Amtrak is known for many things but jovial passengers is not foremost among them.
Last Friday, a train from NYC to DC was waylaid with problems, causing a six-hour delay. One of the passengers was Paul Goldschmidt, owner of the right-bank estate Chateau Siaurac. Goldschmidt was on his way to a tasting at a DC wine store. When it became apparent that he wasn’t going to make the event, he uncorked his wines and started pouring them for the passengers in an impromptu tasting. By the end, the passengers were singing “La Marseillaise.” And all this transpired in the quiet car!
Here endeth the feel-good story of the day.
The TSA, in its infinite wisdom, has deemed corkscrews (with small foil-cutting blades as seen at right) safe to bring on planes again.
And knives! (Blades must be under 6 cm.) And whiffle ball bats, hockey sticks, golf clubs, and other items that will be fun to see jostling for space in the overhead bins.
But the big question for wine geeks is: can we please get our confiscated corkscrews back now? Oh, and when will the liquids ban be over?
“TSA Will Permit Knives, Golf Clubs on U.S. Planes” [Bloomberg]
If you’re thinking of doing the rounds at en primeur in Bordeaux, or domaine hopping in Burgundy, forget the corkscrew: the one essential thing you’ll need if you’re behind the wheel is a breathalyzer.
New legislation goes into effect in July (though enforcement with a $23 fine for not having one won’t begin until November) that requires all cares, even rentals to have a new, disposable breathalyzer in the vehicle.
France has been cracking down on drunken driving. It became an issue briefly in the last presidential campaign yet road fatalities have remained high. And it’s election year again in France and President Sarkozy is a teetotaler, law and order type. France is now the first country in the world to have such a law on the books.
It’s not as restrictive as an “alcolock” that would require a clean breathalyzer test before being able to start the ignition. The aim is to boost awareness; the blood alcohol level is 0.05%. Being caught above 0.08% BAC (the limit in many states in the US) could result in a $6,000 fine and jail time.
Heading to visit a non-wine friend who graciously offered to pick something up for us. I don’t know the market in Florida and she didn’t indicate that she wanted to go to a specialty shop (that’s fine–not everyone can take our habit as seriously as we do). So what’s the best I could ask her to pick up at a supermarket?
It is generous of your friend to give you such a warm, Florida welcome. But it is really hard to know what’s at the store she is going to as the selection could range from dire to quite acceptable. Maybe try a throwing out a Champagne name since there are some good ones that may be available and, at least, it will add to the celebratory air. Or a domestic sparkler, such as Roederer Estate? Of course, it depends what you like or are in the mood for, too.
Perhaps the best idea is carefully put a nice bottle in your checked luggage. It will get a tossed around in transit, obviously, so make it still and make it young. Also, when visiting a different state, I always like to check out wine shops to see what their selection and pricing is like. Sometimes I find wines that I don’t see a lot at home. And when you’re on the ground, you might have a better idea of what your dinner plans are or what the weather is going to be to make a great selection. So put a shop on your first day’s itinerary, if you can.
Have you ever been itching to carry a bottle of Petrus and a can of Red Bull on a plane? Thanks to researchers at UC Davis, that might be possible. (However, as we discussed previously, don’t think you’ll be allowed to openly serve yourself the Petrus on board.)
The researchers may be able to take scanners they developed to study spoilage in unopened bottles of wine and use that technology to differentiate between explosives and toothpaste and bottles of water in travelers carry-ons. In the above video, found via the good folks at Upgrade: Travel Better, they demonstrate their scanning device with a bottle of ’79 Petrus and a can of Red Bull (hopefully not mixed together afterward!).
In its wine application, the device was originally built to test for oxidation through the presence of acetic acid and acetaldehyde, according to Augustine’s page. There’s certainly a market for that, but it has to be small compared to the market for testing an unopened bottle for TCA (often referred to as cork taint). After Augustine is done counting his millions from solving the security problems of the TSA, maybe he could turn his research to detecting TCA, which would be a boon for wineries and wine enthusiasts alike.
