THE BLOG
06/05/2012 05:57 pm ET | Updated Aug 05, 2012

Tasting Notes: Road Trips And Gifts For The Grad And Dad

Wine Country on the Road

Silver Oak Tower Tour

When you see a water tower on a wine bottle label you just know that Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon is inside. These Cabs consistently rank as one of the best, and the wine has a dedicated and loyal following who quite happily pay $70-$100 per bottle. You might say it's one of Napa Valley's iconic wineries.

Silver Oak Winery turns 40 this year and to celebrate, they're hitting the road with a miniature water tower in tow. The winery's president and CEO, David Duncan, says they came up with the idea of photographing Silver Oak's icon with American icons such as the Golden Gate Bridge, St. Louis arch, Mt. Rushmore and Yosemite. On June 5th the tower departs Geyserville, CA, from Silver Oak's Alexander Valley winery, embarking on a 60 day, 12,000 mile tour across America. At each of the tower's 60 locations there will be wine tastings or special dinners planned.

Photos courtesy of Silver Oak Winery

You can follow the tower via Twitter with the hashtag #TowerTour2012. Diehard fans are already designing tee shirts to commemorate the occasion, and noted Napa Valley photographer Bill Tucker will be documenting this ambitious trip. The tower tour ends at Silver Oak's Napa Valley winery on July 27, just in time for the August 4th release day for the 2008 Alexander Valley Cabernet and the winery's official 40th anniversary celebration.

The Footcandy RV

Food trucks are nothing new, but a shoe truck? Now we're talking. Footcandy in  St. Helena has been bringing haute shoe style to the Napa Valley for years. Owner Carolyn Butler and her husband have the wine label Juslyn Vineyards, so they've made a go of pairing wine and shoes, from Jimmy Choo to Christian Louboutin. Now Footcandy hits the road to bring fabulous shoes everywhere.

"The Footcandy Mobile Shop came about after my husband, Perry, and I rented a taco truck for an event we were hosting," Carolyn says. "Leave it to us to replace food with shoes but somehow the idea stuck and we are already making plans to roll out the second RV on the East Coast."

Photo courtesy of Footcandy Shoes

Be on the lookout for the mobile shop all done up in Footcandy's signature pink and white stripes. Inside you'll find the Footcandy brand shoes, Carolyn's chic line of  pumps, boots and flats, along with many samples of designer brands. Snap a photo of it and tweet it to @AtFootcandyMobileRV along with the location. They'll post it and give you a 15% off your next pair of Footcandy brand shoes. If you mug for the camera next to the Footcandy truck, you can get  25% off. The RV has been spotted up and down the west coast, from Seattle to San Diego. Look for it at upcoming Wine, Women & Shoes events, including the Napa Valley date on July 28 at Charles Krug winery.

Gifts for the Grad and for Dad

Keeping Cool

Now that summer's here, many of us turn to warm weather white and rosé wines to help beat the heat. But the sun can raise the temperature of that well-chilled bottle of wine you just opened before you get to a second glass. These two nifty solutions will help keep those bottles cool.

The Ice Bag is basically a portable ice bucket. Light and easy to store until you need it, Ice Bag also functions as a wine tote. I saw the bags at a recent trade tasting and thought they were pretty cool. These bags are made of durable, recyclable PVC and can hold the wine bottle, ice and water. A standard bag is 6"x 6" x 9" and will run you between $5-$10. I like the fact that you can actually see the bottle inside, and they're perfect for picnics and barbecues.

Instead of cooling a bottle from the outside you can also chill it from the inside. The Corkcicle was developed to keep your wine at a constant temperature, without needing to keep the bottle in an ice bucket or refrigerator.

Photo courtesy of Corkcicle

You have to freeze the Corkcicle a minimum of two hours before using it. You will need to pour a little wine out before putting the Corkcicle into a full bottle. White wine or rosé should be pre-chilled, but the Corkcicle can help cool reds to a better drinking temperature. It will maintain a constant temperature for an hour.

The icicle is filled with a thermal gel that you can use over and over again. You can buy a single or three pack, for $25-$75 online.

 Into the Glass

Now that your wine is at the proper temperature, you need a glass to pour the wine into. But not just any glass will do for graduation or father's day celebrations.

Baccarat is known for beautiful crystal glasses and decanters, but until now they have not been a big player in the wine world. They've recently launched a line called Chateau Baccarat that includes one white, one red and one sparkling wine glass. Think of them as universal glasses, with just one glass for all white and one for all red wines.

Baccarat has also engineered what they say is a better glass, at least according to wine expert Anthony Dias Blue, who helped develop the Chateau Baccarat line. "It's a very graceful and beautiful design but as it turns out there's a lot more going on with these glasses." He says the bigger bowl allows the wine to spread out and brings more of the aroma and flavors out. The trapezoidal shape was created to help focus the bouquet through a narrower space, or "chimney." Blue says he's tasted from these glasses side by side with competitor's glassware and the same wine in the Chateau Baccarat glass was always better.

Glasses are $85 per stem; a decanter and tumbler glass are also available. For a more budget friendly approach, Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson has created what she calls The One glass you'll ever need for white or for red wine. Sold in sets of two or four, they run about $15 per stem.

The Puzzler

The worlds of design and wine meet in a wood tray inspired by Newton Vineyard in Napa Valley. This is the fourth year that the winery has held its Eco-Chic collaboration, reflecting natural winemaking and modern green design. Winemaker Chris Millard chooses the artist for the collaboration each year. For 2012 the designers are Bruce and Stephanie Tharp of Materious and they've created a serving piece for Chris's unfiltered red wine blend The Puzzle. Thus, the Puzzle tray was born.

Photos courtesy of Newton Vineyard

The Puzzle wine is made by blending fruit from up to 112 separate vineyard blocks from Newton's estate vineyards on Spring Mountain. The Puzzle serving tray is made from a sustainable walnut wood. The design reflects the vineyard blocks on Newton's property.

Some of the blocks are removable to become coasters, there is a recessed area to hold a bottle of wine, and there's a "hidden cave" under which you can store a corkscrew. The tray is made in a limited edition and is available on the winery website for $499.