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"Can I help you pick a wine?"

So it happened early this summer.  I was at the wine section of the supermarket buying some wine for the house.  A young couple was there trying to pick a bottle and conducting a debate about what to buy.  The gentleman must have seen that I had several bottles in my cart (you get a discount when you buy six) and asked me, "Is this a good wine?"  He was holding a bottle of wine that shall go nameless. 

It was their lucky day!  Did he somehow know that I was very familiar with wines?  I would equate this to going on a vacation and asking a stranger to take a picture of you and your family at a famous tourist spot and having that stranger turn out to be someone like Ansel Adams or a Dorothea Lange.  They would not just point and shoot.  They would take your little disposable camera and try to take a photograph worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.  Well, I was that stranger! 

The couple had been tasked with bringing a bottle of wine to a friendly get together and did not want to choose something out of ignorance.  I asked them what they were looking for and then proceeded to introduce them to a few bottles that would meet their needs.  They were very grateful and I was glad to have helped.  I was high as a kite!  I felt like a Grand Master Sommelier that had just help save the world from disaster.

Since that day, I make it a point to go to the wine section of any store that I may be in and check to see if there is anyone there that needs my help.  I only approach people that look like they may be struggling.  They will have this intense look of concentration and will sometimes have their hand on the side of their face.  I ask, "Can I help you pick a wine?"  In all but one occasion the person responds with, "I'm looking for something sweet."  What they are really saying is that they want something fruity and not tannic.  We will save that for another post.  In the mean time, I will continue to do my part in making this world a better place and hook people up with the right wine. 

What do you do to make the world a better place?   See you in the supermarket!

Great Trader Joe's Wine Find

I have a friend that is an insider with Trader Joe's wine.  She gave me a tip on two great wines they have for $4.00.  The 2008 Viriato Tinto de Toro is a Tempranillo.  It has lots of berry flavors including strawberries and a very smooth finish.  Very easy to drink.  The 2008 Bear Boat Sauvignon Blanc is from California.  It has lots of citrus fruit and tropical fruit flavors.  Also easy to drink.  If you find these, stock up.  There is no guarantee they will last.  I will keep you all posted if I hear of any other great finds.


I want to bring up pairings.  A pairing is when someone has decided what specific wine will go well with a presetermined dish.  Often times you may see parings offered at a fine restaurant.  This means that the chef who has prepared the meals has also determined what wine will go best compliment each course.
Typically, you would pair heavy, bold food with a big bold wine or light food with a lighter one so that there is no clashing on the palate.  You may have heard that red meats should be paired with red wines and white meats with white wines. 
But long ago, there was no such things as pairings.  Wines were only available regionally.  So if you lived in an area where only red grapes were grown, you drank red wine with what ever it is you were eating.  There was no opportunity to do a pairing.  Something else to consider, what if you do not care for red wine but you enjoy a good ribeye?  Can you have a chardonnay with your steak?  Or if you don't like white wines, are you going to dring that cabernet with halibut?  Will the wine police come and issue you a warning?  I don't think so.   My sister-in-law does not care for red wines so we always has chardonnay with whatever she is eating and enjoys it all.
When I do pairings, I try to choose a wine that will compliment what we are eating.  Rich, savory foods with a bold red;  lighter foods such as a dinner salad with a light wine;  desserts with a very sweet muscato or even a port.  But lately, I have been working on this project.  I would arrange wines into a spectrum starting with bold beefy reds on one side and go down to light, fruity whites on the other side.  I find a wine that best compliments a meal on the spectrum, let's say spaghetti and meat balls.  A light red wine will give you a great dining experience.  But I believe that there is a wine directly opposite the one chosen, on the other side of the spectrum, that would give you a completely different and equally as pleasant dining experience. 
I think of it as wine fusion.  We do it with foods.  I'm sure you have heard of Korean Tacos, Avocado Eggrolls and Crab Rangoon Pizza.   I am eager to try Peruvian-Japanese food and I am sure you have heard of chefs Wolfgang Puck and Emeril Lagasse who have become famous doing fusion foods.  Why not do it with our wine pairings? 
So my first choice with pairings is to choose a wine that compliments your meal.  But don't let that paradigm stop you from being adventurous.  Try mixing a fruity wine with a spicy meal or turn a light dish into something bold with a big red.  Remember, the best person to tell you what you like, is YOU.  Drink what you like with what you like.


