Counting Calories: Why Red Wine Drinkers Should Not Fret

We are almost through the second month of the year, but that doesn’t mean everyone healthyhas broken their New Year’s Resolution to lose weight. That means a lot of people are watching their calories.

The good news for lovers of red wine is that your favorite adult beverage should not be considered a deterrent to losing weight.

Most of the calories come from the alcohol level. Using a standard 5-ounce glass of wine as a barometer, a wine with an alcohol level of 12% has only about 91 calories. If the wine has an alcohol level of 15%, the calorie count is around 119.

So, if you keep your serving size to 5 ounces, and you limit your number of servings, there’s no reason red wine can’t be part of your “new diet” for the “new year.”

Here are two other ideas for making sure red wine remains your waist’s friend, rather than its enemy:

  1. When dining out, share a glass. Order one glass of wine and two glasses, and share the wine with your dining partner. That will cut the calorie count in half. Drinking wine when dining out is more of a social activity anyway, and sharing the same wine will give you one more thing to talk about.
  2. Use the wine to make a spritzer. You also can cut the calorie intake by mixing your red wine with club soda — which has zero calories. Obviously, we would not recommend this for your $100 bottle of Bordeaux, but with your everyday “house wine,” it’s a good way to have a satisfying, refreshing beverage with half the calories. Add a few orange slices, and you have a homemade sangria worthy of the finest tapas of Barcelona.
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Tweeting About Wine: 5 Accounts Worth Following

On any given day, 100 million people are tweeting, reading tweets or both. There are 330twitter million people who are considered “monthly active Twitter users.”

Everyone who uses the social media platform has people or organizations they follow, and in the world of wine, there are lots of people tweeting on a regular basis.

I don’t tweet myself, but I do follow six who do. Here’s who they are, and why I enjoy them…

* JasonBWise — I follow Jason Wise not because he’s a wine expert, but because he’s one of the people behind the documentary, “Sommelier.” Every so often, because he travels to so many cool places, he’ll post photos from various wine regions. I never get tired of looking at grapevines.

* Levi_opens_wine — If you’re into podcasts, you may know Levi Dalton from his “I’ll Drink to That!” podcast. For truncated versions of his podcast observations, follow him on Twitter.

* LauraCatena — If you enjoy Malbec from Argentina, Laura Catena is among the people you have to thank. She’s a fourth-generation vintner and a strong promoter of the region that produces most of Argentina’s Malbec: Mendoza. Just as the late Robert Mondavi helped put California’s Napa Valley on the map, Catena has worked tirelessly to make Mendoza… and its Malbec… famous.

* EricaSimov — My opinion is that if you really want to learn about wine, you must read Eric Asimov’s New York Times wine column on a regular basis. Period. He’s a go-to source for important information, trends and dependable reviews.

* RandallGrahm — I met Randall Grahm when he was first gaining a reputation for his then-unusual blends using then-lesser-known grape varieties. The esoteric essays he wrote about various wine-related topics were so different from anything else available in the world of wine. Today, he shares his off-beat thoughts on Twitter.

Of course, if you’re looking to add some wine-related content to your Twitter feed, don’t forget VinesseWines.

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Posted in Wine Buzz

Secrets Revealed: How to Read a Wine Label

There has always been a bit of mystery surrounding the labels that adorn wine bottles.readlabel

First and foremost, they are designed to attract the attention of consumers — to stand out on supermarket or liquor store or wine shop shelves that are lined with other bottles from other producers. That’s where creative artwork, font selection and overall design come in.

But the old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover also applies to wine. The most beautifully designed wine label may be attached to a bottle with only average wine inside, while a label with virtually no “curb appeal” may be attached to a bottle with a world-class wine inside.

That means it’s important to be able to not only look at a wine label, but read it — and understand what the various verbiage means.

There used to be distinct differences between American wine labels and European wine labels. To an extent, there still are. But in recent years, primarily since the establishment of the European Union, greater sameness in the labels has emerged.

As an example, you rarely, if ever, would see the name of the grape used to make the wine on a European label. The wines would be identified by region, and specific regions were connected with specific varieties.

“White Burgundy” equated with Chardonnay, “White Bordeaux” with Sauvignon Blanc (often with some Semillon blended in), Red Burgundy with Pinot Noir, and Red Bordeaux with various blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a few other varieties.

In the United States, on the other hand, a vast majority of the wines are labeled by grape variety. That said, it’s still important to note the region shown on the label because specific grape varieties fare better when grown in specific regions.

