Archive for Wine

St. Patrick’s Day Champagne Cocktails

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

While green beer has always been the drink of choice for St. Patrick’s Day,  add some variety with champagne based cocktails.

When making any cocktails with Champagne, add the Champagne last to avoid overflow. Stirring is not necessary as the bubbles do most of the work, but if you do, stir slowly.

To keep the champagne cold, freeze some grapes and use them as ice cubes.

To make green colored sugar: add couple of drops of green food coloring to ½ cup of sugar in a zip log bag and mix well. Pour onto a plate and let dry.  Rub a glass rim with lime or liquor and dip into the sugar. You can also dip grapes or other fruit in the sugar to use as garnish.

Below are some champagne cocktail recipes to enjoy. Cheers!

 

Green Apple Champagne Martini

  • 1 oz apple pucker
  • 1 oz vodka
  • Ice
  • Champagne or sparkling wine

In a cocktail shaker, combine apple pucker, vodka, and ice. Shake and strain into a martini or champagne glass. Top with Champagne.

 

Midori Cocktail

  • 1 oz Midori liqueur
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • Champagne or sparkling wine

Add Midori and orange juice into a champagne flute. Top with Champagne.

 

 Kiwi Cocktail

  • Kiwi (peeled and  sliced)
  • 1 oz vodka
  • Champagne or sparkling wine

In a small bowl, mash half of the kiwi with a fork into a smooth paste. Add to champagne glasses, add vodka and top with champagne. Garnish with kiwi slice.

 

Stout Cocktail

  • Stout beer (such as  Guinness)
  • Champagne or sparkling wine

Fill champagne flute half way with beer and slowly top with champagne

 

 Champagne Mojitos

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup mint leaves, plus additional for garnish
  • 4 limes, cut into wedges
  • 1 cup rum
  • Ice or frozen grapes
  • Champagne or sparkling wine

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water and cook  just until the sugar has dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.

In a large pitcher, combine sugar syrup, mint and lime and muddle well with a wooden spoon. Add in rum and stir well.

Fill glass with ice or frozen grapes and pour in mixture halfway. Top with Champagne and garnish with mint.

 

 

 

Superbowl Cocktails

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Drinking beer while watching football is the typical tradition.  For Superbowl however, going all out to entertain your guests is the norm. So instead of serving just beer, here are two options to entertain your guests.

Beergarita – still keeps the beer tradition but also adds tequila and lime flavors to make a pitcher cocktail that will please your guests.  You could also run a lime wedge around the rim of the glass, then dip in coarse salt before adding your ingredients.

Sangria – great option for guests who may not drink beer.   While red wine is my personal choice, it may not be the ideal choice to serve for a party in the afternoon. With so many diverse and rich foods being served during the game, a bright and refreshing cocktail will hit the spot.

If you’re hosting a casual party,  you can use mason jars instead of using multiple glasses for wine, beer or cocktails.

 

Adjust the ingredients as needed based on the number of guests or if you prefer more liquor in your cocktails!

Beergarita

  • 4 (12oz) beer, such as corona
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 1 can of frozen limeade ( or use fresh lime juice)

In a large pitcher or bowl, add the beer, tequila and lime juice and stir to combine.

  Citrus Sangria

  • 1 bottle white wine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup Brandy
  • 1/3 cup Cointreau or Triple Sec
  • Sliced lime, lemon and orange
  • 1-2 cups club soda

In a pitcher, combine all ingredients except for club soda.   Chill in the refrigerator.  Before serving, add club soda.

 

 

 

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Wine Review: Campo Viejo Tempranillo 2013

Monday, January 11th, 2016

Campo Viejo is the leading brand in Spain’s famous Rioja wine region renowned for its vibrant and expressive wines. Campo Viejo is the top-seller in its category and the world’s number one Spanish premium brand.

The wine spends four months in American oak casks before rounding off its aging in the bottle. Named after the Spanish word for ‘early,’ or ‘temprano,’ this grape ripens earlier than most grapes.

This wine was featured at a Spanish themed event with members of  the International Food Wine Travel Writers Association and everyone thought it was excellent.  And at $10 a bottle,  you’re getting a great value for a Tempranillo crafted with care by one of the top brands in Spain.

Winemakers Tasting Notes 

Aroma

Powerful aromas of ripe red fruit, wood nuances with gently sweet notes of vanilla to finish with other sweet spices

Taste

Soft and fresh with a long finish that leaves memories of red fruit, vanilla and cocoa

Pairing

Perfect with pasta, poultry and fresh light cheeses, pairs excellently with fresh salads and small bites

Availability 

Local wine merchants and chain stores such as Total Wine

 

 

Spanish Quarter Cabernet Tempranillo 2012

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Producer:  The Spanish Quarter 

Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon (65%), Tempranillo (35%) 

Region: Spain 

Avg. Price:  $10-$11 

Tasting Notes:

Deep, purple color with blackberries, cherries and fruit rollups with a hint of chocolate and vanilla on the nose. A medium to full bodied wine that starts with juicy berry fruits from the Cabernet, warm spices from the Tempranillo at mid palette and ends with a silky, oak finish.  

