Mountain Wine Tasting

In an overly broad, but nonetheless true, pronouncement we can say that all wine comes from one of two places: hillsides and valleys.  Some, but not many, of these hillsides are actually mountains, but most are just large hills that the locals call Mt. This and Mt. That.  For example, there’s the famous Burgundies from Montrachet, which is Mount Rachet to anglophones and, quite frankly, is nothing more than a bump on the plain.

But sometimes, you may want to try some wines from mountain wineries.  If you’re going wine tasting in Napa/Noma, Valpolicella or the Languedoc or the Northern Rhone you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy wines from both upper and lower altitudes.

The Chappellet vineyards in winter.

Visiting wineries in the valleys is a relatively simple affair.  Get on the region’s main drag and drive along; you’ll find vineyards and wineries on either side of the road.  Wine tasting in mountainous regions is a bit trickier.  There is no main drag.  Wineries are harder to find and are usually further apart.  And the driving is considerably more difficult.

So if you plan to taste in the mountains, it’s a good idea to consider a few tips:

  • Know where you’re going. Of course, this is good advice throughout life, but it has double resonance in mountain wine tasting.  For one thing, we have found that GPS systems get a little lost up high where the “streets” are often little more than barely paved roads.  Also, there are often few signs to let you know that you’re actually headed in the right direction.
  • Plan your time. It takes time to drive up a mountain.  And once you get where you’re going, it takes time to get back.  Then, once you get to a winery up in the hills, you may find it’s the only one in the area, so your trip is for just one tasting.  Now, that’s not all bad.  We’ll take the drive anytime if the destination is Chappellet or Quintarelli, even if it takes all or most of the afternoon.   We’re not sure, though that we’d make such a drive for a winery we’ve never heard of.
  • Recognize the exceptions to the previous tip. There are mountains with a selection of wineries.  Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain, for example, offers a pretty broad selection of wineries at which you may taste.  Some of them, like Cain, Pride and Smith-Madrone are well worth a visit.  The same may be said of France’s Côte Rôtie, where there is, in fact, a small but drivable main road, the D386, along which you’ll find many excellent wineries and even some places to eat.
  • Speaking of which, bring your lunch. Noting the exception in the previous tip, there are unlikely to be many restaurants, cafés or even snack bars up in the mountains.  Unlike in the valleys, there is no pass-through traffic and not that many people live there.  So it’s not an economic proposition to open an eatery there.  You may have to drive a while for something to eat.  We were in the hills above Valpolicella and asked a winemaker where we might have lunch.  He pointed across the valley to a spot on the horizon atop the next ridge.  Down one mountain, ten miles in the valley and up another on we had a great meal.

Evaluating Years

Wine snobs are (in)famous for their adulation of certain vintages.  “Ahh, the ’82 Bordeaux” one might croon, while another swoons over 1997 California Cabs.  We plead guilty to some of that, because we often try to buy certain favorite wines in years that are reputed to be top-tier or a millésime, as the French say.

However, we have found that many people we know don’t really care about the year a wine was made.  There is a certain logic to that way of thinking, especially for those who primarily drink wines from California.  The relative equanimity of the climate there, especially compared with wines from areas with more variable weather, such as Burgundy, means that there is less variability in the quality of Californian wines, year over year.

Photo courtesy of Vine Pair.

That is not to say that there aren’t better and worse years in Napa Valley or Sonoma County, for example.  2011 was a stinker, while the following three years were among the best.  For the most part, the distinction is only evident in the pricier premium wines.  If all you want is something to go with a burger and fries in the backyard, buy a good label and don’t worry about which year it was made.

But if you are on a wine tasting trip, it may be interesting to try to evaluate vintages.  Here are a few tips if you want to try.

