A Valentine’s Gift: Elegant Anaba Wines

Shouldn’t your Valentine’s Day weekend be full of fun, bolstered with a few glasses of wines that are approachable and breezy, yet elegant? I discovered two selections that are just that from Anaba Vineyards and Winery in Sonoma County.  They’ll be perfect pairings with a romantic dinner, with a group of friends playing board games, or just by yourself watching a favorite movie.

Anaba, located at 60 Bonneau Road in Sonoma, California, is known for their quality wines featuring Rhone and Burgundian grape varieties. Sourced from selected properties in Sonoma County as well as their Estate vineyards in Carneros, the winemaking team works with growers to help them meet their specifications in each region boasting distinct microclimates. Canopy management strategies are used in order to elevate the health of the vines and grape clusters are thinned to refine the fruit’s flavor profile. Sustainable viticultural practices are consistently utilized in the vineyards.

In fact, Anaba was the first winery in Northern California to harness the wind for power when, in 2009, John Sweazey, Proprietor, installed a 45 foot Skystream 3.7 turbine. Generated by this electricity are the tasting room, wine storage area, office operations, and irrigation pumps for the estate vineyards as well as their electric car station, available to visitors sampling a bevy of wines at the tasting room.

“The winds of Sonoma lent us our name.  Be it a steady breeze or a firm gust, an anabatic wind is one that flows up the hills of a vineyards during calm and sunny weather,” states Sweazey.  As cooling winds glide inland from the Pacific Ocean and San Pablo Bay, they become stronger as they meet the vineyards’ sloping hills, at which point they become anabatic.  The vineyard climate becomes more temperate and the fruit’s ripening process is slowed, resulting in wines with a bold, unique and elegant profile.

Just as interesting and impressive as the story (be sure to check out the website) were the two bottles sent to me as samples, 2013 Turbine White and 2012 Pinot Noir.

Anaba 2013 Turbine White, Sonoma Valley

With just as much breeze and fresh air as the image of the turbine on its label evokes, this lovely blend of Rhone varietals, 42% Roussane, 20% Grenache Blanc, 20% Picpoul Blanc, and 18% Marsanne, is relaxed and joyous! Gentle aromas of stone fruit, herbs, and white flowers wafted from the glass. As a counterpoint to the nose, the flavors of the Turbine White were broad yet refreshing, with notes of almonds and tropical citrus and boasting bright acidity; its finish was light, crisp, and lingering.

From vineyards in the eastern foothills of the Sonoma Valley Appellation, the Roussanne contributed gentle aromatics, the Marsanne offered acidity, Grenache Blanc presented length and balance, and the Picpoul Blanc lent elements of tropical fruit and that snap that I loved. Fermented with native yeast in in 50% barrels and 50% stainless steel, the 2013 Turbine White was aged for eight months in French oak barrels.  Cost is $28.

Anaba 2013 Turbine White

Anaba 2012 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

It should be no surprise to any of my readers that I love a classic Pinot Noir and the 100% Pinot Noir from Anaba does not disappoint. On the nose, sweet cherries, purple flowers, and touch of oak evoked that “ahhhh…” moment right from the beginning. Notes of earth, vanilla, white pepper, juicy red fruits, and baking spice were lifted by brilliant acidity and well integrated tannins were the foundation. Balanced with a bold, firm finish, this approachable Pinot Noir will make every moment special.

Whereas the Turbine White is from grapes grown in the Valley, the Pinot Noir is from the Sonoma Coast Appellation and aged for eleven months in French oak barrels.  Cost is $34.

Anaba 2012 Pinot Noir

Whatever you do, have a wonderful Valentine’s Day weekend. Keep it simple, relaxing, and, of course, always elegant.

Cheers~ Cindy

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Super Bowl Wine and Dine: Three Touchdown Reds with Turkey and Bean Chili

It’s that time of year when football fanatics sport their team’s colors and gather around the television with hopes that the Super Bowl game (or its highly touted commercials) will not be a complete waste of time. But don’t worry. With a few sips of these delicious red wines and heaping spoonfuls of turkey and bean chili, your evening will be anything but!

Although I love football, I am mildly interested in the game itself, unless the Green Bay Packers are involved, at which point the game gets real. If I’m at a Super Bowl party, I’d rather chat with friends, glance at the commercials, graze among the bounty of food, and have a few drinks. And if I’m staying at home with my husband or a few friends, I’m more than happy to make a scrumptious (but easy) dinner, open a few bottles of wine, and make the evening as fun as possible! Read on.

