Splurge with Top Shelf Wines for the Weekend

splurgewinesThe weekend is upon us and you may have your favorite, inexpensive bottle of wine ready to open.  But there are times when you just want to splurge and open a bottle that is not only above your usual price point but worth it.  I have found two outstanding wines from California, a Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, which will be perfect to share with that special someone, at a dinner party, with friends during happy hour, or to sip alone as you create a beautiful meal for pairing.  Affordable wines are always welcome, but sometimes you just have to look to the top shelf of your favorite wine shop and find something extra special!

During my visit to Santa Barbara this summer, I stopped by the Riverbench Winery tasting room in the town’s eclectic Funk Zone.  I tasted many delicious wines which included their sparkling wines produced in the Méthode Champenoise and the 2010 Chapel View Chardonnay which I purchased Riverbench is located in the Santa Maria Valley and the Chapel View block is planted with only Clone 4 chardonnay grapes. The old Sisquoc Chapel, a Santa Maria landmark, sits upon a hill overlooking the Chapel View vineyards.  I opened the bottle recently with friends while spending a lovely weekend at the lake in Wisconsin.  Our guests appreciate a bold Chardonnay and I knew that they would love the 2010 Chapel View.  And they did.  Aromas of juicy tropical and stone fruits radiated from the glass.  The first sip was an eye opener with its deliciously creamy buttery notes. Dry and balanced, I was mesmerized with this rich, full bodied Chardonnay and its optimal acidity, more tropical fruit tastes, and a long finish of butterscotch and caramel.  The 2010 Chapel View Chardonnay is wondrous on the palate yet with a bit of an edge…  Cost is $34. and you can order it directly from Riverbench.

If you are craving a beautifully balanced, complex Cabernet look no further than the 2011 Cornerstone Cabernet Sauvignon Black Label Napa Valley Stepping Stone Cuvee.  Cornerstone Cellars continues to produce some of  my favorite wines thanks to its consistency in winemaking and good taste both literally and figuratively.  Mother Nature offered plenty of challenges to the 2011 vintage but with “patience and precision farming of our fantastic growers” the wines are elegant and enticing.  This selection of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Merlot was aged for eighteen months in French Bordeaux oak barrels.  The intense bright aromas were of succulent raspberries, dark red fruits, rich chocoloate, and sweet spice. More deep jammy fruits and spice met the palate and the well integrated and satin like tannins, buoyant acidity, and lush mouthfeel precluded a lingering finish with a hint of minerality.  This graceful wine was sent as a sample.  Cost is $45.  Contact Cornerstone Cellars to have this wine shipped to you if it’s not available in your area.


Cheers to a top shelf weekend ~ Cindy




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10 Tips for a Memorable Wine Tasting Experience

winetastingWho doesn’t love going to a wine tasting? The fall is one of my favorite seasons for public or industry wine events and tastings at festivals, wine shops and wineries. As I open the newspaper each day, it seems that more and more events are publicized. If you’re a newbie to the wine tasting world or a seasoned swirler, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of the manners that matter when going to a wine event.  Rules can be broken, of course, without the eagle eyes of the Wine Police (or your mother) – but if you remember a few simple points, the wine tasting experience will be that much better for everyone.

1.  Hold your glass at the stem. You’ll have more control of the glass and the warmth of your fingers won’t affect the temperature of the wine.

2.  As you visit each winemaker’s table at a large tasting event, let them pour, listen to their explanation of the wines, and enjoy the experience.  Ask questions to the one who is pouring, but don’t monopolize their time since there may be others waiting to taste.

3.  Reserve your vocal opinion of the wine until everyone has tasted. Be appropriate and respectful with your comments.

4.  In the event that there are many people waiting for your front row spot at the table, let others take your place.  Don’t overstay your welcome!

5.  Instead of guzzling the wine, take time to swirl, sip, and savor!  Try to identify aromas and tastes then write your notes in a journal or program from the event.

6.  Many people drink too much at wine tastings and regret it later.  You can take a sip then pour the wine from the glass to a bucket which is always on the tasting table or you can spit.  And as one wine lovin’ friend reminded me, don’t drink from the dump bucket!

