Wine Advice

April 22, 2010

Cheap, Fun And Green All Over

story.jpgYou don't have to be a tree-hugger to show your appreciation for Mother Earth. The fact is, going green, or being green is just a simpler way to live. Our Earth Day Green Guide focuses on the four basic principles of eco-consciousness: buy organic or sustainable, buy local and make less waste. No problem.

Choose Organic Wine or Wine Made From Organic Grapes
I suppose this seems like a no-brainer. Want to drink green, buy green. When in doubt, look for certified organic wines or wines made from certified organic grapes.

yalumbaVio.jpgYalumba Organic Viognier 2009
The wine is lemon straw in colour with green hues. Lifted honeysuckle, lemon rind, apricot and peach mixed with hints of cashew and freshly turned earth deliver a complex and funky aroma. The palate is rich and textured. A luscious wine with layers of spice, citrus and apricot, showing the distinct characters of varietal Viognier which persist through to a lovely fresh finish. Enjoy with spicy Asian cuisine. (from

Find Biodynamic or Sustainably Produced Picks
I know sometimes its tough to find a really good organic wine, especially on a budget. If you haven't yet found options to your liking, check out wines that are biodynamically farmed or sustainably produced.

edge PN.jpgEscarpment Over the Edge Pinot Noir 2008
100% Martinborough Pinot Noir, grown on the alluvial gravel terraces for which the district has become famous. The season was exceptionally warm allowing high quality, fully ripe fruit to be harvested early with brilliant ripe cherry/plum flavours. A full-bodied style with great backbone and a long lingering finish. An immediately accessible wine, which will improve over the next 2 years. Enjoy with full flavoured fish dishes, lamb or vegetarian dishes. (from Escarpment Vineyards)

Try A Boxed Wine
Ignore the stigma, there really are some great options out there. I'm sure you've noticed than many organic, biodynamic, and sustainable wines often come with a heftier price tag. It stands to reason that the more individual TLC any product gets, the more expensive it will be. Now that there are tasty boxed options available, you can fearlessly embrace the enormous savings advantage of buying 3-4 bottles all conveniently squished into a collapsable bag, with a tap at your fingertips. And the eco bonus, less packaging = less weight = less shipping = significantly reduced carbon footprint.

seven531.jpgOctavin Wine Bar - Seven, Red Wine of Spain
Our artisan winemaker selected seven red wine varietals to craft an energetic, engaging wine blend. Bodegas Osborne has longstanding, deep roots in the Spanish wine industry, and uses its traditions as a starting point for Seven, not as a constraint. Our "Nuevo Vino" approach was the inspiration for this wine - it is a fantastic blend of the best of Old World Spain's wine structure, soft tannins and earthy complexity, combined with New World fruit flavors and approachability. Jose has an ambitious goal for Seven: "To create a very distinctive, flavorful modern Spanish wine that still reflects the traditional characteristics of our Spanish roots." (from Octavin Home Wine Bar)

Buy Local
If you live green, you buy local produce, right? Well, you may be surprised to learn that there are wineries in each of the fifty United States--and just about every country around the world. From Israel to India, the Ukraine and Japan, just about everyone has a wine region in their back yard. If you live in the U.S.A., check out to find a winery near you.

Main title image from

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April 9, 2009

Easter Wine Guide

Growing up in my large extended family, easter meant not just ham, but 2 hams, mountains of scalloped potatoes, fresh spring beans and my grandmother's hot cross buns. Whether your holiday meal is brunch, dinner, or an open house/free-for-all, we have some suggestions for easy wine pairings that complement most traditional Easter fare.

If your Easter meal is all about the egg dishes, I would keep it simple and offer Mimosas and Bellinis. Choose a cava, prosecco or other sparkler that is tasty on its own, but inexpensive enough to use as a mixer.
Nino Franco Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Rustico $15
Soft and fruity... an absolutely perfect prosecco on its own and an ideal base for bellinis.

Cremant de Limoux, Antech "Cuvee Eugenie" $14
So rich and toasty... if you didn't know it wasn't from Champagne, you'd swear this was the real deal.

Segura Viudas Aria Brut NV $10
A bright and crisp cava that shines on its own, but is well suited for mixing.

Ham still seems to be the centerpiece of most Easter feasts. Be it the honey-baked, spiral cut, cola glazed smoked variety, or the lesser known FRESH (non-pink) version, ham is a protein that pairs well with both reds and whites. But since both fresh and smoked varieties are usually bathed in a sticky glaze, it is important to find a wine that has a little fruit. I think the conventional wisdom is that a fruity but dry riesling is the best match... but if the thought of riesling conjures images of Blue Nun, then by all means go with an alternative. But if you're feeling a little adventurous, I think you'd be surprised at how many great dry rieslings are out there.

