Wine Ambassador Interview Series – Learn from the Experts!

June 25th, 2013

We recently sat down with our Chief Wine Ambassador Wes to pick his brain about wine, what he loves about it, where he buys it, and where he drinks it. This is our first of many interviews with our amazing wine ambassador team. We’ll be posting their answers up on the blog for you to enjoy!

City Wine Tours: Wes, tell us what is your favorite everyday red?
Wes: That would be the Masi Campofiorin Ripasso. My favorite wine in the world is Italian Amarone, which costs $75 and up. Who can drink that everyday, other than Ernie Boch, Jr.? Be smart and drink Ripasso, the savvy wine drinker’s “Amarone.” Ripasso uses the same grape pressings left oer from the fermentation of Amarone. Masi is the winery who invented this process in 1964. Ripasso isn’t as lush and raw as Amarone, and isn’t as smooth as Amarone, but Masi Campofiorin Ripasso sells for $17. Come on down!

City Wine Tours: That’s great, okay so how about your favorite everyday White?
Wes: I’m going to have to go with Alsatian Pinot Gris. Alsace makes wine from 4 different grapes. From driest to sweetest, those wines are Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurztraminer. Yes, Alsace is near Germany and, yes,\ their wines come in those long, skinny Riesling-style bottles. But, Alsatian white wines are much drier than the German wines. The best Alsatian Pinot Gris are dry, intensely flavorful, and never see any oak. Do you like pear and apple flavors without any smoke or butter? Try these! Look for wines by Willm, Trimbach, or Zind-Humbrecht. Usually $14-$17. By the way, legal Sea Foods has long been an advocate of Alsatian Pinot Gris, because they pair exquisitely with all types of seafood.

City Wine Tours: Okay, so where is your favorite place in Boston to enjoy a glass of wine?
Wes: Bergamot. It’s a tiny French-inspired restaurant on the Cambridge/Somerville line (118 Beacon Street, Somerville). The menu gets changed frequently, but you’ll always find something inspired,
well-crafted, and amazing. And the wine? It’s one of the few places I can visit where I don’t a single thing about any of the wines on the list. It’s wonderful to leave my jaded wine preconceptions and just sample new stuff. Bergamot always reminds me why I love wine and good food.

City Wine Tours: Sounds like a great place to try out. Now, can you tell us about an experience that made you fall in love with wine.
Wes: That’s easy – 2000 Quintarelli Amarone. I like to present myself as an anti-wine snob. I espouse the “If-you-pay-more-than-$30-for-a-bottle-of-wine-you’re-a-chump” philosophy. Until I tasted the 2000 Quintarelli Amarone, priced at the time for $149. Now, if you can find it, you’ll pay at least $350. This is the only wine that brought tears to my eyes, made me understand what a a really, really, REALLY obsessed winemaker can create, and left me shocked that anything could taste so incredible. I hope you have your own wine epiphany some day. Giuseppe Quintarelli died in 2012. His family continues to make wines, which are consistently outstanding.

City Wine Tours: If you are going to shop for wine where do you shop? Why?
Wes: I’m headed to Martignetti’s on Soldier’s Field Road in Brighton. The Martignetti family keeps buying up all the liquor/wine distributorships in Massachusetts. The store is just a big, fluorescent-lit monstrosity. But they can get EVERYTHING.

City Wine Tours: Okay, so when you are there, What’s the best red wine for under $12?
Wes: Bodegas Lan Crianza. Red wines from Rioja, Spain are all made from the Tempranillo grape. Tempranillo gives you similar flavors and body to an Italian Chianti, cherry and violet, but without Chianti’s dirty earthiness. Crianza means the wine was aged in an oak barrel for at least 12 months. Oak barrel aging makes the wine smooth and soft.

