Friday, December 28, 2012

Champagne Primer

'Tis the season for bubbly! For many of us, though, this is one of the most daunting areas of the wine section. To help make your choice easier, we've assembled some basic information and ideas. Champagne or Sparkling Wine? Just as some wines and cheeses are only produced in a specific geographic area, only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France can be officially labeled "Champagne." Other European countries use other names for the sparkling wine they produce: Cava in Spain, Prosecco, Asti or Spumante in Italy and Sekt in Germany. Bubblies from California, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the several wine-producing countries of South America are generally referred to as sparkling wine or sparklers.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Party Planning


  •  Determine whether your event will be a sit-down affair, a casual cocktail party or a wine tasting event. The amount of food and time involved in a function will affect the amount of wine that you need.
  • Plan for a half-bottle of wine per guest for sit-down dinner.  This doesn't include dessert wines or wine for a toast. This could mean allowing for a full bottle per guest, or more for a long party or heavier drinkers. Once you have your estimate, add a couple extra bottles to be sure you don't run out.
  •  Estimate two glasses of wine during the first hour of a cocktail party and one glass each subsequent hour. You can reduce this amount if you are also serving beer and mixed drinks.
  •  Follow a traditional wine-tasting format by estimating one bottle for every 10 guests, serving 1 ounce per guest of each wine. For a small group, pour larger servings or set aside the leftovers for guests who want seconds of their favorites.
  • Cases of wine are an excellent idea for a party. If you only serve one kind of red and one kind of white, it will be easier to refill glasses as the party progresses.
  • Don't forget to have soft drinks, coffee, water and fruit juices available for everyone, and especially all of the designated drivers.
  • Make sure guests are safe to drive or have a designated driver.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What Is Decanting?

What Is Decanting? thumbnail
What Is Decanting?



To decant wine is to pour it from one vessel into another, either to expose it briefly to oxygen or to pour it away from the collection of sediment at the bottom of its bottle. There are many expensive and beautiful decanters available, but wine can also be satisfactorily decanted into any carafe or even a large wine glass.

Decanting to Aerate

  • Exposure to oxygen seems to "open up" both red and white wines -- softening the harsh, chalky feel of a red wine's tannins and mellowing the rich fruit flavors of a good white wine. Some people open a wine bottle 30 minutes or so before serving to let it "breathe," but aerating does more to improve the flavor. You can pour a bottle of wine into a decanter or pour a single serving into a large wine glass and let it sit. If you have a very good red wine that tastes harsh, try pouring it back and forth from one carafe to another for a few minutes.

Decanting for Sediment

  • Older, high quality red wines need decanting because they throw sediment. The sediment is made of spent yeast cells left from the fermentation process, plus some of the chemical compounds that give red wine its color. To decant for sediment, slowly pour the wine from its bottle into a clean glass carafe, taking care to stop pouring when the first grains of sediment enter the neck of the bottle. Work in a good light. Traditionally, a host would decant a red wine while holding the neck of the bottle near a candle, so as to see the sediment clearly.

What Wines Need Decanting?

  • The wines that most often need decanting, either for aerating or sediment, are fine Bordeaux varieties and vintage ports. Bordeaux wines are made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, which are high in the tannins and coloring agents that either make wine taste harsh or precipitate out over time, or both. Vintage ports age for years in the bottle, throwing off many spent yeast cells as they sit. Fine winemakers, in general, often leave their best wines unfiltered to take advantage of the flavors that develop from residual yeasts and even bits of grape skin remaining in the bottle.

The Decanter as Bottle

  • Modern decanters come in many fanciful shapes, and they often don't have stoppers. In past centuries, when people bought wine by the barrel, the decanter served as the wine bottle, so it needed a stopper. Today, most wine drinkers decant young, vigorous red wines for aeration and immediate consumption. The decanter is no longer a storage vessel.


  • A decanter can be pretty and fun to use, but since most good, economical wines don't need aeration and have no sediment, the decanter is often superfluous. They are surprisingly fragile and, after washing, the fanciest models are hard to dry thoroughly. They require storage space or display space. Simply glugging the wine roughly into your glass sufficiently aerates a good but everyday wine.
 by Nancy Yos - Ms. Yos lives, writes, and blogs in the south suburbs of Chicago. Her essays and book reviews have appeared in Commentary, First Things, and American Heritage, as well as in local newspapers. She is the Chicago Baking Examiner for, and freelances as an independent wine consultant.

