How to Get Those Red Wine Stains Out

redwineIf you drink enough red wine, it is pretty much inevitable: At some point in time, you will spill some on a piece of clothing.

And if what happens to you is like what happened to me, that piece of clothing won’t be an old T-shirt destined to one day become a garage rag. No, it will be one of your favorite shirts or tops or pairs of pants or skirts.

So… what to do?

First, don’t panic. One’s initial reaction might be to grab a towel, perhaps moisten it, and start rubbing the area of the spill. That would be the worst thing one could do, as it actually would serve to rub the stain into the clothing material, making it much more difficult or possibly impossible to remove.

Instead, grab a white cotton cloth. (Note: If you drink a lot of red wine, it’s a good idea to have a few of these readily available, perhaps stashed in your wine cellar or closet, or next to your wine rack.) You’ll also need a bowl (such as a mixing bowl), some table salt and, at the end of the process, some boiling water.

Start by using your dampened white cotton cloth to dab at the stain. The goal here is to absorb any of the excess wine.

Next, pull the fabric taut, and slide a bowl (such as a mixing bowl) under it, securing the fabric with a rubber band. You want to center the stain over the bowl.

As quickly as possible, cover the stain with a good coating of salt. The salt will need to sit for at least five minutes, so if you haven’t done so already, this is a good time to start boiling water.

Once the salt has had a chance to absorb the wine-and-water mix on the fabric, hold the pot of boiling water about 8 inches above the stain. With care, start pouring it slowly over the stain. The height of the pot and the pace of the pour should enable you to flush out the stain.

Finally, if guidelines from the manufacturer allow, launder the fabric using your washing machine’s hottest water setting. If hot water is not suggested, simply launder as you normally would, but do not transfer the garment to the dryer until the stain is completely removed. Hang drying is the better way to go.

Will this system work for all garments in all cases? I wish I could say yes, but the answer is no. Especially when a wine is deeply hued, stains can be truly challenging to remove. But following the steps we’ve outlined here will give you the best shot at removing a stain and saving the garment from a fate as a garage rag.

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Posted in Wine FAQ

Wineries Where Man’s Best Friend Are Welcome

winedogWhen I mention Winery Dogs, I’m not taking about the classic-rockish “super group” of the same name, which is due to release its third album on August 4.

No, I’m talking about actual dogs at actual wineries — in some cases dogs that reside on the estates and serve as the winemaker’s best friend, and in other cases dogs that guests bring to wineries for a visit.

For twenty years, Australians Susan Elliott and Craig McGill have done a fabulous job of photographing winery dogs in impossibly cute poses. Thanks to a book on Down Under canines and their stories being so successful, their Wine Dogs company has become a full-fledged publisher of multiple books, calendars, greeting cards and other products — all devoted to the love of wine and dogs.

But what about your dog? Will it be welcome as you zig-zag between Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail in California’s Napa Valley?

While many wineries are welcoming to dogs, others are not. That means you need to know before you go, especially during the summer months when the valley heat can make it dangerous and cruel to leave pets in cars.

A great resource is the website, which lists the “Top 8 Dog-Friendly Wineries in Napa Valley”.

In addition to the list, the blog includes some useful information on each winery. As an example, it notes that Honig Vineyard & Winery “is not only dog-friendly, but uses ‘sniffer’ dogs to identify female mealybug pheromones. This allows Honig to remove infested vines and avoid the use of pesticides.”

Most folks who have dogs already know how to identify pet-friendly hotels and motels. Now, with a little advance planning, you’ll also know at which wineries your best friend will be welcomed.




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Posted in Our Wine Travel Log

From Kegs to Bottles to Cans: The Evolution of Wine

cansI am not much of a beer drinker, and when I do drink beer, it’s almost always at a Japanese restaurant and drawn out of a tap.

I rarely drink beer out of a bottle, and almost never drink it out of a can. And since I’ve pretty much eliminated soft drinks from my diet, I don’t drink much of anything out of a can.

