Organic Wines for Earth Day 2014 ~

earthday1 Earth Day is celebrated around the world on Tuesday, April 22.  The first Earth Day was in 1970 and students and faculty members in thousands of colleges, universities, and public schools around the country participated in peaceful activities.  As I recall, the day was sunny and bright and our class cleaned the school grounds of litter.  Through the years environmental groups have pushed for policy changes and adjustments in our own outlook towards what is environmentally appropriate.  More organic farms can be found, farm to table restaurants are sprouting, farmers markets are in abundance, recycling is the norm for many, and our younger generation is embracing this movement as a lifestyle.

My efforts in environmental sustainability are now more complex than picking up trash. For example, I have drastically changed my eating habits.  Now the vast majority of food I consume is organic and non-GMO.  I have joined a CSA program from a nearby organic farm and look forward to not only receiving an assortment of fresh produce this summer but also preparing meals in the footsteps of my grandmother (who didn’t eat food loaded with preservatives).  I have a long way to go before I can state that I’m doing everything “right by the earth” but even small steps can make a big impact.

Wine lovers have choices, too.  One option we all have when finding a wonderful bottle of wine to enjoy is to seek out those from vineyards which produce organic grapes and winemakers and others consistently utilize biodynamic and sustainable techniques.  So many wineries are moving in this direction and in my humble wine-swirling opinion this is just common sense and an example of “best practices” in the field of viticulture.  I have found that the wines I enjoy from these wineries consistently present a taste profile of freshness with a bow to its terroir.


Recently I was sent three samples of organic wine which will be perfect to open as an homage to Earth Day 2014.  Pour yourself a glass and know that you’re helping our planet…with every sip!!

*Mionetto Organic Prosecco DOC – From a small village, Valdobbiadene, in the Veneto region of Italy, the Mionetto family has been producing quality wine for over 125 years. The Glera grapes in this sparkler are sourced from a certified organic winery in the town of Vazzola in the hills of Treviso. No synthetic chemicals and fertilizers are used in their organic farming techniques. To extend the freshness and taste profile, utilized is the Charmat method whereby the second fermentation to create soft bubbles takes place in a pressurized stainless steel vat.  I opened this wine with friends as an aperitif paired with a fruit and cheese platter before going to dinner.  We all agreed that the Mionetto Prosecco was fresh with subtle aromas of citrus and a touch of florals. On the palate, I found green apple and tropical fruit notes complemented with lively bubbles and a zesty finish.  This bubbles were just delicious and a wonderful start to our evening.  Cost is $16.


*Emiliana Novas Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2012 –  The mission of Emiliana Organic Vineyards is to “provide our consumers with the highest quality wines with a unique expression of terroir achieved through the benefits of using organic and biodynamic agriculture”. This crisp, fresh 100% Sauvignon Blanc from Emiliana Organic Vineyards is from the San Antonio Valley in Chile.  Grapes from vines planted in thin, rocky and clay soil are hand harvested with fermentation in stainless steel then aged in stainless steel tanks for eight months to preserve the crispness and fruit profile.  Pale lemon in the glass, I loved the citrus and floral aromas with a zing to the nose.  A slight grapefruit taste along with green apple and snappy minerality were delightful on the palate.  Balanced with just the right amount of acidity, the finish created a moment when we all just wanted a bit more in the glass.  Cost is around $15.


*2012 Emiliana Natura Cabernet Sauvignon –  The owners and winemakers feel that “using sustainable, organic, and biodynamic agricultural practices result in better balanced, healthier, and more productive vineyards, which in turn results in better quality grapes and therefore better wines.” 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, and 6% Syrah grapes were hand picked and sourced from Chile’s Rapel Valley with alluvial soil.  After crush, fermentation was in stainless steel tanks after which malolactic fermentation took place.  20% of the wine was aged in oak barrels for six months.  Bright ruby red in the glass, aromas were fresh with lavender, blueberries, raspberries, and caramel predominant.  More red fruits, soft tannins, and medium acidity led to a soft finish and an entirely pleasurable sigh of “Ahhhhh”!  Cost is $10.


Enjoy these planet friendly wines on Earth Day and every day.  And don’t forget to recycle your corks and bottles! 

Cheers! ~ Cindy

Posted in Regional Wines, Sparkling Tastes, Wine Reviews | Tagged , , , , , Leave a comment

Blog Post DividerFINAL.png

Malbec World Day 2014 – What’s in Your Glass?

