Wednesday, December 23, 2015

VERY cool DIY Ice Bucket

Chill Out: Holiday DIY Ice Bucket
December 19, 2015
With holiday party season in full swing, take control of dropping temps with a deep freeze all your own: the DIY ice bucket. Perfect for keeping wine bottles and bubbly refreshingly cold, this wonderful, wintry chiller is elegant and easy to make with our step-by-step guide. Decorative and practical? Now that’s cool.
What You’ll Need:Tall, cylindrical container (we like 2-liter soda bottles, emptied and clean)
Empty wine bottle
Full wine bottle
Fruit (like cranberries, orange or lemon slices, berries)
Greenery (rosemary, small pine branches, holly leaves)
Instructions:Cut the top off of your 2-liter bottle, leaving it short enough to show off your wine bottle, but tall enough for the ice to keep it cold.
Insert your empty wine bottle into the 2 liter bottle, and start filling the 2-liter bottle with water. Don’t fill it all the way up—you need to leave room for your decorative touches!
Arrange your various fruits and greenery in the water surrounding the wine bottle.
Place in the freezer overnight. Remove when guests arrive.
Cut away the plastic bottle and carefully remove the empty wine bottle.
To serve, insert your full newly-opened wine bottle and place in a bucket or on a large tray, as the ice will melt throughout the night.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Pinot Noir for Wine Wednesday

"Dark, deep garnet color. Sumptuous aromas of ripe berries, vanilla and spicy oak. Upon entry, the mouth is coated with a velvety richness, but the acidity enlivens the weight and pops the flavors. The senses will pick up light roasted almond, cranberry, raspberries with ever so a hint of barnyard complexity--earthy and gamey. Underlined with a sweet oak character, mocha and cola. An extremely layered wine both in structure and flavor. These textured layers emerge independently, and then rejoin beautifully into a rounded, rich and supple wine with a succulent finish." -Winery

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pairing is Caring: Fall Food & Wine Combos You’ll Love


October 7, 2015                             
Come fall and cooler weather, we can’t help but crave a warm, satisfying meal with seasonal flavors and a comforting aroma. Whether you’re hankering for a classic home-cooked dish or a unique new entree, there’s no better way to enjoy autumn’s offerings than with a glass of Ménage à Trois wine.
Here, we’ve selected a threesome of fall foods—matched with three enticing wines—for your appetite-whetting enjoyment, all season long.
Beef Bourguignon with Pinot NoirThis savory, classic French creation pairs especially well with a fruit-forward Pinot Noir.
Sweet Potato Casserole with MerlotSmooth, dry Merlot complements the natural sweetness of this autumnal root vegetable.
Pumpkin Pie with MoscatoYou can’t talk October foods without this fall favorite! Enjoy with Moscato for a sweet treat.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Falling for Reds

As we enjoy the cooler nights, my tastes are turning back to red, red wine.  At Pete's establishment, immediately my eyes fell on the ever delicious Bogle 2013 Essential Red blend.  As the website says:  A compelling blend of California’s finest plantings of Old Vine Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah, this wine surpasses all expectation for pure enjoyment and approachability.Calling on their years of experience and tradition, Bogle winemakers have delivered a wine with RICH, enticing layers of complexity, starting with that first irresistible sip. RIPE fruit, intense with flavors of boysenberries and sweet cherries. LUSCIOUS vanilla, caressing the palate from barrel aging in American and French oak. JUICY and silky throughout, with a finish that lingers of black licorice and spicy pipe tobacco.  As I understood from the Bogle rep I met at Anjou, this is a less aged version of the popular, limited addition Phantom. 

The site notes the name origin (just for fun):  bogle \bõ’g∂l\ n. [Scots, perhaps from Welsh] A goblin; a specter; a phantom; a bogy, boggart or bugbear.


Chuckie led me to some more tasty choices in the Madison Cellars racks: Boneshaker Lodi Zinfandel, a full-bodied wine with bold flavors of blackberry, dark chocolate and vanilla produced by the Hahn Estate in Monterrey County. 

