Ensenada, Mexico’s Napa Valley

V is for Vino host Vince Anter enjoys a toast to the wine of Ensenada. Photo Credit: V is for Vino

Ensenada is often called the Napa Valley of Mexico for good reason. This region has been growing grapes and producing wine for hundreds of years. The renaissance of the area began in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when the commercial production of wine began to expand so quickly that it now boasts over one hundred wineries. When we talk about Ensenada, Mexico we are including the City of Ensenada, the major winery/vineyard area of Valle De Guadalupe, and several grape growing areas just to the south. Ensenada is less than a two hour drive from San Diego in the Mexican State of Baja California. I would strongly suggest you take the advice of the travel show V is for Vino host Vince Anter and use a tour company, local tour guide or go with someone familiar with the area until you feel comfortable enough to visit by yourself. 

Ensenada wineries offer you the opportunity to experience a wide selection of wine that is not available anywhere else in the world. The vintners are still trying to identify which grapes are the best match for their terrior. In the vineyards around Ensenada you can find the white wine grapes: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and the red wine grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Syrah, Merlot, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Malbec, and Zinfandel. These red grapes all make big red wines because of the warm dry climate. Surprisingly, the one grape that is emerging as the region’s signature grape is Nebbbiolo. Yes, the Italian wine grape from Tuscany, Italy. The Nebbiolo that is made in Mexico is a completely different wine than is made from the same Nebbiolo grape in Italy. Since there are no commissions or governing bodies restricting winemakers there they are free to experiment with different production methods and make unusual blends that are exclusive to the region. Blends of Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon/Tempranillo/Sangiovese, and Tempranillo/Syrah are common.

If you are interested in learning more about the food and wine culture of the Ensenada region I invite you to watch the wine and travel show V is for Vino Episode 2 Season 3 Ensenada Valle De Guadalupe Mexico. You can view all of the episodes from the first three seasons for free at http://visforvino.com, Amazon Prime, Roku, YouTube, Facebook Watch or Instagram. Here’s a link to the V is for Vino Ensenada episode. http://visforvino.com/ensenada-mexico Host/Producer Vince Anter gives you an insider’s look into the How. What, and Where when planning a trip to Mexico’s premier wine region. Salud!

Time After Time

Meiomi Chardonnay 2019

You might be familiar with the name Meiomi from its immensely popular Pinot Noir, That Pinot has the dubious honor of being deemed “drinkable” in the controversial 2/4/2019 New York Times article by Eric Asimov titled “Supermarket wines are poured, and worlds collide.”https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/04/dining/drinks/wine-school-grocery-store-wines.amp.html In his article Mr. Asimov named three “processed” wines, as he called them, to show the divide between how the consumption of wine is viewed between two distinctly different groups of consumers. He used Apothic Red Blend, Meiomi Pinot Noir, and The Prisoner as examples of wine manufactured and marketed to the masses as an industrial product while another smaller group of wine consumers are targeted by the producers of wine that is made in small batches and is an artisanal agricultural product. He also mentions a third even smaller group of wine drinkers who can appreciate and move between both groups. I am a member of that group. While I can enjoy wine from both of Eric Asimov’s groups, I must be careful when recommending a bottle that is in limited distribution making sure it can be found in traditional distribution channels. 

Meiomi Chardonnay 2019 is widely distributed and is very affordable with a price tag under $20. This California Chardonnay is made to check as many of the boxes that Chardonnay drinkers are looking for as possible. It is a blend of grapes from Santa Barbara County, Sonoma County, and Monterey County. Meiomi Chardonnay 2019 was fermented entirely in stainless steel tanks and underwent 100% malolactic fermentation before being aged with French oak. This is not a bone-dry California Chardonnay but has a little sweetness to it, along with flavors of apple, pear, and vanilla followed by a buttery finish.

Meiomi Chardonnay is a crowd-pleaser because it is made to appeal to the broadest range of tastes while maintaining consistency from year to year. If you are planning a gathering where the majority of your guests are casual wine drinkers, I think serving a popular mass produced wine is a wise choice. It is better to be throwing out empty wine bottles than to be pouring half-full glasses of wine down the drain. 