  • Develop a sensory memory. Yeah, sure, nothing to it.  Some of the greatest experts have trouble with this, so don’t feel too bad if you can’t remember the aroma and taste of the wine you sipped an hour ago, much less days or weeks.  Still, if you know in advance that you will be visiting a winery that you particularly like, open a bottle of that wine and really concentrate on the smell, mouth feel and taste.  Maybe even write down your sensations and then really try to remember when you are tasting other vintages.  Good luck.
  • Taste a vertical. A vertical is a selection of the same wine from different years, often successive years.  This is really the best way to evaluate the differences between years, but is somewhat difficult (or at least expensive) to accomplish.  Many of the better wineries have older bottles, called library wines, available for tasting for a fee.  Lining up a few glasses with the same wine from different years exposes much about the terroir and the winemaker’s art, and helps tasters to develop their knowledge of wine.
  • Make your own vertical. You don’t have travel to a winery to have access to a vertical.  If you belong to a wine club, you will probably receive the same wine from each year’s harvest.  If you put down some of those wines, they’ll be available to open two or three from different years and compare them.  It’s a good idea to do this with some friends, since you don’t want to finish two or three bottles yourself and you don’t want to lose some of your most treasured wines.

All of this is for academic or at least snobbish reasons.  The point of wine tasting is not to parade your expertise but rather to enjoy what’s in the glass in front of you or if you don’t, to know why.  You can look up the consensus opinions on the quality of a certain vintage in a certain locale and adjust your buying – and sipping – accordingly.


Parking, Picnics and Restrooms

In our travels, we have often experienced the excitement of discovering a new winery or a new wine that we had never heard of.  In general, we enjoy the beauty of the architecture of many wineries and the sight of endless vineyards never fails to thrill us.  Sadly, these wonders can be undermined when a winery doesn’t take care of some basic amenities.

The first of these is parking facilities.  If we are visiting in the autumn and winter months, we don’t care as much if the only parking spots available are in the bright sun.  But if we’re in Wine Country in July or August, we really appreciate a spot that’s shaded from the sun by a wall or some trees.

For one thing, we are likely to have some bottles we have previously bought sitting in the car.  We don’t want them to be cooked.  Here are a few tips.  Pick up a simple Styrofoam cooler at a drug store or grocery.  If you happen to have a mini fridge in your hotel room, buy a few ice packs and put them in the cooler.  You can also buy a Styrofoam shipping box from the first winery you visit and put your new bottles in it.  Keep it inside the car, not the trunk.  Add bottles as you buy them.  At the end of the day when you get back to your hotel, bring the bottles with you, leaving the Styrofoam box in the trunk for the next day.  (Of course, if you’re tasting near your home, just use the cooler you take on picnics or camping.)

If you don’t have a cooler, put any bottles you buy on the floor in front of the rear seats or under the front ones.  This isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s better than leaving your newly bought wine in the full sunshine.  This is good practice even in the cooler months, when wine can still heat up in a closed car in the sun.

We love picnics and often dine al fresco back home.  A picnic lunch near the vines, with a newly bought bottle of a cool and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc is one of the best ways to maximize the pleasure of a day in Wine Country.  But some proprietors don’t like the mess and the critters that show up to share a meal with their visitors.  In some jurisdictions, the local elders limit or deny licenses for picnic grounds.

Picnicking at Frank Family Vineyards.

For example, only those wineries that predated Napa County’s restrictions are allowed to have facilities for picnics.  Perhaps the best known is V. Satui, in St. Helena, which has a fine delicatessen as well as wines that they produce.  Others with picnic grounds that we have enjoyed in Napa Valley are Rutherford Hill and Frank Family.

The wineries in Sonoma County are not so restricted.  We particularly recommend Dry Creek, Preston and Chateau St. Jean.  In Europe, picnicking isn’t frequently encountered at the châteaux and domaines.   But nobody cares if you bring a blanket and make yourself at home by the side of a vineyard or in a churchyard.

Finally, we expect any public location, especially one that serves liquids as a business, to have clean, well-lit restrooms.    We don’t insist on showplaces right out of Architectural Digest, but there’s no excuse for not keeping them clean and tidy.  Nothing can spoil a tasting visit like a dirty john.  We won’t name names, but they know who they are.

Wine Tasting at Parties

Fine wine goes with fine dining.  No one serves an ’05 Latour at a barbecue (well, at least no one we know).  When anyone is planning a party, in the office or at home, he or she rarely scans the cellar to find the finest.  Alas, there are too many people who figure that the beer and the hard stuff are the beverages of choice and, if they serve any wine at all, it comes from one of two jugs – red and white.

Photo courtesy of Zonin Prosecco.

At the same time, there is no reason that the wine at parties has to be plonk.  With a little thoughtfulness and a budget just above rock bottom, it’s quite possible to offer a variety of wines that can please both the knowledgeable taster and someone who just wants a pleasant beverage to pass the time.

