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Octavin wines continue to raise the bar

By Dave Buchanan

There always is an adventure waiting when it comes to trying new wines.

While the adventure occasionally proves to be one you'd just as soon miss next time it's offered, most of the time it's an adventure worth repeating.

Although I'm not sure it's considered an adventure the second time around.

Maybe it's more like falling in love for the second (or third or 20th) time, when it's the promise of something new and exciting that keeps you on track.

This latest adventure began last winter when it arrived in an eight-sided box containing the first of several selections from Octavin's Home Wine Bar system of boxed artisan wines.

So far, and six wines into the adventure, it's been an enjoyable and tasty ride.

Octavin wines (the wine is in a heavy plastic bag inside the eight-sided cardboard box) are produced by Underdog Wine Merchants of Livermore, Cal., who, according to their Web site, are dedicated to offering "unique, esoteric wines that are distinctly characteristic of their origins and variety."

There's been a lot written about Underdog and their Octavin wines (check out the media section on the Octavin Web site) in the last six months or so as they've become better known and better distributed.

A month or so ago I received the Octavin Silver Birch (N.Z.) 2009 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and then a few days ago, the nice FedEx lady dropped off a box of the Boho Vineyards 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel.

I opened the Sauvignon Blanc almost immediately, had a couple of glasses, and then kept the wine in the 'fridge for about 5 weeks. Honest, I didn't forget it, I was benignly testing the wine's shelf life, something most boxed wines love to brag about.

Next to the Octavin box was an opened (and re-corked) bottle of SB from another producer, and when I tasted them side by side last week, the bottle was flatter than my 401(k) while the Octavin plastic-sealed wine was fresh and sparkly and wonderfully refreshing on a 98-degree afternoon.

As we all know, light and oxygen are the two greatest enemies of wine, and Octavin's plastic liner and heavy cardboard box protected the precious liquid inside from both.

Even though I ignored the wine for most of a month, the wine forgave me, retaining its pear and green apple flavors balanced by the minerality (a neat wine-type word that really means something) and crisp acidity associated with the SBs from the cool regions of Marlborough.

The latest newcomer to my wine-storage area in the basement is the Boho Vineyards 2008 California Old Vine Zinfandel. I punched open the box last night and poured a glass, pleased with the big plum and jam fruit flavors and the easy-to-manage tannins that winemaker David Georges coaxed from the grapes.

Another plus is the typical (at least what I think are typical) alcohol levels (13.7-percent, in this case) that make American zinfandels not only food-friendly but also drinker-friendly.

Both wines are priced at $24 for the three-liter box (the equivalent of four .750-liter bottles), which makes this adventure affordable, as well.

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