Wine and Dine: Rosa Regale 2013 and Mini Cheese Ball Bites

partyguestAs much as I enjoy entertaining at home during the holidays, it’s often more fun to be a guest.  Someone else is cleaning their house and setting the stage for good food and merriment…all that is requested of me is to bring an appetizer and at times a bottle of wine for pairing.  I have a history of holding hot (and often drippy) appetizers while walking down the street or desperately hoping that the treats in my car don’t tip or spill while on my way to the party destination.  This year it was time for a change!

When I found this simple, delicious, and spill-proof recipe for Mini Cheese Ball Bites I knew that had to make them for our neighborhood’s annual Christmas gathering.  They were a rousing success especially when I shared the always festive Banfi Piemonte Rosa Regale 2013 ($20), a perfect all-occasion sparkler. From the Brachetto grape grown in Acqui Terme, Piedmont, Italy the color was a gorgeous, holiday cranberry red with subtle aromas of raspberries, roses, and fresh strawberries wafting from the glass.  More juicy red fruits were on the palate along with crisp acidity and a fresh, dry finish. Its profile complemented the cranberries and blue cheese; it was difficult not to have a sip or two with each taste of the Mini Cheese Ball Bites!


Everyone at the party requested this recipe and information about the Banfi Piemonte Rosa Regale 2013 so I’m happy to make this bustling season that much easier for you all. Cheers!

Mini Cheese Ball Bites


  • 8oz cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • 3/4 cups blue cheese crumbles (about 3 ounces)
  • 3/4 cups dried cranberries (finely chopped)
  • 1 1/2 cup pecans
  • pretzel sticks


Step 1
In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, blue cheese, and dried cranberries until smooth.
Step 2
Dampen hands to prevent sticking and form cream cheese mixture into approximately 24 tablespoon sized balls.
Step 3
Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours or until firm.
Step 4
In the meantime, toast the pecans by spreading them out on a sheet pan and baking in a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven until lightly toasted and fragrant, for 7-10 minutes.
Step 5
Allow pecans to cool and finely chop them.
Step 6
Roll chilled cheese balls in chopped pecans, pressing nuts so they adhere. Keep cheese balls refrigerated until ready to serve.
Step 7
Just before serving, skewer each cheese ball with a pretzel stick.
Step 8


Enjoy the holidays! ~ Cindy







The dark cherry red color and aromas of rose petals, ripe red berries, and a hint of minerality led to tastes of the same with some juicy apple on the clean finish.

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

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Wine and Dine: Anna de Codorniu Brut NV and Herbed Parmesan Crisps

holidaysDuring the holidays I love to invite good friends to drop by for a glass of something sparkling and a light hors d’oeuvre that can be prepared ahead of time and served on the spot…with flair!  This past weekend it was my turn (with the able assistance of Mr. Grape Experiences) to entertain our gourmet group before we dined at a favorite local restaurant to celebrate the season. The house was festive, the fireplace glowed, the drinks and appetizers looked delicious, and we were ready for all of the antics of the evening.

One of the wines I knew everyone would enjoy was one of my favorite Spanish cavas, Anna de Codorniu Brut (NV) ($14.99), sent to me as a sample. And I was right – my guests loved each sip.  Not only did the bottle look like a snow princess all in white, this classic sparkling wine with 30% Parellada and 70% Chardonnay grapes paired beautifully with Herbed Parmesan Crisps.  Pale straw color with lively, dancing bubbles, this sparkler was ready to party! With delicate aromas of tropical fruit and citrus, grapefruit, and a hint of  lime, the cava was soft, balanced, and refreshing.  I served the Anna de Codorniu Brut chilled, at around 45 degrees Fahrenheit for the maximum “ahhhh” factor!