Super Bowl
This year, I’ll watch the game at home after having partied and danced the previous night away at a wedding in Chicago. The wines have been chosen and are not only approachable on their own, but make a fabulous, game changing pairing with the easy menu I’ve planned.  You’ll want to keep this post handy for many gatherings to come!

The Turkey and Bean Chili is a recipe I found from myrecipes.com.  You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to double or triple the ingredients to create a savory, healthy one pot meal for a crowd.  I suggest serving a few appetizers as starters and creating a fun, unique salad with fresh ingredients as a side. You may want to bake some tortilla chips smothered with cheesy goodness on a tray for extra munching or show off your cooking skills with this homemade Sicilian pizza cut into small bites.  Your guests will stand up and cheer when you present a dessert of the fudgiest of brownies or your favorite cookie recipe!

But let’s get to the wine! A glass of any or all of the three red wines, reviewed below and sent as samples, will satisfy the palate of the most discerning “wine with chili lover”! Each is under $20, ever so food friendly, and a true game day winner with a steaming bowl of Turkey and Bean Chili.

The Federalist Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 – You can’t miss with this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Syrah, and Sangiovese in your glass. Intense aromas of red berries, blueberries, and vanilla led to tastes of more of the same in this balanced, rich wine.  Well integrated tannins, mouthwatering acidity, the optimal amount of rich fruit (think black cherries…wow!) and a lingering, velvety finish will have you begging for another glass…and possibly missing Beyoncé at halftime! Cost is $17.76. 

The Federalist Lodi Zinfandel 2014 – What’s not to love about this memorable Zinfandel and Syrah blend? Spice, chocolate, herbs, and juicy blueberries were enticing on the nose as were notes of vanilla, more spice (thank you!), black cherries, and dried herbs on the palate. Full bodied with bright acidity, the spice on the zesty finish blended incredibly well with the flavors of the chili. Go ahead…pour another glass (or two)! Cost is $17.76.

Turkey Chili wines
Frontera Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2014 – From the Central Valley of Chile is this approachable wine that is ready to drink at any time (pre-game anyone??). Red berries, ripe cherries, hint of vanilla, and subtle herbal notes on the nose and palate were satisfying long after that last bite of chili. This is a wine that your guests will be pouring all night…consider purchasing the 1.5 liter size for only $12!

Turkey Chili wines

Turkey and Bean Chili


  • 1 cup pre-chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped, seeded poblano pepper ((about 1))
  • 1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
  • 1 1/4lb ground turkey
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 19oz can of cannellini beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 14.5oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • 14oz can chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
  • 6 lime wedges


Step 1
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat.
Step 2
Add first 4 ingredients. Cook for 6 minutes or until turkey is done, stirring frequently to crumble.
Step 3
Stir in chili powder and next 8 ingredients (through the broth). Bring to a boil.
Step 4
Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
Step 5
Stir in cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.
Step 6

Turkey Bean Chili

Cheers! ~ Cindy

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Wine Quiz: Do You Know Your Red Wines?

It’s time for a wine quiz! The last quiz on Grape Experiences tested your knowledge about the world’s wine regions. Today you’ll discover just how much you know about red wine from around the globe.  Of you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll have a guaranteed A+!  Simply match the description to the appropriate wine.  Need help? The number before each question is linked to the full article where you can find the correct answer and even more information about that beautiful red wine.

The answers are below the last picture.  Good luck! ~ Cindy

Wine Quiz

1.  Steve Lutz of Lenne Estate in Oregon is crafting wines with “mesmerizing aromas of rich black cherries, minerality, and mocha…with a mid-palate grip.”

a.  Pinot Noir     b.  Cabernet Sauvignon     c.  Nero d’Avola     d.  Pinotage

2.  From Sicily, this wine showed aromas of delicate cherries, vanilla, and smoke, while on the palate, I found peppery notes, earth, smoke, licorice, and red fruit braided with medium tannins and food friendly acidity.

a.  Aglianico     b.  Primitivo     c.  Sangiovese     d.  Nero d’Avola

3. Vanilla and cassis aromas leading to a palate profile of wood, juicy plums, dark, red, jammy fruit and a hint of spice braided with elegant tannins and bright acidity describe this expressive wine from Cornerstone Cellars in Napa Valley.