City Wine Tours: How about the best white wine for under $12?
Wes: Domaine De Vaufuget Vouvray. Vouvray is a region in the Loire Valley in France. This is a wine made from the Chenin Blanc grape. It’s a slightly sweet, off-dry slice of peaches and melon. Your snooty wine friends with sneer at this, then drink the whole damn bottle. I bring it to family parties and my family immediately hides the bottles so they don’t have to share it. For $9.99 you can buy a whole case!

City Wine Tours: And finally, what’s the best sparkling wine for under $12?
Wes: Jaume Serra Cristalino Cava, Extra Dry. Cava is the Spanish sparkling wine. The Extra Dry version of sparkling wine means the opposity of what you’d expect. It’s actually a touch sweeter than any Brut style sparkling wine. So, it’s Less Dry, raelly. In any case, get soem and sip it! You’ll find slight scent of toast and pears, with a hint of Meyer lemon. This is refreshing, fruity, smooth, and easy to drink. And it only costs $7.99! Shh, no one needs to know.

City Wine Tours: Well thanks for taking the time to chat Wes, see you on the tours!
Wes: You bet! Anytime!

Valentine’s Wine, Dine and…..?

January 21st, 2013

Valentine's Wine, Dine

This Valentine’s Day, treat your Valentine to a day filled with wine, award-winning cuisine, and a few laughs along the way.

We’ve paired us with a selection of our tour partners to offer you the ultimate Valentine’s Day experience.

Enjoy an afternoon wine tour through Boston’s historic South End, North End, Back Bay, or Cambridge’s Harvard Square. Tours highlights the neighborhood’s best restaurants, hotels, or wine shops and are led by our dynamic and entertaining Wine Ambassadors. At each destination, you’ll enjoy a private wine tasting while your wine ambassador shares information on wine tasting, pairing, and history. Along the way, you’ll learn about each neighborhood’s unique history and insight into Boston’s wine culture.

After the tour, enjoy a romantic dinner with wine pairings at the South End’s Cinquecento or Masa Restaurants; Harvard Square’s Nubar Restaurant; the North End’s Aragosta Bar & Bistro or Davide Restaurant. Each restaurant will offer an exclusive prix fixe menu that will be available just for City Wine Tour guests.

The tour is available on Saturday, February 16, 2013. Reservations can be made by calling City Wine Tours at 855-455-8747 ext. 3.

Cinquecento Menu
Masa Menu
Nubar Menu
Aragosta Menu
Davide Menu

South End 2.0

January 17th, 2013

Filled with award-winning restaurants, wine shops, and culture, Boston’s South End has long been one of our favorite neighborhoods.

2012 brought many exciting new additions to the neighborhood, including; Cinquecento Restaurant, the Urban Grape Wine Shop, and Zocalo Mexican Restaurant, among others. With all of the new additions, it became clear that we couldn’t limit our South End Tours to only three stops. Starting this January, you can now choose between two separate South End Tours!

Saturday tours bring guests to –

Gaslight Brasserie

Gaslight, Brasserie du Coin is a classic neighborhood Parisian brasserie. We find Gaslight’s decor is warm and inviting. Our Ambassadors lead a tasting at its hand crafted Parisian zinc bar surrounded by reclaimed wood floors, mosaic tiles, beamed wood ceilings, nicotine stained walls and antique mirror. What a fun way to kick off the tour!


Say Festeggiamo for: Cinquecento, this bold new Romanesque incarnation of the old Rocca space on Harrison Avenue, will be the 2nd stop on your South End wine tour. This much anticipated. 250 seat restaurant with a 100 bottle wine list features provincial roman cuisine from Chef Chris Robins (Gaslight Alum). How big of a deal is Cinquecento? So big that the Globe Magazine devoted ten pages to the restaurant’s backstory almost a year ago. With exposed red brick, reclaimed wood tables, an Italian onyx marble bar, and endless bottles of Campari, the space has a subtle Italian feel and an upscale coziness. Saluti!


Our tour concludes at Masa. Masa offers an award winning menu of “new Southwest” cuisine, pairing flavors and cooking styles of the South Western kitchen with local New England ingredients. We will taste two savory red wines paired with Yucca Fries, Steak Tostada, Queso Fundido Empandas, and Grilled Chorizo. We highly recommend booking reservations for dinner after the tour!

