Boxed Wine

I used to have a rather negative impression of the concept of boxed wine.  The thought always conjured up an image of the big white Franzia box of blush wine sitting in my aunt’s fridge, which did not necessarily scream sophistication to me.  But recently I have revisited the idea of boxed wine and been pleasantly surprised.


Last summer I took the leap and bought a small tetra box of Bota Box Pinot Grigio.  The purchase began simply as a matter of convenience.  I was going on a picnic and this small box of wine required no corkscrew and provided the perfect amount of wine for myself for lunch.  I was delightfully surprised to find that the Pinot Grigio in the box was worthwhile.  Perfect for a light lunch outside in the summer.

About the same time, I was noticing advertisements on television for Black Box Wine.  The packaging looked elegant for a boxed wine, it had recently won a few awards and I liked the fact that they showcased the environmental factor of boxed wine. I decided to give their Cabernet Sauvignon a try.  There was nothing offensive about it at all.  It was actually better than some bottled Cabernet Sauvignon that I have tasted.

I have not had a boxed wine since last summer when I tried those two brands.  It’s not that I have anything against boxed wine anymore when the right occasion presents itself, I simply never think about purchasing them.  I recently read an article on Real Simple about the best boxed wines and I decided that I am going to give them a shot again this summer, when the convenience factor goes up.  I look forward to trying a few on their list and determining if I still enjoy them as much as I did last year, after acquiring more knowledge about wine in general within the past year.

Tasting Exercise: Acidity

I read a wonderful article in Food and Wine Magazine last Autumn about different tasting procedures you can go through to help yourself understand the different properties of wine tasting.  I wanted to save these exercises and the wines used to go through them with friends in the future.  I think this would make a fun little educational wine gathering!


Natural acids, including tartaric and malic, cause the acidity in wine.  The acids can derive from the actual grapes themselves or the acids added during the wine making process.  The acidity in grapes varies greatly, depending on many different factors including the grape variety, sun exposure, climate and soil in the vineyard.  Grapes grown in cooler climates tend to have higher acidity.

While enjoying wine, you will feel the effects of acidity mostly on the sides of your tongue.  Overly acidic wines will cause an almost stinging sensation or sour taste in the mouth.  I pay attention to how much saliva my mouth produces after tasting a wine.  The more saliva produced, the more acidity in the wine.

Food Pairing

When enjoying foods high in fat, like alfredo sauce, the fat typically coats the palate and stifles the flavor of subsequent bites.  In these situations, the acid in the wine cuts through the fat lingering on the palate.  This effectively prepares your mouth to be able to fully indulge in the next delectable bite.


Tasting Exercise

Equipment: Five 4 ounce glasses of water, one orange, one grapefruit, one lemon, one lime

Set aside the first glass of water.  Squeeze the juice of 1/4 orange into the second glass.  Squeeze the juice of 1/4 grapefruit into the third glass. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon into the fourth glass.  Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime into the fifth glass.

Taste in that order, starting with a sip of plain water, to experience increasing levels of acidity. Experiment by adding more juice to each glass to see how the acidity increases.  Notice the point at which the juice becomes too sour for you.


The following wines will help illustrate the concept of acidity.  A type of wine is listed, followed by a specific vintage and brand that would work well. Each are listed in order from least to most acidic.

* Marsanne (2011 Qupe)

* Sauvignon Blanc (2011 Brander Santa Ynez Valley)

* Muscadet (2011 Michel Delhommeau Cuvee St. Vincent)

The wines in parenthesis were not necessarily the wines I found and used when first doing this experiment. They are wines suggested in Food and Wine Magazine. I used the ones I could find locally and if I could not find the specific brand they recommended or didn’t have the budget for the one they recommended, I used one that fit their category. I did these exercises before starting this blog so I did not record each brand and vintage I used.

Concannon Pinot Grigio


Pinot Grigio


(Central Coast, California)


On Bottle/Website:

* Citrus, melon, honeysuckle

* Pairs well with smoked salmon or roasted pork tenderloin

* 13% ABV


My Notes:

* Appearance: clear, star bright, straw, low concentration, medium viscosity

* Nose: clean, medium low intensity, youthful, lemon, grapefruit, green apple, wet stone, slate, no wood

* Palate: dry, medium bodied, confirms fruit, mostly lemon/citrus, wet stone, slate, medium plus alcohol, high acidity, medium plus finish, medium complexity.

The more the wine opened up, the more melon flavors were present.  It also became much fruiter and floral.  This wasn’t one of my favorite Pinot Grigios, but for the price it was not horrible.

Celebrity Wine, Beer & Spirits

Is it just me or does it seem like every time I turn around I see a new wine, beer or spirit produced by a celebrity?  Maybe I am just jealous of them because they have such a high disposable income that they can simply do this as a side investment for fun, while many average citizens (myself included!) would love the opportunity to devout their whole career to running their own business in the wine, beer or spirits industry with the luxury of basically unlimited funds.


