Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Wedding Champagne

Happy Friday, and last day of April!!

So, I was going to post about Italian wine today, and then I realized there was something much more important to blog about- the Royal Wedding!

I most certainly did not wake up at an obscene hour of the morning to watch the live feed, but I have to say that I did some thorough online research to check out all the juicy photos and video clips.

Before today's monumental event, there was countless chatter and predictions about Kate's wedding gown, how she was going to wear her hair, if they were going to get a kissing coach (they did, and it didn't seem to pay off), and on and on...

As a soon-to-be bride, of course I was interested in all those fun details, but as a complete wine-o, I was also interested to see what wine would be served at the royal reception! With their budget, the options are truly limitless.

Even girls my age remember watching clips of the 1981 (I wasn't even born!!) wedding between the Prince and the beloved Diana. All I remember is her dress and its ridiculous puffy sleeves and never-ending train. And, if we thought it couldn't get any more over the top, their wedding reception featured 1969 Krug Champagne, 1959 Château Latour,and 1955 Taylor’s vintage Port.

Now, if all those wines look like a foreign language to you, let me fill you in- those are some absolutely phenomenal and priceless wines. (I guess not priceless- they were probably more expensive than all my wedding costs combined!!) Yeah, just google those babies and see what you find.

Fast forward 30 years to today's wedding. Although the beverage menu has not been released, one selection has been confirmed- the choice of champagne(the most important part!!)

Drum roll please....

Non-Vintage Pol Roger will be the official Champagne at the Royal Wedding!

Although delicious and very good quality, this is a fairly common and moderately priced champagne (you can get it for around $50).

Heck, I've even had Pol Rogers before!

Feeling a little let-down?

I'm not- I applaud the decision to purchase something high quality, with a good reputation, and all the while not too expensive. It's something I'm hoping to provide for my own big day.

Congrats, William and Kate!

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Happy Thursday!

I haven't posted the past few days- did you miss me?

I was M.I.A. because I was busy preparing and taking the Certified Specialist of Wine exam through the Society of Wine Educators.

Like every wine test I have ever taken, I freak out before, during and after the exam, and convince myself that I didn't pass. Hopefully this is just my normal pattern, and I'll be getting a pretty certificate in the mail soon. I do have to admit, this test was a bit harder than I anticipated.

Anyways, wish me luck- and I'll keep you posted!

Tomorrow, as promised, I finally will post about Italian wines!



Monday, April 25, 2011

Some Technical Wine Terminology

Happy Monday, Wine Blog Readers!

To start the week out, I thought I'd write a quick blog that decodes some technical wine terminology. This way I don't have to re-define terms in further posts, and you all will be the smarter because of reading. Saves me time and typing, and increases your brain power all in one!

Here are some wine terms you are bound to come across in the world of wine:

Vintage: The year the grapes were harvested. So, a 2009 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc is made of grapes that were picked in 2009.

Négociant: A French term for a wine merchant buys grapes from smaller grape growers and winemakers and sells the result under its own name.

Oenophile: A lover of wine. In other words- me!

Varietal: Grape! Ex: Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, etc...

Cuvee: A specific blend of wines.

ABV: Alcohol By Volume (alcohol percentage)

Old World Wine: Wine made in Europe (France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy), as well as Portugal, Greece & Hungary. The wines are characterized as lower in alcohol, less fruity, and more earthy.

New World Wine: Wine made in the United States, South America, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. Wines from this area are typically higher in alcohol and more fruit forward.

Punt: The circular indentation found in the base of a wine bottle.

Sommelier: A trained, knowledgeable, and professional wine steward.

Do you have any other terms that you need defined? Let me know!

'Til tomorrow!


Monday, April 18, 2011

What Wine to Guzzle with Easter Dinner

I LOVE Easter. LOVE it.

I love buying and wearing a new bright and flower-y Easter dress. I love my childhood memories of hunting for chocolate eggs that were hidden all over our house (mom and dad- can we do that again?? Maybe for your grand kids!). I love lilies. I love all the triumphant music and hymns that we sing at church on Easter. And, most importantly, I love what Easter symbolizes- the fact that our Savior is RISEN and has conquered the grave!

But, the one thing I don't love about Easter is the food, at least the traditional main course.

I HATE honey baked ham. Ugh.

My sister LOVES honey baked ham.

Because my parents love us both equally, they usually prepare an Easter meal that will satisfy both of our tastes: honey baked ham for Lis, and extra mashed potatoes for Stace.

It worked out- Lis got her beloved ham (and ham sandwiches for days), and I got a plate full of carbs and salad-my favorite.

Anyways-- that little family and food history has nothing to do with this post, other than it is an introduction to: What Wine to Guzzle with Easter Dinner.

Whether you are hosting Easter at your house, are attending dinner as a guest and need a hostess gift, or you just are curious, here are a few wine suggestions for what wine to drink with Easter dinner.

What to guzzle with your appetizers: Bubbles, of course! The perfect wine to start out such a celebratory holiday, and Easter is most certainly celebratory!

Guzzle: My absolute favorite wine of all time-Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé. Find it in stores for around $25.

What to guzzle with your main course:

If you DO love honey baked ham, I would suggest a wine with a little bit of residual sugar to match with the sweetness of the meat (but seriously, who likes their meat to be sweet?? It's just gross!)

Guzzle: 2010 Von Strasser Winery Gruner Veltliner. $35

PS: In 2006, this was the FIRST Gruner Veltliner to ever grace the Golden State.

If I had my choice, I'd eat roasted lamb for Easter dinner. With lamb comes its classic sidekick: Rhone Valley Syrah and it's blending friend, Grenache. Red wines from the Rhone classically have peppery, dried meat characteristics. Think it sounds gross? You'll think twice after you pair it with a perfect hunk of peppery roasted lamb.

