Archive for the ‘Wine Gadgets’ Category

Part 7 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Book Review/Recommendation: The New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries

As someone deeply immersed in Wine Country, I am a big fan and reader  of books on Wine History, Viticulture, and all things wine. I  have been meaning to do book reviews for some time, so I was pleased to receive a Media sample Charles E. Olken’s successor to his best-selling guide to California wine.

I have found a lack of  true insider wine region guides for the more experienced wine aficionado. As of 2009, California  had amost three thousand wineries. Indeed, within a 30 mile radius of where I live in Russian River, there are almost two hundred in the three closest AVAs. No matter how much you travel, taste, explore, there is always unexplored territory.

I try to venture to Paso Robles regularly these days, and am eager to re-explore the Santa Ynez region, and am also wanting to delve more into Lodi and Livermore, and in a few weeks making my first sojourn to the Sierra’s so this book presented a real world case to explore for usefulness, thus I was excited to take the time to review and use it.

A Great California Wine Primer

Before getting into specifics on each wine region and winery, the first 6o pages are a very informative background on California Wine, with excellent reading on History, Wine Making, and a commentary and background of the many wine varietals in California. I read a lot of wine books, and still gleaned a lot new tidbits.

A table of acres planted by varietal, from 1970 to 2010 was especially fascinating, and enlightening. (I had no idea Carignane, a great Rhone varietal being rediscovered, had 27,000 acres planted in 1970, and is now down to 3600 acres.)

The last 30 pages also has excellent reference material: suggested reading, suggested wine blogs (I didn’t make the list, maybe next edition) and an excellent section on the ‘Language of Wine.’

Getting to The Meat

The majority of the book is devoted to wine regions, maps, and descriptions of wineries. I find many winery guides to be poor in this area, and no more useful than if I just went to the website for that AVA (wine region.)

The summaries of each region are excellent, and the short paragraph on each winery is customized and personal, not regurgitated from a brochure. It does a good job covering wineries of all shapes and sizes. It is not 100% complete, as no guide likely ever will be. Many of the small cult wineries are covered, although a few like Wind Gap were missing. I found descriptions and tips to be quite accurate.

It’s still worthwhile looking up website information for a complete list of varietals. Quivira Vineyards for example, is lauded for their Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc, but no mention of their Rhone varietals program, (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and a GSM) which is the main reason I personally frequent them. I do like the personal mention and customized highlights of each winery, rather than the usual generic rattling off of what they make.

But Wait, There’s More: Online Support & Updates

Monthly updates to the book are provided via registration. Subscribers are emailed when an update is posted. Embracing social media, the website also publishes a daily blog, with a recurring theme each week. (Monday is ‘Monday Manifestos’, Rants and Opinions, Friday is ‘Friday Getaway Day, Wine Country Destinations, etc etc)

Where to Buy

The book is published by the University of California Press. It’s also available on, as well as local booksellers.

An enjoyable read and invaluable resource for any wine lover, of any experience level.

Highly Recommend – cheers!

The 12 Days of Wine Christmas

Part 1 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Wine Road Winter Wineland, Redwood Foodbank Raffle.
Part 2: “12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Gadget Review of the VinniBag
Part 3 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” – The Wine Check (no, its not money!)
Part 4 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Wine Clubs – A Review of Different Types and Benefits
Part 5 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” The Wine Soirée aerator & Limited Edition L/S
Part 6 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” Lookout Ridge Winery & Wines for Wheelchairs

Part 5 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” The Wine Soirée aerator & Limited Edition L/S

Ten days until Christmas for that hard to shop wine lover. (Or if your like me, a wee present for myself too! )

Wine aerators are popular items these days, and not uncommon to see being used in a Tasting Room. (more restaurants should consider this, although with the new Wine Soiree L/S you can bring your own!

Why Aerate Wine?

First, aeration is generally for reds. There are some whites that improve with oxidation, but usually for most whites I recommend leaving alone, white wine is generally much more sensitive to oxidation.

The whole concept of letting wine breathe, or aerate, is simply maximizing your wine’s exposure to the surrounding air. By allowing wine exposure to air, it will often open up, the flavor profile will soften and mellow out a bit and the overall flavor characteristics should improve. This is often true in younger, and/or bigger more tannic wines.

How NOT To Aerate

The practice in my parents day was to pull the cork and leave the bottle. Aeration is about surface area exposure of liquid to air, and this method accomplishes nothing. A study I read years ago showed a bottle opened and left for 24 hours (nothing poured out) experienced minimal oxidation.

Why Not Just  Dump it In A Decanter?

