The Past, Present and Future of White Wine

Everything goes in cycles, and so it is with white wine.

In ancient times, much of the most coveted wine was white — typically sweet, and often fortified so it could be transported from the place of origin to faraway locales without spoiling. That was an important consideration during the centuries before refrigeration and air travel.

We’re in another Golden Age for white wine now, as demonstrated by the Summer Refreshment Collection from Vinesse.

With just three types of white wine, we can savor the crisp, bright zestiness of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; the assorted fruit flavors and toasty lees of a perfectly made California Pinot Blanc; and the rich, viscous mouthfeel of a California white-wine cuvee.

Talk about diversity. And this comes on the heels of an era when a different white wine — Chardonnay — was all the rage at wine bars and Michelin-starred restaurants.

I’m pretty certain there’s yet another white variety presently sitting in the on-deck circle, to borrow a baseball term, just waiting for its moment in the spotlight. What will it be?

If it’s ever produced in sufficient quantity, without sacrificing quality, to reach more thirsty people around the world, my bet would be on Torrontes from Argentina. It’s everything I love in a white wine: bright, refreshing and fruitful.

Another big possibility is that so-called “un-oaked” Chardonnay could catch on, especially versions that come from cooler climates.

The future will reveal itself soon enough. Right now, there are plenty of white-wine reasons to be perfectly content living in the present.

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Posted in Editor's Journal

What the Start of Summer Means for Your Wine Plans

There is no part of the year that is unimportant in the vineyard. That said, some seasons are more important than others, and summer is when the grapes on the vines receive most of the nourishing sunshine they need to attain full ripeness.

I can’t help but think about that every time I open a bottle from the Exemplary Spanish Whites & Lights Collection from Vinesse. These are highly individualistic wines, but all benefited from a problem-free, sunshine-filled growing season in their appellations of origin.

By the way, this is a great collection to have on hand for those hot summer days ahead. Summer temps seem to have arrived early in some locales this year, and these wines are perfect for quenching your thirst — or the thirsts of guests who may stop by (expected or otherwise) in the weeks ahead.

I hope you’re planning at least one excursion to “wine country” this summer, whether it’s to a famous region of California or someplace closer to home. Wine is now made in all 50 states, and literally hundreds of wineries offer extended summer hours, and dozens schedule music performances to enhance the ambience.

A handful of wineries schedule summer-long concert series with big-name entertainment. I’ve had some great experiences at The Mountain Winery, Thornton Winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle and various wineries along New York’s Cayuga Wine Trail.

Other estates invite local musicians to play on a deck or a veranda or a patio for a few hours.

Either way, a winery visit is enhanced when there is music in the air, and summer is the season of music at wineries.

Depending on how you like your weather, the summer of 2017 is shaping up as either ultra-long or not long enough. You can make it a summer to remember — in a good way — with the Spanish Whites & Lights Collection for home enjoyment, and a weekend (or longer) getaway to wine country.

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Posted in Editor's Journal, Our Wine Travel Log

Don’t Let Summer Slip By Without Sangria

I first touched sangria to my lips on my 21st birthday. It was a weekend brunch at a Mexican restaurant, and about all I can remember about the drink is that it was red and served on ice.

I did not drink Sangria again until two years ago while on a trip to Europe. We found a tapas bar in the middle of Barcelona, and drank both white (blanco) and red (tinto) renditions. While not poured over ice, they were served in ice-cold glasses.

And this time, I remember one more thing about them: They were delicious.

Not only did they refresh our palates following a long walk through the narrow streets of the city, but they paired beautifully with the array of tapas we had an opportunity to sample.

Now, as the weather morphs from warm to hot to sizzling, I am beyond thankful for the Toréo Premium Sangria Collection from Vinesse.

Why? Well, not only does it quench the thirst on a hot day; it saves me a lot of work.

Making sangria at home can be challenging, to say the least. It’s not simply a matter of mixing together wine, fruit juice and sugar; it’s getting those ingredients mixed in the proper proportions.

After returning from Spain, I tried in vain to replicate the wonderful sangrias we’d guzzled at that tapas bar, and I couldn’t even come close.

But thanks to Christian Gomez, the owner of Wet Stone Wine Bar & Café in San Diego, Calif., I no longer have to worry. Gomez created a line of Sangrias called Toréo — a blanco, a tinto and a Rosado (rosé) — that remove all the guesswork.

All you have to do is chill them down… or pour them over ice, if you wish… and enjoy. If you’re feeling creative, go ahead and add a fresh fruit garnish.

