May 21, 2008

Fire up the grill - Wines for Burgers

Everyone loves a big, fat, juicy burger. It doesn't matter if your burger of choice is turkey, veggie, portabello, or good old-fashioned USDA prime beef. There is just something comforting about sinking your teeth into mouthwatering goodness enveloped in soft bun. So what do you drink when you have to satisfy that yearning? Well you could go in so many different directions depending on your burger preference. Classic cheeseburger? Bacon cheeseburger? Mushrooms? BBQ? Don't worry there are a couple of good wines that will make any burger a dream burger.

hopeshiraz.jpgIf you're hankering for top sirloin, bison or just about any red-meat burger, go for a medium to full-bodied shiraz. I like the Hope Estate because it is big and intense with some fruit, but it is definitely more spicy than fruity and doesn't exhibit the fruit-bomb characteristics of most shiraz.

Hope Estate Hunter Valley Shiraz 2006 $12
Hunter Shiraz has unique characters, not the big, ripe jammy characters of many Australian wines but a more elegant, finer style. Our wine still has the usual plum and spicy pepper characters but a balanced elegance enhanced from time in French oak. A complex and satisfying Shiraz that you will love to drink. (from Hope Estate)

renwoodbarbera.jpgOn the other hand, if you fancy a more heart-healthy and figure-friendly burger, a la turkey, veggie and the sort, you might check out a barbera. There are some excellent Italian barberas out there that would foot the bill, but I really like the Renwood from California for all of my burger moods - meaty and meatless.

Renwood Sierra Foothills Barbera 2005 $10-$12
The 2005 Barbera displays aromas of rhubarb, cherry, and strawberry. On the palate the wine is lighter, with a smooth core of fruit flavors. Crisp acidity is Barbara's signature trait which makes this wine so mouthwatering. A finish that lingers, with raspberry flavors with a hint of cinnamon, balances the wine. The lots were aged in both stainless steel tanks and in a blend of older American and French oak barrels for 10 months. This allows the pure fruit to shine through and have a hint of smokiness. (from Renwood Winery)

If these two don't spark your interest, check out this great shiraz blend: D'Arenberg Stump Jump

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

May 20, 2008

Fire up the grill - Wines for Wieners

Actually if you want to be literal, its wine for wursts. But I thought wine for wieners had a much better ring. Anyhoo, I digress from my mission which is to direct you in your wine and wiener (or wurst) pairing. Hot dogs and sausages are a little tough to pair because there are so many condiments and side dishes involved. Your best bet is a round and robust (yet dry) rose. It will have enough body and subtle tannins to cut through the fat in the meat, but ample fruit and moderate acidity to balance out the acidity in most condiments and picnic sides. If your tastes lean more toward spicy sausage and peppers, you could also try a light to medium bodied California or Northwest pinot noir. Here are two of my picks that are sure to please without breaking the bank

91020l.jpgPerrin Reserve Cotes du Rhone Rose 2006 $10
Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre
Made by a traditional wine-making technique which results in a rosé wine made by running off or "bleeding", a certain amount of free-run juice from just-crushed dark-skinned grapes after a short, prefermentation maceration. Clearly a wine from a warm place, the color is an intense pink with bright reflections. The nose is fresh, with redcurrants and yellow raspberries. The mouth is supple with fruity roundness in the middle, and a lively finish that is quite long. (from

rexgoliathpn.jpgHRM Rex Goliath California Pinot Noir 2006 $8-$11
The aromas are characteristic of the cool Central coast vineyards that yielded the majority of the grapes for this wine. Red berry perfume with a touch of cinnamon spice, wrapped in a blanket of subtle French oak. Breathe it in. This is one of Pinot Noir's great pleasures. The taste is pure Pinot, too. Mouth-filling overripe raspberry and cherry flavors. Soft and supple are a few of the descriptors I would use. The wine exhibits a velvet finish due to the soft tannins and understated acidity. (from

If you are a die-hard white drinker then by all means go with a white. A medium to full bodied pinot gris or even pinot blanc are safe bets. Although there are certain principles to follow when pairing wine with food, the most important thing to remember is to drink what you like.

One final note: the Rex Goliath is currently out of stock on their site, but one can usually find it at Trader Joe's, certain grocery chains and many smaller independently owned wine shops.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

May 19, 2008

Fire up the grill - Wines for Barbeques

With the official beginning of the pool and barbeque season just a week away (aka Memorial Day), I thought it might be relevant to talk about wines that you can pair with all-American fare. For the next six days we'll give you great picks to go with cookout cuisine and hopefully you'll find a little inspiration for planning your Memorial Day gathering. And since we're talking about wines for a crowd, we're going to try to keep our suggestions close to $15 or under (no promises).