a.  Grenache     b.  Zinfandel     c.  Cabernet Sauvignon     d.  Pinot Noir

4. Although Cabernet Sauvignon and Canaiolo Nero are in the blend, this Chianti Classico is mostly…

a.  Tempranillo     b.  Monastrell     c.  Xinomavro     d.  Sangiovese

5.  From Argentina, the Achaval-Ferrer Quimera 2012 has as its main component…

a.  Malbec     b.  Cabernet Franc     c.  Merlot     d.  Petit Verdot

6. Aromas of blackberries, juicy plums, and boysenberry led to powerful notes of toasty caramel, maple, white pepper, warm spice, chocolate and layers upon layers of dark jammy fruit flavors in this wine from Sonoma County.

a.  Carignan     b.  Grenache     c.  Zinfandel     d.  Cinsault

7. Spain’s Bodegas Emilio Moro produced Malleolus 2011 that in his words is the “most authentic quality of our wines” with character and personality.

a.  Monastrell     b.  Tempranillo     c.  Syrah     d.  Cabernet Franc

Wine Quiz

1.  a     2.  d     3. c     4. d     5. a     6. c     7. b


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Wine and Dine: Grand Vin L’Ostal Cazes 2012 and Shrimp Paella

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for an interesting wine to pour and a delicious dish to create. Neither needs to be too expensive or time consuming, but I prefer each to complement the other. Recently I was sent, as a sample, a bottle of Grand Vin L’Ostal Cazes 2012 from Minervois la Livinière. The food pairing was not the challenge I though it may be; I found a surprisingly simple recipe for Shrimp Paella, a dish familiar to the region, that had just the elements needed to make this wine and food pairing a success!

Minervois la Livinière

Most wine lovers are aware of the Languedoc region in the south of France for its easy drinking, approachable wines reflecting the terroir and proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and mountains. Pehaps you’ve heard of Minervois, an appellation within the Languedoc that was created in 1985.  But la Livinière, founded within the Minervois in 1997, is a “commune within a commune” and covers only 200 hectares in four villages in the foothills of the Montagne Noire. Approximately thirty winemakers are responsible for producing its outstanding wines in this beautiful area of the world.

A Mediterranean climate of mild, rainy winters and warm, dry summers combined with a southern garrigue landscape (dry, limestone based soil around which is grown rosemary and lavender) help make Minervois la Livinière and their wines distinctive. Known for its dry red wines from traditional Carignan and Cinsault, as well as Rhone varieties Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre, strict rules command that at least 40% of any wine must be Syrah and Mourvedre combined and no more than 40% can be Carignan and Cinsault. Whereas Minervois may produce red, white, and rose wines, la Livinière must only produce reds.

The appellation’s stringent rules are an indication that the quality of each wine is of utmost importance. Prior to bottling, a team of tasters visits each producer’s cellar to ensure that each wine boasting the Minervois la Livinière name on the label is more than just satisfactory. And the wine I tasted certainly was.

Grand Vin l’Ostal Cazes 2012

This rich blend of 70% Syrah, 15% Carignan, 10% Grenache, and 5% Mourvedre was a delightful pairing with the thyme, paprika, and tomato notes of the shrimp paella.  Aromas of sweet spice, violet, vanilla, and black cherries led to flavors of anise, juicy red and purple fruits as well as subtle notes of dried sage and thyme. Thanks to gentle tannins, refreshing acidity, and the long lasting finish of the wine, elements of the shrimp paella were not overpowered.  Instead, after each sip of the Grand Vin l’Ostal Cazes 2012 ($25) and taste of the paella, my palate was not just content but craved for more.  Consider this wine and food pairing one that will be a lovely weeknight dinner, easy Sunday supper, or part of a multi-course treat for special guests.

Shrimp Paella

Shrimp Paella


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 10 1/2oz paella or risotto rice
  • 3 tablespoons dry Sherry or white wine (optional)
  • 14oz can tomatoes with garlic
  • 30oz chicken stock
  • 14oz bag of frozen shrimp
  • juice of 1/2 lemon, other 1/2 cut in wedges
  • handful of flat leaf parsley (roughly chopped)


Step 1
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and soften for 5 minutes. Stir in the paprika, thyme and rice, stir for 1 min, then splash in the Sherry or wine, if using. Once it has evaporated, stir in the tomatoes and stock.

Step 2
Season and cook, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring now and again until the rice is almost tender and still surrounded with some liquid.

