Wine Recommendations

April 11, 2011

Passover Wine Guide 2011

I have been out of the wine business for some time, and sadly no longer have the opportunity to taste a wide variety of Kosher wines on a regular basis. So I am relying on a trusted source for this years picks:

Rashi Moscato d'Asti 2010 $9.75
Delightfully fresh, semi sweet, with outstanding floral, melon, pear and tangerine aromas and flavors. Moscato is a fantastic way to start or end your evening.

GamlaSB.JPGGamla Sauvignon Blanc 2009 $13.49
Produced entirely from Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown in the Golan Heights. The cool fermentation retains the round fruitiness and crisp herbaceous qualities characteristic of this variety. Shows off bright guava lime and kiwi notes rounded out with hints of citrus fruits and fresh flowers. Ready to drink and is best enjoyed within a couple of years from the harvest date.

HagafenSB.jpgHagafen Sauvignon Blanc 2010 $18
Produced from a well-established vineyard in the Eastern foothills of the Napa Valley, where hot days and cool nights are ideal for creating crisp, clean, long-finishing food friendly wine. On the nose, the Hagafen shows lemon, grapefruit, and kiwi. This crisp, bracing, mouth-watering wine fills the palate with a well integrated mix of bright fruit, including lemon drops, limes, grapefruit, and citrus zest.

daltonviognier.jpegDalton Reserve Viognier 2009 $15.95
Silky smooth white wine with delicate nuances of honey, peaches and apricots. A brief period in barrels has accented those flavours with sweet notes of vanilla and caramel.

Hagafen Ripken Vineyard Roussanne 2008 $19.99
This Roussanne is produced from grapes grown in the Ripken Vineyard, a site renowned for its ability to lend white varietals complexity and fruitiness, qualities required for a food friendly wine such as this one. The addition of a small amount of Marsanne adds hints of almond to complement the bouquet of sweet citrus, wild flowers, and tea. This mouth-watering wine fills the palate with a well integrated mix of lemon, grapefruit, almond, and bitter melon. Long-aging, this wine should be enjoyable for many years and is an ideal accompaniment for a range of dishes.

Joseph River Chardonnay 2009 $10.15
This Chardonnay has a clean banana tropical fruit nose supported by good natural acid The wine is well balanced with oak and has a long lasting finish.

Teperberg Meritage 2009 $15.95
taboradamacab.jpeg70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. This classic Bordeaux blend is full of dark fruits, like black cherry, blackberry and currant. Recommendation: Roast Beef, chicken or stews.

Tabor Adama Volcanic Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 $14.99
Dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with fine grained tannins integrating nicely. A ripe, supple and harmonious wine showing currant and blackcherry fruits, those supported by hints of near-sweet cedar wood and dark chocolate. On the long finish an enchanting hint of licorice.

Binyamina Yogev Cabernet-Petit Verdot 2009 $13.59
80% Cabernet/20% Petit Verdot - Exhibits bold color, rich structure with fresh fruit aromas. Full bodied, fruity, blackberries on the palate and dry long finish.

Weinstock Cellar Zinfandel 2007 $20
These grapes were hand harvested by sustainable growers in the warm Central Valley of California. Following pressing, the wine was aged for eight months in French oak. Medium to deep red color, rich and intense. Loaded with chocolate, cherry, wild berry and spice flavors. This full bodied, dry red wine is accented by a wonderful smoky, toasty oak finish.
Borgo Reale Pinot Noir 2009 $12.69
The Apulian vocated clay soils and sea breezes make Pinot Noir one of the most intriguing wines among the wide range of Borgo Reale selection. The color is an intense red, but it is on the nose that the uniqueness comes out. You can feel sweet notes of berries and cassis yet a warm sensation. The palate is elegant, harmonious and well structured.

Jerusalem Hills Cabernet-Shiraz 2009 $13.99
This Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz matures gently in the warm days and cool nights of the Judean Mountains, surrounding Jerusalem, close to maritime breezes coming straight from the Israeli coastal plain. This ideal climate allows the fruit to reach its entire flavor potential, offering rich varietal flavors delicately balanced by a generous savory finish.

barkanpetitesyrah.jpgBarkan Classic Petite Syrah 2009 $9.95
Deep ruby color, with chunky, country-style tannins and a few cherry-berry fruits. A great lush wine that goes well with almost any food you can imagine.

