December 30, 2009

What's Poppin' for 2010?

What's poppin' for 2010? Well, bubbly of course! I love that tingly taste on my tongue throughout the year, but most appreciate it while bringing in another new year. So since 2009 has treated me quite well, I'm guarunteeing my champagne will help do the same. Here's what I'll progressivley be consuming over the night and into the wee-hours of the morning:

1) Pommery POP Minis - a personal fav that I drink at picnics, at tailgates, at birthday parties, etc. So why would I discriminate at New Years? These mini bottles are the perfect addition (and easiest to transport) to the festivities whether your clanking bottles at a friends apartment, or "cheersing" to yourself in a cab on the way to the club (I'll be doing both). The best part is you can drink straight out of the bottle with a straw like the sassy and classy wino you are. ($15/bottle)

2) Vueve Clicquot Brut Yellow (1/2 Bottle) - a must have for celebrations in my apartment! Nicknamed "The Vueve" this bottle is made primarly of Pinot Noir and sings almond and honey on the tongue. Like the boy/girl you're smooching at midnight, its sure to be inviting. ($20)

3) Moet & Chandon "White Star"- similar to this "White Star" champagne, I'm sure to end my evening in a plummet to the deep blue, just like Titanic. But, hey, at least its in good fashion! Perhaps my favorite tasting bubbly, I rarely dive into my pockets to pick up a bottle. Its the perfect option for ringing in 2010, as it evokes the spirit of a coming year worthy of a celebration -one thats crisp, fresh and always exciting! ($89/bottle)

December 29, 2009

Look, Santa is a WinoBee too!

Holiday hiatus bit me in the toosh like a bottle of skunked Merlot... but I'm back! And as I recoup from the madness (while also attempting to burn off the calories I consumed) I find myself fiddling around with all the fun gifts that the spirit of Christmas graced me with.

Shockingly, it only included two bottles of wine this year (I guess Santa is trying to tell me something -or- he knows that my wine fridge is currently on overflow mode). But beyond liquid presents, I also received a few fun gifts worthy of Lil' Miss WinoBee sharing with each of you.

1) Wine Wars - a fun little trivia game that tests your knowledge of wine, from selecting and tasting varietals to production and wine people. Its perfect for winos of all levels, and especially perfect for beginners learning to beef up their wine mind.

Cost: $18
Where to Buy: Uncommon Goods
2) Vinturi Wine Aerator - the perfect tool for mixing in the right amount of air to your wine (seriously, its done in the amount of time it takes to pour it into the Vinturi and trickly into the glass, wah-la!). Why is this important you ask? Like decanting and allowing the wine to breathe, this device brings out the wine's most aromatic and flavorful attributes... just in less time! And when you're thirsty, that's a plus.

Cost: $40
Where to Buy: Amazon

3) Diva Wine Glass - if you're going to drink, you might as well drink in style. And what better way to bring to life your own personality than through the wine you're sipping on. And according to my lil' cousins... I'm a wine diva!

Cost: $25

December 16, 2009

NICE LIST: 2005 Dominique Laurent Marsannay

Item: 2005 Marsannay
Category: Wines for Dining
Cost: $17 (as a "futures")
Where To Buy:

It's time for another "Naughty or Nice" pick TNT style, and what better place to snag from than, Burgundy!

Burgundy is one of the most difficult wine regions in the world to understand. First, it has more 'appellations' than any region in the world. You've probably heard of Chablis, Beaujolais; and maybe you've seen Gevrey-Chambertain or Montrachet on a bottle or restaurant wine list. Well there are 677 of them!!! Then, there is the 'ranking' system... from Grand Cru to Premier Cru to Village to finally "regional" wines. Now figure in all the producers and it's no wonder Burgundy can be a very scary place. But if you can take the time to explore it and learn a little about it, you will find that is produces much of the worlds greatest wines.

As a start, basically only two types of grapes are grown here... Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. There are some other smaller varieties (Gamay, for instance, is grown in Beaujolais), but their use is extremely minimal. So we're basically dealing with Pinot and Chardonnay.

Next, we can learn a lot from the label... so let's look closer. Since Burgundy is all about the appellations, it's the name of the appellation that is the largest thing on the label (not the producer). So this wine comes from the Marsannay appellation.

Now, notice the label... it doesn't read Grand Cru, Premier Cru or 1er Cru... but it does say 'Vielles Vignes". Therefore, this wine is from the "village" class (not a grand or premier cru). Finally, the vintage is 2005. The vintage on this bottle is shown on a label at the top of the bottle... which is not shown in the picture. So, after glancing at the label, we know we are drinking a 2005 "village level" pinot noir from the Marsannay region of Burgundy. The producer is Dominique Laurent.

2005 Dominique Laurent Marsannay Clos du Roy Vieilles Vignes - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Marsannay

Purchased as "futures" for $17 (this is where you buy wine before it's released. I purchased this in 2007 and it was delivered in 2008). Dark ruby in color with a hint of violet on the edges. Overwhelming nose of barnyard and earth. There is definitely terrior here. Behind the earthy notes lies subtle aromas of blackberry, boysenberry and ripe cherry. The crisp acidity (it's borderline effervescent) make this an excellent food wine, and the tannins can stand up to a steak. (I served porterhouses for dinner). This could use a little time for the tannins and acidity to settle down, but this is a very enjoyable wine. The fruit with the barnyard notes really make this a complex wine. And I like the fact that there is very little oak here.