Let’s say you’re faced with a shelf of Chardonnays, and you’re not familiar with any of the brand names. If you can find one with a regional designation of “Russian River Valley” or “Carneros” or “Monterey County,” to cite three examples, you can be confident that the quality of the wine will be high. For Cabernet Sauvignon, “Napa Valley” or “Alexander Valley” are among the regions that can be depended upon for quality.

Each variety has regions in which it shines, so if you get to know those regions, you have a great chance of selecting a really good bottle of wine.

Finally, don’t ignore the vintage. While many wines can be aged for years or even decades, most are ready to drink and enjoy with a year or two of their vintage. As a general rule, I drink white wines no later than five years past their vintage date (which means I’m finishing up my remaining 2012 and 2013 whites now). I follow the same basic rule for reds, but I may allow a few Cabernets to age a little longer before I open them.

Learn the grape varieties associated with specific regions and pay attention to the vintages, and you’ll be well on your way to understanding the most important information found on a wine label.

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Pairing Wine With Chocolate

Warning! You have just six days to finalize your plans for Valentine’s Day 2018.choh

Valentine’s Day is always one of the busiest restaurant nights of the year, which isn’t exactly conducive to a nice, quiet, romantic dinner. I think it’s a much better idea to stay at home, prepare a nice meal or have one delivered, and whisper sweet nothings to your Significant Other rather than constantly yelling, “What did you say?”

If you think staying at home this year might be something you’d like to try, I have prepared a six-point checklist to help guarantee a romantic experience…

1. Make sure you have a bottle of Zinfandel on hand. Make sure it’s red Zinfandel, not White Zinfandel. More on the wine in a moment.

2. Buy a romantic (or funny — whichever fits your personality and relationship) card.

3. Decide how you’re going to handle the dinner. (My choice would be to bring something home or have something delivered.) Get the order placed and the delivery time set up several days in advance.

4. Buy a box of your sweetie’s favorite dark chocolates.

5. Drink your favorite red or white wine — whichever goes best with the main course — with your meal.

6. Open the bottle of Zinfandel when you hand over the box of chocolates.

Each item on the checklist is important, but item No. 6 is the key to a successful Valentine’s Day.

Here are a few other wine-and-chocolate pairings we’ve enjoyed in the past:

* Dark chocolate with Merlot.

* Milk chocolate with a sweet dessert wine.

* White chocolate with Moscato d’Asti.

* Chocolate-covered strawberries with Pinot Noir.

But in my experience, nothing goes better with dark chocolate than a fruit-forward (red) Zinfandel.

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Organic Wines: Are They Worth Seeking Out?

Some called them flower children. Others called them hippies. I can vividly recall myFotolia_79431036_XS (1) father watching the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite one day during the “Summer of Love” in San Francisco and just shaking is head.

“Look at all of those hippies,” he said incredulously. “Every one of them needs a haircut and a bath.”

I presume he was speaking only of the young men… but I can’t be absolutely sure.

My Dad and those hippies defined the Generation Gap of the time, but as I grew older, I came to realize that there are “Gaps” between virtually all generations; how they are manifested depends in large part on world affairs, technology and other factors of the moment.

But here’s something positive about the hippies of the 1960s that even my Dad would have to acknowledge: They were among the first people to emphasize and popularize the notion that we needed to start doing a better job of taking care of Mother Earth.

Today, many of those hippies are wine aficionados, and they are joining modern environmentalists in embracing wines that are crafted using Earth-friendly methods in the vineyard as well as in the cellar. Vinesse even has a club, the Earth-Friendly Wine Club, devoted to such wines.

Every year, more and more vineyard owners are embracing farming that ranges from simple-but-effective organic methods to ultra-focused Biodynamic practices. There are stringent certification programs for both vineyards and wineries, and those that participate in such programs are helping to protect the earth in a variety of ways.

Do these techniques and practices change the flavor of the finished wine? To a degree. The perfectly healthy grapes that are produced tend to be flavor-intensive, and that can help a vintner produce truly expressive… and delicious… finished wines.

I’m thinking my Dad might even forgive the hippies if he could taste the wonderful organic wines being made today.

Posted in Wine Buzz

Wine Glasses: How Many Types Do I Need?

A wine glass does more than simply serve as a holding vessel for wine. The founders ofglasses Riedel stemware viewed the wine glass as an instrument to bring together:

* The personality of the wine.

* The smell of the wine.

