Getting by with a Little Help from My Wine Friends

Rose Toast
Raising a virtual glass is our new “normal.”

We’re living in strange times.

As COVID-19 threatens to overwhelm public health resources across the country, we shelter in place and do the best we can to keep a positive outlook and protect ourselves. Some days it all seems too much to bear.

Maintaining a safe physical distance from other people keeps us isolated from the comfort of human companionship; exactly the opposite of what we’d normally do when put under such psychological stress. We long for a shared meal with friends and the warm embrace of a grandparent. Just when we need each other most, we’ve been pried apart.

Some days it is too much to bear.

Meanwhile, Here in Miami . . .

Florida has been hit hard by COVID-19, posing a serious danger to the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. We’ve got significant populations of both here. Somehow, though, we still don’t have a statewide stay-at-home order. Which makes no sense. At all.

Officials in the City of Miami and in Miami-Dade County have stepped in to fill the vacuum, closing non-essential businesses and imposing a curfew from 10 pm to 5 am each night. Our mayor, who just completed a quarantine after testing positive, has urged all residents to take the virus seriously; to stay at home except for brief outings to buy groceries or pick up prescriptions.

But the lack of such precautions elsewhere in the state have all of us worried. You’ve seen the photos: beaches in the Panhandle filled with sunbathing vacationers; spring-breakers splashing in the surf on Clearwater Beach. #YOLO seems more appropriate than #stayathome.

It’s making me crazy.

I’m one of those people who has to be super-careful about exposure to infection. While I’m not 65+ (at least for a few more years!) my immune system is hardly A+. I can’t get a flu shot because it could provoke an autoimmune response that’s worse. I take preventive measures such as hand-washing very seriously and I limit my contact with sick people. That’s in normal times.

I contracted a bad respiratory infection in early December that lasted three weeks. I got it again in January, worse that time, and was out for the rest of the month. I’m just now starting to feel like myself again.

COVID-19 has me scared silly. And anxious; so anxious.

Virtual Tastings – A Lifeline to the Outside World

The physical threat of the virus is real. News reports present grim statistics of just how serious our situation is. But I can’t help wondering if the psychological effects aren’t worse: being cut off from friends and family as fear and stress weigh heavily on our hearts. Worrying about the long-term propsects of economic recession. Crossing our fingers that supply chains remain intact as we continue to shelter in place.

Yesterday I was granted a wonderful reprieve from all that.

Fun in the Xixon Cellar
Remembering the Bodegas LAN wine lunch in Miami last year. #winefriends

Thanks to Bodegas LAN and Gregory + Vine PR, I participated in a virtual tasting that included about 25 wine lovers scattered across the country. Some I’ve met in person, most I know from social media; it was a delight to “see” them all.

We joked about bad hair days, living in our leisure wear, and massive stockpiles of wine to outlast the pandemic. While we weren’t physically in the same place, we were all together, creating a palpable energy that surely boosted everyone’s spirits.

As the team from Bodegas LAN guided us through the tasting (all the way from Rioja, Spain!) the world seemed smaller and more manageable again. I was sipping a beautiful wine with the people who made it, listening to my wine friends describe it and suggest delicious food pairings for it.

It was the best day I’ve had in weeks.

Culmen Bottle Shot

Aged Rioja is always a treat. This wine was spectacular!

About 2011 Bodegas LAN Culmen Reserva

Blend: Tempranillo (88%); Graciano (12%)

Grapes were hand-harvested from Pago El Rincón, just over five hectares in the south of the Viña Lanciano estate. Yields were a mere 3,500 kg/ha, about half of the allowed maximum for the region. The 2011 vintage was affected by severe drought, limiting the crop and maximizing concentration in the grapes.

Overhead Photo of Lanciano Vineyards
The Viña Lanciano Estate (photo: Bodegas LAN)

The grapes were carefully sorted and then fermented in small, cone-shaped tanks to promote color extraction. Malolactic fermentation occurred in small, French oak barrels, where the wine continued to age for 26 months. After bottling, the wine rested for a further 20 months before release.

Culmen is always a Reserva and is made in only the most exceptional years. Including the inaugural vintage in 1994, Bodegas LAN has produced it just 7 times, with 2011 being the latest. They’re expecting to release the 2015 later this year.

Tasting Notes

Color: Medium purple with flashes of violet, fading slightly at the edge. Doesn’t look like it’s almost 10 years old!

Nose: Ripe black cherries and blackberries, baking spices, dried orange peel, burnt sugar. The longer it sat in my glass, the more intriguing it became. I poured a glass about 90 minutes before the tasting; even hours later it was giving off new aromas. Cigar box, leather, and a savory/meaty note after about four hours. What a pleasure!

Palate: Medium tannin, medium acidity, medium+ flavors reflecting the nose: ripe and dried black, blue, and red fruit. Additional notes of licorice, clove, and dried tobacco. On the long finish there’s a whisper of oxidation – a richness providing the perfect foil for the fruit.

Pork Chop and Rice
Dinner wasn’t fancy but we were grateful to sit together and enjoy a meal.

Pairing: These days our meals are driven more by what’s available at the market than by what we’re craving. Last night’s meal was a humble, boneless pork chop, pan-seared and served with herbed jasmine rice. Not fancy. But it didn’t stop us from enjoying the wine.

That said, I’m glad I used the Coravin to pour just enough Culmen for the tasting and then dinner. I look forward to the day when I can pour the rest of the bottle alongside a perfectly pan-seared duck breast seasoned with Asian spices. And of course there will be potatoes roasted in duck fat. I can almost taste it . . .

The Last Word


Thanks to wine friends near and far, who bolstered my spirits with their presence. To Bodegas LAN for making such a beautiful wine and sharing it with us. To Stef and the others at Gregory + Vine, for bringing us all together.

I leave you with this quote from Bodegas LAN, describing their suggested pairings for the 2011 Culmen Reserva:

Ideal for enjoying after a long meal with extended conversation.

Couldn’t have said it better. Stay safe and sane, my friends. We’re all in this together.

Cheers, Santé, Salúd!

NOTE: For more on Bodegas LAN and the other wines in their portfolio, click here


  1. It was so wonderful to see you and everyone again. Although we are so lucky to be in a world where we get to taste amazing wines, it is really the company that we keep as we go to these events that make it so special and seeing yours and everyone’s faces was a little glimpse back into a world we once took for granted.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, I know exactly how being in a high-risk category is so intense, my hubby is too. And missing the human component, it hit me hard today but reading your words bring comfort! There’s something about this new-norm, a certain humanness that’s present in a bigger way.

    I’ve had Lan Rioja before but not the Culmen. I might just order a bottle! Be well, stay well!

    Liked by 1 person

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