Posted this to The Twitterz.  In addition to sipping for a cause -- equality, in this case -- you're getting double the value for your dollar with proceeds donated to equality non-profits!  The link contains a list of wineries participating (and perhaps something to sip when celebrating/drowning disappointment with the impending Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage).
 
 
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Bulldog London Dry Gin, $29.99
Bless him, Bert, but cleaning the chimneys of London would have been less dusty with lyrical gin to sing and dance atop the tiled roofs of 1910. And frankly, living in an age when "pornography" was the equivalent of late night Al-Jazeera -- the flash of an ankle -- would likely drive anyone to drink.

I call this a "missionary gin", and not just for its flexibility. Every sip will preach the integrity of the gin gospel and convert the hardened liquored hearts of the vodka and basic spirit's faiths, i.e., if you didn't like it before, gin will become your new "favorite thing" faster than Oprah can hand out free stuff to housewives and their gay BFFs.

Flannery O'Connor nearly had it right but my own experience has found 'A Good Gin is Hard to Find'. The options are limited as the mainstream market is dominated by Bombay, Tanqueray, and Beefeater, with odd bits sprinkled in between. There's hasn't been a significant increase of gin drinkers in the last decade, but the proud band that exist have come to prefer better, complex options, tired of the decent, though basic mainstream brands. There are a number of new, boutique gins produced in smaller batches, often using traditional copper distillation pots and marketing to upper-end on and off premise locations (bars & stores).

Gin is a basic, elementary liquor made from Juniper berries, which is what "gin" means in French and Dutch (derived). The remaining contents are a neutral grain spirit (somewhat like moonshine) with aromatics of any sort added, though the predominant flavor must be Juniper. The minimum alcohol content must be 40% in the US but usually averages a smidge higher. Good gin should be enjoyed with soda or tonic water and/or a few large ice cubes. Crappy gin should be enjoyed wearing a clothes pin on your nose.

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Punny jewelry: it comes with dog tags!
WINEBOY'S TASTING NOTES:
Bulldog Gin is named for Sir Winston Churchill and, as the tagline boldly states, "Not your grandfather's gin." And to give credit where it's due, this is a highly modernized, boldly aromatic gin for a generation of drinkers accustomed to exotic flavors, unique provenances, and specialized recipes; an Epicurean bar set higher by the Internet, celebrity chefs, and a commercial culture ruled by consumers. It does not disappoint and was an answer to my own prayers as a wine drinker who needs a nose, a little dance happening on the palate and a residual finish that isn't alcoholic. With 12 botanicals including Dragon Eye, a relative of Lychee fruit, its more flavorful than most gins without a Sacchrin-like cheeseyness while the mouth-feel is solid but the palate is hardly weighed down by an aftertaste beyond a generously clean finish. -- WW

 
 
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Central Park or Jurassic Park, either one.
Pints in the park, tank tops and stoop drinking, the love children of summer! But we all know the old saying, "Sh*t! Cops! *tosses drink into the hedges*". It's almost as bad as the word "No", my least favorite. According to the Internets, in New York City, one cannot be fined nor cited unless the officer knows the brand of alcohol (it's a long story based on an old law less exciting than sodomy so we won't bother with it).
Read about it via Gothamist, here.
 
Is this true in your city? Other than New Orleans and Savannah, I'm not aware of other "open container" cities, but the above loophole certainly opens our possibilities. Let me know what the laws are in your town! 
ryan @ wineboywegman dot com

 
 
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My "burnt Ben Hur" motif.
Gérard Bertrand, Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre, Corbières, 2010 $14.99
Wine writing becomes a challenge with a producer such as Mons. Bertrand: the owner, whose namesake is the label, is a dashingly handsome French rugby player, he's established premium plots throughout the South of France, but it wasn't enough to produce top tier wines at high value price points. He had to create a mini Ganesvoort of wine tourism and hospitality that answers the dreams of us all: posh interiors with tres modern flare, views of the Mediterranean, with a magnum of wine waiting and the promise of magic in your room. Gérard isn't your average high school crush or big "homme" on campus: he's the guy your significant other fantasizes about when you've gotten fat. The aforementioned challenge is to discuss the wine when his narrative "got sauce". As for seeing the insanely gorgeous properties and "wine hotel", cliquez ici.

