Travel & Tasting Notes From A Couple of Wine Lovers


Yes I Can

IMG_20180410_170128087.jpgFirst they got rid of the corks. Then they put it in a box. And now, there’s wine in a can. Una Lou is a hipper than thou offering from Scribe Winery, a decade-old winery from the Sonoma Valley.  Easy to tote to the beach, swig on the deck…you know, like beer. I was skeptical, but damn if it wasn’t good. Not a “play” wine…a real, buy-worthy rosé of pinot noir that goes beautifully with antipasto, chips and salsa, or on its own. It wasn’t sweet. It wasn’t cloying. Tart enough to stand up to food, fruity enough to chug on the sand.

We tasted Una Lou (named for the winemaker’s daughter…awww) at Branch Line, a Watertown, MA restaurant admired for its roast chicken and smart wine list. Lisa previously enjoyed a rosé from Sardinia at Branch Line, but now she’s hooked on Una Lou. Watch for it in a styrofoam cooler near you!




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Masterpiece Theatre Meets La Dolce Vita at WGBH Wine Event


This article was originally posted in March 2014 then lost to a Go Daddy cluster *%%#. We just found a few articles in cyberspace and re-post them here.

slideshow1.jpgThe impressive studios of WGBH were the ideal backdrop for a mid-winter sampling of Italian wine and local cheeses. The stunning conference room was packed; no servants from Downton Abbey, no Muppets from Sesame Street but plenty of freeloading wine writers and trade reps were on hand to sample wines from four regions of Italy. Our tasting tour guide was wine columnist Michael Apstein, who led the group through an uneven selection of three white wines and six reds from Apulia (Southeastern Italy), Marche (Central, on the Adriatic), Tuscany (you know where that is), and Lombardy (North, on the Swiss border.) VinoDuo’s knowledge of Italian wines is also uneven: we go deep in a few areas (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Chianti, Brunello), wide in others, like Prosecco. And then there’s a big blank. So we were excited to sample wines made from varietals we had never heard of (Pecorino, Marzemino) let alone tasted.

Pecorino Offida DOC 2010; Cantina Offida, Marche (100% Pecorino grapes)
A split decision from VinoDuo. GaryLe-Marche.png thought it had a pleasant floral character on the nose with hints of nectarine and fresh melon. He found the taste “Surprisingly lively with a good balance of melon fruits, acidity and minerality.” Lisa detected pineapple and coconut on the nose; would a Pina Colada be in the offering? Alas, no. “Highly acidic; undrinkable,” read her tasting notes. Gary immediately thought of the Pecorino being served ice cold with cocktail shrimp, Alaskan crab legs or even a cold lobster salad. Lisa thought of pouring it in the spit jar and moving on. $8-$10 retail but no US distribution yet. [2018 update: Still no US distribution]

Vermentino Toscana, Tuscany (100% Vermentino)
The Duo was Uno on the Vermentino: nope. This was more like what Gary remembered about Italian white wines that he had tasted in the past. Beautiful on the nose…Lisa picked up lychee and apricot, with a very clean scent. Then, bam! Gary said the overpowering mineral taste made it “more like an astringent than a consumable beverage.” [2018 update: No US distribution]

Selva Bianco Locorotondo DOC 2010; Albea, Apulia
(60% Verdeca, 35% Bianco d’Alessano, 5% Fiano)

Another split decision. This very pale, almost clear wine had a honeysuckle nose and, to Lisa, an acceptable acidity that made it the ideal deck wine. Gary said the nose reminded him of Welch’s White Grape juice and the palate delivered the polar opposite—full of sour minerality. [2018 update: No US distribution]

Primitivo Puglia IGP 2010 Amastuola, ApPuglia+wine+regionsulia
Our first red was a Primitivo (the clone/kin of American Zinfandel) from Apulia. We’ve enjoyed many lovely Primitivos and were charmed by this wine’s nose of dark caramelized plums, blackberry, and vanilla. But the spicy black fruit flavors and a nice acidity/tannin balance were overpowered by an abrupt mineral finish. $15/bottle.

Chianti Classico DOCG 2009 90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot   MUST BUY
With its outstanding cherry-vanilla nose and food-friendly palate, this classic Chianti is a must-have-on-the-shelf buy at $17 – $20

Vigneto della Rana Chianti DOCG 2009 Castella di San Sano, Tuscany
(90% Sangiovese, 10% Ciliegiolo)

A “hot” nose with hints of blackberries, currants, and prunes. Presented well at first taste but the flavor did not hold up to the alcohol or the ever-present minerality. Gary called it “overbearing.”

Le Sincette Garda Classico Rosso DOC 2007, Le Sincette, Lombardy   MUST BUY
This wine was the hit of the tasting! A smooth blend of Gropello Gentile, Marzemino, Barbera, and Sangiovese grapes. Velvety tannins coupled with notes of caramel, dried bing cherries, and butterscotch. The long finish goes on and on! At $35-$40, it’s outside of our usual “Must-Buy” limit, but we’ll make an exception here.

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The Urban Wineries of Dogpatch

This article was originally posted in March 2014 then lost to a Go Daddy cluster *%%#. We just found a few articles in cyberspace and re-post them here.

Dogpatch was the place Li’l Abner and his hillbilly comic strip pals lazed their life away. For VinoDuo, Dogpatch is now the little-known San Francisco neighborhood that boasts artisan coffee, gritty shipyard remnants, funky shops, and fabulous restaurants. Dubbed a “perennial up-and-coming neighborhood” by one San Francisco guide, Dogpatch has seen good times and bad and today is flourishing with the influx of artists, artisans, and the people who trail them.