Guzzle: 2007 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône. $10

What to guzzle with dessert:

How about a lovely Moscato? My family and I could drink this stuff like we do water...

Guzzle: Capetta N.V. Moscato d'Asti Piedmont. $10 *

*I encourage you to go buy this from my lovely, sweet-ham loving sister, Lisa at The Wine Country, Signal Hill.

Have fantastic Easters, everyone! Go eat, drink, and celebrate the resurrection of our King!

Your Easter Wine Bunny,


Stacey's Darling #2: Itali-fornian Pinot Noir

Happy Monday to everyone!

I am in the process of writing a blog about Italian wine, and those of you who know anything about Italy and wine know that it is one of the most confusing wine regions in the world! That being said, it will take me a little while to compile a thorough and understandable blog for you.

So, in the meantime, I leave you with Stacey's Darling #2!

For those of you who don't know, I started a second little part time job working at the Oxbow Wine Merchants in Napa. It is a fun way for me to get my "wine fix" from selling, organizing, learning about, and TASTING new wines! One of the perks is that we get to taste any wine and call it job training and education :)

After my shift on Thursday, I tried the most fantastic Pinot Noir that I had to share with you. My co-worker (a fellow, proud certified sommelier) and I were blown away!

So, Stacey's Darling #2 is: 2007 Cargasacchi Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County.

When I saw the name "Cargasacchi", it immediately screamed "Italian wine"- those Italians love to throw in the "cc" and "chi" letter combinations. Then, I realized it was actually a Californian Pinot with history and roots in Italy.

The Cargasacchi family IS from Italy, and their winemaking style is founded in the traditional Italian philosophy of the necessity of pairing food and wine at mealtimes- hence the beautiful acid of this wine. It is beautifully delicious and balanced without food, but also is very versatile and food friendly and would compliment a wide range of food items- from any type of fish, pasta, and even red meat.
This wine is a gorgeous mix of red berries and oak and spice and mmm I want more!!

It is a bit more pricey than I would normally recommend (you can find it for between $25-$40 online and in stores), but I think it's worth it for a special occasion. It's a perfect wine for Easter- you can bring it as a hostess gift for your mom, grandma, aunt, etc... It would be awesome with honey baked ham! Just make sure your hostess opens it and shares with you!

Or, if you're really desparate, call me and I'll buy it for you with my store discount :)

Speaking of Easter, that reminds me- come back Wednesday for a post about what to drink with Easter dinner!

Love all you lovely readers,

Cargasacchi Pinot Noir winemaker's notes: "The saturated red hue borders on purple with distinctive Pinot Noir perfume of red and purple berries and violets. In the mouth, this is a luscious, richly textured wine that balances fruit, spice and tannin. Exhibiting layers of blackberry and small dark fruit flavors woven with firm, ripe, tannins for a very persistent, mouthwatering finish".

Friday, April 15, 2011

Scarcity, Fashion, and Demand

When buying a 'fine' wine, a big portion of your dollar spent goes to scarcity, fashion, and demand- not the actual quality of the wine inside the bottle!

During a recent experiment,only 50% of 570 participants could correctly distinguish expensive (around $50) from budget (around $6) wines.

Welcome to the club.

This is great news- it means we don't have to empty our wallets to buy a good quality wine!

Check the full article- I think it's so interesting!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Hello Everyone! I wasn't going to post today because I want you all to read and respond to yesterday's blog. But then I remembered I made a pact to blog everyday (if possible), and it is possible today. So, I'm swallowing my stubbornness, and here I am, writing a new post. But please, if you could read yesterday's blog and leave some feedback, I'd love it!! So today I thought that I would talk a little about wine glassware. There are so many shapes and sizes and names- and do they even have a specific purpose? Here are the main types of glassware, and the appropriate wine that should be served in each: PS: I have listed in them in the order that you would actually serve the wines if you were hosting a wine dinner. It just so happens that the order perfectly mirrors my order of favorite wines :)

The Champagne Flute:

The shape of the Champage flute prolongs the bead (bubbles) of sparkling wine and keeps its chilled. Plus, when you see those flutes coming out of the cupboard, don't you automatically just think "party time!!"?

The White Wine Glass:

This is a slightly smaller version of a Bordeaux red wine glass (see below). It is smaller because there is less of a need to aerate (allow the wine to breathe) white wines. The smaller tulip shape also protects the cold temperature of the white wine.

The "Burgundy" (Pinot Noir) Glass

This is the largest wine glass, and it allows the maximum exposure to air for any red wine that needs to develop and "open" up. It also just looks pretty sophisticated and cool, huh?

The "Bordeaux" (Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot) Glass

This glass can be used as an all-purpose glass (this is kind of glass you'll most likely be given at a casual wine tasting), but it technically should be used for Bordeaux wines (AKA:Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot). It has a narrowing goblet shape, but it also has a small-ish opening to concentrate the smelly goodness of the wine.

The Fortified Wines Glass

This is what you'd use when serving Sherry, Port, Madiera, and any other dessert/fortified wines. I don't technically know why they are shaped that way, but the bowl (the round party) is smaller, as a serving of fortified wine is much less generous.

So, what is "aerating"/ "decanting" /"allowing the wine to breathe" and what does it do?

Think about if you went to sleep for about 2 years. It would take some serious stretching, breaths of fresh air, and walking around to get your body and brain moving and grooving again, right? Same for wines. They "sleep" and are shut up in those bottles for years and years!

It typically goes that the older the wine (the longer you sleep), the more time and air it needs to allow the flavors to develop.

This is why the shape of the glass is crucial to the type of wine you are serving.

May I say that while it is important, and "proper ettiquete", I am not super picky about this. You shouldn't feel ashamed if you only have one type of glass in your home. Heck, I have some friends that like to drink their sparkling wine out of a regular glass, opposed to a Champagne flute. Whatever floats your boat.

