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Poliziano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Tuscany, Italy) 2018 ($26, Dalla Terra Winery Direct)
 If wine regions could have personality profiles, the red wines of Tuscany would be the most interesting.  Chianti Classico was for years oblivious to its declining reputation – the son who became a cardinal in the church and lost touch – before in recent years showing that it really is something special.  Bolgheri and its Super Tuscans were the rebels, not rag-tag rebels, but rebels within the aristocracy and now ones proudly keeping the iconic position they have won.  Brunello is the scrappy entrepreneur from the poor background – who had heard of Montacino a half-century ago?  And Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is the psychologically wounded second son.  How could it possibly be eclipsed by lowly Montepulciano!  It is still trying to get over its slide from grace.  Poliziano is a bright spot, but I wonder if there is more to be gotten from the terroir through winemaking than it and the region have shown?  Nevertheless, this is a delicious, well-constructed table wine, but more like a Bordeaux or Napa Cabernet than a Sangiovese – leaner than richer with a combo of dark and red berry flavors, some savory notes and good chewy tannins and bright acidity.  It will age well and long, but, I'd guess, not really become that much more complex.      
91 Roger Morris


Posted by Miranda Franco on May 25, 2022 at 4:23 PM

No Corkscrew Required: Really Good Boxed Wine

Boxed wine is no newcomer to the wine scene, but innovators like Jake Whitman, Founder, and CEO of Really Good Boxed Wine, have recast the underestimated boxed format into a compelling field of its own, reaching beyond the familiar Franzia to include premium California wines that fuse quality and quantity for blockbuster performance.

Whitman, a Cincinnati native, honed his business and brand skills as the Head of Marketing for SoFi Money.  Before SoFi, he worked at Intuit on the corporate marketing team and spent several years at Procter & Gamble as a Brand Manager.  He also wrote and self-published Destination Teach For America, where he offers an insider look at the Teach For America application process.

I recently sat down with Whitman to discuss the genesis of Really Good Boxed Wine, the advantages of the box format, and what's next for his enterprising brand.

Whitman, his wife, and friends turned to boxed wine during the pandemic and were disappointed in the existing quality of box wine.  Whitman asked himself the fundamental question, is there an inherent reason why high-quality wines can't be served in a box?  Whitman noted, "it was something I’d been tossing around in my mind for a while, but I always assumed there was a technical reason why you couldn’t do it."

He found that there was no reason that high-quality wine couldn't be served in a box – except for sparkling wine and aged wine.  He started learning everything he could about the box format, how it works, and how it keeps the wine fresh.  From there, Whitman called his friend, Allie Ketcham, owner of Ketcham Estate.  Whitman noted that "Allie had become a good friend of mine, and she and her team make some of my favorite Pinot Noirs in the world."  Allie put him in touch with Healdsburg Custom Crush in Sonoma County, where he secured a winegrower license.

The brand's test launch was held in Cincinnati in August 2021 with a Ketchem Vineyard Pinot Noir hand-filled into 3-liter boxes.  It sold out in days.  A successful national pilot followed, and from there, the brand has flourished with the release of a Paso Robles Cabernet, a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Rosé, a Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, along with an endorsement from Andy Myers, Master Sommelier.

The success can largely be attributed to fine quality, eco-friendly packaging, and competitive prices.  There are many compelling benefits to the box format, as Whittman noted: "The first is that it stays fresh for six weeks when you open it."  Additionally, the box format can significantly reduce carbon emissions by comparison to bottles.  A box of wine weighs about the same as two bottles, so packaging and shipping costs are significantly lower.  One 3 Liter box of Really Good Boxed Wine is the equivalent of four bottles of wine…and costs $65.  "If you're used to spending $30 for a bottle on the weekend, here's the same wine at $15 for you to enjoy all week," Whitman explained.  "And if you typically spend $15 on a bottle, here's a wine worth twice as much you can get for the same price."