Winemaker's note on this 2013 blend:  

Brick red and deep purple in the glass, with enticing aromatics of dried plums, black cherry jam and a hint of vanilla incense. One sip unveils flavors of blackberry, dark chocolate and licorice. Smooth on the finish with bracing tannins and lingering notes of blueberry and spice. Boneshaker’s full body is a great pairing for meaty chuck chili, grilled pork belly or a juicy mushroom hamburger. Varietal Composition: 88% Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah, and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon

Another Chuckie rec is from Australia, 19 Crimes red blend.  Haven't been able to pin down the exact grapes in the 2014, but I think it's safe to say shiraz is in there.

2014 Red Blend

Intensity resides within each pour of this blend. The bright hues of dark berry fruits shine as the strong vanilla aroma rises from the glass. Flavors of chocolate and cedar spice are accomplices in a finish that is soft, fruity, and fresh.

Remarkably smooth too! ~ me.

Hmm, wonder what the deal was about impersonating an Egyptian (#5) ?!
The things you learn while enjoying wine!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Suddenly, THIS summer - Sauvignon Blanc

I surprised Cory during my Madison Cellars shopping, by being in the market for white wine.   Heretofore a confirmed red fanatic, this record summer heat has me going for perfectly chilled, subtly fruity, yet mineral-ly sauvignon blanc and relatives.  Her suggestions have been hitting the spot.

Starborough - New Zealand.  Refreshing flavors of citrus and tropical fruits with notes of fresh-cut grass. Layers of passion fruit, guava and kiwi create a crisp, approachable palate.  I concur.

From their website:  The Marlborough district of New Zealand's South Island has set the world standard for crisp Sauvignon Blanc wines. Marlborough is on the east coast of the island, with a ridge of mountains to the west, limiting rainfall and making it one of the sunniest areas in the country. The landscape is pierced by deep, fjord-like bays, called "sounds," which enhance the maritime influence and extend the growing season for wine grapes. The long, cool growing season helps the wines of this region to develop rich layers of flavor with a distinctive, refreshing character.

Matua  - another from NZ's Marlborough.  Matua is a Maori word meaning "head of the family."
Winemaker's Notes: All the varietal zing you'd expect from the granddaddies of Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand. Look at it in a glass – it's just about singing with freshness.  The lively nose shows tropical and citrus fruits with subtle herbaceous characters. Its crisp fresh palate offers classic Marlborough acidity, structure and length.

Dark Horse SB - This one saw me through the Natchez Food and Wine Fest in fine fashion.   When I spot sushi in the offerings, I definitely go for the white and was glad to find this one at the booth.
Website:  The most refreshing wine from Dark Horse, our Sauvignon Blanc offers bright aromas of grapefruit and gooseberry lined with fresh green notes. Layers of citrus and melon flavors create a crisp taste with medium viscosity and a long, refreshing finish.
Our Winemaker Beth Liston selected these grapes from premier California vineyards. The dry and warm year of 2014 allowed just the right amount of sunlight on the berries, resulting in an ideal balance of flavor and acidity in the glass. The deliciously ripe citrus flavors and crisp minerality in this Sauvignon Blanc make it comparable to any New Zealand contender.
Its affordability is a plus.

Dry Creek Fume Blanc - from CA, a Wine Enthusiast Best Buy.  They say:  Winemaker Tim Bell is showing finesse with this signature white for the winery. All stainless-steel fermented, it’s racy in acidity and offers juicy fruit flavors of apricot, lemon and lime, plus fresh-cut grass and an herbal streak on top of stony minerality. It finishes long. Pair it with oysters and a day on the bay.
Cool labels, too:

Line 39 SB  84 Points - Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
Comparatively simple in both scent and taste, and a wine that runs to candied sweetness from beginning to end (with) richness and reach...good marks for cleanliness.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Summer Punches

Now that the 4th is past, there is still a lot of summer left and some pleasant, gift evenings to gather with friends - not to mention the blazing ones!  A refreshing, cold drink could fit the bill for many occasions.   Recently, dining al fresco with several others, we wanted to try the delicious sounding punch of the day.   But, sadly, they were out of it.  This speaks to the new popularity of a storied favorite - the spiked punch.  From Benjamin Franklin to Eudora Welty, punches have been enjoyed with good company.