Remember, my main goal is to get us all educated-- how or when we veer off the path to have fun is up to us :)

Until tomorrow, friends....

** I got my information on :

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Themed Wine Tastings

Happy Hump Day!

This post is a little different, and I would love to hear some feedback from YOU readers (if you exist. Most days I feel like I'm just writing for myself and my momma).

I've mentioned before that I am seriously considering starting my own little side business. It's still in the works, but I know for sure that one service I will offer is themed wine tastings.

I will host in my home, or go into YOUR home and coordinate a themed wine tasting party. The tasting will be a mix of sampling between 5-7 wines, as well as some wine lessons, similar to what you'd read in these posts. I will pick and purchase the wines (although you'll need to reimburse me :] ), provide the glassware, tasting notes, and my own write ups on the wine regions and wines- I can even pick out small bite samplings to pair with the wines. All you have to do is provide the guest list and show up!

Here are some of the wine tasting themes that I've been mulling over in my head, and I'd love to know your thoughts!

ABC Tastings (Anything But Chardonnay)

For those of you who are sick of Chardonnay, this tasting will explore the other fantastic white wines from around the world, including Chenin Blanc, Viura, Gruner Veltliner, Muller Thurgau and Torrontes!

A Journey through France

Bordeaux, Burgundy, The Rhone, The Loire, Beaujoulais...

Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles!

'Nuff said. This tasting will cover all the major types of bubbly, including Spain's Cava, Germany's Sekt, and France's hailed Champagne.

The Undiscovereds

Assyrtiko, Spatburgunder, The Black Wine of Cahors, Zweigelt... Never heard of these wines? Great! This tasting will introduce you to the unknown but delicious wines from around the world.

Sugar Rush

Pairing dessert with sweet wine. Yes, I'll even bring the dessert!

Wines from Down Under

Aussie and New Zealand wines!

Brown Paper Bag Tastings

You tell your guests to bring a wine in a paper, and I facilitate a proper blind wine tasting- voting and all.

So, what do you guys think? Do you like the ideas? Have any suggestions? Interested in having your OWN themed wine tasting party?

I'd so appreciate your feedback!

Thanks everyone,


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stacey's Darling #1: A Beauty of a Riesling

Darling [dahr-ling]


1. a person/thing very dear to another; one dearly loved.

2. a person or thing in great favor; a favorite.


3. very dear; dearly loved.

4. favorite; cherished.

5. charming; cute; lovable:

Today marks the day that I begin a series of posts that I will call, "Stacey's Darlings". (See the above definition of darling).

These "darlings" could be wines that I have tried long ago that remain classics, or could be new discoveries that I stumble upon during my wine adventures.

If I hail a wine as a "darling", it meets the following criteria:

1. I have personally tasted it- not just read or heard about it.

2. I enjoyed it and thought it was of good quality.

3. I think that it's worth your money.

4. You can buy it- online, in retail stores, or in restaurants.

So, to begin this exciting journey of wine recommendations, I dedicate this first darling to my darling fiance, Jared.

Jared and I stumbled across this darling wine at a local wine bar in Walnut Creek called Va de Vi. Our server was gracious enough to give us a little taste test, and Jared fell in love! Every time we go anywhere for wine, Jared asks if they have it. Hey, he's a man who knows what he wants- that's why I love him!

So, Stacey (and Jared's) Darling #1 is:

Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Piesporter Goldtropfchen, Kabinett Riesling, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany .

Wowie-Wow that's a lot of wines with a lot of consonants!

So, let me break it down for you:

This wine is:

1. A Riesling. Duh!

2. From Germany.

3. More specifically, from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany. This is the specific wine region in Germany that the grapes were grown- it would be similar to our Napa or Temecula.

The Mosel is the main river in Germany, and Saar-Ruwer are its 2 tributaries. No tricks with that name!

4. Made in the driest style possible, although it still is semi-sweet.

How do I know this? The word Kabinett. Kabinett is the driest style on the scale of German sugar classification.

Want to know the whole scale? Just for fun?

Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein, Trokenbeerauslese.

Say that 5 times fast!!

5. Made by the wine producer Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt.

6. Grown at a vineyard called Piesporter Goldtropfchen.

I wish I had a cool German accent.

Now that you aren't scared of the name of Darling #1, let me rave about it. This baby is like liquid gold- seriously! For a sipping and aperitif wine, it has the perfect amount of sugar- it is just sweet enough- and its crisp acidity balances it out perfectly. Expect lots of stone fruit characteristics- peaches and apricots, slate-y minerality, as well as some of that juicy grapefruit that I love.

This wine is most certainly charming and loveable!

If you are interested in buying, you can find this darling wine on wine searcher.

Please, let me know if you've tried it and enjoyed it!

See ya tomorrow!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Taking the "Snob" out of Sensory Evaluation: Part 2

Happy Monday, my wine loving and learning friends! I hope you all had great weekends!

Did you try any good wines? I tried some new wines- apparently my palette was craving some rosés as both Spanish and Central Coast rosés were my poisons of choice this weekend.

I am pleased to say that a friend who has been reading my blog called and asked for some wine recommendations. Luckily, both my suggestions (Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc and Segura Viudas Cava) were a success! Thanks for reading and participating, dear friend :)

I'm glad to be back from the weekend and writing again!

My last post covered sensory evaluation, which is a fancy way of saying 'the proper method to follow if you want to get the most out of your wine tasting experience'.

In my last post, I covered the first 2 of what I call the 4 S's of Sensory Evaluation: SEE and SMELL, and what these 2 senses can tell you about a wine.

