark berries. In the mouth, the wine was rich and smooth, with notes of black licorice and dark fruits. A really nice wine. My guess: Casa Lapostolle 2006 – Rapel Valley, Chile

And finally, last but not least…
Wine #9 This was my #3 vote for the evening. A dark red color, the nose had notes of plum and cherry. The wine was smooth with lovely notes of fruit and a really nice finish. Definitely one of my favorites of the evening. My guess: Tilia 2006 – Mendoza, Argentina

As the tasting concluded, Len went through the list wine by wine and had us vote on whether or not it was our #1, #2 or #3 pick. He then assigned points (3 points for a #1 vote, 2 points for a #2 and 1 point for a #3 vote), tabulated them and revealed the winner.
So how did I do? Well, other than a bit Merlot’d out…

Enye Tasting

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Enye Distribution Group’s Grand Tasting.

This was exciting because unlike most people who have come to enjoy Spanish wines over the last fews years, I have been drinking them for nearly a decade. I have always found them very quaffable as well as affordable.

Imagine my delight at encountering an entire room of them!

The first wine that I am going to talk about were from Bodegas Eguren. Actually, in all fairness these wines are really from Bodegas Heredad Ugarte which is located in Rioja Alavesa which means that these wines were produced in the Rioja DOC but in land north of the Ebro River in the autonomous Basque regions of Avela.

The wine, like the País Vasco is independent minded. Shiraz is not a grape that one would normally associate with Spain. Yet, here it is blended with the more typical Tempranillo. It tasted of cherries and plums with a nice minerality. It finished fruity with a touch of leather. Not that I actually eat leather… you know…

Anyway, I can’t wait to tell you about the rest of them.

Merlot Madness!

McLaughlin Vineyard
Sandy Hook, Connecticut

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

On Saturday, March 7th, 2009, Christy and I headed back to McLaughlin Vineyards with a few friends for McLaughlin’s March event, Merlot Madness! Part wine event, part wine class, this was an evening dedicated to Merlots from all over the world. Hosted by Dee Dee Morlock, General Manager of McLaughlin Winery, the seminar was led by Len Gulino, the Wine Tutor.
Len began studying wine seriously in the 1980s and has studied at The Society of Wine Educators (of which he was a member) and the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley. He regularly tours with Vin Martoli of The Tasters’ Guild and is the only person in Connecticut who has qualified as a member of The Century Club (people who have tasted wines from more than 100 different grapes). In 2002, Len turned his expertise into a full-time business and now offers a variety of wine seminars, including a Wine 101 class, in venues across Southwestern Connecticut.
Len structured the Merlot Madness seminar as a blind tasting. Nine wines were featured, all masked in paper bags so we were not influenced by country of origin or vineyard. The seminar kicked off with a brief introduction to the history of Merlot: the most widely planted grape of the Bordeaux region, it is also the “third most planted black variety in France.” Similar in flavor profile to the Cabernet Sauvignon, it tends to be lighter and slightly more herbaceous in both aroma and flavor, and is less acidic, giving it a softer, more lush “mouth-feel.” The source material also provided a list of some of the more commonly noted varietal and processing flavors and aromas in Merlots, including fruit, floral and herbaceous notes as well as flavors associated with degrees of oakiness. (Source: Jim LaMar,
Len then moved on to the five steps of wine-tasting – Color, Swirl, Aroma, Taste, and Savour – and illustrated techniques for getting the most out of each step. The Tasting technique, described by Len as “Slurp and Chew,” was the most interesting and turned out to be one of the highlights of the night. This was my first formal wine tasting seminar, and therefore my first introduction to the “slurp” (aerating the wine in the mouth) and “chew” (ensuring you experience the wine across the entire palate). While I definitely found it easier to identify the flavors and aromas in the wine when I “slurped and chewed,” I actually enjoyed the wine less than when I sipped it and just let it linger in the mouth. It was an interesting exercise, and provided unintended entertainment as watching others attempt to master the “slurp and chew” had everyone laughing hysterically within minutes.
Finally after this introduction to both the grape and the formal steps of wine tasting, we moved on to the main event. The seminar began with an “entrance wine,” the Frontera 2007 from Central Valley, Chile. Already poured when we arrived, we were encouraged to drink it throughout the introduction. This provided us with an initial baseline for Merlot – to help us distinguish some of the grape’s characteristics. We were then given a list of the wines that would be poured that evening including eight Merlots:
  • Lindemans 2005, South Africa
  • Ravenswood 2006, California
  • Yellow Tail Reserve 2006, Southeastern Australia
  • McLaughlin Vineyards 2004, Connecticut
  • Chateau de Castelneau 2005, Bordeaux, France
  • Chateau Ste Michelle 2004, Columbia Valley, Washington
  • Tilia 2006, Mendoza, Argentina
  • Casa Lapostolle 2006, Rapel Valley, Chile

and one ringer, a non-Merlot red.

Our job for the evening was to taste each wine, determine its characteristics and flavors,and attempt to identify each wine as well as finding the ringer. Finally, we were asked to vote for our top three wines, and at the end of the evening Len would unveil the evening’s winning wine based on a tabulation of first, second and third place votes.
With that, Dee Dee began pouring the first wine, and the competition began…

What I was drinking

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor


What do you think? We were celebrating. And nothing says celebration more than Champagne!

This one, The Ernest Rapeneau Champagne was interesting.

The color was more gold than champagne. The flavor more bitter.

Sadly, we didn’t limit ourselves to this single bottle.

We drank everything fizzy in the wine fridge. There weren’t that many… but they are all gone.

Ironically the cheapest was the best. But then I have always been partial to Cava.

Thank you Freixenet!