Here are some tips for potential hosts.

  • Don’t serve anything you haven’t tasted. Sadly, you can’t always trust the advice of a clerk in a wine store.  The wine so highly spoken of may be just the one the store couldn’t get rid of.  There are plenty of worthy wines under $20 and even some that are under $15.  Wine Spectator and the New York Times generally have issues each year dedicated to available bargains.  Use it as a guide.
  • Plan to serve at least four wines. Why four?  If you assume that most people who choose wine at a party will select either a red or a white, there may well be someone who doesn’t care for one of your choices.  If there’s only one offering, that person is stuck.  If you have two of each on hand, it significantly raises your odds to please most people.

If you find yourself a guest at a shindig organized by a thoughtful host and are confronted by a small array of interesting wines, here are some tips for you.

  • To begin with, try a little of each wine. Even if you’re partial to white wines, try those and the reds.  It shows respect for the hosts and the effort that they put in to please you.  It enables you to say, “I’m generally not into big red wines, but that Beaujolais really appealed to me”.
  • Think of the party as an impromptu tasting. Try to appreciate the wines for what they are, not comparing them to other labels of the same grapes.  And if you’re being served something from somewhere you never heard of, think of it as an adventure.
  • If there’s a wine you find particularly pleasing, don’t hog it. In fact, recommend it to other guests.  If nothing else, it gives you something to talk about with people you don’t know.  Again, your host will appreciate you talking up one (or more) of the wines served.
  • Don’t worry about the glassware. If it’s a catered affair the glasses will be of the sturdy restaurant variety.  At someone’s home, expect plastic cups.  After all, you’re not going to be the one washing up afterwards.  Sure, good goblets enhance good wines, but party wine can survive inferior goblets.


Planning for a Napa/Noma Trip, Updated

For more than four decades, we would travel to California at least once a year to go wine tasting.  Occasionally we’d go to the Central Coast or a smaller, outlying sector of California’s Wine Country, which means most of the state.  But usually our destination was either Napa Valley or Sonoma County, sometimes both.  Then the pandemic came along, and like a lot of people, our travels were interrupted for a few years.

For a long time, planning for a wine tasting trip was fairly simple: flight, car and hotel.  The rest was mostly a matter of serendipity.  We’d choose an AVA, drive there and stop wherever we wanted.   We would park, walk in, belly up to the bar and taste.  When we were finished, we’d get back into the car and head up the road to do it again.

For better or worse, more planning is required these days.

  • It still makes sense to limit a day’s tastings geographically. We want to be tasting, not driving from Calistoga to Napa and then back to St. Helena.  Why waste time behind the wheel when we could be in a tasting room?  More important, when the purpose of the day’s activities is sipping alcohol, it’s really advisable to minimize driving as much as possible.
  • Appointments are necessary. Many wineries now have a “By Appointment Only” policy.  Smaller wineries – and some of the larger, snootier ones – have long been that way. That prohibition was once a ruse to keep rowdy crowds away; today the tastings are seated and the limitation is for real.  Since the pandemic, almost all Napa/Noma wineries are available only with a reservation.

A seated tasting at Black Stallion.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

  • Expect fewer but longer seated tastings. Many wineries, as a by-product of their appointment requirements, now only offer seated tastings.  Bellying up to the bar is not an option anymore or there is no bar to belly up to.  Therefore, we taste on their schedules rather than our own.   The ambiance is more guest than bar patron, which has plusses and minuses.
  • Sharing is more difficult. Since they are seated tastings, two people can’t occupy one chair.  As a result, both will have a full tasting.  Sure, we can each sip only a little but the temptation to take a few more sips is quite apparent and the cost of tasting becomes more expensive.
  • Lunch is more important than ever, but harder. If we are likely to drink a little more at each tasting, we need to get some food into us.  But fitting in a restaurant between winery visits is a challenge, especially in areas where restaurants are few and far between.
  • Packing a picnic may be the only choice. There are no restaurants and often not even delis in certain areas.  For example, there used to be the Jimtown Store in Alexander Valley, but there isn’t anything now.  And try finding a restaurant in the further extremes of Russian River.  Even with a packed lunch, there aren’t that many wineries with picnic tables in Sonoma County and hardly any at all in Napa Valley.  Dining in the car may be necessary but it’s unpleasant.

