Monday, December 30, 2013

Wine Tip of the Week - Champagne (Sort of) on the Cheap

Good Champagne from France is very delicious and a wonderful way to celebrate the New Year - but can be expensive. If you are looking for a less expensive option, your best bet is not to get cheap Champagne, but to look else where for sparkling wines that are made with the same Méthode Champenoise process, but just not in France.

First stop - believe it or not... is a New Mexico sparkling wine - Gruet Brut. I don't know how easy this stuff is to find, but for around $15 a bottle, a great option.  Don't expect anything too complex, just an easy drinking sparkler.

Another great option is Spanish sparkling wine, referred to as "Cava."  Always my go to when I'm looking for a budget friendly sparkler.  You should be able to find several brands to choose from, but you can't go wrong with Segura Viudas Aria Brut Cava.
Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Weekly Wine Review - Spanish Rioja - 2009 Muga Selección Especial Reserva

Around the holidays is a great time for us to enjoy our favorite wines. Muga has been one of our favorite Spanish wines since we became winos.  We have also been lucky enough to visit the winery in Spain a couple of times - each time a great and unique experience.  I would drink their top of the line wines always if i could, but for a special treat that is less than $40 - I always look to this wine.  This bottle is our first of the 2009, which was a very good vintage year in Rioja.

Wine: 2009 Muga Selección Especial Reserva Rioja
Region: Rioja, Spain
Grape Varieties: Tempranillo
Obtained from: Purchased at Total Wine & More
Price: $35.00
Wino4Life Category: Weekend Wine
Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Dark red with a water white rim. No cloudiness.
Aroma: Great nose of black cherry, something herbal, vanilla and a bit of smoke.
Taste: A nice level of acidity, excellent fruit flavors, well balanced tannins, and a nice long finish.

The Grade: I give this one an A+. Wow, great wine from a great winery and a great vintage. Looking for a special bottle that won't break the bank... this one's for you!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidays from Wino4Life

Happy Holidays to All from Wino4Life
I Raise a Glass to Toast All my Blog Readers... Thank You All!
Have Lots of Fun and Be Safe Out There!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Wine Tip of the Week - How to Open a Bottle of Bubbly

This is the time of year you are most likely to be serving up some sparkling wine - be it real Champagne from France,  Cava from Spain, or any other sparkler.   It may look like a lot of fun in the locker room of the championship winning team, but actually there is a correct and easy way to do it.  A loud *pop* and wasted wine shooting out the top is not what you want, but instead a soft, delicate pop with no wine wasted, and no projectile cork assaulting guests or your fine chandelier if you point the bottle up!

Here is a YouTube video, that while a bit goofy does show the proper technique (and proper serving temperature) for a sparkling wine. Do be cautious, the wire cages on the bottles are there for a reason, and a cork could shoot out when you're not ready - that's why you keep your thumb on the cork after the cage is removed.

Happy sparkling!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holiday Gift Idea for Procrastinators - Wine Magazine Subscription

Only three days left until Christmas, so for some that means it's time to sit down and start thinking about the gifts to give. I can't give to much grief to the procrastinators, since I've been going to clean out my garage for the last year and a half! 

If you do need something that you can still give as a gift  for a wine lover at the last minute - how about a Wine Magazine Subscription?

Consider these:

Wine Spectator - a classic with lots of good info and tons of wine reviews.  A little on the snooty side sometimes, but not too bad.

Wine & Spirits - My favorite wine magazine. Not as well known as some others - but would make a great 2nd magazine for someone who may already have a subscription to Wine Spectator.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Holiday Gift Idea - CapaBunga Reusable Cap for Wine Bottles

I have heard urban legends about those who may not finish an entire bottle of wine. If these people do exist, we should embrace their existence and even provide a nice little holiday gift to aid them.  Also, you can use them to seal other liquor bottles - such as a nice bottle of Scotch, and keep it in your wine fridge so that it's ready and waiting for you with a nice chill. Multi-purpose... awesome, right???

Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday Gift Idea - Life, On The Line, The Story of Chef Grant Achatz

A love of wine often comes along with a love of great food.  This book is a heart wrenching and thoroughly inspirational story of Chef Grant Achatz and his battle with tongue cancer.  I polished off this book in just a few days - could not put it down.  Still time to have a gift shipped straight from Amazon or elsewhere and still arrive by Christmas.

