Syne Wine

With the advent and wane of holiday reveries, it’s nearly impossible to escape the maudlin strains of “Auld Lange Syne” and not allow ourselves, in somber or cheerful mood, a reflection on what we leave behind and contemplation of what is before us. At Local Flavor, we’ll take a cup (albeit, a tastevin) in kindness yet, ponder some wines that filled it and share our chronicle of regions, rumors and trends of note.


      The autumn brought ominous news of the falling worldwide supply of wine, a Chicken Little ruckus that should be taken with a grain of sulfite. The fox in waiting may well be the mega beverage industry hoping we’ll fill our cellars and their pockets. Global warming notwithstanding, those of us who intend to put a dent in the world’s wine supply can do so with alacrity.

      As with any art form, wine affects us sensually and emotionally, but it doesn’t have to be lofty to be significant. As Noel Coward once observed, “Strange how potent cheap music is.” (Listen to the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling.”) Similarly, I can as clearly recall reading Fleming as Faulkner. Our daughter recently sent a text from college. She was working on a project about sentimental value and asked about a bottle of wine we’d given her mother one Mother’s Day. We bought it for the label: a 1950’s photo of four little girls posed on a Vespa. One of those girls grew to become its winemaker. Her family’s Cascina Castlet Barbera d’Asti, from Piedmont, is as charming a wine as it was a present. Perceiving how it reverberated for our daughter was a serendipitous return on a $15 purchase. A much sought-after bottle was handed to me on my birthday by a friend and client. It wasn’t wrapped, the label was wrapping enough: Domaine Jean-Louis Chave 2008 Hermitage. What made it particularly memorable is that my friend had inscribed it, as you would a book, by using a special marker pen, a fun way to personalize a gift of wine (available at

      Let’s admit there’s nothing like a splurge. Recently, an acquaintance came to Santa Fe, the brother of a friend, to accompany his only child to college orientation. The last time we three gentlemen were together—one student and two starving actors—was 1984. We chipped in to buy the inaugural release of Opus One, a collaboration of Mouton Rothschild and Robert Mondavi. The Bordeaux-style Cabernet blend from Napa currently fetches as much as $500. Our 1979 vintage was $60, a lot of money to us at the time, and at a kitchen table in a Greenwich Village walkup, we opened it with reverence. I really can’t tell you what it tasted like, only that it was elegant and luxurious and didn’t disappoint. Thirty years later, two of us sat with a bottle of Louro do Bolo Godello from Rafael Palacios (the price of our share of Opus), a savory, mineral-rich white from the hilly Galicia region in Spain and toasted to old acquaintances not forgotten. Continue reading

Cocktails, Anyone?

Now there’s a provocative question. When it’s posed with a twinkle and a grin and answered in the affirmative, we know we’re in for some fun. Just the word “cocktail” makes me giggle.

The holiday season is the perfect time of year to try your hand at concocting a few. Gather the ingredients—enticing bottles of spirits, bitters, cream, fresh and preserved fruits, some chocolate, even—and set them out. Invite over the people you love, roll up your sleeves and get down to business. This is the time to break out the panache, add a little flash and do something special. In other words, show off! Live it up!

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New Mexico Wine Trails Entice and Enchant

NM Wineries

© NM Wine Growers Association

New Mexico wineries allow visitors to get off the interstate and experience the agriculture, food and culture of the southwest. Local Flavor explores New Mexico Wine Trails for a taste of what our state’s wine growers have to offer.

In New Mexico we experience the full force of the elements: intense sun, inundating rains, sere desert air.  When I explore our mountains, mesas, and valleys throughout the seasons, I’m amazed at the challenges farmers face growing crops within thee extremes. The drive from the Española valley to Taos is one time that  I truly appreciate New Mexico’s incredible range of landscapes. One summer I dipped in a silty bend of the Rio Grande above Taos, then drove back through Dixon admiring the apple orchards. As a friend and I stopped in at Vivac Winery to taste some wines before returning south in a monsoon shower, the valley’s green, grey, pink and terra cotta shades intensified in the rain.

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Wine Quiz: Test Your Smarts

What Was I drinking? Test Your Wine Smarts

Local Flavor’s wine wizard himself, Tom Hill challenges you to answer these wine head-scratchers.

wine bar chic

Wine Bar Chic

story by Barry Fields
photos by Gabriella Marks

Since London Wine Bar in San Francisco opened in 1974, Americans have been discovering the wine bar as a satisfying way to enjoy a glass or share a bottle. A special quality accompanies a place devoted to wine; this comes both from the managers, who are inevitably enthusiasts thrilled to share their knowledge, and the clientele, often open to discovery. As Myra Ghattas, owner of Slate Street Café, explains, “A wine bar is not just a wine list. It’s an experience.” I recently visited three of them to sample some of the variety offered in the greater Albuquerque area and to talk with the owners and wine managers.

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