Leeuwin Estate Riesling 'Art Series' 2006 $20
I know this one pushes our limit on cheap, but it is certainly fun and I think worth every penny. The Leeuwin is a crisp and refreshing riesling with succulent, ripe stone fruit flavors balanced by refreshing citrus.

Gustave Lorentz Pinot Gris 2007 $14
Subtly floral and slightly smoky, this pinot gris is a great alternative for riesling-phobes. Soft fruit feels round and ripe on your palate but this wine finishes super clean.

fleurie.jpgFleurie 2006 Chateau des Bachelards, Georges Duboeuf $15
This single vineyard Beaujolais is rich and ripe with layers of black cherry and earthy spice... much more akin to the burgundies of the north than the young, sourced wines of Beaujolais. Medium bodied with the perfect punch of fruit for ham.

magpie.jpgd'Arenberg Laughing Magpie Shiraz Viognier 2007 $19
You might be thinking that a shiraz/viognier blend must be a typo--or at the very least an error in judgement. But I am here to tell you that if you can find this wine, you must try it. You get remarkable floral and ripe stone fruit notes from the viognier, which marry surprisingly well with the dried fruit and herbal components from the shiraz.

If spring lamb is more your speed, you have a lot of flexibility in wine selection. Pick a cab, a merlot, a malbec-- or any number of blends that are red-meat friendly. I chose two that I think are interesting and a fine match for racks or legs that are rubbed with garlic and fresh spring herbs.

juangil.jpg2006 Bodegas Hijos de Juan Gil Monastrell $14
This mourvedre from Spain is inky and intense... lots of jammy fruit layered with leather and smoke and spice. I think this pairs slightly better with the richness and gaminess of a leg of lamb, but it is so good I'd drink it with almost anything.

montgrasquatro.jpg MontGras Quatro 2007 $15
30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Malbec, 25% Syrah and 15% Carmenere
This Chilean chilean blend is full and rich with lovely currant and plummy notes. It is a little dusty and spicy and a beautiful match for lamb.

I know for some, Easter is all about the chocolate. For you chocolate bunny and egg hounds, I'd recommend a good port. Of course, depending on your chocolate preference (white, milk or dark) you do have other options, but for flexibility and sheer yumminess, I'd go with a tawny port

bullertawny.jpgR. L. Buller & Son Tawny Victoria NV $11
Delicate, yet layered and rich, the Buller is a great value tawny port. Toasty caramel notes mingle with spice and honey for a truly intoxicating blend. Aromatherapy at its finest.

Easter egg image via

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March 30, 2009

Keeping it Kosher - Wines for Passover


In order for a wine to be kosher, it must be created under a rabbi's immediate supervision, with only Sabbath-observant Jewish males touching the grapes from the crushing phase through the bottling. While all wines require some sort of mold (yeast) for fermentation, kosher for Passover wine must be made from a mold that has not been grown on bread (such as sugar or fruit) and must exclude several common preservatives. All Israeli wines are Kosher for Passover and most (but not all) kosher wines are kosher for Passover. To be sure, check the label for the P. (from

Passover is quickly approaching and while I am by no means an expert on Kosher wines, I have tried quite a few and thought I'd pass along some reliable choices that are also budget friendly. There are a lot of online resources for Kosher wines these days and I've included a few links at the bottom so you may browse at your leisure.


hagafenSB.jpgHagafen Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2008 $17
On the nose, this highly aromatic Sauvignon Blanc shows pineapple, key lime, and mandarin orange. This bracing, mouth-watering wine fills the palate with a well integrated and creamy mix of apricot, citrus, grapefruit, and tangelo. This Sauvignon Blanc is produced from a well-established vineyard in the Eastern foothills of the Napa Valley, where the hot days and cool nights are ideal for creating crisp, clean, long-finishing food friendly wine. (from Wine Chateau)

recanatiChard07.jpgRecanati Chardonnay 2007 $16
This Chardonnay was made from Upper Galilee Chardonnay vineyards and aged sur lies, a technique used to produce wines that are buttery, complex and rich in flavor. These Chardonnay grapes were harvested in the earlymorning hours in Recanati's Upper Galilee vineyards at Kibbutz Manara and Kerem Ben Zimra, at the foothills of Meron mountain. These well-nurtured and quality vineyards, with their high quality low crop load, are characterized by scents and flavors of white flowers, grapefruit, pineapple and tropical fruit. The wine remained with its sediment and developed flavors and scents of vanilla, butter and toasted bread that combined with the wine's fruit flavors and full, robust body. (from Astor Wines & Spirits)

galil_voig_LRG.jpgGalil Mountain Viognier 2006 $13
Bright, golden straw-like color. Peach, ripe apricot and orange peel aroma with a refreshing blossom-like fragrance and hints of oakand butter characters. A medium-to-full bodied wine with balanced and gentle acidity and a long, pleasant finish. 60% of the wine underwent cold fermentation in stainlesssteel, with the remaining 40% fermented in new French oak barrels.The barrel-fermented wine aged on yeast lees for six months. The cold fermentation enabled the wine to preserve the variety's fresh characters, while wood and yeast characters were added to the barrel-fermented wine. (from

