Sunday, August 4, 2013

White Wines for Summer and Beyond!

   Strictly a rosé person during the summer months, this year I find myself crossing over into the wonderful world of white wines. Typically, my repertoire has consisted of a smattering of whites, but heatwaves and hazy, humid days have pushed me more frequently towards cool, crisp, fruity whites.

Listed below are a few of my favorites:

Anselmo Mendes, Vinho Verde, Portugal, Alvarinho, 2012: I recently happened upon this white wine at a store tasting of Portuguese wines. With similar characteristics to Sauvignon Blanc, Alvarinho is a fruity varietal with notes of citrus, grapefruit, and apple. A rich, refreshing wine that pairs well with grilled white fish, this retails for $19.99 a bottle.

Brancott Estate, Marlborough, New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc, 2012: Rated by wine critics as having some of the world's best Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand is turning out a plethora of outstanding wines. This aromatic, full-flavored white is well- balanced and fresh. It is a great deal at $9.99 a bottle.

Cakebread, Napa Valley, CA, Chardonnay, 2011: Not a fan of Chardonnays, this is probably the only one I will drink. I find them typically heavy, oaky and too buttery. Cakebread gets it right, performing both oak and stainless steal fermentation. Treat yourself to this well-balanced, robust wine which retails at approximately $44.99 a bottle.

Chateau Magence Graves Blanc, Bordeaux, France, Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon, 2010: I discovered this white a few summers ago at a wine store tasting and have been drinking it ever since. At the time I was fearful of French wines, not able to read the labels. Taking my first wine course, I just started exploring French wines, building my confidence; this was one of my first pick. From the Graves region in Bordeaux, this blend is golden in color, medium-bodied, fruity and a great value at $10.99.

Villa Masetti, Soave, Italy, Pinot Grigio, 2011: As a novice wine drinker in my early 20s, Pinot Grigio was my go-to wine. Years later I gravitated away from them, exploring other wines, but this Pinot Grigio has made me want to start drinking them again. Medium-bodied and refreshing, this mellow wine is a great deal at $10.29 a bottle.

   With the thousands of grape varietals out there, I only mentioned a few of my preferred white wines. I would love to hear which whites you are uncorking this summer – do share!
   On a more personal note, I would be remiss if I did not mention I am aware I have been neglectful with my postings lately. Life has taken a slight detour, but please rest assured, all will be well within a few months. I have been given the go ahead and my consumption of white wine will extend past the summer months. My doctor has given me the green light to imbibe in the occasional glass of wine. White wine is recommended, as red can cause reflux during my treatments. I promise to post when I can so please hang in. Thank you for your continued support!

Cin Cin!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Wine Storage

   Hopefully everyone had a relaxing and safe 4th of July holiday. I trust you all made some great wine choices as you celebrated with family and friends while sweltering around the grill.
   By now you should also have experienced the joy of receiving your shipment from WinesTilSoldOut (WTSO), having taken advantage of the great deals on Cheapskate Wednesday a couple of weeks ago. If so, you may now be faced with the dilemma of wine storage. When considering the proper storage of your unopened bottles (especially now, during these balmy days), please remember the following:
  • 55°F is the average storage temperature for wine. Keep it consistent. 
  • Direct light can change the flavor of your wine. Store all wines away from light. 
  • The optimal humidity level for storage should be between 65-75%. This keeps the cork from shrinking, leading to oxidation. 
  • Always store wine on its side. This will also help keep the cork from shrinking, which causes the wine to spoil. 
   Depending on your living space, there are a few options for storing wine:
   Wine Storage Coolers: One of the best Christmas gifts I ever received is a wine storage cooler. Depending on your budget, these coolers come in all different sizes, shapes and price points. They can be set to chill red, white or both if they are on the larger side.
   Wine Cellar/Basement: Assuming you are fortunate enough to have the space and the funds, you can go all out and build a wine cellar, adding a tasting room if you are really lucky. If you do not have the resources, set up a few racks in your basement, where it is dark and cool enough for storage.
: If you have a spare closet and are handy, you can fully convert the space into a “wine cellar”. Otherwise, clear out a area in a cool, airtight closet in your living space and add a few storage racks. 

   Long or short term, it is important you properly store your unopened bottles of wine at home. A cooler, a cellar or a closet, either one of these are a viable option to keep wines safe for the everyday enthusiast. 

Cin Cin!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Cheapskate Wednesday at WTSO!