Food Pairing:

Pairs well with soft cheeses,  lamb, beef and tomato based pasta dishes.

Conclusion:

Great introduction to Spanish wines at an excellent value. Everyday drinking wine, with or without food!

 

 

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Categories : Wine, Wines Under $20

Geyser Peak Uncensored Red Blend 2011

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Winery:  Geyser Peak

Varietal: Red Blend 

Region: Sonoma County

Avg. Price: $ 11

This Red Blend is truly “Uncensored” with a combination of  Merlot,  Syrah, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, Petit Verdot and Zinfandel. Is there room for any other red varietals?

Tasting Notes:

Deep purple color with a fruit bomb on the nose of cherry, plum, raspberry, and blackberry. 

On the palette, medium-bodied with soft tennis. No mystery with the fruity tastes but offers different flavors with each sip. A little black licorice, hint of chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla, and slight vegetal on the finish which isn’t long, but pleasant.

Food Pairing:

Because of the different varietals, this wine will pair with almost everything but will pair well with pizza, pasta or burgers. It also tastes great on its own. 

Conclusion:

This “kitchen sink” blend has so much going on it will be easy to please, almost everyone and the perfect wine for novice wine drinkers. Good value,  everyday drinking wine. 

A burger and a beer is the usual summertime pairing, but if you’re in the mood for something different, try trading in that can for a glass … of wine.

The best burger wines have enough structure and tannins to handle the savory beef but are full of fruit to balance all those wonderful flavors. A Zinfandel, Cabernet, Malbec or Garnacha are all good choices for pairing.

As this burger has pancetta, gorgonzola cheese, and fried shallots, Zinfandel was my choice for pairing, with a spicier and more robust flavor to stand up to the flavors of the burger.

I picked up 4 different valued priced zinfandels available at Bev Mo, Total Wine or grocery stores as they are easily accessible for most.

 

2011 Zinthesis Zinfandel $20 (Bev Mo)

Tasting Notes: Fruity and spicy with notes of red currants. If you like fruit forward zinfandels, then this is the wine for you. I purchased this one with the 5 cent sale so it was worth $10 each but not sure if I would pay $20.

2012 Unruly Zinfandel $12 (Bev Mo)

Tasting Notes: Cherry, red currants and plum with a hint of spice. Subtle tannins, not as big and bold for a Zinfandel. Easy to drink with or without food.

2012 Cline Cellars Lodi Zinfandel: $12

Tasting Notes: Plum, blackberries, strawberries, spice and vanilla. Medium-bodied with a dry finish and soft tannins. This is a great everyday wine with lots of food flexibility (beef, pizza or pasta with red sauce)

2010 Four Vines Truant – Old Vine ZinfandelI $9 ( Total Wine)

Tasting Notes: Fruity and spicy with blueberry, plums and toasty oak.  Not bad for the price.

Of the four wines, Cline Cellars Zinfandel was my favorite for overall pairing, structure and taste. 

 Burger with Pancetta, Gorgonzola and Fried Shallots

pic.burger

Makes 4

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
  • 4 oz pancetta, chopped (or bacon)
  • Vegetable or canola oil
  • 4 large shallots, thinly sliced (can substitute with 2 onions)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground chuck or sirloin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • Hamburger buns or rolls, toasted
  • Toppings such as: lettuce, tomato, avocado, etc

Directions

Heat oil in small skillet. Cook pancetta until almost crispy. (Diced pancetta available at Trader Joe’s) Transfer to a large bowl.

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In the same skillet, add more oil to a depth of about 1 inch of the skillet. Once oil is hot, add shallots and fry until brown about 10- 12 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain oil. Sprinkle with some salt while still warm.

( If using onions, coat bottom of the skillet with oil and cook ( not fry) onions until caramelized, 20-30 minutes)

In the bowl with the pancetta, add ground beef, salt, pepper and garlic powder  and mix until just combined. Do not over mix as the meat will be tough.

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Shape into 4 disks. In the center of each patty, add gorgonzola cheese and wrap beef around cheese, pinching to seal. Form each ball shape into patties.

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(Alternative: shape into 8 thin patties. Add cheese over 4 patties; top with remaining 4 patties and press edges firmly to seal.)

Grill or pan fry burgers until desired doneness.

Place hamburger and toppings on toasted buns. Top with fried shallots and more cheese, if desired.