An advantage to serving punch is that you can avoid having to play bartender at your party.  Make ahead and let guests help themselves.  A pretty punch bowl is a nice touch, but a pitcher will work.
It could be fun to search for a vintage bowl and cups in our flea markets and consignment stores.

This recipe from Southern Living (the bible of our area's good cooks!)  was adapted from an Episcopalian cookbook.   Lots of citrus.

Whiskey Punch

2 liters whiskey or bourbon
1/2 liter dark rum
1 1/4 cups sugar
7 cups strong-brewed tea
3 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice or 4 (7.5-ounce) bottles frozen lemon juice, thawed
2 quarts orange juice      


Stir together all ingredients in a large crock or food-safe container. Cover mixture, and chill up to 3 days before serving.
Note: For strong-brewed tea, pour 5 cups boiling water over 2 family-size tea bags; cover and steep 5 minutes. Remove tea bags from water, squeezing gently. Add 2 cups cold water.
Makes 32 cups.
I found a general formula for making punches: 
  • Five parts weak: This is your non-alcoholic part – a juice, a soda, a tonic, etc.
  • Four parts strong: This is your alcoholic part – whisky! (or rum or vodka)
  • Three parts sour: Lime, lemon, etc.
  • Two parts sweet: sugar or simple syrup, which is 2 parts sugar, one part water (boiled until the sugar is mixed in, then bottled)
  • One part bitter: Actual bitters or they suggest Compari or even tonic water, for aromatics
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An ice ring, perhaps made with fruit and even edible flowers and herbs,  adds a festive touch.  Or just garnish with mints from your garden, farmer's market, or grocery. 

Share your favorite recipes with us.

Happy sipping in the 'Sip.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Summer treat - Mango Pinot Gris Sorbet

Mango Pinot Gris Sorbet
Serves: 6-8
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen mango
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup Kendall Jackson Pinot Gris
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  1. Prepare fresh mango, or allow frozen mango to come to defrost for 30 minutes on the counter before blending. Combine sugar, wine, mango, and lemon juice in the basin of a high-powered blender or food processor. Blend until you reach the consistency of a thick puree.
  2. Plug-in your preferred ice cream maker and retrieve the frozen basin from the freezer. Turn on the machine and add the puree. Allow to churn for 30-40 minutes. Sorbet will be thick, but not completely frozen.
  3. Pour into a storage vessel and freeze for an additional 3+ hours to harden before serving.
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Friday, April 10, 2015

How Basic Wine Characteristics Help You Find Favorites

by Wine Folly blog
5 Basic Wine Characteristics
  1. Sweetness
  2. Acidity
  3. Tannin
  4. Fruit
  5. Body
Learn the basic wine characteristics to develop your palate and find favorites. By understanding the 5 characteristics below you’ll have a better chance of getting what you love. In recent history there has been an increasing focus on analyzing and rating wines. Unfortunately, crowdsourcing wine ratings is like asking children. The best way to learn about your taste is to classify wines by their fundamental traits and then pick what you like the best.

To understand the basic characteristics of wine it’s important to learn how to taste wine. Learning to identify wine characteristics helps to identify what you like about a wine.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Happy Chinese New Year!

Yes, soy sauce and red wine do not work well together!

How to Pair Wine with Chinese Food


Balancing the dynamic flavors of Chinese food with sommelier-approved pairings.

Welcome to our expert break down of popular food categories, outlining the main challenges (and pairing solutions) for wine lovers with globetrotting tastes.
This round, we focus on pairing Chinese food with wine. 
The challenge: “Chinese cuisine is vast and dynamic, characterized by spices, oils and high-temperature wok cooking techniques that have evolved over thousands of years,” says Toranosuke Matsuoka, president and beverage director of KOA Restaurant, which serves modern Chinese cuisine.
Wine fix: “Try pairing Chinese foods with a dry or off-dry Riesling, a variety that can help balance the body of the ingredients while complementing the sweet flavors often found in Chinese dishes,” says Matsuoka

