Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ridiculous alcohol laws in MA

It's been almost a year since we moved here to Boston, and as I mentioned in my first post, moving here has been a pretty difficult transition for us. The weather is awful, we miss our friends, the ethnic food is terrible, the produce is far from fresh, the people are unfriendly, the accent is incredibly raunchy, and we can't get our wine shipments here! The state of MA has some ridiculous laws where alcohol can only be sold through a distributor. In other words, all our wine club shipments (which are sent directly from the winery) cannot be sent to our apartment! Thankfully, we knew this before our move and packed around 3 cases of wine in the back of the car for the drive across country. However, since moving here, we've discovered the laws here are so much worse than we imagined. You can't buy alcohol in most grocery stores or markets (something crazy where only 3 stores of each chain in the entire state may sell beer and wine), you can't buy alcohol before noon on Sundays, and we recently found out you can't buy any alcohol from a retailer on a holiday like Memorial Day! WTF? Happy Hour is banned??! Seriously??? We can thank MADD for that wonderful law.

Unfortunately for us, most of the wineries we're members of are small boutique wineries that you really can't get them in a regular store. However, we've managed to make frequent trips back to Cali over the course of the last year and check-in a case or two on the plane with us. Additionally, we're really trying to expand our palate and are trying wines from different regions, in particular European wines since that seems to be popular here on the East Coast. Nonetheless, our palates seem to always bring us back to preferring wines off the Pacific Coast - wines that are complex and full-flavored: fruit forward, spicy, hints of chocolate, espresso, and a long, lingering velvety finish.

We are hoping these laws change soon. In fact, there is an entire organization devoted to changing the legislation: http://www.freethegrapes.org/. In the meantime, we'll continue taking as many trips back to California as our wallets will allow us to visit our friends and bring back wine from Paso Robles. Stay tuned for the next adventure! Suggestions/recommendations/comments on our blog thus far is greatly appreciated!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Trip to the Fingerlakes Region - June 3-6, 2010

Wine from NY??!!! Yah, we didn't know it existed either. But for Che's bday (June 3), we decided to take a trip to upstate NY to check out the wineries located in the Fingerlakes Region. We stayed in a supercute B&B called the Hound and the Hare Too! in Ithaca, NY, about 5.5 hours away from Boston. Karen, the proprietor, was extremely hospitable and made us great breakfasts every morning!

Ithaca itself was a surprise for us: earthy and funky vibe that was totally unexpected. It probably helped that the Ithaca festival just happened to be going on that same weekend. While the town itself was tiny, the people were friendly (totally unlike the people of Boston) and the views were amazing. The restaurants, however, were not much to write home about. On our second night in Ithaca, we went to the famous Moosewood Restaurant, and while the food was decent....it wasn't anything spectacular - they could do so much more with vegetarian food. I was craving Thai food the third night and was COMPLETELY disappointed at this place called Thai Cuisine, which was Yelp's highest rated Thai restaurant in Ithaca! Since this blog is supposed to be about wine, I won't go into detail about the disastrous dinner...but it was hands down the worst Thai restaurant I have ever been to in my life. :(

On our first full day in the Fingerlakes, we went to Seneca Lake, one of the 2 larger lakes in the region. While we were there, we ran into a really sweet couple who also happened to come from Brookline! They literally live down the street from us so we are super excited to hang out with them again soon. Driving along the Fingerlakes is completely breathtaking. I highly recommend taking a trip here (while its warm!), even if you don't drink wine. There are lots of activities to do in the area - hiking, fishing, camping - so definitely worth a trip if you're close-by. The wines, on the other hand, are for the most part - not good. The Rieslings and Gewurztraminers -- excellent. But Che and I are red-wine drinkers and were completely disgusted by most of the red wine sold in the FingerLakes region. The red wines didn't have the right color (some were orange, most were pale red, rather than the deep red color you would expect like that seen in a cabernet franc or syrah). Most of them tasted sour and vinegar-y and were barely reminiscent of wine. What's worse, the terminology people use out here is really bizarre - dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet, and sweet. The terms are used to describe the amount of "residual sugar" found in the wine - or the amount of sugar left in the wine when fermentation has completed. I mean, isn't wine so much more complex than to describe it as such?! Not in the FingerLakes apparently. On our first day, we were lucky enough to stumble upon Shalestone Winery, a place where "Red is all we do". Boy were we pleasantly surprised. The owner/winemaker, Rob Thomas, has been in the FingerLakes for a number of years and his eccentric personality was greatly appreciated. This was the first place that really had "fine wines". We came home with two of his Cabernet Francs and a bottle of his Cabernet Sauvignon. His lovely wife and him suggested we go to the further lake, Keuka Lake, rather than the lake closer to Ithaca, called Cayuga Lake, as we had originally planned the next day.

Unfortunately, our tour of the wineries at Keuka Lake were not much better. The first place we went to, Keuka Springs, had again a great view - but poor-tasting wine. I'm not really sure how they were able to win so many medals and end up in the Wine Spectator this past month. Again, the whites were good, but that's to be expected in this climate. Afterwards, we went to this place that Rob recommended, called Ravines Wine Cellars, located on the east side of Keuka Lake. Wow! Another gem! This time, for both whites and reds! Their wines were truly fine wines and we were excited to hear that they are going to be selling their wines at Blanchard's here in MA. For those of you who don't know, we are not allowed to have any wines shipped to us directly from the wineries - everything must go through a distributor. These laws make it extremely difficult for us to get our wine shipments from CA - we have to ship them to a friend's place in Manhattan and pick it up from him when they come in. Yet another reason why we are so unhappy here in Boston! In any case, after Ravines, we went to the other side Keuka lake, and well, everything else pretty much sucked - as expected. Why does the red wine here have to taste so vinegar-y? What in the world does Rob at Shalestone do to the grapes grown in the FingerLakes to get red wine that actually tastes good?! Needless to say, we won't be heading back to the FingerLakes anytime soon for the wine.