All of which is to say, Napa/Noma still has some of America’s best wineries available to visit.  They just take more preparation to enjoy them than it used to.

How to Order from Unfamiliar Wine Lists

When we go wine tasting, we are almost always tasting wines we’ve never tasted before.  Even if we’re at a familiar winery, we’re going to sample a new vintage.  Often, the tasting room will put some bottlings on their menu for the day that we’ve never heard of, much less tasted.  If we’re visiting a winery we’ve never been to before, especially when we travel abroad, we’re in the dark.

This is all great preparation for ordering wine off a restaurant’s list, where we know nothing (or almost nothing).  What to choose?  This is where our experience with wine tasting trips comes to our aid.  A few tips might help you, too.

  • You could ask your waiter. These days, your waiter may not be old enough to drink, much less to develop expertise in wine! The best you can hope for is that he or she can tell you what’s the most popular.  In fairness, the type of establishment that has inexperienced wait staff often has a less-than-inspiring wine list, sometimes consisting of two choices: red or white.

Photo courtesy of Sommeliers Choice Awards

  • Or a sommelier. At the other extreme, restaurants that do have quality wine lists may also have someone trained to help you choose, i.e., a sommelier.  But there are problems here as well.  The sommelier is an employee of the house and has an incentive to direct you to the more expensive items on the list.  A good one will ask you what types of wine you like and the characteristics you prefer, such as robustness, acidity or intensity.  And definitely what your price range is.  Even then, you’re going to be offered what he or she thinks meets your tastes, which may or may not work out.
  • Go with a wine that’s from a familiar region. If we’re dealing with wines from California, France or Italy, for example, we know enough to say “We don’t know these wines, but we know that a Bordeaux usually pleases us”.  But if we’re at a Hungarian or an Argentine restaurant, for instance, that’s not going to help.  And when we’re overseas, our best hope is to try our luck.
  • Choose on the basis of price. Think about your overall restaurant experience with wine.  How much do you usually pay for wine as a percentage of the overall meal.  A third?  A half? More?  Less?  Use that as your guide.

Or go at it the other way round.  How much do you want to spend on a bottle that night?  Probably less on a random Tuesday, more on a weekend and even more for a special occasion.  Let’s say you’re ready to spend $75.  Look for a number in the $65 to $85 range on the right side of the list.  If the restaurant is knowledgeable and honest, you’ll get a bottle that satisfies you.  This isn’t a perfect rule, but it has worked out pretty well for us.

How to Make Wine Tasting Discoveries

Christopher Columbus wasn’t trying to discover America.  He was looking for China and stopped in Hispaniola, which of course had already been “discovered” by the people living there.  All the same it worked out pretty well (except for the natives).  If you want to make discoveries on a wine tasting trip, you can’t set out to find them; you have to let them happen and recognize them when you do.

Moshin Vineyards’ tasting room.

  • Be adventurous – Take the side roads off the main drag, whether that be Sonoma County’s Route 101, Burgundy’s Route des Vins, or the D2 in Bordeaux. You don’t know what you’ll find there and in fact there may be no wineries at all.  But sometimes there’s a little château with a small production and a limited distribution that blows your mouth away.  As often as not, you’ll get to meet the owner, who doubles as the winemaker and whose daughter is the only one there who can speak English.  And you’ll be served in their kitchen.  You won’t forget an experience like that.
  • Be prepared to fail – Alas, some of those little unknown wineries are small and unfamiliar for a reason. This is especially true if you’re on a tasting trip through regions where the wines are just names to you.  If you’re on your own, for the first time in the South Africa’s Stellenbosch, the Barossa in Australia or California’s Santa Clara Valley, you’ll have no idea what’s to be found in the next winery down the road.  Maybe you’ll get lucky but there’s just as good a chance that what you’ll find is something you wouldn’t put on your table.  You have to take your chances.
  • Recognize a discovery when you make one – Most American tasting rooms have a variety of wines available to taste. (So do many overseas, but in regions such as Burgundy or Tuscany, they may make only one kind of wine.)  If you’ve never heard of the winery or the wines they make, your reactions may be summarized as “eh, meh, ugh, and wow”.  It’s important not to let the first three color your perceptions so you can tell that a wow is a WOW.

