Category Archives: Holidays

Wines to have on hand for unexpected gifts and guests

260x135_HOLbottlestogiveWhen it comes to unexpected gifts, a bottle of wine is an easy – yet thoughtful – way to go. It’s a good idea to have a few on hand for when you need a quick gift. For unexpected guests, you’ll want some wine to serve, whether it’s a couple of friends who stop in on their way to dinner, in-laws staying the night or neighbors stopping by.

Here are a few wines to have on hand and what they are best used for! Oh, and today only, 15% off 12 or more bottles, so stock up on them today!

Unexpected Guests

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs – Your go-to aperitif – Under $20
A perfect bubbly to pull out if you want something sparkling for your aperitif. This often happens in our home – we are about to start getting ready for dinner and then think, should we start with some bubbly? But then move on to the question, do we have any bubbly? Try this wine! It is rich and fuller-bodied, a great wine to start the night or pair with appetizers.

Oregon Pinot Gris – The perfect white wine for aperitif and dinner – most under $20
Yes, a bit of a broad statement, but I think having a couple bottles of Oregon Pinot Gris in your cellar or wine cabinet is the perfect solution for any dinner party. Not only does it make a great aperitif to sip before a meal, it is delightfully food friendly for a starter course or for that guest who only drinks white wine. Versatile. A few great producers are Benton Lane, Elk Cove, King Estate, Adelsheim and Eyrie.

Kenwood Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 – Your dinner red – $25
A favorite Cabernet Sauvignon, showing what Cabs are like from Sonoma Valley. Great mint and herbs on the nose, with other spices and black fruit and cassis. Palate is structured, great acid and tannins balancing out lovely herbal and fruit tones. Great finish. A perfect dinner wine as it is not too heavy.

d’Arenberg Stump Jump Shiraz – Your whenever red – about $10
Need a red to pull out for drinks, dinner or a party? This is the one to have on hand. Ripe and expressive and just plain old easy-drinking. A wine to have on hand all year round.

Unexpected Gifts

Gosset Grand Reserve – For the classic gift of Champange – $60
A delicious NV Champagne, this wine is rich and creamy, with toast and biscuit notes backed by crisp acidity. Long, lingering finish. $59.99

Anaba Chardonnay 2006 – For the white wine lover – $25
This is one of my favorite new finds. I love this Chardonnay – it is crisp & complex with delicious layers of fruit and subtle oak. It will make you re-discover quality Chardonnay. Perfect wine to give as a gift to any white wine lover, or for a nice sit down dinner.

Club Claret Collection – for the Bordeaux or old world wine lover
This is a fantastic collection of approachable, affordable Bordeaux, hand-picked by Master of Wine, Anthony Foster. Ranging from $13 – $20, there is a wine in here for everyone on your list. My two favorites are the Château Bel Air La Chapelle Fut de Chene 2005  and the Château St Nicolas Premiere Cotes de Bordeaux 2006. The former is well balanced all around with great fruit and spice and length, the latter is a bit more rustic with a lovely earthy component.

Kathryn Hall 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon – For the big & bold classic red wine lover – $75
One of our favorite collectible Cabernet Sauvignon… this wine is delicious. Intense, concentrated, balanced… For the person who loves big, ripe, rich California Cabernet, this is the wine for them.

When to use a decanter

Poor decanters. Most of them sit on a lonely shelf, looking pretty, gathering dust, its owners occasionally looking at the empty container wondering, when am I supposed to use that thing, anyway? The answer? Often! You don’t need a 30-year-old wine full of sediment to use and enjoy a decanter. Even if you are drinking something as simple and youthful as Two Buck Chuck, a decanter sure does make it look nicer on the tadecanterble!

There are two main purposes of a decanter:

    1. 1. To remove sediment from a wine
    2. 2. To aerate a wine

For the first, as a wine ages, it can throw a sediment, which collects at the bottom of the bottle. The decanter allows one to remove the wine from its sediment by slowly pouring the liquid into the decanter, keeping the sediment in the bottle.

How is this done? First, a day before you plan to drink an older bottle, gently stand it upright (it should be lying on its side in the cellar) and let it stand for a day. This way the sediment will slowly fall to the bottom of the bottle. Then, open the bottle and carefully and slowly pour the wine into the decanter. Towards the end, you will want to carefully watch and stop pouring once you get to the sediment. In formal restaurants, sommeliers use a candle under the bottle to help see the sediment. For your purposes, I’m sure any good lighting will do. Some older wines should be drunk right away while others benefit with some more cellar time.

