Shana Speaks Wine

Wine Journalist, Copywriter, and Marketing Consultant

Drinking out loud. 

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Wine Glass Diatribe

What's this?  


I'm sad to tell you that this is considered a glass of wine.

At a recent girls' night, we checked out Bonnie Vee, a new-ish spot on the Lower East Side. Overall, it was everything we wanted for our catch-up; great ambiance, comfortable seating, well-prepared nibbles, good cocktail list and a small but decent selection of wines by the glass.

But why, oh why, if you're going to put some iota of thought into your wines, would you serve them in a water glass?!  The aromatics are muffled, the wine gets warm and ultimately, the pleasure of wine is taken away. I've seen this in way too many places and it's really unacceptable. Obivously the owners of proud their establishment and want to create a great atmosphere for their guests. But why skimp on the essentials? I'm not asking for expensive Zalto glasses but come on, just throw me a stem here.  

Kosher Quickie

We're two nights deep into Chanukah and it feels like the right time to talk about kosher wine.  I ended up sipping on the 'schewitz last night due to an unfortunately corked kosher wine incident at my friend's place, which got me thinking about kosher wines in general.  Now, while Manischewitz is the O.G. kosher wine, it has a reputation for its infamously sweet, grape-y flavor.  It's fruit juice for big kids and while some doth protest about drinking it, secretly everyone has a soft spot for Manny.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of


However, there is a whole world of kosher wine to explore and while I'm not familiar with any particular wines, I find the kosher approach fascinating.

Kosher wines can be certified in one of two ways: Meshuval or Non-meshuval.  Both wines must be harvested by observant Jews and have production overseen by a rabbi. However, meshuval wines go through a process where they are quickly heated to boiling point then cooled; essentially, they are considered pasturized wines.  While there is concern that flash heating a wine in that manner will cook it, newer technology ensures that for the most part, quality will not be compromised.   If a wine is meshuval, anyone can handle and serve the wine (read: non-Jews). 

On the other hand, non-meshuval wines do not go through the pasturization process and therefore must only be handled and served by observant Jews. In Orthodox and Hasidic communities this probably isn't a major concern but talk about staffing issues if you leave the neigborhood.  

I'm interested in trying out some of these kosher wines.  Does anyone out there have any experiences to share or wines to recommend? 



Drinking the USA

It was the 4th of July and it felt a bit unpatriotic to drink anything besides domestic wine.  In the spirit of the holiday, I opened myself up to revisiting some Napa Valley wines, which is one region I don't traditionally drink.

Oh man, I am so happy I gave myself over to the West Coast. At dinner Friday night, we went with a bottle of Jordan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, CA, 2010 and Saturday we gave the 2009 a test run. 

The favored Jordan vintage.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

The favored Jordan vintage.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

By law in the US, these wines need to be composed of 75% of the primary grape in order to be named single varietal.  What this means is that although they are dominantly Cab Sauv, technically they are a blend (I dare you to try pulling this stunt with a Brunello)  The 2010 was 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot and 1% Malbec. The 2009 varied slightly, with 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 1% Malbec. How did the compare?  The 2010 showcased riper, richer berries and the tannins were softer and better integrated.  Hints of mocha and chocolate also came through as the wine opened up.  The 2009, on the other hand, felt a bit leaner and more angular and there was a more dominant presence of oak tannins on the tongue.  This vintage could probably use a bit more aging and the bottle itself could have benefited from some decanting.

The shining diamond in all this was the other bottle of wine on Saturday: the Opus One, Napa Valley, CA, 2006. Opus One makes a Bordeaux-style blend: 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% 
Merlot 5% 
Cabernet Franc, 3% 
Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec. Interestingly enough, although the wine contains the required 75%+ Cab Sauv, it chooses not to identify as a single varietal.  

Truthfully, I've always been put off by Opus One.  When I visited the winery a few years ago, I wasn't overwhelmed by what I tasted and I couldn't get over the audacity of charging me $35 for a 1/4 of a glass "taste."  That's some shit right there.

However, this wine was stellar. Deep raspberry and blueberries were immediately apparent and met by tobacco and smoked meat. Chocolate and mocha again made an appearance, rounded out by a full body and silky feeling in the mouth. I wish we had decanted it for a bit before we started drinking because those last few sips were something special.


Keep tasting, friends...


New Zealand Wine Fair

New Zealand wines have always been a bit of a hard sell for me. Touted for their Sauvignon Blanc, I haven't been able to fully get on board with the cut grass/pineapple/cat piss thing that is prevalent in so many of these wines.  I always get a little gun-shy when ordering and inevitably hide behind the fort of Old World vinos.  

So, at a recent James Beard wine event, I went into the trenches and put myself in the line of fire.  New Zealand, hit me with your best shot.  (like I went from violent warfare references to cheesy eighties tunes right there? Didja?)

Overall, there was quite a bit of what I expected, but there were a few shining gems that definitely turned my head. The Framingham Classic Riesling, Marlborough, 2011 was one of the first wines I tasted and it held my attention for most of the night.  I started with the Sauvignon Blanc, 2013, and was about to walk away but figured I'd give it's vineyard neighbor a chance, even though this first wine was textbook in all that didn't appeal to me in a Sauv Blanc. I'm glad I gave it a whirl; this Riesling had intruiging notes of charcoal up front with mineral and flint tones immediately following. Fresh peach and lemon took the edge off and although this was technically a dry wine, there was a tingle of residual sugar on the palate.  



Framingham Classic Riesling, 2011.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine

Framingham Classic Riesling, 2011.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine

Waimea Estates presented a noteworthy Gruner Veltliner, 2012. This producer is located in the Nelson region, which has very few wineries, especially in comparison to the vineyard-heavy Marlborough.  However, this wine proves branching out from the popular crowd can lead to something unique. There was nice balance between fruit, body and acidity in this accessible white. 

Waimea Gruner Veltiner, photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks WIne

Waimea Gruner Veltiner, photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks WIne

Astrolabe, who's Sauvignon Blanc I've written about in the past, did not disappoint with the latest vintage, but there were a couple other wines that showed this producer's skill. The Province Pinot Gris, Marlborough, 2013, presented a bouquet of honeysuckle, freesia and other flowery aromatics on the nose.  Apricots also came to light when drinking through this crisp wine.

Their Province Pinot Noir, Marlborough, 2011, was another wine worth considering.  Very New World in style, it was rather fruit forward but still characteristically light bodied, yet had a dusty violet essence that what somewhat reminscent of a Burgundy. 



Astrolabe Wines, photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine

Astrolabe Wines, photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine

Finally, there was VIlla Maria.  One of the most well-regarded wineries in the Marlborough Region, their lineup included delectable whites and reds. Their Cellar Selection Riesling, 2010, was one of the few Rieslings I encountered, besides the Framingham, that had a Germanic tilt to it. Acid? Yep. Citrus and stone fruits? Check.  But it also had a smoky charcoal essence that moved it away from its fruit-driven New World counterparts.  The Reserve Pinot Noir, 2008 and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot Gimlett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, 2008, were two of the best reds tasted all night.  Both in balance, both delicious.


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Keep tasting, friends….