Then adjourn to your poolside lounge chair, your deck, your porch or even your front yard, and hit back at the heat with a delicious glass of Toréo Sangria. The hue is up to you.

Or invite your friends over for sangria and tapas — anchego cheese, marcona almonds, marinated olives and, of course, some Spanish ham.

I’m getting thirsty… and hungry… just thinking about it.

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Posted in Wine in the Glass

4 Reasons Sonoma County Should Be at the Top of Your Wine Travel List

People often are surprised when they learn that California’s Napa Valley does not hold the No. 1 position on my list of favorite wine regions to visit.

Don’t get me wrong; I love Napa… and I love Napa Valley wines. But once each year, I do my best to take a week off and head for Napa’s neighbor to the west — Sonoma County.

Here are four reasons that Sonoma County tops my list:

  1. It’s easy to experience the scenery and flavors of significantly different microclimates in a single day.

Each area of the county is known for a few specific varietals. I love Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, like the deeply hued and rich Bon Vie Cab … Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley, like the aromatic and deeply flavored Bella Zin … and Chardonnay from Carneros, like the complex and oak nuanced cuvee from MacRostie.

  1. Sonoma County becomes a haven for music lovers in the summertime.

Every week, there’s music on the Healdsburg Plaza each Tuesday, music on the green each Thursday in Windsor, music on the plaza each Friday in Cloverdale, and music on the lawn at historic Hood Mansion in Sonoma Valley each Friday.

Rodney Strong Vineyard holds a concert series in a dramatic vineyard setting, and as the summer draws to a close, the Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival is held.

And those are just some of the opportunities to soak in live music in Sonoma County.

  1. You can find virtually any kind of cuisine you could think of.

Sonoma County is a foodie’s dream destination, and now a Jamaican restaurant called Revibe Café & Scoop Bar has opened in Sebastopol. I can’t wait to check out its tapas-style menu and wash down a few selections with a chilled glass of Viognier or Riesling — even though most around me will probably be drinking beer. I also can’t wait to try a scoop (or two) of their scratch-made ice cream.

  1. Lower lodging rates.

You can find ultra-expensive resorts that rival those in Napa Valley, but I prefer to stay in a hotel or motel that may cost just half as much as their Napa neighbors. It leaves me with more money to spend on wine.

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Posted in Our Wine Travel Log

What Do You Pair With Blue Wine?

I admit it: When it comes to sparkling wine, I’m a traditionalist. I prefer the type of bubbly featured in the Entertainer’s Fantasy Sparkling Collection — a Blanc de Blancs from France… a Rosé from Italy… a Brut from Spain.

That said, I must acknowledge another type of “bubbly” that I’ve seen being served lately.

Its maker describes it as an “aromatized wine-based cocktail.”

Reminiscent of sparkling wine but not so by legal definition, it also is described as “a velvety, seductive and sweet bubbly drink.”

But what makes this “not really a wine” drink especially unusual is its color: blue.

And whether you view it in its Prosecco-style bottle or in a wine glass, it is a sight to behold.

It is called Blumond, it’s made in Italy, and it’s sealed with a traditional Champagne cork — so, when you open it, the “pop” sends a message to your brain that something special is about to happen.

I’ve seen it described as “a perfect girls’ night out beverage,” but that sounds a bit sexist to me. If it tastes good, all of us should be able to enjoy it, right?

And it apparently does taste good — “deliciously fruity,” according to its maker, not to mention “sweet, refreshing and light” because its alcohol level is only about 7 percent.

While Blumond functions nicely as an aperitif, I think it would be fun to try to put together an “all blue” meal. Here’s one possibility:

  • Appetizer — A plate of assorted blue cheeses.
  • Main Course — Spicy Bluefin tuna and mango skewers, served with olive oil, roasted eggplant (which I admit is more purple than blue) and lemon.
  • Dessert — A blueberry tart with a ginger crust, topped with a scoop of blueberry gelato.

Given the sparkling nature of Blumond, it should pair nicely with all three courses.

But it really is more of a sipping beverage — again, not a wine by legal definition — so I’ll probably be sticking with my Blanc de Blancs, Rosé and Brut sparklers.

Old habits die hard, especially when they are delicious habits.

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Posted in Editor's Journal, Wine Buzz

10 Reasons It’s Good to Always Have a Bottle of Sparkling Wine on Hand

It doesn’t need to be New Year’s Eve and you don’t need to be attending a wedding to pop the cork on a bottle of sparkling wine.