One of the appetizers I served was Herbed Parmesan Crisps.  Incredibly easy to make, I baked the crisps the previous night and warmed them before the first guest arrived.  Of course it was difficult not to indulge in the first batch! Salty and cheesy, the shredded Parmesan was baked with a touch of flour, rosemary, and cracked black pepper.  The tastes of each warm crisp were satisfying and savory and the presentation was lovely.  After baking, I rolled each around the handle of a wooden spoon so that they looked cylindrical, but you can serve them in a flat oval shape if desired. Chewy and flavorful, this was a fantastic crowd pleaser along with the Anna de Codorniu which was a clean and light counterpoint to the cheesy and peppery notes of the Crisps.

Perfect for the holidays, make sure Anna de Codorniu Brut (NV) is chilling in your wine refrigerator and a platter of Herbed Parmesan Crisps is at the ready!

Herbed Parmesan Crisps


  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 2 teaspoons all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary or thyme (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper


Step 1
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Step 2
In a small bowl mix all of the ingredients together.
Step 3
On a baking sheet coated lightly with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper, place tablespoonfuls of the mixture with a couple inches between each, and spread them out into ovals about four inches long and two inches wide. You should have about 12 crisps.
Step 4
Bake in the oven until they turn golden brown, 6-8 minutes.
Step 5
Cool crisps on a metal rack.


Cheers to sharing the holidays with wonderful wine, food, and friends! ~ Cindy

#WinePW Wine Pairing Weekend Holiday Entertaining!
December is holiday festive party time! Our job this month is to create some great sparkling wine and appetizer pairings. If you see this early enough, please join us December 13th at 10 a.m. Central Time. We’ll be chatting on twitter at #WinePW about our creative holiday sparkling wine pairings. We’d love to have you join us!

Sparkling Wine and Appetizer Pairings

 Here are the ideas available from our group for you. Try something new this year!
Bacon and Greens Dip with Bubbly by Cooking Chat
Piedmont Sparkling Nebbiolo & Pungent Anchovy Green Sauce by foodwineclick
Segura Viudas Aria Cava with Oysters and Spanish Tapas by Confessions of a Culinary Diva
Butterflied Spicy Prawns and Treveri Sparkling Wine by Wild 4 Washington Wine
A Seasonal Nibbles Duet + Pear Valley Vineyard’s Frizzante Muscat by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Appetizers served with a Sparkling Wine by A Day in the Life on the Farm
Cranberry Brie Biscuit Bites and Sparkling Muscat by Curious Cuisiniere
Moscato with Fresh Fruit Almond Cake and Zabaglione by Vino Travels — An Italian Wine Blog
Domaine Meriwether Sparkling Wine and Make Ahead Spanakopita by Tasting Pour
Wine and Dine: Anna de Cordoniu Brut NV and Herbed Parmesan Crisps by Grape Experiences
Italian Sparkling Wine: Bubbly & Bacon #winePW by Girls Gotta Drink
The Holidays Sparkle on #WinePW by Rockin Red Blog
Butternut and Bubbly
by It’s Okay to Eat the Cupcake
Smoked Salmon and Potato Chip Appetizer with Louis Roederer Champagne by ENOFYLZ

Posted in Recipes, Regional Wines, Sparkling Tastes, Wine Reviews | Tagged , 7 Comments


7 Responses to “Wine and Dine: Anna de Codorniu Brut NV and Herbed Parmesan Crisps”
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  1. Such a pretty appetizer! Great pairing!

  2. I’ll have to look for the Cava Cindy! And I know it paired perfectly with your Parmesan Crisps! They look great!

  3. Sounds like the perfect pairing and I love when you find a wine that is delicious and doesn’t break the bank!

  4. Great pairing. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Okay – truly finger food and tempting. A good recipe and simple. They look perfect for nibbling while drinking that wonderful CAVA.

    I’m wondering how well they hold up? Likely they disappear quickly. But how long do they stay crisp and tasty? Should you eat as they come out of the oven? Or can they hold up for several hours?

    Love that bottle. Would be fun to build presentation around it.

    Thank you!

    • Cindy Rynning

      The Crisps were crisp and flavorful just after baking and for a few hours later. If there are any left on the plate (unlikely!), refrigerate and warm in the oven.