   I just received an email announcement from WinesTilSoldOut (WTSO); this week, June 19 is “Cheapskate Wednesday”. The marathon will run from 6am until midnight Eastern Time, featuring a new wine every 15 minutes or sooner if they sell out. If you have not signed up yet, you really should join this website to take advantage of the low prices and great fun!
   Here are some additional event details:

  • Every item will be priced from $7.99 to $18.99.
  • Ground shipping is FREE on orders of four or more bottles. 
  • Except for individual requests to ship wine on a future date, all orders will ship from their warehouse by June 24th, 2013. 
  • All orders MUST be placed online - no phone orders will be accepted. 
  • They will send an email notice ONLY when the event begins. There will be NO EMAIL notices for any specific item during the event. 
  • The only method of notification for EVERY item will be Twitter (details below). This is the fastest way to follow all the offers so you don't miss a wine. Otherwise please visit for the live deal. 
   So hunker down, uncork a bottle of your favorite wine (this will make it more entertaining!) and try to score a few great deals this Cheapskate Wednesday. Have fun!

Cin Cin!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Special Delivery!

   Second to strolling through a wine store, there is nothing more exciting than receiving a shipment of wine through the mail. The anticipation of its arrival, catching sight of your purchase waiting for you, carefully cutting into the box, reeling with the promise of what is inside; it feels like Christmas morning each time a shipment arrives. Ordering from online clubs and stores is a convenient way to enjoy wine in today's busy and hectic world. It is also an easy way to expand your wine knowledge, experience wines you may not otherwise think to purchase.
   Unfortunately, not everyone can take advantage of these opportunities, due to state shipping laws. If are lucky enough to live in a state that permits alcohol shipping (the below sites list these states), the following are some clubs and stores for you to explore:

  • WSJ Wine (From The Wall Street Journal): This is one of the better direct to home wine clubs out there. WSJ offers just two members only clubs - Discovery (selected wines) and Premier (luxurious wines). In each club you receive a 12 bottle shipment every 3 months, choosing either a red, white or mixed case. There is no contract once you join; it is easy to cancel at any time. If you find something you like, you can also shop on their site for individual bottles. It is a no-brainer for the first time joiner; only two clubs to choose from.

  • Gary's Wine Club: Retail wine stores like Gary's Wine & Marketplace also offer their own wine clubs. Gary's provides seven clubs at various levels and price points. Like WSJ, there is no contract and the month to month memberships can be canceled at any time. If you are looking for more choices than WSJ, Gary's offers flexibility and exclusive wine opportunities with his memberships. You should also check out your favorite local wine store to see if they have a wine club available.

  • WTSO (WinesTilSoldOut): Unlike the other two sites, WTSO is an online store that sells one wine at a time at 30-70% off the original retail price. The wine remains on the site until it is sold out, the cycle continues for 24 hours, and they seldom show more than five wines a day. There is no fee to join; you simply sign up for email alerts. The only downside to this site is once you find something you like, you may never have it again. I liken it to a (really good) one night stand! It is best to take advantage of the free shipping, order the minimum number of bottles (usually 4), and extend the romance to at least a long weekend. Also, look out for their marathon days where within a 24 hour period they sell 48-120 different wines at even lower prices. You have to be really quick; everything goes faster during these selling sprees.
   As I noted, along with the ease and convenience of online wine clubs comes the benefit of knowledge. Memberships include tasting notes in every shipment with each bottle, as well as food pairing suggestions and information about the wineries. WTSO posts this information for each wine on their site so you can peruse it before purchasing.
   So whether you choose to be a joiner or decide to give WTSO a whirl, the excitement and benefits of receiving wine through the mail is something you should experience. Hopefully your state permits the shipping of alcohol; if not, you may want to consider moving or buying that second home!

Cin Cin!      

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Grill Mates

   Now that Memorial Day has kicked off the unofficial start of summer here in the States, barbecue grills everywhere will remain fired up for the next few months, sending up smoke signals far and wide. Out of fear, confusion and habit, the majority of the populace will imbibe in beer or blender drinks during the grill season. Shying away from drinking wine, some people just don't know what pairs well with the plethora of seared items served up at summer cookouts.
   Rather than flashback to the 80s and pick up a four pack of wine coolers, try some of these pairings at your next gathering around the grill:

  • Beef: If you are tossing some steaks or burgers on the barbecue, try a bottle of Malbec, Syrah, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. A well-balanced and aromatic Malbec, 2011 Don Miguel Gascon from Mendoza, Argentina is one of my favorites.

  • Chicken: Grilled chicken pairs well with either red or white. Uncork a Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Grenache. 2010 Ferrari Carano Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma's Alexander Valley is a great match for chicken. However, if you slather barbecue sauce on your fowl to give it some zing, best to uncork a Zinfandel. Try a bottle of the 2010 Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel I recommended recently.

