Kerri Henman -


December 13, 2010

Vino Volo saved me from an assault charge….

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No, really.  They did!!!

OK, so we all know that “service industry” is becoming a misnomer.  Nowhere was this more apparent than on a recent flight with Delta Airlines.  We were late leaving Toronto, en route to Orlando, via Detroit.  When we got to Detroit, there was a mad dash from one terminal to the other, trying to make the connection.  NOW – sense would have deemed that Delta ask the gate agents to hold the connection.  Or, I don’t know, let the gate know that we were coming – at a run – to make the flight.  But NO.  Nooooo, six of us got to the gate, to see the plane still there, but they had shut the doors, and would not let us board because, as we were told, “We knew your plane had landed, but we didn’t know if you were coming straight here.”

Yeah.  Right. ‘Kay.  Because most normal people ENJOY the hassle of missing their flight.

Needless to say – I was not a happy bunny.  Thankfully – I was stuck in Detroit for three whole hours!  And yes, you read that right.  I had three hours in Detroit, to while away at the best thing to ever happen to an airport – Vino Volo.  I found out about Vino Volo two years ago, when I had time to kill in Detroit, and thought that since I had 20 minutes, I should try to find a quick bite to eat. On my way to find a McD’s, or something equally junky, my eye was caught by a warm, welcoming interior, lined with lots and lots of pretty bottles. I thought “OOH – wine store!”, and paused to look.  I realized it was a bar/lounge, and asked the bartender if 20 minutes was enough time to try anything. He said that 20 minutes was time enough to try whatever I wanted. And he was right. I had a gorgeous duck and lentil salad, with a selection of three Miller Farm wines, and wound up buying a bottle of Pinot Noir (stunning. Absolutely stunning).  This all took twenty minutes, and was the best $18 snack I’ve had in airport …. well, EVER.  So yes – when booking this trip to Orlando, I did check out which airports had a Vino Volo, and booked accordingly.

Anyway.  There I am, battling an overwhelming urge to rip someone’s face off, when it occurs to me that I can just head to VV, and chill for a while.  This, of course, immediately improves my mood. At least, it improves it enough that I don’t punch the gate attendants, who are rabbiting on about “if we’d known you were coming …. well, we wouldn’t have held the flight anyway, but we could have had someone here to tell you …..”

I got to VV – conveniently located in Detroit at about the concourse midpoint of Terminal A – and Ed must have seen by the look on my face that I was not in the best of moods.  He was in a great mood, though, and it quickly rubbed off.  The first thing I asked for was bubbles.  I needed bubbles.  Ed obliged with an adorable baby bottle of Nicholas Feuilatte NV Brut.  Ed – bless his heart – began to explain the joys and wonders of M. Feuilatte, but I explained that I was very familiar with the brand. If you haven’t tried it, you really should. It’s a lovely sparkler – beautiful citrusy/yeasty nose, and a lovely light mousse for great mouthfeel. Very dry, slightly nutty, and a lingering finish that seems to jump between light white florals and fresh brioche.  Ed and I got to talking about the wine industry, and it became a very interesting visit indeed!

While I calmed my ire with champagne, I went over the menu. It’s really well put-together, with different flights, everything by the glass (3 oz or 5 oz), and it’s organized to make finding just that right wine very easy.  Something for everyone!  The food menu is set up with pairing recommendations, and it’s a nice collection of little tasting plates, larger nibbles, and some nice snack-size bites.  No duck salad this time, but a dish of rosemary and sugar glazed almonds made a delightful pairing with the champagne.  The rosemary was subtle, the almonds were nicely roasted, and the sugar was caramelized to just that right point where it was rich and toasty, but not harsh and burned. Gorgeous.

I decided that I wanted to try the smoked salmon & crab crostini – a ‘signature dish’ for Vino Volo – and the pulled pork tacos.  Now … to the wine list!