That may be changing, however, as one of the hot trends of the past few years has been the delivery of my favorite adult beverage — wine — in cans.

And here’s what may come as a surprise: Some of the canned wines now being produced are quite good.

In some cases, wineries have been adding cans to their packaging options, complementing the traditional bottles. In other cases, the only way you can obtain certain wines is in a can; the makers are, ahem, canning bottles altogether.

The benefits are numerous, beginning with convenience. When wine is packaged in a can, it becomes a single-serving option for people reluctant to invest in an entire bottle that they may or may not finish.

Cans also make a great option for those interested in sustainability; they’re easy to recycle.

And here’s something I think we all can agree upon: Wouldn’t a well-made wine in a can make a great alternative to the cheap “house wines” served at so many restaurants and lounges?

As has been true through most of wine history, Europe was ahead of the curve when it came to canned wine. Estates across the pond have been packaging wine in cans for decades.

But it’s now catching on big-time in America, and I like to think that we have Danny DeVito to thank for it. In a 2009 episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” the DeVito character (Frank) poured red wine into a can so nobody would know he was drinking something a little bit stronger than soda.

For me, there’s yet another benefit associated with canned wine: I’ll finally be able to use the Bob Seger koozies presently displayed with my CD collection.

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Pairing Summer Salads With Wine

saladwineDuring the summer months, I love nothing more than experimenting with different types of salads and then figuring out what type of wine pairs best with them.

I have to admit that we take the easy way out when it comes to the lettuce itself; we simply buy a pre-packaged product from the produce department, and change up on the mix of greens from week to week. We do try to go with whatever is freshest and grown locally whenever possible.

Using that package as a base, we then add ingredients to make the salad “our own.” I happen to love papaya and avocado as add-in ingredients. Sometimes we’ll go with strawberries or blueberries.

It seems that regardless of what we add, however, the dominant flavor of the salad almost always turns out to be the dressing. When pairing wine with any dish, it’s important to target the dominant flavor of the dish.

If you add nuts or various types of sliced meats to your salad, the dominant flavors could be a combination of those add-ins and the dressing, so keep that in mind when selecting the wine.

We tend to keep it simple — saving the proteins for dinner, and sticking to veggies and fruits for the salad, which we typically enjoy at lunchtime. For those types of salads, I’ve developed a “cheat sheet” for wine pairing based on the dressings we may use…

Everyone’s palate is different, so use these suggestions as a starting point and do some experimenting. There’s no reason your summer salad has to be accompanied by iced tea or just water.

With rare exceptions, where there’s a wine, there’s a way — and that includes pairing with dressings we use to top our summer salads.

P.S.: If you’re feeling ambitious, check out this salad recipe, which pairs perfectly with Sauvignon Blanc.

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How Rosé Became All the Rage

rosewineYou may have noticed there’s a lot of “pink” wine adorning tables in everything from neighborhood bistros to high-end fine-dining restaurants these days.

It wasn’t that way ten years ago, and the last time we saw so much pink in glasses, the wine was called “white” Zinfandel.

Today, most of the pink wine we’re seeing when people dine out is some form of rosé, a style made by limiting the amount of time crushed grape juice spends resting with the skins of the grapes. Basically, the less time the juice spends with the skins, the lighter the color of the finished wine.

Now let’s be clear about something: The sweet wine known as “White Zinfandel” was wildly popular for a long time, and still has millions of devoted fans. But it never caught on with those who prefer drier wines, and it is those people who now are embracing dry and off-dry rosés in record numbers.

Why is this so? How did rosé-style wines become all the rage, with sales surging 17% from 2015 to 2016 alone? I think there are five main reasons…

  1. America’s celebrity culture.

Rosé was just beginning to catch on when Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) began marketing their Chateau Miraval Rosé. The fact that the project was overseen by them, came from Provence and also happened to be pretty good made it irresistible to their fans.

