Seasons & Holidays

Segura Viudas Reserva

My favorite holiday is Valentine’s Day. I like it better than New Year’s Eve or Christmas. It’s better than New Year’s Eve because I prefer intimacy to crowds and it’s better than Christmas because it doesn’t require so much planning. For me, celebrating Valentine’s Day focuses on enjoying a great meal and great wine. My only problem is choosing from the many wonderful options.  

My first option includes this beautiful bottle of Spanish Cava. It’s made by the famous and popular Freixenet (“fresh-eh-net”) Group. I’ve always been a fan of Spanish sparkling wine which is called Cava; it was part of my Valentine meal in 2010 and a musing in 2008.

Gloria Ferrer, located 20 minutes from my house, is part of this company’s portfolio of wineries too. It’s fascinating to take their tour in Sonoma County and learn that it is a Spanish-owned company making bubbly in a traditional way while producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay still wines that are all about expressing the terroir of their location–Carneros. Highly recommended for a visit.

I am a big fan of Cava and encourage you to try it. If you can’t find it locally, try wine.com. The tasting notes there are right on as well.

PS: I will be a guest of Segura Viudas in Spain in March and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

 

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I hosted a small pre-Thanksgiving dinner for six close friends.  Taking my own advice, my mission was to serve four different, easy-to-find, under $20 wines that play well with turkey, roasted vegetables, yams with apples, traditional stuffing, chorizo corn bread stuffing, and cranberry/bing cherry sauce.

2009 DeLoach Russian River Valley Pinot Noir  A strikingly nice balance of bold fruit and acidity, this wine has substance, and flavors that are distinct and memorable without overwhelming the food.  It’s popular with people who like a stylish Pinot Noir with medium to full body. ($19.99 Safeway)

2010 Cline Cellars Cashmere A long time favorite to share with others, Cashmere is a blend of Mourvédre, Syrah and Grenache.  It’s body is lighter than the DeLoach but the fruit is still quite distinct. It’s a fun, easy wine to introduce to people interested in discovery and the fact that Cline gives a percentage of sales of every bottle to breast cancer research is a bonus. ($15.99 Paradise Foods. Cline is widely distributed at grocery stores and wine shops.)

2009 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir The lightest of the red wines in the group, it is a well-made nice representative of California’s southern coast.  Light and fruity, it’s the perfect red alternative for white wine lovers. ($19.99 Safeway)

Rare White, Lot 297 Napa County White Table Wine.  Ok, this one is not easy to find, it’s made by a negociant who buys leftover grapes or already blended wines from quality producers, puts a new label on it and sells it for a much lower price.  I chose this one because the blend is lovely for Thanksgiving: Chardonnay (76.32), Semillion (5.26), Marsanne (7.89) & Viogner (10.53). One of my friends is a big fan of Chardonnay, and she loved this wine. If you can find it super, otherwise, look for other interesting whites. ($7.99 Paradise Foods)

Lastly, another friend brought our group a 2006 Kunde Sonoma Valley Zinfandel.  It was a wonderful choice because unlike many Zinfandels that pop in your mouth with unbalanced acidity and fruit, it was well-rounded with soft tannins and properly restrained fruit.  The back label reads, “…experts say it’s varietally correct.” I agree. (Around $16 and it heads the line up as the wine with the most body.)

Now, you’re ready to run to the store at the last minute! Happy Sipping!

 

 

 

 

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While I love pairing wine with food, the holiday season can easily become a nightmare; Thanksgiving feasts are full of conflicting flavors and Christmas dinner is often a showcase event that demands extra special wine.  Add appetizer and dessert pairings and the stress has me reaching for the vodka.

To avoid that, I worry less about pairing and more about sharing. The holidays are more fun when I share my latest discoveries and encourage people to do the same.

Tip: Buy a few mixed cases of your favorite white, red, bubbles, and pre- and post dinner wines so you have them around for the entire holiday season. Or try something new from this list–you’re off the hook just tell your friends, they’re recommendations from Girl with a Glass!

Here are my recommendations:

Sparkling.  I like to share something new every year.  This year’s list.

White.  I’ve met some fabulous new white wines this year from all over the world.

Red. Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon & Red Blends are my choices.

Dessert Wines. (Stay tuned, coming soon!)

Happy Holidays!  

 

PS: Everyone on my mailing list will be receiving a holiday gift this year, so if you aren’t already signed up, do it soon!