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A Teacher’s Favorite Gift? Wine!

teachergift2The holidays are here and you are scratching your head while trying to think of the perfect gift for your child’s teacher.  I’ll make it easy for you.  Buy a bottle of wine.  Don’t bother thinking about body lotion, hand gel, chocolates, flower bouquets, or a $5 Starbucks gift card.  Leave your thoughts of a book with heart felt quotes, a pink scarf, striped mittens, or a hand written note from your child amidst the crumbled Cheerios in the back seat of your minivan.  All your child’s teacher wants is a good bottle of wine.  And how do I know? When I’m not tasting, attending events, or writing about wine, I’m a teacher.  And the words resounding in the hallways are “Could someone give me a bottle of wine this year?”

Now it’s your turn to shine so let that teacher know just how smart YOU are!  Choose a bottle of wine which will be sure to please but may not be one that he or she may have thrown in the grocery store cart last weekend.  Anyone can select a California Chardonnay or Merlot, but won’t it be more fun to find a wine that may be a bit different or one that is from another country?  Sure to garner your child an easy A+, start shopping and be prepared for the next teacher’s pet to be…you!

To make your choice of wine a bit easier, a delicious wine that I’ve already reviewed is listed next to the grade level of your child then linked to my complete article for more information.  Have fun!

Kindergarten:  This could easily be the most difficult teaching job of all.  Children learn how to walk in a single file, balance art supplies or library books, and refrain from talking all at once. They figure out how to ask a real question, sit quietly with their legs folded “criss cross applesauce”, raise their hand only when needed, and to state the difference between a noun and verb.  All of the kindergarten teachers I know are patient and kind yet engage in a fair amount of eye rolling.  This group needs bubbles and I’m not talking about the kind you blow from a wand.  Purchase a bottle of Mionetto Prosecco Brut for $15 and your child may be first in line on January 5.

First Grade:  The year when your little darling learns to read and write in coherent sentences, complete math equations, and master a number of jump roping skills is crucial.  And so is the gift you give the teacher.  Miss Smith has successfully navigated the class through those long afternoons in September when most of her students are ready for a nap. She has introduced three and four syllable vocabulary words and has had your child learn to spell them on weekly tests.  Why don’t you impress her with your spelling prowess and give her a bottle of 2013 Avantis Estate Malagousia, a lovely and crisp white wine from Greece, for $16?

Second Grade:  My first teaching job after college was this grade and I loved it.  Betsy and Bobby already knew the basics of reading and math and it was fun to expand upon that knowledge and introduce more experiences and concepts in literature, science, and social studies.  But it’s a different ball game now…Common Core standards, testing, accountability…the list is endless.  Second grade teachers are always positive people but at times they need to get back to the basics and relieve stress.  I can guarantee that Mrs. Jones will love a bottle of organic wine.  How about the fresh and citrusy Emiliana Novas Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2012 from Chile for $15?

Third Grade:  Your child is in the Elementary School Big Time.  The curriculum is more difficult and there is plenty of homework for teachers to check.  Planning activities that click on your child’s learning light bulb can be challenging but all of the third grade teachers I know love what they do and are darn good at it.  This is the year when many third graders learn about the past, present, and future.  They’re learning about earth science, working with more advanced number concepts, exploring genres of literature, and perhaps discovering information about those who settled the American frontier.  If your child is knee deep in history impress your child’s teacher with your knowledge of those who settled the Central Coast of California…or at least those who produce the wine!  Just treat Ms. Adams to a $20 bottle of memorable Justin Vineyards 2013 Rose of Cabernet from Paso Robles AVA.

Fourth Grade:  During this year, your child continues to collaborate (showing appropriate behaviors, mind you) with their peers on group projects, lug multiple textbooks back and forth from school to home, become more independent in their work skills, organize data, develop good writing skills, learn about the various regions of our country, and more.  And the teachers? They have to manage this potential mayhem with the skill of a conductor leading a symphony orchestra.  Give them a much needed intermission this holiday with a gorgeous wine from the Finger Lakes AVA in New York,  Hosmer Dry Riesling 2013 for $15.