My Take: Outstanding

December 14, 2009

Nice List: Clos de los Siete 2007

Item: Clos de los Siete 2007
Category: Wines for Dining
Cost: $19/bottle
Where to Buy:
We're making a list, and checking it twice and this super red blend easily makes the cut. The '07 Clos de los Siete is an Argentine masterpiece that offers poetic aromas, flavors and length that pair well with hearty holiday cuisine, or even on it's own. Aged for 11 months in French oak barrels and made from Malbec (48%), Merlot (28%), Cabernet (12%) and Syrah (12%), this wine smells and tastes purple. Its fragrant combination of plum, blueberry and cherry are expressed not only on the nose, but offer perfect balance on the pallette too.

December 11, 2009

Nice List: Orogeny '06 Pinot Noir

Item: Orogeny '06 Pinot Noir
Category: Wines for Dining
Cost: $35/bottle
Where to Buy:

In getting ready to close out the 2009 year, Orogeny made its way into my life during one of my various after-work trips to "The Palm." And man, am I glad it did!

Stemming from the Greek variation of "Oro," meaning mountain and "Geny," meaning birth, Sonoma's Orogeny very literally brings to life collisions and separations of the Earth's crust which form mountains. The last orogenic episode in Sonoma County formed Green Valley, where the grapes from this wine come from.

Cool story, right? Even better taste! This Pinot is super smooth and has lively cranberry and cherry flavors on the palette, balances with hints of nutmeg and cinnamon. Pinot might very well be the best medium-bodied red you can get, and this particular bottle is on the top of our list for the holidays (and all year round!)

December 6, 2009

Nice List: Firestone Vineyard '07 Merlot

Item: '07 Firestone Discoveries Merlot
Category: Wines for Holiday Dining
Cost: $10/bottle
Where to Buy:

It's time to spin the 2009 "Naughty or Nice" List Tasting Note Tuesday style. If the name "Firestone" sounds familiar to you, you're not alone. Not only do wine lovers know the name, but so do car enthusiasts (and ex-bachelorettes!).

That's right, the Firestone Winery was started by the son of the founder of Firestone Tires! Leonard Firestone started the Santa Ynez Valley winery in 1972... a time when no one was planting vines in this coastal area of California. The family ran the winery for 35 years before legendary wine owner Bill Foley purchased the winery in 2007. For those of you who have never heard of Bill Foley, he is the owner of some of California best and most sought-after wines including Sebastiani, Kuleto and Merus.

2007 Firestone Vineyard Merlot Discoveries - USA, California

A little on the 'thin' side for a merlot. In the glass, the wine has a translucent ruby red color. Upon opening, scents of oak, vanilla and cherry are most dominant. On the palate, cherry takes center stage and the oak plays a supporting role. There is also a slight hint of cranberry... but mostly cherry and oak. The finish is a little short, but for $9 per bottle, it's not too bad.

My Take: Good

December 5, 2009

The Nice List: WineHug

Item: WineHug
Category: Stocking Stuffers
Cost: $20
Where to Buy:

You've probably seen me write (or talk) about giving my wines big hugs - and I mean that literally and figurativley - at various times across our journey of wine exploration. So, as a personal favorite product I thought those of you treking to dinner or wine-n-cheese parties, like me (long-live "Wine Down Wednedays"), might find use in this fun little product called, WineHug.

WineHug is a self-inflating protective pouch that is lightweight, compact and adapts to hold a 750mL bottle of wine. It has a simple velcro seam that helps keep the bottle snug so you bypass any breakage (which we all know can ruin delicate white blouses when packed in a suitcase). And the best part... its re-usable! Simply collapse the WineHug when its not in use and re-inflate it for your next trip.
If you're looking for something even less costly ($10), you can get a similar item that actually keeps your wine chilled at Crate & Barrel.

December 4, 2009

The Nice List: Wine Gift Cards

Item: Wine Gift Cards
Category: Stocking Stuffer (or Gift)
Price: Whatever you'd like!
Where to Buy:

Some of you are probably thinking we're crazy for wanting to put an ENTIRE bottle of wine into a holiday stocking. Won't it weight it down? What if it breaks? Ok, if you're conscious about it, we have the perfect solution for you... wine in the form a gift card!
If you can swipe a Visa, you might as well be able to swipe a gift card that can do the same specifically for a bottle of good wine. And the folks at have done just that for us! You get to choose the dollar amount for your gift and the recipient can choose any item they want from the website. I've got my eye on a nice Brunello (seasons greetings to me!) E-giftcards are also available.

December 3, 2009

Nice List: Pommery POP Earth

Item: Pommery POP Earth Champagne
Category: Stocking Stuffers
Cost: $49.99
Where to Buy:

Everyone already knows that I'm a sucker for a little champagne, and I'm sure a good chunk of the drinking population would side along with me. That's why it's only appropriate we add some bubbly to our "nice" Stocking Stuffer picks.

