Chard, Pinot and Cab: Classic Varieties for Your Holiday Table

Greetings wine lovers! How many of you have holidays on the brain? It is about that time. With fall squash abundance and the recent re-setting of the clocks bringing darkness earlier in the day, I am feeling cozy and ready for comfort foods, which means accompanying wines. What are some of the best known go-to’s? Easy. For white, Chardonnay. For a lighter body red that pairs with most meals, Pinot Noir. For a bolder red to hold up to heavy dishes, Cabernet Sauvignon. Let’s look at a few!

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Malbec, and then some.

As we crested the majestic Andes the final time and began our descent into the famed Mendoza wine region, I exhaled and let my muscles slacken. We had survived the harrowing journey from Chile to Argentina, overland, via a small and rickety passenger bus. No A/C. Hot winds ripped the air as a reminder of our vulnerability to the elements. The topography had seemingly leveled out and all the physiological signals of my body convinced me that on this day, the mountains would not claim us. As the palpable energy of the vehicle sunk into peace, my eyes gripped the landscape. I was looking for grapes. 

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VdeG: Mexico's Premier Wine Region

Mexico makes some good wine. A few years ago I started to hear some whispers about a wine region south of the border. Being a committed practitioner (aka: winedrinker), I investigated.  I was tickled to learn the location of said wine region: El Valle de Guadalupe en Baja California, due South of San Diego. If you know of Ensenada, on the coast, the start of the Ruta Del Vino (wine route) in the valley is a mere 15 minutes inland. Easily reachable by car from the border and a breezy hour and a half from Tijuana, down the scenic Highway 1. You could fly into T.J. in the morning, rent a car and be sipping wine in Mexico’s principal wine region by noon.  De verdad? Really, it is that easy.

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Coming of Age: Mile High Wine

Earlier this month I had the privilege of traveling back to Denver for some work stuff and thankfully got to add a few days for some social stuff. I lived in Denver from 2008-2012, and though I was by most standards already “grown”, I still think of it as a place in which some formative “growing up” occurred for me. It was the first time in all my life that I truly lived alone. No roommates, partner or family members. Just me. I would sometimes walk down the street in my beguiling first neighborhood of Cheesman Park, giggling to myself, tickled that I actually lived there, in my own stately apartment within the red bricked exterior of The Bentley. As a wine lover living alone, one has to get comfortable very quickly with the notion of “drinking alone”.  With the lore of a haunted neighborhood and being a single young woman living on her own, it was not a hard sell. Wine and I became very intimate during the Denver years.

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The Rosé Renaissance

Rosé. I like to say it aloud. It has a good cadence. Rosé. When I speak the word, I think of the spelling, the accent over the "e", making it sound European and classy. The pink drink has a sordid history stateside, at one time giving it a reputation that was anything but classy. But we in the New World, have grown-up. Rosé, real rosé, inspired by the crisp mineral styles of the Old World (Europe), be it direct press or saignée, are dominating in the spring and summer. They said it was a trend. The market prediction: shifty American consumers would move on to the next wine fad du jour. Instead we keep finding ways to reinvent rosé: put in a can, then a 40oz bottle, hashtag it infinitely, make it into gummy-bears. Year after year, rosé only seems to gain more momentum in the U.S. Yes, folks, I believe that we are having ourselves, a very pink and plump, Rosé Renaissance. 

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You had me at rosé.

Happy Spring Oenophiles! If you are like me, it is never not rosé season. However there is some greater weather correlation as to why we see it front and center at wine shops, groceries, bulk outlets and more, right about now. Spring is in the air! The sun is shining, the birds are singing and it is time to give that rosé a drinking!  We were fortunate enough to sample a few options from the Old World (Europe) that have some New World (anything not Europe, like The Americas, Australia, South Africa, etc) appeal. These 3 affordable and accessible wines hail from France Italy, and the autonomous region of Sicily and are sure to start your spring/summer rosé season off right.