Watching V is for Vino Wine Show

Have you seen the wine and travel show V is for Vino? If you haven’t, I strongly recommend that you add it to your must see list. This show isn’t just about the wine and winemakers of a region but is an immersive experience into how the food, wine, and culture of a region are all intertwined. V is for Vino delivers it’s viewers several options to interact with the show. It offers the wines featured in each episode for sale so you can be drinking them along with the host as you watch. You can also become a member of the VINO VIP CLUB for exclusive perks, like early access to new episodes, virtual tastings with the host, and discounts on wine plus much more. V is for Vino has plenty of entertaining and informative content making it perfect for both the novice and seasoned wine lover. 

I recently had the opportunity to ask the show’s host/creator Vince Anter to tell my readers about his wine journey and the story of V is for Vino. I want to thank Vince for taking the time from his busy schedule to work with me on this project. 

My name is Vince and I’m a certified sommelier and the producer and host of the wine and travel show V is for Vino. Each episode, I host the show in a new wine region, so wine lovers can really be transported to where their wine is made! You learn about the place, the grapes, meet a local winemaker, and learn how to cook dishes from a local chef that pair perfectly with the wine featured in the episode. We also always try to explore as much of the local culture as we can, and meet people who can really tell the story of the places we visit. For instance, in the Finger Lakes we went ice fishing , and in Mexico we went to the local seafood market in downtown Ensenada. Wine is as much about the place and people around it as it is the beverage itself, and the goal of the show was always to capture that. Then, you can actually buy the wine from the episode on our website. I tell people it’s like the Anthony Bourdain of wine: and you can actually drink the wine along with us! 

I started the show in 2016. I had come out to LA in 2010 to be a rock star, but as it turns out, a lot of other people had the same idea. During the 5 years spent pursuing music, I paid my way through gigs with bar and restaurant jobs and discovered a love for wine. I spent a year becoming a certified sommelier, which was one of the most challenging things I’d ever done; it involved many textbooks and flashcards. I decided I wanted to find a way for people to learn and understand more about the wine in their glass without having to pick up a book. And thus, V is for Vino was born. Video content is everywhere now, and I knew the timing was right for a video-based wine company. I’ve always been a fan of Alton Brown, Anthony Bourdain and Dinner’s, Drive-ins and Dives, so I decided to model my own show as a hybrid of the three. I knew I could host the show myself, as I was used to being in the spotlight from my days with my band, and I learned how to interact with all walks of life from my time bartending. Plus, I’ve always loved teaching, so this whole idea came very naturally to me.

So many people put their heart and soul into their wine and cooking, and it’s so awesome to be able to tell their stories. I think we’re unique in the sense that no one is getting as in-depth into the stories behind the wine as we are. And, we’re even turning non-wine lovers into fans: I try to break down topics plain and simple so that everyone can enjoy wine! Wine isn’t this mystical beverage that only snobs can understand and I think, I’m helping contribute to busting those perceptions! People often say that show helped them learn more about wine than years tasting in tasting rooms, and that’s always one of the best compliments I can receive; I want wine to be as accessible as any other beverage out there!  

We’re currently filming season 4 of the show, and most of our upcoming episodes are in Europe, which has been a blast. It should come out by May 2022. The best way to see the first 3 seasons is on https://visforvino.com/ for free! They can also be seen on Amazon Prime (paid), Roku, and YouTube. One of the best parts of the show is you can purchase the wines from the episodes at https://visforvino.com/buy-wine so you can order before you watch, and drink with us as we taste the wines on the show! We also have a virtual VINO VIP CLUB that has a TON of benefits, including behind the scenes content, full length interviews, raffles and giveaways, virtual tastings and events, and discounts on wine! It’s only $5 and really helps you get more out of the show; we work hard to over-deliver on value for our VIP members! https://visforvino.com/vino-vip-club/  Cheers, and I hope you enjoy the show! -Vince 

All photos courtesy: V is for Vino

Savage Wines Release 2021

Savage Wines of Salt River, Cape Town South Africa has just announced the 2021 Release of their premium wines. South Africa has a diverse and intriguing offering of wine that cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the world. The legendary Duncan Savage is one of the elite winemakers that are writing a new chapter of winemaking in South Africa with bold and refreshing interpretations of classic South African grape varieties. I am truly appreciative and humbled by this personal note Duncan included as a foreword for me and my readers. Thank you, Duncan.🙏. 

