Archive for October, 2010

The Perfect Halloween Wine Cocktail

October 31st, 2010 No comments

Everyone knows the key to any successful party: good drinks!  If you’re hosting a Halloween party this weekend, you can’t go wrong with this “Bloody” Orange Mulled Wine recipe.  And it’s a snap to make!  Here’s the recipe:

“Bloody” Orange Mulled Wine

Combine in a large pot or slow cooker:

4 bottles of your favorite red wine

4 peeled and sliced oranges (you can zest them first and add the zest to the pot too)

2 peeled and sliced lemons (zest optional, as above)

1 Tbsp nutmeg

1 Tbsp ground ginger

honey to taste (start with a cup)

3 cups brandy or cognac

2 cups water

orange juice to taste

Heat ingredients until sugar or honey has dissolved and wine is steaming.  Serve in mugs, garnish with orange slices.  Your guests will love it!

Wine Review: 2007 Arrogant Frog Croak-Rotie

October 30th, 2010 No comments

Ever since our post on weird wine names, I’ve been on the hunt for wines with quirky names.  Finally I got the2007 Arrogant Frog Croak-Rotie chance to try one–the 2007 Arrogant Frog “Croak-Rotie.”  And surprise!  A funky wine name does not a funky wine make.  In fact, I deemed this one good enough to share with you.

Ok, I’ll admit it–it’s the label that drew me in.  I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and you certainly shouldn’t judge a wine by its label.  But how cute is that beret-and-walking-stick-clad frog?  (Sorry, manly-man readers, but you have to admit it.)  I don’t know if I can bear to recycle it.

Label aside, this is a very good sipping wine.  It’s a Syrah-Viognier blend, with 85% Syrah and 15% Viognier–an unusual and interesting combination.  The big, bold Syrah benefits from the addition of the aromatic, fruit-forward Viognier: the wine is a rich, bold one that’s also soft and mellow.

The wine’s aromas are of deep, jammy blueberries and strawberries.  The wine has medium tannins, which give it structure, but balances its fruitiness with hints of spice and licorice.  It would be perfection for a picnic or backyard gathering, with some Gruyere cheese and a nice baguette.  Or serve it for dinner with pasta in a hearty tomato sauce, or a simple fall stew.  It would also be great with (and in) our recent Coq au vin recipe.  Enjoy!  (Or, as an arrogant frog would probably say: “À votre santé!…ribet.”)

Categories: Wine Reviews Tags: , ,

Wine Recipe: Coq Au Vin

October 28th, 2010 No comments
Coq au vin

A pot of Coq au vin ready to go in the oven

I promised you plenty of perfect wine recipes for fall, and I plan on keeping that promise.  I love classic, slow-cooked dishes (if you missed our Bouef Bourgignon post, check it out now), so today the Vintage Cellars blog is bringing you another French favorite: Coq au vin.

Coq au vin couldn’t be simpler: a chicken braised slowly with wine and vegetables, until everything is tender, flavorful, and oh-so-comforting.  Coq au vin is sometimes thought of as a fancy restaurant dish, but the reality is that it’s a basic one-pot dinner (well, except for a separate saucepan for the mushrooms in this recipe–but they taste best cooked separately!).  It’s perfect for a weeknight meal with the family or a leisurely Sunday dinner with friends.

The best part of this dish: the wine, of course!  Coq au vin is typically made with Burgundy, but you can use any kind of red wine that you like: cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, beaujolais, and zinfandel are great choices.  Just remember that the deeper and richer the flavor of the wine, the deeper and richer the resulting sauce will be.

There are many different methods for preparing Coq au vin, some more traditional than others.  This isn’t a particularly traditional recipe, but it’s exceedingly delicious.  And what more could you want in a recipe?  Serve it with crusty bread, a green salad, and the wine you used in the cooking: fall-weather happiness awaits.


1 whole chicken in pieces

4 strips of bacon, diced

1/2 lb. carrots, chopped into large pieces

1 onion, chopped into large pieces

2 Tbp. garlic, minced

1/2 bottle red wine

1-2 cups chicken stock (low sodium is best)

1 bunch fresh thyme (about 8-12 sprigs)

2 Tbps each of butter and flour (for the roux)

1/2 lb. peeled pearl onions (use frozen, already peeled ones for convenience)

1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced


Heat a splash of olive oil in a Dutch oven or large, ovenproof pot.  Brown the bacon pieces until they are crisp and the fat is rendered.  Remove the bacon to a different plate.