Around our house, we always have a few bottles of French Champagne on hand, as well as several additional bottles of sparkling wine from other parts of the world.

When it comes to Champagne, the Bruno Paillard “Premiere Cuvee” Brut  is a personal favorite because it simultaneously delivers plenty of pure drinking pleasure and an abundance of value.

From the Vinesse Entertainer’s Fantasy Sparkling Collection, the Castell de Sant Bau Brut from Spain is a personal favorite because it pairs so perfectly with tapas.

Which brings me to my list of reasons to always have a bottle (or six) of sparkling wine on hand…

  1. Sparkling wine is extremely compatible with food. Whether it’s Spanish tapas, an appetizer platter, or Sunday brunch fare, sparkling wine is an outstanding pairing partner.
  2. You never know when an old friend… or relative… may show up at your door unexpectedly.
  3. Someone in your life is about to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary — an occasion that calls for a toast.
  4. You or your Significant Other got an unexpected (or expected) promotion or raise.
  5. You want to prepare a special meal for a special person, and a special meal gains class when sparkling wine is the beverage served.
  6. You want to say “thanks” to a neighbor for keeping an eye on your place when you were on vacation.
  7. The sound of a Champagne cork emerging from a bottle is one of only a few instantly recognizable sounds we experience — and it’s almost guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of anyone who hears it.
  8. A friend or neighbor just had a baby. (They’ll not only appreciate a glass of bubbly — they may need one!)
  9. You or your spouse passed the bar exam — which means you’ll be able to afford a lot more Champagne in the future!
  10. It’s Friday night. You need to be ready.
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Posted in Wine Buzz, Wine in the Glass

The Perfect Salad for the Perfect ‘Salad Wine’

It was my turn to fix dinner the other night, but with sweltering temperatures extending into the evening, I did not feel like cooking.

Instead, I put a bottle of 2014 Martin Ranch “J.D. Hurley” Sauvignon Blanc in the refrigerator, and assembled a salad out of ingredients we had on hand. Fortunately, we had been to a farmers market over the weekend, so we had everything I needed to make a cool and refreshing — and Sauvignon Blanc friendly — Grapefruit and Papaya Salad.

I’m a big believer in matching flavors in food to some of the aromas and flavors in wine, and I selected the Martin Ranch Sauvignon Blanc because grapefruit and papaya are among the impressions it exudes. Its “grassy” quality, common to many Sauvignon Blanc wines, complements the flavors of the baby greens we had on hand.

Some of the best food-and-wine pairings are the simplest, and most of the time involved in the preparation of this meal was devoted to chilling down the wine and salad. I could have had the wine at the proper temperature more quickly by using a bucket of ice and cold water, but I also wanted to chill the salad for a while. Plus, I enjoyed the process of chopping, peeling, slicing and sectioning.

When you’re looking for an easy-to-prepare meal with no cooking necessary, try this salad — there was plenty for both Michelle and me — along with a bottle of 2014 Martin Ranch “J.D. Hurley” Sauvignon Blanc.

GRAPEFRUIT AND PAPAYA SALAD

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
  • 2 pink grapefruits, peeled and sectioned
  • 1 large papaya, peeled and sliced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 5 cups mixed baby greens
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil

Preparation

  1. In a large bowl, mix the lemon juice and olive oil.
  2. Add avocado, grapefruit, papaya and scallions.
  3. Toss to combine.
  4. Cover and place in refrigerator for 60-90 minutes.
  5. On two separate plates, split the baby greens. Add mixture, and sprinkle with the cilantro.
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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes

It’s Okay to Blush: The Enduring Appeal of Rosé Wines

Do you have a guilty pleasure? I have a few, and one of them is rosé wine.

Truly, I shouldn’t feel guilty about it at all, because a nice glass (or two) of rosé on a warm spring or hot summer day provides just as much pleasure as a glass of (more “stylish”) Cabernet Sauvignon with a thick, juicy steak.

The Delicate and Delightful Rosés Collection proves my point. These are wines that quench my thirst while treating my taste buds to a wide array of enticing fruit flavors, most notably strawberry.

Rosé wines got a bad rap when they were lumped in the same category as White Zinfandel, which is a much sweeter wine made in a much different way. Most rosé wines range from bone dry to lightly sweet, which means they make not only exceptional quaffing wines, but also sublime companions to food.

The range of flavors experienced stems from the fact that rosé wines are not restricted to any region or any grape variety. The three wines featured in the Delicate and Delightful Rosés Collection come from three different countries and are made from a total of six different grape varieties.

