Category Archives: Holidays

It’s Club time. WINE Club time.

Just 4 days to Christmas and you’re late. Really late. You wanted to get a killer gift, but realize you have no time to shop, have no idea what kind of wine they like, so you’re stuck.

Enter Wine Clubs. We’ve got three incredible wine club options, starting at just $29.99/month. Discovery Tour, Wines of the World & 90 Point Club for those collectors.

The tag line for our wine clubs is: Authentic wines. Premium brands. A great journey. Unlike other wine clubs, the wines we source for our customers are REAL wines, from REAL wineries. No mass-produced overflow juice with a private label, but wines that come from a place you can actually visit, a label you may see on a restaurant wine list, a wine you can get AGAIN if you like it. We pride ourselves on this distinction and hope you will truly enjoy discovering the wines we hand select.

Check out our wine club page here and from now through the end of the year (12/31/2011), enjoy 20% off all Wine Club memberships.

Yes, this is a totally promotional post! But can you blame us? Our wine clubs are fantastic…

Planning for a party? Bottle Math

You’re having a party. Blow out bash or intimate dinner, either way, you have people coming over and they will be thirsty. So how much wine do you have on hand?

The general rule of thumb when serving wine is to have a half bottle per person. But you can almost throw that out the window since that number varies depending on the style of party. Some math to help you prepare.

1 bottle still wine = approx 4 glasses
1 bottle bubbly = approx 6 flutes

You should plan on about 3 glasses (or 3/4 bottle) per person for any party lasting 3-4 hours.

For example:
50 people x 3 glasses/person = 150 glasses of wine
For 4 glasses per bottle, you divide 150 by 4 and get 37.5. Round that up to 38 and you’ll need about 38 bottles.

If that math is too confusing, maybey just go for a bottle a person, something you will definitely need if:

- Wine is the only alcoholic beverage being served

- The party/gathering is over four hours

- Your friends are big drinkers! Don’t want to run out with a crowd like that…

You can account for less (about a half bottle per person) if:

- There are multiple types of alcoholic beverages being served

- You have a good number of non-drinkers.

The cardinal rule is not to run out, so best buy more, not less, and buy what you like so that if you are stuck with leftovers, you’ll enjoy drinking them through the holidays!

Dessert Wine Guide

Dessert wines get a bad rap. Something about a wine being “sweet” seems to turn people off. I gather that’s because of the many cheap sweet wines that once flooded the market. Too many sips and headaches from those sickly sweet wines would make anyone turn up their nose at a “dessert” wine. But good dessert wines are some of the best in the world.

First, a few factors can make a dessert wine.

In the vineyard…
– Botrytis: Grapes are left on the vine once they’ve reached maximum ripeness to encourage the development of botrytis, or “noble rot.” This helpful mold then shrivels the grapes, concentrating the sugars while maintaining the acid levels. The grapes yeild less juice than dry wines, due to their shriveled and concentrated state. But the result is something spectacular. The concentration of fruit with the good levels of acidity result in a blanced and decadent dessert wine. The most famous example of this is Sauternes.
– Icewine: Grapes are left to freeze! Icewine (or eiswein in Germany) is made by completely ripe grapes being left to freeze on the vine. This process concentrates the sugars, resulting in a beautifully sweet wine. Due to the labor intensity of creating ice wine (hand harvest at the first freeze, small yields, etc), it can be pricy, but the wines are so incredible. A perfect match with ice cream. Examples include Canadian ice wine (Inniskillin), US icewine (though some of these are frozen after harvest) like Joseph Phelps and Pacific Rim, and German icewine.

By the winemakers
– Fortified: Fortified wines are some of the most common and include Sherry & Port. A wine is fortified by adding brandy (or another similar spirit) to a still wine. In the case of port, the brandy is added to halt fermentation, so residual sugar remains and the addition of brandy increases the alcohol level, leaving a sweet wine, high in alcohol content. Sherry receives a dose of spirits after ferementation, so can be dry or sweet. Many other countries make wine in a “port” style, including Australia, United States and South Africa. Muscats from Australia are also fortified, as is Madeira from Portugal.

If you’re looking to find a high-quality (yet affordable) dessert wine, here are my suggestions to do so:

Light bodied: Joseph Phelps Eisrebe (375ML half-bottle) 2009
This is a great example of an icewine style at a great price. Not fortified, this wine shows the purity of fruit from where it came. Balanced, elegant and delicate, this is a great wine for lighter citrus-based desserts or with ice cream.

Medium-bodied: Yalumba Museum Reserve Muscat (375ML half-bottle)
Hands down one of our favorites year after yet, the Yalumba Museum Muscat has spice and dried fruit notes, is terribly balanced with a super long finish, and can be enjoyed with chocolate cake, over ice cream or just on its own. Also lasts in the fridge once opened for a month or so!

