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

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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



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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


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Weekend Wine from Argentina and France Under $20 – April 4-6, 2014

It’s almost Friday and you are already thinking about your weekend plans and perhaps which wine to purchase.  Weekly, I post two recommendations, one white and one red, for your weekend choices which are usually under $20.  Recently I attended the Chicago launch party at Hub 51 to celebrate Bottlenotes’ Taste Around Town event which runs until April 6.   Several well priced wines which are/were featured at various restaurants were uncorked and ready for wine lovers to enjoy!  Even if you aren’t able to visit the Chicago restaurants offering these wines during the Taste of the Town event, don’t worry!  Just look for them at your local wine retailer where they are readily available and pop the corks yourself! ~

**Trivento Amado Sur 2013 -  Apparently, Amado Sur means “Southern Love” and I was feeling it after the first few sips of this lovely, simple white blend.  Consisting of 78% Chardonnay, 12% Pinot Grigio, and 10% Viognier, the aromas and tastes were of cool citrus, florals, and zest!  Creamy and balanced, its crisp finish was short but pleasant and paired well with the passed appetizers of sushi, tiny grilled cheese sandwich bites with basil, and more.  Cost is $12.


**Andre Brunel Cotes du Rhone 2011 – I was doing a subtle happy dance when I began whiffing the red berries, earth, and tingly spice in my glass!  The 2011 Cotes du Rhone is a blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 10% Cinsault which adds up to a tasty, smooth wine.  Mouthwatering, the medium tannins and more earth, cherries, spice, and red fruits led to a smooth, warm, lingering finish.  This is what an entry level wine should taste like…i.e. a more expensive one!  The cost is $12.


 Cheers to the weekend! ~ Cindy

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The *Wine Lover* Next Door – Sarah Dickinson: English Teacher, Life Long Learner, Millennial

photo I’ve known Sarah for quite a while…even before her penchant for wine began.  She is a family friend who always has a smile on her face, a passion for laughter, a penchant for the social aspects of life, and a plan!  Philanthropic efforts and lifelong learning are important to Sarah and now that her wine journey has started, I can guarantee that she will be delving into the learning process!  As a twenty five year old Millennial, this smart young lady knows what she likes…and doesn’t!  It will be interesting to know what her preferences will be as she learns more about wine and I’ll be checking in with her from time to time!  Please meet our newest wine lover next door, Sarah Dickinson

Sarah, tell the readers a little about yourself.

Sarah:  I teach High School English at Infinity Math, Science and Technology High School in Little Village, Chicago. This year I teach freshman English, freshman honors English, and Senior AP Literature and Composition.  I also co-sponsor a club called “Friends of the Orphans” where students put on fundraisers to help orphans in Mexico and Chicago. Our goal is to offer a program to bring a group of our students to Mexico to volunteer in an orphanage starting next summer 2015.  I am the assistant soccer coach for the Girl’s Soccer Program at my High School as well.  I am moving to Wicker Park at the end of next month with three friends from my hometown of Wheaton.

When did you start enjoying wine?

Sarah: I started enjoying wine in college. During my senior year of college my girlfriends and I would try to have a wine night once a week to unwind from the stresses of school.

What wines do you particularly like?

Sarah: My favorite is Chardonnay, but I am always up for trying new wines. I prefer whites, but I also enjoy a red once in a while.

Are there any wines you don’t like?  Why?

Sarah: I don’t like ports or dessert wines in general. They are just too sweet for me and not what I’m looking for when I drink wine.

With whom and how often do you drink wine?

Sarah: I usually drink wine at dinner with family or friends, or with a group of friends on a casual night in. Occasionally I will have a glass of wine while grading papers or lesson planning during the week.  Wine really takes the edge off of poorly written essays!  I drink wine once a week on average, but it’s usually in social situations.

When you go out, what do you order?

Sarah: If I am out with a group, and we are purchasing a bottle of wine I am happy to drink whatever the group prefers. If I am just ordering a glass I will usually order a Chardonnay, unless I am ordering steak or another red meat.

Do you have a favorite food pairing with wine?

Sarah: I love the classic combination of wine and cheese. It is fun to look up cheese pairings for different bottles of wine and see how they compliment each other.  Red wine is great with red meat or heavy food, like pasta, and white is great with seafood or chicken!

How do you decide to purchase a type of wine?

Sarah: One of my good friends told me that she heard that if you have no idea what to buy then you should pick your price range and then buy a bottle based on the label. The logic is that if the wine company designed a label geared towards something you like then it’s possible that their wine is something you will enjoy.  At restaurants I always asked for recommendations from the waiter/waitress.

How much do you typically spend on wine?

Sarah: If I am buying wine at a store I usually spend between $15-$20. If I am ordering at a restaurant I usually go for a bottle around $30.

With which brand names are you familiar?

Sarah: Hess is my favorite brand for Chardonnay. I think it’s because growing up that’s what my dad always had in the house for white wine. I love it – both for how it tastes and the connection it has to my dad.

How often and where do you purchase wine?

Sarah: At most I purchase wine once a month. I usually bring a bottle of wine to dinner at other people’s homes or if someone has guests over for party.  I purchase wine wherever convenient. Sometimes that means Binny’s or other liquor store and sometimes it means a grocery store.

How knowledgeable do you think you are about wine?

Sarah: I am not that knowledgeable. I would love to learn more. I really want to take a trip to a vineyard and spend some time learning about the process and quality of wine.  When I was studying abroad in college in England I started planning a trip to France to tour vineyard and wineries, but it ended up being out of my budget (Someday, maybe).

Do you take steps to learn more?

Sarah: Whenever I meet someone who knows a lot about wine I overload him or her with questions. I ask how you can tell what the bouquet is and how you know if it’s a quality bottle, etc.  Just a few weeks ago I went to a wine tasting event in Chicago featuring wines from Italy.  (Thanks Cindy!).  I have also gone to a few wine tastings at small wineries in Washington and Wisconsin.

Now this question is important!!  Why do you like wine?

Sarah: I like that drinking wine is social. You SHARE a bottle with your friends. When drinking wine everyone is enjoying the same experience. It’s a nice way to connect and relax. Another reason I love wine is the way it makes you feel. One glass of wine can be an incredible stress relief.

Thanks, Sarah, for your candid answers!  Now open a favorite bottle, pour yourself a glass (Hess Chardonnay perhaps?), and relax!  After all you do in the course of the week, you deserve some time for yourself!

Cheers~ Cindy


Posted in Random Thoughts, Wine Connoisseurs | 2 Comments


2 Responses to “The *Wine Lover* Next Door – Sarah Dickinson: English Teacher, Life Long Learner, Millennial”
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  1. Cindy, I enjoyed this feature very much. Cheers, Alana

    • Cindy Rynning

      Thanks, Alana! It’s always enlightening to learn about everyone’s preferences and how they discovered their love for wine~

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