Corbières is an enormous (the largest) appellation in the Languedoc region in the southeast of France. With size such as this, the variety of wine styles produced varies based on numerous microclimates found within its borders. The style of Bertrand's is distinct and, as groupies of southern French wine will notice, captures the terroir in a way many of the shinier priced wines do at half the cost. I often call Southern French bottles "swamp a*s" wines. The aromas in the region tend toward the gamier side with vivid shots of tar, wet leather, and vegetal characteristics including wild mushrooms with a side of bog and onions. While this may not sound terribly appetizing, its flavors are thick with chalk and heavily concentrated fruits that you never forget and instantly crave, the way one pines for the hottest salsa or exotic spices. Wines have been produced here for centuries, though as of a decade ago, bottles from down yonder were basically free. But as the makers of yore began to see the benefit in something French wine producers notoriously loathe, "marketing", the secret got out. Technology and methods improved and Gerard Bertrand is an excellent incarnation of how "the past is prologue", in a glass.

TASTING NOTES:
Using the terroir of Corbières with a recipe from its Southern Rhône neighbor -- a blend of Grenche, Syrah, and Mourvèdre -- Gérard Bertrand takes us to the cliffs of the Mediterranean but hardly leaves us hanging. With a very distinct embrace of the native terroir, the vegetal character of these gamier soils is perfectly married to the Atlantic mists of salt and complex minerals. While one could easily confuse this wine for an "edgy, youthful Gigondas", it doesn't shirk from its unique identity, void of Carignan, and contains ample black fruit that is richly concentrated (13.5% ABV, too!). I day dream of this with duck but would easily hide in a closet and sip it with fried flounder. -- WW

 
 
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Wine always needs tassels.
The Divining Rod Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley 2010 $19.99
Eschatology (ala Wikipedia): The department of theological science concerned with ‘the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. In the context of mysticism, the phrase refers metaphorically to the end of ordinary reality and reunion with the Divine.

As a former seminarian (surprise!), the above was like using "a", "an", or "the" on a daily basis. 

The Divining Rod comes to us from Marc Mondavi (yes, that Mondavi) who is known as a "water witch".  He has the ability to locate water underground using a "divining rod" and determine how much is there, the strength of flow, and the best place to plant vines. It turns out he's been doing it for over 40 years and he's famous for it. You could say he, technically, has the ability to turn water into wine! And yes, you could probably hire him for your wedding (zing!).

The label itself is a rather neato piece of art with an all seeing eye in the palm of a hand, Masonic in character with  divine rays extending out like heavenly eyelashes, the harnessed power required to guide these instruments used to locate water below ground.

TASTING NOTES
From my beloved Alexander Valley comes this 90 pt. wine (The Tasting Panel Magazine) with a strikingly long finish and very healthy fruit. For its price, it's an excellent value and, as I found by letting it stand open all day (part of the usual WW taste test), its survival indicates ample extract and care in producing noble fruit. There are unique flavors beyond fruit that I couldn't pinpoint, then read 7% of the wine is "a little magic", blending other Bordelais varieties such as Malbec, Cab Franc, and Merlot. Totally weird and different, buy it, talk about it, drink it. More than a beverage, it's a reasonably priced conversation piece and beats talking about the Kardashians.

And do check out their website. It has the look of an online Ouija board meets imbibing like a renaissance pope  meets Amazon.com (you can "buy stuff").

 
 
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Hopefully.
Overwhelmed and depressed by the number of aggregate sites (Buzzfeed, HuffPo, Gawker, Daily Beast, etc.) creating "lists", I found wine wasn't well represented in the continuation and slow death of writing and The Attention Span. The lists are countless and include, "Top 10 reasons NYC isn't as great as you think it is"(I actually like this one), "23 Reasons why parents are basically giant children", "15 terrible blackface fashion moments", "The 13 most sexually aggressive cartoon characters", "The 7 types of internet lists" (yes, there are even lists of freaking lists), etc.  So here's some justice for our favorite liquid hero:

1. Wine Ages Better Than Jane Fonda and Can Do the Same For You
Wine was first discovered in old skins in modern day Georgia (Republic of) dating from about 7500 BC. Simultaneously, wine was being cultivated in modern day Iran and surrounding areas and word spread across empires. Today, though wine is made to be consumed sooner than in the last century of production, average shelf life is around 10 years for a healthy wine. TRIVIA: Because of its sugar content, well made whites age better than reds! The sugar acts as a preservative. Sadly, eating Sour Patches will not do the same for you and me. But Resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, and antioxidants, have been proven to improve aging and extend your life. So drink up!