Source: What Is Decanting? |

Pete's Tip:  A decanter would be a nice way to serve a red box wine with dinner.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fall Cocktails

A couple of drinks to enjoy this Autumn

The cheer is well known, but no matter your sports loyalities, a hot toddy is a nice way to welcome cooler weather.   A hot toddy is basically a shot or two of any potent spirit added to a cup of hot water, but the variations are unlimited.

Here is Hot Toddy recipe using apple brandy taken from Food and Wine online:

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups apple brandy
  • Eight 3-inch cinnamon sticks
In small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey until dissolved. Stir in the lemon juice and apple brandy. Set a cinnamon stick in each of 8 mugs or heatproof glasses, pour in the hot liquid and serve.

Thanksgiving is early this year.  Here is a Rosé Sangria with Cranberries and Apples to go with your feast.  It requires several ingredients and over-night chilling but the difficulty level is not high.  It would be beautiful in the family crystal!  Source: Food and Wine. 

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, diced
  • One 750-milliliter bottle rosé
  • 1/3 cup ruby port
  • 1/3 cup Cointreau
  • 1/3 cup cranberry juice
  • Ice cubes, for serving
In a saucepan, mix the water, sugar, crushed red pepper, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and star anise. Simmer the syrup over moderately low heat for 15 minutes. Strain into a bowl and add the cranberries and apples. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Strain the fruit, reserving the spiced syrup. In a large pitcher, mix the rosé with the port, Cointreau, cranberry juice, fruit and 3/4 cup of the spiced syrup. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Serve over ice.

Make Ahead: The sangria can be refrigerated for up to 6 hours

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Featured: Fulton's Harverst Pumpkin Pie Cream Liquer

The lush, creamy all-natural liqueur is the first-ever pumpkin pie cream liqueur and is immediately reminiscent of homemade pumpkin pie complete with the flavors rich vanilla, brown sugar and spices. It is best served chilled or on ice, as well as in coffee and in a variety of cream-based cocktails.
Seasonally available at Madison Cellars.

“Pumpkin and Spice and Everything Nice”


Monday, June 25, 2012

Summertime Wine in Mississippi

It’s back to being a hundred degrees every other day.  The air conditioner in the truck takes about as long to cool the cab down as it does to drive home.  All I want to do is get there and sit down in a cool, dark place and relax.  Picture this… a cold plate with a few grapes some sliced apple, mild cheese and crackers along side a nice cool glass of wine.  I like the dry wines as well as sweet but there is a time and place for either.  The drier style wines tend to make me thirsty.  I like the German styles better in the heat of the summer and Chardonnay with heavier dinner food.  The wines I’ve found recently are inexpensive and fun.  The Avive Peach sparkler really surprised me.  Fresh peach with a hint of sweet and the effervescent bubble gives it a creamy feel.  This is great for the patio late evening.

Tip of the week: Watch out leaving wine in the trunk of the car or on the seat in the late day.  It will ruin the wine to be in this kind of extreme heat.  If left for more than an hour or so the cork finish bottle may explode and that's is not fun to clean up.

Grilling’ season is coming back and there are some great wines to pair with these items.  Grilled hamburgers are paired well with red blends that have a good bit of Cabernet or Shiraz.  Apothic is very popular these days but, my favorite is Old School Red.  This blend is faily new to the store but, is selling quick.  Fruit forward and not too much tannin are a good match.  The Red blend known as Flirt can be chilled slightly and is good pizza or burger wine.  Ten minutes in the fridge is enough.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Madison Cellars Staff Wine Pick

2010 Envy Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley)

Brought to you by winemakers Nils Venge and Mark Carter, this is a luscious and bright summer wine ready to enjoy tonight! Bursting with aromas of pineapple and tastes of citrus, a glass will pair well with any cheese,  as well as grilled chicken or fish. This wine also compliments pastas, salads and soups very well….or enjoy it on its own! Envy winery is located in the northern end of Napa Valley in the town of Calistoga, where the Pacific air cascades over Diamond Mountain and provides ideal growing climate for the grapes. Mark and Nils frequently travel to Mississippi to pour their wines and are regulars at the Sante South tasting.

Priced at $18, this wine could easily be worth $40 or $50. Stop by Madison Cellars and pick up a cold bottle from our cooler!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Napa Valley Report by Madison Cellars staffer

During our recent study of the Napa Valley winemaking region, we took time to inspect the area of the Valley known as the “Stag’s Leap District” near Yountville. This area produces a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon and is located alongside the Napa river in the southeast corner of the Valley. The soil is rich and blended with volcanic ash from activity from centuries ago. Together with the cool Pacific air, wineries such as Clos Du Val (in picture), Silverado, Pine Ridge and Stag’s Leap are able to produce wines with both rich flavor and great finesse. Stop by Madison Cellars today and take home a bottle!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Should Wine Be Aged?

