August 31, 2009

Best of Labor Day: Fortant '06 Chardonnay

With the coming of Labor Day comes the imminent change of season. For me, my summer wine menu is consistently chock-full of light, crisp, aromatic wines that boast some of the season's freshest fruits. So before heading into the colder months (where oaky reds are likely going to be my refuge) there's one elegantly structured white wine worth recommending which will help you reminisce of your days of fun in the sun.

Fortant, owned by the Robert Skalli family, is a pioneer of Southern French wines. Now, typically I'm not a Chardonnay fan (you know I'm a sucker for a Sauvignon Blanc!), however, their 2006 Chardonnay worth a mention. Not only is it brillantly structured with subtle aromas of pears and roasted hazelnuts, but its light yellow-gold straw color mimics the sun on an beautiful New York City day. The mouth is smoothly creamy with a pleasant viscosity and notes of vanilla and fig. If you're looking for an inexpensive wine with great expression, this one's your bet.

Cost: $6.99/bottle (move over Franzia!)
Pairing Suggestion: Great with seafood, particularly shellfish

August 30, 2009

To Decant or Not to Decant...

Ever hosted a party with a prized cellared wine? Happened to have hosted a similar gathering but substituted with a younger option? Ever fully understood which of these two prized posessions needed to be decanted and which might not necessarily need it?

Have no fear! We have a few quick tips to help put you on your way:

1) Old wines that have been cellared will likely contain sediment because of the aging process. By properly decanting the wine, the sediment will remain in the bottle (hooray - no weird floaters!)

2) Young, full-bodied red wines can also benefit from decanting because as the wine takes in oxygen, the aromas are released. (Tip: If you choose to decant your red wine, choose a wide bottomed option as it has more surface area for the oxygen to allow aromas from the wine to be released. Spiegelau has two great new options, the Siena and the Riva. Wait to read below).

3) Using a decanter can simply be for presentation. After all, a delicious wine in a beautiful crystal casing adds to the ambiance and experience.

Putting it to the test! First, the bottle..

I picked up a bottle of '05 Abbotts Flavius (Coteaux de Languedoc) from The Traveling Vineyard (after all, the South of France normally never steers me in the wrong direction). Interestingly enough, this bottle definitely exuded different characteristics straight out of the bottle vs.
when decanted.

Next, the decanter...
I grabbed the new Riva decanter from Spiegelau because I adore its versatility. I was planning to enjoy a simple dinner at home and it parlayed with pure elegance with everyday style. Its flat bottom and curved walls provide a generous surface area which allowed for maximum breathing space. The gently undulating walls also helped ensure that I could swirl the wine well and aerate further when pouring.

Comparing before and after...
  • Out-of-the-Bottle: Dark ruby in color, you can immediately smell the alcohol content off the nose. Luckily it steadily fades into more creamy notes of both dark fruit and prune scents. At the taste, its very woody, acidic and even a bit spicy, but the unique thing is that it had a very tart-like finish.
  • After Decanting: After letting it breathe, the flavors really opened up and the acidity was a bit more subtle and balanced which gave it a renewed freshness in sort. More flavors came through including, hints of dark berries and pepper in the upfront and tobacco and chocolate on the finish.
And the verdicts in...

This wine actually won a silver, highly recommended best buy for France at the 2007 World Wine Championships, and I personally trust the authorities, so long as you decant it properly (might I add I would also suggest pairing it with a light meat to make your experience most enjoyable).

Where to Buy the Wine: The Traveling Vineyard
Cost: $14.99

Where to Buy the Decanter: Spiegelau
Cost: $99.00

August 27, 2009

Best of Labor Day: Senor Sangria

It's time to continue our "Best of Labor Day" selections with (debatably) the most-popular summertime libation... sangria! I mean, who doesn't enjoy the blend of wine with the fresh tastes of ripened fruit?

The good news is that the folks at Senor Sangria have created a bottle that requires hardly any effort from you. Created from a home recipe, this sangria tastes like the sangria you would make yourself. It combines premium ingredients like Chilean Merlot and all-natural fruit juices with nothing artificial. It's basically ready to serve straight out of the bottle - simply grab a pitcher with ice, dice up some of your favorite summertime fruits, and pour in contents from the bottle, and tah-dah, you're ready to serve.