Francis Ford Coppola already had been making a rosé named for his daughter, Sofia, and other celebs that have joined the rosé-making brigade, include Drew Barrymore and Pamela Anderson.

  1. It pairs beautifully with food.

Red meat. Check. White meat. Check. Chicken. Check. Fish. Check. Barbecued fare. Check. Spicy food. Check. Seriously, it’s challenging to think of a dish or type of cuisine with which rosé does not pair well. It’s also delicious all by itself.

  1. Americans are eating healthier.

With chicken, lighter salads and treats from the sea now becoming more common in the American diet, rosé has found a home on wine racks of those who have become more health conscious.

  1. We’ll always have Provence.

Although not all great rosés come from southern France, the Provence region is recognized as the world capital of rosé production. Exports of rosé from Provence to the United States have been increasing by double digits for years.

  1. It’s pretty.

I like to think that all wine looks beautiful in a glass, whether it’s golden, various shades of red and purple, or even somewhat brown, like a well-aged sherry. But when it comes to pretty, nothing beats pink. What other hue has evoked hashtags such as #roseallday or #yeswayrose?

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Pairing Wine With Barbecue — Just in Time for the 4th of July

bbqFill ’er up!

Back in the days of full-service gas stations, that was the typical “order” of drivers to station attendants.

These days, we “fill ’er up” on our own, for the most part, and lots of Americans will be doing just that this week as they embark on extended 4th of July holiday “weekends.”

For those not hitting the road, there’s a good chance they’ll be firing up the grill and doing some backyard barbecuing.

Or as we like to say around our house, “Grill ’er up!”

But unlike a lot of folks, whose go-to beverage when grilling is beer, we’ll be reaching for a few bottles of wine.

Which ones? These three:

  1. Zinfandel. For those who love red wine, there is no better pairing than Zinfandel (red, not “white”) with grilled burgers, a grilled steak and pretty much any grilled red meat, including spicy sausages.

Most Zins are “big” — a.k.a. full bodied — with firm tannins and spicy flavors that perfectly complement the “char” of the grill and tomato-based sauces.

  1. Rosé. This style of wine has always been favored by French wine lovers, but now rosés are red-hot in America as well.

There are two basic ways to pair wine and food: through complementary characteristics, or by balancing traits.

Pairing rosé with barbecue is all about balancing. It’s about taking hot-off-the-grill cuts of meat, typically well spiced and/or sauced, and “cooling them off” just a bit with a glass of chilled-down, refreshing wine.

Most rosés today are being made bone-dry, which makes them perfect for accompanying spicy ribs or well-seasoned steaks or burgers. However, if you’re using a sweet sauce for your grilled goodies, try to find an off-dry rendition of rosé to accompany it. Sweet sauces and completely dry wines rarely work well together.

  1. Sauvignon Blanc. This is a pick that may be surprising to some, but there are specific grilling partners that almost cry out for this variety — especially if you can find ones that have spent at least some time aging in oak barrels.

Oak-aged or not, a well-chilled Sauvignon Blanc pairs quite nicely with grilled chicken, grilled pork and especially with grilled fish. Halibut, in particular, is a wine-and-grilling match made in culinary heaven.

What athletes call “muscle memory” may have you reaching for a beer when you fire up the grill, but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy wine with whatever you’re cooking on the 4th.

Grill ’er up and grab your wine glasses.

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Size Matters: Get to Know the Various Sizes of Wine Bottles

large bottlesThose bottles of wine you receive from the wine clubs of Vinesse or through our Cyber Circle offers are what are known in the trade as “750s.”

That’s the standard size for wine bottles, and the 750 is the number of milliliters of wine that the bottle holds. This is true not only for wine made in America, but all over the world — which explains why the metric system is used.

750s come in a variety of shapes, and Champagne bottles weigh more than others because stronger glass is needed since the wine inside is under pressure.

While a vast majority of wine is bottled in 750s, there are other sizes that have been developed over time for various reasons.

