Happy July! I understand that in some parts of the world, summer has arrived. In Chicago it is still oscillating between Spring thaw and Autumn chill. But at some point, there will be a warm enough day to pack up some edibles and take to the outdoors. Maybe a festival? A park? A boat? And in these circumstances, we need wine that travels well and is delicious, correct? I have been taking on the oh so challenging task of sampling some options for portable summer wines. There are a few worth noting. This post is also specifically missing the boxed wine choice. I am not opposed at all times, as there are some good ones out there. But think of the logistics. No one wants wet cardboard in their cooler. Luckily, there are some viable alternatives!
First up: the pouch
We began our little experiment with a wine we had recalled enjoying last summer, the summer of 2014, which was also quite a bit warmer in Chi-town. Perhaps that explains my memory of our voracious consumption from the pouch in the fridge? The heat? Or it was just a different vintage/series of grapes? In any event, the Bonfire Ignite is a white blend of Muscat and Gewurtraminer, sourced from California and made into wine here in Chicago! It comes in a cleverly packaged in a 1.5 liter pouch, replete with the built in spigot. It retails for $15 and is about the equivalent of 2 bottles. This wine was meant to travel. The company also makes a red blend that they call Ember, which is Petite Syrah and Grenache.
I really like the idea of this wine. They have a strong commitment to sustainability, hence the packaging. They have even created a "water vest" made from the same material as their packaging. This vest is being distributed in Haiti and Ethiopia where the carrying of water for survival by women and children is a physically demanding chore. You can read more about it and watch a video on the website. Their headquarters are here in Chicago, which I feel good about when purchasing. It has all the makings of a perfect summer wine.....it was just that I found it to be bit too sweet for a summer sipper. It has a floral nose and gives you peach and lychee on the palate. Too much peach and lychee. Couldn't do it. Had to make it a spritzer. I know. Gasp! And that was even a bit of a stretch as I only had coconut flavor La Croix on hand, thereby adding another tropical element. It was not my preference but I know many a sweet wine fans who would gulp it up. Still, we should all support this company when and where we can. They are doing business with a conscience!
Next up: canned wine
Wait, what? Wine in a can? How do I feel about this? These were the questions that I asked myself when I first encountered such. It is unorthodox. But so has become the world of wine! This entire post is really about innovation. Wine being brought to us in more user-friendly packaging. And let's be honest, novelty attracts us. It draws us in. We ask, "what is that? what does it do?" And then, we want it. The canned wine being reviewed here is not the only being marketed. Again, I am choosing to focus on white and rosé for the sake of summer (oh summer why have you forsaken me?!).
Note: as one can deduce from the photos, I poured all the canned wine into a glass. It could be a different experience if consumed right from the source. Buyer beware.
We were fortunate enough to find that one of our local wine shops was stocked with both the 2014 white and rosé canned options by Field Recordings: Fiction. Both retail for $10.50 in a 500 ml can. I actually reviewed the Pinot Gris in The Andersonville Wine Walk post back in May, so I will not be redundant here, except to comment, that I liked it. I really, really liked it. This is actually the main reason that I wanted to explore their rosé.
The rosé is divine! It is 70% Grenache, 20% Cinsault and 10% Black Muscat, with that last one being rather unparalleled. It has the classic strawberry notes associated with rosé, with bursting fruits of guava and watermelon on the palate. The finish offers an alert tartness and the slightest hint of effervescence. Really fun.
The Underwood rosé exists!
I had planned to stop with the canned wine at that, but as luck would have it, when I happened into a local wine and food shop that I infrequently get to, but very much enjoy: I spotted the Underwood Rosé! I was beginning to think that this wine was a unicorn and I just didn't believe in it enough, because it seemed that everyone had seen it, had it but me (us). The Underwood Pinot Noir in a can became a go-to last summer, for easy transport, music festivals, parks etc. BUT I was eager to give the rosé a whirl. It was actually the 4th of July and warmish weather that day, so we scooped a can and enjoyed it on the porch as Chicagoans blew up the sky. For realz. Home fireworks shows are like a thing here. Terrifying and yet mesmerizing. More wine please!
Let's get down to the brass tax on this Underwood. It is 100% Pinot Noir, which makes sense, given that the grapes come from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. It comes in a 375 ml can and retails for $7.00 per can. It is very drinkable! Strawberry and watermelon, for sure. It has a bit of a candied quality that you find in some rosé. It's good. I would definitely bring it along on an appropriate excursion.
The grand finale: the vial
So now for the really special wine that we added to this mix. This one is a dazzler. Even if the style is not your proclivity, the status, reputation and presentation alone, make it worthwhile. We spied it at a local wine shop that we just happened upon one sunny day. It is a bit out of our way so we have not been back but they have some eccentric offerings, including this one. I saw it and was magnetized instantly. A glass vial of wine. So good! The sales associate noticed my interest and explained why it was packaged that way. I guess the wine company, Balthasar Ress, understanding that the price of a bottle of their wine is often prohibitive for customers ($60-$90), came up with this model. The vial retails at $18 and pours a solid glass and then some for one. We split it, which gave us each a small glass. Plenty to savor!
The wine: 2005 Balthasar Ress Hattenheim Nussbrunnen Riesling Auslese. This wine is 100% Riesling, from the Rheingau in Germany. That is kinda what they do there. The nose is peach. The palate is dried stone fruits swirled in a whipped honey for a creamy mouthfeel. Low on acidity, it is a sweet treat for certain. Delightful. I was happy with the modest portion, as it is on the sweeter side which is not my usual. It is, however a fine wine and the quality comes through. Not sure if this ration would do the trick for those serious riesling lovers, but again, it is an original approach to one of the oldest beverages from one of the oldest, old world producers. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?
Whatever you sip on this summer, may you enjoy it, relax and savor the good life!