Category Archives: Wine Tips

This summer, you should drink more…. Riesling!

Most wine aficionados reach for a bottle of Riesling when temperatures rise (and many other times for that matter), and when I ask the favorite grape for summer, those who know the grape happily respond – Riesling. Unfortunately, that is only the answer from those familiar with the variety. Poor grape. It's so often misunderstood!

Riesling can conjure up images of sickly sweet, low quality wine, yet Riesling is a noble grape variety and has been making wine for centuries. It's one of the only white wine varieties that can make extremely age worthy wines, as well as some of the most highly sought after sweet wines. Perhaps that's why sweet and Riesling are too often deemed a pair. But what many don't realize is that most Rieslings are actually dry.

Riesling has high aromatics and high acidity – two perfect attributes for summer drinking, as well as for food pairing.
Which wines should you try that will help introduce you to the delicious world of Rieslings? Here are some suggestions.

You like dry, mineral-driven wines, like New Zealand or Chile Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio
Try Australian Rieslings – these wines display intense aromatics of lime, mineral notes and stone fruit. Very crisp, very dry. We love the Pewsey Vale (on sale for $9.99 right now at WineShopper) as it is a great value that displays all these characteristics. Look for the excellent Riesling examples from Clare Valley and Eden Valley.

You like fruity white wines and blends like Conundrum or Evolution
Try Washington State Rieslings. These wines have the same steely acidity, but with a bit rounder, riper fruit and occasionally a touch of residual sugar, though usually with a very tangy finish. We love the Eroica (even served it at my wedding!) and the Pacific Rim Wallula Vineyard (made with biodynamnic farming practices). Eroica has a bit more residual sugar, while the Pacific Rim has a touch of petrol (this is a GOOD thing) in the nose that makes it vibrant and a bit tangy. As I taste more Rieslings from the Pacific Northwest, I learn how perfect the region is for this grape. And Washignton State – as well as Oregon – are making some stellar Riesling.

You like sweet wine
One of the reason's Riesling is so good as a sweet wine is because of its excellent acidity. German Rieslings are probably the way to go on the sweet side, although Austria and Alsace are other excellent regions. Look for terms like Spatlese and Auslese on the label, which indicates a bit more residual sugar (usually). Maximin Grunhauser and JJ Prum are fantastic producers. There are plenty others though, so do some research.

For more, read Alma's take on reading a Riesling label! It's definitely helpful.

So this summer, try a Riesling. It's a diverse grape and there are sure to be some that fit your style!
And please do share your favorites.

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:

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    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.

Best way to quickly chill a bottle of wine


In the heat of summer (extreme heat if you’re in the NW), we often find ourselves wanting a cold glass of wine, but realizing we lacked the foresight to have put one in the fridge earlier that day. In which case we need some fast measures to chill that bottle. Here are some of my favorite ways to do that.

Ice bucket & water – The most effective method is to fill a bucket with ice and some water and submerge your bottle in it for 10 – 20 minutes. Ice won’t cut it – you must add water to make it work and work faster.

Frozen bottle – You may be lacking ice or bucket or both. For these cases, keep an empty wine bottle in the freezer and pour the new wine into that (or at least enough for a couple of glasses). It won’t be ice cold, but it will cool down in about 10 minutes.

Ice Jacket – Invest in an ice jacket or two. Keep them in the freezer and when your need to chill that bottle down, slip it on the bottle AND put the bottle in the freezer (with jacket on) for about 10 minutes.

Ice cubes – It may seem wrong, but remember that wine is mostly water, so if you’re not digging deep into the cellar, throw an ice cube or two into that glass to cool it down. Think of it this way – If it’s not a wine you can put an ice cube in, it’s worth the wait to cool down… 

Storing Wine Properly

bubble bottlesI just heard a story from someone who had to dump a bottle 1988 vintage Champagne because it had been stored in a regular fridge for almost two years. While that may seem like a harmless thing to do – you are supposed to keep wine cool while you store it after all – one very important component is missing – humidity! To keep food fresh, you need a dry environment. To keep wine fresh, you need a humid one. Humidity prevents the cork from drying. This is why you buy a wine fridge for your wine and a regular fridge for the food.

For the average consumer, most wines purchased will be drunk within a month, often within 24 hours. In this short amount of storage time you should not worry too much about where you put that bottle. But do if it’s going to be sitting somewhere for more than a day, keep these storage tips in mind.

– Don’t keep it over the oven or stove, in a hot car, in direct sunlight or anywhere else where it could be “cooked.” 
– Don’t keep wine in the fridge for over a week or two because of that humidity factor.
– Store wines on their side to keep the cork wet. Screw cap wines can be stored upright or on their side, but be careful that you don’t dent the cap – that could break the seal and let in air.

If you are planning to store wine longer than a month or two, you may need a more controlled storage environment. The same tips above apply, but you may try to make sure the wine hangs out in an area with regulated temperature – it’s not necessarily the temperature that can ruin a wine, but the swings in temperature, so even if it’s not perfect storage temps, staying constant is important. A dark closet in a basement would be good –no sunlight or drastic temperature changes and possibly a bit of humidity to help as well!

For super age-worth wines – invest in a fridge. There are small ones out there that will do the trick and not break the bank.

Share some of your storage tips, mishaps or questions with us!