* The taste of the wine.

* The appearance of the wine.

The shape of the glass is responsible for the quality and intensity of the bouquet and the flow of the wine. The initial contact point depends on the shape and volume of the glass, the diameter of the rim, its finish (be it cut-and-polished or rolled- edge), as well as the thickness of the crystal.

As you put your wine glass to your lips, your taste buds are on the alert. The wine flow is directed onto the appropriate taste zones of your palate, leading to different taste “pictures.” Once your tongue is in contact with the wine, three messages are transmitted at the same time: temperature, texture and taste.

The size of the glass also is important because it impacts the quality and intensity of the aromas. The breathing space has to be chosen according to the “personality” of the wine. Red wines require large glasses, while white wines require medium-sized glasses.

I once attended a gathering of Napa Valley and Sonoma County winemakers at which Georg Riedel provided a demonstration that clearly illustrated how a wine can taste very good in one glass and not good at all in another — simply because of the shape and volume of the glass.

At various intervals, winemakers sat in stunned silence as they experienced aromas and flavors either disappearing or becoming vegetal as a wine was transferred from a proper glass to an improper glass for the particular varietal.

Noted one winemaker: “It’s kind of scary to think that our wine may taste like this when it’s presented to the public in our tasting room. This wine doesn’t taste anything at all like it did right out of the barrel, or like it did in the correct glass we had just a moment ago.”

Winemakers are skeptics by nature, so to see such an esteemed group react in this way proved that when it comes to wine glasses, size… and shape… do count.

Does this mean that one must invest in a full set of multi-sized and multi-shaped glasses? No. We get by quite nicely with two:

* A Chardonnay glass, which in addition to Chardonnay works just fine for other dry white wines, as well as for dessert wines.

* A Cabernet Sauvignon glass, which has a much wider bowl and works just fine for other dry red wines.

We also have a few Champagne flutes on hand, but we just as often use our Chardonnay glasses when drinking sparkling wine. The bubbles may not be as intense, but the flavor of the wine is not impacted.

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Help! Which Wines Do I Serve at What Temperatures?

Have you ever been standing in line at Starbucks (or your preferred coffee house) andtherm heard someone order their latte at 180 degrees?

They’re not showing off. There’s actually a good reason for it. Most hot coffee drinks are prepared at between 145 and 165 degrees, but many believe that the optimum temperature is 180 degrees. Beyond that, if you’re going to be carrying the cup outdoors in cold weather for more than a few minutes, that drink is going to cool off quickly.

So, it makes perfect sense for one to specify a higher-than-normal temperature, or to simply order the drink “extra hot.”

But what about wine? Is there an optimum temperature for serving wine? Most experts would tell you yes, and I agree. But it’s a bit more complicated than coffee.

For instance, there are different recommended temperatures for white wines than for reds. As a general rule, reds should be consumed at room temperature, while whites benefit from a little bit of a chilling down.

That’s a good general rule of thumb. But if you are a perfectionist, you’d probably prefer to have a specific temperature for a specific type of wine. The website Cooler Wines to the rescue with this comprehensive temperature guide.

Remember, these are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. For example, I will sometimes chill down a red wine a little bit if the weather is hot and I’m serving the wine with barbecue. Considering cold beer is the typical beverage of choice with barbecue, I see nothing wrong with that.

I’ll also occasionally “break the rules” with white wines. Keep in mind that the colder a wine is, the more its flavor is muted. So, if I really want to experience the full flavor of a white, I won’t chill it at all; I’ll simply take it off the rack and open it.

I do follow one rule, without exception, when it comes to wine-serving temperatures. I never, ever, drink it at 180 degrees.

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Your Guide to the King: Cabernet Sauvignon

Ever since Prince William got together with Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry popped cabthe question to Meghan Markle, there has been renewed affection for British royalty.

It’s part of a cycle that has seen the British throne both revered and reviled through the centuries, depending on the personalities.

But when it comes to royalty in the world of wine, there always has been and probably always will be only one king: Cabernet Sauvignon.

