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Volére “Purses”: Chic, Fashion-Forward Box Wines

2 Aug

by Sharon Kapnick

In the past few years, some box wines have been getting the clever packaging they deserve.* Just as an appealing wine bottle and label attract attention, so does a well-designed bag-in-box. And since the box may be around for a month or more, it’s especially smart to use an eye-catching container.

Kudos goes to Volére Wines, which has recently introduced three novel pocketbook-shaped boxes, cord straps included, to the U.S. market. The wines, from the Delle Venezie region in northeastern Italy, are appealing too. (While this area is best known for its white wines, I preferred the Rosé and the Merlot-Pinot Noir.) They’re all made by the Cantina di Soave cooperative winery, which boasts more than 2,200 members. Although the group was founded in 1898, today it’s not only thriving but also leading and innovating. It was recently named one of 43 Rising Stars by the Beverage Information Group in part because it’s showed notable growth over the past few years.

As with all box wines, the  inner bag collapses as the beverage is dispensed, which ensures that no oxygen–a spoiler of wine–reaches it. The wine stays fresh for at least five weeks. The container is recyclable, conveniently lightweight when full, and easy to carry. Although each 1.5-liter box, equivalent to two standard-size bottles, has a suggested retail price of $14.99, the purses can be found for $10.99.

Pinot Grigio 2011: Aromas and flavors of green apple, peach and pear. Crisp, fruity. Serve as an aperitif or with antipasto and other appetizers, salads, white meats, sushi and seafood.

Rosé 2011: A blend of grape varieties indigenous to the Veneto Hills. Aromas and flavors of strawberries, raspberries and rose petals. Bright, fresh. Rosé is extremely versatile. Try this one on its own or with appetizers, charcuterie, salads, chicken, white meats, grilled vegetables, barbecue, picnic foods and seafood.

Merlot-Pinot Noir 2011: Aromas and flavors of red berries, cherries and currants. 80% Merlot-20% Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is usually bottled–or boxed–on its own, but  it’s been turning up more and more blended with other grapes. The combination works nicely here.  Serve with pasta, duck, grilled meats and mushrooms, vegetarian entrées and cheese.

*See my story “Tacky No More: Making Boxed Wines Look Chic” at www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1995832,00.html to read about Underdog’s cool Octavins and Wineberry’s wood Berry Boxes.

Note: I requested samples of these wines.

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McManis Family Vineyards: Good Wines, Good Values–Even Family Values

8 Feb

By Sharon Kapnick

I’m always pleased to come across a producer that makes good-value wines, so I was delighted to recently discover McManis Family Vineyards, which makes several of them. After I noticed that their $10 2009 Pinot Noir was chosen by the Wine Enthusiast as one of the Top 100 Best Buys of 2011, I wanted to learn more about them. After all, excellent $10 Pinots are about as easy to come by as flamingos in Central Park.

I found out that the McManis family had been growing grapes, almonds and peaches in the Northern Interior region of California since 1938. But Ron McManis fell in love with the grape side of the business, so in 1990, as soon as they could manage it financially, 4th generation farmer McManis and his wife, Jamie, purchased their first vineyard. Then, in 1994, they founded the McManis Family Vineyards, 80 miles east of San Francisco. With some vineyards in Lodi and some in Modesto, the McManises sold only bulk wine until 2001, when they bottled their first wines using the family label.

The wines can generally be found for an easy-on-the-pocketbook $8 to $9 a bottle in a wide range of varietals–Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel, Malbec and Barbera. Last year saw the addition of two even-more-inexpensive options: a red blend and a white blend in nonvintage box-wine formats.

The wines truly are a family effort. Fifth generation daughter Tanya and son Justin are involved, and the McManises look upon their workers as part of an extended family. No big corporations are involved in this business.

In a testament to their skill and hard work, production has gone from 4,000 cases to more than 300,000 cases in a decade. And while McManis started out selling grapes in bulk to other wineries, they now purchase about 25% of the grapes they use in their own wines.

Another reason to support them: the company is currently planning to reach green winery certification from the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing program and it adheres to sustainable farming practices.

Their goal, Ron says, is to “constantly showcase the passion and commitment we have to make quality wines that overdeliver on value and are consistently good year after year.” They’re doing a pretty good job at it.

RECOMMENDED WINES

2010 Viognier (SRP* $12): aromas and flavors of pear, peach and apricot, a touch of honey, good acidity, good balance; recently won the “Best in Class” award for Viogniers up to $19.99 at the 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

2010 Malbec (SRP $12): aromas and flavors of raspberry and blackberry, good acidity, medium body, delicious

2010 Merlot (SRP $11): aromas and flavors of black cherry, berries; juicy, soft; recently won the “Best in Class” award for Merlots $10 to $14.99 at the 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

2010 Petite Sirah (SRP $12): aromas and flavors of blackberry, boysenberry and cassis, smooth, soft, flavorful

Jack Tone Vineyards Red Wine (SRP $22 per 3-L box, equivalent to four bottles): The blend, which may include Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel and Petit Verdot, will change from year to year. It currently features Syrah and Petite Sirah. Aromas and flavors of dark berries, especially blackberry. A great bargain

* suggested retail price

Full disclosure: I received samples of these wines.