Its perfect of any outdoor summer event, especially when you're looking for something a little bit sweet. If you really want to win over the crowd, complement it with some paella. After all, who said you can't add a little Spanish flare to your holiday weekend?

Cost: $9/bottle
Where to Buy: Wine Library

August 26, 2009

Best of Labor Day: Pommery POP Champagne

Alright kiddos, Labor Day is just around the corner, and that not only gives us a good excuse to whip up some delectable party cuisine, but also to be adventurous and try some new wines.

We, WinoBees have put our heads together to provide you with some of the best solutions for waving buh-bye to summer and are delighted to share them with you... cue our "Best of Labor Day" series, featuring great cuisine and (of course) delicious wine options!

And what better way to kick things off than by uncorking the festivities... literally! You may think that bubbly is reserved for "special occasions," but I'll challenge you enough to ask what truly defines those moments? Yes, it can be in celebration of something eventful, but it can also be as simple as toasting off the end of a fabulous
(and flavorful) summer! And when doing so, don't discount champagne!

Champagne is a great choice for barbecues and picnics, as it pairs well with burgers and simple desserts. When gearing up for your Labor Day festivities, pack Pommery POP Champagne- its the perfect party-portable choice! Bottles are only 187mL, thus perfect for individual consumption (afterall, who really wants to share?). Simply pack a few bottles in your cooler, grab a straw and bypass the glasses. You'll still have a free hand for all that delicious food overwhelming your checkered tablecloth.

Cost: $10.99/bottle
Where to Buy: Morrell

August 25, 2009

Tasting Note Tuesday - Keesha Vineyards Pinot Noir (8/25/09)

Mendocino County is one of the lesser known wine regions in California. It's not as prominent as Napa or Sonoma, and probably not even as well known as more recently popular regions, like Paso Robles, Santa Barbara (Sideways), etc. However, it's a region that should not be over-looked.

Mendocino is located about 3 hours North of San Franscisco and has been producing wines since the gold rush years in the 1850's. Prohibition almost destroyed the wine region (as it did most of California's wine regions) and it wasn't until the late 1960's and the wine boom did Mendocino County start to flourish once again.

It is home to mostly small, unknown wineries (over 75 in total), but there are some bigger names that call Mendocino home including Fetzer and Parducci. This wine, Keesha Vineyards, is one of the lesser known wineries and they specialize in pinot noir, petite sirah, and cabernet franc.

2006 Keesha Vineyards Pinot Noir - USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County

Right out of the bottle, I thought to myself, "Wow! This is Welch's Grape Juice... only with alcohol." But after about 10 minutes, the glass improved. Dark ruby in color, the nose reminds me of grape jelly/juice. There was more going on with the flavors including hints of sweet strawberries and vanilla/oak. But the 'concord grape' note was certainly dominant. More of the same on the palate, but I got more of a 'strawberries and cream' note than anything else. The tannins were smooth, and the finish short... meaning drink this one ASAP. This is a sweet/fruity wine and would appeal to those looking to get into red wines.

My Take: Good
Cost: $11/bottle

August 19, 2009

Deal Buzz: Sparkling Sofitel Rendezvous!

By now I'm sure you know that I call DC my second home. After all, its where I spent the first 18 years of my life. I'm sure you also now by now that I'm a sucker for a good deal... and a solid glass of wine. So what happens when you combine all those attributes together? A weekend of bubbling sophistication, thats what!

For all you DC locals (and for those looking for a lavish trip), be sure to check out the Sparkling Sofitel Rendezvous at the Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square. The hotel has teamed up with Champagne Pommery to help showcase that the French are the definitive experts on luxury (now don't judge, the French did bless us with the region of Champagne, so play nice in the sandbox!)

And what does this mean for you? Well, the property is offering guests an extraordinary gift when they purchase a special bottle of Pommery's iconic tete de cuvee, Cuvee Louise 1998 Champagne for $299... a complimentary room for one night in the luxurious accommodations of the French style hotel. Thats a pretty damn good deal considering that the Cuvee Louise is a prestige selection which boasts extreme purity and vivacity! Can I get me a bottle?