Let's start with actual BBQ, my personal fave for big cookouts because nothing is better than long and slow. You can marinate and pre-cook BBQ ribs and brisket the day before so you're not in the kitchen when you should be by the pool. And then just finish everything on the grill when guests arrive. The meat will be fork tender and slathered in your sauce of choice. And the best wine to serve with these sticky, sweet and spicy treats? A big, bold zinfandel or a rich petite sirah. Both will have the intense ripe fruit and spice to complement the sauce and stand up to the meat. Two of our favorite barbeque zins:

clineancientzin.jpgCline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2006 $15.99
Dusty raspberry, blackberry, white pepper and spice, with coffee and chocolate characters. Ripe fruit and soft tannins make this a mouth-coating rich vintage. Aging in new and used wood has lent this wine a subtle vanilla quality that nicely complements the explosive fruit notes. (from

ravenswoodlodi.jpgRavenswood Lodi Zinfandel 2006 $12.79
Ancient vines in alluvial soil where roots grow very deep make this a ripe, lush Zin that's also concentrated and intense. Soft, round, spicy and jammy with voluptuous overtones of plums and blueberries, this wine lives large. (from

You could also do a wonderfully rich petite sirah. You'll get a similar jammy intensity, but not as much of the punch of spice. One real winner is the Vinum Pets. You can check our our previous review of that little gem.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

April 22, 2008

Organic Wine Primer - Red & White and Green All Over

In honor of Earth Day, I have been scouring all of my reference materials as well as a ridiculous number of online sources in search of a Reader's Digest condensation of the ins and outs of organic wines. The fact is, finding a good "organic" bottle has become a confusing and stressful affair as labeling and certification requirements have changed what wines are truly considered organic versus ones made from organic grapes or biodynamically farmed. Personally I prefer the latter two categories as they produce much more drinkable and durable wines. If you want a straightforward resource that marries relevant factual information with great advice, check out this primer from The Organic Wine Company:

What is Organic Wine?

Following the recent creation by the USDA of a National Organic Program, an organic wine is now defined as "a wine made from organically grown grapes and without any added sulfites". By this unfortunate restriction, the vast majority of what you and I have been calling organic wines must now be referred to as "wines made from organic grapes" (or organically grown grapes), as they are allowed to contain up to 100 ppm of added sulfites.

While we support the effort of some winemakers to explore avenues to eliminate the use of sulfur dioxide, the truth is that wines without added sulfites are very few in number and very unstable in quality, giving the public a negative perception of what an Organic wine can be! The wine industry has therefore the dubious honor of being the only one that cannot call its product "organic" even though it is made with more than 95% of organic components. [With the higher permissible level of 100ppm SO2 present in the wine, the percentage is still 99.99% organic!].

This is detrimental to the winegrowers who seek to market a consistently drinkable product and yet are discriminated against in an absolutely unprecedented way. It is also confusing to consumers and merchants alike who did not need more categories to confuse them! Moreover, a wine without sulfites should not be equated with an organic wine, since it is quite possible to make a sulfite-free wine with conventional (non organic) grapes.

The excessive attention given to this matter is perfect to distract the public from much more important issues like soil depletion and erosion, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, ecological impact, resistance to pests, chemical dependence, and product standardization to name just a few!

In all cases, however, an independent body of certification, itself duly accredited by the almighty USDA, has the responsibility to control each winegrower, once or twice a year, to verify his adherence to the standards for organic farming, now internationally recognized. The fundamental idea behind organic wine is that making wine from grapes grown without chemical fertilizers, weed killers, insecticides, and other synthetic chemicals is better both for the planet AND for the wine drinker because all of these things can damage the soil and the plant, and can end up in the wine as residue.

grapes.gifThere is no doubt that growing under organic conditions protects the environment and the people that work in the vineyards from the adverse effects of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. Organic is more than simply a way of farming. It is also a philosophy. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said

"We did not inherit the Earth from our forefathers, we are borrowing it from our descendants."

How does Conventional Winemaking differ from Organic Winemaking?
In the cellar, "organic" suggests minimal processing and no use of chemical additives. Organic winemakers pay particular attention to three factors: the use of yeasts, the filtration/fining method, and the use of sulfur dioxide. The need for cultured yeasts in organic winemaking is reduced by the farming practice itself, for wild yeasts remain present, unperturbed by weed killers or insecticides. Therefore their use is limited to difficult weather conditions which would threaten the harvest. The physical treatment of the wine (like filtering and fining) is kept to a minimum. However temperature control during the winemaking process is widely used since it is only a physical process.

