They say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. But in New England, April winds can roar and the lion is very much alive well into May.

Last weekend, I followed the lion of winter north and drove up to visit my fellow fully-vaccinated friends in Harrisville, New Hampshire. I left Arlington on Friday night with a couple of bottles of Chasing Lions Pinot Noir, some good sharp cheddar cheese, and my beat-up Yahtzee set, excited, after a year of social distancing, to see people again. The trees were bare along Route 3 and there were still rogue piles of snow clinging to winter in the forest shadows and on the north face of Mt. Monadnock.

Harrisville, New Hampshire is a perfectly preserved little mill town. Perched on the shores of a picturesque lake, the heart of the town (and the only place to buy provisions) is the General Store. Supported by the Historic Harrisville Foundation, the General Store has been supporting the community throughout the pandemic by providing Friday night take-out dinners. Every week’s menu is a new theme. Last week was Mexican with homemade tortilla soup, tamales, and an assortment of side dishes.

Chasing Lions Pinot Noir seemed like a fitting accompaniment. I couldn’t wait to open it. As we waited for dinner to be delivered, I sliced up the cheddar cheese, got out some crackers, and uncorked the first bottle. It felt amazing to be with people again.

Produced by the Nine North Wine Company of Napa Valley, the Chasing Lions, 2017 Pinot Noir is easy to love. My friend Andrew and his wife Mary Lou are well versed in wine and they noted notes of cherry and citrus. Our host commented that she tasted a bit of spice and I simply proclaimed it “delicious.”
By the time our tamales arrived, we were ready to open the second bottle and the laughs and conversation flowed as easily as the wine.

Now, the lion of winter has seemingly moved on. The daffodils are blooming —even in the shadows of Mt. Monadnock— and I’m delighted to have found a wine that I’ll be uncorking to celebrate not just the return of spring, but also the gradual return of dinner parties and lifting a glass of wine with friends. Cheers!

Thanks for reading,

Carol, Mystic Wine Shoppe’s Wine Connoisseur

I confess, I often pick wines because I like their label. I picked this one for that very reason. The clean, graphic type on the bottle of Oinoz Crianza, caught my eye. But, when I tasted it, I wanted to know the story of behind this delicious, drinkable red.

A dry, harsh winter, a miserable wet spring, and a summer drought sound like what we endure here in Arlington, but in 2014, at the northern end of the Rioja region of Spain, that weather pattern led to a late budding in the vineyards of Gallamate La Canoca in San Vincente. Those late buds produced grapes of extraordinary quality— so good, that this particular vintage won a Gold Medal at the Consurso Mundial de Bruselas, one of the most prestigious international wine events.

Crafted from Termpranillo grapes, Oinoz Criaza pairs well with pungent cheeses, aged beef, and roast goat. I didn’t have any of those on hand, but my kids were coming over, it was a rare warm spring night, so I decided to throw some burgers on the grill and share a couple of bottles of my newest obsession. 

We cracked the first bottle open and poured. The Oinoz Criaza is a beautiful ruby red color with an aroma of cherry, vanilla, and pepper. We sipped and dove into a baked Brie that my son had made. The gooey cheese was a perfect complement to the dry, fruity wine. My daughter, who tends to drink hard seltzer and white wine, commented, “I can tell that this is a good wine, because I actually like it.”  Smart girl. The 2014 Oinoz Criaza is the highest-rated vintage for this wine. 

We pulled the burgers off the grill and poured the second bottle of wine. It had been breathing for about an hour and the flavor really opened up and mellowed. The night was getting chilly, so we moved inside (four out of six of us have been vaccinated) and ate around the fireplace in the living room. The menu was burgers, tater tots, and salad. It was a double celebration of my daughter-in-law’s birthday (we also had a killer Key Lime pie from Petsi’s Pies in Somerville) and a send-off for my son who was being deployed with the National Guard to Washington DC. Oinoz Criaza proved to be a wine that is fitting for multiple occasions, but I plan to drink it often and for no particular reason at all. Here’s to getting together again.

By: our favorite wine connoisseur, Carol Band

Just Breathe…

To decant or not to decant…

It’s a question that many of our customers ask. How long should this wine breathe? Would it benefit from being decanted? What if I just can’t wait to drink it?