  • Pork: Pork is a very versatile grill meat. Lambrusco, a slightly sparking sweet red wine, is a great pairing for sausage. If you are serving up a grilled pork chop, the best wine to uncork is Pinot Gris, Grenache, or Cabernet Franc. Originating in Spain, Grenache (Garnacha) is the most widely planted red wine grape in the world. 2009 Las Rocas is a full bodied Garnacha from the Calatayud region in Spain. The taste will transform as the wine stands in the glass, for an amazing experience. If you are grilling some ribs, spicing them up with a rub, try that Zinfandel.
  • Grilled vegetables, tuna and veggie burgers and the all-American hot dog pair well with a cool, crisp Rosé. Try one of the versatile rosés I recommended last week.

   I know how tempting it is to just grab a cold one or gravitate like a bee to the sweet, fancy umbrella drinks. Whether you find yourself hosting or attending, share your knowledge and uncork one of the above bottles the next time you get your grill on.

Cin Cin!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Rosé By Any Other Name

   Last evening I uncorked my first rosé of the season. Usually I wait for more balmy temperatures before cracking one open, but I fear at this point it will be September before we start feeling anything close to spring, let alone summer. During the warm weather months I drink more rosés, with a smattering of whites; rarely any reds.
   The term rosé (French), rosado (Spanish) or rosato (Italian) literally means pink. The shades of the wines vary, depending on the grape variety used and how long the skin is in contact with the juice during the winemaking process. Rosés are produced still or sparkling and range in levels from bone-dry to very sweet. The sweeter rosés are better known as blush wines or White Zinfandels. This is a whole other topic!
   Hands down, the largest producer of rosés is France, with the majority of the production coming out of Provence, followed by Rhone and Loire. Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Argentina and the United States are all noted for their own distinct styles of rosés.
   Drier rosés are more versatile and are easy to pair with just about anything. They combine well with grilled vegetables, seafood (grilled shrimp or salmon) or a Spanish paella. Grilled chicken, pork, steak or veal are also a good match for this wine as well as spicy foods. Indian curries, Thai dishes and Moroccan-style meals work extremely well with rosés.
   A few of my favorite dry rosés come from the aforementioned areas above:
  • 2009 Les Heritiers Dubois At a tasting in a local wine store, I sampled this rosé from Anjou in the Loire Valley. Produced from a Cabernet Franc grape, I continue to buy this one each summer; I am never disappointed. It retails for $8.99.
  • 2011 Crios de Susana Balbo – From Mendoza in Argentina, this wine is 100% Malbec. Retailing for about $11.99 this deep, lively rosé has aromas of strawberries and cherries, with some spicy notes.
  • 2012 Mas de Cadenet This is the one I opened last evening. I discovered this Cotes de Provence rosé at a recent tasting at Gary's. It is a Grenache blend and retails for $14.99.
  • 2009 Pala Silenzi – I actually found this on a clearance rack in a wine store and have been looking for it since. From Isola dei Nuraghi (Sardegna) this rosé is a blend ofAs 50% each Monica and Sangiovese grapes. The clearance price was $6.99. I wish I had picked up a few more bottles. If anyone comes across it, please let me know.
  • Jaume Serra Cristalino Cava – I picked up this sparkling rosé for New Year's Eve. From the Catalunya region in Spain, this blend is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Trepat. It was quite a deal for $10.99.
   As the temperatures warm up and spring turns into summer, there is nothing more refreshing than uncorking a crisp, cool bottle of rosé, still or sparkling. If you haven't already done so, you should expand your palate and explore the wonderful world of rosé wines.

Cin Cin! 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What Wows You About a Wine Bottle?

   Quite recently a friend admitted she bought a bottle of wine wholly based on the name of the wine and the label. This got the wheels turning, made me wonder if there are others out there who purchase a wine purely using your visual sense. Is it the name that catches your eye, the label design, the shape of the bottle or some other characteristic that draws you to a wine? I must confess, even an experienced oenophile will sometimes give in to temptation, take a chance and pick up an unusual bottle. 

Dearly Beloved, I Thee Red
Regina's Pick: A clever name, with an artistic bottle.
Cupcake Pinot Noir
Sarah's Pick: A cutesy name.

Bully Hill Sweet Walter's Red
Lauralyn's Pick: Unique label.
Lisa's Pick: Bought a bottle for the glass cork.

Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin
My Pick: Matching label & cork.