To secure your reservation, call 202-730-8800. This special partnership is only valid through December 31st.

August 18, 2009

Tasting Note Tuesday - One from Eric Solomon

For WinoBees like myself, I'm sure you don't give much thought about how the wine we drink gets to our table. Sure, we may think about the winery and the winemaker... and sure, we know how it got from the store to our glass... but what about the middleman? The importer?

Well, one of the world's best importers is Eric Solomon of European Cellars and at the young age of 18, Eric was introduced to wine while working at a wine bar in England while performing as a drummer with the London City Orchestra. By the time he moved back to the U.S. at age 24, Eric was a prestigious "Master of Wine" and got a job as sales rep and served many famous clients including Windows on the World.

He advanced quickly in his company, but had another calling. At 35, he left to start his own company as an importer. He started small with unknown Rhone producers, then grew his company to include more of France, Spain and small amounts of Portugal. Now he is one of the most influential importers and was even named Food and Wine Magazine’s 2007 Top US Importer.

2007 Château Pesquié Côtes du Ventoux Terrasses - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Ventoux

I'm starting to think I don't personally have an affinity for "custom cuvees for Eric Solomon". Popped and poured. The wine has a dark/deep purple color that fades to light purple on the edges. On the nose, this exhibits floral scents along with strawberries, smoke, and a slight hint of raisins. On the palate, I was very disappointed with how light the fruit was. Hints of raspberries, herbs/leather and plum are all there... just very faint. The tannins are firm, so it could just be that the wine is in a dumb phase, although I would doubt that since the finish was extremely short as well. I had this over 3 hours and there wasn't much change.

My Take: Average
Cost: $10/bottle

August 17, 2009

Event Buzz: Wine & Sangria Pig Roast Festival

Attention New Yorkers! The Wine & Sangria Pig Roast Festival at Brotherhood Winery will take place on August 29th in Washingtonville, NY. Details are below if you care to join the festivities:

Date: Saturday, August 29th
Time: 12:00pm - 8:00pm
Where: Brotherhood Winery - 100 Brotherwood Plaza, Washingtonville, NY
Cost: $36 plus tax

Whats on the menu? Whole roasted pig, St. Louis style BBQ ribs, Smoked Turkey, Hot Dogs, Burgers, and all the side dishes you can imagine (oh yeah, and loads of SENOR SANGRIA too-check back for review post soon!)

Tickets are selling fast and must be ordered in advance. To buy yours, visit:

August 14, 2009

Is drinking wine bad for you?

Was perusing through Eating Well magazine during my bi-weekly mani/pedi this evening and saw a highlight about the positives and negatives of wine consumption, so I figured I would quickly share the buzz about our favorite beverage for those of you not in the know:
  • Glass Half Empty: According to new research from Oxford, women who drink even just 1 glass of wine per day have an increased risk of some cancers (particularly breast cancer). Not to let this scare you, it all comes back to the level of consumption which if drank in moderation has a relatively low risk of harm. Just remember low risk is not no risk.
  • Glass Half Full: New research from Tufts University says that drinking alcohol might help keep bones strong. The study found that beer and wine drinkers had more bone density than individuals who consumed liquor. Why is this? Beer and wine contain silicon which helps promote bone formation. Wine also contains polyphenols that may stimilate bone building. Pass the milk, go for the red!

August 12, 2009

BUZZ ALERT: NYC Wine & Food Festival is back!

The NYC Wine & Food Festival is returning for its second year with events being held October 8th through 11th in Manhattan. 100% of proceeds will benefit the Food Bank for New York City and Share Our Strength.

Another year with a phenominal star-lit lineup including cooking demos, discussion panels, book signings and special tasting events with Bobby Flay, Rachael Ray, Tom Colicchio, Guy Fieri, Giada De Laurentiis and many more.

There are also a few new events happening this year including:

Presented by Allen Brothers and hosted by Paula Deen

Hosted by Ming Tsai

Presented by
San Pellegrino and hosted by Giada De Laurentiis

Tickets are selling out quick, so be sure to log in and get yours soon! Our suggestion for past favs are on Burger Bash and Sweet, two of the hottest shows in addition to the Grand Tasting Tent last year.

