lummi island wine tasting october 28 ’16

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Friday Breads

dscn1364 (Modified)Multi Grain A portion of the flour, water, salt and yeast is mixed together and fermented overnight before the final dough is mixed, giving the enzymatic activity a jump start that enhances flavor and shelf life. The final dough is made with more bread flour and fresh milled whole wheat and rye flours, then loaded up with flax, sunflower and sesame seeds. A great all around bread – $5/loaf.

Black Pepper Walnut – a bread introduced last summer that became new favorite. Made with bread flour as well as fresh milled whole wheat and rye flours then flavored with black pepper and toasted walnuts. Full of hearty whole grain goodness and flavors that will go well with those fall soups and stews – $5/loaf.

And for pastry this week…

Pumpkin Brioche- A rich brioche dough full of eggs, butter sugar and honey then flavored with pumpkin puree! As well as all those pumpkin spices that make pumpkin pie so delicious – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Quantity is limited so don’t wait to order – 2/$5

The Sound of Mauzac

dscn0537Mauzac is an ancient grape varietal grown mainly in the Limoux and Gaillac districts of southwest France. It is the primary varietal in Blanquette de Limoux, a sparkling wine originating with the monks of St. Hillaire Abbey in Limoux in the early 1500’s. These monks pioneered the style of secondary fermentation later refined  as the “methode Champenoise,” even though the method wasn’t used there for at least another century. Under this method, still wines are made in the usual manner of fermentation and aging.

Then, however, when the wine is bottled, a dose of sugar and yeast is added to each bottle before corking, and the wines age in special racks for an extended period for “secondary fermentation.”In the Old Days, the bottles were mounted neck-first in a board, and hand-rotated a partial turn each day. Nowadays, the process is done in automatic containers (shown here holding cremant de Jura). This second fermentation creates bubbles of CO2 and clean flavors of bread and brioche in general, and in the case of mauzac, also some wonderful appley notes. The bottles are then reopened, yeast removed, recorked, further aged, and ready for market.    read more

This week’s tasting includes a Blanquette de Limoux, made from 90% Mauzac. It’s a classic, it’s a great buy, and it’s delicious!

Mauzac, Sweet Mauzac

mauzac-gaillacMauzac tends to bud later and harvests later than most other grapes, so has historically been picked later in the fall than most other wine grapes. Then cold weather often slowed its fermentation even further, leading to the the Eureka moment that (OMD!) extended fermentation produces sparkling wines, as noted above. And as you know, the Wine World shifted on its Axis and has never been the Same.

The other common characteristic of later harvest grapes is higher sugar concentration. Therefore mauzac also has a long tradition, particularly in Gaillac, of being blended with other ancient grapes still in wide production in Gaillac (including red and white varietals found nowhere else) to produce a variety of sweet or late harvest wines. The natural acidity and apple flavors of mauzac make for a delightfully crisp and mouth-watering taste experience.

We mention this here because we were in Gaillac briefly in September, and very much enjoyed the wines. The accompanying photo is a very sweet, very delicious wine called “Ni Roux ni Vert,” another way of thinking about mauzac, i.e. “neither red nor green,” probably talking about grape skin color.  Finding a source has turned into something of a Quest. Hopefully we will find some soon and share them with you, because everyone should have this experience. Stay tuned!  more on Gaillac

On the Matter of Theater

I used to joke that the American Way could by summed up as “Anything worth doing is worth Doing to the Point of Gross and Ugly Excess.” And there certainly is at least a Grain of Truth there. Maybe that’s American. Maybe that’s Human.

Thirty-odd years ago, feeling a Big Hole in My Life and looking for Answers, I stumbled upon a little Zen Center in New Mexico with an old Japanese Teacher , Joshu Sasaki Roshi. I have a little paperback about him from sometime in the early 70’s, in which he said something like, “we have to realize that all of this is a kind of Theater, and we all have our Roles. But that doesn’t mean we need to get Caught Up in Them.”  I practiced with Sasaki Roshi over several years. I picture him as a man who could Speak each Word as a Sumie painter Paints each Stroke of the Brush.