Holiday Gift Idea for Last Minute Shopping - Wine Gift Basket

Still need to get a gift for someone and your time to buy and ship something is dwindling? Think about a wine gift basket!  Gourmet Gift Baskets is one of my advertisers, and a major reason I prefer their gift baskets is because the wines they include are actually recognizable wineries!  Other sites may have cheaper baskets, but for wines like Ravenswood, Cakebread, and others... give them a try.  There is still time to order from them and ship directly to your lucky recipient!  Just use the link below and type "wine" into the search on their website.

Shop All Fine Wine Gift Baskets
Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Weekly Wine Review - Spanish Rioja - 2009 Solar de Castro Rioja

I am a huge fan of Spanish wines in general, and Rioja specifically. I am always on the hunt for a new winery to try, and this one was on the shelf next to the smiling picture of a Total Wine & More employee proudly proclaiming it to be one their recommendations.  Let's see if my trust is their taste was justified!

Wine: 2009 Bodegas Domeco de Jarauta Rioja Solar de Castro - Vendimia Seleccionada
Region: Rioja, Spain
Grape Varieties: Tempranillo
Obtained from: Purchased at Total Wine & More
Price: $17.00
Wino4Life Category: Everyday Wine
Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural Cork - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Wine is clear, dark red, with a pinkish rim.
Aroma: Fruit including black cherry and sour cherry, wood, and backing spices.
Taste: The sour cherry flavor is predominant, overpowering most of the other flavors leaving a slightly funky aftertaste.

The Grade: I give this one a C.  The 2009 vintage was a very good one in Rioja, so I expected more from this wine. Not sure about the cause of the imbalance of the sour cherry flavors, perhaps it came from blending of grapes of different ripeness. For me, there are many better Riojas out there in this price range. I am going to do a little research about this wine and see if others found the same issue with the nose and flavors...if I find anything interesting you know I'll share it!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

OK...So I Need to Take Wine to a Party...But What to Bring?

In my Weekly Wine Tip this week, I talked about bringing along wine when you are invited to a party.   There is nothing wrong with bringing a bottle of wine, or a six pack of beer as a token of appreciation for a party invitation. Even if the host told you not to worry about bringing something – it’s always OK to show appreciation.  If you were asked to bring your own beverage, or to contribute to the pool of beverages for the party – you would expect that the bottle or bottles you bring would be opened during the party. However, if you are just saying “thanks”, remember that the wine is a gift to the host, and they may or may not choose to open the bottle at the party.  In fact, it may be quite a compliment if the host would prefer to enjoy your gift at a later date, when they can really concentrate on the wine instead of on the festivities.

So… now you’ve decided to bring something… but what should you bring? In my tip I threw out Malbec as a good choice for a red wine, and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for a white…but why???
Malbec from Argentina is one of the great value wines in the world IMWO (in my wino opinion).  For around $10 you can get a very nice wine, easy drinking and fruity – which may entice even those who are not red wine lovers. For a bit more spend you can get a Reserve level wine for $15 or even a Grand Reserve level for around $20.  Malbec has not achieved the household name status that Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir enjoy, but you may just broaden the horizons of a potential wino by gifting something different.  Some great brands to look for include Finca Flichman, Cruz Alta, and Kaiken. 
Many Great Malbecs - This One is Awesome!
If you can’t find any of these, ask your local wine shop for some help – just tell them what you want and the amount you’d like to spend and they can hook you up with another good option.
Other safe bets in the red wine realm that are fairly easy drinking and should satisfy most red wine tastes include:
Spanish Rioja – Crianza.  At this level the wines have been aged only about a year, so remain fruity, food friendly, and easy drinking.  Consider a LAN Rioja Crianza.

California Merlot – Most Merlot’s in the $15-$20 range should be easy drinking as well.  Consider a Rodney Strong Sonoma County Merlot.
French Cotes du Rhone – It's a bit trickier to find a French wine that's "safe" to give as a gift. Many are made in an old world style that may turn off some infrequent wine drinkers. However, Cotes du Rhone wines are typically fruity and make a great gift. Consider this excellent one - Parallele 45 Cotes du Rhone.

