An interesting film for wine lovers (and those just learning about wine)

March 9th, 2009

I’m generally a pretty opinionated person when it comes to movies (just ask my friend Kathleen from Cranford, NJ). I usually know when I like a film and it’s worth watching again or if I just thought it was blase - (I know, I know - I am sans accent aigu) - or I just really didn’t like it. I’ve certainly walked out on my fair share of movies and seen some multiple times at the theater.

Mondovino is a documentary where I’m not really sure what to think. As a film, I think it should have been edited more. I think it certainly had something to say - but there was a lack of tightness to the whole thing.

That being said, I enjoyed the story, the premise, the conspiracy of it all - Mondovino suggests there is a conspiracy in the wine world regarding the rating of wines and business of it all.

The film has excellent shots of wineries in Europe and the US, some interesting people were interviewed (Robert Parker, Robert Mondavi and a bunch of others in the wine world) and I think it’s a great movie to learn from.

Actually, maybe I do know what I think about this movie. I really would like to see it again someday - but at least I’ll be prepared for the length.

Just check it out. It’ll provoke some thought. I’d be interested to hear your take…

BTW - it’s great to be back in California after my time away.

A fantastic wine at a fantastic price…

March 8th, 2009

Howdy folks, I’m back after a long trip - plenty of wine tasting, lots o’ notes and many a story to tell.

Since I just got back, I am going to just let you in on a great find - a wine which many may overlook because of the low price or the common name. It’s made by one of South America’s largest winery, but I simply love it. The Concha y Toro Carmenere Diablo we opened with dinner tonight (a grilling extravaganza with some family members I love dearly) paired wonderfully with the filet mignon, grilled marinated chicken, zucchini, and pasta we ate.

This wine has a particularly spicy flavor which pairs well with robust flavors (red meat, pasta sauce, etc) and at less than $10 is an absolute STEAL.

BTW - a totally random side note - ever try the Barefoot Contessa’s (Ina Garten’s) steakhouse steak recipe for filet mignon? It’s SOOO good!

In any case - it’s great to be back and trust me on this wine - it’s a great one. Enjoy!

The Noblest of rot? Rot Crust? Mmmmm….

February 3rd, 2009

During our Napa trip last week we decided to venture further north to Calistoga to sample their bevvies (not the spring water, needless to say). Along the way, we discovered a neat winery called Castello di Amorosa.

Walking up to the Disneyland-like Tuscan castle, we expected a fair amount of kitsch. But there was almost none. Everything in the castle was an authentic antique or hand-painted mural. The wines were served up in the cellar, and there were even quite a few Italian grape options.

My favorite, though, was the Anderson Valley Late Harvest Gewurztraminer (2006). I’m not usually a dessert wine person, but this was lovely - like honey and lychees, yet not too sweet. The taste is the result of “noble rot.” The concept is like ice wine, which is sweet because the flavors are trapped in an ice crust. In Napa, because of the heat, there’s apparently a “rot crust” instead.

While it doesn’t sound like the most appetizing method, I promise the end result is delicious!


A noteworthy trip to Napa…

January 29th, 2009

A friend of mine had an excellent trip to Napa - I thought I’d share this email with you:


Napa vineyards

On a short visit to Napa last  weekend, I grabbed dinner at Farm at Carneros Inn. This New York-style restaurant has quite an intimidating wine list - definitely on the pricey side, with a lot of obscure wines. We struggled to find something affordable that would go with the mixed bag of meat, seafood and salads we’d ordered for dinner.

And we came out successful! We discovered a fantastic 2005 Red Zin from Sonoma: Robert Traverso from the Russian River Valley. It was soft, spicy, with some great fruity blackberry flavors. It went amazingly well with the food.

At $43 a bottle, it’s certainly not the cheapest wine out there, but it’s a really good option when you want to order from a pricey wine list without cringing or when you’re trying to impress.

Here’s a list of restaurants where you can try a bottle:



Got 40 minutes? Might I suggest some Fresh Air?

January 27th, 2009

I have an iPhone - which I absolutely love (you may have noticed this site is also formatted for the aforementioned device). The idea behind making this blog iPhone accessible is so that you should be able to take the site with you while you are at Trader Joe’s or Cost Plus World Market or any store and consider suggestions which are made on this site.

Anyway - the reason I’m bringing this up is that there is an excellent iPhone app - the NPR app - which I recently used to listen to an interview between Terry Gross (Fresh Air) and Wall Street Journal wine columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher.

You can listen to the interview here:

Wine and calories…

January 23rd, 2009

Lately, when I’ve been sampling wine, I carefully view, smell and taste the wine, take notes and swallow what I’m tasting. Then I repeat. I find I tend to be able to rate a wine more accurately when I do this.

Unfortunately, I’ve been noticing some weight gain of late (not just due to wine, I’m sure) and started wondering how many calories I’ve actually been consuming.