Here are five reasons why:

  1. It can be grown successfully in both warm and somewhat cool climates, as demonstrated by the great renditions from California’s Napa Valley (warm) and France’s Bordeaux appellation (cool).
  2. It can be made in a variety of styles. While we most often think of Cabernet as “big and bold,” requiring a certain amount of aging to reveal itself, it also can be crafted for immediate enjoyment. When blended with Merlot and/or other red varieties, it even could be described as “smooth.”
  3. Wine drinkers can choose between Old World and New World renditions. Old World Cabernet Sauvignon, like that from France, tends to be more subtle and savory. New World Cabernet tends to offer an impression of sweet fruit.
  4. Cabernet Sauvignon reacts extremely well to aging in oak barrels. The oak may add nuances of vanilla, spice and smoke to the fruit flavors, enhancing the overall complexity.
  5. Cabernet Sauvignon can be a tremendous companion to food. Because of its tannin structure, Cabernet is not an extremely versatile food-pairing partner, but when it comes to grilled or roasted meats, it’s tough to beat. It also pairs nicely with aged Gouda, aged cheddar and firm blue cheeses.

All hail Cabernet Sauvignon — the king of wine!

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How to Properly Store an Open Bottle of Wine

My bride and I had an opportunity to dine at one of the most romantic restaurants in thewineopen Phoenix area the other night: the Top of the Rock at the Phoenix Marriott Tempe at the Buttes. As you may have gathered from the name of the resort, the restaurant is situated on a hillside overlooking the glimmering lights below.

The restaurant had a good wine-by-the-glass list, but I spotted a bottle that I really wanted because it would pair so perfectly with both of our meals. Only one problem: I knew we wouldn’t finish the bottle in one sitting because we were there for work and I needed to get up early the next day. So I asked our server, “If we order a bottle and don’t finish it, can we take what’s left to our room?”

The answer was yes, so I needed to make sure the leftover wine inside that bottle made it to the next evening in good shape.

In this particular case, it was an easy “process.” I simply put the cork back in the bottle’s top, and placed the bottle in our room’s small closet so no sunlight could reach it in case our room attendant left the shades open.

From a “freshness” standpoint, it’s always best to consume the full contents of a bottle within a few hours of its opening. That said, most bottles will keep just fine for anywhere from a day to a week if you follow a few simple steps…

  1. Re-cork the bottle (or, if the wine came with a screw cap, re-screw it).
  2. If you plan to consume the rest of the wine the next day, place the bottle in a cool place, away from sunlight.
  3. If you plan to consume the rest of the wine between two and seven days later, place it in the refrigerator. (Yes, this applies to both white and red wines.)
  4. On the day you plan to finish the wine, take it out of the refrigerator one hour before serving for whites, and three hours before serving for reds.

Long-term aging requires greater attention to storage, but once a bottle is opened, you have about a week to keep it “fresh” and finish it off.

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16 Soup-and-Wine Pairing Suggestions (It’s That Time!)

It makes perfect sense that January would be National Soup Month. The deep freeze thatsoup much of America has been in this month makes staying home and warming up with a hearty bowl of soup an idea that’s easy to embrace.

Not only is soup the quintessential comfort soup, but many types of soup are good for you. The key, in most cases, is to keep the salt level under control, and that generally can be accomplished by avoiding canned soup and taking the time to make your own.

Yes, some soup recipes are time consuming, but wouldn’t you rather spend time in the kitchen cooking than in the rest of the house cleaning?

My favorite of all soups is beef barley, and the best I’ve ever had was made at a restaurant attached to a winery in Pahrump, Nev. The name of the winery is Pahrump Valley Winery, less than an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, and the name of its restaurant is Symphony’s.

Symphony’s takes soup seriously, as the menu includes French Onion (made with sweet onions and melted cheese), Incredible Lobster Bisque (laced with Crème Sherry), and Tenderloin Barley (made with filet beef).

The Nevada Ridge Silver State Red is my go-to wine when I order the Tenderloin Barley (which is every time I visit).

If you’re planning to heat up some soup to help fight the winter cold, here are 16 soup-and-wine pairing suggestions…

* Beef Barley Soup — Red blends

* Butternut Squash — Gewurztraminer

* Chicken Soup — Chardonnay

* Chicken Noodle Soup — Chenin Blanc

* Chicken Tortilla Soup — Gruner Veltliner

* Corn Chowder — Riesling

* Cream of Mushroom Soup — Chardonnay.

* French Onion — Gamay

* Italian Wedding Soup — Primitivo

* New England Clam Chowder — Chardonnay or Sherry.

* Pho — Rosé sparking wine.

* Potato Leek — Chardonnay.

* Pumpkin Soup — Viognier or Verdejo

* Seafood Bisque — Sauvignon Blanc

* Split Pea and Ham — Riesling.

* Tomato Soup — Sauvignon Blanc or Grenache.



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