Perfect Pairing: Salmon and Pinot Noir

Monday, May 4th, 2015

With a few ingredients and a good bottle of wine you’ll have dinner ready in less than 30 minutes.

This pan seared salmon recipe hits all my weeknight dinner needs: Easy, healthy, filling, delicious and pairs great with wine!

Pinot Noir is the ideal pairing with salmon. The light red fruits and earthy, savory nature of a Pinot are a perfect match to the rich and savory meat of the salmon.  Since salmon is an oily fish, a Pinot with a medium acidity helps to cut through and balance the dish’s oiliness.

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This Calera Pinot Noir Central Coast 2013 was recommended by Wine Exchange. If you’re looking for the best selection of wines with best prices, then you need to visit their showroom located in Santa Ana. or check out their website Winex.com  Here is a link to an article  I wrote about Wine Exchange

James Laube of Wine Spectator describes Calera Pinots as “among the most distinctive in California, admired far and wide for their deliberate style and authenticity.” The Wine Advocate adds, “Readers who want to experience the finest Pinot Noirs being made in California should put Calera at or near the top of their lists.”

Winemaker’s Notes:

Aromas of boysenberry, blueberry, spice and sandalwood lead you into this alluring 2013 Central Coast Pinot Noir with its graceful yet structured body. Flavors of black plum, graphite, cinnamon hearts, cherry cola, forest floor, oolong tea and a faint whisper of watermelon meander across the palate into a lively, bright and very flavorful finish. 

Pan Seared Salmon with Mushrooms and Spinach

Ingredients

  • Salmon fillets
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil or cooking spray
  • 1 Tablespoon butter or cooking spray
  • 1-2 shallots, sliced 
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • Juice of lemon

Directions

Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper.

Coat the bottom of a pan with oil or add cooking spray and place on medium-high heat.  Add salmon to pan; cook 5 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Remove from pan, and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

In the same skillet, melt butter. Add shallots and sauté for a minute. Add mushrooms and continue to sauté for a few minutes.  Add spinach; cook 30 seconds or until spinach wilts.

To serve; Place salmon and sautéed vegetables on a plate, drizzling any pan juices on top. Squeeze lemon over salmon and vegetables and dinner is served! 

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The New Wine Exchange

Monday, April 6th, 2015

I was excited for the opportunity to attend a media event to learn about the recent Wine Exchange acquisition as I have been a customer of the former Wine Exchange for years.

 

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New owners, Kyle Meyer and Tristen Beamon, provided an overview of the acquisition, direction of the new company and their wine selection.

 

 

 

 

Here is a brief history:

  • Liquor Exchange, as it was called in 1982, quickly established itself  as one of the country’s premier independent fine wine retailers.
  • In 1991, the company changed names from Liquor Exchange to Wine Exchange.
  • Wine Exchange was one of the first retailers to establish an online presence (winex.com) and the company continued to offer an amazing array of wines at rock-bottom prices.
  • Both Kyle Meyer and Tristen Beamon worked at Wine Exchange.
  • In 2011, Tristen and Kyle left Wine Exchange to form Best Wines and bestwinesonline. com . Using multimedia platforms, including substantial video contributions, the pair quickly established Best Wines as one of the hottest wine retail platforms in the country.
  • In 2015,  Best Wines acquired Wine Exchange and winex.com to  create their idea of the perfect wine sales and education platform including their state-of-the-art website, brand new wine showroom ( Santa Ana, CA) , and the same rock-bottom prices.

So how are they able to provide rock-bottom prices? By purchasing wines directly from sources and purchasing future wine releases, thus eliminating the process of importer to distributor to retailer.

We also had the opportunity to taste some of their wines:

  • R&L Legras Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Gru ($35)   As this bottle is $60 in other wine shops, this is an example of the amazing prices they offer.  100 % Grand Cru Vineyards,  100% Chardonnay and is the ‘house’ Champagne at many 3-starred Michelin establishments in France. ( Loved this champagne!)
  • Burlotto Vino Rosato Elatis ($17) 45% Pelaverga, 45% Nebbiolo, 10% Barbera and 100% Piedmont. Dry, with red fruit characters such as strawberry.
  • 2012 Varner Chardonnay ($45) From Spring Ridge Vineyard with notes of stone fruits such as apricot and peach and overtones of mint and honey. This is a quality Chardonnay worth the price tag.
  • 2009 Le Petit Haut Lafitte Pessac Leogna ($35)  75 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 25 % Merlot. Full bodied with notes of chocolate, black currants, plum with earthy undertones.

 

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With over 2700 SKU’s, Wine Exchange is a great resource for all your wine needs.

If you are in the Orange  County area, make sure you stop by their showroom as they are open 7 days a week. . You can also  purchase on-line at www.winex.com  and pick up at the store in Santa Ana or have it shipped to you.