In these days and times, it is a useful idea to explore. It may be that the Inevitable Outcome of Instant Communication with Everyone at Once is the current manifestation of this Very Theater of our Everyday Life gone Completely Mad. Just like the Tower of Babel Myth (as Pat often suggests), everyone is talking at once and No One is Listening.

What are the necessary ingredients for a thoughtful, heart-to-heart conversation, the kind where everyone feels Heard, everyone feels Respect, everyone acts on the Deeper Reality that we are all in this Together, that we are all Doomed, we all Suffer, and that we all Depend on Each Other? These are questions we all need to wrestle with. We do not need to choose sides. We do not need to polarize or politicize (although it Is So Entertaining!). It’s perfectly okay to jump up and down like our chimp ancestors (duh, it’s a lot like Dancing!) and enjoy the Excitement. That’s Entertainment. It doesn’t mean Anything. We can play our roles Wholeheartedly, and fully enjoy them. But we don’t have to get caught up in them.

more on Sasaki Roshi


This week’s wine tasting

Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino 2015 Italy $13
Pale golden-tinged straw color; Botanical herbs and white stone fruit on the nose and palate, with good length and freshness;, finishing clean and medium-long.

Domaine Donjon Minervois Tradition ’11    France      $16
60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Carignan; aged 12 months in stainless steel. Meaty and complex, with sweet, ripe red and black fruits, loads of white and black pepper, bay leaf and wild roses, it stays fresh and lively on the palate, with medium-bodied richness and length.

Catena Zapata Cab Franc San Carlos ’14    Argentina   $19
Purple color with ruby tones. Elegant aromas of spices, garrigue, red berries, cassis, and raspberries, with layers of cedar. Mouth-filling and rich with flavors of cassis, raspberries and notes of black pepper and oregano. The finish is bright and fresh with finely grained tannins.

Venta Morales Tempranillo ’15    Spain   $9
Nice mulberry and cherry fruits, a hint of chalky minerality, and medium body, delivering luscious fruit and a delicious, soft and supple mouthfeel. As usual,  terrific value!

Anteca Blanquette de Limoux   France   $12
90% Mauzac, with chenin blanc and chardonnay makes for a traditional racy, lively sparkling wine with fresh, crisp apple-pear flavors that pair beautifully with a wide range of finger foods and pre-dinner snacks.   more

Wine Tasting

lummi island wine tasting october 21, ’16

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Friday Breads

dscn1364 (Modified)Rosemary Olive Oil- made with bread flour and fresh milled white whole wheat, olive oil makes for a tender crumb and loads of garden fresh rosemary adds great flavor. This bread has a nice crisp crust and delightful soft crumb. It’s a great all around bread and makes fantastic toast – $5/loaf.

Buckwheat Rye – full of hearty whole grain goodness. Made with bread flour as well as fresh milled rye and buckwheat flour and just a little honey to help balance the flavor of the whole grains. A hearty artisan bread that will go well with meats or cheese – $5/loaf.

And for pastry this week…

Rum Raisin Brioche: A truly delightful pastry made with a rich brioche dough full of eggs and butter, chunks of almond paste, golden raisins soaked in rum, and a hint of fresh lemon zest for a nice zing. Then topped with a chocolate glaze before baking. These are my personal favorites. Quantity is limited so don’t wait to order – 2/$5

Cowboys of the Camargue

guardianAt Arles, the Rhone River divides into two branches, one flowing SSE and one flowing WSW. The two branches and the Mediterranean shore form the boundaries of a triangular estuary which is the Camargues, a river delta that covers nearly 360 sq mi. It is a wetland of grasses, etaings (lagoons), canals, and marshes, with a widely diverse ecosystem of over 400 species of birds as well as  indigenous white horses and black bulls, both of which live sometimes on ranches, sometimes free to roam. While barging slowly through the Camague it is not unusual to see groups of white horses or bulls grazing the brush along the canal.