For more Kosher wine recommendations check out Kosher Wine Society and The Jewish Week

Top image from Yarden Inc.

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May 31, 2010

Jarhead - Wines of Character

Before we all head out to the beach or the block party or the family picnic, let us remember why most of us are not at work today. Let us honor the men and women who valiantly serve and have served to protect us, our children and the United States of America.

I don't know about you, but I like to do most of my honoring and remembering with a fine glass of something in my hand. Now, thanks to the passion and perseverance of two fine marines, you can enjoy a fantastic California red and show your support at the same time.

With Jarhead Red, we aim to give back while honoring the men and women who defend our nation. Each bottle of Jarhead Red supports the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, which provides educational assistance to children of U.S. Marines, with special consideration given to families of fallen Marines.

While Jarhead Red is made by Marines, for Marines, it will appeal to anyone who enjoys a robust red wine crafted in an approachable style.

2008_jarhead_red.jpg2008 JARHEAD RED
The Rhône varietal components of Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault were harvested from the Firestone family's estate vineyards and aged in individual lots of French oak barrels, 25 percent of which featured new oak. These lots contributed depth and complexity to the final blend, while a larger lot of Merlot from other local vineyards brought a supple roundness to the texture. The 2008 opens with deep aromas of plum, coffee and vanilla. Rich, rounded flavors of black cherry, cassis and cedar unfold into a long, spicy finish. This wine is a perfect match for classic American fare, such as peppered steak, barbecued chicken and grilled sausage. True to its name, Jarhead Red boasts a robust character and a finish that doesn't quit. This is the 10th vintage of Jarhead Red since the inaugural vintage of 1999. $13

2009_jarhead_chard_label.jpg2009 JARHEAD CHARD
The 2009 Jarhead Chard comes from select vineyards in Santa Barbara County, where the long, moderate growing season is ideal for achieving optimal ripeness and balance in the Chardonnay grape. The wine was fermented in a combination of stainless steel and French oak to maintain natural fruit freshness while bringing a toasty roundness to the palate. The 2009 Chardonnay begins with aromas of tropical fruit with hints of vanilla and citrus. Flavors of pear, pineapple and butterscotch finish with clean, mineral accents. This finely balanced Chardonnay is an excellent match for grilled seafood, roast lemon chicken and creamy pastas. $13

06_jarhead_reserve_web.jpg2006 JARHEAD RESERVE
Only the finest lots of the vintage are selected for the limited-edition bottling of Jarhead Red Reserve. These lots are aged separately for a minimum of 16 months in premium French oak barrels. The 2006 vintage is a complex, full-bodied blend that opens with smoky aromas of black cherry, plum, mocha and juniper. The palate unfolds with deep, integrated layers of briary black fruit with hints of spicy vanilla. $24

The 2008 vintage is a powerful blend of Cabernet Franc (75%), Merlot (13%) and Syrah (12%) and will be released in September of 2010. Stay tuned for details.

Images and copy via Jarhead

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May 26, 2010

CheapFun Finds for Memorial Day

The summer season is almost upon us and if you live anywhere that is even remotely temperate this time of year, my guess is you're gearing up for the season's first big barbeque. Whether you're planning a massive backyard bash or an intimate gathering, we have your vino covered.

For the seriously budget minded, we suggest a red and a white that are crowd pleasers and can be easily found for a mere $9.99:

Thumbnail image for boro hills sb.jpgBoro Hills Sauvignon Blanc
Meticulously selected fruits from our vineyards in Rapaura Road and Renwick, results in a wine with an abundant spectrum of tropical and herbal aromas. Intense flavours of passionfruit and gooseberry are balanced by an overlay of limes and lemons. A succulent wine with depth and texture and a lingering finish of lime. (from Highfield Estate)

Thumbnail image for colores malbec.jpgColores del Sol Malbec
Colores del Sol meaning "Colors of the Sun." is a Malbec that captured the exciting, alluring qualities of the Malbec grape in a wine which utilized modern, high-quality winemaking. The vineyards in Mendoza are among highest in the world - therefore, closest to the sun where the sun's light is most pure. That pure light reflects from grapes and vines like a starburst, revealing all the colors of the sun. The grapes are watered with pure melted snow channeled from the Andes, using a centuries-old irrigation system inherited from the native settlers, the Huarpes Indians. (from Colores del Sol)

