Are You a Beer Drinker? You’ll Love These Wines

Let’s be clear about one thing: Beer lovers can be every bit as “snobby” as wine lovers.beerwine

And I mean “snobby” in a good way. It’s really a perception of others. Perhaps a better word would be: aficionados. Simply put, we know what we like, and we’ve taken the time to learn more about it.

Is it possible for a beer drinker and a wine drinker to find common ground? Absolutely. It’s simply a matter of identifying a type of wine that has some commonalities to a beer drinker’s preferred style.

I have a number of beer-loving friends, and we recently did some experimenting. Following are three “If you like… you might like…” suggestions.

1. If you like Hefeweizen, you might like Albariño

In the case of both the beer and the wine, the outstanding quality is fruit — primarily citrus, but also including tropical fruit and stone fruit. Also, both are extremely aromatic, much more so than other beers or wines.

2. If you like IPAs, try Sauvignon Blanc

One of the first things you’ll notice about an IPA is its bitter greenness. That’s because the style calls for hops to be at the forefront, and they echo a quality that’s found in virtually all Sauvignon Blanc wines.

The one exception to the “rule” would be Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, which has more of a bell-pepper flavor than the citrus, fresh-cut grass impressions common in Sauvignon Blanc from other winegrowing areas.

3. If you like Porters, you might like Malbec

A buddy of mine loves Porters because of their coffee and chocolate-like flavors — which just happen to be flavors you’ll experience in many bottlings of Malbec.

I used my buddy as a guinea pig for this blog, and after he had a glass of Porter during lunch, we served him a glass of Malbec with dinner.

I can report that he was a happy guy at both meals.



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Posted in Wine in the Glass

10 Reasons to Pair Wine With Garlic

Ten years ago this month, we featured a recipe that is sure to appeal to anyone who lovesgarlic garlic.

Back then, I simply enjoyed the flavor of garlic and how it elevated so many types of food that I love — everything from bruschetta to osso bucco.

But as I’ve since learned, eating garlic also is good for one’s health. As noted in the Healthline newsletter…

  1. Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which has potent medicinal properties.
  2. Garlic is highly nutritious, but has very few calories.
  3. Garlic can combat sickness, including the common cold.
  4. The active compounds in garlic can reduce high blood pressure.
  5. Garlic improves cholesterol levels, which may lower the risk of heart disease.
  6. Garlic contains antioxidants that may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
  7. Garlic may help you live longer.
  8. Athletic performance can be improved with garlic supplementation.
  9. Eating garlic can help detoxify heavy metals in the body.
  10. Garlic may improve bone health.

Enjoy this easy-to-prepare dish with any wine you enjoy with garlic-flavored food. My personal choices would be a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or, when I feel like drinking a red, Sangiovese.



* 1-lb. spaghettini

* 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided)

* 10 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

* 1/2-cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

* 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


  1. Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat. Stir the spaghettini into the boiling water. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until tender but firm.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, shaking the skillet and stirring, until pale golden. Remove from the heat and add crushed pepper.
  3. Ladle about 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water into the sauce. Add the parsley, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt to taste.
  4. Drain pasta, return it to the pot and pour in the sauce. Cook until pasta is coated with the sauce and done. Serve immediately in warm bowls.


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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes, Wine and Health

4 Resolutions for a Better Wine Year in 2018

It’s only the second week of 2018, and I’ve already broken virtually all of my New Year’s2018_1 Resolutions.

I’ve added cream to my coffee, selected fries over a side salad, and wolfed down a big slice of chocolate cake.

However, I’m proud to say that I’ve thus far stuck to all of my wine-related resolutions. Perhaps you’ll be enticed to try a couple of them yourself…

  1. I resolve to keep an eye on the 2015 vintage.

Rarely have I seen a year in which quality was so uniformly high across so many winegrowing regions around the world — from California to Chianti, and from Mendoza to the Maule Valley. If you see “2015” on the label, chances are you’re in for an amazing wine-drinking experience.