   It is very common for winemakers to create catchy names, flashy labels or gimmicky packaging to entice the consumer. Has anyone else out there bought a wine because they have been wowed by the bottle? If so, it would be really great to hear about your wine experience.

Cin Cin!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Homage to the Vine

   At this time of year, in vineyards around the world, there is an amazing phenomenon taking place. Viticulturists (cultivators of grape vines) everywhere are beginning the early stages of what is known as the seasons of the vine. By now most have completed the first stage in the process leading to harvest called pruning. Pruning is the method of cutting the previous year's dead or overgrown branches and stems to encourage new, healthier growth on the vine. The sections of the vine are the trunk, followed by the cordon or “arm”, then the cane and the shortened cane called the spur. Pruning can start as early as January or February and continues through to harvest and usually after.
   The new growth, known as bud break, is when new shoots begin to push through and we see the first signs of green on the vines. As the buds break, the vines start flowering. This is the stage immediately prior to fertilization when small flower clusters appear on the new growth. Once the fertilized flower develops a seed and a grape berry to protect the seed, this stage is called fruit set. At this point the tiny berries are green, hard and have very little sugar. There is a spike in the sugar levels and the green fruit will begin to turn red. This is known as veraison and so begins the ripening process of the grapes, which takes about 40-50 days.
   All of this ultimately leads to harvest, which is when the grapes are pulled from the vines and go through the winemaking process (a whole other blog entry). In the Northern Hemisphere this takes place between August and October, while in the Southern Hemisphere it occurs between February and April. Harvest is determined mainly by the ripeness of the grapes, but weather and vine disease can help a viticulturist decide when to begin the procedure as well.                          
   Two years ago, I had the pleasure of experiencing pruning first hand at my cousin Lisa's “vineyard” up in Maine. Yes, you heard right, Maine! Lisa first planted in 2006 and now has 42 vines (just under .25 acres) of Frontenac, Marechal Foch and a few Noiret - all red grapes. Because of the colder climate in Maine, she performs a double-pruning process each season. During the first pruning, she leaves four canes with 20 buds untouched and then shortens them (spurs) during the second, leaving about 10 buds and tying back the vines. 
   When I was visiting two years ago in March, we started the first round of pruning in the snow. I was amazed by the care that is taken when cutting away the old growth; it is not done willy-nilly. Before cutting, you must assess the vines; see what has the most potential to produce bud break and survive the possible frost. There is a lot of studying, cutting, and tying back of the vines; whole process is an art.

Before pruning (Lisa's vines, Maine)

After pruning (Lisa's vines, Maine)

   So next time you uncork your favorite bottle of wine, think about where the grapes originate. Most people only visualize the actual winemaking process and what often comes to mind is the classic I Love Lucy episode where Lucy stomps the grapes in the huge vat, making everyone laugh with her impeccable comedic timing. We forget about all the hard work that goes into the growing process and the seasons of the vine.

Cin Cin!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pinot Noir: The Elegant Grape

   Since spring officially sprung over a month ago and the weather can't seem to make up it's mind, I thought I would give a shout out to my red “of the moment”, Pinot Noir, before we leap right into summer. During the colder months, I tend to gravitate towards a single red varietal (specific wine or grape), sampling different brands. The gravitational pull typically occurs while I am out socially at a bar or dining with friends. My home wine cooler, however, is always stocked with an assortment to satisfy my other red wine urges.
   The name Pinot Noir comes from the French words “pine” and “black”, referring to the dark purple pine cone shaped clusters of fruit that grow on the vines. Grown mostly in cooler climates, it thrives in France (Burgundy and Champagne), northern Italy, western Germany, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States to name a few. The latter is recognized as one of the major Pinot producers in the world with its most notable examples coming from California's Sonoma County, Central Coast's Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County and Willamette Valley in Oregon.
   A dry wine, Pinot Noir is light to medium bodied with cherry, raspberry, blackberry and strawberry on the nose and palate. Hints of warm spices also come through in the fuller bodied Pinots; cinnamon, clove and smokey tobacco.
   Also a flexible wine, Pinot Noir can be paired with a variety of ethnic cuisines and traditional favorites. Ideal pairings include chicken, pork, beef, fish, lamb, wild game, mushrooms, fresh herbs, cheese and chocolate. The best cheese pairings are Asiago, Blue, Brie, Camembert, Feta, Fontina, Gorgonzola, Gruyere, Havarti and Swiss.
   A few of my favorite Pinots come from the aforementioned areas above:
  • 2011 Hahn Estates Pinot Noir - While out celebrating the New Year with some friends this January, we uncorked a bottle (maybe it was two!) of this Pinot. Hailing from Soledad, CA (Monterey County), this wine retails for about $11.99, though in the restaurant we paid about $40.00, which always kills me.
  • 2010 Firesteed Oregon Pinot Noir - At a tasting in a local wine store, I sampled this Pinot, from Rickereall, OR  (Willamette Valley). The winemaker procures the fruit from the Willamette, Umpqua, Rogue and Walla Walla Valleys, producing a genuine Oregon blend. It retails for about $13.99.
  • 2009 Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir - Awhile back I did a wine exchange with a friend and she shared this Pinot from Valle Central, Chile. Do not let the price scare you; I have seen it for as low as $4.99. It definitely competes with any of the more expensive Pinots.
  • 2009 Mt. Difficulty Pinot Noir - My friends at the Marriott recently recommended this Pinot from Central Otago, New Zealand. I found this one became smoother, the longer I let it breathe. It retails for about $28.79.
Whether you enjoy it on its own, with a mushroom risotto, steak fajitas, or chocolate-covered strawberries, Pinot Noir is known for being one of the more elegant grape varietals. However you fancy it, just crack open your favorite bottle or one of the ones I have mentioned and share your experience. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cin Cin!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Gem of a Wine Store

