Holiday Wine Picks

So the end of the year is near, meaning we have alot of celebrating to do.  Whether you're buying gifts (wine makes the perfect holiday gift), having friends and family over for Christmas dinner or you need some bubbly for New Year's, these wine picks should impress. 

Gift Wines

I tend to lean toward full bodied reds for gifts.  They tend to age longer, pair well with meat main dishes, and simply put, most Americans like red wine.  So here's a few to choose from, in various price ranges:

  • 2007 Cosentino Cigarzin ($16.99).  The name is very macho and so is the wine.  It's full of interesting flavors like rhubarb, pomegranate, cherry cream and the signature cigar box aroma.  This is one to warm up to and enjoy with a holiday meal or some chocolate.  Also, a great value I found at CostCo.
  • 2008 Langmeil "Valley Floor" Shiraz ($22.99).  This wine is deep and rich, loaded with plum, dark cherry and berry flavor along with vanilla and cocoa.  Plus the fact that it comes from Barossa and has a screwcap makes this wine hard to resist opening!
  • 2007 Tinto Pesquera ($32.99).  Great Tempranillo from the Ribera del Duero giving dark rich fruit, pencil lead, leather, minerality and nice acidic bite.  Will age gracefully.
  • 2007 Hall Cabernet Sauvignon ($39.99).  The all-American wine gift is a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and this bottle gives all that it should: full body, dark cherry, plum, coffee, licorice and a long finish.  This bottle should age gracefully and be a great part of the recipient's cellar.
  • 2007 Andrew Will Ciel du Cheval ($52.99).  A great blend of 45% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon from Yakima Valley in Washington.  Blackberry, cassis, flowers, spice and herbs are a part of the aroma and flavor profile.  The recipient will love you for this!
  • 2005 Giorgio Rivetti La Spinetta "Vigneto Gallina" Barbaresco ($79.99).  An awesome and present from northwest Italy.  This wine would be a great addition to any cellar and has lasting ability along with raspberry and plum, tar and truffle essence.

Food Wines

Here are two wines which match very well with most foods and are safe bets to pair with whatever dish you may run into.

The Bubbly

There is sure to be alot of celebrating and this calls for some sparkling wine.  Not only is it crisp and refreshing, but the foam, bubbles and fruity flavor will help you ring in the New Year in style.  I decided to leave out Champagne and only put in the value selections, but if you feel like it, grab a bottle of Duval-Leroy, Dom Perignon or any other Champagne.

  •  Gran Sarao Brut Cava ($9.99).  A great value with grannie smith apple, yeasty dough and lemon zest flavors.  They even added Chardonnay to the traditional blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo, giving it more body.
  • Huber "Hugo" Sparkling Rosé ($9.99).  An Austrian blend of Pinot Noir and Zweigelt, this wine will wow you with its strawberries, raspberries, rose petals and minerality.  And the pricetag is just right.
  • Mionetto Organic Prosecco D.O.C. ($12.99).  If you're trying to save money and stay green, this is the wine for you.  They even used recyclables to make the bottle and label!  Golden apples and elderflower along with crispness and fresh bubbles. 
  • Gustave Lorentz Cremant d'Alsace ($19.99).  A lively sparkling wine made up of mostly Pinot Blanc and loaded with brioche, apples, meyer lemon and a hint of nuttiness.
  • 2006 Argyle Brut ($19.99).  Blend of 58% Chardonnay and 42% Pinot Noir.  Full of honeysuckle, melon, vanilla spiced pear, apple, biscuit, lemon meringue, well, you get the picture- a must buy!
  • L. Mawby Brut Cremant Classic ($21.99).  Straight from Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula, made of 100% Vignoles (hybrid varietal).  Excellent fruit flavor, crispness, yeast and toasted pine nuts.

Holiday Beer

Yes, beer drinkers should not be excluded from the celebration, and here's a few to keep you happy:

Happy Holidays, stay safe and let me know how you enjoyed the recommendations!