Now, it is pervasive everywhere you look.  Even in television shows.  I remember being flabbergasted when I located a bottle of Avion tequila in a liquor store while looking for margarita ingredients. I thought it was a fake tequila concocted purely for the show Entourage. I had no idea it was an actual spirit. It was like life imitating art.  On the show, one character was trying to use his celebrity buddy to market the tequila.  I ended up purchasing a bottle simply because they had a smaller size that was half the price of the other good tequilas (and it ended up being a solid choice).  Well played, Turtle. Well played.  Your marketing and celebrity status got my attention.

Sean Combs has Ciroc vodka. Rapper Xzibits now has a line of tequila called Bonita. George Clooney and Randy Gerber are launching a tequila named Casamigos. The Grateful Dead and Pearl Jam are crafting beers with Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. Kenny Chesney is launching a rum called Blue Chair Bay.

In the wine industry, I am assuming that Francis Ford Coppola was probably one of the first to dip his toes in the water back in the 70s.  Now Drew Barrymore has a line of wines, along with Fergie’s line titled Ferguson Crest, Richard Gere’s Tuscan label, Mike Ditka’s line (Mike Ditka?!?), Keyshawn Johnson’s line, and Tyler Florence has wines under Mondavi.  I am certain there are many more celebrity wines out there that I have never even seen.

I have no doubt that some of these celebrity offerings are actually decent wine, beer and spirits.  But the industry is starting to remind me of the perfume/cologne industry where anyone with money can develop their own brand. Now it is hard to even find a perfume or cologne display that isn’t dominated by celebrity options.

Has anyone tried any of these (or other) celebrity owned wine, beer and spirits?  I have tried the Avion and Coppola wine, but other than that I have pretty much steered clear of these offerings.

Wine Posters

I always enjoy a little internet shopping, so it was only a matter of time until my wine hobby crossed over with the shopping.  While perusing a few websites for some fun gift ideas, I stumbled across some entertaining wine posters at Wine Folly.


The first poster I found had a pairing wine and food chart.  There was also a poster with a web to help learn different types of wines, one with a flowchart about how to chose a wine, a poster containing the colors of wine and multiple maps of wine areas.

All of the posters were bold, colorful and would be a fun addition to a quaint or quirky little wine cellar.  Good thing I do not have a nice, finished basement bar or I could really spend a bundle on decorating it.

Antinori Sangiovese Santa Cristina Toscana

Antinori Santa Cristina



(Tuscany, Italy)


On Bottle/Website:

* 90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot

* Chianti sub-region

* Intense bouquet of mature fruits

* Well structured, harmonious, soft and very pleasing on the palate

My Notes:  

*Appearance: clear, bright, medium intensity, ruby, medium viscosity

*Nose: sound/clean, medium intensity, aroma/youthful, cherry, raspberry, tobacco

*Palate: dry, light bodied, confirms fruit on the nose, medium low tannins, medium alcohol, medium acidity, medium complexity, medium minus length

I tasted this wine while dining at a local Italian restaurant.  The lighting was dim, so some of my appearance notes may be compromised by that factor.

I paired it with a pepperoni and sausage panzerotti. For those of you unfamiliar with panzerotti, it is basically a deep-fried calzone.  In other words, a little piece of heaven. Homemade marinara sauce smothered the dish.  Melted mozzarella cheese oozed out of the pocket as it was cut open with a knife. Yes, it is so massive that a knife is necessary to cut this behemoth dish!  The Sangiovese paired nicely with this meal and I would most certainly drink it with a zesty, tomato based Italian dish again in the future.

Ranga Ranga Sauvignon Blanc

Ranga Ranga

Sauvignon Blanc


(Marlborough, New Zealand)


On Bottle/Website: 

* “Old School” Marlborough Sauvignon

* Fresh, vibrant, zesty

* Crisp acidity

* Fruit aromas, including gooseberries, limes, lemongrass, fresh cut grass

My Notes:

Appearance: clear, bright, medium low intensity, watery/straw, medium viscosity

Nose: sound/clean, high intensity, aroma/youthful, grass, asparagus, jalapeno, tomato leaves

Palate: dry, medium bodied, grapefruit, gooseberry, guava, tropical, medium plus alcohol, medium plus acidity, medium complexity, medium length

Brewery Tours

When I first started this blog, I made a few goals for myself.  One of the goals I set was to travel to a new winery, brewery or distillery every month. I enlisted the help of my brother, asking him if he would be willing to spend his much coveted weekends with me on the pursuit of good, local beer. (And by local, I mean anything in Iowa or a connecting state!) Thankfully, he is willing to make the sacrifice and we have planned an outing this weekend to two breweries and a distillery in Wisconsin.