For more information, visit for tickets and a full schedule of events! If you're planning to go, let us know with a comment on which events you'll be gearing

August 11, 2009

Tasting Note Tuesday - 2006 Dusted Valley Vineyards Cab "Boomtown" (Aug. 11, 2009)

Cork vs. Screwcap. There have been many heated debates as to the best topper for wine. Cork has been used to close bottles of wine for centuries. It is tradition. It is romantic. There is just something about opening a bottle and hearing that "pop".

But cork is not a perfect closure. It allows air into the bottle and can cause the wine to spoil. Now this won't happen over week/months, but if you have a cellar and age wine for years and even decades, there is a slight chance that air could seep through the cork and ruin your wine.

I personally have enjoyed buying wine with screwcaps. With a screwcap, I know that no air has leaked into the bottle and I know the wine won't be ruined. Sure, it doesn't have the romantic "pop" when I open it. In fact, it's more like a unceremonious 'crack'. And sure, it carries a certain "stigma" of Boones Farm or Carlo Rossi jug wine. But hey, this is my hard-earned cash. I don't want to waste it on something I can't enjoy. I can dispense with the romanticism for guarantees. What do you think? Leave a comment.

2006 Dusted Valley Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon Boomtown - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley

Screw cap... now this is what I like in a cheap, everyday quaffer. This reminded me of a Columbia Crest Cab, and for the price, I'm definitely going back for more. Initial nose of oak (vanilla), blackberry, plum and tobacco. In fact, at one point, I got the image of vanilla pipe tobacco that I love when someone smokes it. On the palate there is really lush blackberry and black cherry notes, with hints of plum. You can definitely get more of the oak/vanilla. With air, I pick up a slight chocolate/coffee note. I didn't finish the bottle, so I vacu-vinned the final glass and tried it the next day. This quickly falls apart, as all the dark fruit disappears, and mostly tastes sour and like smoke. As long as you finish this in one sitting, this is really enjoyable stuff.

Cost: $13/bottle
Rating: Very Good (if it didn't fall apart on day two, I would have given it... outstanding).

August 7, 2009

BUZZWORTHY: Drink More Red!

As if we needed more fodder to drink, here's something else to sip on... literally! Research suggests that moderate alcohol intake can produce a slight rise in HDL cholesterol (that's the good stuff, people).

Problem? That doesn't mean you need to head to Dos Caminos for a margarita or hit up Marquee to sip some Cosmos Carrie Bradshaw style. In fact, mixed drinks are loaded with sugar and are completely carb-o-licious, so try to steer clear.

Solution? Instead, switch to red wine (amen there is a substitution!); it has about a tenth of the carbs of a margarita, and you’ll also get antioxidants such as flavonoids that are believed to lower LDL (evil) while helping boost your HDL (good).

And is if I had to remind you... given the risks of alcohol, the American Heart Association recommends that you limit your daily intake to two glasses (for men) or one glass (for women) per day. Hey, they didn't say what sizes those glasses had to be!

Disclaimer: All jokes aside, excessive alcohol consumption can have a reverse effect - drinking too much can lead to high blood pressure and in turn heart failure or stroke. Please drink with caution.

Daily Beeswax: Price Matters

Who hasn't asked been one to ask, "does price matter?" when speaking of wine. And to us, this question is still a bit of a doozy.

Our mantra at WinoBee is that wine is completely subjective - and thats why we love it. While one person may enjoy an Old World Brunello, another may completely despise it. The age old rule is to find a wine that best appeases your palette, and everything else just falls into place... no matter the cost.

With that being said, a study by researchers at the California Institute of Technology and Stanford's business school did directly discover that the sensation of pleasantness that people experience when tasting wine is linked directly to its price. And we can't deny that higher-price wines (think over $20/bottle) tend to have more personality than their less expensive counterparts. These wines normally have more structure, intensity and complexity.