Let’s take a look at some of the larger-format bottles:

* Magnum — 1,500 ml., or about 12 glasses

* Jeroboam — 3,000 ml., or about 24 glasses

* Rehoboam — 4,500 mL, or about 36 glasses

* Methuselah (Imperial) — 6,000 ml., or about 48 glasses

* Salmanazar — 9,000 ml., or about 72 glasses

* Balthazar — 12,000 mL, or about 96 glasses

* Nebuchadnezzar — 15,000 mL, or about 120 glasses

* Melchior — 18,000 mL, or about 144 glasses

Only a few estates bottle wine in anything larger than a magnum. Some will use larger bottles by request, and will add the high cost of the larger bottle to the price of the wine. For the most part, larger bottles are earmarked for opening at very, very special occasions.

Bottles also come in three bottle sizes smaller than 750 milliliters:

* 500 ml. — Developed when DUI laws were tightened. The idea was that a couple could share a bottle and still be safe to drive. While a noble notion, the size has not caught on and is rarely seen.

* 375 ml. — Known as “half-bottles,” these are commonly used for sweet dessert wines, since such wines typically are poured in smaller serving sizes. Some wineries also bottle some table wines in this size, which is ideal for people who either don’t want to drink a lot or don’t want to be bothered with safely storing leftover wines.

* 187.5 ml. — Half the size of a half-bottle, it’s also known as a split, and is the size typically served on airplanes.

Here’s a little-known fact: The standard 750-ml. bottle tends to be the best bargain. Both larger bottles and smaller bottles typically cost more on a per-milliliter basis.

One more reason to savor wines from Vinesse…

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5 of Our Favorite Wine Quotes

champagneWine is a topic that lends itself to memorable observations.

That’s because it not only is a beverage, but also an esteemed food companion, a symbol of celebrations and a humble instigator of conversation.

Quotes about wine can be found in the Bible, literature of multiple genres, poetry and song lyrics. Sometimes it seems as if the references to our favorite adult beverage are ubiquitous.

Quotable wine topics cover the gamut from thoughtful observation to whimsical asides. I’m a collector of wine quotes — there are entire books featuring quote lists — and here are five of my favorites, in no particular order…

  • “Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit.” — Robert Mondavi, the late vintner whose relentless promotion helped put California’s Napa Valley on the map
  • “Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, I’m finding enjoyment in things that stop time. Just the simple act of tasting a glass of wine is its own event. You’re not downing a glass of wine in the midst of doing something else.” — Actor David Hyde Pierce

(Note: One of my favorite sitcoms ever was Frasier, on which Hyde Pierce played Niles, the brother of the program’s star, Kelsey Grammer. In one memorable episode, Frasier resigned from the highbrow wine club to host a wine show at KACL, but interrupted Niles’s corkmaster inauguration speech to make his announcement. Out of revenge, Niles forbade all club members from calling into his brother’s new show. Frasier then went back to the club to confront him about it, and they had a major falling-out… which ultimately was resolved, of course.)

  • “Wine represents to me sharing and good times and a celebration of life. It is always around happy occasions with family and friends, and centered around joy. What better item to be involved in than something that represents all these wonderful things.” — Actor, comedian and writer Dan Aykroyd

(Note: Aykroyd also is part owner of a handful of wineries in Canada’s Niagara Peninsula region.)

  • “The funny thing is, wine is turning out to be a great investment. I couldn’t believe what happened with the value of my wine futures. I pinched myself and asked, ‘Did I just make more money on wine barrel futures than I did on the stock market?’” — Financial advisor and television personality Suze Orman
  • “I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.” — Comedian and actor W.C. Fields
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Red Wine… White Wine… Orange Wine… Blue Wine…

bluewineWhen it comes to wine, I’m a bit of a traditionalist. I like mine to be red, purple, golden or salmon in hue. That pretty much covers most good red wines, white wines, sparkling wines and rosé wines.