The 2016 Seacrest Rosé hails from the Central Coast region of California, and is a 50:50 blend of Sangiovese and Malbec.

The 2016 Coeur de Cardeline Rosé comes from one of the style’s strongholds, the Provence region of France. Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah — three of the grapes used in crafting the exceptional red cuvees of Provence — were utilized in making this light and lovely wine.

And the 2015 Miguel Torres Santa Digna Reserva Rosé is made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon.

As the weather warms up, these will be my go-to wines. They’re great for sipping, wonderful with picnic fare and a nice complement to barbecued food.

And when I’m in the mood for a double-guilty pleasure, I’ll pour a glass to enjoy with a slice of strawberry shortcake.

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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes, Wine in the Glass

Toasting America’s Vets With a Wine Made by Vets

Memorial Day isn’t just an excuse to fire up the grill at our house — although we WILL be grilling on May 29.

During the day, we’ll be taking time out to honor the men and women who have served our country through the years, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice. And we’ll be toasting them with glasses of the 2014 Purple Heart Red Wine, a Napa Valley cuvee that was crafted by veterans.

Ray Coursen, who served in Vietnam, and David Grega, who served in Iraq, combined their winemaking skills to make this wine. And they did it under the close stewardship of the Peter Mondavi Sr. family, whose patriarch was a proud veteran of World War II.

It’s a wine that’s not only delicious, but also benefits the Purple Heart Foundation, dedicated to serving the unmet needs of military men, women and families.

Anyone who has had family members serve our country understands that veterans are special people. My father-in-law served (and was badly wounded) in Vietnam. I have a cousin who flew rescue helicopters in Vietnam, and saw things nobody should ever have to see.

My late parents were not in the service, but they did build airplanes for the war effort during World War II. In fact, they met while working together at Douglas Aircraft (before it became McDonnell Douglas). Dad was a foreman, and Mom was a “Rosy the Riveter.” A case could be made that were it not for World War II, I would not be here.

So I’ve always felt strongly about respecting and honoring our service men and women. That’s why when Michelle and I got married in October of 2015, we asked for donations to the BVL Fund — an organization that provides recreation-based therapeutic services to vets — in lieu of presents.

And that’s why on Memorial Day, we’ll be lighting the grill, cooking some rib-eye steaks, and opening a couple bottles of Purple Heart Red Wine — a sublime blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot.

We’ll toast America’s vets, and we’ll toast the good work that the Purple Heart Foundation does for vets.

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Posted in Wine Buzz, Wine in the Glass

4 Tips for To-Die-For BBQ and Wine Pairings

Summertime… and the grilling is easy…

Oops. Sorry. Sometimes I subconsciously meld Gershwin and barbecuing. But you’ll never have that problem if you follow these tips for pairing wine with barbecue fare…

  1. Take your time.

Barbecued food attains the height of culinary hedonism when it has been slow-cooked. It’s not unusual to encounter restaurants that cook their brisket and/or pulled pork for upwards of 16 hours. For us home grillers, setting aside six hours for ribs and three hours for chicken to cook can result in some really tasty food. Great BBQ can’t be rushed.

  1. Wood is good.

While charcoal is the preferred heat provider of most grillers, you can add a whole new dimension to the flavors of your barbecued foods by cooking over wood — preferably chunks (as opposed to chips) of oak.

  1. Spice is nice.

Experienced grillers will tell you that the only spices necessary are salt and pepper. But depending on your personal preferences, other spices — including ones that add a little “heat” — can enhance the flavor spectrum and add personality to the meat being grilled. Some markets and butcher shops will even apply a spice rub for you, on request.

When “spicing up” barbecue, the best wine-pairing partner is Zinfandel, like those found in the Zinfandel Country Select Collection. Zinfandel is both spicy and “jammy,” characteristics that complement that spicy quality of the meat and the “char” of the grill.

  1. Sauce it up.

For some people, barbecue isn’t barbecue without some sauce. But keep in mind that there are several different styles of sauce, so making a single wine-pairing suggestion is next to impossible.

That said, certain wines are better suited for pairing with well-sauced BBQ than others, like those in the Unbeatable BBQ Pairings Collection. In each case, it’s the mouthwatering acidity of the wine, comingling with the char of the grill, which creates a chorus of complementary flavors.

The kind of compelling chorus you’ll hear in almost any Gershwin tune.

This spring and summer, I plan to fire up the grill and crank up the music (sometimes Gershwin, sometimes Gaga) as often as possible… and to enhance the experience with some great wines.

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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes
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