Michael Bray

Wine Columnist Michael Bray

Welcome back to this month’s “you ask and I’ll answer.” This month we talk Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre, Sur-Lie aging, pairings, gifting and restaurant etiquette.

Q: Samantha from EHT asks, “When is it Rosé season?”

A: As the temperatures warm in April and May you will begin to see Rosé wines fill up shelves and wine lists of your favorite places — a sure sign that spring has sprung! Rosé wine, as a category, has seen tremendous growth over the last five to seven years. My prediction, however, is that we will see it level off a bit this year.

Q: Dennis from Northfield asks, “Most Sauvignon Blanc is too light and crisp for me. Is there one you recommend that may be fuller?”

A: Great analysis of what you don’t like, which will definitely lead us to a wine that will fit your profile. I recommend you seek out a Sauvignon Blanc with one of two things: first, oak aging. For example, Honig Winery of Napa Valley produces a Reserve Sauvignon Blanc that ages a brief time in oak (as opposed to stainless steel), which results in a fuller, fatter style of Sauvignon Blanc. Second, I would consider a wine from Sancerre, France. White wines from Sancerre will be 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc and offer more minerality given the soil (or “terroir” as the French call it). Lastly, you may also inquire if the wine has been, “aged on the lees.” Lees aging refers to coarse sediment that accumulates during fermentation, mainly dead yeast cells and small grape particles. Lees aging can tame the high acid you’re trying to avoid, as well as add more flavor and body. Many times you will see this listed on the label as “Sur Lie.” Give this a shot and let me know.

Q: Kim from Margate asks, “I’m serving grilled salmon and filet for a dinner party. I want to keep it simple and serve one red wine. What do you recommend in the $25-$35 range?

A: Kim, sounds delicious! I would consider a medium-bodied Pinot Noir. While pinot tends to be more of a natural for fish, it will also hold up to a lean cut of meat like filet. I highly recommend Gran Moraine Pinot Noir from Oregon, or any Russian River Pinot Noir from California.

Q: Denise from Vineland asks, “I recently brought a nice bottle ($50) to a dinner party we were invited to and the host did not have a clue about wine. Is it wrong to include a price when you gift wine?”

A: Quick answer, no, it’s not wrong. However, we all know money and pricing can be taboo and awkward. If you want to make a statement and you’re concerned that your gift may go unnoticed, I recommend you ask your retailer to print out tasting notes to accompany the bottle. On the tasting notes, ask them to include the price. This is a more subtle and constructive way to communicate the value of the gift.

Q: Bill from Ocean City asks, “is it wrong to ask a restaurant that serves wine if you can bring your own wine?”

A: Bill, it’s not wrong to ask. It’s purely a house decision. One note: If they do say yes, it’s not uncommon that you may be charged a corkage fee. Also, a restaurant may be more inclined to allow you to BYOB if it’s something they don’t carry and if it’s a special occasion. Good luck!

Lastly, we finish with me asking YOU a question. Email me the answer, and I’ll reply with a prize. Q: What is the noble grape of the Chianti region?

Next month, stay tuned as we explore a New Jersey winery that has won blind-tasting against several top-producing wine regions in the world.

You keep asking, and I’ll keep writing …

Drink Passionately,


For those of you just tuning in, you can find me at, Michael@passionvines.com. I welcome you to email me with any wine-related questions and I will use this monthly column to answer them. While I will not be able to answer all of them in this column, I do promise to always provide an answer via email.

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