So what’s the deal with these other colors that are finding their way onto supermarket shelves?

Let’s start with orange wine, which is not made from oranges, but rather from white grapes that are crushed, moved into a large vessel, and then left to ferment with very little to no intervention. It’s a natural process that many have embraced, but the resulting wines are an acquired taste — typically quite sour.

Then there’s blue wine, which is a blend of red and white grapes from Spain and France, to which indigo dye and anthocyanin (a grape skin pigment) is added. It’s sweet, meant to be consumed well chilled, and is somewhat reminiscent of Moscato — although the color may fool your taste buds into thinking it tastes more like concord grape or grape Kool-Aid.

Orange wine and blue wine would not be made if they did not have a market, which brings up a logical question: What will be the next big thing in wine? Which color will be next?

Honestly, I have no idea. But as a parent and a grandparent who has watched trends come and go more than a few times in the wine business, my best guess is: something that the parents of the next generation of wine drinkers is not drinking.

Kids may respect their parents, but they almost always gravitate to different types of food and different types of beverages. There are people far smarter than I who are hard at work trying to figure out what kind of wine the next generation will want to drink.

bluewineI’m just hoping it isn’t green-colored.

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Does Your Taste in Coffee Dictate Your Taste in Wine?

coffeeNot to brag, but I believe I am uniquely qualified to tackle this particular topic.

I often start my work day at our neighborhood Starbucks coffee shop, where I typically order the featured dark roast with just a little bit of room, to which I add a splash of half-and-half. And, since I’m a long-time Starbucks gold card holder, I almost always go back for a free refill as I do my morning writing, which then gets sent to designated recipients with an assist from Starbucks’ complimentary WiFi service.

Since last I wrote about the coffee-and-wine connection, I’ve noticed that the two beverages are sharing an increasingly common language — especially when it comes to higher-end coffees and wines.

Since I’m a dark roast guy, I often try new coffees as they find their way to Starbucks shops or the company’s website. More and more, reading the description of a specific type of coffee is much like reading the description of a specific bottle of wine. Even terms like “Reserve” have found their way into coffee’s lexicon.

Case in point: Starbucks’ Reserve Panama Carmen Estate. Not only is the coffee designated as a “Reserve,” a term inferring higher quality, but its specific place of origin — the Carmen Estate in Panama — is noted.

Even the “story” of the coffee that Starbucks shares sounds much like one of our Vinesse wine tasting notes:

“For the first time, we have the opportunity to bring you an offering from Panama’s acclaimed Carmen Estate — a family-owned business that produces some of the world’s best specialty coffees. For three generations, the Franceschi family has taken great pride in selectively picking only the ripest, bright red coffee cherries at their absolute peak of flavor.”

If that makes you want to know even more about the coffee, Starbucks is happy to oblige: “The coffee is nurtured and milled in the Volcan Valley. This mountainous micro-region, on the narrow isthmus between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, offers rich, loamy volcanic soil. Cool, frost-free nights give way to dry, sun-drenched days, creating ideal conditions for growing the quintessential Panamanian coffee: a bright, lemony acidity in the cup with a nutty sweetness.”

“Bright, lemony acidity” is exactly the kind of description you’ll find for many Sauvignon Blanc wines.

“Nutty sweetness” is a common description of Cream Sherry and some Port wines.

Starbucks described its Reserve Brazil Fazenda Apucarana as having “subtle sweet berry aromas with flavor notes of raisin and chocolate.” That sounds like a zesty California (red) Zinfandel to me.

Generally speaking, people who like lighter coffees will gravitate to lighter wines. Those who prefer bold dark roast coffees will like bold wines (usually reds). And those who prefer sweet coffee drinks like the Starbucks caramel macchiato or a flavored latte will gravitate toward sweeter, dessert-style wines.

The more types of coffee you like, the more types of wine you’ll like. Keep an open mind… and an open palate… and you’ll open yourself up to many new and delicious vinous experiences.

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