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Times change

 Wine and Food Pairings: They Change all the Time

Wine and Food Pairings: They Change all the Time
Food and wine pairings, and our notions of what goes with what, change and evolve over time. Nowadays, we tend to think along fairly conventional lines: Cabernet Sauvignon with the steak, Pinot Noir with the pork, Chardonnay with the crab. But it wasn’t always so, and sometimes, we don’t realize how caught up we get in the zeitgeist, or spirit of the time.
For example, if you’d lived in ancient Rome, you might have taken a little spiced wine with your salted fish. Had you been in London in the 1660s, your breakfast might well have consisted of a dry white Loire wine with goose pie. The great British gourmand, Professor Saintsbury, who thrived during the Victorian era, wrote of a dinner he gave, probably in the 1880s, at which he served Romanée-Conti (French red Burgundy) with filet of pigeon. On another occasion, he opened a vintage Champagne to drink with beef tenderloin.
Champagne with beef may sound odd to us, but then again, to Professor Saintsbury, a fuyu persimmon and pomegranate salad, tangy in jalapeño peppers and lime juice, washed down with a crisp Pinot Grigio or earthy Pinot Noir, probably would have been equally bizarre. (Here’s Chef Justin Wangler’s most excellent recipe for it.)

It was in America, following the Repeal of Prohibition in 1933, that our hard-and-fast rules of wine-and-food pairing came together. After 13 dry years, Americans were pretty ignorant about wine. They required education, lots of it — and there was no lack of wine educators to teach them. (Kind of like today, isn’t it?) Back then, there was no Internet, no social media; people actually read books, and the period from 1933 until the outbreak of war in 1941, saw a huge quantity of wine books published in America. Almost all of them had chapters on wine-and-food pairing — and almost all of them reinforced the same old, traditional rules.
Now here we are, a wine-drinking country at last, and rules are crashing and burning all around us. People are drinking anything they want with anything they want. We now have cocktail-and-food pairings, beer-and-food pairings, and our wine-and-food pairings are growing ever more adventurous, as wine lovers, especially younger ones, seek to develop (in collaboration with their friends) their own new discoveries.
Younger chefs, above all, long to burst out of wine-and-food straitjackets. Back in 1975, the legendary Alice Waters, together with her then-chef, Jeremiah Tower (who went on to found a famous San Francisco restaurant), made a dinner that has become historic: all Sauternes, the super-sweet French dessert white wine. Among her other courses was steak with Chateau d’Yquem, the most famous Sauternes of them all. Today, few hosts would pour an intensely sweet white wine with steak. But Alice did it.
The bottom line: While traditional food-and-wine pairings have a lot to recommend them, you don’t have to be a slave to the past. Eat and drink your way. Prefer Chardonnay with your steak? Pinot Noir with the scallops? Zinfandel with an omelet? Go ahead and do it, and don’t fret. That’s what it’s all about.
Steve Heimoff is one of America’s most respected and well-known wine writers. The former West Coast Editor for Wine Enthusiast Magazine and a contributor to Wine Spectator, he has also authored two books on the subject of California wine, including “New Classic Winemakers of California: Conversations with Steve Heimoff,” published in the fall of 2007.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

3 Pefect Wine Pairings with Dinner


The Perfect Hostess: Wine Pairings

HELLO! Lauren Kelp here & I am about to put all of your hostessing fears to rest! Typically the biggest concern about having people over is what wine to serve with the food. Now, this is a big concern because it’s an important decision to make while meal planning, but, never fear, we are here to help you with three classic (and favorite) wine pairings – pasta, flatbread, and salmon! Three foolproof recipes that will leave your guests (or your family) feeling absolutely delighted, plus the perfect wines to serve along with them. Trust me, you’ll never fret about this again. Okay, on to the pairings!

Meet our first pairing, the Tomato & Garlic Linguine with a deliciously chilled Chardonnay. Now, Chardonnay is a wine you can pair with almost anything, because it isn’t an extreme wine. It isn’t heavy and it’s not very acidic, so think of a good Chardonnay as the perfect chameleon. I particularly like to pair it with pasta because it complements the flavors so well.
Chardonnay should be served slightly chilled so the flavors can open up and make the most impact. Pair it with the pasta recipe below & you’ll have your guests thinking you are European!