herzogChenin07.jpgBaron Herzog 2007 Clarksburg Chenin Blanc 2007 $8
Looking for a dry but soft, easy-drinking white wine that everyone can enjoy? Nice clean flavors with hints of melon, stone fruits, and savory herbs are wrapped in a smooth, medium-bodied package that is delicious on its own, but will also pair beautifully with a wide range of lighter foods. A terrific everyday white wine that's also easy on the wallet. (from The Wine Country)


galilpinot.jpgGalil Mountain Pinot Noir 2006 $17
Perfumed and silky with typical aromas of wild berries, violets and hints of tobacco and oak. Aged for 10 months in French oak barrels. Delicate and well balanced with an elegant structure and a fresh pleasant finish. (from

gamlamerlot.jpgGamla Merlot 2006 $17
Gamla Merlot was produced from Merlot and a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon, all grown in the Golan Heights. The cool climate, rocky volcanic soil and high altitude are ideal conditions for growing these classic varieties. Aging in oak barrels, mostly French with a bit of American, rounds out the berry floral and spice characters in this approachable and elegant Merlot. (from

golanCab.jpgGolan Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 $13
The Golan Cabernet Sauvignon offers ripe berry and plum fruit notes rounded out with rich vanilla, spice and oak. This aromatic, medium-bodied wine finishes off with loads of fruit. Although immediately approachable, it will age well over the next five years or so. We recommend drinking it with boldly-flavored foods, such as spice-rubbed well-marbled grilled steak or eggplant parmesan made with plenty of fresh herbs. The fruit comes from several vineyards in the central Golan Heights. The wine aged for six months in American oak barrels. (from

tishbiPS.jpgTishbi Cabernet Petite Sirah 2007 $10
Cabernet Petit Syrah Dry red wine Appelation: Zichron Yaakov & Kfar Tavor This young, refreshing wine is made of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah grapes. Fruity and fresh, it carries an aroma of strawberries and herbs. (from

Other great resources:
Kosher Wine Society
Online Kosher Wine

Main bottle image via Giora's Kosher Food Blog

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December 31, 2008

Top Five Treats Enjoy With Champagne (or any bubbly)

champs.jpgOkay, these are completely subjective, of course, but are my all time favorite things to eat while enjoying a little bubbly:

1. FRIED CHICKEN - I know it sounds crazy because fried chicken is sooo heavy, but the bubbles act as a palate cleanser and if you choose something a little yeasty, it is a thoroughly indulgent treat. Try Westport Rivers 2003 Brut Cuvée RJR

2. SUSHI - Again, rich, oily fish meets bright scrubbling bubbles. If you don't like wasabi and soy, go for something light, bright and crisp. But if you, like me, enjoy a little sweet and salty sauce in which to dip your fish, then go for something with a little more fruit. Try Llopart Brut Rosé Cava Reserva 2005

3. CRAB CAKES - Authentic, Maryland crab cakes. There really is no substitute. Essentially the same principles apply... take a fairly rich substrate (in this case jumbo lump crab meat from Chesapeake Bay blue crabs) add generous seasonings and a fresh bread crumb coating and then broil or pan fry for a golden, delicious lump of love. Once again, the sparkler cleans the palate with bursts of bright citrusy bubbles. Try Gruet Brut NV

4. COCONUT SHRIMP - A little rich, a little sweet, a little fried... all the makings for an ideal bubbly pairing. If the shrimp and coating are well seasoned, I prefer mine sans sauce. Try Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose

5. QUICHE - Specifically, the gruyere and applewood-smoked bacon variety. Tangy cheese, smokey pork all nestled in a bed of rich eggs and cream and contained in a flaky, buttery crust. Of course the wine must deliver on all of the different flavor components so I would go with something full bodied and layered. Try Roederer Estate Brut NV

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November 30, 2008

Cheap Fun Wines' Holiday Gift Guide

Forget about parking... and don't bother standing in line at the mall. I think we've found a little something for everyone on your list.

book2.jpgThe Boys Up North
The Boys Up North: Dick Erath and the early Oregon winemakers. Paul Pintarch's stories let you meet and enjoy a cast of characters who have made Oregon and American wine life more flavorful and a lot more fun. Even better, most of these "heroes of Pinot" are still alive and breaking new ground as you read. $15 (via

Pop the cork off any gathering with WINEOPOLY! Players buy favorite wines, collect bunches of grapes and trade them in for decanters. Sounds easy enough but add Import Taxes and serving faux pas and it becomes a little more difficult and a lot more fun! Each deed back contains wine descriptors and fun facts about each wine. It's all fun and games until you're sent to the Wine Cellar to age-then you're out of the game for three turns. So choose your token (wine bottle, cork, wine glass, cheese, grapes, or a carafe) and advance to CHEERS! Who knows? You may be elected president of the wine club or you may be penalized for serving obtrusively malodorous cheese! $25 (via