My brother and I had plans to go to New Glarus Brewery on the last weekend in April, so when a group of guests that I was working with at the winery last weekend started talking about New Glarus, I asked if they had any advice.  They were a wealth of knowledge about other places to visit and quickly our trip to one brewery turned into a day including two breweries, a distillery and a tavern/cheese shop.  I could not be more excited!  (And I’m thinking I should win some sort of ‘Sister of the Year’ award for this deal.)

Maybe it is the teacher in me, so used to planning field trips and preparing for the unexpected, but I always feel the need to research where we are going ahead of time to have an idea of what to expect.  That night after work I went home and looked up Minhas Brewery, Minhas Distillery and Baumgartener’s Cheese Shop and Tavern.  I will give a full report on the beers and spirits after visiting, but I wanted to share a few of the things I am excited about before the visit to see if they live up to my expectations.

New Glarus Brewery

Spotted Cow at the New Glarus Brewery is by far their most popular brew in the area, but I look forward to trying the other types of beer they produce.  There are six beers available year round, seasonal beers to compliment the time of year and they always have a few surprises up their sleeves to keep things interesting.  I am most curious about their Thumbprint Series, in which they let their brewmaster loose to create whatever his adventurous heart desires.

Minhas Brewery

The tour at Minhas Brewery looks fantastic! After touring the facilities, you can hang out in their Lazy Mutt Lounge and enjoy bottomless beer samples of their brews.  Considering the crowd that may be joining my brother and I, Minhas may want to rethink this policy before the weekend.  They also send you off with a “Thank You” pack full of bottles of their beer, root beer and a souvenir glass. For the mere $10 you spend on the tour, I think that is quite the deal!

Minhas Distillery

Located conveniently across the street from the brewery, the Minhas Distillery also provides a tour of their facilities.  Their spirits selection includes gin, three types of rum, rye whisky, tequila, vodka and irish cream.  What I am most looking forward to, though, is their horchata rum.  I did not find any information about it online, but the couple I spoke with at the winery said it was fabulous and leaps and bounds above RumChata, which has become popular in this area.

Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern

You can not visit Wisconsin without stopping for cheese!  Thankfully I got the inside scoop about a fabulous little cheese store and tavern a block away from the distillery called Baumgartner’s.  Apparently they have the second best chili (only after your mother’s) and a cheese sandwich that is a must try item.  They feature locally brewed beers on tap to compliment their food.  What can be better than a quaint, local tavern after a day of tasting locally brewed beers and spirits?  I can’t think of anything, either.

Needless to say, I am counting down the days to the weekend!

Fast Food Wine Pairings

I recently stumbled across the following article online about fast food wine pairings on FoodBeast:

The Quintessential Guide to Fast Food + Wine Pairings

Honestly, I don’t know whether to be horrified or whether these people are brilliant.

I suppose every meals deserves to have a great wine pairing, but then doesn’t something as mundane as a McDonald’s sandwich deserve to be paired with a Boone’s Farm wine?  Or does it?  Is there an argument to be made that the methodology of pairing wines can certainly be translated to fast food?

The points made about a good fast food wine seem valid.  You need a wine with high acidity to cut the fat. It should be inexpensive, as fast food is not overly priced. It should enhance, not compete with the flavors of the meal.  It should be a bit quirky, as eating fast food and drinking wine together is in and of itself thinking outside of the box.  They even have specific pairings in the article to help you out.

Maybe I need to test some of their suggestions and report back before making a judgement. I am leaning towards wine with fast food being a ridiculous concept, but that is solely based on the fact that whenever I eat fast food, I am not savoring or enjoying the meal. Fast food is purely for convenience in my case, so I personally would not drink wine with it.  But I realize that many people rely on a majority of their meals coming from fast food, so maybe people in these situations like to have a nice glass of wine with their dinner. Who am I to judge? My philosophy has always been drink whatever you like and enjoy, so why should that be any different when fast food is involved?

Has anyone ever had wine with fast food?  Any thoughts on the subject?

Punto Final Malbec

Punto Final





On Bottle/Website:

* Deep ruby red

* Notes of blackberry, blueberry and cassiss

* Balanced and round

* Jammy mouthfeel

* Long finish

* 13.5% ABV

* Pairs with steak, pasta with meat sauce, risotto, lamb and cheeses

My Notes:

Appearance: clear, day bright, medium intensity, purple/ruby, purple rim, medium plus viscosity

Nose: sound/clean, medium intensity, aroma/youthful, black currant, blueberry, boysenberry, blackberry, jammy, baking spices, cocoa, anise

Palate: dry, medium bodied, confirms nose, black cherry cola, blueberries, smoky, grill char, baking spices, medium plus alcohol, medium plus acidity, medium complexity, medium plus length