 

 

 

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Pinot Noir.  Always a favorite with food, you’ll probably want to serve at least one with your Thanksgiving meal.  I’m currently having a love affair with Pinot from California’s Sonoma Coast, I recommend anything by winemaker Jim McPhail, who has incidentally (and deservedly) won just about every award ever given. (Tip: The MacPhails are offering 15% off 6 bottles (new releases) on their website for a limited time. Another idea, go to your local wine shop & get representatives from Oregon, Russian River, Sonoma Coast, Carneros and have a taste off.) 

2008 Hedges Family Estate Red Mountain, Washington State  This is one of those “who the heck cares what’s in it, it’s fantastic” wines.  If you want to understand what it means to balance acid, tannins and fruit flavors for a terrifically enjoyable experience, try this wine. You can drink it with food or by itself.  I was pleasantly surprised that it was priced at $25, I expected a much higher price tag. (Tip: It’s primarily a Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot blend and party-friendly at 13.5% alcohol.)

2008 (or ’09) Tikal Patriota, Argentina. This is my favorite bring-to-a-party or gift wine.  It has bold Napa-like fruit with the balance and acidity of France. All fantastic. (60% Bonarda 40% Malbec)  Color is clear and deep dark purple. Very exciting wine. Just gorgeous, balanced. Dry, melted tannins, refreshing acidity, full-bodied & extended finish. All the pieces are harmonious. Made by Ernesto Catena, one of my top 10 winemakers to follow.(Tip: If you’re serving lamb at any of your holiday parties, this a great wine pairing. Fairly easy to find online.) 

2008 Grand Classique Glen Carlou, Paarl South Africa  This is Donald Hess’ South Africa project; if you like the Hess Collection, you’ll enjoy this classic Bordeaux “signature” wine. It’s enjoyable at first sip, no need to decant but at the same time has plenty of flavor. (Tip: Use wine-searcher.com to find a retailer near you or the Hess Collection online, it retails for around $20.)

2009 BenMarco Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza Argentina  The body is perfect, has weight but not too much. With 5% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc it reminds me of a sunny day at 3,000′ in Argentina. It has a hint of Christmas spice and lush fruit, I like this wine very much. (Tip: Winemaker Susana Balbo makes several labels; she’s a real talent. The price for this fabulous cab is an affordable $2o.)

More holiday picks White Wine  & Sparkling.


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It’s important to stock up on white wine at the holidays.  Even though I advise sharing your favorites, this is one area where it’s also an opportunity to be a gracious host, prepared for guests that “don’t drink red” or drink only Chardonnay. And please don’t serve 2 Buck Chuck; you may like it but there are plenty of other inexpensive wines that say “I care” while not breaking your piggy bank.

Here’s a few of my favorite interesting white wines that I’ll share with my guests this holiday season.

2009 Glen Carlou Chardonnay Paarl South Africa Another Donald Hess gem, this Chardonnay is nicely balanced, not too acidic or tart and not too oaky. It goes with food and is also very enjoyable on it’s own. Just a beautiful example of what the Chardonnay grape can be. Since it’s from South Africa with only about 10,000 cases imported to the USA, it might be a new and pleasant discovery for your guests. (Tip: Usually $16, now on sale at wine.com)

2009 Haute Cabriere Franschhoek Chardonnay Pinot Noir South Africa 2009 was a great vintage for South African Chardonnay which may have something to do with this wine’s exceptionalness. It’s the only 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir blend that I’ve ever tasted so I can’t say if others are as wonderful or not. The Haute Cabriere is flavorful and balanced with a long finish. With low alcohol (12.5%), it’s food friendly or great on it’s own. (Tip: Use wine-searcher.com to find where to buy it.

2008 Leyda Chardonnay, Lot 5, Chile.  Just a little reminder that Chile makes some fine Chardonnay, this one is hard to find unfortunately.  The link above goes to my review earlier this year in Alana’s Wine Picks. (Tip: Look here for other ideas too.)

2006 Laurenz V Charming Gruner Veltliner, Austria  It’s minerally, rich and has a hint of well-balanced light pepper spice. I highly recommend trying it and sharing it, especially if you’re tired of the same old whites. (Tip: This is not a budget wine at $30 but it is comparable to buying a Napa Chardonnay and it has the fun factor of trying something new. The 2009 is the current vintage. For more information about where to find this wine, contact the good folks at Folio Wine.)

 

More holiday picks Red  & Sparkling.

 

 

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It’s my tradition to open a bottle of sparkling wine for the cooks at family events.  I am picky about my bubbly so when I find sparkling wine that is dry yet zesty and flavorful with tiny bubbles, I’m a happy girl.

