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You are a “typical” wine drinker in the United States if you are a college-educated white woman who is married, and in her 40’s. You call either the Northeast or somewhere on the Pacific Coast home. Your “go to” wine is white, and you enjoy it mostly in your own home, with dinner. That’s odd, because your household income is higher than the national average, so you can afford to dine out . . .

The kind of glass from which you drink, and how the wine is poured, affects how much you drink. Researchers observed wine drinkers during “typical” happy hour settings and learned that if we held on to our wine glass, rather than putting the glass down occasionally, we actually drank more. When a wide-mouthed wine glass is used in lieu of a narrower vessel, most people poured nearly 12% more wine into their glass. Both habits allowed the wine drinker to drink more without realizing it.

Ever wonder what the tiny chalice a sommelier wears on a chain around his neck is actually for? Typically found in upper-class establishments rather than run-of-the-mill restaurants, it is a small tray or (French) demitasse that the wine steward can use to sample a wine before serving it to his customer. This old time wine custom originated in France at a time when not all wines were successfully bottled. The cup is typically called a “Tassevin.”

Curious about the cellar life of different wine varieties? Wines purchased now typically have the make-up to last three to five years (or more) when cellared properly. Syrahs and Zinfandels are smart buys if you want to age past the five year mark. Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots age even longer. Some foreign wines, particularly of Spanish heritage, weather well into the next decade. Typically, white wines are short-term, expiring before their fourth anniversary, though there are exceptions.

When/why does a cellared wine need to lie down or be stood up? Typically speaking, a wine committed to extended cellaring should be placed on its side and turned one-quarter turn every 18 to 24 months. The exceptions being: 1) if any bottle appears to be leaking (drips from the cap or cork), it should be stood upright for two to three months before laying on its side, giving the cork a chance to harden and reset; 2) twist caps (which are becoming more popular) are best stored standing; and 3) if a corked wine bottle starts to emit either musty or moldy fragrances, immediately stand these bottles upright and do not lay them down again.

VINO SAN ESTEBAN — MALBEC RESERVE (Vintage 2013, Red) Country: France  Region: Cotes du Lot  Grape: Malbec

Cotes du Lot is the IGP (Indication Geographique Protegee) wine making area named for the Lot River which flows through it. The Lot department is located in southwest France, southeast of Bordeaux. Perhaps you are familiar with the Vin de Pays du Lot, which was the name of this area prior to 2009. This change brought the French wine labeling in line with European Union standards.

The area has a largely maritime climate that takes influences from both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. A rainy spring season provides plentiful hydration for vineyards throughout the year, and hot, sunny summers and long, warm autumns provide a lengthy ripening period. Most Lot vineyards are found in the river valleys where the alluvial terroir is well suited to viticulture.

It is here that the black-skinned Malbec grapes are grown to make this intensely red wine. Aromas of violets, blackberries, blueberries and just a touch of vanilla greet the nose. A bit rustic, this 100% Malbec nectar has round flavors and soft tannins.

Serve this enjoyable BBQ wine at room temperature or slightly chilled if so desired, with sausages, burgers, rotisserie chicken, pork ribs or with any variety of your favorite pasta dishes.

Vino San Esteban Malbec Reserve:

MALBEC — This red-fruit grape is traditionally used in Bordeaux blends to enhance both color and significant tannin. Notably grown in Mediterranean regions but successfully grown elsewhere, this was the grape responsible for the legendary “Black Wine of Cohors” of nineteenth century fame. With a thick skin rich in color pigments, small amounts of Malbec are traditionally used to color correct and balance the acidity of blended wines. A native of south-western France, the Malbec grape typically ripens midway through the growing season and produces small, intensely colored grapes. Sensitive to its growing environment, the level of ripeness has a considerable effect on the structure of the eventual wine. As a stand-alone component, Malbec wines are outstanding.

VICTOR VINEYARDS — CHARDONNAY (Vintage 2012, White) Country: USA  Region: Victor, California (near Lodi)  Grape: Chardonnay

The town of Victor traces its beginnings to German immigrants who had settled in North Dakota. They heard about a place in California that had good sandy soil that was suitable for vineyards and orchards. So they loaded up their wagons and migrated to the Lodi area in 1897 and set out to start a new life. Within a few years, the railroad arrived, making Victor Fruit Growers famous for supplying east coast cities with fresh fruit, including grapes needed for wine making.