Kendall Jackson Blog
By Winemaker Matt | April 25th, 2012
I recently took part in a tasting that revisited the 2002 vintage. It’s always exciting to see how wines have changed with age and time, and leads to the question: should you age wines at home? People ask me all the time, “How long should I wait before opening a Kendall-Jackson Cab?” The short answer is that, while the wine is very enjoyable right now, it will drink best in 3-5 years from now — and continue to be wonderful over the next decade or more. When crafting our Cabernet wines, I feel we have to tread a delicate line. The American wine-drinking public is fond of young wines with intense fruit. Few, if any, bottles are laid down for aging. So we want to bottle a wine that is both approachable in its youth, and will soften and evolve without deteriorating too quickly with age. Given the mountain sources, many of our Cabernets can age beautifully over time. The wines require aeration or decanting in their youth to really show the full character of the fruit and the breadth of the palate. The minerality of the Grand Reserve Cab, for example, screams through in the early years, overshadowing the fruit until properly allowed to breathe. With time, that softens and integrates into the wine. The 2005 wines are just starting to open up. In many cases, the reward of waiting to open that special bottle is well worth it. It takes patience and proper storage space, of course. But there’s a way around waiting for so long; I suggest that people buy a case. Why? Because then it is possible to enjoy a bottle or two while they are young and still lay some down to be enjoyed over the next decade. Personally, I’m getting ready to lay down a case of the 2008 Grand Reserve Cabernet right now. Most white wines are meant to be consumed young. Their most interesting quality, their fruit character, fades with age. The exception to this is some Rieslings and dessert wines, which can take on tertiary characters even more interesting than their initial, primary fruit. Whichever you prefer, young wines or wines with some bottle age, there is something for everyone. That is the beauty of the world of wine. Tasting an older vintage is like a trip down memory lane that gives us the opportunity to time travel when we pop the cork. Back to that tasting of the 2002 vintage. The wines were terrific. It was exciting to see how well they were holding up. In hindsight, it is hard to believe these wines are nearly 10 years old. Many still displayed the exuberance of youth, with chewy, dense tannins that will undoubtedly persist boldly in the bottle for many years to come. So lay down a few bottles and, trust me, you’ll enjoy being able to reminisce with family and friends, because after all, sharing wine is the best part. Cheers.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cooking with Wine

Remember that a good cook uses only good wine. Never use anything that you would not drink yourself.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Proper Wine Serving Temperatures

When there is a question of the proper temperature that wine should be served, the following guide may help make this task easier. I have found that white wine is served far too cold and red is generally offered slightly too warm. When serving white wine or champagne, ice cold is too cold. If you see condensation forming on the outside of the glass then that should indicate that the wine needs to be removed from the ice bucket and allowed to come to a more comfortable temp. You need to be able to taste the complexities that are present in your glass. The cold will cover up any fruit flavors that the wine may show otherwise. 48 - 55 de-grees is going to be best. Red wine in Mississippi in the summer time is going to be hot. It may be necessary to place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes before serving to bring its temperature down to around 60 degrees. Alcohol will be the major flaw of a red that is too warm. Of course use your own preferences when having a glass of your favorite libation. Wine is always better served with food & friends.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wine Steward