2. A Lack of Champagne Killed Louis XIV
Louis XIV, the Sun King and modernizer of France, the man who gave us Haute Couture, modern gossip rags, standards for wine production, Versailles, science sans superstition, and my favorite historical hero, François Vatel, was prescribed Champagne throughout his life by his doctor, a native of the region. Toward the end of his life, he became ill and his doctor was unable to determine the cause. The royal council chose a new doctor hoping to heal him and, a native of Burgundy, the doctor immediately switched him to Burgundian wine. Louis XIV dropped dead days later from a broken heart. What a drama king. But don't suffer the same fate.

3. Wine Pairs with Everything. Rosé + Captain Crunch = Holy Sh*tballs
Other than Marijuana, nothing goes with Captain Crunch. Wine, because of its make-up of five major components, acid, tannin, alcohol, sugar, and water, it really doesn't get more universal than that. This is what allows you to pair your wines with ease to food, though some pairings are better than others. And we see why chilling wine can benefit lighter foods given it causes a contraction in the molecules of each allowing more flavor from the food and restraint from the larger notes of the wine, e.g., try chilled Pinot Noir with fish (but after you try rose with Captain Crunch!).

4. Wine is Making Americans Richer and Far More Interesting
The United States became the #1 importer of wine in the world as of 2011! Neither recession, sequester, nor masturbation will slow it down, either. And as the world's consumption increases, our rate of export grows in tandem making us wealthier in the process. Part of this dual growth stems from its incorporation into daily life more readily than as an "occasional" item. A major stake in a restaurant's rating and seriousness is held in its wine program. Even 20 years ago, this wasn't as much a consideration. Schools have cropped up across the US as a cottage industrial complex catering to consumers seeking education and understanding ranging from their wine retailer's shelf, restaurant wine lists, and to improve social graces. And as demand has increased, wine production is now found in all 50 states giving rise to wine tourism and growing exports to other nations! And this very website. Even with its growth, the wine industry remains immensely underdeveloped for its potential and is constantly searching for entrepreneurs, particularly in the tech realm, to improve and grow the industry.  There's ample room for growth if you're creative and can catch its bug of passion.

5. Wine is the Ultimate Networking Tool/Wine Goggles Work Faster Than Their Beer Counterpart
Wine is the unwritten rule in any modern business networking setting. While happy hours usually consist of a few bottles chosen by HR or a pre-selected list at a local watering hole, knowing the names of a grapes to order is a "must". Taking it to the next level, particularly when recruiting business or closing a deal, dinners where the wine list is whipped out are the instant way to saying "I have a big d*ck and my business isn't afraid to use it." When the aged Bordeaux and cult Californian bottles flow, "no" becomes more difficult to utter in response to "the ask" of business proposals. So gird yourself with appropriate knowledge (or preview the list ahead of time on the restaurant's website and learn EVERYTHING you can about the bottle you intend to choose, letting the knowledge flow off your tongue like children to the candy man during dinner) if you intend to impress the big client and walk away with their life savings in your pocket. And when cutting a deal in the business of sex, if the choices are closer to mutant bitches, ugly and with attitude, or you need the courage to feel less like a hunchback when approaching the hottest person in the room, the quick swig of your favorite grape will delete the layers of fear toward either and increase the size of your own penis/boobs (at least in your head).

Have an addition? E-mail/Tweet me! Ryan at wineboywegman dot com, @wineboywegman


 
 
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My roommate is also a wine professional, one I've worked with for over six years since my start back in the days of promoting French wine and spirits in major US markets.  A very easy job considering the product, and one that was too fun to be an "occupation".

He has a thirst as large as mine but a food curiousity that's contagious.  In deference to a minimal calorie lifestyle (outside liquids), I usually stick to a regimen of yogurt, cereal, and binge on pizza and wings Sunday night with 'Bob's Burgers'.
  
He's introduced me to a spice company out of Wisconsin called Penzeys.  They're a mail-order biz with a clear difference from major brands in the grocery store: the scent and taste have a defined edge and are clearly distinguishable, one from another. They conjure a scene. I envision Columbus' return to Queen Isabella, kneeling before her with an offering of cajun chicken as 'Te Deum' trumpets from churches. 

You stick a whole chicken on top of a can half full of beer (I used Pork Slap Pale Ale) after rubbing it in spices -- here I used a rub from Penzeys, a combo of paprika and other spices -- and bake in the oven on 425F. Essentially, the chicken self-bastes itself by boiling out of the can during roasting and the chicken absorbs the beers deliciously.  I threw in two cloves of garlic because I'm a famous lily gilder.  I served grilled portabellas and broiled Brussels sprouts with crushed maple ham bacon on top.