Thanksgiving Wines Edition 3

Another Thanksgiving full of stuffing, yams, pumpkin pie, turkey and football is almost upon us.  I talked about some great wines and varietals and how they go with your holiday dinner in my 2009 Thanksgiving pairings article, and those rules still apply.  If you're still looking for the perfect wines to match, I've got a few for you:

  • Santa Margherita Prosecco ($16).  Yes, they do make a normally overpriced Pinot Grigio, but their Prosecco is amazing and a deal at this pricepoint.  Apricots, pears, peach and a hint of white pepper will tickle your tongue.
  • 2007 Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris ($15).  A turkey dinner always needs some richness and this wine has it.  Loaded with sweet fruit nuances of peach, pear, melon and apple pie, a touch of minerality, a hint of spice and creaminess makes this the white wine buy of the holiday season.
  • 2007 Grgich Hills Chardonnay ($36).  A steadily amazing wine year after year, this biodynamic, full-bodied but bright white will match your turkey and alot of other dishes.  Ripe apple, mango, oaky vanilla, cinnamon, pineapple and wild honey are just a few of the nuances your senses will enjoy.
  • 2006 Dog Point Pinot Noir ($34).  Recently I've become a huge fan of New Zealand Pinot Noir, and this one keeps me coming back.  Excellent acidity, this wine is vibrant and full of earthiness, mushroom, ripe cherry and plum.
  • 2006 Château de Tiregand Pécharmant ($15).  A hard wine to find but well worth the adventure.  Hailing from Bergerac, this deal is made up of 45% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc.  It's silky smooth and complex, full of dark plum, coffee, blackberry, clove and vanilla.
  • 2007 Cosentino CigarZin ($15).  This is one of my favorite red picks for the holidays- a very festive wine with dark dried fruit and lively spice flavor.  Have to love the jamminess and cigarbox scents!
  • Terradora di Paolo Aglianico ($16).  A southern Italian classic which goes perfect with your holiday dinner.  Ripe raspberry, cherry, tobacco, licorice and more oak spice takes this wine a long way.
  • Dogfish Head Punkin Ale ($9.99/4 pack)  I'm always throwing a beer or two in and since I made a batch of pumpkin ale, I decided to recommend one of my favorites on the market.  The pumpkin flavor is subtle and it does have the spices and a hint of brown sugar on its full-bodied finish.

I hope you go with some of these selections and enjoy the day with your friends and family.  Also, have fun planning those post-Thanksgiving workouts and let me know how the pairings worked!



Super Bowl XLIV Wine/Beverage Picks

The big game is around the corner, and whether you're entertaining or bringing your favorite snacks and beverages to your friend's house, you'll want to put your best foot forward and pair up your eats with your drinks.  You can impress your friends and make them envious of your picks.  Besides Peyton and Drew, you'll be the talk of the party!  So let's get on to some colossal pairings:

Before we get into the wine, I always like to have some beer onhand.  It not only has that slight hoppy bitterness but is also a thirst quencher.  For this Sunday I like Lagunitas "The Censored" Rich Copper Ale.  It has everything you want in a beer and more.  A creamy, malty flavor, slightly bitter but smooth hops, a rich copper color, a touch of citrus, caramel and brown sugar.  You can find this for around $10.99/6 pack.  It's also great because it pairs well with most foods you'll enjoy, including spicy ones.  I love it with chili, wings and spicy chips.

Wine value picks with tough names are what's called for on Super Bowl Sunday.  You should have some white onhand, in case it's called for, and I couldn't think of a better one to have than 2008 Big Fire Pinot Gris ($12.99).  This grape has a great roundness to it and the wine packs the fruit in: grapefruit, tangerine and pears.  You can feel honey and smell flowers in the glass, giving you no problem when the spice from hot wings comes a-knockin'!

For the reds, we'll kick off with 2007 Torres Sangre de Toro (blood of the bull), a blend of Garnacha and Cariñena ($8.99).  It packs cherry and raspberry fruit flavor with cola and dried floral scents.  The medium body and soft tannins are a great blend to accompany your Super Bowl chili creation.  Next we aim to please our Pinot lovers with 2007 Three Saints Pinot Noir ($24.99).  Even if you're not a Saints fan, you will still enjoy the blackberries, raspberries and tea notes, along with the ripe acidity.  We can finish off the wine with two big, luscious examples.  First off, we have 2007 Tait "The Ball Buster" Shiraz, which has big dark fruit, vanilla, oak and smooth tannins ($17.99).  Also go for 2008 Owen Roe Abbot's Table ($22.99), a big blend of eight varietals, mostly Sangiovese and Zinfandel.  It's a big bite of rich red and dark fruit, and ready to take on your pizza and nachos.