Pairing White Wine with Cheese
As a wine steward, one of my passions is pairing wines with food. I love how
wine brings out flavors in food and vice versa.
Most pairings are fairly simple. However, pairing wines with cheeses can get
a little tricky. I’ve had to learn what works through trial and error. That’s
why I’m glad to share what I know. I hope you’ll enjoy this little guide to the
cheese and wine pairing game!
Here, I’ll cover the basics of pairing cheeses white wines. You can also
check out my guide for pairing cheeses
with red wines
Ready? Here we go!
Clean, Light-Bodied Dry Whites. Most of
these whites have a fresh, clean style with hints of lemons, zest and some
acidity. The Californian styles tend to have a slightly floral finish that will
enhance the flavors of the cheese. These grapes are Sauvignon Blancs, Bordeaux
white blends, Dry Rieslings, Chenin Blancs and Bourgogne Blancs (Chardonnay from
the eastern side of France). The cheeses that go well here are any fresh goat
cheese and mozzarella. Some of the fresh cheeses you can use are chevre,
ricotta, feta, Boucheron and mascarpone.
Unoaked, Fruit Forward Medium Dry Whites.
These whites have a little more fruit and can hold up to a pungent
cheese. Try Alsatian Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Oregon Riesling (slightly sweet),
Viognier, Pouilly-Fuissé, Savennieres (Chenin Blanc from the south of France),
Vouvray and New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. The cheeses that go well are cream
cheese, Lancashire, pecorino and Camembert.
Rich, Full-Bodied, Oaky Dry Whites. California Chardonnay,
Fumé Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pouilly-Fumé, Rioja, Sancerre, and Beaume Blanc
(Chardonnay from eastern France). I know a lot of grapes have been used in the
top two topics but take into account that a lot of semi-soft cheeses are a
little easier to match from light to heavy whites. The cheeses are Appenzeller,
Emmenthal, fontina, Gouda (either smoked or non-smoked), Gruyere, Jarlsberg and
smoked cheeses.
The Yummy Sweet Whites. A lot of the sweet wines have always
paired well with the overly pungent cheeses and have never overpowered each
other while in the tasting process. The wines are Moscato, German Rieslings, Ice
Wines, Vintage and Non–vintage Ports, Maderia, Sherry and New Zealand Fortified
Muscat. The types of cheese are cheddar, Cheshire, Danish Blue, Gloucester,
Gorgonzola, Maytag Blue, Monterey Jack, Roquefort and Stilton.
I hope this information helps when you are planning a cheese and wine

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How to taste wine like a pro
While we take wine seriously at Clos du Bois, we like to keep the mood of a tasting relaxed and welcoming. The way we see it, formality only gets in the way of the fun of exploration. Just follow the process below for a wine tasting that feels effortless.
Pour Pour only a small amount (an ounce or so) in your glass.
Look Look at the wine to judge its clarity and color. Well-made wine should appear clear and bright. In red wines, a more purple hue indicates a younger wine. As red wines age, they turn more ruby then garnet. Whites go from a light lemon color in youth to deep gold.
Smell Hold the glass’s stem and swirl the wine in a gentle, circular motion for a few seconds (not too long). Swirling the wine exposes it to air, making many of its components easier to smell. It also coats the glass with a thin layer of wine, releasing an extra dose of the aromatic elements.Now hold the glass to your nose and deeply inhale the wine (don’t be afraid to place your nose deep into the glass). If you are evaluating more than one wine, sniff something neutral (such as water or coffee grounds or even your sleeve) to help clear your nasal passages between wines. Try to identify some of the aromas in the wine. Fruity notes include citrus, berries, tropical fruit, apple, pear or peach. You may also detect vanilla, mocha or espresso, as well as floral, herbal, toasty, nutty or spicy aromas.
Taste Tasting is your true reward and it will be enhanced by the impressions you've developed so far. Draw a small amount of the wine into your mouth and let it spend a little extra time there before swallowing. If you like, draw some air into your mouth while the wine is still present (this takes some practice, but it’s a good way to unlock flavors. Note the impression the wine leaves in the different parts of your mouth. Rich and full or thin and weak? Buttery or tart? Crisp or velvety? Mouthwatering or drying? Is the finish long or cut short? DiscussAt each step, compare your opinions with those tasting alongside you. The more you talk about wine, the more it will seem second nature to notice and describe its characteristics. You may also help someone else notice a detail they’d missed or vice versa. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers if you are enjoying the wine in your glass. Your tastebuds and your own interpretation of the flavors are all that matters. Happy tasting!
How to choose wine in a restaurant Between navigating a wine menu, interacting with a server and trying to make the right match for the food and other guests, choosing a wine in a restaurant can be a challenge. Here are some tips to streamline things.
How to order Assume you’ll need half of a bottle per person.Agree with the other guests on the kind of wine (white vs. red, Merlot vs. Zinfandel, light vs. full bodied. If just a few want wine or each wants a different style, it may be best to order by the glass. As a general rule however, ordering by the bottle is a better value.If you choose a wine with a difficult name, it’s fine to point at your selection on the menu to let your server know your choice. If you prefer for your server to recommend a wine, give him or her a general price range and explain the type of wine you’d like (e.g., white vs. red, light bodied or full, Italian vs. Californian. If the restaurant has a sommelier (a.k.a. wine steward) on staff, you can ask for his or her expert advice.
How to receive the wine Presentation: When the bottle first arrives at your table, the server will hold it up for you to review the label. If it is not the wine you ordered, this is the time to point that out.
Pulling the cork: The server will make a show of removing and presenting the cork. Simply nod.
The test pour: Once the server has poured a small amount for you, sniff and taste the wine. If the wine tastes good, accept it with a smile. If there is an issue, don’t feel shy about sending it back.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Featured Wine - Unoaked Pinot Grigio