Step 3
Stir the frozen seafood into the pan and cover with a lid. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the prawns are cooked through and the rice is tender. Squeeze over the lemon juice, scatter with parsley and serve with extra lemon wedges.
Step 4

Cheers~ Cindy




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An Italian Wine Vacation: Mystical and Unplanned – Guest Post by Jan Ennis

It was with great anticipation that I took my first Italian wine vacation.  After 20 years of loving wine, it was finally time to experience all the Old World had to offer.  Of all the places that we could visit in Italy, our first choice was to focus on Umbria and Tuscany.

Traveling all over North America and Mexico for most of my professional career, the need to plan this trip seemed quite illogical.  Get a hotel, get a car and go was all you ever needed.  This trip was, however, going to be a bit different at first…and then, thank goodness, my years of traveling and dealing with “changes” paid off.  Obviously we had plans, but they exploded in every way possible upon our arrival.

Italian wine vacatioin

When Plans Go Awry

We had booked into an RCI resort for the two weeks we were going to be in Italy.  It was to be “base camp” as we meandered through the countryside daily.  The resort was an Agriturismo and for those of you not familiar, these places typically serve breakfast and a lovely family style five course dinner at night…VERY LATE at night compared to our dining habits.  Don’t plan to eat before 8:00PM anywhere….it just won’t happen!  Needing to get to plenty of driving locations, we quickly realized that many of these facilities are rural and, in my opinion, don’t necessarily provide the best of base camps for day trips.

It appears that to boost tourism, the Italian government encouraged (or allowed) small farms, villas, etc. to convert their rooms to this type of B&B and D (dinner) a few years ago.  Surely, some of these would be great places to stay if you are not as adventurous as our group and as determined to have every dining experience that Umbria and Tuscany can provide.  Our experience at the Agriturismo lasted for three long nights.  You see, we had no idea that there is NO HEAT allowed anywhere in Italy until November 1.  If you travel there in the beautiful month of October, take lots of clothes!  No heat, no water for one full day, no hot water the next day…the ladies in our group shouted MUTINY! and our “detours” began.

Luckily, yours truly talks to everyone…everywhere.  On our first day touring, I met a fun loving young couple on the sandy beach of Bolsena, a lovely medieval town on Lake Bolsena.  Surprisingly, they had told us of a fabulous hotel, La Badia, that was previously a thousand year old monastery and had given us their emails for any help we needed.  When things went south at the resort, we immediately abandoned the RCI property and raced to our new “ancient” digs.  This magical little place looked over lush green olive groves and gazed up to the city of Orvieto.  Each room was steeped in history and had been lovingly preserved for the enjoyment of the guests.  We had now made basecamp so we could recuperate, acclimate and eventually move on to Magliano in Toscana.

Italian wine vacation

The Magic of Uncharted Italy

Travel stories of Italy almost always seem to revolve around the larger cities.  Milan, Venice, Rome, and Florence are touted by those returning with tons of photos of museums, cathedrals and fountains.  I had seen so many images of these places that seeing what others had “missed” was all that would satisfy my curiosity.  Our group was now destined to see unplanned locales, meet interesting and entertaining locals and experience what no tour will ever get to….unknown detours through living history.

More than a few new sayings came to mind during our trip.  The one that says it best is “The detour is better than the tour”!  The dining schedule in Italy diverted us into uncharted territory more than anything else.  When businesses are closed in the afternoons, eating is about all you can do.  An unexpected closure of a rental car location caused us to drive from Fabro to an ancient city of Ficulle and subsequently to a tiny restaurant.  Once inside, we had a delicious local lunch and were asked by one of the patrons there, “How in the hell did you find this place?”  The patron was Ludovica Giuriati, a travel consultant, and after a lovely discussion on Ficulle and Umbria, she arranged for our group to have a tour and enjoy dinner at Tenuta Vitalonga hosted by Francesco Maravalle the next evening.  No more fabulous food and wine pairing did we find in all Umbria.

I am sure that there will be those that would disagree on a basecamp location to tour Umbria and Tuscany, but for me it will now and forever be Orvieto.  We made day trips to Perugia, Assissi, Bagnoregio, Bolsena, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Viterbo, Bagnaia, Bomarzo, Pitigliano, Manciano, Magliano in Tuscano, Orbetello and several other small ancient towns where everyone was incredibly warm and friendly (albeit not very good at English or directions).  The evenings in each of these towns became magical tours back in time and taste.  Wild boar, rabbit, lamb, truffles, cheeses, olives and some of the most incredible balsamic vinegar I have ever tasted.  I think my next trip will be to chase down the best balsamic!

