Wednesday, January 29, 2014

14 FREE Wine Apps for 2014

The apps, they are a changin’.  Today, just snap a photo of a wine bottle at your local wine shop and you can get all the geeky wine information you desire: information about the grape varietal, region of origin, winemaker, tasting notes, price history, even the local restaurant that serves it.  And, depending on the app, you could also get access to expert wine advice, food pairing suggestions, ratings and reviews, even share your thoughts and photos of the wine, or the winery, on social media without leaving the app. Ready to find out what’s out there – for FREE – for 2014? Then let’s dial down and see …

America’s Wine Trails (iOS & Android)

This is an app for when you’re on the go. It’s a great way to locate wineries and wine trails around the country. Winery listings include photos, links to the winery website, along with info on their wines and varietals, hours and a map on how to get there. The America’s Wine Trails app touts having the largest number of wineries (over 6,000) and wine trails available in the U.S. Definitely a “don’t leave home without it” app.

Blush for Wine (iOS)
This mobile wine-shopping app makes selecting a bottle of wine a breeze. Simply scan the bar code or speak the wine’s name and Blush for Wine will provide you with in-depth information about it. The app also includes wine descriptions, ratings, and pairing suggestions, along with other wines that will match your budget.

Delectable  (iOS)
This is currently the Holy Grail of wine apps. With praise from Forbes Magazine and Wine Business, among others, Delectable has been called the best wine app out there. This social wine app connects the wine consumer and the wine producer with the click of button. Just take a photo of the wine label with your iPhone and Delectable will provide you with the name of the wine, the vintage and the winemaker. You can give it a rating, add tasting notes, and share your comments online, and through the app.

Drync (iOS & Android)
Drync (pronounced drink) is trying to bridge the gap between finding a wine you love and being able to buy it. The app allows you to purchase the wines you like right from your phone and have them delivered to your home. And, as an added perk, shipping is free when you order 6 bottles or more. Who wouldn’t Drync to that?

Hello Vino (iOS & Android)
When you're faced with all of those bottles in the wine aisle, here's an app to help you make a decision. Hello Vino recommends wines according to your preferences, and also offers food pairings to go with that bottle. Find the perfect bottle based on the occasion, or the price point. It's a handy app for those just delving into wine, and those who can’t ever make a decision about which bottle to purchase.

Local Wine Events (iOS & Android)
This app won’t help you when selecting a wine, but it will show you where the food and wine events are taking place in your area. Use it to explore and locate what’s happening when visiting other cities. You can also save cash on exclusive ticket deals and share events with your friends.

Snooth (iOS)
If you want to know what others think of a wine, then this is the app for you. You can also search for a wine by color, price or country, then write a review, add it to your app cellar or place it on your wish list. And when you’re ready, compare prices and buy online. While the Snooth Wine app is free, Snooth Pro is $4.99, but offers an expanded image database.

The Wine Coach (iOS & Android)
This is more of a wine entertainment app. Laurie Forster, author and radio host of The Sipping Point has come out with The Wine Coach which contains podcasts of her The Sipping Point radio show, along with wine and cooking videos, a guide to wine grapes and a “wine rack” feature that will keep track of your favorite wines. (Why didn’t Martha Stewart think of this?)

ViVino (iOS & Android)
This handy little app allows you to learn more about the wines you drink by simply scanning the bottles. Vivino recognizes over 1-million wines and will provide you with information on the wines, the grapes, wine regions and wine countries. There’s nothing like being a knowledgeable wino.

Wine Dictionary (iOS & Android)
First came the Beer Dictionary and now, the Wine Dictionary, which contains hundreds of words used to describe wine – the taste, the regions, the grapes, even the hard-to-pronounce phrases on the wine label. While not inclusive, the Wine Dictionary has 900 words and definitions that will help you begin to understand “wine speak’ a bit better. (Note – while the Wine Dictionary is free for Android users, on iTunes, it’s .99)

Wine Notes (iOS)
Love it? Hate It? Here’s a place to record your thoughts on a wine as you’re drinking it. Wine Notes provides a template where you can record the producer, vintage, varietal, region, rating, alcohol, and color, along with your personal impressions. And when you’re through, you can share your notes on Twitter.

Winery Passport (iOS)
This app is your mobile wine traveling companion, providing you with info on over 4-thousand wineries throughout the U.S. and Canada. Stamp your app passport at each winery and record all the details in your journal. Then share your latest finds with friends and family on Facebook and Twitter.