FOR AVID PICNICKERSThumbnail image for picnicpack.jpg
Picnic Gift Del Mar Two Person Wine & Cheese Tote
A gift for all your wine and cheese lovers to enjoy! The insulated compartment will keep cheese cold or bagels warm. Complete with cutting board and cheese knife. The handle or detachable shoulder strap makes this small lightweight tote perfect for the day hiker or the sunset watcher. Contents: 1 Deluxe Bottle Stopper. 1 Stainless Steel Corkscrew. 1 Cheese Knife. 1 Wooden Cutting Board. 2 Acrylic Wine Glasses. 2 Napkins. $32 (via Amazon)

port.jpgWarres Otima Port & 8-Piece Godiva Chocolates
iconIs there a better combination than tawny Port and chocolate? From the renowned Port house Warres, Otima is a 10 year tawny Port made in a lighter, more contemporary style. Beautifully packaged and incredible when paired with Godiva's 8-piece ballotin of assorted creamy milk, white and dark chocolates. $40 (via

bathcaddy.jpgBamboo Bath Caddy by Umbra
Turn your bath into a spa! Rest the extendable handles of this spa-style wine bath caddy by Umbra on the rims of your tub. Slide the base of your wine-filled glass in the stem slot. Prop your favorite read on the book/magazine rest. Then relax! Features a spot for a small dish or glass and notches to hang bath accessories. A perfect fit for standard-size tubs. Expands up to 38" for larger tubs. Made by Umbra of water-resistant, renewable bamboo.
$40 (via Amazon)

wineessence.jpgWine Essence Kit
Learn how to taste wine while you are guided through its mysteries and pleasures. The kit is based upon international studies that have identified nine principal components of wine. The principal "essences" --along with their level of concentration and intensity--are what ultimately determine a wine's flavor and character. The kit includes these nine essences--sweet, bitter, sour, smooth, acetic, flowery, fruity, oak and tannin--individually bottled and carefully prepared so that the suggested dilution corresponds to their concentration in wine. The more you use the kit, the better you'll be able to identify the separate tastes in wine and understand the countless ways in which they can be blended. Kit also includes, a detailed instruction booklet, all necessary labels and a wine tasting glass. $40 (via Wine Enthusiast)

bookends.jpg3 Bottle Wine Rack Bookend
One of your passions (books) supported by another (wine)--it only makes sense! Three wine bottles on each wrought iron bookend provide enough weight to prevent sliding, and more than enough style to enhance your shelves. Will fit standard Bordeaux 750mL size bottles. Size 10"H x 10"W x 5-1/2"D. $40 (via Wine Enthusiast)

8pcaccessories.jpgPicnic Time Wine Accessories Boxed Set
Eight-piece wooden box set includes lever-style cork-pull, two bottle stoppers, drip ring, foil cutter, pourer/stopper, thermometer, and extra cork-pull. $40 (via Amazon)

You don't have to be a wine connoisseur or an expert skier to appreciate this innovative way to display your favorite vino. The bottles are stored on their sides to properly maintain the wine's integrity, while the original materials (recycled skis) adds a touch of fun and excitement. Made in Millbury, MA. $50 (via Uncommon Goods)

paella.jpgSpanish Paella & Wine Gift Set
iconThe heart and soul of Spanish cuisine is fragrant paella. Our gift set starts you off with the essentials: a traditional steel paella pan, imported saffron (the world's most expensive spice), pimenton (a smoky paprika) and paella rice which naturally absorbs all of these wonderful spices. Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva, from Spain's most prestigious wine region, delivers complex, spicy flavors that complement the exceptional flavors of Spanish paella. Add a special touch by serving your paella on the festive tapas plates. $70 (via

cookbookset.jpgDining Delights Deluxe
We've cooked up the ideal bonus pack with a delicious assortment of wines from Chile, Australia, California, and Italy along with an award-winning, beautifully illustrated cookbook. If cooking and entertaining are on your list - you'll love getting six wines and the 'I Love to Cook' book all at once. The wines won't last long, but the recipes will make life easy and delicious for a long time to come. The book alone sells for $35 so you are getting a tremendous value. Perfect for any epicure on your gift list too! $100 (via MyWinesDirect)

winedown.jpgWineDown Accessories RoJaus Grapevine Decanter
The RoJaus Grapevine decanter from WineDown Accessories is the first and probably only touchless decanter on the market. The artistic form is a conversation piece in itself, but the graceful way the decanter aerates, chills and dispenses wine is phenominal. As wine is poured over the wine bubble, the flavors and aromas are released. Sediment and cork particles are trapped in a stainless steel filter allowing only perfectly aerated wine to be dispensed into your favorite stem. Information about customizing the decanter is included with your purchase. $180 (via Amazon)

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November 24, 2008

What to Serve with the Bird - Red, White & Gravy

Thanksgiving is the one holiday that I serve only wines made in the U.S. of.A. It just makes sense to me. So, all of the selections below meet that criteria as well as coming in below the $20 mark.