Now, it's also pretty known that I'm a big fan of Pommery and their mini POP Champagne bottles (which I've given props to more than once on this blog). But, now I adore them even more because they launched POP Earth, a champagne produced from sustainably farmed grapes packaged in a 100% recycled bottle (which is lighter in turn yielding less freight and pollution) and made with a recycled paper label printed with water-based inks. It's a drink you can feel good about throwing back, so stuff it in the stocking and uncork it for New Years!

December 2, 2009

Nice List: Lola Custom Wine Glasses

Item: Lulu Custom Painted Wine Glasses
Category: Stocking Stuffers
Cost: $6.99/each
Where to Buy: HomeGoods

Take a look at this picture and tell me how you could ever pass up this festive drinkware? These Lulu hand painted wine glasses by 2 Saints Inc. are flirty, fun and fabulous, and not only are they great "drinking glasses," they are sure to be conversation starters too.

The company produces a wide range of whimsically themed martini and wine glasses, perfect for whatever personality you are looking for - the Shopaholic, the Diva, or even a Bachelorette. But my eyes were immediately drawn to this "Chubby Santa" (as I like to call him) as I was combing through my neighborhood HomeGoods store the other day. I bought two - one for myself to showboat at my Wine Down Holiday Party this weekend, and one for a good friend who I'm secretly hoping doesn't see this post. "We wasted the good surprise on you!"

December 1, 2009

Nice List: ONEHOPE Merlot

Item: ONEHOPE Merlot
Category: Stocking Stuffers
Cost: $18.99
Where to Buy:
We're big ambassadors for anything tied to a cause, so it's no wonder that ONEHOPE wine makes the top of our "nice" list for the Stocking Stuffer category. And clearly there was no better day to share this find with you than today, World AIDS Day.

We discovered ONEHOPE Chardonnay a few months back as a tie into our Breast Cancer PINKTOBER round-up only to uncover that the company works with several other initiatives, particularly this California-grown Merlot with 50% of proceeds benefiting charities that fund AIDS research. Just as Merlot is one of the most popular varietals in the world, AIDS is arguably the biggest world epidemic claiming over 25 million lives in the past 25 years - see the connection?

Knowing how much I enjoyed their Chardonnay, the kind folks with ONEHOPE offered to send me a sample bottle of this Merlot to try out, and being a sucker for philanthropy and an avid fan of the brand already, I easily said yes. Afterall, it's more fun to drink with purpose!

On the nose, this wine doesn't exude any distinct character. The smell of alcohol overpowers any other aromas, however the minute you allow it to breathe in your mouth (swirl, swirl) you'll see all its flavorful attributes come alive, particularly dark fruits like black cherry, plums and figs. What I like about this Merlot is that its not overtly "New World." It still has some earthy flare that balances out to a smooth finish. Even my roommate who is an avid white wine drinker enjoyed this wine - I think that says enough! My only suggestion, don't decant it and drink it right away. The more it sits and breathes, the faster its taste attributes change. I left mine sit for about 5 minutes and noticed the fruit was less powerful, and more mineralistic characteristics came about.

On a sidenote, between and December 31st, ONEHOPE will donate $1 to charity for every new fan on their Facebook fan page.

2009 "Naughty or Nice" List

Today kicks off the month of December, which means that Santa Clause and the Hanukkah Armadillo are on their way to pay each of us a little visit... well, at least all of us who made the "nice" list. And just as we "play nice in the sandbox," it's only be appropriate that we hold our vino to the same expectations.

Behold, WinoBee's 2009 "Naughty or Nice" list. Over the course of the month, we're going to do all the checking, re-checking and X-ing off of the best and worst stocking stuffers, wines for the party table, and gifts for the avid wino. Hopefully we'll help you uncover a few items to package up for friends and family along the way. After all, the experience of a great wine is even better when surrounded by great people.

Check back soon as we kick off the 2009 "Naughty or Nice" list!

November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Wines: St. Supery Barrel Fermented Chardonnay

In reading back through prior "Thanksgiving Wines" posts, I noticed that I've moderatley favored red wines. And to be honest, its likely because I'm more of a red wine drinker as the weather shifts from warm to cool. Afterall, nothing compliments the Fall and Winter months quite like a fuller bodied wine with hints of spice. But that doesn't mean we can't discover white wines with the same attributes. In fact, there are many white wines out their with the same complexity, that are comparably approachable. So, let's pay some omage to our dear white wines this Turkey Day, too!

Nothing brings in Autumn quite like St. Supery's Barrel Fermented Chardonnay. Normally I'm not a Chardonnay drinker, I'll admit, but having the opportunity to visit St. Supery back in September, I exposed my pallette to varietals I might not otherwise purchase on my own and was surprisingly pleased with the outcome, particularly on this Chardonnay.

Sustainably farmed (we love anything that helps the enviornment!), this wine bodes aromas of toast and cantaloupe on the nose, with flavors that are reminiscent of baked apple pie (a Turkey Day must), ripe pears and some hints of Earth. It offers a light texture that is balanced with spice. It's like Autumn in a glass! Oh, if you don't like oak hints, they also have Oak-Free Chardonnay!

Cost: $30/bottle
Where to Buy:

November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Wines: 2006 Auroch Toro

Thanksgiving is to turkey as _____ is to Spain. The answer? Tempranillo! Ok, so its probably not the most logical anaology but it works for me! And though you may have never heard of the Tempranillo grape, there is no better time to try it than at Thanksgiving when you're likely expanding your palette anyhow. It may surprise you!