The most important thing to take away from the pairings is what goes well with this cuisine.  You will be enjoying some spice, tomato based items (chili, pizza) and fried and greasier dishes.  You will need beverages that have a touch of sweetness to put out the fire, are fruity, a lower alcohol content (usually enflames spices) and that have a touch of spice themselves to mesh with the food.

I love making my own food (especially my World's Best Nachos), especially for big events.  I will have to include my wings and pizza recipes later, but in the meantime, I will give out some of my favorite vendors:

No matter what you pick, remember to drink responsibly, don't mix it with driving, and have a great time.  Any event that you get together with people you like is a sure to be a great time, so make sure it is positive from start to finish.  Have fun!

Healthy New Year's Resolutions, Weight Loss & Wine

OK, so we're finally done with Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year's Eve, etc. (though the Super Bowl is coming up!) and it's time to undo some of the damage that's been done and lose some poundage.  Hit the gym, pound the pavement, eating right, yoga classes, whatever gets you to sweat it out.  But all of this does NOT mean you have to give up some of your favorite beverages; namely wine and beer. 

Studies have shown the redeeming health benefits of MODERATE consumption of wine and beer.  I am not telling anyone to go out and fill your fridges with beers and pantries with wine or that you will lose weight if you take in these beverages.  But one to two drinks daily, and no more, promotes HDL lipoprotein (good cholesterol) which removes cholesterol from the bloodstream and transports it to the liver for removal.  Wine also contains flavonoids (polyphenols) and resveratrol, both known as antioxidants, which help slow cellular damage to the body and prevent plaque and clotting in the arteries, preventing cancer, heart disease and promoting cardiovascular health.  Beer, on the otherhand, is great because it contains many nutrients and vitamins from grains and yeast which survive the fermentation process.  You can also consume light beers which will give you the same benefits with less calories.

Still, I have to preach moderation.  Neither beer nor wine will actually help you lose fat.  Only a cut in calorie intake, proper diet and exercise will help you with that goal.  But when you reach your goal weight, those beverages will help you maintain your health and weight. 

If you overindulge in beer, wine or spirits, it will prove detrimental to your overall health.  Your liver will suffer from overuse and you could gain weight from the excess calories of the beverages and possible "munchies" consumed during lowered will power.

So when you embark on your 2010 diets, remember to count your beverage calories in with your overall daily intake.  This will lead you to your fat/weight loss goals as well as to you enjoying more of your favorite beverages.  And a longer, healthier life!

(Image courtesy of flickr) 

4th of July Wine Picks


So the 4th of July weekend is upon us and now it's time to add the finishing touches to your shopping list.  Whether you are grilling, BBQ-ing, cooking in, or ordering out, these are some sure-fire picks to please all palates.


We are going to start off with a couple of good rosé wines.  Now you have to have a sparkling choice, since it is a holiday.  And for that I choose the Mionetto "il" Rose NV ($9.99) sparkling wine from northeastern Italy.  It has a great nose full of raspberry, along with minerality, bing cherry, and light crisp bubbles.  Great with almost any food options.  I also chose a still rosé, the 2008 Gustave Lorentz "Le Rosé" of Pinot Noir ($10.99) from Alsace.  A bit more depth and fruit flavor, it is light enough to enjoy on a hot sunny day- and very versatile with food.



Moving along, we may have some guests who think of sparkling or rosé as a bit "phoo-phoo".  These next cool picks aim to please.  2008 Tabali Viognier ($10.99) has honey citrus, peach, fresh herb, and creamy texture- excellent with fried foods.  For another honey toned wine, we have the 2007 Simonsig Chenin Blanc ($10.99) from Stellenbosch, South Africa.  This wine is packed with tropical flavor and complexity.  Next we move to 2007 Leitz Dry Riesling ($14.99) from the Rheingau in Germany.  Apricot, lime, and a floral nose are enough to tackle most spicy dishes.  For the ultimate summer wine, try the 2007 Puiatti "Zuccole" Pinot Grigio ($16.99) from Friuli.  This version has a bit more weight than your usual, with apples and pears, perfect with anything from seafood to 80015407_label[1]spice. 

