We're bidding adieu to the past year with our 2017 Best Nine, that is, the nine most liked photos from @wine30flight on Instagram in 2017 (follow us!). Our Best Nine took us abroad to Portugal, Spain, Czechia, and around the United States to Massachusetts, Texas, Tennessee, and home to Arlington, Virginia. Each tells a different story in wine. Read for yourself.
Port Source (Porto, Portugal)
It's all about the river here. The city rises from its banks: festively colored buildings in seemingly ancient repose, crowned by the twelfth-century cathedral atop the hill, a stately contrast to the carnival of wine and revelry down at the waterfront. In times past the rabelos, cargo vessels native to this river alone, hauled Port wine to this the only port from it could be shipped. This is Porto, Portugal's second city and the source of the the fortified wine that has made the country famous in the hearts and palates of generations of connoisseurs around the world.
All the Wine (Madrid, Spain)
You'll find Angelita a few blocks north of Gran Vía at Calle Reina, 4, 28004 Madrid, Spain. We were pointed here by our friend Amy at Devour Madrid, so cannot take credit for the discovery. Angelita's wine list is vast, making it a great place to go if you're interested in trying many Spanish wines from across the country's many wine regions. It's more modern and upscale, yet wholly lacking in pretension. Go in with a plan to try something that you haven't experienced yet, and resist the urge to order a glass of the first Rioja you see. Reservations are desirable if you want a shot at a table.
Further reading: Our current picks for great food, wine, atmosphere in Madrid, Spain
Nightfall (Prague, Czech Republic)
Enter through a quietly cloistered courtyard whose cobblestones reflect the light that shines from above through arches and columns both stately yet sooted by time. A soft bronze glow of filament bulbs and candles gently twinkling through the phalanx of glasses and bottles cast merry shadows on the vaulted walls of a place that one might think dilapidated if you didn't know it was a wine cellar. There is community here, the revelry of young and old both crowded around a common table and the high tops wedged in any alcove not otherwise lined floor to ceiling with wine bottles. We're inside of Vinarna Bokovka -- self styled as a decrepit courtyard offering great wines -- an absolutely exquisite wine bar we discovered in the heart of Prague, capital of The Czech Republic.
Proper Gin Tonics (home in Arlington, VA, USA)
Our favorite cocktail, made the way our friend Javier taught us (taste for yourself at his Arlington, VA SER and Washington, DC Joselito restaurants). Add one to two shots of high quality gin and about a half shot of lime juice to a single large cocktail ice cube in a simple tumbler glass as shown. Top it off with tonic (Meghan prefers Schweppes, I prefer Fever Tree) gently poured -- and this is critical -- down the length of a twisted bar spoon (we recommend this one on Amazon). Use a lighter to sear a sprig of rosemary for the garnish; the flame really brings out the aroma. What makes a high quality gin in our book? Purists might hate us, but we love the High Line Gin made in Truro, MA as well as the Sunset Hills Gin made by A. Smith Bowman in Fredericksburg, VA. Seek out high quality local distillers whenever possible!
Wine Flight before the Flight (Boston Logan International Airport, Massachusetts, USA)
We connected to a London-bound British Airways flight via jetBlue landing at Boston's Terminal C. Happily, passengers can easily walk from Terminal C to the international Terminal E (there is no Terminal D) without leaving security, whereupon we passed the popular Vino Volo wine bar. This particular wine flight included the 2012 Morandé Carménère Reserva from Maipo Valley, Chile. What an interesting bottle! The nose is powerfully characterized by cut green peppers, cigar smoke, and pencil shavings. Rich and sophisticated in a rugged way, the potent nose gives way to really juicy cherry and black fruits on the palate. Carménère originally hailed from France, though you'll find little or none of it there today. Very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, though less "big", this is a grape varietal that needs to be on your list. Go to Chile (figuratively, in your wine shop, of course) -- the biggest Carménère producing nation -- to find some.
Texas Wine Tasting (ninety minutes from Austin, Texas, USA)
The urban terrain of one of 21st century America's most vibrant cities melted into rolling hills, a curious mix of green and grey driving west from Austin into the wine country of the Texas hills. Rain poured sadly down, but the pastoral serenity of this place was as lovely as it was surprising to be found in a state conceptualized by most who are not from here as an endless prairie of scorched earth and heat. We had come looking for Becker Vineyards, the next chapter in our long standing fascination with wine from places you'd not expect, and surely but the first chapter in our flirtation with wine from Texas Hill Country.
Girl Scout Cookies + Wine (home in Arlington, Virginia, USA)
It was Girl Scout Cookie Time in the United States, when the only thing more numerous than the throngs of girl scouts hawking their wares in seemingly every public space are the innumerable throngs of people looking to buy more. We've wondered for a long time about which wine varietals to pair with which cookie varieties. There's certainly a lot of literature about this on the Internet, but we put a lineup to the test and have come up with Wine:Thirty Flight endorsed recommendations for your next cookie soiree. Yes, we had a cookie soiree.
Further reading: Our favorite wine and Girl Scout Cookie pairings
Wine Library (Méntrida, Spain)
There's magic in the peace and quiet of a small town where wine is made. Midday sun warms you standing next to an unassuming bodega, smiling mindfully because you know there's a barrel cellar beneath your feet. A puppy leaps merrily out the door to great you. Children play in the otherwise quiet streets. Here we stand in the Spanish town La Torre de Esteban Hambrán, a town of less than 2,000 in the Province of Toledo, walking through the door of Bodegas Alonso Cuesta, one of the DO Méntrida region's finest wineries.
Cocktail Library (Nashville, Tennessee, USA)
The spirit of anti-prohibition Governor Malcolm Patterson (1907-1911) lives on as The Patterson House. Visitors should not be fooled by this local favorite's decidedly low key appearance, for behind its nondescript facade looking like little more than an ordinary street corner home lies a speakeasy style shrine to the cocktail, staffed by some of the most knowledgable drink mixers we've ever encountered. They can match your mood with the perfect cocktail from their impressive leather bound list. The whisky-based Diplomatic Finesse was a winner of intensity, while the gin-inspired Juliet & Romeo offered a lighter more approachable counterpoint. The dim lighting and shelves of old books complete the experience. We finished two of three nights here.