Of the stylish ladies of imbibe on television, Kerry Washington’s D.C. White Hat, Olivia Pope (Scandal) and Lena Headey’s calculating and scything Queen Regent, Cercei Lannister (Game of Thrones) are the duo I employ as my wine muses. I have started taking notes about the way a single, classy lady should enjoy her wine. With a heavy summer flight schedule jam-packed with domestic flying, I honestly didn’t think going abroad would have been in the cards at all. Mother Nature had other plans, so I wound up with the need to pick up extra hours.
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure to actually learn some things about wine courtesy of Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson’s Wine Course. Her video series provides an exceptional introduction to the daunting world of wine, perfect for the novice wishing to tiptoe into the shallow end of one very deep pool. Robinson provides a guided tour, breaking the information down into digestible pieces with a balanced combination of data, panache, and humor. Her husband makes several comedic guest appearances, which made the experience intimate as if you’re a bird on their shoulder while they take you on a vineyard vacation.
When it comes to international layovers, I do what I can to pick up a couple of bottles of wine to commemorate the experience and share with family and friends. The key tidbit of wine knowledge I forgot about was that in Old World wine producing countries (Europe), wines are labeled by which region the grapes are grown, not which grapes are used.
Venice, Italy (07/29/2014)
What little I remember of Italian (I’m certain my Rome Summer Program Director, Dr. Paden, is sneezing into his espresso somewhere), made going to the market an adventure. Knowing that I would be joining the crew later for dinner, I ventured out to the supermarket on my own to see if I could pick two bottles on my own. Luckily, I was able to drag from the depths of memory that Venice is located in the Veneto region, so I positioned myself in front of the appropriate section of the vino wall and waited. I scanned the labels, trying to ascertain if the price per bottle was appropriate. I didn’t want to bring home cheap stuff, but I didn’t want to bankrupt my Venezia allocation either.
When in doubt, conduct a social experiment. Look around and see what the locals are browsing, amp up your megawatt smile, and as Ursula said in The Little Mermaid, “don’t underestimate the power of body language.” If you look confused, inevitably someone will come to your rescue eventually. I watched carefully as consumers browsed beside me and took note of which bottles they took to the check out counter. After fifteen minutes, I triumphantly sauntered over to the cashier with my selections.
The white I snapped up was a Custoza DOC (2013) by Satori di Verona. My decision to pick up a Custoza lies entirely from my experience with Taste Cook Sip‘s Wine and Chocolate Perfectly Paired course with Quantum Leap Winery back in February. My favorite white of the evening was their Custoza, so I naturally gravitated to it. When I shared it with my parents and Doc at home with my sad attempt at an Italian dinner, it went over quite well. I’m fairly certain it helped the flavor of my bland cooking.
As for the red, a lovely local helped me select the Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso (2012) from Tenuta Ca’Vescovo. As a local regional red, I gathered that it was one of those hidden gems from Northern Italy that I’ve heard about. It had a fuller body than what I was used to, but mercifully without the hangover I usually get when drinking red wine. It would seem that even the less expensive Italian reds are higher quality than what I have been drinking over the years. Sadly, Venice is one of our seasonal routes, so my next opportunity to go will be next summer. According to one of the wine blogs I happened upon, Refosco is hard to find outside of Italy, so I truly lucked out.
Madrid, Spain (08/01/2014)
It was recommended by “Luigi” at Bar Andalú that I purchase a bottle of Casa de Valle’s 2012 Acantus (Red; Tempranillo) from his hometown of Toledo. I should have asked then and there if I could buy one of the multiple bottles behind the bar to take with me. I came up empty handed the following morning, when I got to the nearby market and realized it wouldn’t open until after I returned to the airport. So, I dropped by duty-free and bought a rather shameless bottle of Eurobodegas Corrida de Toros Sangria, complete with little hat and castanets. Sadly, I grossly overpaid for it (nearly double including my airline employee discount), but at least now I know for next time.
One thing I quickly learned is asking the crew, especially the language speakers which wines are recommended for the destinations I visit. If I am lucky enough to have a fellow crew member willing to play tour guide, shopping buddy, and baby-sitter, then shopping can be a snap. In the more likely scenario that I will be left to my own devices with a pocket of unfamilar currency, a local tourist map, and list of the closest markets, I need to be adequately prepared. Tourist traps are laid left and right, especially in locations with a high volume of visitors, so having a game plan in place is ideal.