Cheap and Easy (or 1 White and 1 Red)
If you want to keep your selections simple, I would suggest a medium white and a medium to fuller-bodied red. It is always tough to choose only two wines for the extensive array of flavors present on the Thanksgiving table, and since everyone has their own idea of what constitutes 'cheap' I've given you two pricing options:

Cline Cellars Pinot Grigio - Chardonnay 2007
Ripe and creamy tropical fruit notes punctuated by a crisp, acidic finish $10
Villa Mt. Eden Grand Reserve Antique Vines 2004
Bold berry and spice are the predominant characteristics of this rich and chewy zinfandel $12

$15 TO $20
eyriepg.jpgEyrie Pinot Gris 2006
Rich and ripe, the Eyrie is fermented in stainless but develops depth and character from significant time spent on its lees. Then it is only loosely filtered before bottling. The resulting wine is layered and lush and a great accompaniment most dishes. $17

esserPN.jpgEsser Vineyards Pinot Noir 2006
Brilliant medium garnet in color, the wine's aromas are keynoted by violets, baked stone fruits and clove/allspice/fennel notes. With fine firm texture and fresh fruit flavors of cherry and plum backed by notes of spice cake and toasty oak. $16

Full Tasting Menu

I am a big fan of the tasting menu format... I enjoy the concept of trying more, but eating less. So if I were having a small group of mainly wine drinkers for the big feast, this would be my ideal menu:

Baby Greens with Sliced Pears, Dried Cranberries, Pecan Crusted Chevre Medallions & Champagne Vinaigrette
Roederer Estate Brut NV
Fresh Corn Puddings
2007 Foxglove San Luis Obisipo County Chardonnay

Apple-filled Acorn Squash Rings (from Epicurious)
2006 Bucklin "Compagni Portis Vineyard," Sonoma County, Gewurztraminer
Herb Rubbed Roasted Turkey over Rosemary Foccacia Dressing, with Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Pan Gravy
Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas Rouge 2006

2006 Semillon de Soleil.jpgMiniature Pear Tatins and Pumpkin-Pecan Tarts
Stony Hill Vineyard Semillon de Soleil 2006

Just remember to choose the wine you like. That is the most important criteria after all. And have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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September 19, 2008

Wine 101 - Ee is for Entre-Deux-Mers

g_bor_map.gifLiterally translated, entre-deux-mers means between two oceans or seas. And in lovely, scenic Bordeaux this identifies the appellation situated between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers. There are 37 appellations in Bordeaux, all of which are situated along the Dordogne, the Garonne and the Gironde which flows from the Atlantic ocean and splits to form the other two. On the map above, entre-deux-mers is represented by the large green area in the middle of Bordeaux.

I'm not sure I could clearly explain Bordeaux in one little post so I'm going to send you on a jump, to Wiki land. The Wiki page offers the clearest, most thorough condensation (I've found) of the region as well as a handy numbered map for reference. It also clearly defines terminology associated with Bordeaux wines (ie. Left bank, Right Bank, Graves etc).

Back to the task at hand... Wine from the entre-deux mers appellation can be red, however the reds are fairly nondescript compared to its haughty left bank/right bank kin. Most often when you see entre-deux-mers on a label, it is on a white. Typically, they are sauvignon blanc based and blended with semillon, muscadelle and occasionally, ugni blanc. Vivacious and dry, they can run the gamut from stark and simple to lovely and layered, depending on on the blend, of course.

Start investigating the wines available in your area and buy 2007 vintages whenever possible... Or if you need a few suggestions, check these out:

etiq_23.jpgChateau Bonnet Entre-Deux-Mers 2006
50% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon, 10% Muscadelle
The higher proportion of sauvignon blanc in this blend provides a crisp, acidic backbone. While the sturdy dose of semillon softens the edges with ripe tropical fruit notes.


La Foret Blanc Entre-Deux-Mers 2006 $12
40% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Muscadelle, 20% Sémillon
Much softer than the Bonnet, the La Foret benefits from an equal split of sauvignon blanc and muscadelle. The latter providing lovely aromatics and playful, almost floral notes. Not to be forgotten, the semillon provides a little depth and richness.
Bordeaux map via Great Wine Capitals

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September 15, 2008

Wine 101 - Dd is for Decanting


To decant... or not to decant...
That is often the question:
Whether 'tis nobler to suffer the woes
Of aged wines so rife with sentiment; or
To pour the crusty juice from its vessel, its home
Into another to clear the wine of sediment...