Wine Quest (iOS)
Wine Quest may help restore wine harmony in your relationships. Simply create your wine profile, rate the wines you like (and don’t), and get personal recommendations about any wine you consider trying or buying. By adding additional profiles for friends, family and that significant other, you’ll always reach for their favorite bottle of wine when you entertain.

Wine Searcher (iOS & Android)
Ready to buy that special bottle of wine, but it seems too pricy?  Find the best price! Simply select the wine, search for the best price available and purchase it. Wine Searcher’s database has over 6-million wines and over 42,000 retailers listed. The app offers maps to stores near you and gives extra details including grape variety, region of origin, and a history of the price, so you know how low you can go.

Have a favorite, free wine app you couldn’t do without? Share the info below.

And, a special Thank You to YOU!
This Saturday will mark the 2nd Anniversary of Joy’s JOY of Wine.
If you enjoy what you find here, please “Follow” on Blogger and Twitter, “Like” on Facebook, Share on Google+, and share with your friends.  Thanks for reading!

~ Joy

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ten U.S. Wine Caves Worth the Visit

Ancient Orvieto - Umbria Wine Cave
Wine Cave in Barcelona
Caves have been used to store and age wine for over 6,000 years. The underground caverns were found to offer the best environment for wine aging, and that is still true today. Wine caves offer the perfect conditions: high humidity from 70 – 90%, optimal temperatures between 55 °F and 60 °F, and as an added bonus, a wine cave makes maximum use of the land, allowing for a vineyard on top of the ground and a cellar below.

Napa Region
Wine caves can be found around the world. In the U.S., wine caves are located in California, mainly in the Napa Valley region. In fact, there are over 200 known wine caves in Northern California. 

Here are ten caves not to be missed!

Buena Vista Wine Cave
Buena Vista Winery was probably the first winery that had a wine cave constructed. The cave for Buena Vista was dug in 1861 with the aid of Chinese laborers. Things were progressing quite nicely until founder Agoston Haraszhy died in an accident in 1869. Buena Vista then began to experience financial problems and was sold off in 1878. It was not until the 1940s that the winery began to rebound, but the caves were left dormant. Then, in 2012, the wine caves were restored and are now, once again being used for aging wine.

Jacob Schram
Wine caves became popular in Napa Valley in the 1870s, thanks to Jacob Schram, a German immigrant who hired Chinese laborers to build a network of caves under his vineyard. 

Shramsberg Wine Cave
Schramsberg Vineyard produces sparkling wines using the Champagne method. The caves present the perfect conditions in which to age the sparkles in order to "match the style and quality of the best French Champagnes". At any time, there can be over 2.7 million bottles aging in these caverns. Public tours are available.

Beringer Wine Cave
Beringer Vineyards, the oldest commercial winery in California, also put Chinese labor forces to work constructing a labyrinth of caves during the late 1870s and early 1880s. Over 12 caves were created by hand, measuring 1,200 feet long, 17 feet wide and 7 feet high. Today, the wine caves are again in use and public tours and tastings are held there.

Inglenook Wine Cave
It was 1883 when Inglenook Winery began construction on a wine cave to test their theory of cellar temperatures. Founder Gustave Niebaum worked to advance wine procedures; one way was by setting up one of the first bottling lines in the state in his wine cellar. But the winery fell on hard times after Niebaum died, and his vision was lost. The building and grounds were sold and resold several times. It wasn’t until film director Francis Ford Coppola purchased part of the estate in 1975 that the winery began to rebound, and eventually flourish. It would be 120 years after the first wine caves were completed that the Infinity Caves were built - specifically to store the Niebaum-Coppola Estate wines.

Del Dotto Wine Cave
In 1885, Chinese workers dug another wine cave, this one measuring 350 feet, for another of the first wineries in Napa. This is one of only six wine caves still in existence from that time. Now owned by Del Dotto Vineyards, the Napa Valley caves were restored in 1997 and are now used for the aging of the red wines, along with public tours.

Abandoned Winery
By the close of the 19th century, interest in wine caves had dropped and none were built for almost 90 years. Because of Prohibition, many wineries and vineyard were sold or simply abandoned, and left to fall into disrepair. Wine caves and tunnels slowly eroded and become impassable. Interest didn’t renew until 1972 when the old Beringer caves were restored.

Far Niente Wine Cave
The first modern wine cave was constructed for Far Niente Winery in 1982. What began as a 60-foot wine cave led to the first cave to be built in the 20th century. The Far Niente caves now encompass over 40,000 square-feet of underground terrain and are open for public tours.

