National Chocolate Day!


According to the National Confectioners Associations (NCA), there are approximately 16 different chocolate days per year, but October 28 is the most universally celebrated. Not surprisingly, surveys  show milk chocolate is the most favorite among men and women, followed by dark and then white. Studies also show that chocolate is good for our health. The antioxidants present in this sweet treat have been known to help in high stress situations and the polyphenols can increase HDL cholesterol, the good kind.  

Additionally, chocolate is a wonderful pairing with many wines:

Dark Chocolate Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Zinfandel, Syrah/Shiraz, Port, or Sherry

Milk Chocolate Light-bodied Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, medium to dry sparkling wines, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Port, or Madeira

White Chocolate Sherry, Moscato d’Asti, Lambrusco or Pinot Noir

And with Halloween just around the corner, amazingly, wine pairs well with your favorite chocolate goodies:

Kit Kat Pinot Noir

Butterfinger Sauvignon Blanc or Lambrusco

Twix Syrah

Peanut Butter Cups Chardonnay

Snickers Syrah

So grab your favorite chocolate and pair it with a bottle of wine – or vice versa – and have a very Happy National Chocolate Day! 

Cin Cin!

“Bad” Wine or Bad Manners?


Bad wine?

There seems to be a unique group of people out there who think it is acceptable to return a perfectly good bottle of wine after it is opened. They have no qualms returning an opened bottle to a store or declining one in a restaurant simply because it does not appeal to them. Not only is it rude, but it makes me wonder if they also do this with other things in their lives. Do they cook up a steak and return that to the store, half-eaten, if they are not enjoying it? Do they go to a movie, walk out and ask for a refund if they are not entertained? Life is all about taking chances and the same goes when making some purchases; they are not all “satisfaction guaranteed”. Return policies were put into place, mostly to take back items that are defective; unopened or unused purchases are taken back as a courtesy to customers. Some people will take advantage of this policy, even in the wine industry.

That is not to say there are not situations when it is quite appropriate to return an opened bottle of wine. During production or in storage, wine flaws can occur which will have a negative impact  on a wine’s aroma, color or taste. Here are the most common flaws you should be aware of:

A “Corked” Bottle Sometimes the cork used in bottling wine can become infected with a compound called 2,4,6-trichloroanisole or TCA. This is what gives wine a moldy or musty aroma or what is called “corked” or “cork taint”. This tiny compound can also be found on winemaking implements or in some parts of the winery’s environment (barrels, walls, etc). 

The Color is Off If your red wine looks brownish, almost muddy, or your white wine is too deep a yellow, chances are your wine has oxidized. This is a chemical reaction that takes place when the wine is  harmfully exposed to air. This happens if a cork is not airtight enough in storage and also with wines you may have kept open too long. 

Bubbles or “Fizz” in Still Wines If still wine appears to have “tiny bubbles”, it would not “make me happy, make me feel fine”, as sung by Don Ho in the famous 1960s song. This means the wine is going through a second fermentation in the bottle and chances are it will be sour.

Should you drink wine that has any of these flaws, it will certainly be unpleasant, but there are no health risks to you. Returning wine to a store or letting your waiter/sommelier know, even if you suspect one of these flaws, is perfectly fine; you should not be embarrassed. Years ago at a restaurant with a friend, we ordered a bottle of Italian wine; I believe it was a Sangiovese. Tasting it first, I was a little unsure; I had my friend taste it as well. We both agreed that the wine was “bad”. This was before I took a class so I did not know the lingo; I just knew enough to sense something was not right and my friend agreed. Instead of taking the bottle back, the waiter sent over the manager, who tasted the wine and told us there was absolutely nothing wrong with the bottle. He made such a scene, eventually bringing over another bottle of something and we have not been back to that restaurant since. Bad wine, bad attitude, equals bad business.

If, for some reason, a bottle of wine that you purchased from a store does not appeal to you, you can actually repurpose it:

Use it for Cooking I have cubes of white wine and red in my freezer that I have on hand for adding flavor to cooking. Pour the bottle of wine into ice-cube trays and freeze. This also works if you have leftover (what?) wine. 

Make Vinegar You do not have to do a thing! Just leave a 3/4 full bottle of wine opened and out for a few weeks and it will convert to vinegar all by itself. Red or white – voila’!

Bacteria Killer This one I find fascinating and wish I knew sooner. A study done out of Oregon State University by food scientist, Mark Daeschel, concluded that there are attributes in wine that destroy or inhibit the growth of microorganisms, thus making it a great cleanser for fruits and vegetables, as well as a general disinfectant. After rinsing your produce in water, just run it under some wine; you do not want to soak it. By just rinsing you may pick up some wine flavor, which is just an added benefit as far as I am concerned.

Even if wine has gone bad, you can still use it for all of the above purposes.