If you know a bit more about the wine taste of your host – then going with something familiar is always a good option.  But don’t be afraid to try and make a selection that is in line with your host’s tastes, but may introduce them to something new. Once again your local wine store can help you out – just let them know the wine or wines your host usually drinks, and they can recommend something similar – but new to try.  I think the discovery of a new favorite is one of the most exciting aspects of wine drinking.  You may know your host only likes, what your host likes – so there is no need for adventure, just grab a bottle of the old standby – nothing wrong with that either!
For white wines, my tip recommending New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was again about value.  Clean, crisp, fragrant, delicious wines are available in the $15 range.  Not everyone likes a big buttery Chardonnay, and Rieslings come in such a variety of styles from dry to sweet, with aromas anywhere from apples to gasoline, so even if you know someone likes Riesling, without more information it’s hard to pick something out as a gift.  Good brands of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc include: Kim Crawford, Cloudy Bay, Villa Maria, and Brancott.

If you want to provide a gift that is a little different, but still a safe bet, try one of these:
Spanish Albariño – From Galacia in Spain, one of those rare wines where the grape name is actually on the bottle. Very food friendly white from the land of food friendly wines. My go to white wine when I’m not sure which white wine to pair with a particular dish. Consider Martin Codax.

Austrian Gruner Veltliner – Fun to say (the “in” crowd, whoever they are, just call it “Gruvey”), fun to drink, very food friendly and very delicious.  Probably not many have ever had a wine from Austria, so definitely something a bit different.  Perhaps a chance to break out your best Arnold Schwarzenegger imitation?? You cannot go wrong with Hugl.

California Grenache Blanc - It may take a bit of work to find one of these, but I've tried a few of these recently and have been impressed with what California winemakers have been doing with this white varietal most commonly used in the Rhone region of France. Since some wineries are experimenting with this varietal in smaller batches - some may be a bit expensive, but keep hunting and you should be able to find something in a good gift price range. Consider Zaca Mesa.

I hope this helps you find a nice gift wine to help say thanks to your host.  It is the thought that counts, so don't stress out too much over what to buy - just avoid anything served out of a box or plastic bottle (screw caps are absolutely OK!) and enjoy the event. Put in a little time to find a good bottle for a gift - and you just may secure you spot on next year's invitation list!!!

Happy Holidays!!! Be Safe!!!

Holiday Gift Idea - Give a Wine Club Membership

The big ole' clock at the North Pole is ticking down for this year's Holiday shopping... still don't know what to get that wine lover on your list?  Do you know one of their favorite wineries? Why not give them a year of Membership in that winery's wine club???  Not an inexpensive gift to give, but most wineries have a range of options - with a typical minimum being 3 bottles of wine 3 or 4 times a year.  Just let the winery know that you want to give a one-year membership with the option for the recipient to renew at their cost (unless you want to give a gift that keeps on giving, if so...let's become friends!!!).  Just consult the wineries website and look for the links to their wine club.

Happy Holidays!!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Wine Tip of the Week – Party Invite…To Bring or Not to Bring

Have an invite to a Holiday Party and not sure if you should bring wine or something else to the fiesta?  Sometimes the invitation will tell you to bring you drink of choice, while some invites won’t specify. 

It is a nice gesture to reach out to the host and offer to bring something – wine or otherwise – and the host may ask for your help in bringing something specific.   Even if the host says bring nothing – it is OK to take a bottle of wine as a “thank you” to the host.   Don’t be offended if your bottle isn’t opened – it should be considered a gift to be opened or not at the host’s discretion.   Use your best judgment on the amount to spend on your gift of wine – but if you only want to spend $5, I wouldn’t bother.  In the $15 range you can find wonderful wines – and if you’re not sure of the taste of your host, go with something safe and fruity like a Malbec from Argentina for a red wine or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for a white.  If you are not sure if the host even likes wine, white wine is the safer bet to take with you.  If you get invited to more of a sit down dinner party – perhaps a bitter thank you of a $25 bottle of wine, but don’t stress too much on the cost – it’s the thought that counts!