Today's post will cover the last 2 S's and explain why this process of sensory evaluation is just so darn important. So, here comes the fun part, and what we all really care about. The 3rd S of sensory evaluation is SIP. After the wine is in your mouth, confirm the characteristics that you smelled. Does the wine taste like the lemon peel that you originally smelled? Or does it taste like melon? Does it taste like lemon peel and melon? Once again, try and identify the F.E.W items (Fruit, Earth, Wood) and go with your first impression!

Then comes the part that requires a bit more than just a lady-like SIP.


Yes, swish. It may seem strange, and you may feel a little gross doing it, but it is truly the best way to isolate every taste and aspect of the wine.

So, suck it up and just SWISH! Let the wine coat your mouth, and then pay attention to how it feels. Look at this little tongue map to see where your body physically identifies each element.

Does it burn in the back of your throat? It has higher alcohol content.

Does it make the sides of your tongue water? It is acidic.

Does it give you sandpaper tongue (if it's red)? It is high in tannin.

Does it coat every inch of your mouth? It is full in body.

Does the taste linger forever? It has a long finish.

Is it sweet? Dry?

All of those aspects make up the structure and composition of the wine which tells you heaps and loads about what the wine IS, if it's good/bad quality, how old it is, etc..

And, finally, the last S is: SUMMARIZE.

In this step, you re-walk through every S and sum up (ooo! another s!) what you experienced.

Take this example:

S1: This wine is pale, straw yellow in color. It is so pale that it is almost clear. There is nothing weird floating in the wine.

S2: This is a fruit forward wine. I smell mostly citrus fruit, especially lemon. It smells fresh and crisp.

S3: I confirm the lemon peel taste that I smelled. It is a very crisp, acidic wine. It is dry, and is light in body.

If the purpose of the tasting is to actually guess what the wine is, then you would take all these clues and add them up:

Due to the light yellow color, strong lemon characteristics and crisp acidity, I think this is a 2009 Pinot Grigio from Italy, most likely from the northeast region of Trentino Alto Adige.


Think you could never get this point? Well, you can, and I can help you! Have I told you that I can teach private and group wine tasting courses? :) But if you aren't interested in a personal wine tutor (which, why wouldn't you be?), there are 2 things you can do:

1. Read up on the character profiles of all the different grapes. Every wine book will tell you what each grape generally tastes, looks, and smells like from all the major regions. For the most part, all this information holds true.

2. Just taste. All the time. (Tough job, huh?) Go through this process and write it down. It doesn't have to be a blind taste, either. You can know perfectly well what you're drinking, but it helps to break it down aspect by aspect as you go along.

You'll eventually be able to connect #1 and #2 together.

What is the point of all this hoopla, may you ask?

Well, first of all, being able to blind taste is impressive! I have found that people think I'm more interesting when they find out I know about wine... Even though I'm really not.

Secondly, this process helps you fully appreciate all aspects of the wine, not just the buzz it gives you after a few glasses.

Thirdly, it helps you understand and isolate what you like to drink and why. Refer back to this post. Rather than just saying, "I like this wine", you can say why you like it, and know how to purchase a similar bottle!

Well, friends, I hope you've enjoyed learning this method. Next time you taste wine, please refer back to the 4 S's of Sensory Evaluation.

I would tell you to check back tomorrow for some other named post... but I have no clue what I'll be posting about tomorrow. I will be posting though, I promise!

Thanks for reading and learning with me,


Friday, April 8, 2011

Taking the "Snob" out of Sensory Evaluation: Part 1

As a die hard wine enthusiast, it bums me out that wine lovers get the bad rep of being "snobby".

Yes, sometimes the world of wine and the people in it are deserving of the title, "snobby". There are many wine snobs that think you to be less than normal if you don't have the gran crus of Beaujolais or the clones of Zinfandel memorized. There are also many wine-o's that won't touch wine that is priced under $50 with a 10 foot pole. (By the way, I don't fall into those categories!!)

I believe some of the poo-poo attitude towards knowledgeable wine consumers is due to the way we "wine taste".

After all, how many times have you seen a wine snob stick his/her slightly upturned nose into a wine glass and take a big whiff like they actually are smelling something discernible? Oh, and how annoying is it when they swirl the glass around and watch it like they were watching the lion exhibit at the zoo! And then what about the comments about the wine's 'legs'? That's just weird. But, the worst is when the snob takes a sip and then has the AUDACITY to actually swish the wine around like it was mouthwash. It's enough to make your stomach turn, right?

Well, I hate to break it to ya, folks, but this is actually the proper way to taste wine. The technical term for this method of tasting and analyzing every aspect of a wine is called SENSORY EVALUATION.

The goal of this post is to walk you through each step of sensory evaluation, and hopefully I will 'de-snob' the method as we go along.

Let's begin! Actually, before we begin, here are two little nuggets that I've learned:

#1: Don't over think.

#2: Always go with your gut and first impression.

Okay, now let's begin. Yay!

To complete the process, we will walk through what I call the 4 S's of Sensory Evaluation: See, Smell, Sip/Swish, Summarize. **Note: I was originally going to do this as one post, but due to length and content importance, I need to cut it in two!**

So, without further ado, the first 2 S's of sensory evaluation: SEE & SMELL.

SEE: Although sight is the most frequently used human sense, it tells us the least about wine.

What CAN the sight of the wine tell us?

Look first at the COLOR, as it can tell us several things:

First of all, color is an indication of the wine's AGE. A young red wine will have blue-ish tints, while an older red will appear brick red and orange.

A young white will have pale yellow or even green-ish tones. A more aged white wine will be rich, deep golden in color.

As you learn more about different wines and their characteristics, color is also be an indication of VARIETAL (have I mentioned varietal just means grape? So Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, etc... are all varietals).

For instance, the average wine snob will know that Pinot Noir is very light red, opposed to Sryah or Malbec, which can be almost inky in color. Pinot Grigio is almost clear, and Chardonnay can be golden.