Tempranillo is a black grape variety grown in the Rioja region of Spain, which often yields fuller body wines. This varietal tend to be ruby in color and exude berry, plum, vanilla, and sometimes even tobacco flavors.

The Toro is a great budget-friendly wine to add to your dinner, or even pick up and take to the host of your Thanksgiving Day party. Made from young grapes, the Toro is an up-and-coming regional wine which combines a variety of flavors – from herbs and spices to cherry, vanilla and tobacco. It’s juicy, yet very soft on the palette.

Cost: $14/bottle
Where To Buy:

November 23, 2009

Thankgiving Wines: Sebastiani Russian River Pinot Noir

It was surely a pristine Autumn weekend, and with the slight chill in the air my thoughts immediatley drifted to Thanksgiving. Afterall, no holiday pays tribute to wine and food quite like Turkey Day, and over the weekend I had the opportunity to spend some additional time with family and friends to help weigh out the next selection for our Thanksgiving Wines round-up.

After hosting a progressive tasting, which included a Pinot Grigio, a red blend, Pinot Noir and a Cabernet (items to be reviewed and named later) the unanimous vote went with the Sebastiani Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.

This Pinot is beautifully crimson and structured offering hints of both cinnamon and spice atop boasting Marachino cherry and red plum aromas which jump out of the glass. The texture is silky and elegant with dark berry flavors and soft tannins.

I can't say there was any real surprise from my end. I personally gravitate toward Pinot since its a fantastic partner with pretty much anything, and even delectable flying solo. Its a natural tie-in with both turkey and all its accompaniments so it was only appropriate I share this find with each of you.

Cost: $28/bottle
Where to Buy:

November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving Wines: Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad Brut Cava

Sparkling wine is becoming an increasingly popular pairing partner because it brings elegance to the table and versatility to most meals. Why not unravel some bubbles on Thanksgiving Day. Try Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad Brut Cava and you'll be sure to impress on the palette and on the table.

Its thick hand blown Absinthe-green glass alone is enough to catch the eye, but the bottle is also emblazoned with a solid pewter crest with an inscription of grapes. The blend of native grapes inside (including Macabeo, Parellada and Zarello) offer a mellow, yet satisfying experience with great fruit intensity and a perfumed bouquet. The taste and appearance alone will leave all your guests thinking you spent more than you actually did!
Cost: $22/bottle
Where To Buy:

November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Wines: 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau

The tasting of each year's Beaujolais Nouveau is a Thanksgiving tradition to be had by all. Beaujolais, a region of Burgundy, France where nearly 3,600 growers produce the ever-loved varietal, is released the third Thursday of every November just one week before we carve our turkeys.

Made of 100% Gamay grapes, which have thinner skins than others grapes causing lower tannin levels, Beaujolais Nouveau by law must be hand-grown on individual free-standing vines. It is young, vivacious and ultimately fruit-forward. Its versatility complements many dishes and can a great accompaniment to your holiday entertaining. And rumor has it, this year's vintage is going to be better than those of the past 50 years.

Try George Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau ($9.99) and serve cool!

November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving Wines: 2008 Tormaresca Neprica

So we've already got some great tips from our friend Eryn at The Traveling Vineyard, now there is no better time to start planning our dinner menu and selecting great wines to complement the feast.
Over the course of the next few days, we're going to help you with some of the must-haves for the season. Get ready to pair up with turkey, potatoes, stuffing and amenities that Fall holiday dining has to offer with reds, whites, rose, maybe even some bubbly!

To kick it off, we're heading to the "Boot of Italy," Puglia, where we've snagged a delicious red blend known as NePricCa by Tormaresca. Named for the three grapes that its composed of, 40% Negroamaro, 30% Primitivo and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, this well-structure and pleasingly soft wine is full of flavored layers. It has an intense ruby red color with a touch of dark vItaliciolet on the edges. On the nose you'll smell dark fruits which transcend onto the palette with additional accents of chocolate and licorice. This wine is incredibly food-friendly and can easily be paired with grilled veggies or meaty fishes.

Cost: $12/bottle
Where To Buy:

November 17, 2009

The ABC's of Thanksgiving Wines

With just 9 days to go, it's officially time to talk turkey! Afterall, Thanksgiving is the #1 wine-drinking day in the United States, so we need to show some appreciation for our fellow pilgrims and Indians by raising a glass (or a bottle) and giving thanks.

But, in true WinoBee fashion, we need not make our Turkey Day selections complex. In fact, when it comes to Fall holiday dining, its really as easy as ABC, according to Independent Wine Consultant, Eryn Cadoff with The Traveling Vineyard.

We had some time to chat with Eryn about all things Thanksgiving and here are some fun, friendly tips to keep in mind as you carve your turkey next week:

A = Alsace. The white wines of Alsace are fantastic choices for the flavors of Thanksgiving. Look for Alsatian Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Cremant d'Alsace for bubbly!

"Even though we're talking about an American holiday here, savvy wine drinkers around the world know the secret the French know - the best white wine bargains in the world are the white wines of Alsace," commented Cadoff. "In fact, 2/3 of the white wine consumed in France comes from Alsace."