And this is just the beginning.  Next month, Whitman will feature a Pinot Noir from the San Luis Obispo Coast, the newest American Viticultural Area (AVA) that benefits from the Pacific Ocean's influence.  The area was awarded the designation on March 9, 2022, making Really Good Box Wine one of the first (if not the first) wines under the new AVA.  This summer, Whitman will also launch a co-branded collaboration series with award-winning Napa winemakers.
Whitman proves that oenophiles should take a second look at the box format.  With wine this good (really good), it's a no-brainer.  You can snag your box directly from the Really Good Box Wine website, delivering to 39 states and the District of Columbia.  Retail sales are forthcoming in OH, KY, and VA.

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
What I've Been Drinking Lately: Well-Priced Alternatives to Champagne
John Anderson

May 25, 2022: My spouse loves bubbly, and, particularly Champagne-le vrai Champagne-and would conceivably drink us out of house and home given the price of the real thing in today's market-a fate we cannot afford! So, the march has been on to find acceptable bubbly, good bubbly that isn't Champagne and that doesn't cost a small fortune per bottle. The goal was to find the best acceptable French bubbly priced around $15. I failed in that task. And so turned to a different goal: To find the best acceptable French-like bubbly priced around $15. For that, I have a winning combination, which I will come back to at the end of this column. But first, let me present some slightly higher-priced ($18-$25) but nevertheless genuine French alternatives to Champagne. They do exist! And the ones I've chosen are broadly available.
Summer at the Lake: Lacustrine Influence on Vineyard Sites
Wayne Belding

May 25, 2022: Bodies of water are important factors for many vineyard sites. The moderating influence of nearby oceans, rivers and lakes can make a big difference in the quality of wines grown nearby. Here in North America, we have many of the best examples of beneficial lacustrine influence on vineyards. Most prominent of these is the Great Lakes. Agriculture in many forms thrives on the lakeshores. The large lakes have a profound influence on all agricultural endeavors, but particularly for grape growing. Wine grapes, more than fruits destined for the table or processing plant, are scrutinized to determine the perfect time to pick. Many microclimates around the Great Lakes owe their viticultural prowess to the presence of these massive bodies of water.
Wine With
Wine With... Indian Inspired Spicy Lamb Chops

Apr. 30, 2022: I love lamb chops for many reasons. They cook quickly and simply. They can easily be dressed up or down with everything from a minty pesto to a serving of kimchee. They partner beautifully with a variety of red wines. And when flavorful lamb chops are paired with the right wine, the wine becomes itself more delicious. There are a couple of different types of lamb chops to choose from. Quick cooking loin chops, which usually weigh 3 to 4 ounces each, have a narrow bone that runs up the middle of the chop. Smaller rib chops, which are cut from the rack of lamb, may be single or double cut. I am partial to these small chops myself because they have more fat than other cuts rib chops and are therefore the most tender and tasty of all the cuts. For very small chops, use two (or more) of them for each serving.
On My Table
Fiddleheads for Spring: Pinot Noir and Grüner Veltliner with the Advantage of Extended Aging
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Back in the 1990s, winemaker Kathy Joseph's path crossed with mine and my husband's many times when we all participated in large West Coast wine competitions. Recently, I was delighted to spend time again with Kathy and her wines at a press tasting she conducted over Zoom. Reacquainting with friends and acquaintances from Before is one of the special pleasures of these post-pandemic days. Reacquainting with Kathy Joseph of Fiddlehead Cellars was a particularly rich pleasure because of the terrific quality of her wines - two wonderful Pinot Noirs and a stunning Grüner Veltliner. Kathy is a pioneer in the wine trade, one of Santa Barbara County's first female winemakers to own both her own winery and vineyard, while maintaining a hands-on role in the farming, winemaking, sales, and all other aspects of the business. For 30-plus years, she has run Fiddlehead Cellars winery as a one-woman show. Obsessed with the concept of place as it expresses itself in wines, she has focused on grapes that express terroir: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and, more recently, Grüner Veltliner.