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Jordan now SPARKLES!

When I say Jordan, you say CAB! Jordan. Cab. Jordan. Cab. Well team, times are a changing. When I say Jordan you say Champagne!? No dear, you are late to the party; Jordan has not been associated with J, the sparkling wine label, for decades. Yes dear. Champagne. As in true Champagne, made by the House of AR Lenoble in Damery, France. When did The Healdsburg, California winery that we have grown to know and love over the past 40 years, as a dedicated producer of Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays get into the Champagne business? Read on!

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Sparklers from Cinzano!

Hey folks, how has your January been? Yeah, mine also. Nothing makes me see the silver lining like bubbles! We toasted the Lunar New Year with some pals at Mad Hatter Tea Party, replete with thoughtful tea pairings and silly hats required. It seemed the right time to indulge in some sparkling wine, and renew once more, our commitment to make The Year of The Rooster as hopeful as ever. So we opened a few very different options from Cinzano, makers of the famed Italian Vermouth and those vintage art posters adorning colorful kitchens the world over. Saluti!

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January: The Austerity Program

How many of you are feeling the pangs of the recent holiday season? Not just physically, which was enough, but financially? Emotionally? If you are like me and my tribe, you gave it your all. You imbibed, you ate all the deliciousness, you spent what you didn't have, you hugged everyone, you laughed, cried, overshared, slept too much and then too little... and you had a fabulous time! And then, just like that, it was over. And now we are nearly a month into a new year, with a new presidential administration about to charge in and I'm still lookin' like, "What just happened...?" I have a few more questions, but I shall leave it at that. Shall we talk wine? Vamos!

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I want to share.

Greetings everyone and happy holidays. As I write this today, a matter of days before the close of 2016, I find myself overwhelmed with gratefulness. "My heart is full". I have seen people use that expression and wondered what exactly they meant and was admittedly suspicious of their motives. Were they saying it because they thought they were supposed to? Because they had fulfilled some sort pre-destined future for themselves and as such, had internalized what it was supposed to feel like? Or was I projecting? There is always so much happening that we don't share, even with the closest members of our tribe (sometimes especially), even with our therapist who is allegedly confidential and even if we are an extrovert. Then there is social media, where we portray our lives and our humanity as a stylized piece of art, and hope the reality will follow. As I write today, I am in the most sincere place of gratitude. My heart is full and I want to tell you about it. 

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Yummy California Pinots! Just in time for Thanksy.

Hi friends! Who is ready for a holiday devoted to eating? I sure am. And what goes best with large quantities of rich carbohydrate laden foods? Why, my favorite snack, of course. If there is a holiday, there must be wine. Now, what wine pairs the best with this holiday meal? Ca dépend. I will not be consuming turkey, or any fowl, but I will be taking down some of the cheesy-buttery sides, passing as vegetables. Yas! You may have heard that Rosé or Riesling are good choices to pair with Thanksgiving. And they are, in drier styles, the acidity balances the meal, cutting through all that decadence. Another favorite is Pinot Noir. Generally speaking, Pinot Noir is a safe bet to bring along to any gathering when you aren't sure what will be on the menu. It is a lighter body red and elegant, matching with an abundance of flavors, as well as on its own. We recently hosted another wine tasting and this one was devoted exclusively to California Pinot Noir, from four distinct areas. The timeliness of it all is astounding!

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Bainbridge Island: Take A Ferry, Drink Some Wine (Video)

Last week, I had the privilege of traveling to Seattle for a work conference. Gabe joined me and we added some days for leisure and reconnecting with some of our Chicago friends, who now live there. Seattle is an impressive city. I had not been in 20+ years, and had a repeat experience of several sunny and mild days, causing one to ponder, "are the locals just exaggerating all this 24/7 rain narrative, to keep the Californians from moving up?" Then it rained. But not too much and it was really rather refreshing, coming from the drought stricken state. Seattle has more than just water to boast. World class restaurants, attractions, shopping, arts, culture, the herb, and my personal favorite, wine. Beautiful wine. With Washington being the second largest premium wine producing state in the U.S., there is much to choose from.