You will most likely have many more opportunities to utilize a decanter for the second purpose – aerating a young wine. We are often eager to drink a wine right away, even when it is very young. To help it loosen up a bit, you need to let the wine breathe. Opening the wine does not qualify – that one inch diameter of wine that sees air thorough the bottle neck doesn’t do much ! Pouring the wine into a decanter allows much more of the wine’s surface area to see air, opening up a young, tight wine. The air helps the aromas and flavors open up, allowing you to enjoy more of the wine. This is the way to enjoy a young Bordeaux or California Cabernet – or any big wine for that matter.

So take the decanter off the shelf, and use it. It will enhance your wine drinking experience and always look pretty on the table.

Also, remember that a beautiful decanter makes a great gift for the wine lover – either to use, or just look pretty on the shelf.

Party Tricks You Need to Know

My rule in the kitchen? Stay ahead of the mess. It is also is a good way to go through life in general and certainly a way to keep your head above water at parties. A few tips on how to stay ahead of the chaos when it comes to holiday parties.

Bathtub ice bucket – if you have a lot of wine (bubbly, whites) to chill but no good ice bucket, use your bathtub! Throw in a few bags of ice and some water and you have a built in ice bucket. Just try to use a bathroom that is not also for the guests!

Screw cap wines or pre-open the bottles – There are three people looking for wine to pour and only empty bottles and no one can find the wine key. This is when I love screw cap wines. No wasting time looking for a corkscrew or cutting yourself on foil while you hastily open the bottle. If you do have cork-finished wines, open a good amount of them before the party so that all you have to do is pull out the cork and pour. There should never be a line for wine.

Wash your glassware in the morning – Perhaps this goes against the “stay ahead of the mess” rule, but to preserve more stems and break less bowls, wait till you have a clear head and lots of patience and room to wash those glasses. Feel free to rinse them that evening, but when it comes to the good wash, save them all for morning. I promise you less casualties.

How much wine do you need for a party?

The rule of thumb when serving wine is to have a half bottle per person. But that can certainly vary depending on a few variables.

You will want ¾ a bottle or a full bottle per person if:

– Wine is the only alcoholic beverage being served

– The party/gathering is over three hours

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

You can account for less if:

– There are multiple types of alcoholic beverages being served

– You are sure of your guests’ preferences and some of them are not for wine.

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!

Personality Gift Guide: what style of wine are you?

grapes Welcome to December! To kick off this festive month, we’ve decided to give you a little quiz to find out what wine style of wine you are. Fresh & fruity? Earthy & spicy? Take our quiz below to find out!

When traveling, you like to

a. Plan everything in advance, with a complete itinerary in hand and each day having a specific schedule, with little wiggle room.

b. Plan most of the trip out, booking rooms and flights and car rentals, making a list of things you’d like to see and do while you are there, though no specific schedule.

c. Kind of play it all by ear. You book the flights and maybe hotels, but plan to book most things while you’re there depending on what is most popular at the time.

d. Buy a ticket or rent a car last minute to get to your destination, bring a tent as you love to camp everywhere you go and plan on staying in hostels and other cool places.

When picking out a restaurant for the evening, you prefer one that

a. Has a menu and wine list online so that you can plan what you’ll order – and you wont’ go without a reservation

b. Has been acclaimed and written up by critics and is a style of food that you like. Hopefully they have a reservation, but if not, you will walk in for a table if they have a walk in policy.

c. Pick a place from the most recent write up in your local paper or magazine and go there.

d. The newest ethnic restaurant

If you had an extra two hours to do whatever you wished, you would

a. Clean or organize

b. Exercise or go walking

c. Read the newest book or see the newest movie

d. Wander around in a new neighborhood or park

Your favorite type of movies are:

a. Classics

b. Dramas and comedies

c. Independent Films

d. Documentaries

Your friends see you as:

a. Fastidious and meticulous in all that you do

b. You have your opinions, but are generally easy-going when it comes to most things

c. Adventurous but down-to-earth as well

d. Completely carefree

If you answered:

Mostly A – you are Light and Crisp – You like a plan and tend to have things in order. Try Sauvignon Blanc or Italian white wine.

Mostly B – you are Smooth and Supple – You like to go with the flow and enjoy life. Not everything must be perfect, but chaos is not your thing, either. Try some Australian Shiraz or red Rhone Blends.

Mostly C – you are Fresh and Fruity – you like to keep it fresh – new things, new places, a bit of adventure, but also with your feet firmly on the ground. Try some good fresh and light Barbera or Pinot Noir.

Mostly D – you are Earthy and Spicy – You like to mix it up a bit – adventurous and curious, you’re out exploring the world discovering your surroundings. Try Carmenere or Spanish reds.

Try some of these new wines from and use code 1CENT on check out now through midnight December 2, 2009 for free (or 1 cent) shipping on any order $99 or more!