  1. I resolve to seek out under-the-radar varieties more often.

I’m certainly not going to stop drinking Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, but I’m definitely going to be drinking more Sauvignon Blanc, Macabeo, Zinfandel, and Syrah.

  1. I resolve to spend more time in the kitchen.

My lovely wife is a great cook, so my goal is to not only learn a few tricks from her, but to do the best job possible of selecting the perfect wine to accompany each specific dish. Once I know the dominant flavor of the dish, I’ll be better equipped to pinpoint a perfect complementary wine.

4.  I resolve to drink better.

What’s that old saying? Oh, yeah: Life is too short to drink bad wine. Every wine featured by Vinesse has been vetted by a very persnickety tasting panel, and you can get a regular taste of the best of the best by joining the Elevant Society.

If you’re a fan of red wine, this is the club for you. The wines are ready to be enjoyed when they arrive at your door, but also can be used to help build an impressive cellar.

By keeping the 2015 vintage in mind, drinking more under-the-radar varieties, spending more time in the kitchen and drinking better, I know it’s going to be a great 2018.


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Posted in Editor's Journal, Wine Buzz

How ‘Terroir’ Impacts the Perception of Wine

When I first discovered the wonders of wine back in the 1980s, I encountered a lot of terroirwines that I liked a lot.

Various bottlings of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewuztraminer, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon grabbed and held the attention of my taste buds. All the while, my brain was creating its own filing system of aromas and flavors for each variety and each winery’s take on the various varieties.

There was a lot to taste, and a lot to like. But the first wine I really LOVED was the “Rutherford Cuvee” Cabernet Sauvignon from Pine Ridge Winery. It not only became my special occasion wine, but it also cemented the idea of “terroir” in my head.

How could a Cabernet from the Rutherford district of the Napa Valley taste so different than a Cab from the Oakville district in the same valley only a few miles away? Or why did Napa’s “mountain” wines have such a different aroma, flavor and even textural profile than those crafted from grapes grown on the valley floor?

As I read books, enrolled in wine glasses and did more tasting — a lot more tasting — I came to realize that what the French call terroir really does matter.

Where a vineyard is located, its soil composition, how the vines are positioned in relation to the sun and how much rain the site receives are just a few of the factors that define terroir, and influence the ultimate aromas and flavors of finished wines.

Yes, it is possible for wineries — especially large ones with access to vineyards in multiple regions — to blend to a “house style” each year. Kendall Jackson’s Chardonnay, a mainstay on restaurant wine lists, is probably the best example of that.

But for smaller wineries, with limited vineyard sources, the importance of terroir can’t be overstated. For me, there was something about the flavor of Pine Ridge’s “Rutherford Cuvee,” something the local farmers refer to as “Rutherford dust,” that was simultaneously intriguing and beguiling.

Terroir definitely matters, and the best way to experience a terroir-defined wine is to try one made from grapes grown in a single vineyard. A few examples:

* 2013 Volker Eisele Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

* 2013 Amista Winery Alta Presa Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

* 2015 La Follette Hawk’s Roost Vineyard Pinot Noir

* 2016 Crater Rim Cycle Road Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

Try these wines, and toast the wonders of terroir.

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Vinous Words of Wisdom to Kick Off the New Year

“A glass of wine in one’s hand is rather like a jewel, isn’t it, a large, liquid one?”cork

Marie Rutkoski, The Winner’s Curse

The first thing that catches our attention about a glass of wine is what it looks like, how it gleams in the glass, whether it’s golden, red, purple or one of a thousand shades in hue. It can be every bit as enticing as an actual jewel that is not even a hundredth its size.

But as pretty as wine is to gaze upon, it’s even more enjoyable to drink. Through history, and a popular observation among writers, is that the flavor of wine improves with aging.

“Age appears best in four things: old wood to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust and old authors to read.”

Francis Bacon

“Wine is like many of the fine experiences in life which take time and experience to extract their full pleasure and meaning.”

Douglas Preston, Crimson Shore

It’s my own experience that aging can, indeed, help specific wines — primarily hearty reds — to shine. But far more often, it’s a better idea to consume wine in its youth or middle age. The last thing you want is to drink a wine that is past its prime.