Well - here goes in case you were wondering: both red wine and white wine contain an average of (approx) 100 calories per 5oz glass. This is about 40 calories less than a 12oz serving of regular beer and cola and on par with a 12oz serving of light beer.

I suppose this means I should probably limit how much wine I’m actually swallowing - but, because I don’t want to let my readers down, I will take the caloric hit. Besides, isn’t there revasterol and polyphenols in wine?

I guess I just need to walk an extra mile in Napa…

2007 Castle Rock Mendocino Pinot Noir

January 21st, 2009

Excellent flavor of cherries and strawberry. This wine certainly benefits from some air - so let it breathe for a few minutes. Very little minerality, little tannin with definite acid.

This wine is in the solid “buy” zone and will pair well with steak, salmon and lamb. In general, I think California Pinot Noirs seem to get better at the higher price points - but this one is a fantastic choice at around $11. 2007 was an excellent year for California Cabs and Pinots. The 2007 Castle Rock Mendocino Pinot Noir is no exception.

As an additional note: The 2007 Castle Rock Monterey Pinot Noir is not too shabby either - I have to say that I personally prefer the Mendocino, but it is certainly a matter of personal taste.

The 2009 Inaugural Luncheon Menu - with well paired wines

January 20th, 2009

Courtesy of The US Senate Inauguration Committee:

First Course:
Seafood Stew

Wine: Duckhorn Vineyards, 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley

Second Course:
A Brace of American Birds (pheasant and duck), served with Sour Cherry Chutney and Molasses Sweet Potatoes

Wine:Goldeneye, 2005 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley

Third Course:
Apple Cinnamon Sponge Cake and Sweet Cream Glacé

Wine:Korbel Natural Special Inaugural Cuvée, California Champagne

Wine fit for a president and a King - celebrating MLK, Obama and America

January 19th, 2009

Like many Americans, I spent some time today pondering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s achievements, how happy I am to be an American and to see perhaps part of the deferred dream come to life.

Like many of you, I will be celebrating the inauguration of our 44th president and, since this a wine blog,  I thought I’d write today’s post about what wines may be appropriate for the occasion.  After all, we are about to have a president who is a connoisseur of good food and wine.   The Obamas’ 6000 sq-ft home in Hyde Park (Chicago, IL) has mahogany bookcases, four fireplaces and an impressive 1,000 bottle wine cellar in the basement.

While it may be impossible to get your hands on Michigan’s L. Mawby’s sparkling “Obama” wine at this point, there are several American sparkling wines to choose from that are just right for the occasion.

Some American sparkling wine recommendations are as follows (prices are approximate):

Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs 2005 ($34)

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut ($18)

Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee 2005 ($32)

Domaine Chandon Brut Classic ($18)

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige ($17)

Best Wines at Cost Plus World Market for $12 or less.

January 17th, 2009

Friends, you may find yourself at a Cost Plus World Market wondering what kind of wine you should buy (you might remember our recommendations (see below) for wines from Trader Joe’s).

Even though I don’t know the exact name of the store (is it Cost Plus or World Market or both?), they have a pretty good selection of food and wine. Here are some suggestions (in no particular order - prices are approximate):


1) Columbia Crest Vineyard 10 Red Wine ($9)

2) Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenere ($7)

3) Coppola Rosso ($9)

4) Castle Rock Monterey Pinot Noir ($11)

5) Castle Rock Mendocino Pinot Noir ($11)

6) D’ Arenberg Stump Jump Red ($12)

7) Columbia Crest Grand Estates Shiraz ($12)

8 ) Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz-Cabernet ($10)

9) Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon ($10)


1) Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc ($12)

2) Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc ($10)

3) Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Chardonnay ($11)

4) Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc ($11)

5) Columbia Crest Chardonnay ($9)

6) Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc ($12)

7) Via Maria Sauvignon Blanc ($12)

Let’s raise a glass to the heroes and survivors…

January 16th, 2009

Today, my friends, we have much to be inspired by and thankful for.  As I’m sure you’ve already heard, US Air flight 1549 was headed for Charlotte, NC from NYC when it hit some birds and lost both engines.  The pilot, Captain C.B. Sullenberger III,  made an absolutely flawless landing on the Hudson River and then made sure all others were off the plane before he disembarked.

All 155 people on board are still alive.  Mothers with babies, children, senior citizens, young women and men all made it because of the heroism shown today by rescue workers, firemen, passengers helping one another, people who drove their ferries and boats to the rescue, divers, police, medical workers and the crew and pilot.

To all of those who survived today’s events and to all the heroes who made sure everyone was safe, I raise a glass in your honor.

Sparkling wines are not just for NYE anymore…

January 16th, 2009


Veuve Clicquot

I simply cannot get over how many choices there are for GREAT bubbly.  From the most expensive, highly rated sparkling wines with famous names - such as Cristal, Veuve Clicquot, Krug and Dom to the less expensive, wonderful bubblies such as Pommery, Prie, Cristalino, Segura and Freixenet.