“My path and that of Savage Wines has been shaped by all the incredible people I’ve met along the way. Richard Rocca is one of those people. Rich took an interest in what we were up to long before many others noticed and we’ve had contact every year since. Thanks for all the encouragement and feedback Rich!”

This year’s release is made up of wines from the 2020 vintage with one 2019 in the form of the Savage Red.

2020 offered a fairly moderate growing season with many of the vineyard parcels returning to almost normal crop levels with the exception of Savage White. We see a welcome return of ‘Never Been Asked To Dance’ and ‘Not Tonight Josephine’ to the range, two great examples of Chenin across a spectrum of styles.

The harvest ran pretty smoothly with good ferments and beautiful fruit-forward aromas, all was on track for a pretty normal end to the season. Covid unfortunately arrived and a lot of uncertainty lay ahead for all of us in the wine industry due to the lockdown restrictions. As a result, many of the 2020s spent more time on skins than usual.

The irony is that adversity often brings out the best. We have planned longer skin contact for years and it was Covid that forced our hand. The Reds offer all the perfume one expects from the varieties with a touch more grip and precision. Elegance and purity however remain the cornerstone of our wine philosophy and this year’s release is no exception. While accessible now, the range will deliver for many years to come, ‘Not Tonight Josephine’ in particular is in no hurry.

Thanks very much for your continued support, wherever you are in the world!

All releases are listed below. Please scroll down to view.

Scroll down to see all of this year’s releases

United States – Broadbent Selections broadbent.com United Kingdom- swig.co.uk Japan- raffinewine.com Australia- paramountliquor.com.au Canada- (Ontario) lcbo.com (Quebec) saq.com Hong Kong wineimpala.com

Winemaker Duncan Savage

All Photos Courtesy: Savage Wines

Campo Viejo Tempranillo 2019

Spanish wines offer some of the best values that you can find in the market today. Good quality and well priced Spanish wine can be found in both red and white if you do some research and are open to try something new. Campo Viejo Tempranillo 2019 is a perfect example of a very drinkable Spanish wine that is both widely distributed and very inexpensive. This red is certainly worth trying when you consider that it can be purchased for around $10 a bottle.

Campo Viejo Tempranillo 2019 is made in Rioja, Spain. Tempranillo is the most widely planted red grape variety in Spain but is not produced as a varietal often. Tempranillo is commonly used as a blending grape due to its neutral profile and ability to enhance the wines it is blended with. This wine is a balanced lighter red wine with no single dominating characteristic but that is not to say it doesn’t have enough structure, acidity, and flavor to be enjoyable. This Tempranillo pairs with tapas, grilled chicken, charcuterie, and of course Pizza.

There is no need for overkill when picking a wine for a meal or event. I try to match the type of wine with the type of event, meal, or group of friends and family I will be sharing it with.

Tips For Choosing Wine From A Wine List

If you lack confidence when ordering wine from a restaurant’s wine list you are not alone. You should never be intimidated by wine because wine should be fun and an opportunity to learn. Keep it simple and don’t get caught up in what you don’t know but have an open mind to any interesting suggestions that are offered. While many people fall back on the same old selections or point to a bottle and hope for the best, you can do better with a little preparation. Here are a few tips I learned from a sommelier that will help them find you the best wine for your dining experience.

First and foremost, be honest and engaging when asked about your preferences. Tell them the body and style you like because a restaurant invests a lot of money to have a sommelier help you make the wine selection process more enjoyable so take advantage of their knowledge. Here’s a tip that will get the best wine available for the price you want to pay. Simply point to a bottle on the list with the price you are willing to pay and say “I have had (wine name) before but I would like to try something different”. This will let the somm know what you are willing to spend and they can guide you to a bottle in that price range. After you make your selection the somm will retrieve your bottle from the cellar and open it tableside. They will present the cork to you but this is purely ceremonial and there is no need for you to either touch or smell it. Next, they will pour a small sample for you to taste. This sample is for you to check for flaws not to see if you like the wine. If it is acceptable give them a small nod and they will begin serving your dining companions with you being served last. One last tip, during your initial exchange ask your sommelier if there are any wines they are excited about. This allows them to share hidden gems now that they know you share their love of wine.  

Photo by Ray Piedra on Pexels.com

Food Truck Wine Pairings

 

After reading an article recently about pairing wine with food truck fare I suddenly realized the perfect synergy that food trucks have with the wineries they visit. The eclectic menu items provided by the ever-changing food truck line up at wineries offer a unique opportunity to experiment with wine and food pairings that is simply impossible to achieve in a brick and mortar restaurant.