   Last weekend I discovered a gem of a wine store in New Jersey of all places. Gary's Wine and Marketplace, however, is not just a wine store; it is a one-stop shop for wine, beer, spirits, gourmet items and wine related gifts. With a few locations throughout New Jersey, I stumbled upon the place on Route 23 in Wayne, NJ thanks to my friend Liz.
   Just as Charlie Bucket entered the Chocolate Room at the Wonka Factory in awe, I stood in the doorway with the same wonder, gazing at all the bottles at my disposal. A courteous wine advisor immediately asked if I needed assistance. Not sure if he was just doing his job or if he thought I required medical attention, I let him know I needed a moment to myself, as I absorbed what lay before me.
   I finally composed myself and mentally came up with a plan of action. With six-pack bag in hand, I made my way around the store like a giddy kid. I must have looked confused as I pin-balled around the store in excitement; another adviser asked if I needed help. While we stood in front of the Italy section I searched for a Montepulciano I recently had. He suggested a popular brand they sell – 2010 Natale Verga Montepulciano. It was a fine recommendation, decently priced; I uncorked it that evening. It has a very smooth finish; I would definitely buy it again.
   As I made my way around the reds and filled my bag with other great deals, I worked up a sweat, started thinking about the warm weather ahead and a crisp rose. He led me to the front of the store to a dozen or so on display. At this point I also discovered they do tastings every Saturday from 12pm-4pm (4 wines per person). I sampled a rose 2012 Mas de Cadenet which was dry, light and fresh. I immediately added it to my bag, along with another rose from my list. Six-pack complete!
   Before heading to the checkout, I meandered through the gourmet area and the gifts. They appear to have everything you could ever need, from cheese, crackers, and dips to napkins, plates, and gift baskets; Gary has thought of it all. If you cannot make it to New Jersey, their website is amazing as well. You can order everything online or join a wine club.
   So if you ever find yourself in, passing through or lost in New Jersey, you definitely should wander into Gary's Wine and Marketplace. In the time it takes to make a Jersey u-turn, you may uncover some really great wines!


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Welcome, Wineaux! (pronounced Wy-noze)

     On this, April 17 Malbec World Day, it only seems apropos that I write my very first entry and introduce you all to Wineaux. Many of you who know me are aware that I have been an oenophile (a lover of wines) for some time. Since I started working again full-time over a year ago, I really miss the free time I had to roam the local wine stores, to visit events and tastings or to attend a class.
     Before returning to work, I was unemployed for nine months and spent hours in the wine stores, scanning the shelves, just reading the labels and wine descriptions. It brought me such joy; I used to joke that I would have dusted the bottles and shelves for free (or for a bottle or two!). 
     At the time I was also taking a really intense wine class. Once a week for twenty-four weeks, me and a room full of twenty-somethings learned about grape varieties, regulation and legislation, climate, geography, soil, industry statistics, and specific grape growing and winemaking techniques. It was a lot to absorb while sipping six to eight wines each week. 
     Now over a year later I find myself frustrated, with little time to spare to do the things I enjoy most. This page was created as a way to express myself, uncork my enthusiasm and dispense my knowledge for wine. It could be a new store I wander into, a label I like, or a unique wine pairing; everything and anything wine, all brought to you with a touch of humor. It is my hope that you will join me on this new adventure as I believe, deep down inside, we are all wineaux.