All of these wines are simply spectacular.  Some of the best deals are to be found in Spanish Cavas - but it’s important to experience different varietals and nationalities of sparkling wine.

Do yourself a favor and grab a glass. Here’s your starter list (prices approximate):

Louis Roederer Cristal Rose 2000 ($550)

Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Rose 1998 ($300)

Krug Vintage Brut 1995 ($290)

Dom Perignon 2000 ($160)

Pommery Brut Royal ($60)



Philippe Prie Champagne ($46)

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut ($24)

Zardetto Prosecco ($16)

Freixenet Sparkling Cordon Negro Brut ($11)

Segura Viudas Aria Brut ($10)

Cristalino Brut Cava ($8)

The wine that popped my grape…

January 15th, 2009

It was the summer of 1992  and I was a waiter at a very fancy golf / polo / country club  in Lake Forest, IL.  In fact, it was so fancy they didn’t even call it a golf or polo or country club - just a club.  To be sure, members had to be pretty darn rich (old money, of course), pretty darn WASPy and possess a style of speech that can only be referred to as “Lake Forest Lockjaw” (think Thurston Howell III).
I learned a lot about people and consumption that summer.  It turns out really rich people (the old-money kind) aren’t as snobby as I would have thought.  I had conversations with senators and congresspeople, CEOs and socialites.  I learned that really old really rich ladies often went to country clubs in the middle of the day and got sloshed on various interesting vodka concoctions such as martinis with vodka, Bloody Mary’s with vodka, Clamato with vodka and Bull Shots (beef bullion with vodka).  I learned from the same set of ladies that “sweetening up a drink” didn’t mean putting sugar in it.

What I treasure most is what I learned about food and drink that summer. I tasted a piece of prosciutto for the first time.  I tried caviar and cognac and cocktail onions.  And this was the first time I experienced a really good glass of wine.

A Gatsby-esque pair of couples with famous surnames came in (they must have been in their late 30’s or early 40’s).  They were gossiping and laughing and ordering food and wine.  Somewhere between the consomme and quail,  they must have put away three bottles of white wine before they ordered a final bottle of red to help end the meal. After they were gone and I was cleaning up the table, I noticed roughly a glass left in the bottle of red and thought I’d give it a try.

Stags Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

Stags Leap

The 5/6 glass of  1990 Stags Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon I sampled that summer night on the club patio was amazing.  Hints of blueberries and leather mixed with back notes of earth and chocolate.  This wine was subtle yet thick.  It was oak and brick and polish.  It was spicy and rich and mature.

This was the wine that did it for me.

A cup o’ kindness - or - OMG this freaking SB is awesome

January 13th, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, my wonderful wife and I went out for a New Year’s Eve dinner with some friends and I was asked to do the honors of ordering wine to go with our seafood meal.

Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc

Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc

I was about to order a favorite of mine (a 2007 Napa Frog’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc) when I decided to stray and try a Chilean.  I figured hey, it’s the New Year and let’s let auld acquaintance be forgot (at least for the night).   So, at the last second, I picked the 2007 Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc Reserva.   An absolutely fortuitous choice, my friends.  Citrusy (grapefruit), dry and crisp.

Do yourself a favor - at $10 / bottle, order yourself a case while you can.  And drink it young (the 2007 is just perfect right now).

Hmmm…I think I’m going to grab a glass right now.

Best Wines at Trader Joe’s for around ten bucks or less.

January 5th, 2009

Getting sick of two buck chuck? Going to a dinner party and don’t want everyone to know how little you spent on the wine?

No fear! Here are my initial recommendations on what to get from TJ’s. I would love to hear feedback from others - I suspect I may change my mind (and this list) a few times - but here are some good bets (in no particular order - prices are approximate):


1) Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenere ($8)

2) Santa Rita Carmenere Reserva ($10)

3) Coppola Rosso ($9)

4) Bogle Cabernet Sauvignon ($10)

5) Purple Moon Shiraz ($4)

6) Sterling Vitner’s Collection Cabernet Sauvignon ($11)

7) Bogle Merlot ($10)

8 ) Sogrape Dao Callabriga ($9)

9) Villa Borghetti Valpolicella ($6)

10) Trader Joe’s Napa River Merlot ($5)

11) Columbia Crest Two Vines Merlot ($6)

12) Clos Du Bois Merlot ($11)


1) Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc ($13)

2) Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Chardonnay ($12)

3) Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc ($12)

4) Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc ($10)

5 ) Giesen Sauvignon Blanc ($9)

6) Gaetano D’Aquino Pinot Grigio delle Venezie ($6)

7) Dr. Beckermann Reisling ($4)

8 ) King Shag Sauvignon Blanc ($8)

9) Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc ($9)

10) Callaway Chardonnay ($5)

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