Happy Holidays to All

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Holiday Gift Idea - Wine Taste and Aroma Kit

Do you have someone on your gift list that is ready to move to the next level as a wino? A kit like this is a fantastic way to develop skills in identifying wine aromas and tastes.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Holiday Gift Idea Under $20 ... Screw It Hat

Some gifts need no explanation... if you have someone that would appreciate this kind of gift you just know it....'nuff said!

Holiday Gift Idea Under $50 - Coolest Cheese Board Ever

My gift ideas are all about the wine... but wine is great with cheese, and this is the coolest cheese cutting board ever - I may need to have one of these myself! Awesome for only $30!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Weekly Wine Review - California Petite Sirah - 2010 Parducci True Grit Petite Sirah

We are lucky enough to live two blocks away from a great little steak house in Chandler, AZ. DC Steak is the name (for Downtown Chandler), and they get their meats from a place in Chicago.  I think these area some of the best steaks I've had outside of Chicago (and a butter poached Waygu steak I was once blessed with at StripSteak in Las Vegas).   Since we had last dined there (we had ordered steaks to go, and tapped our own cellar for our wine the last few times), the wine list had changed, and none of the Cabs stood out to me, so I decided to go a bit different and try this Petite Sirah from Mendocino, California.  We had met our ex-neighbors from our old 'hood (neither like red wine, this is why we had to move) for a nice little outing.

Wine: 2010 Parducci True Grit Petite Sirah
Region: Mendocino, California
Grape Varieties: Petite Sirah
Obtained from: Purchased at DC Steakhouse
Price: $46.00 - Restaurant price, about $23 retail.
Wino4Life Category: Weekend Wine
Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Natural cork - no defects or issues.
Appearance: My iPhone flash made it look like a glass of black ink... it wasn't quite that dark - but it was very dark purple with a pinkish rim.
Aroma: Lots of fruit - blackberry mostly, vanilla, some pepper, and some dark chocolate.
Taste: Very fruity - as I expected and wanted from a Petite Sirah, nothing too big and serious, just a nice wine that paired nicely with a mid-rare New York steak with a blue cheese crust.

The Grade: I give this one an A.  Sometimes it is tough to find a good steak wine for under $50. This wine is not too complex, but big enough to stand up to a good steak and some blue cheese. I would order this wine again without hesitation on our next DC Steakhouse excursion.

Holiday Gift Idea under $20 - The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert

From Richard Betts - a Master Sommelier comes a great intro to wine with all the fun of a scratch and sniff. For less than $20 - a great gift for any wino in training.

The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Weird and Wonderful of Wine – 11 Wildly Different Holiday Gift Ideas

At this time of year I like to provide some gift ideas for those Winos or wanna-be Winos in your life. There are a million wine gadgets and gizmos out there and I try to find some that are actually useful, and that would make good gifts – and post an idea or two each day as we count down to the holidays.  If you are like me though, there are some on your gift giving list that need something… well… strange.  Something different, unique, memorable – call it what you will, but the regular run of the mill gift just won’t cut it as a gift for certain people.  With those special friends and family members in mind, I bring you some ideas for wine-related gifts that are a little different and guaranteed to be memorable.

Those that may be a little “bent” will get a kick out of these glasses.  Once they start looking like regular glasses, it may be time to stop drinking!

Possibly the coolest gift ever for those in your life that love to throw a good party with lots of finger food. They don’t hold much – but size isn’t always most important!

For the manly-man or DIY-gal in your life. A mini drill with screw driver attachments plus a corkscrew attachment! Even a nifty foil cutter so after a hard day of building their dream home, they are ready to relax and sip some wine!

Forget wine charms - if you're having an outdoor party or romantically lit dinner, your guests will not have a problem finding their wine glasses. You can set the color, or set it to change automatically... how cool is that???

Show's off that special bottle of wine in a very unique way. Also, keeps the wine in contact with the cork which is very important.

OK, so this is not for wine, but just too cool not to include.  For the Sci-Fi geek on your shopping list - when the occasion calls for a cocktail - blast off with this!

Bird Lover + Wine Lover = perfect gift.  For the non bird lover - a possible traumatic experience that may require counseling.

Buy the whole set and you can play a nice game of wine bottle chess!

I included these because Wino4Life would love these... and your special girl may love them as well.
Help set the pace of your drinking, and helps you remember which glass is yours!