Sunday tours wind their way through the South End with stops at –


Forum is a modern interpretation of a city dining experience. Located on Bolyston Street, Forum boasts two distinct floors, two bars, an outdoor patio and cafe space, and a 1300 bottle wine cellar! Designed to provide a romantic atmosphere, the dining room offers unobstructed views of Boylston Street. This is your first stop on your tour. You’ll start off with savory small bites as your Wine Ambassador shares the nuances of wine tasting.


Zocalo Mexican Grill spices up our South End tour as the 2nd stop on your wine tour. Zozalo’s contemporary Mexican cuisine based on traditional culinary recipes utilizing high quality, authentic, and fresh ingredients. Executive Chef Ricardo Ramos expands on his growing restaurant group with bigger and bolder wines from South of the border. Enjoy a rare glimpse into authentic Mexican cooking while we taste exotic and bold wines to pair!

Urban Grape

The brainchild of TJ Douglas, “The Urban Grape” recently welcomed its 2nd location in the South End, and boasts wine for every palate. We’ll use their simple, yet spot-on “Progressive Shelving” system, as well as their Enomatic tasting machine, to find you exactly what you like. A moment of zen for wine lovers everywhere. Join us at our final location, in this elegantly designed contemporary space, where they focus on community, and the simple pleasures of drinking great wine!

Tours are offered each Saturday and Sunday at 3:00pm and last approximately two hours.
Tickets are $56 per person can be purchased online at www.citywinetours.com or by calling 855-455-8747.

5 Solutions to Your Holiday Wine Problems

December 24th, 2012

Attention holiday shopping procrastinators, still stuck for that impossible someone on your shopping list? Was there one host or hostess you had forgotten to get a little something for? We at City Wine Tours have the cure for what ails you. That’s right it’s our last minute holiday wine guide! Something to carry you through the Christmas festivities, New Year’s Eve and even those belated January holiday parties (I myself have three on the agenda already.)

No matter what your holiday quandary we have a wine for that!

Problem: Your host or hostess is not a wine drinker.
Solution: Get them a bottle anyway! Unless their households are truly dry (in which case why are you going there in the first place?), a bottle of wine is always an appropriate gift. If they do not imbibe regularly, they still have guests and friends that do. Your perfect bottle selection will allow them to look slick and knowledgeable in front of company, and that is a present in and of itself. Additionally, think of the regifting possibilities!

Problem: Your family function runs the gamut from Uncle Larry who still thinks white Zinfandel is a thing (FYI it’s not) to Cousin Charles, the connoisseur that will spend hours regaling you with his last trip to Burgundy. How can you buy a wine that pleases them both and will not break the bank?

Solution: According to our Chief Wine Ambassador, Wesley Narron, the solution is Vouvray for the white and Rioja for the red.

Vouvray is a delicious off-dry white wine from France’s Loire Valley. The best examples possess a vibrant, racy acidity, with flavors of juicy citrus and honeysuckle, and just a touch of off-dry sweetness to make them fun for the whole family. And if cousin Charles turns his nose up just remind, him that Huet’s 1947 Vouvray was number 6 in Decanter magazine’s list of wines that you must try before you die.

Rioja, is a woefully underrated, Tempranillo based red from Spain. It possesses the delicacy of a Chianti or a Pinot Noir, with a little less of the edgy, earthy funk and more ripe fruit and sweet baking spices, thanks to aging in American oak. The price of the wine (and often the complexity) depends largely on aging time that the wine has in the barrel: Youthful Crianza’s require a year, regal Reservas two, and those grand Gran Reservas require five. Let your conscience guide you in your final purchasing decision but two easy to find and well priced producers are Lan and Marqués de Cáceres.