April 17, 2011 was the first Malbec World Day with more than 72 events held in 45 cities across 36 countries.  You might consider this just another public relations/marketing endeavor which brings attention to the signature grape of Argentina.  And yes, you’re correct.  However, I think of Malbec World Day as a time for learning a bit about the attributes of the grape and the wine itself as well as finding a good bottle or two of Malbec to open (and I have two suggestions at the end of this post).

For those of you who may need a bit more information about Malbec, you may enjoy reading some key facts to remember the next time you are in the aisles of your favorite wine shop.

What is Malbec?

  • A purple grape variety~
  • A thick skinned grape which, in general, needs more sun and heat that Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot to mature~
  • Is grown in the Cahors appellation of southwest France where regulations require that the minimum content of Malbec in a blend of wine is 70% (but its overall popularity in France has declined since a 1956 frost in the Bordeaux region devastated the vineyards there – Cahors replanted and it’s still popular in that region…) ~
  • Was introduced to Argentina around 1868 by a French agricultural engineer who wanted to improve the quality of Argentine wines…(and this is such a long story about economic reversals, Eva Peron mandating the dilution of wine with water *don’t cry for Eva, cry for the wine drinkers* , etc., etc., and the revival of the quality and reputation of Argentine wines around twenty years ago) and finally Malbec is one of the predominant varietals of that country~
  • Is grown in the United States where Malbec is widely used in blending, yet California Malbec is garnering more attention~

What is the Taste Profile of Malbec?

  • Argentine Malbec has a deep ruby color, floral aromas, intense dark fruit flavors, and a smooth texture.
  • A French Malbec from Cahors tends to have tobacco, raisin, and red fruits on the palate with soft tannins.
  • One wine expert, Jancis Robinson, feels that the French style of Malbec  is a ”rustic” version of Merlot – soft tannins, lower acidity.  An Argentine wine importer, Nick Ramkowsky, thinks of Malbec a ”meatier, manlier version of Merlot” which is ”straightforward” and “the best Malbec wines have a lively acidity and approachable tannins”.
  • A smooth, deep Malbec will pair successfully with red meats such as prime rib, roast beef, or steaks, Italian food with rich, red sauces, and perhaps roasted turkey or chicken.

My choices to share with you for Malbec World Day are examples of terrific wines from Argentina at two different price points.  You decide which you’d like to try!

*Achaval Ferrer Quinera 2010 (sample) -  For those of you ready for a beautiful Malbec blend, this is for you.  A combination of old vine 27% Malbec, 25% Cabernet Franc, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot grapes from high elevations in Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina, 6288 cases were produced.  After primary fermentation in small tanks, the wine was blended with malolactic fermentation in French oak barrels occurring next.  The Achaval Ferrer Quinera 2010 was unfined and unfiltered (meaning there may be some deposit after cellaring) so I decanted the wine for about an hour prior to tasting so that the aromas and flavors would have some time to evolve.  And they did.  The intense aromas of earth, dark cherries, ripe raspberries, purple flowers, and spice leapt out of the glass.  On the palate I discovered more dark fruit, anise, and more spice.  The chewy tannins and fresh acidity in this balanced wine help make the full flavor profile complex and structured.  The satin like finish with a bit of minerality was absolutely satisfying. The cost of this beautiful, rich Malbec blend which you can cellar for the next ten to twenty years ranges from $45 to $55.


*Graffigna Centenario Elevation Red Blend Reserve 2012 (sample) – On a budget?  You may prefer this wine from the second oldest winery in Argentina and located in San Juan. Established in 1870 by the Graffigna family of Italy, the estates are located on steep slopes 700-1500 meters above sea level.  This wine is a blend of Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, and Tannat.  The intense aromas were of earth and dark fruit including plums.  An unexpected surprise was the taste profile of unsweetened chocolate, cherries, blackberries, and more plums with medium acidity and tannins.  The fruit was a clear balance to the sharpness of the Tannat and overall this was a very nice wine with a smooth finish.  The cost is only $10 and is meant to be enjoyed now – no cellaring needed.


Raise your glass to the day meant to celebrate this wonderful grape.  But you don’t have to pour that glass on Malbec World Day…treat yourself to Malbec any time you choose!

Cheers! ~ Cindy


Posted in Regional Wines, Wine Reviews, Wine School | Tagged , , , , , , , Leave a comment

Blog Post DividerFINAL.png

No Lace Socks for Me…My Easter Traditions Now Include Wine ~

006 My earliest memory of Easter was spending the weekend at my grandparent’s home in Tidewater Virginia.  My mother, the first fashionista I knew, made sure I was dressed up in the prettiest pastel dress possible complete with ruffles, a white cardigan with “real pearls” or a classic spring coat, socks full of lace, and shiny patent leather shoes.  On occasion I would wear a hat, short white gloves and a matching purse. I would accompany my family to church after which I would spend time with the other little girls in their own Easter finery.  As for the boys?  They looked miserable and couldn’t wait to change from their uncomfortable pants and bow ties to…just about anything!   The mothers and grandmothers wore beautiful hats (at least I thought so!) and corsages of course.