If you feel overwhelmed, don't worry, we will get you there soon! :)

Along with SEE comes another S of Sensory Evaluation: SWIRL.

The wine snobs have got it right- you should swirl the wine glass (try not to splash!!) After you swirl, watch the way the wine runs down the sides of the glass. These are the 'legs', but I truly hate calling them that.

Does the wine run down the glass quickly? Slowly? In thick or thin stripes? Does it coat the glass with a wall of wine? All these are an indication of how viscous the wine is- or rather how much alcohol/body it has. Wine that runs down the glass slow like molasses most likely has a fairly high alcohol content, while fast, thin stripes indicate lower alcohol.

Lastly, look for any thing IN this glass. Bubbles? Chunks of stuff? Cork? This doesn't happen too often, but just check. If you DO find something, call me :)

Onto the next S:

SMELL: This is the most important step of tasting wine. So, go ahead, take a big whiff! Then, think about what you smell.

Need help?

Try to pick out a F.E.W. characteristics:

F= Fruit

Citrus Fruit--> lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange

Berry Fruit--> strawberry, blueberry, blackberry

Tropical Fruit --> pineapple, mango, papaya

Stone Fruit --> peach, plum, nectarine

And NON-FRUIT items:

Flowers --> honeysuckle, roses

Grass & weeds

Vegetables --> mushrooms, bell pepper, olives (my sister's favorite)

Spices --> cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, pepper

E= Earth




Dirt (dry, moist, damp, wet)

W= Wood **Note: Sometimes you do actually smell oaky wood, but the following descriptions are a result of the winemaker storing the wine in wood barrels.**




Cigar box

You may be thinking- "can you really smell all those things? I just smell alcohol!". That's the best part of wine- how complex and interesting it is.

You CAN smell these things- and more!! In fact, the average human can be trained to smell and identify 1,000 smells. Unless you're my mother- she can smell about 10,000, and within .0005 seconds

Anyway.s, most wines will generally fall into one of those broad categories, hence why people say "that is a fruit-forward wine", or "that is an earthy wine".

All of these characteristics are good indications of the varietal: Pinot Grigio smells like lemon, Nebbiolo smells like tar & roses, and Sauvignon Blanc smells like 'gooseberries'. You'll learn all that, too!

Once again, can I remind you-- go with your first impression! You can indentify a multitude of smells and tastes that I didn't even list. For instance, I think that some wines smell like dirty socks. And to me, they do, and you can't argue with me- there is no wrong answer! That's encouraging, isn't it?

Those, my fellow wine-o's are the first 2 S's of Sensory Evaluation.

Check back Monday (Jared and I are re-doing one of our bathrooms this weekend and so I won't be blogging). The post will cover the last 2 S's: SIP & SUMMARIZE!!

Thanks for reading, and drink some wine this weekend- I know I will!


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mother Said...

Every person on this earth that has a mother most likely grew up hearing a few (or many) little cliche rules that moms just love to say:

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." (Sorry, Mom, but that one just isn't true)

"Birds of a feather flock together." (I'll pass that one on to my kids!)

"Eat your vegetables." (I use that one on my fiance all the time)

And of course, the golden rule, "Love your neighbor as yourself." (You can't argue with The Bible, folks!!)

Sound familiar?

Well, the world of wine has a few little rules of its own. If you remember my last post, I encouraged you to make the most of your wine purchases by creating a perfect food and wine pairing.

To help you with this, I'd like to share with you a few of the golden rules of wine and food pairing:

Rule #1: Don't segregate.

There is a silly and outdated rule that states: "White wines belong with white meats, and red wines belong with red meats".

Throw that out of the window, baby!!(Don't worry, I have authority to say that, and every other sommelier will tell you the same).

The issue of the matter is not color, but balance. The goal of food and wine pairing is to choose a food and wine that perfectly compliment each other. A poor food and wine pairing would cause either component to outweigh the other, like a huge Cabernet with a light flaky fish.

The being said, consider the WEIGHT of the food and wine (how well it coats your mouth). A feminine, delicate Gamay from Beaujolais, although red, would be a great compliment to a light, white fish.

So remember, segregation was made illegal in 1954.

Rule #2: Acid needs acid.

Remember Mr. Acid? Acidity in wine makes your mouth water, cheeks pucker, and gives the sensation that resembles what it would feel like to chomp on lemon slices. Acidity is a lovely component of wine, and without it, wine would be what wine snobs call "flabby" (real profound, huh?)

There IS a way to make the most of acid in both wine and food, and that is to match them together.

Have you ever wondered why Italian red wine tastes so delicious with Italian food? That is because of the pH levels of Italian staples. Rustic Italian ingredients, like tomatoes, lemons, and capers are highly acidic. That's why they go brilliantly with Chianti, which is made from the super acidic Sangiovese grape. Mangia Mangia!

If you aren't an Italian food/wine person (which, how could you NOT be??-I guess Olive Garden has ruined some people's taste for Italian food, and rightly so), pair a nice Sauvignon Blanc with some fish smothered in freshly squeezed lemon.

Your mouth will be happy :)

Rule #3: Weight needs Weight.

Refer to Rule #1. A heavy wine (one that is high in alcohol & tannin) needs a heavy food (lots of fat, salt, and protein) to stand up to it.

Hello... Red wine+fat filled cheese= awesome!

That's also the reason why a big, bold, Cabernet is the classic sidekick to a hunk of beef. Just like Batman and Robin, but more edible.

Rule #4: Fish hates tannin.

See Rule #1 again. This is why most heavy red wines don't go well with fish. Fish generally has an oily texture and body.