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Now, VinoDuo likes great restaurants and killer coffee as much as the next yuppie couple. In fact, we had a lovely lunch at Dogpatch Café and devoured the outstanding flatbread-style pizza at Piccino Café. But what drove us to visit was Dogpatch WineWorks, a boutique winemaker’s collective and tasting room. Urban winemaking has caught our fancy of late and this no-frills winery–housed in a former warehouse—was smack dab in the middle of a resurgent Dogpatch. The venue hosts several small commercial producers in a “custom crush” arrangement, where artisan winemakers source their own grapes and bring the fruit to WineWorks for production. During our visit to the tasting room, we were fortunate to sample the wine of two winemakers: Seamus wines and Jazz Cellars. [Note: Jazz Cellars Winery is now located in the historic gold rush town of Murphys, CA at 380 Main Street.]

Seamus is a family-owned business, with a twist. Father and son winemakers James Foley Sr. and Jr. live in Georgia, but in 2014 they produced 900 cases of California wine in Dogpatch. Jazz Cellars was founded in 2005 by two friends who shared a love of good wine and great music. Jazz’s small-batch producers focus on Rhone-style wines, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir. In tandem, Seamus and Jazz Cellars presented Lisa and Gary with a literal Vino Duo wine tasting experience.

Seamus Olde Sonoma Cabernet 2009
Toasty oak nose with some cedar and cigar box. This is a big wine with good tannic structure, super concentrated black current fruit. Winemaker Jim Foley is a true craftsman. While drinkable at this point, the wine would benefit from additional cellaring. The 2010 Olde Sonoma Reserve selling online for $99.

Jazz Cellars sources its grapes from regions across California including Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Carneros, Amador, Santa Lucia Highlands, and San Benito.

Jazz Cellars Las Madres 2007 Syrah
Amazingly fragrant nose and deep black and cherry fruit flavors. Short finish, but delicious. The 2014 Las Madres sells for $39 on the winery’s website.

Shake Ridge Ranch Vineyard, Amador County Zinfandel
A juicy Zinfandel featuring hints of raspberry, cherry and blackberry over a silky smooth tannin backbone. The 2010 Shake Ridge Zin sells for $22 on the website.

Jazz Petite Sirah Eaglepoint Ranch 2007
Purchased without tasting. Tasting notes from home: This is a big, inky-dark Petite Sirah with classic black fruit and spice flavoring. One of the best of this varietal that VinoDuo has tasted – no longer produced in 2018.

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Head to Hell’s Kitchen for Adella Wine Bar

06ef44_61ad8cfd779443d59be78f48a4a5381eOn theIMG_20180324_131814897 Saturday of the March for Our Lives march in NYC, I had every intention of attending the rally or, at the very least, cheering from the sidelines. Instead–like Meg Ryan in “You’ve Got Mail,” who got a manicure and forgot to vote for Ruth Messinger–I landed at Adella Restaurant & Wine Bar and never left. In my defense, I was cooling my heels before a 2pm matinee of Three Tall Women and was concerned I might get caught in the throngs.  But I digress.

Starved, thirsty and NYT crossword in hand, I made my way to Adella, a small, sleek and friendly Hell’s Kitchen haunt. Adella offers a strikingly different wines by the glass list of unusual varietals and lesser-known regions, delicious house-made rugulach, and a perfectly turned spinach and goat cheese omelet.

IMG_20180324_125515292With three Rosés to choose from I asked for the driest and was poured a glass of Château de Berne Esprit Méditerranée Rosé 2016.  A blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Carignan, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Fresh, slightly fruity, the Berne had enough acidity to counter the omelet but would have been just fine as a sipping wine.

I was thrilled to discover Adella Restaurant & Wine Bar and look forward to returning for those incredible rugulach and another glass of something lovely.

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An Ancient New White Wine.

New to VinoDuo, that is.  Greco di Tufo, from the Campania region of Italy, has a 2,000 year pedigree. But Lisa discovered it at Il Casale in Lexington, Mass.

Golden color, pleasing mouth feel but not heavy, a little fruit and lots of minerals. But not minerally. Strange but pleasing combo ideal for a light meal or cheese course.  Not great sipping alone. Great alternative to Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio…for which there should ALWAYS be an alternative.


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A Rosé for All Seasons

We were disappointed to learn that the Nordstrom in Burlington had closed the stylish Blue Stove restaurant, a small plates and wine haunt for VinoDuo. A few years back, Lisa discovered Whispering Angel rosé at Blue Stove and it quickly became a favorite before the wine took a dive into sweet and sad. The Blue Stove replacement is Bazille, a slightly cheaper, slightly more mainstream restaurant with the same sleek bar and a brand new wine list. Thankfully, Whispering Angel was gone. In its place, a Provencal rosé from Jean-Luc Colombo. And damn if it didn’t suck Lisa in too.

IMG_20180103_155335622.jpgThe Cape Bleue 2016 is produced in Marseilles with the classic Rhone grapes Syrah (67%) and Mourvèdre (33%). Colombo has been dubbed the “Winemaking Wizard of the Rhone” and he obviously waved his wand over the Cape Bleue. There’s a bit of limestone and peach on the nose. Dry but not bone dry. Subtle but not boring. Salmon colored but not fishy 🙂  Lots of fresh fruit on the nose, dominant peach and a hint of honeysuckle. If the Arugula Salad with Lump Crab and Avocado had taken any longer to arrive, Lisa would have licked the glass dry.  Unlike the burst-of-summer rosés she gravitates towards, the Cape Bleue has enough heft to get her through the winter.

And this wine is so cheap! At $9/$10 a bottle (less than Bazille charges for one glass!) we’ve found our new house rosé.