Simply Naked Unoaked Pinot Grigio:
A light-bodied wine with layers of lime and melon, aromas of peach and passion fruit, and hints of spice.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Featured Wine

This one has Viognier, a "new" (actually old) grape variety:
Hot to Trot White BlendIntense aromas of peach compote with tropical and floral nuances. On the palate, flavors of fresh apple, pear and melon are balanced by juicy acidity and ends with a bright, vibrant finish.

Monday, March 5, 2012

New Wines

I always look forward to trying the new wines and spirits that come into the
market each year. Usually we start seeing new wines being released around the
first of the spring. California’s wine industry for the most part will release
new vintages during this time. I try not so much to compare to last year but
rather focus on trying to just see what this year has to offer. Varying
conditions in wine-growing regions affect quality, supply and prices. When
you find a wine that you like it is sometimes hard to venture out and try new
ones. Even though they may change in some ways we still are more comfortable
with the familiar. Maybe it's time to start that wine or supper club you have
been meaning to. Get with one or two of your friends and try to meet just once
or twice over the next few weeks and go to new restaurant or just sit on the
patio and sample a new wine that you have never heard of. It can be the start of
a wonderful relationship. New experiences are what makes the world go round.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Fireside Beverages

Though it's been a mild winter, there are still cool evenings left to enjoy the fireside, be it indoors or beside an outdoor firepit. To be able to just sit quietly in front of a roaring fire watching the flames jump and embers glow is a wonderful feeling. Say no to the T.V. and turn off the cell phone. It’s time to relax with your best friend and maybe a glass of your favorite beverage or cup of soup. It’s even made more special when we can share these times. Irish cream and coffee or spiced tea make excellent choices. A glass of red wine adds a little warmth from the inside out. Australian Shiraz and Californian Syrah are good picks. Look for blends that have merlot and cabernet in the mix. Cognacs have always been popular with fire place settings. I
would suggest at least the V.S.O.P. (very special old pale) designation as they are smoother and have a great finish. Hennessy and Courvosier or Remy have been great producers for very long
time and have the finest reputations for cognacs. Look to Hardy’s red label for a good value.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wine Tasting Notes

The more wine a person tries the more they notice that there are some they like and some they do not.  Usually when people talk about what they like or do not like about certain wines they say things like “I don’t want anything to bitter or to sweet” or “I love red wine.”  They don’t realize that they are doing the exact same thing that professional tasters do.  They too are discussing the different aspects of what wine tasting. This compare and assess process is exactly what has developed the vocabulary that is some times intimidating to the beginner.  Hear are a few steps that will ease you into the group. First be honest.  Say exactly what you think.  If you think the wine taste like a musty old gym sock say so.  If it looks like India ink and smells like burnt strawberries then say that.  There are no wrong answers just honest ones. 

The reason there are thousands of varieties and styles is that each one has it’s own different taste and place.  For instance cabernet sauvignon will show certain characteristics that do not appear in chardonnay or merlot.  The complex, rich, tart berry found in cabernet matches well with steaks or smoked meats. 

So next time you open a bottle just take a moment and say what you really think.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tasting wine

People often ask what is your favorite wine or which one of these is the very best?
I have to answer that what ever I am having at the moment is my favorite. They will then look at me and I know they’re thinking here I’ve ask for advice and he gives me the run around. But, this is not true. I’m perfectly honest when I say what I say. When there is enough time in the day to sit for a few moments and quietly enjoy the fruits of labor that go into a glass of wine it is a special time. The main thing to remember when searching for that perfect bottle is that there is so much more to consider than just taste.
The great experts on wine all agree that wine is always changing and their passion is to monitor those changes and compare their experiences with others. This is the art of wine tasting. To assess a bottle of wine with your peers, to compare your taste with someone else is what makes it fun. In the weeks to come I will be bringing you some of the experiences that we have had and share with you some of our favorites. This will be an honest and easy to understand assessment of wine in all kinds of styles and prices that should help you pick just the right wine for you and your tasting.
Tip of the week: Start with an open bottle and an open mind.