We’re here to answer these questions and we’re not too proud to say that, although we consider ourselves wine experts, we also checked in with the experts at Google.

Here’s what we know.

  • Most wines benefit from some degree of aeration and that’s what decanting accomplishes. Simply opening a bottle of wine and letting it sit isn’t enough. The narrow neck of the wine bottle prevents enough air from reaching the entire bottle.
  • The best way to let a wine “open up” to its true potential is to decant it. A decanter aerates the wine twice. Once, when you pour it from the bottle into the decanter and again, as it sits in the decanter, which has a wide surface area. However, if you don’t have a decanter (or you sold the one you got for a wedding present at a yard sale) the best way to let the wine “open up,” is to simply pour it into a glass and let it sit for a while.
  • An interesting experiment to do, if you’re patient, is to take a sip when you first pour your wine and then let it sit for a half hour before you take the second sip. Wow! Is that the same bottle of wine? You’ll often be able to discern dramatic differences in aroma and in taste.
  • Aerating or decanting is especially recommended with bigger more tannic reds such as Cabernets, Nebbiolos and Petite Sirahs. Decant younger, bolder reds longer; old vintages for only 30 minutes or so.
  • Delicate reds and older, lighter wines like Pinot Noir, don’t usually need to be decanted at all, just carefully poured into a glass. Other older—and by older we’re talking wines aged over 15 years — reds like Burgandies, Riojas and older Chiantis can be treated the same way. Their age makes them more susceptible to the affects of oxygen. Let the bottle stand upright for 24 hours and then pour carefully to reduce the risk of sediment clouding your glass.

Drinking white wine? Whites also benefit from aeration, but not as dramatically as the reds.
A rule of thumb is that the younger the wine, the longer you should decant. Have fun and enjoy!

Here are some guideline that we think make sense.

  • Full-bodied Red Wines (Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Tannat, Monastrell, Tempranillo, etc): Use a decanter with a wide base. Decant for several hours
  • Medium-bodied Red Wines (Merlot, Sangiovese, Barbera, Dolcetto, etc): medium-sized decanter. Decant for about an hour.
    Light-bodied reds (Pinot Noir, Beaujolais): serve in a small to medium-sized decanter that’s been chilled. Decant for under an hour.
  • Store leftover wine (there’s an oxymoron!) back in the bottle and drink within 36 hours.

Looking to get the best decanter? Check out this blog post.

Thanks for reading, Carol (Mystic Wine Shoppe’s Connoisseur)

One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is that because people are working from home, animal shelters around the country are reporting record numbers of adoptions. I was lucky to find a “pandemic pup” of my own at Shultz’s Guest House in Dedham. A mix of terrier, hound, and adorableness, I named him “Bernie” and in the two months that I’ve had him, he’s mastered housetraining, sleeping through the night, and a few basic commands.
I figured we were ready to be houseguests.


My friend Beate, owns a farmhouse in New Hampshire with plenty of space to social distance, lots of land, open fields, and room to run. It’s a puppy paradise. So, Bernie and I hit the road. We packed a box of dog biscuits (also, puppy chow, his bed, chew toys, leash, and harness and poop bags) as well as a big pot of black bean soup (recipe below) and a couple of bottles of Mulderbosch Faithful Hound red wine. It’s a blend— kind of like Bernie.


As soon as we hit Route 101 North, the landscape changed from brown to white. An hour later, Bernie was romping in the snowy field burning off his abundant puppy energy and I was heating up soup and uncorking a bottle of wine.

Mulderbosh’s Faithful Hound 2015, is from Stellenbosch, the most famous wine-producing area in South Africa. The region is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, which are used to create Bordeaux blends, like the bottle I was pouring.


The wine is a beautiful color—swirl it in the glass and it’s dark ruby red. Take a sniff and it bears a hint of vanilla, cedar, and berry. Sip it and you’ll taste the earthy, fruity deliciousness that paired beautifully with the smoky citrus of the black bean soup.

We ate, we drank, we played with the puppy and then we looked out the window. The snow was coming down at a furious clip. It was clear that Bernie and I had to spend the night. And the next night, too. Fortunately, I had brought plenty of kibbles and an extra bottle of Faithful Hound.