The ultimate is No 21 from Jean Charles Boisset. This is a winery label to get to know and follow like a cult. I spent a few hours with JC and he leaves an indelible impression; even better, his wines rock. Everything you need to know about his wines and why they are radiant (a word he loves to use) can be gleaned by watching the über-enthusiasm in his video. Serve this wine and the story behind it for a real conversation starter. (Tip: JCB wines can be tasted in Healdsburg or in his private lounge in Napa. This sparkler is only $20. Buy his wines online.)

Dry sparkling rosé of Pinot Noir is a must have for the holidays.  2008 Schramsburg Brut Rosé  Schramsberg makes hand crafted, fine wines. This one is made from Sonoma and Marin Coastal Pinot Noir, and juiced up with warmer Carneros and Alexander Valley Pinot. (Tip: At $41 it’s worth it in my opinion and it’s still less expensive than the 2004 J Shram that I opened last New Year’s.  Here’s an article I wrote about Schramsberg.)

For Gloria Ferrer’s many fans, there’s a new limited edition wine,  Gloria Ferrer 2005 Anniversary Cuvée.  I attended a 2 day media tour and tasting recently and was struck by the lovely presentation of this wine. It was harvested in their 25th year (2005) and released 40 months later. (Tip: It’s only available in the tasting room (good excuse to visit) or online.)

For easy drinking, Chandon Brut Classic.  There are plenty of “grocery store” sparklers and everyone has their favorite.  For me, the Chandon Brut Classic doesn’t disappoint.  It’s under $25.  (Tip: If you want to try something new, Chandon has many other styles and flavors or you can use their recipes to make sparkling cocktails.)

More holiday picks White Wine  & Red.


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California Clover

Good Luck California Clover

With all the bad weather in California this year, lettuce prices are through the roof, so I bought some cabbage yesterday.

Raw cabbage has a plastic texture even though it’s good for you.  Boiling or steaming cabbage does nothing for the flavor in my opinion.  So I decided to roast it. Bingo! This is truly fantastic and can be eaten by itself or mixed with a variety of recipes.

Basic Roasted Cabbage Recipe

  1. Pre-heat the toaster oven or oven (depending on how much you are making) to 400º.
  2. Julienne the cabbage like you are making coleslaw.
  3. Place cabbage on foil-lined baking sheet.
  4. Add salt for flavor enhancement.
  5. Drizzle with olive oil.
  6. Roast cabbage in oven for about 10 minutes.  Watch it closely. Julienned veggies roast quickly.

Serve as a side dish, under your corned beef or in this Brussel Sprouts & Bacon Salad Recipe (substitute for lettuce).

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Winter in Wine Country

Napa Wine Country Winter 2011

This is my favorite time of year in California wine country.  The tasting rooms are quiet, the mustard is dotting the vineyards and there are bargains in the boutiques.  It is by far the best time to be a local…and shhhh…it’s also the best time to visit.

The picture above is the tasting bar at Michael Chiarello’s NapaStyle.  You can taste through Chiarello’s private label, watch a chef demonstration or buy some signature spice rubs.  In the peaceful off-season, everyone is relaxed; visitors get extra attention and often, extra tastes and wine deals.

If you are a photographer, this is the time to take pictures of mustard.  You may even want to submit your artwork to the Mustard Festival Photo Contest.

If you want some hints about where to go, you can search my blog or contact me for personalized assistance with your lodging, tasting reservations, itinerary and transportation.

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5 Christmas Traditions

If you’re like me, the holidays make you sentimental. Here’s five favorite holiday traditions.  **Links goes to my favorite places & things.

  • Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge to enjoy the decorations in the Marina, Embarcadero & San Francisco’s Union Square.
  • Shopping, stolling & sipping in small towns liked Yountville, Old Town Novato, Healdsburg and Mill Valley.
  • One deluxe, extra-special dinner date with Hubby.  This year it was at Barn Diva in Healdsburg. Follow me on Facebook & you can read my rave about this amazing dining experience.
  • Enjoying an Irish Whiskey after we get our Christmas tree.
  • Buying new Christmas music, old stuff and new.

Happy Holidays!

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Christmas Nostalgia

Growing up in a big family in a small town, there were only a few family-owned shops in the old downtown, but there was a Sears Catalog Store.  Mom would take me to the closet-like store and we’d pick up The Wish Book.  I loved lying on my bed leafing through the glossy full-color pages looking at all the toys.  I’d usually pick out a doll or stuffed animal.  My brother got two plastic bug catcher/containers one year.  He created a fort with his pillow balanced on them and slept with the live bugs on each side.  My husband remembers getting a Davy Crockett hat. I wonder, was The Wish Book only for small town children?

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