Downton Abbey Wine Collection

Fans of the hit PBS show “Downton Abbey” can now enjoy wines similar to those poured by Mr. Carson for Lord and Lady Grantham. The Downton Abbey Wine Collection features two blends from the Bordeaux region of France: a “Blanc” white wine and a “Claret” red wine. Downton Abbey Blanc is a light and crisp white blend, while Downton Abbey Claret is medium-bodied red with bright fruit and a silky finish. We tried both of them and were impressed, particularly when you consider the reasonable price of $14.99 per 750-ml bottle.

Both blends use the same vines, soil and region used to produce the wines from the Downton Era and are made by the Grands Vins de Bordeaux, a family-owned winery with more than 130 years of winemaking experience in the prized Entre-Deux-Mers region of Bordeaux, France. The wines are available in select stores and also at Wine.com and DowntonAbbeyWine.com.

If you know someone who is a fan of this excellent period drama, then the Downton Abbey Wine Collection will make for a very memorable gift. “Downton Abbey” returns to PBS for Season 4 in January 2014 so the timing is perfect for a gift this holiday season.

Downton Abbey Wines

  

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The Wonderful Wine Regions of South Australia

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Consisting of over 200 cellar doors and featuring many of the best drops in Aus, the South Australian wine trail is a must-do for every wine lover. Best of all, everything is in driving distance from Adelaide, meaning that arranging airport transfers, organizing transport and booking suitable Adelaide accommodation is exceptionally easy. The following is a guide to five of the best areas on the South Australian wine trail, with tips on which cellar doors and wineries you must visit.

Barossa

The Barossa Valley is where Aussie wines were born and is home to some of the oldest vines in the country (160 years!). Located approximately 70kms from the heart of Adelaide, it’s a beautiful area, full of history and architecture from the original German settlers. Best known for its big, bold shiraz, Barossa is home to some of the most famous names in the Aussie wine industry, including Wolf Blass, Jacobs Creek, Yalumba and of course, Penfolds. The nearby Eden Valley is also part of the Barossa region and is a quaint spot known for its award-winning riesling production. Not only is the Barossa known for its top drops, it’s also a haven for foodies. It is home to a range of wonderful restaurants and some amazing cheese companies. Check out the Barossa Valley Cheese Company for a complete food and wine experience.

McLaren Vale

McLaren Vale is a red wine lover’s paradise. With over 70 cellar doors, it is best known for its deep, dark shiraz, flavoursome cabernet sauvignon and prizewinning grenache. Some of the must-sees include Chapel Hill Winery, Geoff Merrill Wines, Rosemount Estate and Zimmerman Wines. The boutique Chalk Hill is also a must-visit with a proud history of wine-making dating back six generations. If you have a more organic preference, check out the Battle of Bosworth and Spring Seed Wines. Finish your trip with a follow-up beer at the Vale Ale Brewery.

Coonawarra

Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon is a staple of the Australian wine industry. The biggest wine area on the Limestone Coast, its terra rossa soil is credited for the region’s success. Although it sits 375kms from Adelaide, it’s worth the jaunt. Out of its 24 cellar doors, some of the best include Bowen Estate, Brand’s Laira Coonawarra, Wynns Coonawarra Estate and Redman Wines. Another highlight is the Coonawarra Wine Gallery, where you can various range of local wines and treat yourself to cheese platters and coffee.

Clare Valley

Located approximately 120kms from Adelaide, Clare Valley is home to some of the best in Aussie riesling. Another of Australia’s oldest wine regions, it’s full of attractions and activities including restaurants, art galleries and events, making it a hot-spot for tourists. The area is generally made up of boutique producers. Some of the best names on the riesling trail are some of the most renowned producers in all of Australia, including Jim Barry Wines, Tim Adams Wines, Edredge Wines, Taylors Wines and Annies Lane.

Adelaide Hills

Sitting 20 minutes from Adelaide, the gorgeous scenic views offered by Adelaide Hills makes for a lovely afternoon excursion in the crisp midwinter weather. Being a cool climate region, Adelaide Hills produces chardonnay, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and riesling. The region’s style is elegant and premium, which has led to its national and international success. With over 40 cellar doors, Adelaide Hills offers something for everyone, regardless of palate and preference. K1 by Geoff Hardy is a must-see, as are Bird in Hand, Leabrook Estate and Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard. Adelaide Hills is also known for its fabulous food, wine and music events. Look online before you go to see if anything coincides with your trip.

Photo credit: badjonni / Foter / CC BY-SA

About the Author: Dale McKenzie is a passionate wine drinker, wine writer and occasional wine judge. His dream is to retire on a seven-acre vineyard block in the Margaret River.

