We Have Lift-Off!

Issue #23 February 2021 

Before we make our way down to the cellar for this month’s wine session, I’d like to suggest we step outside for a moment and look to the sky. (Don’t worry, I’ll make sense of this shortly). 

As of last April, there were around two thousand satellites up there in continuous low Earth orbit with another 600 hurtling around further in space. Also orbiting about 400 kilometres above us and circling Earth every 93 minutes, is the International Space Station. And 54 million kilometres away is Mars, which NASA plans to reach with astronauts in 2030. Why am I lost in space?

February 20, 1962 John Glenn lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida

Well this month in 1962, John Glenn was launched into orbit from Cape Canaveral on the east coast of Florida, (in ’63, it was renamed, Cape Kennedy). 

John Glenn in orbit.

He was the first North American to boldly blast off to an altitude of 260 kilometres, where he completed three trail-breaking orbits of our planet in a mission that lasted just under five hours.

I remember it well. When Captain Glenn lifted off that day in February, it just so happened to be my sixth birthday. He instantly became a hero to millions and certainly to me. 

John Glenn with his space capsule, ‘Friendship 7’

So with that courageous and important beginning to human space travel in mind, let’s get back down to earth and meet three affordable wines that are absolutely made of the right stuff.

Welcome back to the cellar.

Our wine travels this month launch with a tasty tongue twister from the Alsace region of France. It’s a Gewurztraminer. A sommelier once helped me wrap my mouth around that 5-syllable monster with this pronunciation hint. Turn the ‘w’ into a ‘v’ and make the miner, meaner. Then it should sound something like this; 


Who knows what it will sound like after you’ve finished the bottle. 

Anyhoo, here it is. Is it me or does that look a little like a rocket on a launch pad?

Pierre Sparr Grande Réserve Gewurztraminer 2018
Alsace, France
750 mL bottle VINTAGES #747600

This Grande Reserve Gewurzt is luscious and fragrant with citrus scents of grapefruit and kiwi. It’s full of flavour and not sweet but mid-dry; making it a perfect match for meals with a kick, like Indian lamb curry or spicy chicken Phad Thai. 

But it certainly doesn’t need a single morsel of food to give it reason for being. Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer’s refreshing qualities make it a perfect sipper before supper.  

Now our orbit around the wine world is pausing over Spain. In particular, over the Castilla-La Mancha region to the south and east of Madrid. The land of the man of La Mancha, Don Quixote.

Way down there somewhere amongst the vineyards, castles and windmills is the Bastida family winery and from it comes this rich and full Alceo Tempranillo. 

Alceo Tempranillo 2017
Castilla-La Mancha, Spain
750 mL bottle | VINTAGES #18768

Alceo Tempranillo 2017 sits in the glass like a deep, dark sea of tranquillity. It has inviting aromas of leather and cinnamon spice with flavours of dark cherries, and ripe blackcurrants. 

It’s dense and full-bodied and would be out of this world with barbecued chipotle seasoned burgers.  

John Glenn’s very first orbit around the earth passed directly over South Australia’s Barossa region and very likely the Eden Valley. The home of our next red.

Mountadam Vineyards was created by the late David Wynn.  Wynn was one of the shooting stars of the Australian Wine Industry and the first to recognize the potential of the cool, elevated area of the Eden Valley to produce Australian wines of great elegance and structure. 

The vineyard was named after David Wynn’s son, Adam.

Mountadam Vineyards Five-Fifty Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Barossa, South Australia
750 mL bottle | VINTAGES #18006

This tasty cab has scents of plums, blackcurrants and herbs. It’s rich and dense with dark fruit intensity. And it’s smooth with a lasting finish that makes you want to start all over again with another sip. Thanks to David Wynn and his son Adam. This is wine is definitely a Wynn Wynn.

When the bad puns start happening, you know it’s time to get out of the cellar. So let’s lift off from our chairs and look forward to meeting again in a month. That’s about one tenth of the time it would take to get to Mars. 

But before we part, let’s raise a glass to all of the intrepid space travellers and interstellar trail blazers. And with special thoughts for those who never made it back.

We’ll see you in March. Until then, keep your glass of wine close and your friends even closer. 


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