Monday, March 16, 2009

Drinking wine while on vacation

Yes, I did it. I took a mini vacation - my first after my transplant, and it felt great! I live pretty frugally on a day to day basis, but when I am on vacation - well, random splurges do happen, and the most random (and most delicious) was before I even left NYC. At JFK (I know, who would have thought that you could get a really good meal (with wine) at the airport?)

Vino Volo is a chain restaurant. (who knew? I am recommending a chain restaurant.) It has a small menu of really good food that is designed around the wines that they are featuring. All wines can be had by the glass, and should you wish (as I did) you can order a flight of wines for a tasting. I am writing to tell you that this is a great concept, and now I am desperate to travel again just so I can start my trip with a wine tasting and meal there. Is it bad that I will need to go through security to go to my new favorite restaurant? Or that I want to fly to Dulles, Baltimore, Detroit, Philadelphia, Newark, San Antonio, Sacramento or Seattle - just to taste the wine at each airport's location? Ok, maybe not San Antonio or Sacramento, but you get my enthusiasm. (The pictures are from my treo - sorry for the poor quality)

Now on to my menu and pairings:

I chose the "Shades of White" flight ($9.00):
Pascal Jolivet French Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley 2007
Il Greto Pino Grigio, Venezie 2006
Iron Horse Vinyards Chardonnay, Sonoma County, CA 2005

And to eat, the smoked salmon over crab salad crostini.

The flight comes with a bar mat that describes each wine (using grown-up words and exact flavors - reading the descriptions made the tasting so much better, I was searching for the elements mentioned, and for the flavors) and also a four square graph to plot the wine on the scale of bright, rich, light and brooding. I think that this will help me describe my TJ's wines in the future. I ranked the three above. My favorite white was the Pascal. It was subtle, and highlighted the saltiness of the salmon and the creaminess of the crab. Second was the Il Greto, it was very light, a bit too light, but very refreshing. And third was the Iron Horse - I just felt that it was very sharp.

All three of these are 3-4 star wines, I just felt that the Iron Horse was heavier - it gave a good contrast to the two European wines, and when I read the description of a "finish of chalky stone" - I had my EUREKA moment of the day: I tasted the chalky stone.

I was so excited about the white wine and I still had time before my flight, I went for a second course of red. The flight was "California Kings" ($12.00) and as a pairing, I had a Ligurian chickpea and chorizo chili. The food comes in two sizes. For the salmon, I had the full plate ($11.00); with the chili, I had the small plate ($8.00)

The chili was great, and stood up to these robust reds - which were:

Havens Wine Cellars Merlot, Napa 2004
Hall Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa 2005
Trinitas Zinfandel, Contra Costa County, 2006

Again, the bar mat under the glasses gave a great description of the wines The graph really helped to understand depth. (although I still can't quite figure out how a wine can be brooding - I always think of men (Heathcliff) or a hen as brooding - maybe on my next trip, I'll figure out how a wine can brood.)

The chili was spicy and really good, which gave a great contrast to the expensive reds. My favorite was the Havens Merlot. It was juicy and a great wine (it was also the cheapest at $29.00 per bottle). Second was the Zinfandel from Trinitas; it was fruity and spicy and matched really well with the chili. Last, but not least was the most expensive the Hall Cabernet Sauvignon. It was heavy, rich and had a lot of tannin, I would have that with a fatty steak or some other heavy meal, it was a bit overpowering for the chili.

Vino Volo is a great way to taste expensive wines by the glass on a moderate budget. The staff were great, and the atmosphere is happy. I'd get to the airport early and hungry just to try another part of the menu. The total cost for this eye opening, palate pleasing lunch was $45.52 plus tip. This splurge set the tone for a refreshing vacation.

More TJ reviews later this month.

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