Take my weird analogy:

You just got your carpet scotch guarded. The next day, you spill oil on it. If the scotch guard does its job right, it will hopefully prevent the oil from seeping into the carpet. It serves as a blocker, and will force the oil to just puddle up on the carpet, rather that leak into the nooks and crannies.

Think of tannin in wine as the scotch guard, and the oily fish as the spilled oil. The tannin will serve as a blocker, and will force the oily fish texture to just puddle up on your tongue, rather than be absorbed and enjoyed. Not appetizing.

Therefore, the golden rule is: don't pair fish with tannic wines. On the flip side, acidic whites and light reds (like Pinot Noir and Gamay) are great pairings to fish!

Rule #5: Spice+Alcohol= FIRE!
Don't be scared when it comes to pairing spicy food with wine. But remember, drinking a wine with high a high alcohol content while eating spicy food is like pouring gasoline on a blazing fire.

'Nuff said- and do you really want that sensation in your mouth?

So, spicy Asian food with a big, tannic, Napa Cab= a bad idea.

Rule #6: Sugar+Spice= Something Nice

If you DO like spicy food, there is a solution!

Pair spicy food with a wine that has some residual sugar in it (many German and Austrian wines fall under this category, as well as wines from Alsace).

Spicy Asian food with a Riesling or Gewurztraminer is a beautiful thing.

When it comes to spicy Mexican food, my professional suggestion is to just grab a margarita. On the rocks, with salt, please!

Rule #7: Sweeter is better.

When it comes to pairing dessert with wine, always remember: the WINE must always be SWEETER than the dessert. This is why bitter dark chocolate and port are a brilliant pairing. The syrupy quality of Port balances out the bitterness in the chocolate. And vice versa.

Don't believe me? Thinking about pairing a sweet dessert wine with a double layered caramel & chocolate cake? Think again, or bring along some pepto bismol-you'll have a big 'ol stomach ache.

What is my personal favorite food & wine couple, you ask? Potato chips and Champagne. AKA: A little slice of Heaven.

Now please, go invite all your friends over for dinner! Your flawless food and wine pairings will be sure to impress.
Bon Appetito, Wine-O's,

Your Fearless Tutor, Stacey

PS: Next post: "Taking the Snob out of Sensory Evaluation"- how to REALLY taste wine like a pro!
PSS: Encouraged readings: "Perfect Pairings" & "Daring Parings" by Evan Goldstein
PSSS: Go to this cool wine & food pairing tool for some additional assistance (although after reading this post, I hope you won't need it!)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Navigating The Wine Store: Part 2

Heya Wine-O's,

If you missed it, here is a recap from yesterday's post:

For many wine consumers, going into a wine store can be slightly (or very) confusing and overwhelming. With the thousands upon thousands of different types of wines, it's difficult to know even how to START the shopping process.

So, to help a bit, I pointed out the fact that most wine stores organize inventory by COUNTRY, ie: a section for French, American, Spanish, and German (etc...)wine. Although it only breaks down the equation a little, it is a start.

Just when you thought you were making progress, I then burst everyone's bubble and brought up the slightly disheartening fact that some countries label their wines based on region, not by grape. For example, a bottle of Italian Chianti will not mention what grape the wine is actually made from. Rather, it is just an assumption that we know that all Chianti is made from Sangiovese.

To scale down the process even more, I highlighted some of what I call the BUZZ wines and BUZZ regions. The BUZZ categories are must-try options for wine lovers.

Now that you know the BUZZ wines & regions for each major wine producing country, we can begin the shopping process.

Step 1: Choose your price range. Now is a great time to remind you that price is not always an accurate indication of quality, although, when it comes to 2 buck chuck it is extremely spot on!But honestly this is not always the case. You can get a fantastic bottle of wine for under $20, and even under $10. So, no need to feel stingey- just choose your price and stick to your guns!

Step 2: Choose the BUZZ region that most interests you. For instance, say that you think New Zealand sounds like a cool place because you're never tried their wines, and because of their obsession with kiwi- the kiwi fruit, the kiwi bird, and heck, the NZ natives even refer to themselves as "Kiwis".

Step 3: Choose a BUZZ wine from your selected BUZZ region. This would be a good time to refer to the list from Navigating The Wine Store: Part 1. So, New Zealand is our chosen BUZZ region, and Sauvignon Blanc is our selected BUZZ wine. Good choice, may I add! Mmmm mmmm here comes delicious grapefruit and perfect acidity!!

Step 4: The next step is choosing the actual bottle. My suggestion? Just choose one. I know some of you may be thinking, "that's hardly helpful- thanks for nothing!", but the truth of the matter is that there are hundreds, heck even THOUSANDS of awesome wines to try from every region. So, refer to step 1 and choose a bottle that fits your budget. If this reckless abandonment scares you a bit, think about how small the risk actually is. Assuming your price range isn't 100's of bucks (I know mine certainly isn't), you can pay a small amount of cash and potentially find an awesome wine that you love. Of course there is the risk that you may hate it, but then at least you've scaled down your taste a bit more. AND if you do "hate it", please refer to my post, Cracking the Wine Codes, to help yourself understand WHY you hate the wine and how to avoid similar wines next time.

Step 5: Congratulations- you have your prized selection!! And, wasn't the whole process sweat and tears free?

Step 6: Find a delicious recipe to perfectly pair with your awesome new wine.
Don't know how to pair wine with food?

You're in luck- I do!

Check back tomorrow for the golden rules of food & wine pairing and how to impress your friends at any dinner party!

Good work and God speed, wine-O's,


Friday, April 1, 2011

Navigating The Wine Store: Part 1

It's happened to all of us. You walk into a wine store with high hopes of leaving with a great bottle of wine for a price that won't break your wallet.

But HOLY MOLEY there are SO many shelves and bottles and brands, and labels, and oh my.... you start to get a bit woozy.