To pair, I couldn’t decide on a white, so Ed gave me little taste of the Laurenz V “Friendly” Gruner Veltliner.  It was delicious, and very aptly named.  Bright, tasty, with a lovely palate and nice subtly spicy finish.  The nose was all fruit, with just a touch of white pepper.  It’s a happy little wine – and yes, it’s very friendly! It would make great friends with goat cheese, mild cheddar, roasted garlic, and mild salamis.  It *loved* the rosemary almonds, too.  It’s a soft, juicy wine with great flavour, nice acidity, and if I can find it, I’ll be putting a bottle or four in the fridge.  However – for the smoked salmon, I wanted something a little more dry, so I went with the Marc Bredif Vouvray 2008 (uh – WHY doesn’t this guy have a website? Lots of great reviews online, though).  Vouvray is Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley, and is on the market in a variety of styles, from dry to sweet to sparkling (I’ve had all of them – exquisite.).  This particular glass was a shimmering honey-lemon-yellow colour.  It looked like a beautiful glass of sunshine (great on a cloudy grey day).  The nose was intense; apples, quince, and a little honey to soften the edges.  The fruit sweetness of the palate highlighted the crab, and then gave way to a solid, steely core with an acidity that balanced out the smoked salmon so so well.  I love this wine – fresh, lively, fruit-centered, mouthwatering flavours, lush finish – one of the best Chenins I’ve tasted, for sure. Oh, look, I can find it at the SAQ.  Border run at Mom and Dad’s ….  The crostini was awesome – well toasted, buttery, nicely seasoned, and very good quality smoked salmon.  Caper berries on the side, too, for a hit of salt – yummy!!!!!

I did say that this was an interesting visit. And it was.  The food, the wine, the company – all of it excellent. But Ed made it very interesting with a couple of whatdoyouthinkof’s.  As in – “What do you think of this wine?.”  The first one he poured me a small sample of, I immediately recognized as a Pinot Noir.  Light, cherry-centric, with that particular sort of dustiness that says “Pinot”.  It was interesting, with great texture and some lovely spice notes.  I asked what it was, thinking it was Cali or maybe Washington, and was very surprised to learn that it was from just down the road, in Michigan.  Specifically, it was Bel Lago 2007 Estate Pinot Noir.  The tasting notes talk about roasted marshmallow, but I didn’t get that. I did get earthy cherry berry spice notes all through the nose and palate, with a lingering dusty finish that kept asking you to take another sip, please, that was goooooooooood.  Seriously considering a visit to the winery; I’d love to try more of their wine (and they have a Pinot Grigio icewine…. hmmmmm……).

Between the Chenin and the eventual reds, came a salmon-y pink glass of deliciousness called Les Domaniers Provencal Rose.  Ed had just a little left in his last bottle (SOB!), so he graced me with a taste.  The nose is redolent with white florals, melon, subtle herbal notes – in a nutshell, it smells like Easter.  Springtime.  Warm, happy, sweet goodness. The palate has delicious peachy/apricot flavours, again with just a touch of brushy herbs, and a slightly spicy finish.  I’d love to try this with simple grilled trout, or maybe thyme-and-chervil grilled chicken.  Frittata with brie??  Yeah, definitely.  HAVE to find this bottle.  Have to.

Finally – we arrive at the pieces des resistance.  The pair of reds that I chose to accompany the pulled pork tacos.  Rather, I chose the tacos to accompany the reds, since I *had* to try these wines, and it was the menu item that most appealed to me out of what went with red.  The tacos were delicious – great spice and flavour, tender meat, marinated onion salad, nice crispy shells.  I could go through a lot of these.  But the reds …. ohhhhhh the reds…….

First off, please welcome Peter Michael’s 2006 L’Esprit Des Pavots. Primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, with Cab Franc, Merlot and a dash of Petit Verdot, this is a rich, dense, serious glass of Bordeaux-style red.  A very concentrated nose – deep, aromatic mocha notes and something that reminds me of mincemeat pie. Out of Knight’s Valley in Sonoma, you can almost taste the southern exposure in blackberry and dark fruit.  A little cinnamon and maybe nutmeg? add richness to the fruit.  Mmmmm.  This wants a nice roast of venison, which would love the dark blue and black fruit notes.  Firm tannins, great mouthfeel, nicely dry without being too chalky, a long lingering finish – really makes me wish I could afford to buy a bottle or two, but alas, not a chance.  This baby retails for around $100.  Too rich for my blood, but it was nice to be able to have a glass without breaking the bank!

