A Tale of Two Wines


There is a blog that I follow called The Drunken Cyclist. It’s one of the funniest blogs I’ve ever read, so I never miss a post. The author, Jeff, loves wine, and yes, he’s a cyclist, thus, the title. If you’ve never come across Jeff’s blog, you need to check it out. That is, if you enjoy humor.

Jeff is a wine expert, but he’s not one of those in-your-face, obnoxious experts. He embraces wine in the best way possible, and he often shares. Sometimes even with his wife. His blog is a lot about wine, but there are also stories about his two sons, as well as really funny accounts of certain stand-out characters who have participated in his cycling tours he used to lead in France. I guarantee you will laugh a lot when you read Jeff’s posts.

So a while back, Jeff came up with an idea to sponsor a Secret Santa, but with wine. He called it the Secret Alcoholic. All of those who wanted in were told to email our name and address. Jeff’s wife chose a name out of a hat, or something like that, and paired us all up. All we had to do was choose a wine for our Secret Alcoholic.

The main “rule” was that the wine exchange was supposed to happen by the end of the year. I think everyone involved was so excited that there were no slackers. My wine went into the mail within a matter of days. In fact, I was so excited about my choice that I forgot about actually receiving wine from my Secret Alcoholic. And then, there it was. I received a box with two wines in the mail and a nice letter!

My wines, one red and one white, came from Anatoli, whose blog is Talk a Vino. Anatoli is what I’d classify as an oenophile. He even worked as a sommelier for some time. But as serious Anatoli is about wines, he also seems humble, which is a trait I admire.

On his blog, he writes: One of the great things about wine is that it becomes better when it’s shared. As it is still difficult to actually share a bottle over the internet ( well one day, maybe?), we can share our experiences – and this is what this blog is all about.

In the enclosed letter from Anatoli, he explained his choice of the two wines. I was actually impressed that he sent a white; personally I feel, at least in America, that white wines are the ugly stepsisters to red wines. Except chardonnay, perhaps, because chardonnays are de rigueur. (I only like un-oaked chardonnays, and please, no butter!)

Or, maybe I’m completely wrong in my feeling, but I can tell you that there’s always a good, crisp Riesling in my wine fridge. And that’s the white that I received in my from my Secret Alcoholic, or Anatoli.

I don’t have a photo of the wine bottle because the label was removed, but it’s from a small producer in the Ruwer part of the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region in Germany, according to Anatoli, where most all of the fabulous Rieslings originate. Not to take away from French and Austrian varietals, it’s just that I’ve actually enjoyed Rieslings in Germany, paired with fresh trout right out of the river, and with white asparagus served with ham and bechamel. The memories are vivid.


This Riesling was wonderful – a little more golden in color than I expected, almost late harvest-looking, and the taste reminiscent of an auslese, which also surprised me. A wonderful treat, nontheless. I enjoyed the Riesling pre-dinner, and opened the red wine to allow breathing time, as instructed by Anatoli.

For dinner that evening, I’d made a flank steak, sous vide, followed up with a little browning and seasoning in a skillet, served alongside a spinach gratin. A perfect meal to pair with the red wine sent by Anatoli – a Merlot.


The choices of wine sent to me were really special. Like I mentioned above, I love a good Riesling. And when it comes to reds, I’m not a lover of the huge, in-your-face cabs from the Napa Valley, as many people are. I have figured out that I do love cabs from the Sonoma region of California, however. But when it comes to pairing reds with meals, I tend to go for Pinot Noirs and Merlots. So needless to say I felt very lucky with my Secret Alcoholic wine gifts.

The Merlot is from a winery recently visited by Anatoli, on Long Island, of all places. Where don’t they grow grapes anymore? It’s called Jamesport, and is a 2005 vintage. I learned from Anatoli that merlot is a signature grape with regards to wines from Long Island.


Smelling this merlot was pure joy. I’m no wine expert, so you might laugh at this description, but it was all about the boysenberry family. Fabulous berry sensations in the nose. A little bigger than I expected, very professional, but not overpowering in an alcoholic way, which to me is off-putting. I was definitely excited to taste this wine.

And when I did, I was so pleasantly surprised. Hopefully this isn’t a faux pas to the folks at Jamesport, but this red reminded me in so many ways of one of my favorite wines – La Crema, a pinot noir from the Central Coast of California. It had very similar attributes, although a merlot can’t possibly be a pinot. So I apologize to anyone who I’ve offended here. I’m just saying that this wine was a fabulous experience.

And so the Secret Alcoholic has begun and ended, but to much fanfare. Through this “game” I’ve become familiar with even more blogs, albeit about wine, and gotten to know a few blogsters on a more personal level. This was a truly enjoyable experience, beyond getting two bottles of wine in the mail.

Merry Christmas everybody!

23 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Wines

  1. Oh I love the drunken cyclist, he is wonderful. I am so glad you posted this, I thought I was following his blog, but checked and wasn’t, I corrected that immediately, He is funny and very knowledgable. Next year I will participate in the secret alcoholic, sounds like fun. I also love Anatoli who really knows his wines. Cheers!

  2. Funny how a lot or people don’t like Reislings because of memories of cheap, sweet wine from days past, but the new dry ones are really good. Lucky you to have a secret alcoholic Santa….I like that!

  3. Mimi, thank you very much for your kind words, appreciate it! I’m glad you liked the wines, and I’m glad I managed to hit some of your favorites!
    I want to add few words about the Riesling. This Riesling was 6+ years old, from the 2007 vintage, which explains the color ( white wines gain color as they age). Also, the label was not removed – what you saw on top of the bottle was an actual label! Here is the link to my post where I talk about slightly a different Riesling from the same producer – you can see the label on top of the bottle there: http://talk-a-vino.com/2013/08/16/wines-wines-wines/

  4. Now I was not fishing for those compliments (inside joke). I actually paid Mimi to write this post. Let me know if you, too, would like to be on the Drunken Cyclist Payroll.

    Glad you had fun with the Secret Alcoholic!

  5. I love it! Now that sounds like the best Secret Santa/ Secret Alcoholic I’ve ever heard of.. You and are agree. I love Riesling, and I think that it’s way unappreciated by way too many people. :-) You’ll always find a bottle sitting in my refrigerator.

    • I love Clean Slate Riesling. Not sweet, not tart – very crisp and sippable. I don’t remember where you are, but I can get it from $11. – $13. range, which makes it even more special!

  6. What fun! I take my wine quite seriously too. I have discovered though wine is a parochial subject. Unless you work in the industry the average person drinks their local drops and learn the best wine maker and regions within their country’s boundaries, so other than international iconic wines their is little point of reference with the broader world. The grape varieties save the day!

  7. What a fun idea and I will have to check out the Drunken site. Hope you had a marvelous holiday (with no ice)!

  8. Great post, Mimi! Loved reading about your wine gifts . . . and I can’t wait to read the rest of the posts, too! Riesling and Merlot were great choices from Anatoli — I’m sure they were both exquisite. And I agree . . . I’ve added a few more great blogs to my Reader as a result of this fun exercise! Cheers!!

  9. Ah, what a good post. I don’t know much about wine but I really enjoy and learn a lot from following both Talkavino and The Drunk Cyclist. Anyway, I enjoyed reading this so much, I now have a buzz.

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