If you want to impress your guests and still stay in the $12-$17 range, here are a few picks that truly wowed us:

2006Chardonnay.jpgSix Prong Chardonnay
Not your typical Northwest Chardonnay. Reminiscent of the Chablis style, and perfectly food-friendly. Lean, but zingy with a big sliver of chalky wet basalt slicing through bright gooseberry & kiwi flavors, finishing crisp & clean with nuances of white pepper and the slightest hint of vanilla oak. Very refreshing. (from Six Prong)

Thumbnail image for Ottimino_zinfinity.jpg Ottimino Zinfinity
Aromas of blackberry syrup, plum and black cherry are tinged with caramel and hints of vanilla and smoke. The entry on the palate is juicy, adding flavors of pomegranate and ripe raspberry. The tannins are smooth and round and the expansive mid-palate leads to a firm and persistent finish. The balance of this quintessential Zinfandel allows great versatility with food, and its deceptive heartiness will reward experiments with exotic pairings. (from Vintage Point Cellars)

BRO-08-No.6_SC_USA.gifBrothers in Arms, No. 6 Shiraz Cabernet
Deep maroon, crimson and magenta hues. A lifted spice and herb aroma displaying a rosemary fragrance mixed with plum and dark red fruits. Juicy berries up front greet explosive fruits coupled with talc and fine drying tannins which carry the fruit across the palate uninterrupted. Highly approachable now but will cellar for 6 to 8 years. 85% shiraz, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. (from Vintage Point Cellars)

Or if you want someone else to do the choosing, My Wines Direct is offering three great packs that offer a little something for everyone:

sunny_whites_265_042210.jpgSunny Whites
Serve up refreshment with these six sunny selections. From Australia, California and Italy, we've brought you the best whites for the summer season. Sit back, sip and'll save $9 when you choose all of these wines together. Elegant and refreshing, what's better on a warm summer day than a cool glass of white wine? Italian Pinot Grigio has long been a summer favorite. But the Aussie's won't be out done. They've vinted the best of the down under sunshine with the Richland Chardonnay. California is no stranger to sunny favorites - enjoy a classic Chardonnay or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

bbqBest_265_050410.jpgBBQ Bests
Cheers to the grillin' master! Everyone will toast the chef as they enjoy these rich and bold reds, ranging from an Argentine Cabernet and Malbec to a French Côtes du Rhône and a Pinot Noir from California. A premium addition to this pack - the award-winning Merlot from Hall vineyards, which normally retails for $50. Fire up the grill and open a few bottles, to make your BBQ the best of the season. From meat and chicken to salmon and veggies, you'll find the perfect pairing with one of these top red picks.

mouthwatering_mix.jpgMouthwatering Mix
It's the warm weather season for fun with family and friends. Get the party started with a tempting mix of 6 wines from California, Argentina and Spain. Pair with your favorite foods and savor the delicious flavor combinations. Serve the California Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay with sautéed fish, grilled chicken and summer salads. If you enjoy a meal around the grill, pour a few glasses of the Argentine Cabernet or the premium Hall Merlot. And for an international cheese plate or a decadent chocolate dessert, try the Spanish Crianza or California Pinot Noir.

Wine pack copy and images from My Wines Direct.

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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

Pommery POP vs. Piper Heidsieck Brut

piperheidsieck.jpgThe true Champagne battle was a little like comparing apples to oranges. I didn't realize that the POP I grabbed was Extra Dry (which oddly, in Champagne-speak means a little sweet). I should have selected another brut, but the tasting must go on. So the POP was ok, but I didn't feel like it was substantial enough to be a real contender. Beyond the sweet I thought it was a little bland and really undeserving of more attention.

But the Piper, ahhh the Piper... lush and creamy with a warm, toasty back bone and lovely mousse. Lingering flavors of honey and citrus peel give this sparkler added dimension. A classic and thoroughly enjoyable Champage and the overall winner. Now we can really ring in the new year.