Tomato & Garlic Linguine with Lemon


  • 1 package of garlic linguine
  • 1 cup of whole roasted garlic cloves
  • 1 handful of fresh basil
  • 3 tomatoes (wedged and marinated)
  • EVOO
  • Juice & zest from lemon
  • Parmesan



  1. Prepare linguine al dente.
  2. Mix in whole garlic cloves, marinated tomatoes, and shredded basil.
  3. Drizzle with lemon juice and EVOO.
  4. Top with lemon zest and grated parmesan.
  5. *As an alternative to marinated tomatoes, you can substitute sun-dried tomatoes or store bought marinated tomatoes!


On to the second, and a personal favorite, the Fig, Gorgonzola, & Arugula Flatbread paired with Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s just to die for! Now, we’ve already talked about my affinity for making flatbread personal, festive, and above all else, a little fun, but here is a recipe to help guide the creative process.
This flatbread (hold the prosciutto if desired, or hey, add some more!) makes for the absolutely perfect meal when it’s paired with a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon. Why you ask? Because a great, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon can really bring out the flavors of the cheese, compliment the saltiness of the prosciutto, and play nice with the greens on top. Voila, a match made in food loving heaven!

Fig, Gorgonzola, & Arugula Flatbread with Balsamic Reduction

Ingredients for wheat dough:

  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 pkg. or 1 tbsp. active dry yeast
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. warm water
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. honey


Ingredients for flatbread:

  • 1 wedge of good gorgonzola
  • 1 handful of walnuts
  • 6-7 figs (sliced)
  • Arugula
  • Proscuitto (optional)
  • EVOO



  1. Pour flour into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add yeast and salt. Mix well.
  3. Add water, oil and honey; mix well.
  4. Cover with a moist cloth and place in a warm spot for 10 minutes to rise.
  5. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and slowly spread and press the dough into your desired thickness and shape.
  6. Drizzle the top with EVOO.
  7. Top the flatbread with the crumbled gorgonzola, walnuts, sliced figs, and prosciutto.
  8. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
  9. Remove flatbread from oven, top with arugula, and enjoy.


Last, but absolutely not least, the delicious (and a real show stopper) salmon with mushrooms and honey balsamic reduction paired, to perfection, with a Pinot Noir. As someone who doesn’t eat red meat, this salmon recipe is my filet mignon. The sweet honey balsamic fish paired with the tender mushrooms is the ultimate dish if you are looking to impress. Add in the perfect bottle of Pinot Noir and you’ve won them over completely!
A good bottle of Pinot will match the silky texture of the fish and the berries will dance perfectly with the sweetness of the honey balsamic. The pair is nothing short of divine! Truly, this is the ultimate pairing for anyone you need to sweep off their feet – it’s that good.

Salmon with Mushrooms and Honey Balsamic Reduction


  • 12 ounces Salmon Filet, Skin on
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Mixed sautéed mushrooms
  • kosher salt to taste
  • honey balsamic reduction


Instructions for salmon:

  1. In a heavy pan or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.
  2. Sprinkle the salmon with kosher salt on both sides. Place the salmon skin side down in the pan. Cook without moving for about 3 minutes and then flip over to the skin side up. Cook until crispy on the outside and just cooked through in the center, about 6 minutes total.

Instructions for mushrooms:

  1. Use a mixed mushroom package & sliced the larger ones
  2.  Heat olive oil to coat in a pan- add salt and cracked black pepper to taste and allow the pepper to cook for about a minute
  3. Add sliced mushrooms and toss in the olive oil
  4. Sautée until brown and crisp

Instructions for honey balsamic reduction:

  1.  Add equal parts honey and balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pan and reduce on medium low heat until thick and sauce like
  2.  Bed the mushrooms- top with the salmon filet, drizzle with reduction, garnish with thyme
  3. As an alternative, add the thyme to the mushrooms while they are cooking or the reduction as it reduces


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