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Wine for the dead.

Each year at this time, I reflect on all of the family, friends and pets who have passed on.  Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of The Dead, is a revered holiday with indigenous roots, observed November 1st & 2nd, primarily in Mexico, but also in other parts of the world.  The purpose is to honor loved ones who have passed and beckon their spirits back to earth, by creating elaborate ofrendas or altars.  Possessions from the departed are placed on the altar, including their favorite foods and beverages.  Additional decorations are calaveras de azucar/ sugar skulls, papel picado/ perforated paper and cempasúchil/ marigold flowers, bringing vibrant colors and invoking positive feelings for missed loved ones. 

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For The Love of Sauternes!

A few weeks ago a dear friend got married. Yay! The wedding was in Florida and we were home in California, but we watched the whole thing. The Greek Orthodox Church has become super hip. They do live-streams y'all! Nai. Modern Greek for "yes". It was every bit as ceremonious as you might expect. However Gabe and I were kicked back at home, watching while I madly texted with my Kentucky peeps, representing various time zones, who were also tuning in. It was a very 21st Century experience. Texting with my friends made it feel like we were in community and bearing witness as our cherished friend made a monumental commitment. For the onlookers, there was no travel, no budget busting, no drama (unless you count my open weeping, tears of joy!). And all this happened in our living room while pleasantly nibbling on sliced apples, walnuts, Stilton and Roquefort cheeses. Accompanied by none other than Sauternes. That my friends, is not something provided by The Greek Orthodox Church. 

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Wanna host a tasting party on a budget? We got you!

Last month Gabe and I decided to host some friends for a little wine and cheese tasting. Our low-cost approach invited guests to bring their preferred $10-$15 wine from a big box store (think Costco, BevMo, Cost Plus, Target etc.) or a grocery store. The idea was that you could find yourself in various areas of the country, with limited access to boutique wine shops and the like, and still procure a quality bottle of vin. We wanted to see what other people found appealing and share some of our own selections. As the hosts, we were sure to have plenty of bottles on hand for this event. It was fun to shop based on our own, very specific criteria, and even more fun to taste from Italy, France, Spain and the U.S.!

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An Olympic State of Mind in Lodi

To cap off all of our posts about the recent Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, CA last month, I would like to give out some medals. During the time we were there, the Games of The XXXI Olympiad, otherwise known as Rio 2016, were being televised. This backdrop of olympic hopefuls, representing 207 nations and 11, 303 athletes, rounded out each day of the conference, as well as that entire 2-week period. The talent, the emotional stories, the display of commitment, hard work, team work and pride was magnetizing. We sacrificed precious sleep to stay up late and watch. There were stand-outs, surprises and of course, a little controversy. So for this post, in alignment with the Olympics, I am giving nods to some wines, wineries and other noteworthy establishments in Lodi. Let the games begin!

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A Commentary on Ironstone Vineyards.

As Gabe mentioned in the previous post, we stayed for a post Wine Bloggers excursion to Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys, CA, in the Sierra foothills. What. A. Place. First off, it is massive. Our tour lasted several hours and we were moving expeditiously. With vineyards, a museum, caverns, a gift shop, a tasting room and an amphitheater, it is a lot of ground to cover. Thankfully we had an attentive team to escort us around the property. Gabe's post visually sums it up. At long last we were led into a grand ball room, all set up for our vertical tasting. Wine time!

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WBC 16 from behind the camera.

This year's Wine Bloggers Conference was held in Lodi, CA., and I had the pleasure of heading up that way to check out the town, the conference & taste some really good wines. This is Gabe, by the way, and I tend to be less verbose than Joanna. So, I will let my pictures do most of the talking for me, hence the title. But I will try my best to give a short, but sweet overview of the WBC 16 conference.

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