Well it isn't exactly Shakespeare, but it does present two interesting topics for exploration: What is the difference between DECANTING and AERATING? And why are they important?

bormiolodecant1.jpgThe decision to decant a wine is purely personal, of course. But if you've ever opened an aged wine, say an old cabernet cauvignon that you've been saving... Well, when you remove it from the cellar - or from the back of a closet if you're a city dweller - you may notice a proliferation of what looks like dark crust on the inside of the bottle. That is sediment. Bits of particles that have separated over time. So if you don't want those bits to end up between your teeth or stuck to your tongue when you taste, you can ever-so-gently pour the juice into a decanter for serving and temporary storage.

Aerating, on the other hand, is the process of adding air to an otherwise "tight" wine to allow it to soften and open up a bit. Particularly useful for softening structured, tannic, big wines such as cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot and most big Italian reds, it is not a recommended practice for delicate older wines such as aged Burgundian pinot noir.

31rPfS+PosL._SL500_AA280_.jpgThere are a number of methods and tools for aerating wine. If you are enjoying a glass alone, you may not want to aerate the entire bottle. In that case, I would grab the best tasting glass you own and pour an ounce or two into the glass and let it sit for a few minutes. If you're sharing with a large group, you have a number of options. You can gently pour the entire bottle into a decanter made especially for aerating or you can use a bottle top aerator which is just a tool that affixes to the top of a wine bottle (or sometimes into the neck of a decanter) that provides more air exposure for the wine.

Of course these two terms are not mutually exclusive. You may need to remove sediment and aerate. Rest assured, there are accessories that cover all the bases. Here are some of our favorites:

Selection Decanting Pourer and Aerator $20
Attaches to bottle, oxygenates wine during pouring

Magnifico Decanter with Punt $25
Inexpensive, elegant design and diswasher safe

Bormioli Esperienze Decanter $35
Made from lead-free crystal, decanter with concentric rings that provide aeration

Vivid Wine Decanter & Aerating Funnel Set $70
Lead-free crystal, easy to pour, includes funnel to filter sediment

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September 11, 2008

Wine 101 - Cc is for Cava

reserva-heredad-bottle.jpgDEFINITION Sparkling wine from Spain; made in the champagne method, which means that secondary fermentation occurs in each bottle versus in one large tank.

During the 1860s, the head of Cordoniu (which up to this point made only still wines) made a sales trip through Europe. While in France he traveled to Champagne and fell in love with both the region and its signature wine. He returned home to Spain with Champagne equipment and the knowledge to make Spanish sparklers with indigenous grapes.

By law, Cava can be made in any of the six main wine regions of Spain. However at least 95% of it is produced in the Penedes which is in the Catalonia region of north east Spain.

Regulations also dictate which grapes may be used for production. Cava must be made from one or more of the following five varietals: parellada, xarel-lo, macabeo, malvasia and chardonnay. It is most commonly made with the first three, but there are increasingly more producers experimenting with chardonnay as it adds a fuller, richer component that one finds in new world bubblies as well as in French sparking wines.

This is the really exciting part. Cavas are quite inexpensive! So you don't have to wait for a special occasion to enjoy a little bubbly. You can find really good Cavas in the $8 - $20 range and great ones for under $30. Though if you're going to drink it every day, I say stick to the $8 - $15 bottles.

Recently my favorite subject... You certainly can substitute Cava for Champagne, but they are stylistically quite different. Because it is made with a combination of red and white grapes, Champagnes tend to be richer and more complex. HOWEVER, and I do mean a BIG however, who says you need to drink complex bubbly every day? The Spanish really get this right. They make a crisp, fruity, easy to drink sparkler that is really meant to enjoyed every day with every-day food. This is not a champagne and caviar mentality. Rather, it is a Cava with fried chicken (really, you must try it), or Cava with bruschetta, or Cava with sushi, or Cava with just about anything way of life.

Cristalino Cava Brut NV $9
The color of pale golden sunshine; soft and fruity with lots of bright pear and apple notes.
Montsarra Cava Brut NV $15
Light and zippy with subtle fruit and bright citrus crispness.
Marques de Gelida Brut 2003 $20
Soft yet crisp, Chardonnay adds a layer of depth to this estate-bottled stunner.
Segura Viudas Cava Reserva Brut $23
Rivals any top French bubbly; rich and toasty with lots of creamy vanilla and soft pear.

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September 8, 2008

Wine 101 - Bb is for Beaujolais

chaizebojo.jpgDON'T stop reading because I mentioned the dreaded B word. PLEASE. Just give me a few minutes and you might be pleasantly surprised. I know, I know what you're thinking... Of all the great wine 'Bs' out there, why would I choose Beaujolais? And I shall tell you. There are, in fact, a plethora of fascinating grapes and regions that begin with the letter B -- all the Bs from the Boot: Barolo, Barbera, Brunello, Barbaresco would surely make an interesting and tasty post. So true, my friends, but alas only a handful (mostly Barbera) are suited to the "cheap" part of our cheap and fun profile. The rest are left for special occasions and Swanky Wine Fridays.