Current owner, Robert Lawson, purchased 90 acres in the area, known as the Lawson Ranch in 1993, and continued to supply grapes to some of the best wineries in the U.S.  In 1999 he purchased the historic Victor Fruit Company location and proceeded to realize his dream of crafting wines he could call his own, utilizing some vines that are decades old. The winery at Lawson Ranch blended 100% Chardonnay grapes from the Upper and Lower Vineyards to achieve success with their lovely golden yellow Chardonnay.

Alluringly crisp, it has flavors of apple, pear, peach and vanilla, with hints of toasted French Oak. The wine is ready to drink now, chilled, with richly sauced chicken dishes, buttery boiled lobster tail or lemon buttered sauteed scallops.

Victor Vineyards Chardonnay:

CHARDONNAY GRAPES — This, the finest dry white wine grape in the world, grows successfully in virtually every commercial winemaking area, including California. Not only is it the producer of the great white Burgundies, it is one of the three major grapes used in champagne. It’s a relished “ingredient grape,” and an overachiever when bottled alone. With perfect growing conditions, the quality is unequaled.

VICTOR VINEYARDS — CABERNET SAUVIGNON (Vintage 2011, Red) Country: USA  Region: Victor, CA (near Lodi)  Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon & Petite Sirah

The town of Victor traces its beginnings to German immigrants who had settled in North Dakota. They heard about a place in California that had good sandy soil that was suitable for vineyards and orchards. So they loaded up their wagons and migrated to the Lodi area in 1897 and set out to start a new life. Within a few years, the railroad arrived, making Victor Fruit Growers famous for supplying east coast cities with fresh fruit, including grapes needed for wine making.

Current owner, Robert Lawson, purchased 90 acres in the area, known as the Lawson Ranch in 1993, and continued to supply grapes to some of the best wineries in the U.S.  In 1999 he purchased the historic Victor Fruit Company location and proceeded to realize his dream of crafting wines he could call his own, utilizing some vines that are decades old. The winery at Lawson Ranch blended 88% Cabernet Sauvignon with 12% Petite Sirah from their select family-owned vineyard partners to produce their richly elegant Cabernet Sauvignon.

Powerful and full-bodied, it delivers ripe black cherry, blackberry and currant flavors layered with hints of cocoa, dried herbs, black peppercorn and toasted oak. Enjoy it now at room temperature, with pasta, grilled meat roasts and aged cheeses.

Victor Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon:

CABERNET SAUVIGNON — The dominant grape in Bordeaux, it is widely planted in California, and is big in Chile. The fruit is small, dark, thick skinned; late-maturing and needs warmth to prosper. It makes wines that are high in tannin, and medium to full bodied. The aroma and flavor is described as black currant or cassis.

PETITE SIRAH (aka SYRAH) — Blessed with aromas of fresh black and blue fruits, it makes a nectar that’s big, rich and tannic — a virtual fruit showcase in a bottle. In blends, it brings out the best in the dominant grape variety, enhancing both richness and tannins.

BEL VENETO — PINOT GRIGIO (Vintage 2014, White)  Country: Italy  Region: Veneto  Grape: Pinot Grigio

The Veneto is a region located in the Northeast of the Italian Peninsula, and is one of  Italy’s leading wine producers. Bel Veneto Pinot Grigio is produced in the Central Hills of the Veneto, a zone made up mostly of low hills and plains built on gravel.

The selection from Bel Veneto is 100% Pinot Grigio juice from grapes picked in the beginning of September in the early morning, which retains the freshness and varietal characteristics. They are immediately soft pressed. Fermentation takes place at controlled temperatures in stainless steel tanks. The wine is kept in tanks that are carefully temperature controlled until the end of February, when it is bottled.

Light straw yellow with greenish shades, this wine is elegant in the glass. It is characterized by a delicate fruity bouquet with notes of field flowers, apples and pears. Light bodied, dry and elegant, note the soft texture and pleasingly slightly bitter finish. We encourage you to enjoy it now — it’s too good to wait! Serve chilled as an aperitif or with canapés, light pasta dishes, grilled fish or sauteed vegetables.

Bel Veneto Pinot Grigio:

PINOT GRIGIO GRAPES — Also identified with the names Pinot Gris and Rulander, this white grape with a hint of lavender is capable of producing rich, complex wines of superior quality. Its spiciness is seldom encountered in other varieties. This grape is responsible for many grand flavored, sweet fortified wines produced throughout the world with hues from white to slightly pink in color. The skin is more hued than most other whites, but be assured the grape is a true white. It originated in France as a mutation of Pinot Noir.

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Tracie Burket
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