“A bottle of wine begs to be shared; I have never met a miserly wine lover.”

Clifton Fadiman

“Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized.”

Andre Simon

“The simplest definition of a great bottle of wine is when you feel sad because the bottle is empty.”

Tony Margiotta

“Wine lovers tend to be generous people, and enjoy sharing their love of wine with others. They love to open the “right” bottle of wine with the “right” dish, creating a culinary experience worthy of a Michelin 3-star restaurant.

“I could smell garlic, butter, and wine — the world’s most delicious flavor combination. It made me feel warm, like the first few sips of wine always do.”

Sarah Jio, The Violets of March

Of course, not all food-and-wine pairing is approached in the same way.

“I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.”

W.C. Fields

“What wine goes with Captain Crunch?”

George Carlin

The best piece of advice I’ve heard in a long time — and one I intend to adhere to in 2018 — came from Bon Appetit magazine…

“If your arteries are good, eat more ice cream. If they are bad, drink more red wine. Proceed thusly.”

Sandra Byrd

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Posted in Editor's Journal

6 Toasts — 3 Heartfelt and 3 Hilarious — for New Year’s Eve

More sparkling wine is sold during the month of December than in any other month.toast

The reason makes perfect sense: Millions of people welcome in the New Year with a toast, and more often than not, that toast is made with glasses of bubbly.

Whether it’s Champagne from France, Prosecco from Italy, or sparkling wine from some other part of the world, special occasions call for special wines.

And in the case of New Year’s Eve, a big sip of bubbly should be preceded by an appropriate toast. Here are a few of my favorites — from heartfelt to hilarious…


* May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live!

* May the hinges of friendship never rust, nor the wings of love lose a feather.

* Here’s a toast to the future, a toast to the past, and a toast to our friends far and near. May the future be pleasant, the past a bright dream. May our friends remain faithful and dear.


* Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow ye diet!

* There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of Champagne. (Bette Davis)

* May all your troubles during the coming year be as short as your New Year’s resolutions.

All of us at Vinesse hope you welcome in the New Year with great joy, good health, an appropriate toast, and a delicious bottle of bubbly.





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Posted in Wine Buzz, Wine in the Glass

3 Wines to Accompany a Tasty Tapenade

It’s always good to have some tapenade on hand to enhance the flavor of simple dishes tapanadeor to spread on crackers when guests — expected or otherwise — arrive.

If you’re hosting a party or just a few friends on New Year’s Eve, this recipe makes a flavorful tapenade that’s sure to be a big hit.

Be sure to have some Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah on hand. Each would make an ideal pairing partner.



* 12 oz. pitted black olives

* 4 oz. capers

* 4 to 8 oz. extra virgin olive oil

* 2 oz. anchovies

* 4 cloves garlic, peeled

* Juice of 1 lemon

* 4 oz. canned tuna

* 1½ teapsoons dried herbs de Provence

* 1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

* 1 oz. brandy


  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Pulse to desired consistency.
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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes

Over a Barrel: Why the Source of the Oak Matters

You may know Vosges as one of the most indulgent brands of chocolate on planet Earth.winebarrel

Since I’m a wine geek, I also know Vosges as one of the five primary forests in France where most of the trees are destined to be made into oak barrels. The other forests are Allier, Limousin, Nevers and Tronçais.

It’s not unusual for a winery to reveal not only that a particular wine was aged in French oak barrels, but also from which forest(s) those barrels originated.

Why? Because each forest provides its own, unique set of aromas and flavors to the barrels made from its trees. It’s what many vintners describe as their “spice box” of flavors, some of which are best for Cabernet Sauvignon, others better suited for Pinot Noir.

Most of the world’s oak barrels for aging wine are assembled in either France or America, so a vast majority of barrel-aged wines will have spent some time in either French or American oak barrels.