So here we are.

And here are the Top 5 Things You Might Not Know About Beaujolais:

1. Beaujolais is from Burgundy! However, this southern area of Burgundy and its light and fruity wines bear little resemblance to its more refined brethren of the north.

2. Beaujolais is made from Gamay grapes which have black skins and white juice. They tend to be much less tannic and fairly fruit forward.

35561-1.jpg3. There are 3 categories of Beaujolais (not including Nouveau): Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages and Beaujolais Cru. Chances are, if you hate Beaujolais, you've probably only tasted Beaujolais or maybe a Beaujolais Villages. Most of those are, as you experienced, overly fruity and devoid of character or finish. That is because they are--for the most part--made by negociants. The grapes are sourced from the lesser vineyards and blended then bottled. The resulting wine is a mish-mosh of mediocrity. The Beaujolais Crus, on the other hand are from 10 specific villages. These wines are produced more traditionally as estate bottled wines and found much less frequently than its cheaper brothers, but possess much more character and interest.

4. Beaujolais should be served slightly chilled (but not cold!). About 15 minutes in the fridge does the trick. Think of it as a darker rose. Its quaffabilty and lack of tannins makes it just about the most food friendly wine on earth. But drink it within two years. Gamay, with its lack of tannic structure does not make wines that age well.

5. Beaujolais Nouveau is NOT the same thing. The Nouveau is a special Beaujolais that is released every year on the Thursday before Thanksgiving (the second Thursday of the month, I think). It is intended as a celebration of the harvest and as such it is very young--usually only 7-9 weeks old. I often celebrate its release--who doesn't enjoy a good excuse to throw a wine party? But I almost never drink it. I'll buy a bottle for my guests to try a tiny taste and raise a toast, but the rest of the night we celebrate with mostly the Crus.

If you want to continue this lesson, here are a few crus to peruse. Every one is a winner and completely expressive of what Beaujolais should be. Look for them locally but if all else fails, you can find them on

Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais 2007 $10.98

Chat De La Chaize Brouilly $10.98

Domaine Chanrion Cote De Brouilly 2006 $16.98

Clos De La Roilette Fleurie 2006 $15.98

And your homework is to read Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer's Tour of France by Kermit Lynch, wine merchant extraordinaire and my beaujolais hero.
There will be a test on Monday.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

September 3, 2008

Wine 101 - Aa is for Albariño

Albariño is the primary grape used to make dry white wine in the Rias Baixes area of the Galicia region of Northwestern Spain. Considered by many to be Spain's premier quality white wine, Albariño is also known in Portugal as Alvarinho and often used as a component of Vinho Verde.

condesdealbarei.jpgWeather conditions in the Rias Baixes are generally cool, windy and rainy. Vines must be trained high and open to allow winds to dry them out and avoid the ongoing threat of rot, mildew and other fungal diseases. Notably, Albariño grapes develop thick skins here, contributing to their intense aromas.

Typically, wines made from Albariño are very aromatic, often described as having scents of almonds or almond paste, apples, peaches, citrus, and flowers or grass. Albariño wines are particularly suited to seafood due to their bracing acidity This grape's inherent tartness should be embraced in youth, for wines made from Albariño do not age well, and the vibrant aromas begin to noticeably fade within months of bottling. (from Professional Friends of Wine)

As with all varietals you can find Albariños that range from thin and watery to ripe and lush. I would advise selecting one that has been recommended to you to avoid encountering the former. Also, be sure that the vintage is within a year or so, as these wines are meant to be enjoyed young. One of my favorites is from Adega Condes de Albarei. From the first whiff of citrus blossom, pineapple and melon I am completely enamored. Though it does maintain the vibrant and crisp characteristics true to the varietal, I find this Albariño to shape-shift on my palate with bursting flavors of ripe white peach, juicy grapefruit, tropical fruit-- all tempered with a clean subtly mineral finish. It is pretty tough for me to locate so I often look for substitutes. But I have yet to find another that is as interesting in the $12-$15 price range.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

September 2, 2008

Back to Wine School - Wine 101

Well, summer is officially over and for many, that means time to head back to school. We here at CFU believe that learning is a lifelong pursuit - particularly when it pertains to wine. After all, the more you drink, the more you know.