Giant Swiss Army Life

OK, so when I started this list I wanted to make a list of 10 unique gift ideas - but I had to make it 11 when I saw this beauty.  Only $1,600 and it has a corkscrew!!!

Happy Holidays to all!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Holiday Gift Idea under $50 - Wine Cork Candles

Make that empty wine bottle into something useful!  I like the way these are good old dripping candles, which gives the whole thing character.  Wine bottle not included - but providing that is the best part of all!

Wine Cork Candles

Monday, December 9, 2013

Wine Tip of the Week - Wine Buying for your Holiday Party

You are having a Holiday get-together and need to buy some wine - but how much and what kind?  

First how much? 
  • A 750 ml bottle of wine will give you five - 5 oz pours, which is a typical size pour for wine.
  • Assume each guest will consume 2 glasses in the first hour and then 1 glass per hour for the rest of the party.
  • So if you are planning a 5 hour party and 20 wine drinking people... please hold while I break out my HP Scientific Calculator:
  • (2 x 20) = 40 (two drinks the first hour) plus (1 x 20 x 4) = 80 (one drink for hours 2 thru 5) for a grand total of 120 servings. 
  • For 120 servings you will need 24 bottles of wine.  Depending on your crowd, the consumption may taper off later in the party - so you can subtract a little, but this calculation gives you a guideline to consider. 
Now - red or white?
  • You may already know the preferences of your guests, but if not - give preference to red wine over white 1) because most party guests will go for red wine and 2) the colder weather at holiday time puts people more in the red wine mood.
  • So - go for about a 75%/25% split in favor of red wine.  Back to our example 20 person shindig  with 24 bottles needed from above - 18 bottles of red and 6 bottles of white is my recommendation.

Holiday Gift Idea Under $25 - Air Cork

I have seen a few different gadgets for preserving leftover wine - but this one is new to me!  For about $25, it will make a unique gift for the wine lover on your list (one that has leftover wines sometimes that is!).  

From the website: Unlike stoppers that leave your leftover vino exposed to air, and consequently, oxygenation, this ingenious wine savor creates a protective, impermeable seal between the bottle's contents and the taste-altering air above. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holiday Gift Idea Under $50 - Tipsy Vase

Know a wine lover, but not sure what kind of wine they like?  Stick with the wine theme, but in a different way with this quaint "tipsy" vase for $22.

Tipsy Vase

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Holiday Gift Idea - Alto Moncayo Spanish Wines

Alto Moncayo wines from the Campo de Borja region of Spain are some of my all time favorites.  They offer wines at three different levels - each being a great wine for the price. Any of these would make a great gift for a wine lover.  Alto Moncayo wines are made from the Grenache grape (Garnacha in Spain) in more of a new world style, so if you are buying a gift for someone new to Spanish wines, this would be a good introduction. When asked for wine recommendations - I often suggest these wines.

Moncayo Veraton Campo De Borja - around $35

Moncayo Alto Campo De Borja - around $45

Moncayo Aquilon Campo De Borja - around $150 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Holiday Gift Idea Under $20 - Shatterproof Wine Glasses

Why not enjoy some vino outside? The snow may be falling now, but swimming pool and picnic weather is just a few months away!  How about these Shatterproof Wine Glasses? Only $13 bucks for a set of 4 glasses now at Amazon!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Weekly Wine Review - Washington State Red Blend - 2012 Charles & Charles Red

I am a big fan of Charles Smith's wines. He cranks out some awesome high end stuff - and some equally awesome value priced wines. Whenever I see something new from him I try it (this one probably isn't new, I just haven't seen it at any of my wine stores before).  I just tried his Rosé this past year - and became an immediate fan.

Wine: 2012 Charles & Charles Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah
Region: Columbia Valley, Washington State
Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah
Obtained from: Purchased at Whole Foods
Price: $15.00
Wino4Life Category: Everyday Wine
Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Cork Condition: Screw Top - no defects or issues.
Appearance: Dark purple core with a pinkish rim.
Aroma: Blueberries, dark chocolate, and something a bit floral.
Taste: Nicely balanced, good level of acidity and some soft tannins.  Finish is fairly long, and very!

The Grade: I give this one an A+. A surprising find that a Cab and Syrah blend from a vintage only one year ago can be so drinkable and delicious. Awesome value - try some!