You may here me have read that I sometimes recommend decanting a wine.  Some wines really need it.  The purpose is to aerate the wine.  If you have ever seen someone swirling wine in the glass or 'letting it breathe' or waiting for it to 'open up.'  They are all doing and describing the same thing.   They are trying to get oxygen into the wine to help bring out some of the layers of flavors.  It also allows a little of the alcohol to evaporate and bring out the aromas so that you can smell what you are tasting.  The oxygen will also help soften the tannins in the wine.  This is that dry puckery sensation you get when drinking some red wines.  So when you first taste your wine from the bottle, if it is not what you expected, try aerating it and see if you get something much different.  Don't decant a white or rose wine.

There is also another good reason to decant a wine.    If you ever find yourself in the position to impress guests and don't want to advertise a bottle of $1.99 wine or a box wine, go ahead and serve it from a decanter.  There's a good chance they won't know.

Enjoying Wine

How To Eat a Poem
by Eve Merriam

Don't be polite.
Bite in.
Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that
            may run down your chin.
It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.

You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
or plate or napkin or tablecloth.
For there is no core
or stem
or rind
or pit
or seed
or skin
to throw away.

I love this poem.  Eve Merriam is trying to say that you do not need to be prim and proper when enjoying a poem.  I believe the same is true when we want to enjoy wine.  You should not have to worry if you are using the proper glass or if you served the right kind of cheese and crakers with your glass.  If you want to have a glass of chardonnay with your cheeseburger, then have it.  I promise there are no Wine Police out there that will come to give you a warning.  Go to  to see my point.

Enjoy wine for how it makes you feel.  Not because someone told you what they caught on the nose or how balanced it may be or how long of a finish it had.  The best person to tell you what you like, is YOU.  One particular wine is my favorite because I first had it during a wonderful Valentine's Day dinner.  Since then, everytime I have a glass, I am reminded of that great day years ago.

Let's Do a Review

Let's do a review.  This is La Granja 360.  It is made from tempranillo, which are grapes that are predominantly grown in Spain.  I figured it was time to review this wine since I have read and heard great things about it.  Especially for the $3.99 price tag at Trader Joe's.  I have been superficial and hesitant to try it because of the label.  A pig flying in the air with string tied to it's feet?  That's a turn off. 
To start, tempranillos will be a wine that has more of an earthy taste. Similar to vegetables and mushrooms. Also, winemakers in Europe make their wines to be enjoyed with a meal. They are table wines.  Part of the whole meal.  As opposed to most wines from California, Washington and Oregon that are made for those that like wine alone or with cheese and crakers.

When serving La Granja 360, you will first want to decant the wine and let it sit for maybe thirty minutes to an hour.  This will let it air out and tone down the acidity.  Also make it much less "jumpy." 

The earthiness comes out on the scent and when you first taste it.  You may sense cooked bell peppers or a vegetable broth.  Then you will notice the fruity taste of strawberry and raspberry.  Towards the end of the taste I noted a slight tobacco taste, but nothing offensive.  It is a light wine.  It also serves well chilled after decanting. 

Like I said, it went great with a meal.  I enjoyed it with an Asian themed dish.  This bottle was great for the price, but I did not like it enough to start stocking up. 

Don't Open That!

True story.  Thanks to the marvels of social networks, we were able to reconnect with a college roommate whom we haven't seen in almost twenty years!  We have visited each other, gone to concerts and have had great fun. 

One Saturday evening, we had plans to be at her house for dinner.   It was perfect.  The kids were sent to grandma's house.  Her husband was marinating steaks in milk and we were preparing eggplant and goat cheese appetizers to take to their home.  I took four bottles of wine so we could have pairings with each course.

In beween courses we were able to sit and talk.  I noticed a bottle of wine on the bar that caught my eye.  I was immediately impressed.  It was a 1978 Petrus.  Our friends had planned to open it during the evening.  They were saving it for a special occasion and thought that this evening would be appropriate.  The bottle was a gift they received long ago.

Right away I said, "Don't open that."  I explained that this was a fine and rare bottle.  In 1980 it sold for $300.  Today you may be able to find this bottle online for around $1,500.  A 1990 Petrus will sell for over $5,000.  They had no idea of the value.  I was sorry to not able to taste the wine, but I knew I was not worthy.  We were able to find plenty of other wines to drink that night.

Now, whenever we get together we laugh about this night.  "Remember when we almost opened your thousand dollar bottle of wine?"  I could have kept quiet and had them open the bottle but I chose not too.  It's so wonderful to have friends to share fun memories.  That is worth more than any bottle of wine. 

If you have a friends like this, tell them.  Even if you think they may already know.

