Michael Bray

Wine Columnist Michael Bray

Welcome back to this month’s “You Ask and I’ll Answer” column. 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, I do promise to always provide an answer via email. This month we talk Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, hand harvesting and vintage.

Q: Debi from Upper Township asks, “what are some alternatives to Pinot Grigio?”

A: This may be one of my favorite questions to answer. If you know me, I don’t judge any drink choices, but with over 10,000 grape varieties in the world, I do strongly urge you to “drink different.” And by different I don’t mean an entirely different style. For those that drink Pinot Grigio, I suggest you seek out the following three varieties: Vermentino [vur-men-teeno] — often associated with the islands of Corsica and Sardinia, as well as Liguria on Italy’s mainland; Vernaccia [vurn-nah-chah] — home to Italy’s Tuscany region and specifically the hilltop town of San Gimignano; Verdicchio [vehr-deek-kyoh] — grown primarily in the Marches region of Italy. The best wines come from Verdicchio dei Castelli de Jesi, where winemakers have the ability to add small amounts of Trebbiano and Malvasia. Overall, they deliver a fantastic alternative to Pinot Grigio — clean, crisp and refreshing!

Q: Tom from Linwood asks, “I have a 2001 vintage bottle of Caymus Cabernet Napa, when should I drink it?”

A: Tom, my short answer is 10 years ago! In my experience, 2001 Caymus Cab (regular, not their Special Selection cuvee) will not hold up over 18 years. Specifically, I think what you’ll find is that the two main components of an age-worthy wine, tannin and acid, have diminished. The fruit itself may even taste baked. So, while I do suggest you open immediately … you be the judge. Let me know what you experience.

Q: Henry from Northfield ask, “what is your recommendation for a $20 Cabernet?”

A: I’m currently drinking Heritage Cabernet by Browne Family Vineyards. This wine is from Washington, Columbia Valley. Full body, medium tannin structure, fresh acidity, with well-integrated red fruits. It finished with a kiss of vanilla from spending 10 months in American oak.

Q: JoJo from Margate asks, “does all of France hand-pick their grapes at the time of harvest?”

A: Cool question! About 60% of France is machine harvested. Some regions have banned machines such as Champagne. In Burgundy, there was a movement to stop machine harvesting, especially in the best vineyard sites. Overall, it remains a producer decision.

Q: Sarah from Somers Point asks, “is vintage the year the wine was bottled?

A: This is a common misunderstanding. Vintage refers to the year the grapes were harvested, not the year the wine was bottled. For example, if grapes were picked in 2016 and then aged in barrel for 18 months, the vintage on the bottle would be 2016.

Lastly, we finish with me asking YOU a question. Email me the answer, and I’ll reply with a prize.

Q: What is the dominant red grape variety in Northern Rhone, France?

You keep asking, and I’ll keep writing…

Drink Passionately,


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