Fifth Grade:  The teachers are madly getting your child ready for middle school.  Everything at school is more complex…from literacy to math to science to social studies…to the opposite sex! Can you imagine what it’s like to teach fractions or photosynthesis when Jenny and Dylan are making goo-goo eyes at each other? And, by the way, someone has to tell Sarah to start wearing deodorant if you’re not going to do it (just sayin’).  This job is not for the faint of heart so why don’t you give your child’s teacher a wine from Spain, Corona de Aragon Special Selection 2011, a fabulous rich red blend of Garnacha and Cariñena for $15.

Please note.  There are two people who may need modifications to the above suggestions: the Principal and the Pregnant Teacher.  Let’s face it, the Principal needs some hard liquor for obvious reasons and that choice is yours to make.  But the Mom-to-Be should receive two bottles because she’ll not only have her new baby…but your little angel as well!

Cheers to the holidays! ~ Cindy

If you can’t find the wines I’ve suggested in your local wine shop, just ask for a wine similar in style and price.  Your child’s teacher is already thanking you!






Posted in Random Thoughts, Regional Wines, Sparkling Tastes, Thinking Out of the Box, Wine Reviews, Wineries | Tagged , , , , , , 2 Comments


2 Responses to “A Teacher’s Favorite Gift? Wine!”
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  1. Vee Lowe

    I cannot think of a single teacher, and I know many, who wouldn’t appreciate your wine suggestion as a gift!

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Comfort Food and Wine: Mushroom Risotto and 2011 Cornerstone Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, White Label

comfortfoodComfort food.  For many, these two words evoke thoughts of a dish that is warm and savory with a lasting, stick-to-your-ribs feeling and the person who served it to you first.  At this moment you may be remembering Grandma’s rich macaroni and cheese or Mom’s chicken pot pie while others may reminisce about that glorious fondue shared with a special someone on a snowy evening.  When I hear the words “comfort food” my visual is of a rich homemade creation…next to a beautiful glass of wine.  This week I made a mouthwatering Mushroom Risotto which I paired with the stunning 2011 Cornerstone Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, White Label ($50.) sent to me as a sample.  Comfort food and wine suddenly became elegantly delicious.

Mushroom risotto is a true pairing for a Pinot Noir in a Burgundian style of which the 2011 Cornerstone Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, White Label is my go-to example.  Aromas of red cherries, spicy florals, and soft earth covered with damp leaves led to subtle tannins and bright acidity which lifted the sophisticated tastes of deep fruits and spice.  All were embraced with a delicate structure and complexity and the long finish was enough to make me crave yet another sip…and a forkful of risotto.

Arborio rice, cooked al dente, and the Portobello and white mushrooms sauteed until they were soft were combined with spices and cheese. Warm and filling on a cold evening, I loved its woodsy fragrance and rich mouthfeel.  The palate profile of the 2011 Cornerstone Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, White Label complemented the risotto with its lively acidity, red fruit, and spice.  Yet the risotto made a bow to the wine with its layered textures and earthy tastes of the mushrooms. Both wine and risotto brought out the best in each other – a comfortable, lasting, and most gracious partnership.

Try this surprisingly simple recipe for Mushroom Risotto and enjoy it even more with the 2011 Cornerstone Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, White Label for another memorable example of comfort food and wine.