Great New Gadget

Metrokane Rabbit Wine Bottle Stoppers 2-Pack 6119So while we do enjoy a glass of wine often, rarely do we ever finish a bottle.  This created the problem of having to store the bottle back in the wine refrigerator horizontally without it spilling over.  Putting the cork back in did not work.  I bought several types of lever stoppers that did not work very well and were a little overpriced in my opinion. 

Then I came across these wine stoppers at Target.  They are sold under the name Rabbit or Houdini.  They are $4.00 for a pair and work perfectly.  Easy to use and easy to clean.  They will not leak when you store your bottles horizontally.  Sometimes the cheapest and simplest things work the best. 

I wouldn't bother with using a vacuum stopper unless you plan to store an opened bottle for more than five days.  Also, if you are storing a red wine for an extended amount of time, put it in your kitchen's refrigerator vertically.  Then let it warm to room temperature just before you are ready to enjoy.

The Top Shelf

I was talking with a friend recently about a party that our children were having with some other children from their school. These are 16 and 17 year old boys and we wanted to make sure that there would be adult supervision at all times. We didn't want any teenager feeling the temptation of peer pressure to get into the liquor cabinet to impress their friends or to prove their manliness and take a dare. You get the picture.

We both concluded that while it is necessary to protect the integrity of the house bar, it is especially important to protect the top shelf of the wine cabinet. We both laughed. It is not that we condone under age drinking, but if it were to happen, let it happen with the vodka or whiskey or anything else they find on the lower shelves. Just don't touch any of my good bottles of wine on the top shelf!

Pictured is a 1999 Flora Springs Trilogy; a 2006 Opus One; a 2008 Simi Cabernet and a 2005 Stags Leap Cabernet.

What's on your top shelf?

ps: the party went on without incident.

Back to Basics

Here are some wines that are readily available and enjoyable.  
The first one is a Kaiken Malbec from Argentina.  Malbec is one of the great wines that you are not drinking.  Malbec was previously used to blend with other wines but is now a varietal all its own.  Malbecs are usually more earthy tasting, but Kaiken takes about half their yield and ferments it in steel and the other half in oak and then mixes the wine for bottling.  The combination brings out more fruit while preserving its bold flavor. 
The next is a Chateau Ste Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon.  Wines from Washington State are really great.  Remember, Washington has almost the same latitude as the best growing regions in France.  This cabernet is good by itself or with a meal.  It has the distinction of being my 'house wine.'  When it's on sale, I make sure to stock up.
Finally, Ravens Wood Old Vine Zinfandel.  For me, Ravens Wood has  perfected Zinfandel.  This is great for someone who wants more than a cabernet but still wanting a good everyday wine.  Old vine zins will be more 'jammy' than a regular zinfandel and would compliment spicy food or sharp cheese.
Let me know if you come across any great wine and would like to share your experience.  What's your 'house wine?'

Words To Live By

I read this on a church marquee this morning:


Mind your own business and NEVER JUDGE...Words to live by.

Giveaway and New Blog

Hey everyone!  It's been awhile, I know. I've been hard at work on a new Etsy store and website/blog for my new handmade jewelry.  I'm always looking for a creative outlet and this opportunity just happened to come along on its own.  I'm so excited about it that I'm giving away a pair of freshwater pearl earrings!  So hop on over to Bijoux In Bloom to get all the details on how you can win!

Heading Out to Disneyland This Summer?

I am, actually I was there just a couple weeks ago and I'm going there today for 3 whole days!  If you are going there this summer, be prepared for crowds, heat and lots of waiting in line.

First up PARKING...If you plan to park here...
At the Mickey and Friends parking structure, be ready to shell out $14.  The fee has increased $3 in the past 3 years.  Someone's gotta pay for World Of Color!!!

What about food???  Well, one of the cheapest and delicious comes from here...
The world famous Main Street Corndog Truck.  You get a delicious, crispy corndog and chips for a mere $5.79 (prices subject to change without notice...that goes for everything at Disneyland).  Just be sure you have a clearance from your cardiologist before you indulge in this tasty treat! It's located at the end of Main Street, to the right, across from the Baby Station, if you are entering from the main gate...or just follow the smell of burning grease.

Drink tips, you say?  Just four words...BRING YOUR OWN WATER.  It is allowed!  No need to spend a small fortune on water there, save your mula for the Golden Vine Wine Bar at DCA(Disney's Caifornia Adventure).  Water Bottles too heavy to carry you say?  No worries, you will be drinking 'em faster than you can say Goofy Goof (yes, that is his last name).

More tips manana as I will be reporting from Disneyland!