So we will be spending the month of September exploring some wine basics - everything from varietals, to regions, to wine making techniques and just about everything in between. And for those of you who are already quite wine-savvy, we'll still be providing lots of new wine reviews and recommendations. So get out your pencils and paper and feel free to ask questions or suggest topics.

oxfordwinecompanion.jpgI know most folks prefer to use online reference materials these days, but if you are like me and still like to peruse a good paper and ink volume now and then, I have to recommend Jancis Robinson's The Oxford Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition It is incredibly, thorough and thoroughly enjoyable to read. A great addition to any wine reference library or coffee table.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

May 23, 2008

Fire up the grill - Wines for Steak

Steak is probably one of the easiest things to grill. . . a little pepper, generous salt, other spices or marinade if you desire, and a good sear makes for an easy and infinitely enjoyable meal. Red meat is also pretty simple to pair with wine so you have a lot more room to play around. Pretty much any big bold red will complement a hearty steak.

cousinomaculcab.jpgA pretty traditional pairing would be a big cab. A cabernet sauvignon, or a cab blend, will have the structure and fortitude to cut through the protein and fat. I like the Cousino Macul because it is big and dusty with the darker berry fruit flavors as well as dried fruit, sweet tobacco and saddle leather aromas. Totally warm and inviting.
Cousino Macul Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 $11
Opaque purple in colour, this Estate Cabernet offers aromatics of ripe blackberries, plum, herbs and cacao. Medium in body and light tannin, it captures the essence of Maipo Valley fruit. In the mouth, the flavors continue the blackberry-blueberry themes with hints of cassis and black olives. Its lingering finish echoes the black fruits and ends on a tangy cherry brightness. With time in the glass, this Cabernet unfolds beautifully, suggesting it can be enjoyed in its youth or cellared for 2 to 5 years. (from

gasconmalbec.jpgMy personal favorite with red meat (at least my cheap and fun fave) is malbec. One of the five Bordeaux blending grapes, Malbec is widely planted varietal in Argentina and is served with just about every type of meat you can imagine. The style is a little more loose and round than a cabernet, but still maintains a good bit of structure and spice to balance it out.
Gascon Malbec 2006 $12
This wine is made by blending Malbec from the three best growing areas in Mendoza. In these areas, the grapes develop sweet tannins, intense fruit and good acidity/sugar balance, combining the characteristics of each area. Red purple color. Intense black fruits and red plum aromas. Smooth and concentrated tannins in the mouth. (from

beyerskloof05label.jpgIf you're feeling a little adventurous, check out a pinotage. It is the signature grape of South Africa and a cross between cinsault (a Rhone blending grape) and pinot noir. What you get is a totally original flavor that has nice cherry and red berry fruit flavors and aromas from the pinot, but is laced with twinges of cut herbs, smoke and roasted meat. Often when you first open the bottle is smells oddly antiseptic and a little like a band-aid, but if you give a few minutes to open up, you're in for an interesting wine experience. A natural match for meat.
Beyerskloof Pinotage 2005 $12
A medium to full bodied pinotage with a deep red colour. A complex Pinotage with plum and red berry flavours well integrated with the oak aromas. A balanced wine that could be enjoyed now or age in the bottle for a few years longer. In summer to go with seafood or light meat dishes. It also goes well with any red meat, pasta and spicy food. (from Beyerskloof)

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

May 22, 2008

Fire up the grill - Wines for Chicken

You can't have a picnic, or cookout or backyard BBQ without the beloved bird. You have infinite options when it comes to cooking chicken, but for laid-back gatherings go simple and crowd pleasing--fry it, or rub it with the spices of your choice and throw it on the grill.

cristalinocava.jpgOld fashioned picnic types will doubtless be serving mountains of potato salad and fried chicken. Crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside--if I didn't think it would kill me or make me fat, I would eat it every day. And my beverage of choice, in this ideal, fried-chicken-eating world, would be bubbly. That's right. Sparkling wine, champagne, in this case Cava, is the ideal match for anything fried. The bubbles clean your palate and are the perfect counterpoint to the crispy crust. The Cristalino Cava is one of my stand by wines for large gatherings. It is inexpensive but tastes like a quality champagne. Bright and crisp with hints of pear and golden apple, it is a toasty sparkler that is sure win you over.

Cristalino Cava Brut $9
Macabeo 50%, Parellada 35% and Xarello 15%
Straw color, smooth and fresh aromas; fine and fruity palate with a dry aftertaste. Clean, dry and crisp with citrus and apple flavors.

hopechard.jpgI know many of you will shun the fried chicken - it is an artery clogger - as well as the sparkling wine. So for you I have chosen a luscious chardonnay to complement a marinated or spice-rubbed grilled chicken. The folks at Hope Estate in Hunter Valley, Australia (yep, the same Hope that makes the shiraz I mentioned yesterday) make a wonderfully round, rich chard that is so reminiscent of a Mersault you'll have to look twice at the label. What differentiates it from its Burgundian big sister is the abundance of ripe, tropical fruit flavors, countered with crisp acidity, and the lack of minerality that is so present in white Burgundies.

Hope Estate Chardonnay 2006 $11
The key for our chardonnay is balance and complexity. Without using too much oak our barrel fermented style has an amazing length of peach, pineapple and melon characters but is balanced beautifully with stone citrus freshness. (from Hope Estate Winery)

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

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