Check out some fantastic selections The Traveling Vineyard has to offer:

B = Beaujolais. This French wine region is technically a part of Burgundy, but has a character all its own. Beaujolais wines are made from 100% Gamay grapes - a fun, fresh, fruity red that is wonderful with any Thanksgiving meal, and fruit-forward enough even for white wine drinkers.

C = California. Its an American holiday, so how could we leave out American wine?! Clearly California leads the pack, accounting for a whopping 94% of US wine production. Great varietals for Thanksgiving? Try a Zinfandel on the red side, and a Chardonnay on the white.

  • 2005 Blair Family Estate Zinfandel with some of the heartier sides on the Thanksgiving table - like the roasted garlic mashed potatoes or the stuffing (or is it dressing?) Depends who you ask, but the debate rages on at our family gathering every year.
  • 2005 Blair Family Estate Chardonnay is always a hit - not too oaky, not overly toasty, but just right - and really great with the green bean casserole Aunt Betty brings every single year!

Want More Information? Eryn Cadoff, an Independent Wine Consultant with The Traveling Vineyard conducts in-home wine tastings in Northern Virginia and DC. When not at tastings, she's a stay-at-home-mom/taxi to her 3 and 5 year old daughters

November 16, 2009

Tailgating Date with Sofia

Now, normally I'd be a simple wings and beers girl for any sporting event, and as much as that's still a fun occasion, I'm
finding that my affinity for wine is growing more and more intense. So even though wine isn't the most common tailgating addition, I allowed it to make a home with me.

Fast forward to Saturday at the Virginia Tech vs. University of Maryland football game (go Hokies!) where the munchies and booze were aflow. Mixed drinks, bottled beers, bottled wines, canned beers, canned wines. Wait... canned wine you say? Yes, wine in a can!

I admit, I was just as apprehensive as most of you probably are right
now. Afterall, boxed wines (until recently) ruined many of our relationships with wine (c'mon, who didn't have a bad Franzia experience in college once or twice? My old roommates are not allowed to comment on that!)

So, my friends over at Talbert/Coppola knew I was planning a huge tailgate for the big game and were kind enough to send me a set of Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs to try out, and I quickly learned how fantastic of an addition they were to the smorgasbord of cheese wieners, burgers and layered dips we had on hand.

Aesthetically, this is a woman's drink (although, do look at the pic on the left where my cousin is rocking his own can proving that real men drink pink). The petite sized hot pink cans have an elaborate feminine design on them and are sold in a unique hot pink octagon-like packaging which adds to its over flare (would be a great bachelorette party addition or
even birthday present!)

Once you get over the fact that you're sipping your favorite libation from a can, you'll be able to become enraptured in the fresh, aromotic tastes of the Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat varietals. Its perfectly effervescent - the bubbles lightly tingly your tongue and the bold summer fruit flavors shine through.

Where are we netting out? Sofia Minis are my new status symbol... so long Starbucks!

Cost: $12.99/4-pack
Where To Buy:

November 8, 2009

Lil' Miss WinoBee Does Disney

I love it when pleasure collides with passion. That's pretty much the purpose of my recent trip down to sunny Orlando, where I got to:

1) Meet up with my best friend who just moved to Florida
2) Run in a 5K through the backlots of Hollywood Studios
3) Frolic the Magic Kingdom (sans Teacups since the stupid things were broken. Let's be honest, if they were Wine Flutes, we know they would have been rockin n' rollin)
4) Hit up Epcot's WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL!!

Ok, so clearly participation in #2 might have evolved from a desire to attend #4, I won't fib. Afterall, there is no better way to celebrate burning off calories than putting them right back in your body with great wine and delicious food.

Cue, Sunday at Disney's Epcot where we traveled 'round their [fake] world stopping to delve face first into each culture one drink and bite at a time. From France and Morrocco, to New Zealand and Germany, we attempted to expand our palettes through immersing in each of the country's specialties.

DISCLAIMER: Now, I must forwarn this is one of my longer posts, so if you prefer, scroll to the bottom and check out our interactive video that highlights our favorite stops! If you want the specifics, keep on reading below!

The first stop along the way was none other than right where I had just traveled from, New York! To my delight, New York was sampling a delicious ice wine, Casa Larga Fiordi Vidal. You know I can't turn down ice wine even if its the first drink of the day, so naturally thats the one I opted for at a wopping $8 for 2 oz. worth of tasting. To my enjoyment, it was worth it. Very sweet, as ice wines always are. Great summer fruit flavors, particularly apricot and peach, with a note of honeysuckle on the finish.

Stop #2 was New Zealand and I was conned (ok, so
no one literally twisted my arm, but whatever) into pairing succulent Seared Scallops with Villa Marie Sauvignon Blanc. Now, normally I love the light, crisp, citrusy taste of Sauvignon Blanc, but this glass didn't offer any of those attributes. Bummer.

Stop #3 was Paris (but for us, it was more like Pair-Eee). This might have been my favorite stop not just because of the wine, but also because of the braised short ribs I paired my Bordeaux with.
Now, poor Bordeaux has received a pretentious stigma over the years, but there in the midst of a big comeback because more and more WinoBees like ourselves are discovering their Old World flare without the snobbery of the people pushing them on us. To my surprise, my Bordeaux (and shame on me for forgetting the vintage) was very smooth and light on the tannins. As a stand-alone, it didn't have alot of flavor, but when you combined it with the short ribs, the earthy/minerally tastes were really brought to life.
Where did we go next? Umm, where didn't we go next? Somewhere in the middle of everything, we stopped along at a few other countries and even picked up a beer-stein in Germany, until we got to the MotherLand... ITALIA!!!