Speaking of breaking the bank …. when was the last time you saw Chateau Haut-Brion by the glass?!?!?  No, seriously.  Chateau Haut-Brion.  By. The. GLASS.  Do you *see* why I love this place????

I present you with Chateau Haut-Brion’s 2005 Bahans Haut-Brion.  The second label of this distinguished house, Bahans (now known as Le Clarence de Haut-Brion) is one of the most sought-after wines in Bordeaux.  Aged in a mix of new oak, and barrels used to age the previous year’s Chateau Haut-Brion Grand Vin, Bahans is a fantastic opportunity for a prelude to the Grand Vin – vintages are ready to be drunk after five years, instead of ten.  It was still a bit hot – the alcohol was there, but it did soften up in the glass with a lot of swirling and resting. When it opened up – oh dear gawd, what an experience!!!

The nose was rich and mushroomy – it made me think of loam drenched in truffle oil, then sprinkled with fresh ground coffee, and dotted with blackberry syrup.  An intense nose led into a surprisingly soft palate.  No less rich, though, with gorgeous black fruits and deep savoury notes – more coffee and earth, with a bit of licorice and mint at the finish.  This wine is supple.  Elegant.   Mouth-filling. Delicious. It lingers for days.  It needs to be savoured and relished.  There is a reason that les premieres des Bordeaux are so highly valued in the wine world.  This is part of that.  It is an amazingly sexy glass of wine, in and of itself a reason to book a two-hour layover in Detroit.  <Sigh>  This blew away every last shred of ire, and turned me into a big, moist puddle of wine-lover.  Happy girl.  Happy happy girl.

Delta Airlines would like to thank Ed (at the bar), and Mark (in the kitchen) for taking me from Threat Level Red to a calm, happy, ready-to-fly passenger. It was a wonderful couple of hours, and I’m glad that I had a lot of time to really experience the menu and the wine list.  But if you’ve only got 20 minutes to spare – you should still stop by, because you’ll have good food and great wine in the time it takes to grab a burger.  Yes, I had seven glasses of wine, but a) it was over two hours, and b) the largest glass was a 3oz pour of the Chenin.  You can have 1oz or 2oz tastings in the flights, a 3oz or 5oz glass of wine, and most of it for about the same price as that burger, if not less!

So, the moral of the story is this … next time you’re traveling to or around the US, check this map to find the Vino Volo nearest you!

  1. I have been terribly remiss in not mentioning the fact that Ed, himself, was the heart and soul of customer service. He was knowledgeable, friendly, funny, and it was a real pleasure to meet him. Ed – slainte, cheers, and I hope we meet again!

    Comment by Kerri Henman — December 13, 2010 @ 6:31 pm
  2. Heh…before Northwest merged with Delta they did that to me (and three others) in Minneapolis. They knew we’d landed, were on our way, and still they closed the door. I see nothing’s changed in the airline “service” industry.

    I’ve been to the Sea-Tac VV a number of times. Never had time to sample the cuisine, but I’ll definitely check it out next time. Mostly, I stop in to pick up some great Washington wines when I’m heading to oeno-challenged places like PA. A couple years back I grabbed a Cote Bonneville Carriage House cab, which my pal in PA enthusiatically proclaimed “the best wine I’ve ever tasted!”

    See, the deal is you can’t bring your own wine (or any liquids more than 3 ounces) through the TSA checkpoints. But once you’re past security, you can buy whatever you like at VV and take it on the plane. I don’t know if VV realized this when they built their business model, but it turned out to be a stroke of genius.

    Thanks for the great reviews. Next time I’m stuck in Detroit I’ll have a way to drop my threat level down to purple. 🙂

    Comment by Rolando — December 14, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

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