The following suggestions are only a starting point so I urge you to be creative when composing your pairings. The mind-boggling variety of food choices offered by these vendors provide winery goers an exciting range of dishes and cuisine to explore.

Every item will be accompanied by a Pennsylvania-made wine and one that is widely available and value-priced because remember you are being served your food through a window of a food truck.

BBQ & Grilled Meats: Without question these are the menu items on which the food truck industry was built. When you order from these trucks you need a wine with some backbone to stand up to the flavors of grilled meat, smoke, and sauce. These two bottles fit the bill nicely.

Fero Vineyards & Winery Estate Lemberger http://ferovineyards.com or Zuccardi Q Malbec

Pierogies: This Polish specialty is a comfort food favorite in Western Pennsylvania. Pierogies are most commonly filled with either potato, sauerkraut, or cheese but they can be filled with any number of unusual stuffings. A sweet option to the traditional savory ones is Prune Lekvar. A testament to how beloved pierogies are in the fabric of the community is that the Pittsburgh Pirates hold a pierogie race at every home game. I suggest pairing them with South Shore Wine Company Grűner Veltliner http://enjoymazza.com or Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewűrztraminer

Pizza: You can get anything from an authentic Neapolitan pie to the latest trendy gourmet creations seen on Instagram from a food truck these days. High temperature brick ovens have become the norm in food trucks so it calls for an equally impressive wine to complete your pizza adventure. Try Ripepi Winery & Vineyard Zinfandel http://ripepiwine.com or Menage-A-Trios Pinot Noir

Tacos: A mainstay of the food truck culture on the West Coast, taco trucks have developed a loyal following in Pennsylvania. When it comes to variety and originality you can always find something good at taco truck. I recommend selecting a Rosé or Blush. Consider these wines when doing your pairings. Greendance Isabella http://greendancewinery.com or Château ď Esclan Whispering Angel Rosé

Mac & Cheese: These trucks have filled a niche that has blossomed into one that provides choices not found in the mainstream trucks. When you have the chance please try some of what they are serving up because I think you will be happy you did. My wine picks here would be Narcisi Riesling http://narcisiwinery.com and Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc.

Chicken: Chicken is a blank canvas for the chefs in a food truck. They paint masterpieces using broad strokes of flavor and style. To keep up with their always evolving flavor palates you must pair them with wines that can handle a broad spectrum of spices and preparation methods. These wines are well-suited for that challenge. Winslow Winery Vidal Blanc http://winslowwinery.com and Bogle Vineyards Merlot

Seafood: Seafood themed food trucks offer more than just fish sandwiches. They run the gambit from lobster rolls to sushi. While not as numerous as other cuisine focused trucks, when you find one it will likely be a memorable alternative to standard food truck grub. These two wines are sure to please. Bella Terra Chardonnay http://bellaterravineyards.com and Cantina Zaccagnini Pinot Grigio

My last word to you about pairing wine with any food, not just food truck food, is to trust your instincts because you just can’t make a mistake. So get out there and get the most out of what the wine world has to offer.

I Regret Nothing!

After seeing how well a couple of my posts on Instagram (@rich_wpawinepirate_ ) were received I realized a lot of people were just as curious as I was about the wine they sell on QVC. I posted a bottle pix of Kevin O’Leary’s Malbec and Rosé. Like me, everyone had seen his wines being presented and wondered after listening to him hype the virtues of his wine if they might be an interesting wine to try. I know all too well the risks of buying “processed wines” as they are now being called. You might remember them as “industrial wine.” With that being said, this type of wine is widely distributed, readily available, and enjoyed by millions.

I ordered the Kevin O’Leary Fine Wines Reserve Series Malbec Argentina 2020 and the Kevin O’Leary Fine Wines Reserve Series Rosé Vintage 2019, to be exact. O’Leary wine is sold as groupings or as three bottles of a single variety. The wine arrived promptly, well-packed, and cost about $15 a bottle when purchased from QVC.