For those who wish to try two lovely Tuscan wineries, I highly suggest Poggio Antico in Montalcino and Poliziano in Montepulciano.  In both locations, our tour and tasting guides were absolutely knowledgeable in every phase of their production and distribution.  If you brew or do any fermentation yourself, you know that a very large percentage of the flavor of the beverage comes from the yeast used.  I am always curious, especially in areas that produce geographic specific wines, whether or not they ferment with the natural yeast found on the fruit.  I have taken many tours where the guides do not know the process well enough, but not here.  The tour guides knew exactly what, when, how and why they would use their own yeast (or not).  In the case where a major rain would immediately precede harvest and wash off much of the naturally occurring yeast, they would augment with their own strains, but otherwise they naturally fermented.  To my taste, this truly defines the winery, vintage and the locale.

Italian Wine Vacation
Unlike the wineries here in the United States, many of the wineries in Italy sported one additional benefit that was unanticipated, but highly desirable….OLIVE OIL.  Many of the vineyards we passed on our travels were flanked by olive groves.  As it takes time to develop a palate for wine, beer and spirits, the same is quite true for olive oil.  Once you taste an olive oil that is both fresh and of great quality, you truly want nothing less.  The tasting room of Gattavecchi wines in Montepulciano ruined some of my companions for the rest of the trip.  While they were not enthralled with the wines, they agonized for the rest of the trip that they had not bought the oils there.  It seemed as though every dinner was a letdown when the olive oil was served and tested for the rest of the trip.

Probably the biggest shock in wine touring in Italy is that many of the wineries are open only by appointment and serve food during your visit.  Typically this would not be a problem, but navigating the roads in Italy can be.  The second saying to come from this trip was, “Don’t ask an Italian for directions”!  I am pretty sure that the Roman Empire fell when the army left Rome in search of its first conquest.  With the battle won, the army got lost following their own road signs…thereby ending the Roman Empire killing everything in sight while trying to find their way back to Rome.  Should you navigate the back roads correctly and make it to one of your desired wineries at the appointed hour, you may not make it to the next unless you know exactly where it is and how long it takes to get there.  HINT ONE: GPS does not work in parts of Umbria and Tuscany.  It is so spotty that the device even warns you!  HINT TWO: a sign with an arrow on it pointed to the left means GO STRAIGHT…what is that about????  HINT THREE: when you come to a roundabout (and they are everywhere), just drive around and around until you are absolutely sure which arrow you need to follow!

More Stones to Turn…One Day

As we neared the end of our trip, we packed up and headed to La Fattoria di Magliano in Toscano.  We were determined to experience and taste each region of Umbria and Tuscany.  If this is “Under the Tuscan Sun”, take me there any time.  Prepared for us upon our arrival was an outdoor tasting overlooking the vineyards and the ancient city of Magliano in Toscana.  Although this is an Agriturismo, they did not serve dinner the evening we were there.  Instead, we were directed 5 minutes into town to yet one more fabulous meal.  We made sure to pair our meal with another Morellino de Scansano like the one we enjoyed that afternoon.

Italian Wine Vacation
Our trip ended all too soon and I grieved that we did not have time to go to Montefalco to experience the Sagrantino di Montefalco wines and visit the wineries there.  We tasted them all during our trip, but really wanted to experience this last vestige of Umbria before returning home.  I guess when you leave one stone unturned; it gives you a good reason to return.  Many thanks to all the incredible folks we met on our detours.

Our Italian wine vacation was one to remember. Arrivederci, Orvieto! – Jan Ennis

This is Jan Ennis’ second post for Grape Experiences. His first was an entertaining account of his trip to Walla Walla, Washington where food and wine were the reason for being…

Jan is a transplanted Virginian living in the Seattle area.  I went to college with Jan and, in retrospect, he was the only one I knew NOT drinking cheap beer, wine and vodka.  This savvy guy had good taste even then and apparently it has been elevated to quite the art.  Growing up in the South, Jan learned to appreciate cooking without recipes.  Now, he enjoys fusing Old South and Pan Pacific into his own style of cuisine, but only for friends and family. After his first trip to Walla Walla, he truly fell in love with exploring wine and wine country.  Jan collaborates with his friend Rod Shedd from Vermont in his Vine to Wine Concierge Service and both have traveled to wine regions in Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Baja Mexico, Woodinville, WA, Walla Walla and the Eastern Counties of Quebec where wine and cider fuse together for a great tour.  I hope you enjoy Jan’s entertaining article about his latest “grape experience” in Italy.

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