7.  Don’t wear anything white to a tasting.  I think the reasoning behind this tip is obvious (think bucket backsplash)!

8.  You don’t need to rinse your glass after every tasting.  However, if you taste a red after a white or vice versa, you’ll need to rinse with the wine you will be tasting.

9.  If you are at a winery’s tasting room, you shouldn’t feel obligated to join their wine club or purchase wine.  But it you do, you’ll be able to enjoy the wine later and savor the memories of your tasting.

10. Thank your host or the person who poured the wine when you leave the table or event.  It’s just the right thing to do.


Enjoy tasting some delicious wines and have fun!

Cheers!~ Cindy




Posted in Events and Travel, Random Thoughts, Tasting Techniques, Wine Connoisseurs | Leave a comment

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Wine and Dine: Avantis Estate Malagousia 2013 and Greek Shrimp

greeceWhenever I pour a glass of wine, I look forward to travelling to or reminiscing about the region where my wine was produced.  Although an actual journey to another country may not be in my immediate future, one which doesn’t require a ticket or baggage fee can certainly be in my glass.  Like a liquid guidebook, a good wine is able to make an introduction to a region’s unique terroir, the techniques of a winemaker, and its culture.

Pairing a wine with a dish that reflects its region’s heritage is something I truly enjoy. This week, I chose a refreshing wine from Greece, 2013 Avantis Estate Malagousia, which was sent to me as a sample.  Tasted with my incredibly simple recipe for Greek Shrimp bursting with the flavors of tomatoes, garlic, lemon, parsley, and feta cheese the wine was outstanding.  Suddenly, I felt transported to a Greek trattoria alive with music, good food, and wine.

The 2013 Avantis Estate Malagousia  glistened gold in the glass.  Intense aromas of stone fruits, lemon zest, roses, and minerality lured me to the first taste.  On the palate, more floral notes, exotic fruit, lemons, oranges, and melon blended to create a fantastic balance of floral and fruit.  Dry with the optimal amount of acidity to pair with the shrimp, the finish was long and satisfying.  The Avantis Winery in Euboa is located in central Greece where the soil is clay, gravel, and stone and the climate is characterized by cold winters, hot summers boasting abundant sunshine, and long, dry autumns.

Enjoy a glass of the Malagousia, savor the tastes of Greek Shrimp, and plan your next vacation!

Greek Shrimp


  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons garlic (minced)
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley (chopped)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes (halved)
  • 1/2 bottle dry white wine
  • 2lb medium shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • 8oz feta cheese (crumbled)
  • 2 lemons (halved)
  • 2 sprigs fresh, flat-leaf parsley


This recipe serves 6.


Step 1
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
Step 2
Stir in the garlic, chopped parsley, tomatoes, and wine.
Step 3
Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 1 hour stirring occasionally, until the sauce has slightly thickened.
Step 4
Stir the shrimp into the tomato sauce and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Step 5
Pour the shrimp mixture into a shallow baking dish and sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese.
Step 6
Bake in the preheated 250 degree oven until the feta has softened and the shrimp are no longer translucent, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Step 7
Squeeze the lemon halves over the shrimp and garnish with the parsley sprigs to serve.
Step 8
Enjoy with a glass of crisp white wine from Greece!


Yamas! ~ Cindy

 Join the #winePW conversation: Follow the #winePW conversation on Twitter throughout the weekend and beyond. If you’re reading this early enough, you can join us for a live Twitter chat on our theme “Regional Food & Wine Pairings” on Saturday, September 13, from 11 a.m. to noon Eastern Time. Questions for the chat are posted here on the #winePW site. You can also visit our group Pinterest board to pin some great pairing ideas for later! 

Be sure to check out these great pairing from my fellow #winePW 4 bloggers!