Minimizing the use of sulfur dioxide as an antioxidant is stringently observed. It's rather difficult to make a wine that will keep well without adding at least some additional sulfites to those naturally produced. This is particularly true of white wines, which ferment apart from grape skins. Red wines ferment with juice and skins together, providing them not only with their color but with various tannins, a natural preservative.

All of the wines imported by Organic Wine Company are "Certified Organic" by ECOCERT or BIOFRANC and contain only a minimal amount of sulfur dioxide.

After educating yourself, if you like what you read, check out the Organic Wine Company wine club. As organic wine clubs go they are quite reasonable. You get three bottles (red only or mixed) for $49.99 per month.

Images and content from The Organic Wine Company

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

April 16, 2008

The World Atlas of Wine


If you're looking for an atlas on wine - there is only one that we know of - The World Atlas of Wine. Hailed by critics worldwide as “extraordinary” and “irreplaceable,” there are few volumes that have had as monumental an impact in their field as Hugh Johnson’s The World Atlas of Wine: sales have exceeded four million copies, and it is now published in thirteen languages. It’s a truly incomparable book, and an essential addition to every wine lover’s or professional’s library.

At The World Atlas of Wine: Completely Revised and Updated

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January 16, 2008

Windows on the World Complete Wine Course 2008


We've been looking for some good wine advice lately, and our Amazon search uncovered a book we're going to order immediately. It's called the Windows on the World Complete Wine Course, an ongoing series that has been updated for 2008. We've read some good things about the course, and for the price it seems to offer a huge wealth of information that'd be useful for the novice and intermediate alike. We likes what we sees in the following review:
Windows on the World Complete Wine Course is simply the bestselling wine book in North America—it’s a classic. The 2007 edition alone has sold over 100,000 copies and reorders continue to pour in. Along with the expanded text that has made last year’s update so successful, the 2008 revision will include a special 16-page supplement on “How to Taste Wine,” taken directly from Kevin’s world-famous class. This new material will include more than 100 wines that Zraly selects for his students to taste, along with the tasting sheet they use for their evaluations.
Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: 2008 Edition
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December 19, 2007

7 Perfect Last Minute Wines

holidaywine.gif There is no ego at CFW we know when someone has done a great story and needs to be heard. We also know enough to not re-invent the wheel. Our friends over at Martini Groove have done a round up of 7 inexpensive wines for the holidays.

'Tis the season to support friends in their pursuit of a good drink. Check this list out, and enjoy!

Conor Hanover at Permalink social bookmarking

November 14, 2007

Cheap Fun Wines Holiday Gift Guide 2007

With vacations, family dinners, parties and endless gift giving on the horizon it's time to look at all the possibilities wine creates on the holidays. No other time of the year lends itself so completely to wine. cheapfun_gg.jpgAs the toasts fly, beer and Jägermeister just don't cut it. How can you drink Nanna's health with a shot? And I think it's only in my family that a bottle of Jameson's is brought to dinner parties. Every time you show up at someone's house this holiday season, you should have a bottle of wine in a gift bag, or adorned with a bow.

The CFW crew has spent the last year looking for great wines and great wine accessories. This guide puts them all together to streamline your shopping experience. All of this stuff has been tested by, or on, the interns and has passed with flying colors. Remember folks, this is just the first installment, more great wine gift ideas will be added as we get closer to happy time. So folks, let's get buying and let's get drinking with a little homage to Billy Joel!

ArrowContinue reading: "Cheap Fun Wines Holiday Gift Guide 2007"

Conor Hanover at Permalink social bookmarking

November 13, 2007

Day at a Spa Wine Gift Basket

The holidays are coming, so why not think of the special Chardonnay-lover in your life with a gift basket that says "you deserve to be pampered"? Just think - you get all the good karma of sending them to a spa at a fraction of the cost, and they might even share their wine with you if you play your cards right. How can you go wrong?


* Chardonnay
* Chardonnay foaming bath gel
* Gentle shower gel
* Soothing body lotion
* Relaxing Chardonnay bath salts
* Fragrant French milled soaps
* Chardonnay biscuits
* Key lime cookies

Day at Spa Gift Basket

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October 29, 2007

John Cleese - Wine for the Confused (2004)

When I was seven, yes seven, my father had me watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The French knight made me laugh because had produced the greatest fart noises I had heard. That French knight has made me laugh in a dozen movies and TV shows over the years. Whether he was standing in a stream, sputtering to his wife as an innkeeper, or fawning over Jamie Lee Curtis, he has had a comic power unmatched in our time. I speak, of course, of John Cleese.

To my delight, I have recently seen Wine for the Confused. This humorous documentary is an introduction to wine and the wine world that could only come from Cleese. It’s very tongue-in-cheek and very good. Check it out on amazon for only $15.00. Learn, laugh and drink.

John Cleese - Wine for the Confused

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