Mushroom Risotto


  • 8 cups chicken broth (divided)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
  • 1lb portobello mushrooms (thinly sliced)
  • 1lb white mushrooms (thinly sliced)
  • 2 shallots (diced)
  • 1 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons chives (finely chopped)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese (freshly grated)


Step 1
In a saucepan, warm the broth over low heat.
Step 2
Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.
Step 3
Stir in the mushrooms and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove mushrooms and their liquid and set aside.
Step 4
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet and stir in the shallots.
Step 5
Cook 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes.
Step 6
When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed.
Step 7
Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15-20 minutes.
Step 8
Remove from heat and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, chives, and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Step 9


 Cheers! ~ Cindy


Posted in Recipes, Regional Wines, Wine Reviews | Tagged 2 Comments


2 Responses to “Comfort Food and Wine: Mushroom Risotto and 2011 Cornerstone Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, White Label”
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  1. We love risotto and pinot noir! What a great combo here, thanks for posting!

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Six (Fun and Useful) Stocking Stuffers for the Wine Lover

holidaygifts1Opening gifts from under the tree is always a magical part of Christmas.  Yet, there is nothing like waking up on Christmas morning and seeing that time worn tradition, a stocking, dangling from the mantel and chock full of goodies…especially if those surprises are related to wine!  Of course, giving a small stocking is always a fun gift for the wine loving hostess, co-worker or friend with whom you enjoy sharing your favorite fruit from the vine…so don’t forget!

This year, instead of your standard offerings, you may want to consider filling a stocking with or asking Santa if you could receive any of these useful and original treats.  These stocking stuffers were sent to me as samples or gifts and others are simply items I would love to see peeking out at me on Christmas Day!

Stack Wine (sample):  Forget the early morning Mimosa, you can reach into that stocking and pull out a onesie of wine!  Stack Wine is a single serving portion that comes in shatterproof containers.  The wine is available as Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Blend, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio and is fun for that on-the-go wine lover or for someone who just wants one glass.  Can’t you see Nana sipping a crisp Pinot Grigio as her grandchildren are tearing through gifts? A stack of four costs $12.00.

Wine Wipes (sample):  After a few classes of red wine, we’ve all walked around with purple teeth.  With Wine Wipes by Borracha we’ll never have to embarrass ourselves again.  The small circular wipes are infused with a healthy blend of baking soda, glycerin, orange blossom and more.  The natural flavor, almost tasteless, means that you’ll be able to have your next sip of Malbec with pearly whites and no wine wipe aftertaste!  Cost is $6.95 for a box of 12 individually wrapped wipes or $7.95 for 15 wipes in a mirrored compact.

Wine Pairing Towel Set:  From one of my favorite purveyors of cool stuff, Uncommon Goods, I found these brilliant organic towels that any wine loving host or hostess will crave.  Each of the two towels, one for red and the other for white, shows an extensive chart for pairing that delicious dish with the perfect wine.  Cost is $28.

Wine Soap Set:  Who doesn’t want to start the day emoting scents of a citrusy Chardonnay or the spice of a rich Syrah?  Cocoa and shea butters are blended with aromatic fruit-scented oils to create soaps with notes of red and white wines.  Now that’s clean and fresh!  From Uncommon Goods, the cost is $28.

Wine Wars Trivia Game:  A good friend sent me this game and trust me, it’s quite fun…especially after a few glasses of vino!  Newbies to the wine world and aficionados will enjoy answering questions in categories such as Cork Culture, Wine Cellar, and Vine to Vino. How much do you know about growing grapes, tasting wine, and the people in the wine biz? Test your knowledge while swirling, sipping, and savoring!  You can purchase the game from Uncommon Goods for $13.50.

Whip It Lil’ Bully Stain Remover Pen (sample):  You have spilled red wine on Aunt Eleanor’s favorite dress and Baby Bobby has dropped just enough cranberry sauce on Aunt Eleanor’s new carpet to be noticeable.  The family is gasping and their eyebrows are raised in horror.  No worries…you gave Uncle Eddie the Lil’Bully stain eraser pen in his stocking!  With the same stain fighting power as the amazing and effective Whip It Stain Remover solution, just borrow his pen and swab out those nasty faux pas.  Whew…it’s now time to get on with the merriment.  The cost for a pack of three pens is $9.99.  Keep one in the car, handbag, and next to your corkscrew.


Cheers to the holidays (now stuff those stockings)! ~ Cindy


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