A big Easter dinner was always after church.  We often dined at a restaurant until the line to obtain a table became so long and the wait so interminable that the glow of Easter, both literally and figuratively, disappeared.  Cooking at home was another option and a Smithfield ham with mint sauce or baked with cloves was always on the table.  Add creamy, buttery mashed potatoes, the ubiquitous green bean casserole,  homemade macaroni and cheese, spiced apples, fresh lima beans, and warm, melt-in-your mouth biscuits with plenty of butter and we had quite the meal.  There were always at least three desserts from which to choose – a cake from my favorite bakery, banana pudding, and a rich chocolate pie.   What I don’t remember at all about Easter dinner was having wine at the table.  And it has been confirmed by my mother…wine was not served, but that’s fine because I was too young to enjoy it anyway!

Easter traditions are different now.  Although there are still Easter egg hunts I don’t see any hats or corsages worn on ladies under the age of 90.  Easter parades are a long forgotten memory.  Many people don’t attend church yet still consider Easter a time for family although it’s more difficult to gather a big group together in part due to the transient lives of many.  Going to the traditional “Champagne Easter brunch” is popular and reservations can now be made – usually no lines out the door.  Some decide to grill if the weather permits after they work in their yard…and the aromas of barbequed chicken or a juicy steak fill the back yard air.

Now that I’m an adult and the lacy socks are a thing of the past, an Easter tradition to which I adhere when entertaining at home is having wine available for those who would like a glass.  With the variety of food choices at an Easter brunch, casual neighborhood lunch after church, mid-day supper, or evening barbeque there always will be a wine which is and will be perfect and satisfying.

I have chosen a few delicious wines which I recently tasted and which may be just what you need to pair with your own Easter Sunday traditions – old or new.  Happy Easter!

Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Millesimato (sample) – I can drink a glass of bubbly at any time and on Easter weekend, this Prosecco will be a fresh addition to your brunch or Sunday supper. The aromas on this sparkling wine from the hills of Montello and Asolo in Italy were clean and fruity with ripe green apple and notes of honey.  On the palate, more fruit notes with persistent bubbles were delivered and you will enjoy this incredibly smooth, easy drinking sparkling wine from your guest’s first hello to their last goodbye! Serve cold and enjoy as soon as the cork is popped…even with jelly beans!  Cost is $15.


Hatzidakis Assyrtiko 2012 (sample) – Greek Easter is on April 20, too, but you don’t have to be Greek to enjoy this fresh 100% Assyrtiko from Santorini.  Pale lemon tinged with gold in the glass, the aromas were of melon, jasmine flowers, salinity from the sea, and citrus.  The dry, high acid Assyrtiko brought notes of tropical fruit, beeswax, more florals, grapefruit, and lime to my palate.  The long, deep finish with plenty of minerality was truly food friendly and I paired this with wild salmon covered with herbs and vegetables then baked in parchment along with a green salad with feta cheese.   Decanter awarded the Hatzidakis Assyrtiko 2012 the number 12 spot in its list of top fifty wines of 2013.  And I can taste why!! Cost is around $18.


Bedrock Ode to Lulu Rosé 2012 (purchased) – This is my go-to rosé wine and although you have to be on the Bedrock Winery mailing list to obtain your allocated amount, it’s so worth it.  From Sonoma County, the 2012 Rosé   is a blend of old vine Mourvedre, old vine Carignane, and Grenache.  Showing a warm pink salmon color in the glass, I loved its minerality, stone fruit, and honeysuckle aromas.  This dry wine with high acidity presented flavors of peaches, florals, more minerality, and a spice which offered a lift on the finish.  Pair with brunch, after the Easter egg hunt, and with friends or family!  Cost was around $20.


Elizabeth Chambers Cellar 2011 Winemaker’s Cuvee (sample) – Liz Chambers, a third generation Oregonian whose family was one of the region’s winemaking pioneers, founded this Oregon winery in 2013.  Grapes from local growers are sourced and I can honestly write that I was blown away by the balance of this 100% Pinot Noir.  Aromas of subtle red fruit such as ripe, red cherries and plums were mesmerizing.  In the glass, the balance between acidity, mild tannins, gentle dark red fruit, and alcohol made for a more than satisfying glass of velvety Pinot Noir.  You will love this wine with anything you prepare…from your Easter ham to grilled vegetables.  The cost is $32.