Rutherford Hill Wine Cave
Rutherford Hill Winery was also a proponent of modern caves. Excavations began in 1984 and by 1986 the first wine cave was completed. Work on the second cave began immediately and was finished in 1989. It included a series of connecting tunnels, a rear cave and a grotto, which is used for events. Rutherford Hill has the largest wine cave in Napa Valley; it can store over 8,000 barrels of wine.

Jarvis Wine Cave
Jarvis Estate was the first winery to tunnel a cave large enough to move their complete winemaking operation into. Started in 1991, the project was completed in three phases, the final one being finished in 2001. There are now over 45,000 square feet of parabolic shaped tunneled cellars which include a stream and waterfall.

Stag's Leap Wine Cave
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars was founded in 1970 during Napa Valley’s renaissance, but it wasn’t until 1996 that excavation began for the wine caves. Completed in 2000, the caves make up over 34,000 square feet of tunnels that can house up to 6,000 barrels of red wine. Designed by Barcelona-based architect Javier Barba, the caves meet at a center room, known as the Round Room. It is one of only 50 such rooms in the world. The Round Room houses a Foucault pendulum suspended from the ceiling, which marks the aging of the wines, and the passage of time.

Hall/Rutherford Wine Cave
Hall/Rutherford Wines produces small lots of red wines that are stored in the 14,000 square feet wine caves. The caves were designed and built by hand by the Austrian company Friedrich Gruber Winecellar using historical materials between 100 and 300 years old. A reception area is also located in the wine caves, which boasts a chandelier dripping with hundreds of Swarovski crystals. Completed in 2005, these modern caves are available for events.

Digging a Wine Cave
Although wine caves are far from new, the methods used to build them, and the enhancements included are quite different from those of 140 years ago. The current cost of constructing a wine cave is over $100 per square foot, but the savings from energy costs, along with event rentals, assist in recouping the initial expenditure.

Rudd Oakville Estates
Hall Rutherford
And modern wine caves are no longer used just for storing wine. Today they are the marketing backbone for many wineries. Wine caves are constructed not only for housing aging bottles, but for accommodating special events, libraries, exhibits and artwork. Instead of the dark, dank caves of the 1800's, today there's something for everyone to enjoy -  underground.

~ Joy

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Six Tips and Tricks to Organizing Your Wines

January is National Get Organized Month so it's the perfect time to think about organizing your wines. Regardless of whether your wines are stored in a wine rack, wine fridge or wine cellar, a wine management system will help keep track of what vintages you have, where they are located and when to drink them.

1) Divide (and Conquer)
The first step is to decide how you want your collection divided. It could be by brand or producer such as Penfolds, Estancia, Brennan Vineyards. Wine regions may include France, Spain, Argentina, or California, New York, Ohio. Varietals like Cabs, Merlots, and Chardonnays may make more sense for you, or simply arrange vino by vintage. If you’re just starting out, the type of wine such as dry, sem-dry, semi-sweet, sweet, sparkle, dessert may work better, or sort by color - reds, whites, roses.

2) Organize
You have several options to consider when organizing. Bottle tags that hang from the neck of the wine bottle work well to identify the brand, varietal and vintage. Tags are available in a variety of colors if you want to color code your collection.

There are numerous wine inventory programs that will help you keep track of your wine stock. The most popular include:

Manage Your Cellar
The Personal Wine Curator

There are also several wine apps for your mobile devices:, Snooth Wine Pro, Hello Vino and AG Wine Guide are just a few available for the iPhone.

For the DIY types, you could create an Excel spreadsheet where the information on each wine is listed and the location noted.

3) Timing
Timing is every thing, especially with wine. Separating wine into categories that let you know at a glance when to consume is helpful, especially if you have a large wine collection. Categories could include, “drink now”, “drink in 5 years”,  “drink in 10 years”, "Aging  Investment".

4) Placement
It will also help if the older aging wines are kept near the bottom of your storage unit. That way they will not be handled as much and will be kept cool and dark. Place those “drink now” wines at eye level so you can grab and go when you need a bottle for dinner.

5) Adding Wines
Take your time when building a wine collection. Add what you like. When you find a bottle that resonates with you, buy 6 bottles or a case. Suggestions from wine critics and sommeliers are great when trying a wine, but only you know if you want several bottles of it in your collection.

6) Rotate
Don’t just collect and never drink. Wines have a life span, find out what it is for each bottle. Ask the winemaker or wine shop owner where you purchased it, or check on line. You want to get maximum enjoyment from each bottle before it has reached its flavor peak.

It doesn’t matter if you have 24 bottles or 240 bottle - or more. If you drink wine regularly, organizing your collection will help you keep track of what to drink now, what to save for later, and where to find that special bottle quickly. After all, enjoyment is what it’s all about!

~ Joy