Mmm... Castello Banfi, a favorite. Deviating from my normal Brunello di Moltacino, I picked up a glass of a relatively new vintage called, BelnerO. BelnerO is made of 100% Italian Sangiovese grapes. The glass boasts purple and dark fruits on both the nose and the palettes, with a smooth finish that leaves notes of French Oak (after all, it was barreled in it for 19 months). It was nearly perfection, a must try for all, and a great way to finish out our Disney Wine & Food Tour!

November 4, 2009

Event Buzz: The 13th Annual Great Wine Escape Weekend

Monterey’s exceptional wineries, accompanied by local and nationally recognized chefs, will come together to commemorate The 13th Annual Great Wine Escape Weekend, November 13th-15th, 2009. The festivities beckon wine and food lovers from around the country.

Friday, November 13

  • Coastal Kitchen—Food and wine seminars throughout the day
  • Winemaker Dinners

Saturday, November 14

  • Self-Guided or Luxury Coach Tours of Monterey Wine Country
  • From Terroir to Table—Educational vineyard and winery tours
  • Winemaker For A Day—A chance to fulfill the dream
  • Winemaker Dinners—Featuring Monterey’s hottest chefs and vintners

Sunday, November 15

  • The Grand Finale Tasting—Thirty-five Monterey County wineries and a dozen restaurants

The Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association web site provides package pricing, individual event prices and hotel recommendations. Additional information can be found by visiting

Participating wineries include: Bernardus Vineyards and Winery, Boekenoogen Vineyards & Winery, Carmel Road Winery, Chalone Vineyard, Chateau Julien Wine Estate, Estancia, Galante Vineyards & Winery, Graff Family Vineyards, Hahn Estates/Smith & Hook Winery, Heller Estate Organic Vineyards, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Line Shack Winery, Joyce Vineyard Winery, Lockwood Vineyard & Winery, Manzoni Estate Vineyard, Mariposa Wine Company, Marin’s Vineyard, McIntyre Vineyards, Mission Trail Vineyards, Monterey Wine Company, Morgan Winery, Otter Cove Wines, Paraiso Vineyards, Pierce Ranch Vineyards, Puma Road, San Bernabe Vineyards, Scheid Vineyards, Thomas Fogarty and Ventana Vineyards

November 3, 2009

Halloween's Over?

Besides all the delicious libations I stirred up during "Cocktail Week" (including Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake shots, which earned me bragging rights at work during our annual interoffice cocktail competition), you knew it was inevitable that I would spend my "All Hallow's Eve" uncorking my festivities. So, what was worthy of this Queen of Hearts?

Cinnabar's 2006 Mercury Rising! The fine folks at Cinnabar out in Saratoga, CA sent me some bottles to try out and review, and up until this point I've only had the opportunity to indulge in their Cabernet (which was also pretty fantastic!) Although I admit I should have prepared for such a full-bodied wine by accompanying it with a big juicy steak, or even some intensly flavored cheeses, I decided to decant and dive right in.

This Bordeaux-style blend is made from a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petite Verdot grapes. It's very plush and offers an intense complexity. It opens with a nose of dark fruits and toasted oak (aged in French, American & Hungarian oak barrels for 19 months), but also blends with some earthy attributes, like herbs. The tannins were smooth for being such a full wine, and they helped support the dense fruit, tobacco and spice flavors that came through on the palate. I must say, this $20 wine tastes like its worth hundreds - invest now!

Where to Buy:
Cost: $20

TNT Goes Real Cheap... as in "Box Wine"

Recently Wine Spectator did a special on "box wines" last month. Intrigued by their spread, I decided I'd do a little taste test of my own. And with the holidays almost upon us, who doesn't love to entertain? Could these box wines hold up to bottled wines? Are the stereotypes of box wines a thing of the past? Will you be pouring box wines the next time you host?

Ironically enough, the box wines I tried weren't too bad. Having said that, I paid $20 for each box (each box is equivalent to 4 bottles). If you're paying over $25 for the box, you can find better bottled wine for around $6-$7 per bottle (Columbia Crest Two Vines is impossible to beat, in my mind). But if you can find these for under $25, then you can't really go wrong.

I went to several wine stores in NJ to see what was commonly available. I decided to stay clear of the real cheap stuff (if they don't produce good bottled wine, the boxes won't be any good). That means I didn't try Franzia, Carlo Rossi, Almaden, etc. I picked up "Black Box Cabernet" from California and "Hardy's Cabernet" from Australia. I was also looking for "Killer Juice Cabernet", but couldn't find it at any of the stores I visited. There are a few other brands (Fish Eye and Bota Box, to name a few), but I didn't need the equivalent of 2 cases of wine in my fridge. So I decided to limit my taste test to these two readily available wines.