WE DRANK:
Laurent-Perrier NV Brut Champagne $45
Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal, Pauillac '09 $50
TASTING NOTES:
Champagne is the ultimate food wine and too often regarded as a "special occasion" feature. Poo on that, I say! LP complimented my dinner with fruit from the Pinot/Chard blend blessing the fresh maple bacon and excellent acid to cut the oiled & broiled sprouts. The Bordeaux washed the chicken and spices down perfectly, a healthy vintage though relatively young, it still had complimentary developed spices and high extract to stand tall in comparison. Bacchanal, indeed! 



MY FAVORED RECIPE:
Big Bud's Beer Can Chicken, by Guy Fieri
Ingredients
1 (2 to 3-pound) whole chicken
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 (12-ounce) can beer
1/2 pound bacon


Directions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Wash chicken with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
Mix dry ingredients in small bowl. Rub 1/2 of the ingredients on inside cavity of chicken. Gently peel skin away from chicken and rub mixture into meat of chicken. Open beer can pour out about 1/2 cup. Drop the garlic cloves into the beer can. Place chicken, open end down, over the beer can to insert the beer into the cavity. Place chicken, standing up, in large saute pan. Place 1/3 of the bacon in the top cavity of the chicken and drape the remaining 2/3 of the bacon down the outside of the chicken. Pierce the bacon to the chicken with toothpicks.
Place chicken in the oven for 10 minutes and then lower temperature to 325 degrees F and cook for another 1 hour, or until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/guy-fieri/big-buds-beer-can-chicken-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

 
 
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Chateau Chevalier Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley $23.99
"Spring Mountain District" on an empty bottle commands this price. That there's actual wine inside is a bonus! These grapes grow on steep slopes in the Mayacamas Mountains. And as an ode to the best creation of the wine industry for consumers, it is a second label of the famed Spring Mountain Vineyard. A favorite quirky Napa story (as 90% of those vineyards not begun by retired physicians/lawyers/actors are), a rickety older Frenchman came to San Francisco to start a stained glass business toward the end of the 19th century and then embark on the gold rush once his underlings had full control of the daily operations. Not thinking ahead, once he arrived in America, his apprentices disappeared to do the same thing. Stuck with glass and no employees, he needed a faster, financial answer. After phylloxera had fully devastated the wineries of France, the people remained thirsty. He began producing wine until, toward the end of the wine boom in Napa Valley, his business exploded in success with elegant structures adorning the property, including the main "chateau" for which the estate is named today.
TASTING NOTES:
The wine possesses great swathes of chocolate raspberries atop deeper hints of mocha. Common for this area, the color is darker than the palate of the wine. If you like brooding berries & cherries, this goes far but doesn't overwhelm or weigh down the palate as many of the more well known, "boutiquier" wineries from nearby. Bright acidity ensures moderate longevity, cellar for 4-6 years. --WW


Domaine Grand Veneur Clos de Sixte 2009, Lirac, Rhone Valley $24.99
My favorite grape, Grenache, makes a hammy appearance at 50% in this blend of remaining Syrah (35%) and Mourvedre. The Jaume family owns 125 acres which stretch over four appellations and this particular piece of Lirac produces +/- 5K cases. making it a clear boutique feature among most wines produced in this region, many now being negociant produced than the more expensive estate bottling.  Alaine and his sons are the forces behind the wine's integrity, sticking to extremely traditional French standards of blending and fermentation. I really, really, really like this wine and highly recommend decanting for an hour before. It has the breadth of a Chateauneuf but the noble simplicty of Rhone's finest elder vines.

TASTING NOTES:
"A prodigious effort. This dense purple-colored wine offers up notes of black truffles, charcoal, blackberries, kirsch, garrigue, new saddle leather, herbs de Provence, spice box, and smoke. It possesses great fruit, full-bodied power, excellent depth, and abundant silky tannins. Drink it over the next 6-8 years."
Wine Advocate (Aug. 2010), 93 pts


 
 
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A frantic text to the Wineboy Mobile:

RYAN! I'm being flown to napa for 5 days over Valentines day. I need a crash course so I dont look like a total loser!!!!! Help!

Later on Facebook chat, I initiated some pointers before instructing her to call me. Her replyFirst......what is a penis? do i need to bring my own? or is that gauche. please advise.

Not unlike many, this is her first time on a date worth having in a while, one with the prospect of sexy time that risks exposing the cobwebs beneath, a felix culpa, to be sure. In the interest of maximizing the benefits beyond a free trip, hoping to see some relationship action as she approaches her late 20s, I applaud the candor and maturity behind the humor. I advised not to bring her own penis, using the one provided by her travel companion, but if it wasn't sufficient in dimension of any regard, to contact her concierge desk and they can provide appropriate replacement(s).