Culinary Adventures with Camilla is posting “Chuletas de Cordero + Tempranillo”

Vino Travels — An Italian Wine Blog will share “Piedmont Pleasures”

Grape Experiences is pairing “Avantis Estate Malagousia 2013 and Greek Shrimp”

Curious Cuisiniere will share “Wisconsin Cheddar Grilled Cheese with Door County Winery’s Peninsula Red”

foodwineclick is sharing “Minnesota Wine at the Midwestern Table”

Pull That Cork will be sharing “winePW 4: Sicily”

Confessions of a Culinary Diva will blog about “New Mexico: Burgers, Bubbles and Beer”

Rockin Red Blog will share about “A Rustic Meal in Valpolicella”

Cooking Chat is blogging about “A Paso Pairing: Grilled Tuna with Halter Ranch Syrah”

Stay tuned for the October Wine Pairing Weekend, which will focus on “Fall Fruits and Wine Pairings” on Saturday, October 11.

Posted in Recipes, Regional Wines, Wine Reviews | Tagged 3 Comments


3 Responses to “Wine and Dine: Avantis Estate Malagousia 2013 and Greek Shrimp”
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  1. Jen

    The dish looks delicious and like my kind of meal. Greek wine always intrigues me as you often don’t get a chance to sample it or even come across it in some shops.

  2. Sounds like you came up with a perfect pairing, Cindy! I haven’t had a chance to enjoy much Greek wine, this one sounds very good.

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Weekend Wines from Chile Under $20: Mayu 2013 Pedro Ximenez and Merino 2012 Syrah

chilepic2The weekend is upon us and you may have your favorite, expensive bottle ready to open.  But there is more than enough space on the wine bar to open a few bottles of wine under or around $20.  It’s always fun for me to taste then suggest wines that are at or around that affordable price range.  I hope you find the wines reviewed below interesting enough to purchase and pair with a Friday night dinner at home, with friends who drop by unexpectedly, a Sunday supper, or with a good book waiting for you on the back porch!

The wines recommended this week are from two sub-regions of the Coquimbo Region in Chile and were sent to me as samples.  The area borders the Atacama Desert, is the most northerly of Chile’s wine regions, and has been known for producing table grapes and Pisco.  The sub-regions of Elqui, Limari, and Choapa were developed in the late 1990s and are beginning to positively impact the premium wine production in Chile thanks to new wineries using modern, innovative techniques.  All of the valleys boast abundant sunshine, cool breezes, mountain air, and brilliant stars at night.  I have found that the vast majority of wines from Chile represent a terrific value.

A white wine, the Maya 2013 Pedro Ximenez is produced in the Elqui Valley and the Olivier family, who started Vina Mayu in 2005, were the first to bring winemaking to that sub-region.  Pedro Ximenez vines, seventy years old, are grown in the free-form “alberello” style to increase their density as well as the “parral” style of trellising.  Low yield in order to increase the fruit quality is maintained.  Although the Pedro Ximenez grapes are mostly distilled to make pisco, lovely wines are being produced.  In my glass with colors of pale lemon with strands of gold, the intense aromas of the Maya 2013 were of citrus, lime, and zest.  Refreshing and fruity with a bit of salinity and a bracing finish, this dry wine was just what I needed on a hot late summer day. Cost is $15.

The Merino 2012 Syrah is from the Limari Valley located at the most narrow point of Chile.  Cooling fog in the morning and low temperatures in the evenings with short, moderate temperature days make this sub-region optimal for world class Chardonnay and cool climate Syrah.  Grapes for the Merino 2012 were hand picked from sixteen year old vines, destemmed, lightly crushed, and fermented in stainless steel tanks.  They were then co-fermented with 3% Viognier, followed by time on its skins before pressing.  The free-run wine was aged in oak barrels for ten months then blended with the pressed wine held in stainless steel tanks.  As I poured the Syrah in my glass, I couldn’t help but notice its inky purple color.  On the nose I found black fruits including plums and blackberries.  I tasted a delicious blend of dark fruits, raspberries, smoke, meat, and a touch of minerality.  Be sure to aerate the wine for about thirty minutes before drinking.  The aromas and flavors will open and the finish will be quite smooth.  Cost is $18.


Cheers to your weekend! ~ Cindy

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Celebrate Cabernet Sauvignon Day with the Paso Robles CAB Collective

113-001High atop a mountain with the orange and pink glow of a stunning sunset in the distance, I had the wind in my hair and a glass of smooth Cabernet Sauvignon from California’s Paso Robles AVA in my hand.  I was sampling a variety of delicious wine at beautiful DAOU Vineyards with one hundred wine bloggers and winemakers, growers, and representatives from the Paso Robles CAB Collective earlier this summer.   The evening excursion marked the end of an incredible day learning about the history and terroir of Paso Robles, the nuances of the wine grown in its AVAs, and the people who put Paso Robles wines on the map.  I can’t think of a better way to celebrate today’s Cabernet Sauvignon Day than to share my love of this wonderful wine region with you.