If there’s one thing that frustrates wine enthusiasts when traveling by air–and, no, we’re not including pat-downs–it’s the liquids ban. Take wine enthusiasts, put them in a giant metal tube for hours on end, thrust their knees into the seat back in front of them and then attempt to ply them with tiny bottles of undifferentiated, $8 wine (credit cards only, please!).
A possible end to the liquids ban was floated a few weeks ago and with it the prospect of salvation for wine enthusiasts on planes. But Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security chief, threw her own Ziploc of cold water on the idea.
Odd as it may seem, there are some options to BYOW on board. Domestically, there are a few wine shops beyond security, such as the chain of Vino Volo locations or the Yadkin Valley wine shop in Charlotte, that sell wine to go. Pick up a bottle at one of these and it will be more fun than a grande latte–as long as you just like looking at the latte, that is. According to Mark Ashley, editor of Upgrade: Travel Better and our Senior Wine and Planes Correspondent, FAA regulations require flight attendants to pour all alcohol onboard planes. He says that back in a bygone era of travel, the flight attendants might have cooperated with a wink and a nod if asked to pour a passenger’s wine for them. But today, he says that is unlikely given the rise in unruly passengers and the general peevishness of the in-flight crew.
The ideal for flying with wine would be to bring a bottle from home. No airport markups. Better selection. But the only place that is going to happen is a foreign country. Japan has allowed liquids on planes (for domestic flights only) since introducing liquid bomb detectors in 2006 (!). Mark Ashley says that another country that allows liquids on board domestic flights is New Zealand, though he is unsure of whether the alcohol consumption policies in these two countries are set nationally or are airline policy.
One indication came on Twitter last year when Hristo Zisovski, a New York-based sommelier, tweeted, “Just got onto the plane carrying a open, half full bottle of Pinot Noir. Gotta love NZ airlines!”
What are your experiences, tips or thoughts about upgrading wine in flight? And please, belts off, shoes off, jackets off as you approach the comments section.
Related: “HOW TO: successfully check wine on a plane“
I’m just back from a few days in the woods, largely free of wifi and cell phone access. One evening, after a day of swimming and fishing, we were able to relax with some relatives and a glass of wine. Or perhaps I should say a cup of wine since the cabin where we were staying didn’t have any wine glasses. I uncorked a 2006 “La Croix Picot,” a Savennieres from Domaine Jo Pithon, poured it into 16-ounce green glasses, and passed them around. Even our two-year-old son laughed at the lack of wine glasses!
The assembled crew thought it was a terrific wine, despite the lack of stemware, with good acidity, white flowers and a dry honeycomb note. I guess sometimes the glassware can’t hold a good wine back. Did you have any wine in extreme circumstances over the Fourth?
Unfortunately, even with stemware, it would be hard to replicate the tasting since Domaine Jo Pithon no longer exists. The man, Jo Pithon, however does still exist and is now making wine under the label Pithon-Paillé with his step-son Joseph.
Evan Dawson, who writes about Finger Lakes wines for the New York Cork Report (and who we last saw here), recently tweeted that he was in Napa. I asked him if he wanted to contribute a post from his travels and he suggested his stop at Mayacamas Vineyards. Today we have his thoughts. Tomorrow, John Gilman offers his tasting notes on several decades’ of Mayacamas wines.
By Evan Dawson
Whither Napa Cabernet? The economy dealt a blow to the iconic American wine as consumers started reaching for less expensive bottles. Now, a growing number of critics and consumers, including those in California, are openly wondering if the Napa Cabernet train has come off the rails: commentator Dan Berger, for one, last week dismissed California Cabernet as “little more than a parody of itself.”
High up the side of Mount Veeder one sunny but cool, midwinter morning a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t help wondering if the way back might offer ideas for Napa’s way forward. After all, the Cabernets of the 1970s helped put Napa on the world wine map, so it seemed reasonable to wonder if in wine, as in fashion, the past could provide inspiration.
To find one answer to this question, I had ventured to the Maycamas Vineyards. Celebrated in the 1970s as a leading producer of Cabernet, I was curious if the once-hot style would seem as out of place as bell bottoms or as appealing as Mad Men. After all, not much had changed there. Read more…