  

War Tears Up the SummerStage at New York’s Queensbridge Park

Forty-three years after their original 1969 formation, the legendary band War can still rock a stage with the best of them and provide a funky good time for audiences of all ages. Of course, the only original member still in the lineup is keyboardist and current lead singer Leroy “Lonnie” Jordan, but since the band has cycled through more than 25 members since its original inception, this is no surprise. The band, in its current seven-piece configuration, played a free show at Queensbridge Park in Queens, New York, last night as part of City Parks Foundation’s annual SummerStage series. Probably about 400 people, ranging in age from toddlers to elderly folks, were in attendance, and War played an excellent two-hour set full of positive energy and musical prowess.

After an hour-long warm-up from DJ Felix Hernandez’ Rhythm Revue, War opened their set with the funky, upbeat “Me and Baby Brother,” from their 1973 gold record “Deliver the Word,” and the already dancing crowd really began to get down. Jordan is an exceptionally charismatic frontman who really commands the stage even when boxed in behind his keyboards, but he stepped out early on in the show to lead an audience sing-along to the 1972 hit “The Cisco Kid.” He joked that if anyone in the crowd could tell him how many other War songs contained the word “wine,” he would let that lucky fan buy him a glass of wine.

Jordan then slowed the upbeat set down a bit with the more serious jam “The World Is a Ghetto,” from the 1972 album of the same name, taking time to speak off-the-cuff about changing the world for the kids in the audience. He referred specifically to an adorable toddler dancing near the stage, of whom he couldn’t quite identify the gender, saying, “They don’t know when they’re that age anyway. Let ‘em worry about all that when they get older.” The band also catered to an unexpected fan request by playing the gorgeous, tempo-shifting instrumental “City, Country, City,” also from the “World Is a Ghetto” album, which really gave saxophonist Fernando Harkless and harmonica player Stanley Behrens a chance to shine.

Though the overall set was mostly very up-tempo and danceable, War took time for a couple of slow love ballads near the end. Jordan took a lengthy vocal and keyboard solo for the beginning of the beautiful 1973 title track “Deliver the Word” before letting the rest of the band join him to jam it out, and drummer Salvador Rodriguez sang a love ballad of his own before War broke out their two biggest hits. On “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” from the 1975 album of the same name, each of the seven members of the band sang one two-bar verse, except for percussionist Marcos Reyes, who relegated the last small verse to an audience sing-along.

They closed with the iconic hit “Low Rider,” from the same album, and of course the crowd loved it, many of them begging for one more song. Unfortunately, the free outdoor show had a strict ending time, but it is a testament to War’s energy, vitality and long list of beloved hits, that a two-hour set could still leave us wanting more.

  

Food/drink product roundup: Hint Water, Hungry Man Pub Favorites and Sledgehammer Wines

Yes, trying and reviewing food and drink, and even alcoholic drinks, is a tough job. But someone has to do it. Here are a few new products that either came to me with promotions attached to them or not:

Hint flavored water–I drink a ton of flavored seltzer, so the thought of non-carbonated water scared me just a bit. But alas, this Hint stuff is pretty damn good. They sent six flavors, including Watermelon, Blackberry, Mango-Grapefruit and Strawberry-Kiwi. The Strawberry-Kiwi flavor comes with a special label–that of Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo to promote the new Yogi Bear movie that debuts in December and stars Justin Timberlake and Anna Farris. You can win tickets to the movie by visiting www.drinkhint.com/yogi. Anyway, this stuff is delicious, and it doesn’t come with a sugary aftertaste because there is no sugar at all. If you need a break from carbonation or need flavor in your water, definitely start here.

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Grüner Veltliner: The wine you should drink all summer

This week’s Happy Hour entry is a wine review to get you ready for summer. Gabe Sasso takes a look at several wines from Grüner Veltliner. It sounds like the kind of wine your lady friend would like as well, so it’s definitely worth checking out.

One of the wine varietals that has been making its presence known the last few years on U.S. shelves, wine lists, and the like is Grüner Veltliner. This is a white grape that’s predominately grown in Austria. It’s a grape that often produces crisp, aromatic wines that are particularly well suited to pair with a wide array of foods. Depending on the style in which it is made, as well as the provenance of the grape source, the wine can also have the propensity to age quite well. Other wines from Austria are starting to find more room on our shelves too. On the red side of things, Blaufränkisch is a noteworthy varietal that we should be seeing more and more of, as time goes on. Grüner Veltliner, though, is the entrée for many wine lovers into the joys and complexities of Austrian wine. Today I’ll look at three examples that provide excellent quality, and value, and a cross section of Grüner Veltliner styles.

  

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