My parents have a funny camping story from when we were kids. Frugal by nature, and minimalist by training (think lots of backpacking), my parents were not people to indulge in creature comforts at the campsite. Why purchase tents when something serviceable could be jury-rigged with some plastic sheeting and an old poncho (seriously)? Why sit on chairs when perfectly serviceable stumps and rocks were available? Why drink anything other than water, possibly spiced up with some orange TANG for a treat? And then we went camping with another family.
As we were setting up camp, my folks couldn’t help but notice that the other family had lots more gear. They had (shock!) folding chairs. Even more shocking, they had bottles of wine. You see, they were from California. It rocked our world, and soon, we were traveling with folding chairs (if not with wine). Creature comforts had entered our camp.
With that experience in my past, it’s no surprise that another import from California recently opened my eyes. In late June, I received samples of two products from California Natural Products, CalNaturale Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines and CalNaturale Svelte, a sustained energy protein drink. Today, I am writing about the CalNaturale wines. Tomorrow, look for a report on CalNaturale Svelte and a Svelte Giveaway.
The first thing you need to know is that I am far from a wine connoisseur. But I have friends who are much more knowledgable than me. So, I gathered together a group of women, supplied bread, cheese, meat and fruit, along with a table-cloth and “elegant” plastic cups (that’s what the label says). On a warm Saturday evening, we met at the picnic area of our local national park for some wine tasting.
Here’s what we thought:
1. Excellent packaging. Even before we’d opened the plastic twist top, we were impressed with the Tetra Pak carton. Rectangular, and without the awkward wine bottle stem that rarely fits in a cooler, a liter of wine took up just about the same space as a quart of milk (or about the equivalent of a Nalgene bottle in your backpack). And because of the efficient shape, one liter of wine takes up less space and volume than a standard 750 ML bottle. That’s more bang for your box, for sure.
2. Quality Wine. Once we’d cracked open the twist tops, we were impressed. We started with the Chardonnay, which was both well-chilled and quite pleasant. Not at all oaky, but neither insipid. We proclaimed it good. Which only makes sense, because not only did my impromptu group of wine experts declare it good, but so have critics and judges. While our palettes may have been a bit compromised by the time we opened the Cabernet, it was very pleasant as well and enjoyed by all.
3. Organic Grapes. CalNaturale makes its wine from organic California grapes. The Chardonnay grapes are grown in Mendocino County, while the Cabernet Sauvignon fruit comes from the French Camp Vineyard in Paso Robles. While that may mean something to true wine aficionados, we just really liked the idea (and apparently, the taste) of pesticide-free grapes.
4. Value. Let’s be honest, there are probably occasions in life that call for $100 bottles of wine. I, myself, have not found any of those…yet. Instead, I’m a value shopper, as are my friends. And we were impressed with the value of these CalNaturale wines. Especially if you’re taking a wine camping, or on a picnic, or to a concert where you can’t bring in glass, you are looking for a good wine at a good price. At only $6.99 for 500 ML or $12.99 for a liter, these wines deliver…economically, efficiently and deliciously.
What About the Box?
This was my big question: would the paper packaging have an impact on the quality and flavor of the wine? For an answer, I turned to my good friend Paul Barker. Paul is a former London wine merchant, and currently the owner of Rhone Wine Tours based in Nyons, France. Here’s what Paul shared about packaging:
Any packaging should be inert and flavourless, so in theory it shouldn’t matter whether we’re talking glass or plastic bottles, tetra-paks or what the French call “le bag-in-box.”
Winemakers tend to put lighter and/or fruitier wines into non-glass containers, wines that they know customers will drink within days of buying, so provided your store has a high enough turnover there shouldn’t be a problem.
Camping wine in a tetra-pak seems a great idea: it’s lighter to carry than a bottle and the quality is presumably in keeping with the rest of the holiday – it’s good, honest fun rather than the height of luxury.
Thank you Paul. I tip my glass of CalNaturale to you.
More Information About CalNaturale and Rhone Wine Tours…
Both CalNaturale varietals are found in wine shops, grocery and natural food stores, including Whole Foods Markets. For more information, please visit www.calnaturalewine.com and follow CalNaturale on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
Paul Barker, owner and operator of Rhone Wine Tours is not only a wine expert, but he’s a good guy as well. Should you find yourself in Southern France between October 2012 and March 2013, simply mention Brave Ski Mom to Paul and receive a discount on wine tours or wine tastings. For tours, Paul will discount 15% to anybody from the U.S. who buys at least their duty-free allowance to take home (that is 4 bottles per person). While this doesn’t benefit Paul directly, it does benefit the local winemakers.
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