This vague sort of ownership is managed by the Gardians, a lineage of riders who live in traditional cabanes– thatched, windowless structures with bull horns over the door to ward off evil. The gardian’s traditional tools for herding have been a trident and very skillful riding. The Gardians, the horses, the bulls, and the Camargue form a cultural ecosystem that has survived more or less intact for hundreds of years. There is now a Musee de Camargue which chronicles their mutual and fascinating history. Read more


Decision 2016

At this point we are all super-saturated with Analysis of the Candidates and their Positions. All those with actual Brains made up their minds a long time ago how they would vote, at least for President. So you have to ask yourself, what kind of person  is unable to make useful distinctions between or among Candidates? Curiously, listening to them suggests not that they are Morons, exactly, but that they are somehow trying Really Hard to Make Sense of their Choices, and can’t quite Distill what they are seeing and reading into useful Data.

One recent conversation in our household explored the “WTF” observation that Their Confusion might be best explained by CBS top exec Les Moonves on the media Over-Coverage of All Things Trump over the past Year: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS!” If we extrapolate that rationale to the rest of the NewsSphere, we find ample motivation to spend more and more Air Time on Outrage and less and less time on Facts. Which is to say although we have all seen it coming for decades, this year we Crossed a Line in American News Coverage. Now there can be no doubt that the Main Function of “News” is not to provide, as Fox News so ironically promised) “Fair and Balanced” reporting, but rather, Which of Today’s Molehills Shall We Make Into a Mountain of $$?!

Stay Tuned; though now fully disgraced and discarded, Trump still has Full Media Attention, and Nation or no, Future or No, isn’t he still Just Their Dearest Boy…?!  Read more


On the matter of  Tea

A few years ago we attended a monthly Tea Tasting. It was held at the Lynden Library (I am not making this up!) by a charming young couple with a lot of knowledge and interest in Tea. Each month they would pour four or five different Teas, describing in detail where each one came from, its characteristics, and where it fit into the Vast Spectrum of Tea. It was interesting, engaging, and enjoyable. And, unfortunately, a Long Commute.

We were at it long enough to learn that Tea has its own Ancient Vocabulary; as with Wine, the study of Tea inevitably explores the relationships among each particular tea, location, season harvested, treatment after harvest, cutting technique, ageing process, and so on and so on. Cultivation of Tea goes back Millennia, maybe even further than Wine. Like wine it is Subtle and Complex, with layers of nuance most of us Westerners are untrained to distinguish.

So. We are interested in branching into the World of Tea here at the wine shop. At present we are thinking about a small group, maybe once a month, getting together to begin an Exploration of the Vast World of Tea. We don’t know what that will look like exactly. But we would like to know if any of you are interested in participating in this exploration. Please let us know by email or in person at the shop. If there is interest, we would like to kick this off sometime next Spring. Let us know if you are interested, thanks!


This week’s wine tasting

Ronan by Clinet Bordeaux Blanc ’14     France       $15
80% sauv blanc, 20% semillon; fresh and appealing aromas of yuzu, grapefruit, white flowers, and passion fruit; flavors of citrus, white fruits and warm spices are fleshy yet crisp and clean.

Mas des Bressades Rosé Cuvée ’15   France  $14
Spicy aromas and flavors of ripe red berries, orange, and pungent flowers; Nicely concentrated and supple, gaining weight with air, picking up bitter cherry and melon notes and a lingering red fruit liqueur quality.

Federalist Red ’14 Washington $16
Lavish use of oak brings out notes of smoke, black pepper, and spicy cardamom with lots of red fruit and a velvety texture.

Tommasi Poggio Al Tufo Rompicollo ’12      Italy  93pts   $18
pulent, with a raisiny nuance to the ripe, soft red cherry, sweet spice, and herb aromas and flavors. Velvety, opulent, well balanced and smooth, with long, with lush, smooth tannins. Terrific buy!

Pomum Red ’11 Washington $19
Bordeaux blend; aromas of red fruit and exotic spices; On the palate, it shows black cherry, red cranberry and garrigue,  fine elegant tannins and a long finish.


Wine Tasting

lummi island wine tasting october 14 ’16

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Friday Breads

dscn1364 (Modified)Whole Wheat- made with about a quarter of fresh milled whole wheat and handful of fresh milled rye flour as well as bread flour. In addition to being made with a levain it benefits from a long overnight ferment before being shaped and baked. A nice hearty whole grain bread – $5/loaf.