But if you prefer the $4 box of Franzia as compared to the $55 Justin Isoceles, just go for it! In the end, its your experience, so enjoy it the way you want! And on that note, I'm gonna go get me a "2 Buck Chuck" (yeah, I'm classy).

August 6, 2009

Daily Beeswax: New World vs. Old World

What better way to kick off our "Daily Beeswax" series than going back to the age-old question (literally) of New World vs. Old World wines. Rather than simply nodding your head next time your oeno-friend describes the attributes of the wine you're tasting as either/or, gear up to chime back in by using the following simple equation:

NEW WORLD WINES = Bold + High Alcohol + Full Body + Ripe Character
  • Where do they come from? These wines hail from warmer climates, and tend to be produced outside the wine-growing regions in Europe, in places such as Argentina, California, Chile, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • Example wine: Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc

OLD WORLD WINES = Less Fruit + Moderate Alcohol + Notes of Earthiness
  • Where do they come from? These wines learn toward elegance and subtlety and are primarily made in Europe, but also some places in North Africa and the Near East.
  • Example wine: Castello Banfi Brunello di Moltacino

Cliff Notes for Wine: While wines in the New World are often based on the varietal (like Chardonnay and Tempranillo), wines in the Old World are generally labeled by the region or place they come from (like Riber del Deuro or Mosel)

August 5, 2009

Introducing "The Daily Beeswax"

There's no doubt that the world of wine is an ever changing entity that leaves many of us tilting our heads in confusion. But like learning a foreign language, wine is something that we must study and re-study to ever get a grasp on it.

That's why we're launching "The Daily Beeswax," a series of daily tips aimed to help educate newbees and polish oldbees on wino basics. Each day, we'll uncover something new to learn about the oh-so-evolving-world-of-wine. And don't fret, like the crisp finish of Reisling on the palette, we'll keep everything short and sweet for you. Got a question? Leave a comment on the blog or tweet us! Want to submit a tip? Send it along to!

We look forward to making this an opportunity for wino lovers of all levels to engage in dialogue together. So, as they say at the amusement park... "sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!"

August 4, 2009

Tasting Note Tuesday - 2006 Cambria Pinot Noir 'Julia's Vineyard' (Aug. 4, 2009)

Continuing my taste through some 'inexpensive' pinots, I picked up this 2006 on the recommendation of a wine salesman.

Cambria has been making wines in Santa Barbara County for over 20 years. Their portfolio includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Their estate is divided into individual vineyards, and this wine comes from Julia's Vineyard... named for the owner's youngest daughter.

The vineyard is planted with a specific clone of pinot called the Pommard Clone, which comes from the Pommard Village in France's Burgundy region. The clone is noted as having more finesse, less power... more feminine, less in your face.

2006 Cambria Pinot Noir Julia's Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley

Popped, poured, and served with grilled salmon, zucchini and summer squash. This is an interesting wine... I couldn't quite pinpoint the aromas, except to say red fruit on the nose. Normally I can distinguish between the various red fruits, but not in this bottle. On the palate, it reminded me of strawberry jam. With air, the wine took on toffee/butterscotch notes, and the fruit turned to sour cherry. The finish was very short.

Cost: $10/bottle
Rating: OK - for the same price, go with last week's DeLoach recommendation

August 2, 2009

BUZZWORTHY: Santa Margherita Cooking Contest with Fabio Vivano


Top Chef's Fabio Vivano is partnering up with one of my fave wines, Santa Margherita, for the first-ever "Great Taste Challenge," a food and wine pairing contest for wine-lovers, where you can win a trip to Los Angeles to learn the ropes from Fabio himself.

Simply visit and submit one of your favorite recipes, alongside a short demo video about why your dish
pairs well with Santa Margherita wines. Entries are due no later than August 31st, so get to cooking (and drinking!)

Note: Finalists will be judged by Fabio in New York on September 24th and the winner will travel to Los Angeles for a 3-day extravaganza, which includes exclusive cooking lessons with Fabio at his restaurant, Cafe Firenze. Yummo!