So remember – returning bad wine, good; returning good wine, bad!

Cin Cin!

Have you ever returned a bottle of wine to a store? 

  1. Yes, it was “bad”.
  2. Yes, I opened it; did not like it.
  3. Yes, it was unopened; I knew I did not like it. (a gift?)
  4. No, never.
  5. No and I never will. I can find something to do with it.

Join in on our discussion!

International Pinotage Day!


Celebrated every year on the second Saturday of October, International Pinotage Day celebrates this distinct red grape from South Africa. Noticing that the Pinot Noir grape struggled in South Africa’s climate, scientists at Stellenbosch University developed Pinotage in 1925, crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsaut. What they created is an intensely dark grape that throughout the years experienced some highs and lows and is now the second most planted grape in South Africa.

Bottled on its own, Pinotage is also a required element in “Cape blends” (30-70%). You will also see it as a rose’, a sparkling red and a port-style fortified wine. On its own, Pinotage will produce a bold fruity, tannic (dry) wine. On the nose you should get red fruits, cherry and plum and some earthiness or smoke. Flavors that should come through on the palate are red berries and plum. Pinotage pairs well with roasted turkey, game or dried meats and aged cheeses.

I discovered Pinotage a couple of years ago and will recommend it when someone is looking for a South African red or if they want to try something new and different. If you like your red wines bold, fruity and a little tannic, then pick up a bottle of Pinotage and have a very Happy International Pinotage Day! 

Cin Cin!


Bourbon Barrel-Aging – or Not!

For some time now I have been hearing about this “trend”; reading articles and listening to industry experts. This week I finally decided to taste my very first red wine aged in a bourbon barrel; it was an Argentinian Cabernet Sauvignon. Not a spirits fan, I did not quite understand the reason for this aging process, but I decided to give it a whirl – or in my case, a swirl.

Argentinian barrel-aged Cabernet Sauvignon
Argentinian barrel-aged Cabernet Sauvignon

From what I have heard, this barrel-aging technique is not a trend at all, but has been used for centuries; just not talked about. Due to the high cost of new barrels, it can be more cost-effective for some wine producers to purchase used barrels, be it from the spirits industry or other wine makers. Producers of some big reds – Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and blends – have used bourbon barrels to age their wines, even using them to age Chardonnay. Made of charred American oak, bourbon barrels are taller and thinner than traditional wine barrels; this supposedly allows for more richness and complexity in the wines. Likewise, spirit producers have also purchased used barrels from wine makers, but that is a whole other story.

As with all barrel-aging, the characteristics of the barrel are usually detected in whatever is aged in them; attributes vary depending on the length of the aging. So, it would make sense to some, that if you reuse a barrel, you should also pick up some notes of what was previously aged in said barrel. Right? Uh, not so much. 

The wine I tasted was a traditional full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon with blackberry and plum on the nose; no sweet spice, smoky cedar or bourbon bouquet detected by this sniffer. Nor did any essence of bourbon come through when I tasted the wine, which I am wholly grateful to report. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoyed the wine and would have enjoyed it more with a big juicy steak I am sure, but was it because of the bourbon barrel-aging? I truly have my doubts.

So, whether it is a trend that will soon fade away or a marketing ploy to get spirit drinkers to drink more wine, it may be worth your while to at least try a bourbon barrel-aged wine and see what you can detect. Or not! If you do or if you have, please let us know.

Cin Cin


International Grenache Day!


Established after the first International Grenache Symposium in 2010, International Grenache Day is celebrated every year on the third Friday of September. A red grape, known to flourish in hot, dry weather, Grenache is commonly grown in southern France (Rhone especially) and in Spain, where it is known as Garnacha. 

Grenache is not usually bottled by itself; you will see this mostly in Spain with Garnacha, where the grape originated in Aragon, an area in northern Spain. In Rhone and Australia, the grape is used in the “GSM” blend – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre. It is also made into unique roses and sweet fortified (alcohol level 15% or higher) wines.

On its own, Grenache will produce a spicy, berry-flavored wine with a fairly high alcohol content. Because of this high content, it pairs well with hearty dishes, like stew, and herbed or spiced meats and vegetables; grilled or roasted. 

Back in the day when I was a varietal drinker, I latched on to Garnacha at one point and drank my way through many cases. The chosen two bottles were Las Rocas and Vina Borgia; the latter, since then, moving to a box format as well as a bottle. So whether you choose a bottle of Grenache or Garnacha, with friends and/or family, just make this a very Happy International Grenache Day!  

Cin Cin!


Muscadet: My Latest Pour II


As the summer heat winds down (hopefully) here in the east, this week I opened a delicious bottle of Muscadet (pronounced “moose-kah-day”).