No party would be complete without beer, and my choice is the North Coast Brewing Co. Blue StarNorth Coast Brewing Co. Blue Star Wheat Beer.  There might be nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than an ice cold wheat beer, and this one packs light hops and citrus fruit flavor.  Stick it in the cooler and enjoy the food and fireworks.

For those that need some red wine, I would choose to go with wines packed with fruit, so off to Australia.  Red Heads Studio presents 2005 Barrel Monkey Shiraz ($16.99).  Full of red rich fruit and light spice.  For aKilikanoon Killerman's Run Shiraz Grenache bit more, try 2006 Kilikanoon Killerman's Run Shiraz Grenache ($18.99) blend.  Charred red fruit and chocolatey coffe flavor on this well balanced wine will make it the hit of the day.  Both wines are the perfect complement to BBQ and sauces.

No matter what you pick, I hope you all enjoy your holiday, and stay safe.  As for me, I will be indulging in Rib Fest '09 in Naperville!


(image courtesy of flickr)

A Toast to Valentine's Day-Wine and Chocolate

2261643036_e859b7ca611With Saint Valentine's Day around the corner, it is extremely important for all gentlemen to dig down deep and find your romantic side.  It is the one day of the year that you cannot mess up.  Women will be waiting for flowers, candy, dinner, and wooing.  There is no need to panic- we still have about a 1 1/2 weeks to prepare.  Plan a meal at home or pick out your favorite restaurant (make reservations now).  If your partner works in an office, send flowers, and if not, have them in hand.  And for the most important part, pick out some chocolates and a great beverage to go with them.

There are three different types of chocolate to purchase: white, milk, and dark.  They all have quite different flavor profiles, and therefore must be paired with different beverages.  Choose the type your partner likes best, and then we can pick the beverage.

White Chocolate- because it contains alot of cocoa butter (at least 20%), the texture itself is quite buttery.  A 32821sparkling wine with a higher amount of residual sugar, such as a demi-sec or doux, will work perfectly.  Try Piper Heidsieck Cuvée Sublime Demi Sec ($30-35).  Another choice, with a bit of red fruitiness, is the Valter Barbero "Serena" ($8.99).  It is a Brachetto-based, frizzante sweet rosé, with light bubbly strawberry flavor.

Milk Chocolate- it's rich creamy texture and light cocoa flavor makes it easier to pair than the other two.  Fuller sweet whites, like 2007 Monchhof Estate Riesling ($14) go well.  The best pairing is Tamarack Cellars Merlot ($24)- it has a creamy full texture, cherry pie, cocoa, and tobacco flavor.  It is big, and the firm tannins mix well. 

Dark Chocolate- whether you're trying truffles or a bittersweet dark bar, such as Amano, Zinfandel is always a great choice.  I like Cline Ancient Vines ($12), and for a bigger treat, try 2006 Cline Big Break ($23)- it has oak, spice, fruit, and power.  For a bit more sweetness, go with 2006 Tobin James "Liquid Love" Late Harvest Zinfandel.  It's deep and intense, with extra concentrated fruit.  Going out of the way toward beer, I love Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock. chocbock1 madwine_2037_84413091Sweet and creamy, with nodes of caramel and vanilla.  But for my powerplay, I love an aged Tawny Port.  It has dark fruit appeal, but the years of barrel aging give it alot of toasty oak complexity.  Go for Ferreira 10 year Tawny Port ($30) or Warre's Otima 10 year Tawny Port ($26) for a smoother approach.  These wines will mesh with all flavors the bittersweets can throw at you.

No matter which approach you go with, remember that you don't need Valentine's Day to celebrate the special bond you have with your partner.  Since my career has me working most Valentine's, my wife and I find ways to make many more special days for eachother.  You both can share chocolate, flowers, wine, and special moments any time of the year.

(Image 1 courtesy of flickr)