Pain Normand – something new this week, a bread that brings in the flavor of french Normandy region which is known for its apples. Also made with some fresh milled whole wheat and rye flours as well as bread flour it is then mixed with apple cider as well as dried apples. A delicious artisan bread – $5/loaf.

Pastry this week is also something new –

Morning Buns. Based on a pastry from Tartine Bakery in San Fransisco and has been described as a cross between a cinnamon roll and a Breton kouign-amman. Made with the laminated pastry dough that is used for croissants, then rolled out and spread with a brown sugar cinnamon filling, rolled up and sliced into rolls and baked. Yum, Yum! Quantity is limited – 2/$5

St. Gilles

stgillesYou will all be interested to know that about a thousand years ago (late 1190), Guy de Foulques or Guy Foulques — yes, there is a surprising resemblance to “Guy Fawkes,”, n’est-ce pas?…Coincidence…?) was born in St. Gilles, France, son of a successful lawyer. At nineteen, he enlisted to fight the Moors in Spain, then studied law and rose to a position as secretary to King Louis IX, married, had two daughters, and, we presume, something of a career as a monarchist civil servant. Upon the death of his wife, he followed his father’s example and entered the Church as a priest…but, apparently qualified for a somewhat, um, “special track”…?

To wit, he became pastor of the Cathedral at Saint-Gilles in 1255. He was appointed Bishop of Le Puy  in 1259, and soon after became Archbishop of Narbonne.  His meteoric rise continued swiftly to make him a Cardinal in December 1261, and then on to become Pope (Clement IV) very shortly thereafter. Back in those charming medieval days, as Feudalism was struggling toward something like Nationalism, Church and State were Dancing the way Corporation and State Dance now, and this guy seems to have been, shall we say, something of a Player.

These days, St. Gilles, located in the Rhone Delta, is a quiet town on the canal route from Aigues-Morte to Beaucaire. A short distance from Arles, but definitely a bit remote like Maguelone, it seems a strange place to build a big cathedral. However, considering the Feudal times, perhaps the Camargues provided a network of natural Moats, and afforded protection for the Medieval Church and its Holdings. In any case, these days St. Gilles is quiet and a bit soothing, a smallish town on the border between the vaguely wild estuary that is the Camargues and the faster-paced Costieres de Nimes to the north, and Marseilles and Provence to the east.


This week’s Rosé

It all began innocently enough. I mean, like most of the other wine shops on the Planet, we have been carrying Bodegas Breca’s Garnacha de Fuego for many years. You all know it as a mouth-filling, almost chewy, rich and flavorful wine made from what must be a vast area of old vines Garnacha. And it always way over-delivers for its modest price. So it is a wine we tend to keep in stock or at least revisit on a regular basis. And since we were down to one bottle, I ordered more. As one does.

So today it was something of a surprise to find that somehow the order had gone off track, because today’s delivery accidentally brought a case of Garnacha de Fuego Rosé! Huh? They make a rosé? Who knew?

Ever adapting to the Flow of Reality, I thought, hmm, could be interesting, so okay, we’ll keep it and see how it goes. A little research revealed that this little rosé, made from Old Vines Garnacha like its deep and dark sibling, earned 90 points from Parker’s Wine Advocate, which called it “Absolutely spectacular.” Okay, it has my full attention, and we are looking forward to tasting it with you all this weekend! Who knows, might be Awesome!


Meltdown at the Not-So-OK Corral

For those of us of a Certain Age, if we look deeply, we find a certain amount of Confusion about, you know, Frankenstein. Because, as we all know, somehow it was the “Monster,” brought back from the Dead, a little confused, a little retarded, yet with a certain clumsy Sweetness, who was targeted as the Villain. I mean, does Anyone remember what happened to Dr. Frankenstein, he whose unbounded Hubris loosed the hapless Monster on the World? We are left only with the image of Long Lines of People With Torches on Dark Hillsides, Bent on Revenge for Violations they, like the Monster they pursued, could only Dimly perceive.

The Relevance of Mary Shelley’s creation for Our Moment is that here we are 200 years later, still unable to distinguish between the Scientist who created the Monster and the Monster itself, who throughout the story  maintains a certain Tragic Innocence.