Located in the Loire Valley region of France, Melon de Bourgogne is the only grape variety permitted here to make this white wine. Because of this, the grape is sometimes just referred to as Muscadet. Other grapes are grown in this area but they must have a specific designation when they are used.

Not to be confused with the Muscat grape used to make Moscato, Muscadet is a dry, light-bodied wine with some citrus notes and high acidity. It is also known to have some briny notes due to the breezes coming off the sea. When bottled there is a small trace of carbon dioxide left, which gives Muscadet a slight effervescence.

Great as an aperitif or paired with some soft cheeses, Muscadet also goes well with chicken or fish, but especially shellfish. So belly up to a bowl of steamed clams in butter and garlic, chunk of bread in one hand and a glass of Muscadet in the other. What a great way to say good-bye to summer!

Cin Cin!


International Cabernet Day!

Started back in 2010, International Cabernet Day is celebrated each year on the Thursday before Labor Day. Originating in Bordeaux, where it is commonly used for blending, Cabernet Sauvignon has become one of the most widely grown grape varieties in the world. Full-bodied, with high tannins, and black current notes, this versatile wine has outstanding aging abilities as well as pairing possibilities. So turn up the grill and open your favorite bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon today! Let us know what you are drinking.

Cin Cin!


Chardonnay: Not All Butter & Toast

The commonly consumed Chardonnay from California is just not my “thing” and when asked for a recommendation for a buttery or oaky one, I am very honest with people. I tell them I prefer to actually taste the Chardonnay grape and not butter or toast. I do suggest wines that I know have those notes, but I cannot recommend them from experience. I, like a lot of people, had a very closed mind about Chardonnay, thinking they all tasted the same, until the classes I took led me to start tasting different wines and now it is a whole new (or should I say old) world for me. Let us explore the differences.

You may not realize this, but climate (different from weather) does affect grapes. Chardonnay grapes grown in warm regions like California will produce a wine fuller in body, less acidic, with tropical fruit notes. Whereas, grapes that are grown in cooler areas in the Burgundy region of France, will produce lighter, more acidic wines with citrus fruit notes. 

Before moving on, let me first explain the difference between New and Old World for those that may not know. New World wines are made in areas of the world that were developed during The Age of Exploration. They include Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, the United States and Canada. Old World wines are made in areas where winemaking originated – basically in all of Europe.

To continue, Chardonnay is also one of the only white wines that truly benefits from aging in oak barrels by taking on the flavors of the oak. A lot of California Chardonnays are aged in new oak barrels. This imparts the vanilla, caramel and toasty notes. Chardonnays in France are aged in older barrels so you get very little oak flavor – these are considered unoaked. There are also others that are aged in stainless steel tanks.

To achieve the “buttery” aroma and mouth-feel, Chardonnay wine makers will sometimes take additional steps after fermentation and do a “secondary fermentation” or malolactic fermentation (MLF). This process converts the tart, green-apple components (which some of us like!) of malic acid into smoother, buttery attributes of lactic acid. This conversion is done with the use of a particular species of bacteria (yum!). Before you get grossed out and swear off your favorite California Chardonnay, please note that MLF is more often used in the production of red wines, since high acidity is something less desirable in reds. So you see, this makes total sense – most times. There is also another process wine makers can do to achieve the creamy texture, but it is an arduous technique, it has a French name and it will just confuse things.

One evening I brought a bottle of Chablis over to a friend’s house. Located in the most northern area of Burgundy, they are known for producing some of the tastiest Chardonnays, which is the only grape that region produces. Not a fan of Chardonnay, I asked my friend if she liked what we were drinking. After she told me she liked it, I confessed we were drinking a Chardonnay. She of course did not believe me at first and was amazed to realize that she, in fact, does like Chardonnay after all.

So if you too have avoided Chardonnay, try to find one that suits you – I am sure it is out there. If you like full-bodied whites with tropical fruit notes, but do not like oakiness, then try one that is aged in stainless steel. Or try an Old World Chardonnay from France so you can taste the bright flavors of the Chardonnay coming through. It is about trying different wines, educating yourself and learning it is not all butter and toast. Tell us about your favorite Chardonnay.

Cin Cin!



National Pinot Noir Day!

Today is August 18, National Pinot Noir Day! During these hot summer months, Pinot Noir is a red wine I will often recommend. Check out my Pinot Noir post from a previous blog to read more about this versatile red.

How will you be celebrating National Pinot Noir Day? Let us know.

Cin Cin!

National Pinot Noir Day!
Pinot Noirs from California and Oregon

International Rose’ Day

Today is August 14, International Rose’ Day! We are in the homestretch of summer and soon rose’ “season” will be behind us. To celebrate this day, what will you be drinking? Let us know.

International Rose' Day!
Rose’ Wines From Around the World

Cin Cin!


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