Napa Valley is the most hospitable in its access to visitors at every level, with ample signs and tasting rooms expecting visitors.  But given the unique quality of this visit -- man-friend impressery/husband catchery -- my tips to fetching more than "just the tip":

1. Refuse travel by limousine (protest that it's "tourist tacky"), insisting on a horse drawn bobsled
Not since the Jamaican heroes of yore has there been more need of a unique combination. Put simply, when traveling from one tasting room to another, unlike a limousine which can leave large, ambiguous spaces between you and your companion, a bobsled makes it quite clear, "I'm wrapping my legs around you or we can't leave." Very clearly a practical matter, you'll spend your "in between winery travel time" on top of one another without accusations of being "too forward".  In fact, you can't be forward enough given momentum requirements for efficient bobsled travel.

2. Inhale the wine's nose from between your legs
When the tasting room attendant pours the wine for you, be sure to lower the glass to just between your legs, tighten your abdomen with sharp inhalations, repeating the words, "me thinks" before every guessed note., e.g., "Me thinks I smell hazelnuts. Or maybe that's what's coming later?". This will help recall the purpose of the journey and hopefully encourage its pace.

3. Instead of a spittoon, invite your travel companion to spit excess wine on your blouse
Wearing something revealing -- but not too showy (think "Lutheran sheer") -- lunge yourself in front of the spittoon just as your mate attempts to empty his mouth of excess wine after tasting. He'll no doubt be curious of your erratic behavior, you simple respond with an educated, "I tell you! The terroir around here makes me hot and in need of a tannic cooling. Your pips are just the thing." Those are all wine words and he'll get closer to feeding your squirrel snatch its hazelnuts.

4. Never appear impressed.  At each tasting room, ask the attendant "Which episode of Downton featured this wine? It's probably what killed Sybil."
And references to historical figures is the surest way to proving intellectual prowess. 

5. After finishing a bottle, proudly smash it to the floor declaring, "Goal for Mama Messi! Aye aye!!"
Walk away solemnly, turning to expose one breast for only a moment, quickening the pace back to the bobsled exclaiming, "All of this new French oak is making me feel drunk! Make sure the next wine is at LEAST 70% old Californian barrel or I'm not sure if I can trust myself!"  If he chooses Robert Mondavi as the next tasting place, it means you're a mess and he'd rather go water tasting with buffalo.


 
 
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Anxiety is a lack-of-drink side effect. Don't let it "hoot" to you!
A Common, 1st World, Problematic Scenario:
Anonymous says on Jan 1: I'm not drinking this year! I'll finally be skinny!
Following weekend: I'm bored, I miss my friends, and I'm super uninteresting without a drink.  I'm resigned to Hefferism."

You asinine twit! The New Year is an ideal time to parse apart the emotional baggage you've left unattended in your mental Metro system and give yourself a break and some take-aways. You've been in the habit of drinking on a regular basis, perhaps three times a week or more, for longer than you think.  So it's an adjustment.  Cut back, not out because drinking does not = fat.  Curbing the onset of cravings while drinking and nursing hangovers the morning after (e.g., legendary biscuits with sausage gravy and the innumerable farts that follow) is actually 90% of the battle.  Your choice in adult beverage is 10%.

Wine is on the lowest end of the calorie spectrum with an average count of 90 calories per 4 oz. glass of red and the height max hitting about 120 with a glass of Champagne.  Mixed drinks account for an exorbitant sum of the energy unit bastards with some 200-400 in many cases with heavy doses of sugar from mixers in margaritas, cosmopolitans, and the like.  TIP: When ordering a mixed drink, ask the bar to go light with the mixer (this includes simple liquor and juice drinks such as vodka/OJ, etc.), and have club soda used as remaining filler.  You'll cut as much as 150-200 calories and surprise yourself with how much you prefer the less sugary alternative.  Vodka/soda, my favorite for its utility and low cost when bar hopping, also weighs in around 90-100 calories a tipple, higher than many expect.

BONUS: By lowering your sugar intake, you'll also alleviate much of the impact from a hangover! A spike in blood sugar causes your body to surge in insulin production and tires your liver attempting to filter and accommodate massive overproduction.  That "I've been hit by the liquor stick" feeling the following day? Your blood sugar plummets while you sleep after the surge and you've now deprived yourself of hydration, protein, proper kidney function, and adrenaline.  You're officially "hung-the-f*ck-over".  By reducing the sugar intake, it vastly cuts this entire issue in half.  And so does having a glass of water in between drinks!