In a sense the the current– and Long, Long, Long Overdue– Meltdown of Donald Trump as a Candidate for (arguably) Leader of the Free World has a certain Poignancy, putting us collectively in something of a Dilemma. After all, he now represents BOTH the Scientist and the Monster. Should we Lament the Hubris of the Egocentric Creator of this bit of Global Theater, or should we feel Compassion for the Child-like Innocence of his Catastrophic Ignorance? However it turns out, it is High Theater. High Theater Indeed…!


This week’s wine tasting

Garnacha de Fuego Rose ’15   Spain    90pts        $9
Absolutely spectacular rosé; light, almost neon-pink color and delicate strawberry and cranberry fruit notes, with a hint of pomegranate. It is fresh, lively, ripe, medium-bodied, and has more texture and length than one usually expects in a rosé.

Nera La Novella  ’15     Italy         $15
This unusual white (Nebbiolo, Rossola, Chardonnay, Manzoni) offers surprising complexity; fruity and intense, typical of Nebbiolo grapes; dry flavor with hints of exotic fruits; engaging, tasty, and persistent.

Renegade Red ’13     Washington       $11
Nicely crafted blend of Cab, Merlot, and Cab Franc; shows lots of red and black fruits, scents of loamy minerality, and fine grained tannins that are matched with balanced acidity.

Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico ’14 Italy $18
Fermented with ambient yeasts and aged in cement for up to eight months to rest and lock in its fruity freshness; easy palate of bright berry; silky and seductive mouthfeel.

Tres Picos Garnacha ’14  Spain  92pts    $15
Heady, exotically perfumed bouquet of ripe berries and incense, with a smoky minerality and spice. Vibrant flavors of raspberry liqueur and cherry-cola show power, depth and finesse with velvety tannins.

Wine Tasting

lummi island wine tasting october 7 ’16

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Friday Breads

dscn1364 (Modified)Fig Anise-Quite a hit earlier this summer;  so it is making another appearance! Using bread flour and fresh milled white whole wheat it brings in the sun-drenched flavors of Provence with the addition of honey, dried figs, and anise seed. Great with a glass of Rose and a cheese platter as the last of summer winds down. – $5/loaf.

Poolish Ale – Prefermented in craft ale to add more flavor to the final product. The final mix includes more bread and fresh milled whole wheat flour for a delicious artisan bread. A great all around bread – $5/loaf.

and pastry this week:
Gibassier – A rich dough full of butter, eggs, and sugar. Additions of olive oil, candied orange peel and anise seed bring in the flavors of Provence for a delightful pastry that is brushed with more butter and sprinkled with sugar after baking. Boy oh boy are these delicious. – 2/$5


The Bogle Deal

dscn1720-modifiedThe reason we put the words “Artisan Wine” in our name is because we like small wineries, the kind of place where fairly often the person who makes the wines actually pours them for you and talks with you about the land, the vineyards, their  vision, their art (Rich’s theorem: every good winemaker is a talented artist in at least one other medium). So at some level we have had a bias toward smaller wineries that make less than about 10,000 cases per year total production. That doesn’t mean we don’t carry any wine from big producers, but in general we prefer to represent smaller ones.

From time to time, for one reason or another we deviate from this informal policy– don’t want to become habitual, n’est-ce pas? Last weekend Judy A came by with a Promotional Deal from California winery Bogle, which started in the late 70’s producing 4000 cases of wine  in Clarksville (near Sacramento)(artisans!).  By 2011 they were ranked the 14th largest winery in America, producing more than 1.2 million cases of wine from facilities throughout Northern California…pretty Big Players, specializing in wines you see in most grocery stores across America. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, they gotta be doing something right. Right?

Anyway, we got a good deal on a few cases of their Essential Red, a yummy little Fruit Bomb, and the Promotional Reward, a Jeroboam, aka double magnum, aka 3-liter bottle of their somewhat higher-end red blend called Phantom, a blend of zin, syrah, and mourvedre. At this point we anticipate putting that baby to good use at our annual New Year’s Eve party. Stay tuned!