Piper Heidsieck Brut Cuvee $34

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Mumm Cuvee Prestige vs. Chandon Brut Classic

mumm_napa_brut.jpgSuspecting that it might be a wee bit lighter, we started with the Chandon. Mr. CheapFunWine commented on the extremely light hue in the glass and the serious lack of scent emanating from said glass. I must say, for the most part, I concurred. The Chandon was fairly flavorless--save for the initial punch of sharp fruit on the tongue. And by fruit I mean distinct essence of Smarties and Fun-Dip. Powdery and too sweet-tart.

Thankfully, the Mumm's provided a little more enjoyment. The dark golden hue is a clear indicator of the toasty, creamy bubbly inside. Vibrant and crisp with a thread of richness that creates an endearing sense of balance. A great Champagne alternative for under $20!

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige $17

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Freixenet Brut vs. Segura Viudas

segura.jpgIn the battle of the Cavas, the Freixenet is definitely better known, but I think the Segura Viudas (which is also made by Freixenet) is the clear winner. The former is bright and crisp but a little watery and fairly flavorless. You feel the bubbles on your tongue but there really isn't much else going on. Conversely, the latter is smooth and slightly creamy with refreshing grapefruit and soft fruit notes. Light, but pleasant and a great value pick. I love this cava for a big bash or for an anytime bubbly.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva $8

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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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October 28, 2008

Blood of the Vines - Halloween Wine Guide

There are a number of novelty wines out there if you're in the market this All Hallows Eve. If you want one stop shopping and live near a Cost Plus World Market, you can find about 9 or ten options there, including their own Trick (red blend) or Treat (white blend) from Chateau Diana. Cute idea, but I think I'll focus on the darker options.

vampirepinot.pngVampire Pinot Noir - Vampire Vineyards - Vin de Pays, FR
Powerful forest fruit and wild strawberry aromas persist on the nose, balanced by hints of fine French oak. The vibrant ruby red colors hint at a young wine, but the taste reveals a remarkable maturity. Elegant soft fruit flavors are already finely integrated into the structure of the wine, as is the oak, adding a subtle but powerful complexity to the flavor. This is a light smooth wine, easy to drink at any time of the year and exhibiting typical character of a young Pinot Noir. (Vampire Vineyards)

Vampire Merlot - Vampire Vineyards - Paso Robles, California
Picked at peak ripeness, the Merlot is fermented on the skins for two weeks, with three-times-daily pump-overs, the traditional method of extraction which brings rich color and supple tannins to the new wine. Aged with a combination of both French and American oak, our Merlot develops graceful fruit flavors in the cellar, complemented by subtle shadings of vanilla and toast from the oak. At the completion of the aging process, this Merlot was carefully blended with 8% Cabernet Sauvignon for added depth and structure, as well as 8% Zinfandel, which adds a spicy note on the palate. (Vampire Vineyards)

Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon - Vampire Vineyards - Paso Robles, California
Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from several small-berry clones of this traditional Bordeaux varietal, grown in the Paso Robles region of California's Central Coast. Classic, small-lot fermentations, followed by aging with both European and American oak, gives full expression to the rich varietal flavors in this wine. Judiciously blended with small amounts of Merlot for softness, and Syrah for added structure, the Cabernet displays ripe flavor character and a lovely aroma that will continue to develop with additional time in bottle. (Vampire Vineyards)

(If you want something a little more authentic, try to find the Cab and Merlot from the Racas Vineyard in Transylvania)

SB 06 CabSauv Front1.jpgSpellbound Cabernet Sauvignon - California
Spellbound Cabernet exemplifies lush textures and bold dark fruit flavors with a slight hint of oak and spice. Cedar and tobacco aromas complement integrated lively tannins and fill out your palate allowing the wine to be consumed on its own or with your favorite food. (Spellbound Wines)

Spellbound Old Vines Zinfandel - Lodi
Our deep appreciation of the Zinfandel grapes rich history in California has led us to add this exciting varietal to the Spellbound family of wines. Focusing on old vines with lower yields that deliver intense flavors and bright acidity, we have produced a wine that is food friendly and lush on the palate. Located in the Lodi appellation, the 52 year old zinfandel vines offer subtle spice, rich, dark berry flavors, and balanced acidity. Aged in a combination of small French and American oak barrels we believe you will find this to be one of Spellbounds most delicious wines. (Spellbound Wines)