Lot of reasons; I generally only decant if I have a group of people, or I am committed to the whole bottle that night, and even then I may not, as I may not want it to aerate THAT fast.  Thus enter a wine aerator, where I can do this by the glass.

What is a Wine Soirée?

It sounds like a party in your glass, and while it can be, its certainly more. Soirée fits securely into any wine bottle allowing you to pour, without dripping, directly through the Soirée. While going through the Soirée, the wine gently is exposed to air. Their website has an excellent post on the Soirée Science

Is it Hard to Use?

Open bottle, stick in Soirée, pour, upright. Seriously its about that easy, but for those of you who want proof, click here for a pictorial tutorial.

Where Can I Get One?

Lots of places. Wine Soiree is sold by many wineries, as well as specialty retail stores, and Whole Foods. A complete list is available here. You can also buy it online, for $25, OR $30 giftwrapped, ready to go, perfect!

What is the Wine Soirée L/S?

Wine Industry people travel a fair amount, as do many wine enthusiasts, and we like our wine gadgets with us. (I was given a hard time once on an American Airlines flight for having brought my own Riedel O glass on board.) The standard Wine Soirée isn’t well suited for travel.

Voila – the new L/S was introduced to enable you to take it on flights, to your local restaurant, dinner party or your friends house that buys low end young plonk Cabernet that desperately needs some aeration.

This is an awesome stocking stuffer or gift. Available only online,  in limited quantities for 49.99.

Enjoy, and cheers!

The 12 Days of Wine Christmas

Part 1 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Wine Road Winter Wineland, Redwood Foodbank Raffle.

Part 2: “12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Gadget Review of the VinniBag

Part 3 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” – The Wine Check (no, its not money!)

Part 4 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Wine Clubs – A Review of Different Types and Benefits

Part 3 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” – The Wine Check (no, its not money!)

Hmmm 11 days until Christmas, look for a few double posts per day soon!

Continuing on our series of gifts for wine lovers, today we look at a very cool, reasonably priced item; ‘The Wine Check.’

Checking a case of wine is more and more common these days, given FAA carry-on restrictions. Both industry and consumer do it; and some airlines like Horizon Air don’t even charge a fee to check on its Santa Rosa to Portland route.
I checking shipping wine; in summer months especially; stay away from the hot Brown UPS truck!

As someone who has toted a shipper box quite a few times; it’s a hassle! Shippers are heavy, and don’t play well with other luggage, especially if you are solo, checking in a rental car, etc.

The Wine Check is perfect, it has double layers of insulation and padding; one from the case Styrofoam insert, and one from the padded, insulated case. Best of all, it has a handle and wheels! When you and your wine get safely home, it collapses and can be stored until the next trip.

The Wine Check can be ordered online at and is only $49 without shipper box, $54 with. (Suggest latter.)

It can also be picked up at a number of Napa & Sonoma hotels, check a list here, or call 707-343-9463.

Get your wine home, faster, safer and easier – love it!

Cheers and come back tomorrow for more of the Series!

The 12 Days of Wine Christmas:

Part 1 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Wine Road Winter Wineland, Redwood Foodbank Raffle.

Part 2: “12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Gadget Review of the VinniBag

Part 2: “12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Gadget Review of the VinniBag

As someone who travels a fair amount for work (the ‘other’ job) I was delighted to get a sample of VinniBag to test out. Given you can’t take bottles through security anymore, checking a bottle of wine, isn’t uncommon for me. Wine bottles are fairly sturdy, but luggage takes some serious abuse in handling, and just tossing a bottle into the bag, risks breakage and ruining everything.

Actually they point out on their website quite accurately, one need not limit it to wine. Almost any glass container would travel more safely in this.

The geek in me loves the technical details:

“VinniBag was engineered specifically to withstand air travel and high altitudes. The design and materials allow for significant changes in air pressure and temperatures. Sophisticated testing was done at an independent test lab using altitude chambers that surpass normal conditions in aircraft cargo holds.VinniBag can also handle some pretty tough temperatures. The important part is to load, inflate & deflate VinniBag in normal temperatures for proper performance.”

Deflated, the bag is small, as you can see, sitting next to a Riedel O glass.

This is a very easy product to use, nonetheless instructions are provided on a leaflet with picture, and simple ones are also on the bag.

1. Insert the Wine Bottle, to where it says ‘Stop Here’. Partially inflate, flatten the bottom seal.

2. Roll bottom portion up and buckle. Finish inflation. Voila.

Check out a funny, great video of Vinnibag in action.

When you get your bottle home, simply de-inflate, open and enjoy. This sturdy item is re-usable.

Vinnibag is available online, or at these retail stores and wineries.

