No one ever accused the Family Kulers of traveling lightly. On a recent two-night camping adventure to Stone Mountain Park, the station wagon looked more like a troop carrier setting out on a nine-month deployment. One of the many necessary accoutrements on our camping supply list—and perhaps the bulkiest—is wine.
Camping for me is a pretty wine-intensive affair. There is lots of cooking, eating, hiking and sitting around the campfire with friends playing music or re-telling old stories. All these activities go better with a glass or two of wine. Multiply this fact by me, my wife and any number of camping colleagues and you’re packing a lot of bottles.
One solution to this problem is boxed wines. While they are lighter and less bulky than glass bottles, they have one drawback. Quality of boxed wines has increased exponentially over the years, but they still cannot match Ridge Vineyards, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars or Bodegas Muga (all of which accompanied us on our recent spring break sojourn) for depth and character.
In a perfect world, my favorite producers put their wines in air-tight bags to make camping and hiking less cumbersome. Our world is less than perfect, but I have come across a product that makes lugging my wines through the woods a little easier.
As our overburdened Family Truckster can attest, I buy a lot of gear at REI, but it’s not my first stop when it comes to wine. When I saw the Platypus Platypreserve Wine Preservation System on display at the camping retailer, it captured my imagination. (Platypreserve is also available at Amazon.com and Platypreserve.com.)
Ostensibly, the Platypreserve was designed to prevent opened wines from turning into vinegar. The BPA-free, non-reactive plastic bag allows you to place wine inside and burp out all the air. This will keep leftover wines from going south for as long as a week.
You can also put an entire bottle of Stag’s Leap S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon in it and go for a hike without the hassle and weight of the bottle. This is exactly what I did with my friend and fellow chef Mark Milliron. Call it a reason to escape parental responsibilities for a couple hours, if you will. For Mark and I, this was purely a research mission.
Mark brought along a tangy, Brie-style goat cheese from Wellspring Creamery. I brought a bladder full of some of California’s most iconic wine.
I was a little concerned about filling the bag and how it would pour, but mostly I was concerned about what it would do the aromas and flavors.
This durable little wine device fills easily even without a funnel. The bag stands by itself making it easy to press down until the wine level reaches the opening, leaving no air in the bag. You then simply screw on the cap. I can report no leaks on our five-mile trek. If you support the bag with two hands, pouring was not an issue either.
The 2008 Stag’s Leap is a big wine with lots of fruit and tannins and I chose it purposefully for this experiment. I had a hunch that not only would the Platypreserve be practical, it might also be beneficial for the wine.
I tasted the wine right out of the bottle and while its aromas were hypnotic, the tannins had a bite to them and the fruit was compacted and tight. Coming out of the bag and into our glasses (yes, I brought my Spiegelau glassware), the wine had softened to expose flavors of cassis, plum, blueberry, black cherry and dark chocolate. We saved about a glass for our return trip.
By the time we got back to the campsite, the thoroughly complex cab had completely unfolded its many layers, making one happy camper exclaim: “This is the best wine I’ve ever had!”
Camping does not necessarily mean roughing it. And for those wine lovers with over-packing issues, the Platypreserve makes your burden a little lighter and, perhaps, your wine a little tastier.
Gil Kulers is a certified wine educator and a consultant for a metro-Atlanta wine shop. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Gil Kulers, AJC Drink blog