Monday, August 27, 2007

Travellin' Wino - Joe's Hotel Tips

Source: Aargon Neon (

My apologies for the silence but I have been away for a few days, travelling with the family - away from the blog, but certainly not "wine-free"!

So, what to do when you and your 'vinuous significant other' go on vacation? What the heck am I talking about? Hotel wine! That white wine in the hotel fridge is, well, awful - a mini "wine-in-a-bag" with a screw top. And the reds? I used to look longingly at the dusty half bottle of red wine, but $35 for a half-bottle of wine? And the prices for room service?

It was time to get smart. As I travel frequently, for business and pleasure, I thought I'd share some tips for dealing with all those long, lonely days away from your cellar.

Joe's Tips for a Great Trip Away from the Safety of Your Own Cellar

Adding to the indignity of living out of a suitcase, hotels seek to stymie your wine enjoyment by filling your room with plastic cups, teasing you with a beer bottle opener but no corkscrew, and leaving those tempting half bottles of wine-like substance lying around - red in the basket, white in the fridge.

Tip #1 - Do NOT open those bottles! Aside from carefully aging on the hotel radiator for the last seven years, that tasty morsel is priced at a 500% markup. Like Apu's hot dogs, these are "strictly ornamental".

Planning your trip:

When travelling by airplane, you have two issues to deal with. First, the inability to stash a bottle in your carry-on demands a purchase at your destination. Try Dr. Vino's wine maps for L.A., Chicago and NYC - I have successfully used these, and I hope he expands the geographic coverage shortly (I offer up my services, Tyler). Also, there is the possibility that you will need a corkscrew at the other end. Call ahead to the hotel and ask if they have corkscrews. If you forget and they don't have one, you can head on over to a dollar store and pick up an old-school corkscrew for a modest price.

A road trip in the car is much easier. You can stash a bottle in your favourite carrying device (one of these works nicely), and you may even have a cooler. There is no need to worry about taking your favourite corkscrew through security, and you can easily bring your travellin' wine goblets (see image to the right, this one comes from MEC, and yes, I do have a pair). Try to keep the bottle in the vehicle (preferably the cooler) to avoid the summer heat.

Wines to buy:

There are four things to think about when buying wine on the road:
  • Sludge: With decanters unlikely to be close at hand (I have not, yet, found a stainless camping decanter), you should steer away from aged, unfiltered wines.
  • Volume: If you are by yourself, are you going to drink a whole bottle? Try a half bottle. And if you are with someone else you may be able to open a full bottle, but chances are you will not finish it right away. Screw-top wines (leave the VacuVin at home...) and an ice bucket are very handy.
  • Temperature: Your hotel may not have a refrigerator, or if it does it is stuffed with little one-ounce bottles of Jack Daniels and may not be of much use. (yes, I have tried to stuff a full size bottle into one of those) An ice bucket and the aforementioned neoprene bag should help moderate the temperature swings.
  • Price: Travel can take unexpected turns, so a half bottle may have to be left behind. This is the time to find the best, inexpensive wines you can find. No need to leave that First Growth for housekeeping!
The perfect travel wine, in my opinion, is unfiltered, screw topped, comes in half-bottle and full-bottle sizes, and is likely to drink well in adverse temperature conditions. While this blog may frequently point towards Europe, the "Hotel Wine Problem" calls for young, new world wines. Recommended bottles:
  • D'Arenberg: the Footbolt Shiraz and D'Arry's Original come in half bottles, screw tops, and are wonderful at a wider range of temperature.
  • Other Aussies: Check here for more inexpensive options, frequently in screw tops.
  • USA: Two Buck Chuck will work in a pinch, but I would rather go for the low end Steltzner or Ravenswood selections. Note that Zin seems to be particularly well suited for this task, and pairs well with the overpriced Doritos.
  • Chile: These wines are cheap, unfiltered, but seem to be avoiding the screw tops for now.
  • Nipozzano Riserva (Chianti Ruffina): Half and full bottles. Excellent wine, year in and year out.
  • La Vielle Ferme (white): Full bottles, but screw top. Very nice.
On this trip we enjoyed a bottle of Yalumba Y Series Merlot over two nights - my favourite of the Y Series wines and rather true to its Merlot origins.

So, does planning my holiday wine consumption classify me as a true wine geek? Yes, definitely. An alcoholic? Not yet... Love to hear your tips for wine in the comfort of your hotel room!
PS - Don't forget to get a hotel with high speed internet - no point in going through all of this trouble if you can't blog the notes. Cheers!


Edward said...


Very sound advice.

The main problem is always glassware.

I never seem to have problems buying the wine ;)

Joe said...

Hi Edward - those stainless steel camping goblets are a great backup - see if you can find them at some outdoors shop. As for the wine, I pretty much recommend Australia, so you should be just fine...