Then, the worst happens. You approach the store employee to ask for some help, and, well, they don't know much more than you do (unless, you are shopping at the Wine Country in Signal Hill and the employee happens to be my beautiful, charming, and smart wine-o sister, Lisa).

So, let's take a poll. What do you do when this situation happens?

A. Leave the store, frustrated, defeated, and practically in tears.
B. Revert back to familiarity, and buy a bottle of the same old stuff you always drink.
C. Close your eyes, spin around a few times, point, and buy.

The good news is that this blog is for people who circle A, B, C, or any other answer, and hopefully this post will give you some helpful pointers for the next time you're brave enough to venture into a wine store.

, to begin, you'll notice that most wine stores are sectioned off by country, ie: there is a section for wines from France, Italy, Spain, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, and the miscellaneous "other countries".

Okay, cool, so now what? Look for what I call "BUZZ wines"-the most successful, popular, flagship, or if you want to call them the best wines from each country.

A not-so-side note: Many European countries have "BUZZ regions" opposed to BUZZ wines. This is because in some wine making countries, the wine region is synonymous to what is in the bottle.


Some wine bottles are labeled by the region, rather than the grape. For instance, a White Bordeaux will ALWAYS be either Sauvignon Blanc or Semillion.

That's just the way it is. I know, how rude of all those European producers to just assume that we already know their tricky codes!

Now that we've established that, let me break 'em down for ya:

France is one of the places that classifies their wine by region opposed to grape.

  • Champagne, duh. The grapes used in that bubbly goodness are Pinot Noir, Pinot Menuier, and Chardonnay.

  • Bordeaux wines. You can get BIG bang for your buck here. Generally speaking, Bordeaux reds will be blends of Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot, and the whites are made from Sauvignon Blanc. Look for words like Medoc, Pomerol, Graves, and St. Emillion.

  • Wines from Burgundy. Chardonnay is the white grape of Burgundy, and here you'll find Chards that are typically rich and oaky. Burgundian reds are from Pinot Noir.

  • If you like crisp and flinty whites, look for Chablis. Winemakers in Chablis age Chardonnay in stainless steel instead of oak barrels.

  • My personal favorite region: Loire. They make a billion styles of wine from a million grape varieties. Loire is famous for Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc, but I think you really can't go wrong.

  • Rhone Valley. Wines from Grenache & Syrah. If you're looking for a wine that reminds you of green olive juice and dried meat, go straight to the Rhone section.

Italy: Italy is super confusing because Italian wine is labeled based on both grape and region! As if it couldn't make your brain hurt any more!

  • Chianti: Chianti is made from the Sangiovese grape. This wine is Tuscany's prized jewel.

  • Pinot Grigio: Light and citrusy (almost tastes like lemon water to me). Find it in the North East regions of Italy.

  • There are countless interesting and awesome Italian wines. Look for Greco di Tufo, Barolo, Brachetto, and the list goes on.... I promise, one of my posts will focus just on Italy.
Spain: Spain does make wine worth trying other than Sherry!

  • Cava, Spain's sparkling wine. Segura Viudas is a very popular and reasonably priced brand.

  • Delicious white wines like Viura, Verdejo, and Albarino. The BUZZ reds are Garnacha and Tempranillo.

  • Riesling: It's naturally one of the most acidic grapes in the world, but the wine can still be so sweet! What a conundrum.

  • If you're feeling really adventurous, take a risk and grab a Muller-Thurgau, which is a white wine that is indigenous to Germany.
New Zealand

  • Sauvignon Blanc. If you like your wine to taste like grapefruit, lemon, and gooseberries (like I do), this is your wine.

  • Shiraz. Crack open a bottle and you will find a jar of strawberry jam in liquid form.
The US of A

  • FYI: 90% of wine made in the USA is made in California, and 3/4 bottles of American wine that are sold are Californian.

  • Although the movie Sideways made people's perceptions of California wine go a bit crazy, we do have some pretty darn good selections, whether it be a big, bold Napa Cab, a fruity Pinot Noir from the Central Coast, or, my favorite, some delicious and yeasty bubbly from Sonoma.

  • Washington State and Oregon are the other big USA players. Look for Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Pinot Noir.
Other: The "other" countries normally include wines that only wine snobs have heard of. This section will normally feature wines from Austria, Portugal, South Africa, Greece& Hungary.

  • Chenin Blanc: or what they call "Steen" in South Africa

  • Austria's Gruner Veltliner: a white that is normally characterized by its white pepper taste.

  • Port, the famous fortified wine, obviously comes from Portugal.

  • Hungary and Greece have some wines that I can't spell, pronounce, or tell you much about, like Egri-Bikaver and Assyrtiko.
Please, if this has helped or interested you in any way, shape, or form, come back tomorrow to read, "Navigating the Wine Store: Part 2".


Cracking the Wine Codes

"I don't like that wine"

That's fine. I can accept that, because I often feel that way too, especially about oaked Chardonnays and California Rieslings. What I can't accept is when people say "I don't like wine because it is an acquired taste and I just don't have it". I also agree with that statement- wine IS an acquired taste, and you DO have to train yourself to appreciate and love its beauty, complexity, and flavor.
So, to any of you who may feel ready to write off wine because you think your palate isn't educated enough, I encourage you to not give up yet!
If you don't "like wine", the question to ask yourself is, why don't I like it? What taste or sensation do I detect that is unappealing to me?? The first step is verbalizing what it is you don't like about a wine, even though you may not know what it technically means in wine language.
Here are some common 'negative' phrases decoded:

"It burns my throat when I swallow"= The burning sensation that you feel in the back of your throat after taking a gulp of wine (often associated with red wines) is caused by high alcohol levels. The amount of alcohol in a wine is a reflection of the climate in which the grapes were grown (I'll delve into that another day!! ).