Under $30 is a great, inexpensive gift any wine aficionado will find useful.

Cheers, and come back soon for Part 3!

Transform Your Wine Room Using Wine Cellar Accessories

Wine cellar accessories are wonderful additions to any wine room both for their functionality and added detail to the cellar’s interior design. Our favorite accessories include chillers and coolers, decorative metal or wooden wine racks, wine holders, corkscrews and bottle openers, and wine bar coding system, among others.

Wine coolers and wine chillers are important especially when you have a wine counter or mini bar inside the cellar. These are used for pre-cooling or pre-chilling of drinks to prepare it for serving. Wine chillers and coolers vary in sizes. If wines are served for commercial purposes, bigger capacity maybe needed.

12 Bottle Wine RackFree standing or wall mounted wine racks and holders can also be very decorative, at the same time, functional. It can hold several bottles for display on top of the bar counter. There are varieties of wonderful designs for wine racks available in the market. One can even choose to have a single-bottle capacity arched wine rack to display cherished or valuable wine collection.

Corkscrews and bottle openers are essentials in wine rooms. There are decorative corkers and openers which you can playfully have for fun and added style. These types of decorative wine accessories are perfect for special occasions, parties and other important occasions.

The wine bar coding system is also a practical thing to have to track down additional or consumed wine bottles. This is especially helpful for inventory purposes in commercial wine cellars. But collectors can also adopt this system. The bar coding system is very simple to use. The barcode tags can be personalized. Collectors can add more information on the tags. Personalized quotes or whatever they want to label on their collections can also be used.

Wine cellars must have these accessories for easy tracking of the wine collection, systematic serving and added magnificence of the room.

Author: Kristi loves working for Wine Cellar Innovations as it enables her to socialize with wine lovers around the Internet.  If you have any questions about wine storage, feel free to contact us, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook. We love to help!

Wine Gadget Review: The Wine Spike – “Don’t Spill Your Wine – Spike it!”

The World of Social Media can be funny; I can post the most serious, (self perceived) insightful post or blog and get little response, and then sometimes get large immediate responses to random things.

Last Tuesday at the weekly Healdsburg Music on the Square, I posted this pic and comment:

Love my wine spike :)

And got 5 responses back on Twitter in seconds and 3 on Facebook.

This was enough to spur me into action for an idea I have been percolating for awhile: Wine Gadget reviews. I am a closet geek and love gadgets; both techie and conventional. Lately I have also been approached for input on iPhone apps, gadgets etc and thought why not share these with readers, so tada, welcome to the new feature.

I stumbled across the Wine Spike some months ago on their Facebook site. At that time they didn’t have online ordering, and being the busy geek that I am, waited until they did. Luckily this was on time for the many Outdoor musics events we have Sonoma, including the one I am going to all afternoon today in Petaluma.

“Please drink responsibly, use a Wine, Beer, or Beverage Spike!”

This is the slogan for the product on their web page, along with things like “Don’t Spill Your Wine – Spike it!”

The wine spikes come in a variety of price points, styles, colors. There are (as of now) clearance spikes starting as low as $10, to $35 for premium, with a wide range in between. Spikes can be ordered as single or double glass holders, and even have a stand option so can be used indoors.There is a wide array of colors, designs (expanded since I bought mine) and wood tones. You can even have them customized with your company’s logo.

How Do They Work

I bought two singles and one double to test. I wasn’t sure how some of the colors would look with the wood, so went for a natural wood tone. They are relatively lightweight, but well constructed. The Spike is solid, and once pushed into the ground, is firmly planted.

This won’t win an Academy award, but I thought a little film demonstration might be fun.

Even larger glasses fairly full aren’t going anywhere. Playing around, I discovered stemless glasses like Riedel O series and GoVino can rest ok on the top of these…if the round hole was a tad larger would fit more securely, but its still better than sitting it on the grass.


Save the plastic tubing they ship with; the spikes aren’t razor sharp, but are designed to stick in the ground, and could poke through a bag or backpack. I wrap mine in a towel or the blanket.


I’d like to see an all wire metal frame version, maybe with a tribal or SouthWestern Kokopelli US kinda of theme.


I couldn’t be more pleased and will be putting to maximum use today at the Petaluma Music Festival.

Upcoming Reviews:

I have a few more in my hopper, and am taking reader requests/input, and samples for future articles. Next few planned are:

  • Wine storage containers/bags for travel
  • Portable stemware (am seeking containers as well; why Riedel doesn’t have a hard case for ‘O” escapes me.
  • Wine aeration devices: Vinturi, Wine Soiree, etc

Hope you enjoy; feel free to ask questions, make comments below – cheers!

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