Iron Horse Vineyards’ “tasting room”.  Photo courtesy of Pinterest.

  • Make the most of what you find – The wines you try in an unknown winery may fall well below your standards but the overall experience may be a discovery in itself. There may be a beautiful landscape or a fine art collection or architecture that thrills you.  Contrarily, you may find superb wine being served in what is little more than a shed.  Iron Horse Vineyards fits into this latter category and is truly a discovery in itself.  The entire premise of Power Tasting is that the wine tasting experience is more important even than the wines by themselves.

The overall point is that you can’t and won’t make discoveries unless you are open to them.  Throw away your preconceptions.  Be ready to try something you’re unfamiliar with.  Trust your eyes and your taste buds.  You’ll reap rewards.

How to Go Wine Tasting on Long Island

The headline might seem a bit facetious.  You taste wine on Long Island just like anywhere else: lift glass, swirl, sniff and sip.  Sure, but there are wrinkles to wine tasting on the North Fork that are somewhat unique.  Before heading out, give some consideration to these issues.

Workers tending the vines at Paumanok Vineyards, where visitors will soon sip wine.

  • Try to visit on weekdays. Of course, wineries are busier on the weekends everywhere.  But many of them on Long Island work on the presumption that they can make more money from partiers than serious wine drinkers.  You can expect to find rock bands, food trucks and a lot of louder than usual people Friday through Sunday.  Early in the week, even the most popular wineries are fairly empty, giving more time for individual attention.
  • Take off early. If like us you are starting from New York City, you can expect delays on the Long Island Expressway, mostly in leaving Manhattan and putting Queens behind you.  Generally, but not always, it’s smoother sailing once you get into Nassau County.  (The North Fork is at the extreme east of Suffolk County.)
  • Consider making appointments. They are certainly a necessity on weekends, and although we haven’t been turned away on weekdays, we’ve been told by some tasting room managers that they have done so if they find they can’t accommodate walk-ins.  Of course, this means you need to know where you are going before you set off, which eliminates serendipity, the delightful discoveries that make wine tasting trips so rewarding.
  • Think about lunch. Almost no wineries allow picnicking any longer.  Many sell food, but it’s more snacks than meals.  There are places to stop for lunch, mostly along Route 25, but only a few where you can dine, rather than grab a quick bite.
  • Plan on staying over. We used to take day trips, but then we realized that we were spending four to six hours on the road for four or five hours of tasting.  Plus there was the danger of driving back having consumed alcohol.  There are many bed-and-breakfasts and some hotels, mostly in Riverhead and Greenport.  They can run a bit expensive but an overnight stay really adds to the trip.  And it gives you a chance to sample the local cuisine, which leans towards seafood.
  • Try places you don’t know. If you’ve never been to the North Fork or last were there many years ago, then everything will be new to you.  Today, new owners are buying up familiar wineries and changing their names (and, to an extent, the quality of the wines.)  For example, Shinn is now Rose Hill; Laurel Lake is now Ev&Em.  Even more so, some people have invested serious money in new wineries.  These are often the best places to stop.
  • Now, as before, the North Fork offers glimpses of small-town America. You’ll find that spirit in Greenport and Southold.  You’ll notice the plethora of churches of every denomination.  They are indicative of the roots of many of these towns going back centuries to America’s earliest European settlers.  And the names of many of the the towns – Cutchogue, Mattituck, Peconic, Paumanok – evidence the influence of the First Nations.

Know Your Vineyards

Wines come from and are known by certain regions.  They are AVAs in the United States, AOCs in France, DOCGs in Italy, etc.  In each one of those regions, there are many vineyards, some clearly better than others.  Knowing which ones are the best can lead to greater pleasure when you go wine tasting.  That sounds simple, but it gets more confusing depending on which sector of Wine Country you are visiting and how they allocate the land.