The nice thing about the box wines is their shelf life. With the "spigot" dispensing the wine, no air is allowed into the bag holding the wine. This means, the wine has a life of several months once opened. Plus they take up almost no room... especially compared to the 4 bottles that are included in each box. But, the most important... how do they taste???

2007 Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon, California
Purchased for $20 (3L box). Nose of clove, strawberry and oak. On the palate, more of the same... candied cherry, strawberry, butterscotch and a hint of spice. Simple, easy. Short finish.

My take: Average+

2007 Hardy's Cabernet Sauvignon, South Eastern Australia
Purchased for $17 (3L box). On the nose, oak is the most dominant scent followed by bubble gum and strawberry notes. There may be a hint of mint as well. But don't let all these scents trick you into thinking this is a complex wine. On the palate, the oak and strawberry really come through.

My take: Average-

So for about $5 per bottle, these wines aren't too shabby. Easy to drink, simple, non-thinking wines. Definitely great if you're entertaining for a large number of people. But if you're paying more than $25 for the box, you can do better with actual bottled wine. Having said that, if you want something to keep in the back of the fridge for a quick glass when you're not looking to open an entire bottle, you can't go wrong. With a shelf-life of several months and minimal cost, these two box wines can't be beat.

October 31, 2009

Cocktail Week: Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake Shots

It's not Halloween without a little "tricking" and "treating" (but more so treating). And the night is never complete until you smash a pumpkin, and in our case, we mean it literally. Check out this delicious recipe for Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake Dessert Shots created by Celebrity Chef, Jon Ashton

Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake Dessert Shots
  • 1 can (14 oz) pumpkin, chilled
  • 3 oz reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 6 oz lowfat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup lowfat milk
  • 1/4 cup Van Gogh Dutch Caramel Vodka
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 6 teaspoons graham cracker crumbs, optional
Place all ingredients (except graham cracker crumbs) in a blender and blend until silky. Pour into shot glasses and top each serving with a teaspoon of graham cracker crumbs.

October 30, 2009

Cocktail Week: Death by Chocolate

If you're a chocolate lover like me, this is a must-try. We'll just call it a grown-up chocolate milkshake and let you see for yourself!

Death by Chocolate
  • 1 oz Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka
  • 1 oz coffee liqueur
  • 1 oz dark crème de cacao
  • 1 oz chocolate syrup
  • 2 scoops chocolate ice cream
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • Whipped cream
  • Maraschino cherry
Pour all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a hurricane or margarita glass and add whipped cream. Top the cream with a cherry and serve.

October 29, 2009

Cocktail Week: Spiced Caramel Apple

In perfect time for Fall gatherings, try this Spiced Caramel Apple created by Kara Newman, author of Spice & Ice:

Spiced Caramel Apple
Rim glass with agave syrup and crumbled gingersnap cookies and set aside. Add liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into martini glass.

October 28, 2009

Cocktail Week: Pomosa

Perhaps one of the simplest cocktails to make, try this delicious recipe for a Pomosa, which blends the fresh, fruity tastes of pomegranate with a little bubbly:


Pour chilled Van Gogh Pomegranate Vodka into a flute. Top with Champagne and garnish with a strawberry.

October 27, 2009

Cocktail Week: Sparkling Dutch Red Sangria

Even though it's cocktail week, we had to pepper in a recipe or two using wine/champagne (after all, we are loyalists). When you have the time to make your own (versus opting for a pre-made bottle, like Senor Sangria), check out this delicious sangria recipe:

Sparkling Dutch Red Sangria (pitcher recipe)

  • 1 bottle dry red wine
  • 3 ounces Triple Sec Liqueur
  • 3 ounces Van Gogh Pomegranate Vodka
  • 6 ounces grenadine
  • ½ bottle pomegranate juice
  • ½ bottle Pommery Brut Royal Champagne
  • 1 sliced orange

Combine the first five ingredients. Add Champagne and give a quick stir. Pour mixture over ice and add slices of orange. Garnish each glass with a cinnamon stick.

October 26, 2009

Cocktail Week: Tiramisu Martini

Cocktails, cocktails, get your cocktails! Try out this delicious recipe for a Tiramisu Martini using Van Gogh Vodka:

Tiramisu Martini
  • 1-1/2 oz Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka
  • 1 oz Butterscotch liqueur
  • 1 oz Hazelnut liqueur
  • 1/2 oz Baileys

Combine in an ice filled shaker; shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.

October 23, 2009

Cocktail Week: Café Caramel Martini

You scream, I scream, we all scream for… cocktails? It's true, even the avid WinoBee deviates from her lavish glass of tannin every once in a while. And why wouldn't I? Dessert drinks have been a huge trend in the restaurant and bar industry throughout the past year and are only gaining popularity (especially those delectable after-dinner treats served so trendy in martini glasses - I love drinking in style!)

According to, the top 10 trends for 2009 included dessert drinks as number two. So, I figured it was only appropriate to implement "Cocktail Week" for my fellow winos looking for something a little different this Fall season. Have no fear, we'll be back on the grape juice before you know it!