Rant: Wake Up Alarm

dscn1405-modifiedRecently a friend sent me a link to this story about the current U.S. relationship with Russia and its current CEO, Vladimir Putin. Okay, so nobody likes Putin. Nobody really liked Stalin, or Al Capone, or Dick Cheney, for that matter, but they all played their various roles. And whatever Putin’s role, why is Media is making it Such a Big Deal? Of course– it Is an Election Year, and we Always get to this point about now: the Republicans stake out their usual Position that we are Surrounded by Enemies, and Only They are Tough and only They can make it Better.

The story linked above may be a KGB plant for all I know. But that doesn’t mean it lacks a valid point, which is to ask Why can’t the US and Russia figure out a way to stop the Horror in Syria? Why is Political Posturing always preferred to the hard and exhausting task of reducing Suffering and Making the world a Better Place? Why do we so often wind up jumping up and down waving clubs like our primate ancestors, beset with Outrage and Ego, Bent on Violence, and Incapable of working toward a Common Good?

As human population has grown, every system on Earth has become stressed: the atmosphere, the oceans, the biosphere, the climate…all the systems upon which our very existence depends. Back in the ZPG (you young folks can look it up) days it was widely recognized that human beings were reproducing beyond the planet’s capacity to support them. Modern Geopolitics does a continual Dance around the growing Battle for Resources, making and breaking alliances, brandishing weapons, claiming the Next Fantasy Moral High Ground. And I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel like Screaming at our so-called Leaders: “Awake! Awake! Time Flies Like an Arrow! It Will Not Wait For You!”

Maguelone Cathedral

Our first stop on our canal trip through the Camargue was a short distance from the Cathedral at Maguelone, only a few miles southwest of Montpellier. For being in such an historically remote area, i.e., on a small island in an estuary, accessible only by water, it has a long and varied history. Around 533 AD, shortly after the fall of Rome, the Catholic Bishoprie of Maguelone was first established. In 719 it was taken over briefly by Saracens from Spain. In 737 the existing cathedral was destroyed by the Frankish and Burgundian army of Charles Martel in the Battle of Poitiers, which is widely recognized as a turning point in the Christian struggle against the intrusion of Islam into Europe.

A new cathedral was begun in 1030 (a thousand years ago!) which provided sanctuary to Pope Gelasius II and Pope Alexander III in the 12th century (you have to wonder What they were Doing there!). Later, in the early 13th century, papal legate Pierre de Castelnau was found murdered in St. Gilles (more on St. Gilles next week!), which intensified attacks against the Cathars, ultimately resulting in their complete extermination. The Cathedral fell into decay for several hundred years after that, until restoration efforts began in 1852. The old bricks, made from local mud, have deteriorated over centuries to reveal the rich trove of fossil shells in the local clay.

Supposedly at some point the cathedral had windows of alabaster, which would definitely be something to see! However, close examination suggested that all the original windows were long gone. Curiously, some small windows were apparently single-pane, but backed by curved plastic windows set in over them. These are visible in several photos of the windows.



















This week’s wine tasting

J. Laurens Cremant de Limoux Rose    France      $15
 A longtime favorite here at AWG–Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Pinot Noir; shows a gentle yeastiness, effusive effervescence and rich, tangy, mouth-filling fruit. Makes just about anything Festive!

Conundrum White ’14    California  $21
Blend of Chardonnay, Sauv Blanc, Viognier, and Muscat Canelli. Nose of citrus orchard in bloom. Tastes sweet without being cloying, showing fig, apricot, exotic spice and melon flavors. Ends clean and pure.

Marchetti Rosso Conero ’14     Italy      $10
Rich and inviting aromas of blue florals, plums, brown spices, and hillside brush. On the palate, dry and round textured with red and black cherries, ripe blackberries, cocoa and spice. Culminates in a satisfying, lengthy finish.

Bogle Essential Red California    $10
Old Vine Zinfandel, Syrah, Cab and Petite Sirah delivers flavors and aromas of dark berries and black plums with hints of juniper and dried herbs. Very fruit forward, with spicy cedar and hints of pipe tobacco and cocoa. Lovely little Fruit Bomb, easy to drink.

Robert Ramsay “Le Mein” Red ’12   Washington     $30
Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise and Cinsault; rock-solid aromas and flavors of lavender, leafy herbs, flowers and black berries; Medium-bodied, round, ripe, and supple, with a lovely,fleshy mouthfeel.

Wine Tasting