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

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

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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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Favorite Wines for Labor Day Weekend

laborday1It’s hard to believe that Labor Day weekend is almost here!  Traditionally Labor Day heralds the end of summer as we know it.  The school year officially begins, week long vacations are memories, and we’re reeling from the sight of Halloween paraphernalia in stores.  But, it’s OK!  We have three days on the calendar for boating, hosting a neighborhood barbeque, attending the last music festival of the season, taking the kids to the pool, or relaxing on your front porch with a good book.

I have several suggestions for wine which may help you get over the disappointment of the last days of summer and welcome the next chapter of the year.  All were sent as samples and each should be seriously considered as part of your Labor Day plans.

If you are like my family, firing up the grill is a must this weekend.  Are you having family or friends drop by for burgers, steaks, kabobs, or ribs? You’ll want to find Faust Cabernet Sauvignon 2011…now.  This incredible red blend of predominantly Cab with Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc will pair with any of your grilling choices.  Hand-picked grapes from Rutherford and Coombsville, Napa Valley’s newest appellation in the eastern foothills south of Atlas Peak, along with those from Yountville, Mount Veeder, and St. Helena blend for an inviting wine which can be enjoyed now or for the next five to six years.  Deep ruby in the glass with mesmerizing aromas of dark fruit jam and exotic spice led to tastes of juicy, ripe berries, more spice, and hints of dark chocolate.  Supple tannins, a broad mouthfeel, and a silky finish in this complex Cabernet Sauvignon had me at the first sip.  Cost is $50.

Everyone should have ingredients readily available to create an antipasto platter to take to a picnic in the park or to share on your back porch with guests who drop by.  You’ll also need a wine which pairs beautifully with your artful and tasty creation.  How about the Maremma Diavola 2011?  Sangiovese is one of my favorite grapes thanks to its smooth tannins, medium acidity and easy drinking style.  Intense aromas of cherries, juicy red fruits, subtle sweet spice and earth leapt from the glass.  Dry with more red fruit, spice, and a little zing on the finish, you’ll be the most popular wine aficionado in the group! Cost is $29.

Your energetic children are still going strong after hours at the pool, but you need a break!  Open a bottle of Trivento Torrontes 2012 for that after-I’ve-been-with-the-kids-for hours-and-I-need-to-chill moment.  Just as chill as you will be after a few sips is this light, crisp wine from Argentina.  I love the wine’s light aromas of apples, pears, and floral notes including honeysuckle and tastes of citrus, tropical fruits, and peaches.  High acidity and incredibly food friendly, enjoy with your favorite cheeses and crackers.  Ahhhh…when does school start again?  Cost is $12.

Labor Day weekend is often the time when music festivals draw to a close.  Picnic baskets are full of gourmet dips, cheeses, sandwiches, and desserts and a fabulous wine is in order.  One of my favorites is Sancerre and after a sip of Domaine de la Perriere Sancerre 2013 I closed my eyes and honestly thought I heard a symphony (and I was no where near music)!  Floral aromas leading to tastes of green herbs and citrus and the minerality which I love was right where it should be – up front and center.  Fairly complex for such a recent vintage, this Sauvignon Blanc with its racy acidity was flavorful with a brilliant finish of lemon zest.  I paired the Sancerre with a delicious bruschetta from all organic ingredients.  Cost is $24.


Whatever your plans include, don’t forget the wine!

Cheers~ Cindy


Posted in Regional Wines, Wine Reviews | Tagged , , , 1 Comment


One Response to “Favorite Wines for Labor Day Weekend”
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  1. Nice variety! The Sancerre pops out as one I’d like to grab for the weekend. One I have on hand here at our Cape Cod cottage is a Banshee Pinot Noir.

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