August 1, 2009

BEEHind the Vine: Cuvaison

Since 1969, Cuvaison Estate has been hand-crafting classic Napa Valley wines. From vine to bottle, they aren't only producing vintages with elegant attributes, they're also doing their best to maximize sustainability. We had the opportunity to go BEEhind the Vine with Cuvaison's President, Jay Schuppert to chat about some their current initiatives (and of course a few other fun tidbits you'll want to know!)

Q: You began your career at Cuvaison in the sales/marketing division. Tell us a little about your journey with the winery and your where your passion for wine evolved from.

I joined the Cuvaison team 11 years ago starting out as their Sales & Marketing Director, and in 2002 was promoted to President. My background began with shifting positions at a mountain resort in Aspen, where I began as a disher, moved up to be their Executive Chef for 12 years and then served as General Manager for an additional 2 years.

Following, I decided to start all over again and worked for Hyatt as their Department Head in Maui. While there, I helped open their restaurant and was consumed by the wine purchasing aspect of it. After a few years, I got out of the restaurant business and moved back home to California where I got a job with a wholesale wine distributor and ran territory for 3 years - thats where I learned my skills from the wine side. I became one of their top sales people, when next thing I new Kendall-Jackson came knocking on my door and I went to work for them.

Despite all the shifts in my path, I've always been true to myself to do what it is I wanted to do. Cuvaison is home.

Q: You've just launched 2 new tasting rooms at both your properties. Can you elaborate a bit on the goal of those venues and the reason for the remodel?

We built the tasting rooms for a two reasons - there was a demand, and we wanted to implement our green initiatives into their design. When we went to build them, we put alot of effort into making them as efficient as we possibly could - including the insulation (which is made from recycled denim) and the 1,400 solar panels used which generate about 80% of our electricity. Everything was taken into consideration.

Q: Cuvaison has been certified by an array of green organization, including the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. Tell us a bit more about what these sustainability efforts actually mean.

We are a certified green business, which more than anything describes how we manage our energy and waste use, conversion of energy and recycling. It was a good time for us to think about what type of impact our business had on our staff, our neighbors and the land around us.

How you handle recycling is especially important. At Cuvaison we wanted to reduced our enviornmental footprint, so we purchased equipment that conserves energy, and even traded out equipement to be more energy efficient in the production facility. We also recycle all the water we use down in Carneros, which goes into a system where it cleans the water enough to where we can reuse it for such things as fire prevention and vineyard irregation.

We're excited about the green initiatives with our winery and our employees. The level of engagement from them is so important, too. We even encouraged our staff to do more ride sharing and saved 17,000 miles last year in doing so!

Q: You've also recently teamed up with the National Cork Recycling Program. Why did you become involved with this organization?

This is another small thing that can make a big difference. There are 13 billion corks used each year and most end up in landfills. We want to make people aware that there is a place where they can send their corks where they'll be grinded and use to make other materials.

We are also going into local restaurants and providing them recycling kits and signage so customers are aware of the ability to become involved.

Q: Is sustainable winemaking becoming more prominent among the industry as a whole?

Other wineries are defintiley doing their share too. In fact, we saw other wineries taking steps and knew "if they can do it, we can do it." Its viral.

Q: Now on to a few fun questions... what is your favorite Cuvaison wine and why?

I'm really proud of our Pinot Noirs. They are phenominally elegant, balanced and have refreshing qualities. They have beautiful feminine characteristics that take you away from the big powerful characteristics of other varietals, like Cabernet. I love the nuance in wine, and Pinot Noir gives you that nuance.

Q: If you're not sipping Cuvaison, what are you uncorking?

I also love Northern Italian wines, and I even belong to a Spanish wine club.

Q: You're about to enjoy the last meal on Earth - what would it be and how would you pair it?

It would have to be a beautifully aged Burgundy Grand Cru with Duck Confit, cooked to perfection - a little rosy on the inside and complimented with plum sauce.

Q: Cork, sythetic or screw cap?

I'm a traditionalist, I like the cork. It gives me that feeling that opening a bottle of wine is a festive occasion, and it always excites me when I hear it "pop." You don't get that with synthetics, not to mention they aren't recyclable. Screw caps get thrown away too. Someone should implement a screw cap recycling program.

For more information or to purchase Cuvaison wines, visit You can also follow the winery on Facebook and Twitter.