The next day, we hiked through the woods, we played board games and at night, we ate more soup and drank the second bottle of wine. In the morning, I watched the snowplow clear the dirt road and knew it was time to pack up and, like a good dog, go home.

SNOWED-IN SOUP
4 cups dried black beans – rinsed
1 large ham hock (optional)
2 Tsp. olive oil
1 sweet onion chopped
3 garlic cloves smashed and minced
4 carrots sliced into half coins
4 cups (approx.) Chicken stock or water or a combination of both
I cup chopped tomatoes (canned or boxed)
3 bay leaves
2 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. thyme
4 Tsp. cumin
black pepper to taste
salt
2 Tsp. brown sugar
1 large orange

In a large stockpot, heat olive oil. Add onions and garlic, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and cumin. Cook until tender. Add black beans, tomatoes, ham hock and enough liquid to submerge ham hock. Add carrots. Grate orange. Retain zest, cut orange in half and add to pot with brown sugar. Cover and simmer until beans are tender. Add orange zest and continue to simmer. Remove meat from bone, chop and return to soup. Add more liquid and more seasoning as needed. Serve with chopped cilantro, a lime wedge and a dollop of sour cream.

These days, I try to find any opportunity to feel normal. So when a day of working at home, washing my hand, and sitting in Zoom meetings gave way to an unseasonably warm evening and an invitation to eat hotdogs with friends, I jumped at the chance.


Good friends don’t have to impress each other. Good friends don’t need a formal invitation or fancy food. They can get together at the last-minute and make hotdogs for dinner. Because with good friends, it’s not about what’s on the table, it’s about who’s around the table. It’s the company and the conversation that matters. Of course, the wine matters, too.

That’s why, when I hung up the phone, I grabbed a pack of Hebrew National all-beef hot dogs and a couple of bottles of my new favorite red wine: Angels & Cowboys Proprietary Red, 2018, walked over, and settled into my friend’s backyard.


As the hot dogs came off the grill, I opened both bottles, poured (into disposable plastic) glasses for my friends, slipped off my mask, and took a sip.

From Sonoma Valley, Angels & Cowboys Proprietary Red is a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Verdot, Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, and Malbec. Founded in 2014, Angels & Cowboys is a collaboration between Yoav Gilat, founder of Cannonball Wines, and Michael Schwab, a graphic designer from Northern California. Maybe that’s why the label is so simple and appealing. Out of the bottle, the wine is a beautiful deep garnet color and tastes like autumn in a glass. I sniffed, I sipped, and immediately detected a tangle of berry and plum flavor with spicy notes of cardamom and mineral creating earthy robustness that I welcomed after a summer of drinking chilled whites, rosés, and fruity pinot noirs.


This was my first taste of the 2018 Angels & Cowboys Proprietary Red. Since that evening, I’ve shared bottles with friends from the neighborhood and beyond and enjoyed I’ve it at home with my family and with the presidential candidates during the debate. It’s my new house wine and because it’s less than $20 a bottle, I can afford to drink it with a roast of lamb, as the winemaker suggests, or pair it with hotdogs. It goes perfectly with both.

By Carol Band, our Wine Connoisseur

Out on the far southeastern tip of Long Island is a playground of the rich called “The Hamptons.” It’s rumored that there, every summer, the rosé flows like water. That’s how Hampton Water Rosé got its name. And yeah, it was launched by rocker Jon Bon Jovi and his son, who wisely partnered with acclaimed French winemaker Gérard Bertrand to create a wine that is much better than the mid-life anthem “It’s My Life.” Made in France, with a blend of 60% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 15% Mourvèdre and 10% Syrah, the wine was proclaimed “Best Rosé of 2018” by Wine Spectator.


I didn’t know that when I picked it up, I just liked the label, which features an illustration of a woman diving into the water. So, even though my tastes edge more toward Salisbury Beach than Sag Harbor, I brought a bottle of Hampton Water to accompany a weekend with my adult kids on a lake in New Hampshire. It was almost 5pm when my daughter and I brought some snacks down to the dock and opened the bottle.