Throughout the week, I'll post a few recipes for sippable sweets that you can enjoy sans spoon. Check back each day for a lil' something new

Café Caramel Martini

Created by Rene Matos, Beverage Director, NYC Marriott Marquis
(recipe provided by Talbert Communications)

  • 2-1/2 oz Van Gogh Dutch Caramel Vodka
  • 1/2 oz Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka
  • 1/4 oz House-made caramel sauce
  • 1 oz Vanilla ice cream, softened
  • Garnished with a cholive

Add all ingredients into a shaker and shaker vigorously to ensure the caramel is well blended. Pour into a martini glass and garnish with a cholive.

October 18, 2009

PINKTtober: Pink Ribbon Bottle Stopper

In being on the prowl for the most charming "pinky" wine items supporting breast cancer awareness this month, I came across this adorable bottle stopper from The Pink Ribbon Shop.

Not only does it beautifully dress up a bottle with its sparkling facets, crystal beads and inspiring charms, it helps increase awareness and spread the support with each bottle you open. Made with rubber rings that help give it a snug fit on almost any bottle.

Purchase at: The Pink Ribbon Shop
Cost: $24.95

October 17, 2009

PINKtober: Riedel CresendO

In order to drink the pink, you're going to need some stemware to do it. Riedel Crystal has introduced a new Pink CresendO set of 4 limited edittion pink glasses which were specifically created to benefit Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering all women affected by breast cancer. Each of the Chardonnay/Viognier glasses offer a different delicate shade of pink and can be found at Bed Bath & Beyond. Cost: $59/set

WIN IT: In addition to the CrescendO glasses, Riedel will continue to offer the Pink Vinum set ($59), introduced in 2007, due to popular demand. Our friends at Riedel have offered to giveaway one Vinum Rosé set to a lucky reader. Like all purchases of this product, 15% of the cost has been donated already to Living Beyond Breast Cancer for you. To win, simply post a comment with one way your helping make a different to fight breast cancer (or another cause) alongside your email address. One random winner will be selected November 1st. To have an extra chance at winning, tweet this giveaway to hasthtag #BEEPINK. If you entered a prior giveaway, this does NOT exclude you from this offer.

October 16, 2009

PINKtober: Pink Vinturi Aerator

Seems like every corner I turn I see pink and I love it! One of the newest "pinky" wine items we came across (which I've been itching to pick up myself) is the Vinturi Wine Aerator. For those unfamiliar, the purpose of this device is to help mix the right amount of air with your wine allowing it to breathe quickly. The result? An enhanced bouquet, flavor and finish of your red wine without all the wait of having to decant.

5% of proceeds from this pink enhanced aerator benefits Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

Purchase at:
Cost: $39.95

October 15, 2009

BEEhind the Scenes at St. Supery: Rutherford Vineyard

Day 2: Rutherford Vineyard and Barrel Tasting

After an almost surreal time at the Dollarhide Ranch the day prior, I treked it back to Napa the following day to begin setup for an event I was helping faciliate later in the week. Once again, the folks at St. Supery assured me of their outstanding service, delicious wines and picturesque
land, through continuing a "backstage" tour of the facilities...

First, we headed downstairs to the barrel room and I was overcome with the enticing scent of French oak and infant grapes, simply delicious (and luring!). Tina showed me around and I awkwardly admired the hundreds of barrels surrounding me (clearly you can tell from the pic on the left). It was then she asked me if I cared to do a tasting straight from the barrel, and who can deny that? I puckered up and piped out
small tastings of a variety of St. Supery's 2008 vintages - the Cab Franc and Merlot shockingly caught my attention most.

I also had the opportunity to be at the winery during a "crushing" day, so Tina escorted me outside to where a fresh batch of Cabernet had just come in and was being cleansed and destemmed. She grabbed me a grape bunch from the winemaker himself, and as I took my first bite I could
taste purple. The grapes were so tiny, yet boasting with sugar and flavor (and a tasteful crunch). She also showed me the compost made from all of the pomace leftover from the grape. And as the city girl I am, I played with it in heels!

We then continued our jaunt outside along the Rutherford Vineyard
terrain, which is the winery's main area located right off St. Helena Hwy in the heart of the Napa Valley. Rutherford consists of 35-acres and is primarily planted with red Bordeaux grapes, like Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cab Franc.

Between picking grapes straight from the vine (and devouring them), Tina grabbed us some
fresh figs and pointed out the cork trees that grew on the grounds (yes, they make real wine corks from these sorts of trees, lets plant more so we can bypass synthetics!). We then pr
oceeded into a discussion about sustainability in winemaking, which in my mind is becoming increasingly important. And despite the spacious amount of land, St. Supery has complete control over how their grapes are harvested and they strive to keep their land pristine through a combination of natural fertilizer, canopy management, and biodiversity. They have received certifications from both Napa Green Land and Fish Friendly Family.

Overall, I had a phenominal, once-in-a-lifetime experience out at St. Supery and I can't wait to go back. And if you're looking for a similar experience but can't get out to Napa anytime soon, don't fret! St. Supéry is taking the winery tasting room experience on the road for the industry’s first ever Tweetup Tour. They'll be stopping in each city listed below visiting restaurants:
Whether you attend online or in person, everyone is welcome and there is no charge. There will be special guests, including their wine maker (who will appear via U-Stream) and you can also join in the conversation on St.Supéry’s custom TasteLive page or Twitter using the #stsupery hash tag. In order to provide the opportunity to taste along online, the winery has created “taste packs” 4-packs of wine sold at a special price.

For more information, visit