The Malbec has a light/medium body and wasn’t overly dry with “middle of the road” acidity. This wine is best suited for an evening of grilling on the deck with family and friends. Rosé was my favorite. It is a very drinkable wine with a lighter body and a touch of sweetness. The most noticeable feature of this Rosé is its inviting vivid color. Kevin mentioned in his sales pitch that it is a blend of seven grape varieties and you can taste that because no one variety stands out, it is truly a blend.

If you are feeling adventurous and want to try some of “Mr. Wonderful” wine I would suggest starting with his Rosé. It is not a serious wine and can be enjoyed either alone as you relax at the end of the day or paired with lighter fare on a picnic in the country. You don’t have to over think these wines.

What I Learned at The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers

Photo Courtesy: The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley

I recently attended The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley 2021 via zoom. The three day event was very informative and enlightening on many levels. The speakers and panel discussions were all presented by very knowledgeable and prominent members of the wine media. If you have a chance to participate in an event like this I would encourage you to do so.

I would like to share a few points the speakers emphasized that are certain to increase the likelihood of your work getting noticed and ultimately being published.

1) Keep pitches about two paragraphs long and make your case why they should publish it and why you should be the person to write it.

2) Write about what you know and be an expert concerning the area where you live.

3) After the initial pitch do one or two follow-ups and if there is no reply, move on.

4) Pitch a story that isn’t in print and is new.

5) When describing wine use references that are familiar to your readers. Example: You wouldn’t refer to cherry and blackberry flavors if you were writing an article for publication in Asia because those flavors would be unfamiliar to most of the readers there, instead use recognizable flavors like lychee, guava, mango etc.

6) Email remains the most effective way to submit a pitch and never use a DM (direct message) via social media to contact an editor and never never ever contact an editor saying “Hey, I’m going to (Tuscany or anywhere else) do you need anything?” They said that goes directly into the trash.

These are just a few things I learned over the course of the symposium. I hope these insights into the thought process of editors will help you when you are pursuing a writing career.

Take Me To Church

Kagor is traditionally a fortified dessert wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Saperavi, and other varieties of red grapes in the coastal area surrounding the Black Sea. Kagor was originally made for the Russian Orthodox Church as a sacramental wine. Finding American-made Kagor can be very challenging and finding a well-made one is like finding the proverbial “Needle in a haystack”.

Jim Baker owner/winemaker at Chateau Niagara is making an award-winning Kagor from his estate-grown Saperavi. When I say award-winning, I mean that Jim brought home a medal for his Kagor from the prestigious Saperavi World Prize competition held in the Black Sea city of Tbilisi, Georgia plus numerous other awards. While Jim doesn’t fortify his Kagor, he does ferment it up to 15% ABV.

Opening the bottle is just the beginning of enjoying your Chateau Niagara Kagor, there is a method to tasting this unusual and extraordinary wine. I could attempt to explain it but I think there is no one better suited for the job than Jim Baker, so here is how to experience all that Chateau Niagara Kagor has to offer in Jim’s own words.

“Take a taste and swirl around once or twice in your mouth, coating all the taste buds and then stop. Let the wine take over. It will take you a journey, with flavors rising and falling. You want to go until they stop changing, and for most people it’s more than a minute. After that take a bite of a good chocolate truffle and when that is partially melted, taste the wine again, swallowing both together. They effect will be almost immediate with a burst of cherry cordial flavors.”

I asked Jim why he decided to grow grape varieties that are associated with Eastern Europe and make classic Eastern European wines from them. Here is what he said:

“We decided to make the Kagor as part of our Eastern European wine series. We discovered a number of little know Eastern European wines that we thought were pretty cool, and would allow us a little niche to specialize in. This includes a Hungarian Bulls Blood, our Saperavi, a Georgian style skin-fermented Riesling Chardonnay blend called Du Monde, and our Kagor. We planted a new Romanian grape last fall called Feteasca Neagra, but we will be calling it by the way cooler English translation of “Black Maiden”!”

Chateau Niagara will be doubling the size of their Saperavi vineyard to just over an acre of this versatile grape.

If you are interested in trying Jim’s Kagor or any of his other wines they can be found on his website http://chateauniagarawinery.com or by visiting the winery at 2466 West Creek Rood Newfane, NY. Please call before visiting. (716) 778-7888

Kagor 2017 Photo Credit: Chateau Niagara Winery
Saperavi Rose 2019 Photo Credit: Chateau Niagara Winery
Saperavi 2018 Photo Credit: Chateau Niagara Winery