P06103.jpgEvil Cabernet Sauvignon - South Australia
100% Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards in Langhorne Creek, Riverland, Barossa Valley. 25% aged in French oak for 12 months. Dark rich red, with bright crimson hues. Fresh, yet rich classic varietal nose, consisting of black olive, fresh blackberries and raspberries. The soft palate displays complexity of fruit and oak, with blackcurrant and spicy clove characters, balanced with a fine tannin finish. (

Pure Evil Chardonnay - South Australia
Pure Evil Chardonnay has white peach stone fruit characters. Add a luscious and delicious textural mouthfeel and a touch of French oak influence. The creaminess is balanced by an elegant freshness. (

You may also find these and other options at your local wineshop/beverage superstore. All are in the $8 - $15 range, but if you're having a party or just stocking up, be sure to ask about 6- and 12-bottle discounts.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

June 24, 2008

Crazy Like a Fox - KitFox Vineyards (Part 1 of 3)

KF_Logo_PRINT.jpgMaybe I should say, "crazy for the fox." I have four new wines to bring you, but I don't want to hit you all at once so I'm going to split them into pairs. I really want you to remember these wines and relish them as much as I have relished tasting them. So when you have a minute, check out KitFox Vineyards. They're a small California property but it is remarkably evident, they have big heart.

The Vogel family have been farming the land for four generations (nuts before wine) and have the unique distinction of being the sole producers in the upstart Salado Creek AVA. And they seem to possess the requisite passion for growing the grapes as well as turning them into wine -- stunning wine, but more on that later.

SPRING---SUMMER-FOXY-WHITE-.jpgI'll be honest, I was a little nervous -- I really wanted to like the wines because I like their story. I'm a sucker for a strong family business. Add to that the classic and upscale bottle styling and a cheeky marketing campaign and I'm drawn in before the first glass is poured. So what happens if the wines are mediocre? It happens. I've seen it before. Great packaging, great story, okay wine. As I hinted above, that is not the case here. They sent me four wines to try and I followed up with a little light reading and the best part of this gig, lots of tasting. Tune in for Part 2.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

January 4, 2008

Hanna Sauvignon Blanc 2006

hanna-sauvignon-blanc.jpgWe're big Sauvignon Blanc fans around here, especially when we can find them for under $20. One brand we've definitely got a jones to try is Hanna's 2006 bottling, which got a staggering 93/100 from Wine & Spirits magazine and was their #1 pick out of over 150 Sauvignon Blancs. Sounds like you can't go wrong, especially for the price, but if you need more convincing, here's what they had to say:

"This wine has the Pacific cool of the Russian River Valley and a lovely pearlike flavor set in a generous texture..."
-Wines & Spirits

Hanna 2006 Sauvignon Blanc - White Wine

Head Wino at Permalink social bookmarking

October 30, 2007

Wine Teasers Wine Game

Wine Teasers is fun. There are questions about wine, cards shaped like bottles and each team has its own “virtual cellar.” The CFW crew enjoyed it, but there was a lukewarm reception overall. That was until Crazy Karl, one of the interns here, had a brilliant suggestion. CK has a lot of brilliant suggestions, but he’s usually speaking too fast for anyone to understand him. He also can’t speak with his eyes open. Really, we tried to keep his eyelids pried open and make him talk, but he just sputtered and then cried a little. Anyway, Karl’s suggestion was to play Wine Teasers with real bottles.

The objective of the game is to get a full cellar. You gain “bottles” by answering questions right. Crazy Karl thought each person could bring two bottles of real wine, so each team would have eight or ten bottles. You can win the other teams bottles by answering the questions correctly. It was genius. We played a few time a week and end the night by drinking, and sharing some of our spoils. The game is fun in its original form, but the Crazy Karl version is a blast.

The game includes:

  • 100 Questions, hints, & discussions, 30 wine bottle cards that describe wines and food pairings.
  • Fast-start rules, full rules, pronunciations card, hint credits.
  • The Q & A wine game for your next gathering of 2 to 20+ players, beginners or experts.
  • Lighthearted, unpretentious, and accurate.
  • The FUN way to learn wine!

. . . so hop onto, where we found this great game for $13.00! You can’t beat that. Enjoy!

Wine Teasers Wine Game

Head Wino at Permalink social bookmarking

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