Spring Is In The Air


I suppose looking back on the Winter of 2016 we didn’t do too badly, except for that massive snow storm which had me shoveling 20”+ of snow off of two cars and having to take regular “single malt whisky” breaks to revive my frozen aging body. And that’s a terrible way to empty a cherished bottle of single malt. But when the inexpensive stuff isn’t on hand one has to do what one has to do. Didn’t John Wayne say something like that? Anyway spring has sprung and that finds us heading outdoors and sipping some refreshing wines. And many of us suffer from wine allergies and those who don’t might be planning a trip to the west coast wine country. In other words, I want to offer a slightly different column this month which I hope will help many of you to enjoy wine, especially those of you who have some problems with the elixir, plus a suggestion for wine country travelers.

Before “that” storm visited us I had attended the opening night of a play. While at the after-show party I was chatting with an actress about the production, and then the conversation changed to wine (I think I may have been responsible for that) and she told me that she has stomach cramps every time she drinks a glass of wine. My initial response was going to be the one the doctor used when his patient said: “Hey doc it hurts when I lift my arm this high”. The doc responded: “My diagnosis is simple…don’t lift it that high”. Obviously she can eliminate her cramps simply by abstaining from wine. But that’s an easy way out. An alternative medicine doctor I visited several times in London, Alla Svirinskaya ( provided the answer to the this very issue during one of my sessions. I learned that people with digestive disorders which are irritated by wine, often causing cramps, can be eased, and in many cases eliminated, by dipping a piece of bread in olive oil prior to quaffing the nectar. I can tell you from first hand experience, the remedy works. Not sure I understand why, but it does. Wish I could help the man with the arm problem, but that’s way out of my “reach”!

Many people find white wine, especially dry young whites from Germany, gives them heartburn. Me too! I discovered that a Prilosec OTC pill about 1 hour prior to drinking, will seriously improve the digestive system’s intolerance to these acidic wines.

I also have a word of advice for anybody who suffers from allergic reactions to wine, getting ruddy faced, coughing, and generally sounding wretched. This malady, primarily affects people after drinking red wine, caused by the histamines produced from the skins of the red wine grapes. If you pour a glass of wine and let it sit for about 30 minutes, you’ll find the histamines dissipate into thin air and you can quaff away to your heart’s – and nose’s – content. Or you can take an anti-histamine pill before drinking the wine. I am not a member of the medical profession, and you should always seek medical advice from your family doctor, especially before taking any over the counter medications, but I’m offering these suggestions based on my personal experiences and you might want to share them with your physician if you suffer from these conditions.

Just imagine how much information I could have shared with you if I’d have gone to med school. Though I’d never have been a doctor   – I just don’t have enough “patients”! 

As many of you, who listen to my weekly podcast, already know, we traveled to the West Coast for a couple of weeks before the Holiday season where I recorded 4 shows, 2 editions in northern California around Redding and 2 along the central coast with Hearst Castle the jewel in the series’ crown. If you are planning a spring or summer trip to the west coast here’s a recommendation. After any flight  to San Francisco, it’s not a good idea to sit behind the wheel of a rental car and swan off to one of the wine regions, if that is indeed your ultimate destination. Having devoted a lifetime of trips to the vast vineyard on the West Coast I always spend at least one night in the city where Mr. Bennett left his heart. I’m not a large corporate hotel kind of bloke. I like small beautifully appointed “gems” which you only hear about from well-traveled friends or brilliant wine columnists who write amazing blogs!

We arrived at the corner of Geary and Mason streets in the heart of San Francisco’s Union Square. And there it was: Hotel G, nestled among fashionable restaurants, art galleries, theatres and the finest shops in town. Our room was the “Greatest King” (but of course) with a sitting area cleverly designed with a settee and coffee table. And this was ideal because my oldest chum in the wine world, and his wife, were spending the evening with us. Sanford was bringing a selection of wines that he produces for us to sample and I was in a hotel room after a stressful day wondering what the heck to do about dinner. Fortunately, Three 9 Eight Restaurant and Bar is accessed through Hotel G’s lobby and the feel is very European, and simple and relaxed. William, the bar manager, evaluated the situation and within 30 minutes delivered the food he guaranteed would complement the Cabernet, Zinfandel and Chardonnay our guests would be bringing along. We had an antipasto of local artisan cheeses and meats, hummus, Shishito peppers and tapenade and the total for 4 people was $30. Amazing and delicious and perfect with the wines. Hotels G’s rooms offer all the essentials which include complimentary Wi-Fi, terry towels and robes and a very well stocked honor bar. But, above all, it boasts the quietest rooms I’ve ever occupied in a bustling city. We had a fabulous night’s sleep after a wonderfully relaxing evening hosting our friends in the spacious room with separate living area. (Hotel G, 386 Geary St., San Francisco, Calif., (877) 828-4478,

Laurie Armstrong at the San Francisco Travel Association provided me with everything you need to know about San Francisco on an “I Left My Heart’ shaped USB drive. If you are visiting that wonderful city and would like to receive specific information about San Francisco including shopping, nightlife, dining, historic sites etc., just write to me at: and I will send you some splendid information electronically.



OK, now for a couple of wines to ease you into springtime mode. Both are red, both are outstanding value for money and both can be chilled in the fridge for 10 minutes to appeal to any palate.

Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Paso Robles, CA (Approx: $15.99). The Hope Family selection of wines includes this range dedicated to the one-room schoolhouse that serves as it’s namesake. The wines date back to my early years in the wine world, one year after I arrived in this region. In 1978, the Hope Family took a chance on planting a vineyard in Paso Robles, Calif., the region that ultimately became Liberty School’s home. The label is simple and clean and tells the story at a glance. Liberty School and I go back a long way together, or I should clarify that statement by saying their wines have been savored by me during my entire wine career. The wine is a heavenly rich, dark color and everything sumptuous about Cabernet Sauvignon is presented by this elixir. Dark berry taste with unmistakable cigar box/cedar infused flavors. The always welcome oakiness and an overflowing basket of fruits filling your mouth. It’s produced in one of the greatest Left Coast wine regions, from California winemaking royalty for less that $16! Amazing!

Argentina is just as important to our south as Paso Robles is to our west. And Andrea Marchiori, Luis Barraud and Paul Hobbs are among the upper echelon of inspired wine world visionaries who focused on the Malbec grape as the hero for their range of wines, by way of some winemaking experience in California. And their “baby” is Viña Cobos.

Viña Cobos Felino Malbec 2014 (Aprox $17.99) Not quite as intensely dark as the Liberty School Cabernet, this wine displays a bright and happy disposition. Once again we have those luscious dark berries we love in our red wines with a trace of chocolate and tobacco notes. The flavor fills your mouth with a delicious, fullness encouraging a second glass. Spectacular value for money and I’d say the same thing if it was $10 more expensive. You should invest in a case of this wine at least.



Enjoy the spring in your step and the nectar in your glass. Cheers!



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(Photo: Phill with Brad Runge, owner of V&J)


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