Typically, I try to find out which local region wines are most popular, if there are any local specialties, and most importantly, what is an appropriate price range to spend. Usually by the time we reach cruise altitude en route to our destination, I’ve already been grilled on how I managed to get the trip, how long I’ve been flying and my entire work history, so my fellow crew mates are well aware of the salary of someone flying under three years. I have been exceptionally fortunate lately as every international trip I’ve been on this summer, someone’s invited me to join them.
Selecting the proper vessel makes quite the impact in one’s wine consumption. While Cersei has her gilded goblets and Olivia has her red wine balloon, I would simply drink from whatever glass I could find handy. (I’ll wait for the wine snobs to stop cringing.) While I have sets of red and white glasses, they are in a crate somewhere in storage. Continually flying has truly impacted my desire to unpack my belongings, but I know they are in there. Somewhere.
In the mean time, I waited until the perfect post-trip glass presented itself. Like my Mickey Mouse bomber pilot coffee cup from Soarin’ at Epcot, I wanted to find the right glass. Naturally, I would happen upon the one most appropriate for a jetsetting ga like myself, Business or Pleasure by 95° and Sunny while on my recent Last Vegas layover. I was gutted to discover that it’s now on close out for a third of the price I paid for it, and even at full price on the company website, it was still marked up beyond retail. This traditionally clumsy, slapstick comedian will simply need to be exceptionally careful when washing the glass, so as to avoid the heartbreak of breakage.
At Races for Awareness, I happened upon their Organic Farming Awareness medal. Since I started flying, my ability to consistently get days off to race have been quite limited. All of my layover hotels have gym facilities and most of them are in safe neighborhoods, so I opted to work on virtual racing as a means of continuing to run without an overwhelming sense of missing out. My wine stopper medal looks great next to my Best Damn Race bottle opener medal. I want to use it, truly, but once I open a bottle, I almost feel a sense of alcohol abuse if I don’t finish it. Turns out, letting it chill out over night makes it better the next day!
Santiago, Chile (08/23/2014)
While sitting at the hotel bar with my crew, I picked the purser’s brain about local Chilean wines. For red, she recommended the Chilean specialty of Carménère (Cabernet Sauvignon), especially in the winter. In summertime, she informed me nothing beats a local Sauvignon Blanc! Unbeknownst to me, the ladies in the wine aisle of Jumbo helped me pick out one of each, both from Reserva collections.
I’ll admit it the Terra Andina Sauvignon Blanc Reserva (2013) I picked up was purely because of the fantasy label. Since I’ve started flying, I’ve developed quite a bit of wanderlust and an admiration for maps. According to TA’s mantra, heir wines are mean to be “shared and enjoyed, not collected,” so I am planning on splitting this bottle at home with my parents, so as to honor the tradition.
The Ventisquero Yelcho Carménère Reserva (2013) was swept off the shelf and into my hands by one of the ladies of the wine aisle. When I mentioned my inability to speak Spanish, she pointed to the word “Reserva” on label, and I knew that she was handing me something a little nicer. When I inquired about the price, she smiled and gave me a thumbs up before pointing to the price on the shelf. She could tell that I wanted something nice, but I also didn’t want to break the bank either. Turns out, that I was given a wine “for those who don’t just talk about freedom, but actually live it,” so it was meant to be included in my international wine collection.
In between my mix of international and domestic flying, I learned I was selected as one of the representatives for our company’s Brand Ambassador Program. To celebrate, Doc took me to the grocery store and let me pick a bottle of sparkling wine to commemorate the event. I found a reasonably priced Prosecco produced by none other Andrea Bocelli. We enjoyed it with a home cooked dinner and WWE’s Monday Night Raw (post-Summer Slam Edition). At $14.99, it was not only reasonably priced, but quite nice. I would definitely purchase another bottle.
With winter rolling and the return of both Scandal and GoT, it would seem I need to stock up on my wines and get my Wine Cardigan ready. While I do live in central Florida, I do love a fine. An adult beverage on the porch where it does actually get down to freezing in these parts. Why not imbibe in a classy nature? Unlike, Lady Pope, I most certainly will not be wearing white, but like Cersei, I’ll be working on my royal scowl and annoyed eyebrow raise. The only thing left to consider is if I’m going with a massive bowl of popcorn or sorting out a lavish feast for my individual viewing parties.