Full-bodied: Terra d’Oro Zinfandel Port
Such a fun wine! Though not “true” port from Portugal, this wine is made in the same manner with the Zinfandel grape. Since Zinfandel is already jammy and full bodied, imagine what it’s like when fortified! Great on it’s own or, with anything chocolate!

Bubbly Guide: Your guide to all that sparkles for the holidays

Holidays seem to bring more bubbles. For example, I’ve been on a very modified version of the Champagne Diet. The one where you have only the best but only a little bit of it. My modification is something like this: drink more Champagne, don’t follow any of the other suggestions. So more often, I am pouring myself a glass of Champagne just because I want to feel fabulous. And it’s true, Champagne can make you feel pretty fabulous. Though it does not always have to be with Champange, you can feel fantastic with other sparkling wine as well! Here are some of our favorites for holiday sparkler sipping.

In the value sector…  Cava & Prosecco
As always, we have the delicious Cava as an alternative to Champagne. Cava is a dry, crisp and delicious bubbly to have for parties and celebrations when you are looking for something refreshing at a great price. Customer favorites include Cristalino, Segura-Viudas and  Poema Brut. All of which are under $12.
Then there is  Prosecco. Prosecco, made in a different method than Cava or Champagne, is often more on the fruit-forward side, with ripe apple, pear and melon flavors, less citrus and toasty notes. It’s great as an aperitf, with dessert or as a sparkling mixer for cocktails. Favorites include: Nino Franco (more dry style), Santa Margherita, and Zardetto.

OTHER Sparkling
Here are three top wines in the $20 price point!

First, Roederer Estate from Anderson Valley in California. This estate is owned by the famed Champagne house, Louis Roederer, and that quality is easily seen when you taste this wine. It’s dry, complex, with layers of fruit and toast. Excellent finish and balance and all under $20. We love this wine every year.
From Australia, there is the Jansz Rose, which ranks as one of my top sparkling wine choices as well.
And Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace, both Brut & Rose, are both elegant and lovely, great examples of other French sparkling wine.

Finally, Champagne… There are a lot of the same suspects in Champagne, but my biggest suggestion for this genre is drink more rose. Rose Champange is really something else, and should be drunk and enjoyed on more occasions.
Canard-Duchene is our favorite right now due to the fact that the price is fantastic and the wine inside combines full-bodied fruit with refined structure. Delicious.

Choosing the right glassware for your wine

One very important aspect of drinking wine is the third party vessel used to get the beverage from the bottle to your mouth. Most often this vessel is glass. Occasionally it is plastic, or maybe paper, or in worst cases, a straw. But for the majority of those times, it’s a glass, and when it’s a glass, there are choices. Here are a few tips on finding the right glass for your wine.

General rules you should always follow:
– Stay away from a rolled rim. It won’t kill the wine, but it is so much less enjoyable than a good wine glass that has no roll on the rim – it allows the wine to just flow into your mouth seamlessly and makes a difference in heightened aromatics & flavors.

- Make sure it’s a tulip shaped glass. The shape helps catch and concentrate the aromas and bring them to your nose. Enhanced aromatics lead to more enhanced flavors and therefore, enhanced enjoyment.

- Don’t stick your nose up at stemless glassware – most of the stemless glassware is made by high-end winemakers (like Riedel) and fits the two requirements above, just without a stem.

Now, for finding the right glass for a specific wine… you can get just about as specific as you want here. Riedel (rhymes with needle), the famed Austrian glass maker, has a number of different glassware lines, some of which even have different glasses for a Riesling vs. a Rhiengau. The founder of the company, Claus Riedel, recognized that wine smelled and tasted differently depending on the type of glass used to drink it. So over the past 50 years, the company has attempted to perfect the art of the perfect glass for every wine. Each shape and design is meant to heighten the enjoyment of the style of wine meant for it. Not trying to advertise for Riedel, but they are one of the pioneers in this sector.

But while Riedel has a glass for everything, chances are you don’t need to. In general, having a good glass for red and a good glass for whites is good enough. The classic white size is that for Sauvignon Blanc, and has a more narrow bowl and smaller shape in general. The classic red glass is for Bordeaux/Cab/Merlot and has a wider bowl and is larger in general. If you want to increase your selection, we recommend a Pinot glass, which is great for, what else? Pinot! But also wonderful for Chardonnay. Between those three glasses, you’ll be set. You don’t need to get the highest of high end, just stick to the basics above (no rolled rim, tulip shape) and you’ll be good to go!

Looking for just one glass to fit all? We love the Riedel Overture and it’s what we use in all our wine tastings here at the office – it’s an ideal all-around glass.