The sun was low, the water was sparkling and the wine was cold and delicious. I’ve found that some rosés can be too sweet, others a little harsh—a little alcohol-forward. This wasn’t. It was fruity and fresh and bold enough to stand up to ice cubes and even a splash of seltzer (hey, the day was still young!). We were impressed with the bottle’s glass stopper and we loved the way the wine tasted with sweet dark cherries and as well as with Irish cheddar. It even went with Cheez-Its (as I said, we’re not in the Hamptons).

After a glass each, we decided to try to recreate the picture on the label by diving off the dock. Our attempts resulted in a few stinging belly flops and exuberant splashes that damped the Cheez-Its. That’s when we decided that not only does Bon Jovi makes a very nice wine, but he was right: ‘We ain’t gonna live forever.” So we climbed out of the water, toweled off, and finished the bottle. Like the man says “It’s now or never.” We choose now.

By Carol Band (our local wine connoisseur)

Lately, it seems we are all taking comfort in simple pleasures. We cook macaroni and cheese, we play Scrabble with our kids and we enjoy a glass of wine or two. Because after working at home all week, figuring out how to host Zoom calls, keeping the kids from going crazy inside* and watching our retirement accounts dissolve, we feel like we deserve a moment of pleasure. And we do. But before you uncork that Pinot Noir or uncap that Sauvignon Blanc, ask yourself: “Is this a quarantine-worthy wine?” A wine that’s worthy of self-isolation is one that pairs well with sweatpants and stubble, whose subtle notes of pencil shavings and the forest floor are discernable through a face mask; it’s a wine that you’re willing to commit to because you’ll be drinking all of it…. alone.

 

Such a wine is Gooseneck Vineyards 2017 Chardonnay. A white wine from Navarra, Spain, this vintage is a lovely golden color. It’s light but complex with lovely notes of vanilla, oak and to my untrained nose, a hint of pear.

Here on Bartlett Ave., when it hasn’t been raining, we’ve been social distancing with neighbors. That means we stand in the middle of the street and drink wine. Rain, however, forces us to Zoom and last Friday as the rain poured down, I thought it might be fun to bring everyone together electronically to virtually share the same wine. So I sprung for several bottles of the Gooseneck Vineyards 2017 Chardonnay (not a fortune), dropped them off to my neighbors with touchless delivery, and sent out the Zoom notice.

There were seven of us at this cyber-tasting and although my friends were impressed with my seeming generosity, I had to confess that the wine is shockingly affordable. As the Zoom party commenced, we talked about what we’ve binged on Netflix, we discussed mask designs and we talked about what we were eating with that night. One neighbor paired their Gooseneck Vineyards Chardonnay with an aged Brie and seeded crackers. Another thought that it perfectly complimented their homemade chicken tetrazzini, still another drank it with black beans and rice and I savored it with a fried haddock plate from Fresh Pond Seafood. The Gooseneck 2017 Chardonnay seemed to enhance each of these dishes and, I suspect, it would also go well exceedingly well with a bowl of popcorn and Netflix.

*It takes a village to raise a child but it takes a winery to homeschool one.

Article By: Carol Band, one of our amazing wine experts and connoisseur

 

Photos by Carol Band and Gooseneck Vineyards

Thank you to everyone who attended our 3rd annual Grand Rosé Tasting.  We had an amazing turnout and got to chat with so many great people.  Our wine vendors didn’t disappoint and came ready to pour; sampling 13 delicious wines for our attendees. We look forward to many more tastings at Mystic Wine Shoppe.

Here are some photos from the event – 

Rosé Tasting 2019 (8 of 45) Rosé Tasting 2019 (32 of 45) Rosé Tasting 2019 (17 of 45)

Rosé Tasting 2019 (27 of 45) Rosé Tasting 2019 (26 of 45)

Rosé Tasting 2019 (21 of 45) Rosé Tasting 2019 (25 of 45)

Rosé Tasting 2019 (5 of 45) Rosé Tasting 2019 (4 of 45)

Rosé Tasting 2019 (30 of 45) Rosé Tasting 2019 (31 of 45)

Rosé Tasting 2019 (37 of 45) Rosé Tasting 2019 (35 of 45)

Rosé Tasting 2019 (10 of 45) Rosé Tasting 2019 (22 of 45)

Rosé Tasting 2019 (39 of 45) Rosé Tasting 2019 (41 of 45)

Check our weekly tasting schedule for our next beer and wine tastings. Thanks!