Here, a look at what’s next in wine, from the best new tech tools and the smartest gadgets to the most exciting new cult producers.
What’s next online? Wine-loving digital innovations.
Winezap Mobile With this new service from WineZap (an online company that compiles wine selections from hundreds of retailers around the United States), users can send a text message or e-mail to email@example.com that includes the name and vintage of a wine and their zip code. WineZap will then shoot back a return message with a list of local retailers and prices for the bottling in question.
Cork’d One of the biggest community wine sites, Cork’d (corkd.com) is like MySpace for wine fanatics. Users can list their cellar’s contents, rate and review wines they’ve tried and interact with other users ("drinking buddies")—of which there are more than 16,000.
Wine Blogging Wednesday Every month a different blog "hosts" this roundtable tasting. Find a list of all the tastings at lenndevours.com.
winebluebook.com For $35 a year, subscribers receive 18 e-mailed issues in which major critics’ ratings of anywhere from 300 to 1,000 wines are averaged for each wine and compared to the suggested retail price.
wine.woot.com Wine Woot uses a QVC-like business model (one wine is sold at a time, until supplies are gone). The choices are sometimes good, sometimes dull; the ribald commentary on each offering is the real draw.
Graperadio This professionally produced wine podcast has content ranging from interviews with cult winemakers to coverage of wine events like California’s Hospice du Rhône (graperadio.com).
Ratcast Former public radio producer Alan Baker quit his job, moved to California and started this engaging chronicle of his new life as a barrel-hauling, pump-operating winery worker (cellarrat.org).
Must-haves for insatiable wine buffs
Place the infrared sensor of the VinTemp pen thermometer against a bottle or glass and instantly determine whether wine is at the optimal serving temperature (65 degrees for reds; 55 degrees for whites. $75; winevine-imports.com.
Unbreakable Glass & Hands-Free Glass Strap
Mikasa’s "Open Up" wineglasses are made from a new glass called Kwarx. The company won’t say how Kwarx is made, but these glasses are durable enough that if they fall off a table or counter, they don’t break. But then, if you use a neck strap glass holder when tasting, you’ll never drop a glass again. $40 for 4 glasses, iwawine.com; $15 wineglass neck strap, wineenthusiast.com.
Weekend at California Crush Camp
Travel to California, sort grapes at Sterling Vineyards, blend components at Beaulieu Vineyard—and get a free hat as a souvenir. $950; diageo chateau & estate wines, 707-967-5288 or diageowines.com.
Wine Filter and Aerator
This pocket gadget from Danish designer Marcus Vagnby uses a stainless steel mesh screen to remove the sediment often found in older red wines. $42; sfmoma.stores.yahoo.net.
Electric Wine Chiller
Chillers can bring bottles down to an ideal 55 degrees in less than six minutes using a circulating ice-water bath. This model, from Breville ($50), can be hard to find; another great choice is the Cooper Cooler. $70; bevmo.com.
Have so many bottles that you don’t even know what you own? Try a home UPC-scanning system, like the one by IntelliScanner. Zap the bottle’s UPC code with the scanner and it wirelessly uploads price, vintage, producer and other info to your computer. $300; intelliscanner.com.
Indestructible Wine Case
Aluminum sides and a molded Styrofoam interior protect valuable wines from being destroyed in transit. Made by Impact Case & Container, this case is FAA-approved, too. $400; wineenthusiast.com.
Remote Cellar Thermometer
This battery-powered wireless device by Taylor has two units: a monitor for the cellar and a receiver that displays both cellar and outdoor temperatures, with a range of 100 feet. $28; amazon.com.
Essentials for the cellar
Obscure Wines Worth Knowing
2004 François Cazin Cour-Cheverny ($18) Made from the obscure Romorantin grape, wines from Cour-Cheverny in France’s Loire valley can age surprisingly well despite their lightness. Cazin’s 2004 bottling is minerally and tart, with an exotic aroma of smoke and orange oil.
2005 Domaine Gerovassiliou Malagousia ($20) The Greek Malagousia grape was practically extinct when Evangelos Gerovassiliou decided to propagate its vines on his Macedonian estate. Be glad he did: This floral, citrusy white is ridiculously delicious, and a great value, too.
2001 Castro Ventosa Valtuille ($55) With a scent that recalls a cross between Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc and graceful red-fruit flavors, Spain’s Mencía grape—grown in the rocky Bierzo region in eastern Galicia—is one to know. Castro Ventosa’s aromatic Valtuille bottling is a great way to get to know it.
2003 Nino Negri 5 Stelle ($60) To make Sforzato wines, Nebbiolo grapes from the hillside vineyards of Italy’s Valtellina (north of Milan) are dried for months before they’re crushed, producing a concentrated, spicy, tarry red. Nino Negri’s 5 Stelle bottling is a benchmark of the style.
Cutting-Edge California Cult Wines
2005 Rivers-Marie Occidental Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir ($38) Not many people know Thomas Rivers Brown’s wines, but they know the cult wineries he consults for, like Outpost and Schrader. This is first-rate Sonoma Coast Pinot, with the scent and taste of crushed berries.
2004 Rhys Home Vineyard Pinot Noir ($49) This extremely limited Pinot from California’s Santa Cruz Mountains already has a substantial following—certainly enough to snap up the 25 cases produced each year. Proprietor Kevin Harvey’s second label, Alesia, has higher production and equally impressive quality.
2004 Kosta Browne Kanzler Vineyard Pinot Noir ($52) In the past five years, Dan Kosta, Michael Browne and Chris Costello’s Sonoma County winery has gone from a fledgling outfit to one of the most sought-after mailing list spots, on the strength of incredibly rich, sultry Pinot Noirs like this one.
2004 Kapcsándy Family Winery State Lane Vineyard Red ($105) Napa’s State Lane Vineyard was for years a key part of Beringer’s famous Private Reserve Cabernet. When it came up for sale in 2000, Lou Kapcsándy purchased it, and he now produces limited amounts of this elegant, cedary Cabernet blend.
2004 Maybach Materium Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon ($110) The vineyard that owner Chris Maybach uses for his fruit lies adjacent to Phelps’s Backus property and Dalla Valle’s estate vineyards in Napa Valley, which partly explains the buzz around this luscious, subtly minty, black-fruited Cabernet.