The Paso Robles CAB (Cabernet and Bordeaux) Collective (PRCC) “is a grass roots organization which strives to promote the full potential of the Paso Robles AVA in producing superior quality, age-worthy, balanced, and classic Cabernet and red Bordeaux varietals to consumers and media worldwide.”   The region is located in the northern half of San Luis Obispo County and was established in 1983. The AVA’s western boundary is approximately six miles from the Pacific Ocean and forms a rectangle thirty five by twenty five miles long with the eastern boundary located on the inland side of the Santa Lucia Mountains.  Its climate creates optimal growing conditions for Bordeaux varietals.  Diurnal shifts, often fifty degrees, bring cool breezy nights which help preserve a balanced acidity.  Extreme growing conditions including very little moisture and well drained, gravelly, often chalky limestone soil are what these grapes need to flourish.

DAOU Vineyards, the host winery for the event, is located in the Adelaida Mountains at approximately 2200 feet.  With its terroir of calcareous soils, maritime influence, and unique climate, the mostly Bordeaux varieties produced there can rival the best of the best.  But there are other wineries in the CAB Collective, twenty eight to be exact, which are producing such incredible, noteworthy wines that the region has garnered worldwide attention and its wines are receiving a multitude of awards.

Representatives from seventeen wineries, each pouring two or three selections, were situated at tables offering each wine lover a healthy pour and a gorgeous view.  Not only did I love the wines which were 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, but the blends were interesting and unique…the personal touch of each winemaker was clearly on my palate with each wine I tasted.

There were many highlights from the tasting.  Mike Sinor from Ancient Peaks Winery poured their 2011 Oyster Ridge ($50), a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec, and Petite Sirah. This was a wine which was incredibly balanced with a satin like texture and a soothing, warm finish.  David Parrish from Parrish Family Vineyards offered their 2009 Reserve Cabernet ($45), 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, that presented juicy plums and blackberries on the palate and the creamiest of finishes.  From Sextant Wines, Ashlie Leslie poured the 2012 Sextant Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon which was a blend of Cabernet, Petite Verdot, and Cabernet Franc.  The foundation of acidity and tannins helped support the tastes of dark fruit, chocolate, and pepper with balance and expression.  From Vina Robles, Marc Laderierre splashed the 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($24), a blend of Cabernet and Petit Verdot with notes of dark currant, subtle anise, and tobacco, in my already empty glass.

But there were more!  I enjoyed Cynthia Lohr’s pour of the J. Lohr 2011 Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon ($35) with its inky dark color, floral and plum aromas, intense tastes of fruit, and a scant 1% Syrah in the blend.  And there was Scott Shirley from Justin Vineyards.  Scott shared their 2013 Rose of Cabernet ($20) which was a welcome palate cleanser!  Lisa Colwell from DAOU poured a beautifully balanced blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot in their 2011 DAOU Reserve Cabernet, a shining example of a classic Cabernet.   Finally, Ted Plemons, partner at Cass Winery, entertained several of our group at dinner with stories and more while sharing a bottle of a smooth 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon  ($90).  What a night!

The Paso Robles CAB Collective exists to spread the word to savvy wine lovers who want to explore the region.  This trip marked my third, but by no means last, visit to the area.  With each sip of these remarkable wines I discover something new and unique…you will, too.

Cheers to Cabernet Sauvignon!  ~ Cindy





Posted in Events and Travel, Regional Wines, Wine Reviews, Wineries | Tagged 2 Comments


2 Responses to “Celebrate Cabernet Sauvignon Day with the Paso Robles CAB Collective”
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  1. Thank you Cindy for sharing your experience about the Wine Blogger’s conference! I’m glad you enjoyed all our wines. :) I hope you have a wonderful CAB day and look forward to your next visit!


    -Cecily Parrish Ray

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