Bien Nacido Vineyards in Santa Maria, California.  Photo courtesy of

  • In Bordeaux, it’s easy. The rules there are that all the grapes in a wine identified with a specific chateau or domain must be grown on its property.  If you see a wine simply called a Bordeaux on the label, it can be from anywhere in the region.
  • In Burgundy, it’s difficult. In many cases, growers don’t own vineyards, they own parcels or even individual rows of grapes, within identified vineyards.  And those may be villages, premier cru or grand cru depending on the terroirs of each.  So wines made from grapes grown in certain well-known vineyards such as Chambertin or Clos de Vougeot are the ones you should look for.
  • In California, things can get a little tricky, too. Many wineries boast of their “Estate” or “Estate Grown” wines.  That means that the grapes for those wines came from the producer’s own property, were cultivated by its own staff and were vinified on the premises as well.  It doesn’t mean that the grapes are necessarily the ones you can see out the tasting room window.  They can come from anywhere in the AVA that’s indicated on the bottle.
  • But not all wines are “Estate”. Many wineries make wine but don’t do the farming themselves.  (And many wineries that do have Estate wines also make wine from purchased grapes.)  When you are sampling a wine that isn’t Estate, it’s fair to ask which vineyards the grapes come from.  There are some so highly regarded that the name of the vineyard alone is enough to make a taste desirable.
  • For example, in Napa Valley, Beckstoffer is the acknowledged leader. And within Beckstoffer’s properties there’s the To Kalon, made justly famous by Robert Mondavi.  Morisoli in the Rutherford Bench is also well reputed, as is Stagecoach high up on the mountains to Napa Valley’s east.
  • To confuse matters further, some growers sell most of their grapes and also make their own wines. So, for example, Truchard and Baciagalupi are major sources for many wineries. The former’s wide variety of grapes, especially Chardonnay, can be found in many wines around Napa.  Baciagalupi in Russian River grows Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for many other wineries.
  • Further south, look for any wine made from grapes from the Bien Nacido vineyard. In the Central Coast, many wineries boast their wines from that vineyard, with Au Bon Climat claiming the largest share.
  • And in the Santa Barbara area, Sanford and Fiddlestix vineyards have great reputations. Sanford also makes wines under their own name, while Etude (among others) makes a Fiddlestix Pinot Noir.

Decanting Wine: How, When and If

There is only one reason we know that you MUST decant a bottle of wine.  If the cork breaks as you open a bottle and you can’t get it out, the only option is to push it in.  This makes decanting necessary.

After that, there are several reasons why you might WANT to decant your wine:

  • A decanter of wine on the table is attractive and adds to the pleasure of a meal.
  • The wine is too young and needs extensive aeration.
  • The wine is quite old and needs a little aeration.
  • The wine is quite old and probably has a lot of sediment that you don’t want to swallow.

Photo courtesy of The Manual.

Some restaurants decant wine, perhaps in an effort to justify overcharging.  Some people decant wine because they think they look cool, even if it makes them look cork-dorky.  And then there are the occasions when Aunt Gertrude is coming over for dinner and she gave you the decanter.

Wineries generally don’t decant their wines, although they should.  They mostly serve younger releases that might benefit from some extra air.

If you are going to decant a bottle, here are some tips.

  • Don’t decant too early or too late. A younger wine, and even one well within its drinking age, can be decanted hours earlier than you plan to serve it.  This is not a requirement but it does get the maximum benefit of airing out the wine.  But in our opinion,  if you’re serving a very old wine, decant it just before serving, to let out some of the accumulated gasses in the bottle without losing flavors.
  • Simple decanters work just as well as fancy ones. The objective is to expose the wine to air and to leave the sediment in the bottle.  The ones that are examples of the glass-blowers’ art may be very pretty but not so easy to pour from.  A simple carafe can do the job.
  • Don’t decant too fast, but don’t make a big production of it, either. As the wine passes from bottle to decanter, it all meets air.  If you pour too quickly, you’ll lose some of this benefit and are more likely to get some sediment into the decanter.  Restaurant sommeliers and dedicated snobs will pour the wine very, very slowly, in front of a candle.  That way they can see the first little bits of sediment and stop pouring.  All very dramatic, to be sure, but the same thing can be accomplished in front of a well-lit white or light colored wall or even a piece of paper.  Yes, pour slowly, but be reasonable about it.
  • Consider double decanting. If you’re serving a bottle you’ve saved for a special occasion, you might actually want to see that well-anticipated bottle on the table.  So if you think the wine would benefit from decanting, do so.  Then pour the sediment out of the bottle, lightly rinse with a bit of wine and pour the wine back into the bottle.  You’ll maximize the aeration as you pour twice and you still get to see that pretty label.