50 Harvests 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (sample) – Are you firing up the grill on Easter Sunday? The 50 Harvests 2011 will be a memorable complement to your steak or lamb rubbed with your favorite spice followed by a plate of rich blue cheeses.  A blend of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petite Verdot, all of the grapes were sourced from the Oak Knoll District in Napa Valley.  The name, 50 Harvests, celebrates fifty consecutive California harvests for the Scotto family which has been producing wine dating back to 1883 in Italy.  This particular wine is among the first releases from their new winery, Steele Canyon Cellars, in Napa.  After aerating about twenty minutes, the intense aromas of warm, sweet spice, plums, raisins, and blueberries leapt out of the glass.  Silky tannins, just-right acidity, vanilla, deep red fruits such as cherries and raspberries satisfied my palate as did the lingering finish with notes of oak.  Well structured and balanced, the 50 Harvests 2011 will be perfect at your Easter festivities…or whenever you would like a very special Cabernet.  The cost is $50.


 May your Easter be full of blessings, friendship, and family…and your traditions include an excellent bottle or two of wine! 

Cheers~ Cindy

Posted in Random Thoughts, Regional Wines, Sparkling Tastes, Wine Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , Leave a comment

Blog Post DividerFINAL.png

Weekend Wine Under $20: Selections from Rios de Chile

cachapoal1 The 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 $20.  Each week I suggest wines which are in that affordable price range and which will pair well with a Friday night dinner at home, with friends who drop by unexpectedly, or with a good book waiting for you on the back porch!  This week’s choices from Rios de Chile were sent to me as samples.  One recent evening I opened these wines, a Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carmenere, with friends who were amazed at the terrific price point as well as the taste.

The philosophy of the owners and winemakers of Rios de Chile is “to achieve maximum balance on each vine, always looking for the quality and identity of the wines”.  The grapes are sourced from throughout the Central Valley running south from Santiago to the sub-region of Itata.  This warm and flat region, where the majority of Chilean vineyards can be found, receives water from the Andes Mountains and grapes ripen easily.  The Central Valley is divided into four sub-regions, Maipo, Rapel, Curico, and Maule.  The Reserva wines we tasted are from the northern valley, the Cachapoal Zone of the Rapel sub-region.  In this warm location without the cooling effect of ocean breezes, Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are thriving.


Sauvignon Blanc is widely grown in Chile and the coastal vineyards are producing some delicious wines with high alcohol and ripe fruit notes.  At this time, almost half of all black varieties of grapes planted are Cabernet Sauvignon.  A plethora of styles from simple to complex can be found.  Carmenere is a Bordeaux variety and arrived in Chile mixed with cuttings of Merlot in the 1800s after the Phylloxera disease dessimated the vineyards in their home of origin.  In 1994, Carmenere was identified from those mixed cuttings and now is considered a variety calling Chile its home.

Are you thirsty for a glass of wine from Chile?

*Rios de Chile Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – Everyone loved this crisp, light wine with 13.5% alcohol.  Pale lemon in the glass, I found aromas of stone fruit, pear, citrus, a hint of grapefruit, and minerality.  With plenty of acidity to make it truly food friendly, the subtle tastes of more grapefruit and citrus paired well with our cheese course.  One friend remarked that the Sauvignon Blanc will be perfect for summer days and another aptly stated, “What’s not to like for $10″?  Agreed!


*Rios de Chile Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 – On the nose, this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon was a jar of jam with ripe red fruit and a dash of earth and herbs.  Plenty of tannins, spice, and more red fruit added up to a robust red wine with more earthy spice on the finish.  The cost is $10.

*Rios de Chile Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 – With 14% alcohol, this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon presented plenty of dark red fruit and smooth aromas which led into the first sip.  There were more earth and herbal notes in this Cab than the previous choice and the chewy tannins paired with our platter of charcuterie and cheese. Vanilla and oak spice on the short but satisfying finish were a crowd please! Cost is less than $15.


*Rios de Chile Carmenere 2011 - Some felt that the Carmenere from the Central Valley was too heavy, but I loved it.  Dried fruit, spice, and some peppers on the nose continued as the sips began.  This highly tannic wine was very spicy with red fruit and we decided that it will be a terrific pairing with chili or steak. The finish was long enough and the price is low at only $12 so drink now.