 

 

 

Wine Exchange 

1544 E Warner Ave

Santa Ana, CA 92705

(800) 769-4639

 

 

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Thanksgiving Wines for $10

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Thanksgiving can be a high pressured event for a host. From menu selection, preparation, cooking the perfect turkey,  to guest preferences…

Choosing the right wine can also cause some stress when the price of turkey and everything else starts to stack up. So how do you save a few dollars in the wine department but still serve something worthy? And on top of that every family member has their own opinions and preferences…from your uncle who thinks he’s a wine connoisseur…to your aunt who prefers wine from a box over ice.

Paring wine on Thanksgiving can be tricky. Not because turkey is difficult to match wine to, but because of the diversity of side dishes that are present- from salty to sweet and  from hot to cold. So forget about pairing wine to a specific dish but provide a few wines to accent different components of the meal and to cater to a variety of your guests’ palates.

Since the star of Thanksgiving is about the food anyway, you might as well spend less on the wine and just get more of it!  So here are some picks for value wines under $10.

I originally stopped at Total Wine to pick up the release of Beaujolais Nouveau, a wine released from France on the 3rd Thursday of November each year. The price was $10 so I thought I would stay with the theme and provide some suggestions on value  wines  to serve on Thanksgiving. The wines featured can be found at Total Wine for $10.

 

Riesling

Riesling wines are a top pick white wine for Thanksgiving.  There are different styles of Rieslings from bone dry to sweet and great with dishes that are spicy, salty or sweet.  Rieslings flavor profile of apple and honey and with its crisp, bright acidity pairs well with almost anything on your Thanksgiving table from sweet potatoes, maple glazed turkey, spice/herb stuffing to apple pie.

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Wine:  Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler Riesling 2013

Region: Germany > Mosel

This is a dry white wine (not your typical sweet style). Easy to drink, crisp, acidic, medium bodied with notes of citrus, apricots and peaches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wine: Rockview Riesling 2102

Region: Washington State > Columbia Valley

This is a sweeter style of Riesling wine.  Light bodied and smooth with notes of peaches, apples and honeysuckle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc is similar to Pinot Gris or Sauvingnon Blanc but unique in its ability to be dry or sweet.  With its bright flavors, acidicity and notes of spice, honey and apple, pairs well with just about everything on the table from turkey, stuffing, cranberries to vegetables.

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Wine: Famille Bougrier Vouvray Chenin Blanc 2013

Region: France > Loire

Medium bodied wine with floral aromas and notes of ripe pears and peaches and honey undertones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beaujolais Nouveau

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Wine: Jean-Claude Debeaune Beaujolas Nouveau 2014

The wine is made from grapes picked in the Beaujolais region of France and is released the same year of its harvest.  Bottles of the current year’s Beaujolais Nouveau are officially released on the third Thursday of November (perfect for Thanksgiving) with a festive celebration by many around the world.  This red wine is light, fruity, low in alcohol,  easy to drink and pairs well with turkey and all of the fixings.  This wine is great for white  wine drinkers wanting to explore the world of red wine.

(But just don’t expect the wine snobs to drink this wine as it’s not a wine to sniff, swirl and contemplate over).

 

 

 

Pinot Noir

A traditional favorite for Thanksgiving. Pinot Noir is food friendly with soft tannins, herbal notes, and earthy undertones that brings out flavors of herbs, mushroom gravy, stuffing and turkey. In addition, its acidity and fruity tartness helps cut through rich and heavy dishes.

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Wine: Ropiteau Pinot Noir 2013

Region: France > Vins de Pays d’Oc

This wine is well-balanced and light bodied with notes of cherry, red fruits and earthy undertones with light tannins and a smooth finish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cabernet Sauvignon

Not your typical turkey and wine pairing but pairs well if you’re serving beef or lamb dishes or for guests who may prefer full bodied wines.

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Wine: Luc Pirlet Les Barriques Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon2013

Region: France > Languedoc- Roussillon

This wine is  full bodied and well-balanced with aromas of blackberries and clove on the nose and notes of blackcurrants and spices on the palette.

 

River Road Pinot Noir 2012

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Winery:  River Road Vineyards

Varietal: Pinot Noir

Region: Sonoma Valley > Russian River

Price: $15

 

Tasting Notes: 

Fruit forward with notes of  cherry and raspberry. Hints of vanilla and oak flavors balanced with a soft spicy finish.

Food Pairing:

Pinot Noir  is the most flexible red wine  in terms of  food pairing. Matches most meat, poultry and vegetarian dishes and even seafood such as tuna and salmon.

Conclusion:

Good Pinot for the price. (just don’t be put off by the twist off cap).  It’s a great choice to serve at  your holiday dinner or party as it pairs well with most dishes.