Just as the aromas and flavors imparted vary by French forest, they also vary by country. I don’t like broad generalizations, but this discussion calls for one: American oak barrels are a bit more assertive, resulting in wines that may be a bit more creamy in texture with a distinct vanilla edge, whereas French barrels tend to emphasize spices and are more subtle.

Other variables include the level of “toasting” inside the barrel, and the age of the barrel — whether it has been used previously, and for how long it was filled. Some older barrels can even attain “neutrality,” imparting no noticeable aromas or flavors.

Ultimately, a vintner’s vision for the finished wine is what determines whether French or American oak — or even oak from someplace else — is used for aging a given wine. Often, it’s a big part of defining a winemaker’s or an estate’s “style.”




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You Can Learn a Lot from a Wine Label

Sometimes looking at a wine label, especially one from Europe, can be like trying tolabel_woman understand a foreign language — in many cases, literally.

But if you know what to look for on a label, you can learn a lot about the wine inside the bottle.

Among the important pieces of information you can glean from studying a label are:

* The winery that made the wine.

* The region in which the grapes used to make the wine were grown.

* What year those grapes were grown and harvested.

* The variety or varieties of the grapes.

Federal law also requires that the alcohol level be listed, along with other specific information (generally appearing in fine print) regarding where the wine was bottled and, if it’s a non-domestic wine, what company imported it.

All of this information can help you make an informed buying decision if you happen to be in need of a bottle and your supply of Vinesse-selected wines has been depleted.

Let’s look at each piece of label information and see how it can help you learn more about the wine…

* The winery that made the wine — Reputation is a big deal in the wine world. Chances are pretty good that if you’ve heard of a winery, it’s because they make good wine. (This rule applies primarily to wines with a retail price of $15 or higher.)

* The region in which the grapes used to make the wine were grown — Napa. Sonoma. Tuscany. Bordeaux. Burgundy. While those geographic designations on a label may not provide a guarantee of quality, it’s better to select a wine from a region you know than one you don’t. (You can leave those lesser-known regions to the Vinesse tasting panel to sort out and identify the wine gems.)

* What year those grapes were grown and harvested — Sometimes older bottles get pushed to the back on supermarket shelves or buried in bins. In the case of some red wines, that can be a good thing. In the case of many white wines, it may not be. As a general rule, avoid buying older bottles at a grocery store.

* The variety of the grapes — When you can match the right variety to the right region, you have a better chance of procuring a decent bottle of wine. Examples: Pinot Noir from almost anywhere in Sonoma County… Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley… Zinfandel from Paso Robles or Lodi. It’s not a fool-proof method, but it works more often than it doesn’t in helping one buy a good bottle of wine when one doesn’t know the producer.

That’s just some of the information you can glean from a wine label. And there may be more on the way. There’s an effort afoot to include nutritional information on wine labels. I’m not quite sure where a winery would include that extra verbiage on a relatively small piece of paper, but it could be a requirement one day.


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Posted in The Wine Business, Wine Buzz

Aroma or Flavor: Which Is More Important?

One of the questions I’m often asked when presenting wine education courses has to doswirl with the ritual of swirling wine in the glass.

The question asked is: Why?

The answer to that question is fairly simple, but it leads to a much more complicated question.

The reason we swirl wine in a glass is to help expose it to air and, in the process, help “open it up” so it reveals its full array of aromas.

Okay… but what does that accomplish?

Here’s what: How a wine smells — fruity, oaky, musty, spicy, etc. — provides a big clue as to how it will taste. A wine’s aromas won’t always mirror its flavors 100 percent… but it gets pretty darn close if it’s given enough time to “breathe” before it’s consumed.

It’s not unusual for certain aromas that result from the winemaking process to “blow off” fairly quickly once the wine has been uncorked (or unscrewed). Swirling helps with that process as well.

Through years of trial and error… and swirling and sipping… I have come to the conclusion that if I had to choose between the two, I’d say that the aroma of the wine is more important than the flavor.

Simply put, it is the aroma of the wine that signals when the wine is ready to be consumed… and its flavors savored.

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Posted in Wine in the Glass
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