*Rios de Chile Reserva Carmenere 2009 – Aromas of blueberries, green pepper, vanilla, cloves, and smoke were enticing and intense.  Smooth and balanced with high tannins, high alcohol, plenty of fruit, and enough acidity to make it work, this Carmenere had a medium finish and demanded barbecued meat or a rich stew as a complement to its earthy taste.  Drink this wine now – no further aging is needed. Cost is $15.


At this price point, you really should find these wines from Chile and give them a try.  You may discover yet another wonderful bottle of wine for under $20!  And if you’d like to learn more about Rios de Chile wines, just like them on their Facebook page at Rios de Chile and follow them on Twitter at @Rios_de_Chile.

Cheers to the weekend! ~ Cindy



Posted in Regional Wines, Wine Reviews, Wine School | Tagged , , Leave a comment

Blog Post DividerFINAL.png

Rethink the Chill Factor: Storing and Serving Wine at the Correct Temperature

icebucket Do you put a bottle of your favorite Chardonnay in the refrigerator in order to reduce the temperature so it will be really (and I mean really) cold?  Do you sometimes put ice in your Pinot Grigio because you consider it too warm? Are you one of those wine lovers who keeps your favorite Cabernet Sauvignon on the kitchen counter because someone once said to store it at “room temperature”?

If you answer “ummm, yes” to any of the above, don’t worry because there are plenty of wine lovers who do the same thing.  But now it’s time to rethink the chill factor and learn the correct storing and serving temperatures for wine.  Why?  Served at the optimum temperature, the fruit in red wine will be more prevalent, tannins may be softer, and the complexity of the juice will be that much more enjoyable.   The aromas of white wine will be more intense as will be the nuances of its fresh or fruity flavors.  If wine is too cold or too warm, the true expression of the grapes is lost.  In essence, you want a wine stored correctly and served at a temperature which enhances the tastes.  So what should you do?  Read on…

White Wine

Store and Serve Lightly Chilled (50-55 degrees F/10-13 degrees C)

* Medium and full bodied oaked white wine such as Chardonnay,  Chablis,  Riesling, Dry Rose, and Fume Blanc.

Store and Serve Chilled (45-50 degrees F/7-10 degrees C)

* Light and medium bodied whites such as Muscadet, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and unoaked Chardonnay. 

*If you don’t have a wine refrigerator, put the bottle in your kitchen fridge for two hours until the bottle is cold to the touch…then take it out thirty minutes before serving.

Store and Serve Well Chilled (43-50 degrees F/6-10 degrees C)

*Sparkling wines including Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, and Asti.

Store and Serve Well Chilled (43-45 degrees F/6-7 degrees C)

* Sweet and dessert wines such as Sauternes, Ice Wine, Sweet Muscat, Vinho Verde, German Spatlese and Auslese, and Late Harvest Riesling.

* Again, if you don’t have a hand wine fridge, chill your bottle for three hours in the kitchen refrigerator and take it out thirty minutes before serving.

Red Wine

Store at Room Temperature (59-64 degrees F/15-18 degrees C)

* I don’t know about you, but the temperature in my house is not 59 degrees and I don’t live in a Loire Valley castle!  The “room temperature” tag was used before central heating and air conditioning were prevalent .

*Although I have a wine refrigerator in my kitchen set for reds at 61 degrees, you can easily keep your medium and full bodied red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Rioja, Syrah, Shiraz, Chianti, and Zinfandel  in your cool basement or cellar.  Just check the temperature often.

*Remove the bottle from the refrigerator, open, and let the wine breathe for around thirty minutes before serving.

Store and Serve Lightly Chilled (55 degrees F/13 degrees C)

* Light bodied reds such as Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Tawny and Non-Vintage Port, and Valpolicello.

* I keep these wines in my cellar (I mean basement…) to maintain that temperature but you can put the bottles in the refrigerator prior to serving for 1 ½ hours. Perhaps I should purchase a larger wine refrigerator…

Simple Tips to Remember

*Fill an ice bucket with ½ ice and ½ water.  In ten minutes your white wine will be chilled and in two minutes your   full bodied red wine will be perfect…assuming you put both in while at room temperature.

*Hold the glass by the stem to maintain the chill or cup the bowl of the glass with your hands to keep it warm.

*Placing the wine bottle in the refrigerator will reduce the temperature 4-5 degrees for each ½ hour for the first 60-90 minutes.

Wine is meant to be enjoyed!  Follow these simple temperature guidelines for storing and serving to enhance your pleasure of what I consider our most noble drink. 

Cheers~ Cindy


Posted in Random Thoughts, Tasting Techniques, Wine Connoisseurs, Wine School | Leave a comment

Blog Post DividerFINAL.png