Problem: You need course and meal specific wines to bring to Christmas Eve or Christmas Day festivites:

Solutions: For this question we reached out to Lauren Collins, Sommelier at City Wine Tours Partner, L’Espalier.
Cheeses, Nuts or Nut-based Desserts: ” I’m in love with the 15 year Mas Amiel Maury & also the 15 yr Oloroso Sherry from El Maestro Sierra; neither is too sweet!”
Oysters or Fish on Christmas Eve or oterhwise ” Drink more Chablis! Raveneau or Dauvissat if you can find/afford it, otherwise Servin, Roy Prevostat, or Picq are excellent. Go Grand Cru or 1er Cru for more richness!”
Roast Ham or Prime Rib: “For red, the holidays call for Bordeaux, Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou and Chateau Palmer (or their 2nd labels!) are favorites or aim for a solid producer with a bit of age for nice versatility on the table.”
For brunch: “Bandol Rosé leftover from summer – it should be singing right now!”
Problem: You really want to impress that special someone with a wine that will knock their socks off, now or 10 years from now.

Solution: Wes’s top gift wine is Amarone, a stunning Italian red blend made of varieties indigenous to the Veneto. Iti s rich, ripe and easy to drink now but is capable of cellaring and enjoying for years to come. The best examples can be kind of pricey, owing to a labor intensive production method (grapes are harvested, rasiniated on mats in order to intensify the sugars, and then pressed and fermented), but they are well worth it. Allegrini and Masi are two lovely producers, but according to Wes, his first sip of Amarone by Guisseppe Quintarelli brought tears to his eyes. We just hope none of them landed in the glass.

Problem: You are already in the wine shop and you do not want to have to come back to get bubbles for New Year’s Eve.

Solution: Firstly, great call! Wine shops will often give price breaks on purchases made in bulk (10% off of 6 bottles and 20% off of a case is industry standard).

Secondly, how festive are New Year’s Eve festivities going to be? One of the best way to determine the wine of choice is to consider the context in which it will be consumed.
Raging house party: Although this scenario calls for quantity over quality, that does not mean that you should suffer. Plus, what a great opportunity to turn your friends on to some budget friendly bubbles. What a terrific time to bring the Cava! Consistently, dry, crisp and delicate and rarely more than $12 a bottle. My favorite producers: Segura Viudas and El Xamfra.
Intimate green, gathering with some lovely locavores: Time to get patriotic! My favorite American bubblies hail from regions not traditionally known for making great wine. New Mexico’s Gruet and Massachusetts own Westport Rivers, make gorgeously complex delicious wines perfect for toasting to 2013.

Casual dinner party with your foodie friends: Looking for something flexible, food friendly and easy to drink? Prosecco all the way! They are refreshing, fun and possess just enough fruit to appeal to everyone. Look for selections from the Valdobiaddene or Cartizze sub-regions and for producers like Adami, Masuret or Nino Franco. Posh & proper soirée: Whether the dress code is strictly enforced or not, this is a legitimate adult gathering, and as a good guest you ought to provide bubbles befitting the occasion. Time to go straight to the Champagne. This can be a tough category to find wines that offer solid bang for the buck, but there are definitely finds to be found. Stick to non-vintage selections, as they tend to be the entry level wines. Also stay away from big brands if you can, and look for values from “Grower” Champagnes. Unlike the majority of household names, these slightly more obscure houses bottle the grapes they grow rather than purchasing them. The results are often more complex, interesting and of course delicious. Some of my favorites include, Moncuit, Pierre Peters, Rene Geoffroy and Gaston Chiquet. Need an inexpensive doppleganger? Look for French Cremants from the Loire, Burgundy, Alsace or the Jura. These are wines from outside of the Champagne region, made in the same style. Top notch producers include Tripoz (Burgundy), Simmonet-Febvre (Burgundy), Domaine de Baumard (Loire), Tissot (Jura) and Lucien Albrecht (Alsace).

So there you have it: a handy dandy guide for all of your vinous needs for the rest of 2012. We hope that you have a happy and healthy new year, and look forward to sipping with you again in 2013.

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