Good news-this is an easy problem to solve! Every wine label is required to list the ABV (alcohol by volume). So, before you buy, look at the label.

The percentage ranges for alcohol:

  • Low= 8-10% (Sparkling wine, some German/Austrian wines)

  • Medium= 11-13% (the average old bear- you can find all types of wines in this category)

  • High= 13%-15 (the big boys like Cabernets, Syrahs, or many grapes grown in HOT climates)

If you don't like this feeling, look on the wine label, and anything over 13% ABV you should steer clear of- or at least pair with some food.

"It makes my mouth water"=Do you feel like you just bit into a lemon? That means you are drinking a wine with high acid. As is the same with alcohol, the amount of acid in a wine can correlate with the climate in which the grapes were grown.

Cold climate= high acid.

There are a few other factors that affect acid, but climate is a big one. Unfortunately, acid in wine is not as easy to sleuth out before purchasing, so I'll help you out.
Here are some wines that you should walk past in the store if you don't like drinking wine that makes your mouth pucker up :)

  • New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs (which are my favorite, by the way!)

  • German/Austrian Rieslings (Riesling is naturally a very high acid grape)

  • Spanish whites like Viura and Verdejo

  • The King of Tuscany, Sangiovese (which makes Chianti). This is my fiance's favorite wine!
Before you write off wines that are acidic, remember the tried and true rule of wine and food pairing: Wines with high acid are fantastic with acidic foods. So, pair a Spanish Viura with some fish covered with freshly squeezed lemon, or, even better, pop open a bottle of Chianti and eat some pasta with some tomato-caper sauce. Mmmm... I can feel my mouth watering now!

"It makes my mouth feel like sandpaper
Do you feel like you just rinsed with mouth wash? Yeah, I know how you feel. That, red wine drinkers, is called tannin. Tannin is a characteristic unique to red wine because it is found in the skins and seeds of wine grapes. In the red winemaking process, the grapes are given time to soak and mingle with their skins, which is how they get that rich, beautiful red color (Did you know white wine can be made from red grapes?).

So, the formula: thick red grape skins= lots of tannin= lots of dry mouth


  • If you want a red wine that isn't tannic, go straight to the Pinot Noir section. Pinot has extremely thin and fragile skin, which is why it has that delicious light taste. Not much tannin in that pretty lady, no matter where she's from.

  • Look in the France section for wines from "Beaujolais". They make delicate red wine from the Gamay grape. It's a refreshing change from the norm wine and you'll really impress your friends.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon has the thickest of grape skins, so it will be VERY tannic.

  • Brunello & Barolo are Italian varietals that you tannin-haters should not touch with a 10 foot pole.

Although you may not like tannin now, if you keep trying, I think you can really learn to appreciate how it adds so much complexity to red wines.

"It's too dry"= Let's face it, friends. People overuse the term 'sweet' way too much. Sweet wines have residual sugar in them. There are some wines that you may think are sweet, but that in reality have absolutely no sugar in them! Reminder: wines that taste like fruit or vanilla are NOT sweet wines!

Examples: Oaked Chardonnay (found in California) is a DRY wine. There typically absolutely zero, zip, zilch residual sugar in those babies. But, because of wine making techniques (being stored in oak barrels), you get that creamy, vanilla, coffee taste. Australian Shiraz is also not sweet, but don't you just love the jammy raspberry taste? Me too :) See, you really DO like dry wines! "

I only like sweet wines
" =
Join the club. The majority of Americans are right there with ya. But please people, it's time to start broadening our horizons. Did you know that high sugar levels are often used to mask flaws in wine? Don't get me wrong, there are some really beautiful sweet wines that are not syrup-y, or what wine snobs call "cloying".

Good examples of this are a really nice German Riesling (look for either the word Kabinett or Spatlese- these are indicators of how sweet the wine is). Instead of reverting back to Almond Champagne, Raspberry wine, or cheap Muscat, try to trick your palette into drinking something that gives your mouth the sensation of sweetness. Refer to the examples in the previous decoding.

"The wine store is overwhelming- there are too wines many to chose from and I don't understand the label
Check in next week for some wine store navigation tips :) I hope that this is helped you overcome some of your wine inhibitions. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask, and please keep me posted with your new wine experiences!

Over and out,


The Revival of a Wine-O

I'm in a funk. Plain and simple.

Don't get me wrong, I have so many things in my life that make me jump for joy, like my upcoming wedding and my fantastic fiance, my awesome family, my great friends, and the list goes on....

But, it just feels like there is something missing. Those of you who know me are aware that my favorite thing in the world is wine. Learning about it, drinking it, gabbing about it, and even just day dreaming about it.

Last year was a year overflowing with wine. In the span of 7 months, I took my 1st and 2nd level sommelier exams, and you could say that most of my time was spent studying (and stressing!). I would study wine while brushing my teeth, in my car (only while sitting at stoplights), at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while on dates with my boyfriend, and I'd pretty much gab to anyone who'd listen. This year has not been as wine-filled.

It has been a great year, but just not full of my favorite topic. To break this dry spell, I have jumped back on the wine bandwagon and signed up to take my Certified Specialist of Wine exam through the Society of Wine Educators. If I pass, I will be able to put "CSW" behind my name. Fancy, don't ya think?

I also have made a pact that I will blog about wine at least two times a week. I doubt that my blog will ever go viral, or that people around the country will be sending me samples and begging me to write about them, but at least this can be an outlet for me, and maybe provide some good information for my readers. I will be giving a weekly wine lesson, as well as recommendations for how you can get the best bang for your buck at the wine store.

So, if you are a wine-o, a wannabe wine-o, or just a regular old wine consumer, please check back weekly! I promise you won't be disappointed.

Cheers, Stacey