Meanwhile, pat the chicken dry and season it liberally with salt and pepper.  Brown the chicken in batches.  Make sure to get the chicken really brown and crisp, about 3-5 minutes on each side, or the color will wash off in the braise.  Remove the chicken as it’s done and set aside with the bacon.

Add the carrots and onions to the pot.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and slightly browned.  Add the garlic at the last minute or so of cooking.

Turn the stove up to high and add the wine.  Deglaze the pan, boiling the wine and swirling and scraping the bottom until all the delicious brown bits are loosened from the bottom and incorporated into the sauce.  Add the thyme, chicken stock, chicken and bacon.  Cover the pot and put in a 250-degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the chicken is just done.

Remove the pot from the oven and put back on the stove.  Add the onions.  Mix together the flour and butter (making a roux) and whisk into the sauce.  Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes or so.  In the meantime, saute the mushrooms in butter until tender and browned, then add them to the pot.  Season to taste.  Enjoy!!

Coq Au Vin on Foodista

Wine Review: Sheldrake Point’s 2008 Late Harvest Riesling

October 25th, 2010 No comments

This weekend, I had a change to visit Sheldrake Point Winery in New York’s beautiful Finger Lakes area.  Sheldrake Point is one of the most picturesque wineries I’ve ever visited, with rows of grape vines sloping gently down towards deep blue Cayuga Lake, the fall foliage resplendent in the background.

I was lucky enough to get to sit down with Sheldrake Point’s winemaker, Dave Breeden, and sip quite a few great wines.  My favorite wine of the many great wines that we sampled was Sheldrake Point’s 2008 Late Harvest Riesling.  And no wonder: it was named the best sweet Riesling in the world at the 2010 Canberra International Riesling Challenge in Australia.  The cool climate of the Finger Lakes district makes for ideal Riesling-growing conditions, and Sheldrake Point really takes advantage of this, producing a large number of Rieslings and Gewürztraminers, which are similar both in taste and required growing conditions.

Now, I’ll admit first off that I’m not usually a fan of sweet wines.  In fact, I’ve never before tried one that didn’t remind me of grape juice.  But Sheldrake’s 2008 Late Harvest Riesling really changed my mind.  Yes, this is a sweet wine, and very sweet at that, with a 20% sugar content.  But sweet is certainly not the first word that comes to mind when you’re sipping this wine.  What does come to mind is that elusive quality winemakers are always striving for: balance.  There’s a fruity apricot and apple taste and sweet, sensuous honey flavor perfectly balanced by a bright, citrusy acidity and a spicy, slightly peppery finish.  This is a dessert wine that you’ll want more than one glass of.

So if  you love sweet wines, rush out and buy a case of this immediately.  And if you’re like me and think you hate them, pick up a bottle of Sheldrake Point’s 2008 Late Harvest Riesling and give it a chance to change your mind.

A Great Wine for Fall: Unoaked Chardonnay

October 21st, 2010 No comments
Chardonnay grapes ready for harvest

Chardonnay grapes ready for harvest.

It’s that time of year: the leaves are changing and we’ve traded t-shirts for sweaters and scarves.  Soon, we’ll settle in for a long winter’s nap.  But what to drink in the meantime?

Sure, there are the rich, deep reds that warm you from the soul, like Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.  These are the quintessential wines of fall.  But not all the dishes of the season call for something so rich; in fact, wines like these overpower many dishes.  And by no means should you be limited to red wine when the temperature starts to drop.  So let’s talk about a perfect fall wine that’s maybe not so common: unoaked Chardonnay.

Unoaked Chardonnay, if you haven’t tried it, is a great pleasure, and a truly different taste from the Chardonnay you’re probably used to, which is aged in oak barrels to impart that strong, oaky taste to the wine.  What you might not know is that unoaked Chardonnay is a throwback to the way the wine used to be made.  Winemakers of old may have aged their Chardonnay in barrels, but they were usually old barrels that all the flavor-changing chemicals had long been leached out of.  Chardonnay makers today use new barrels that impart the maximum amount of flavors from the wood to the wine.  And so while we might not realize it, what we think of as Chardonnay isn’t much like the “real” thing.

Many wine experts think that modern winemakers have gone overboard with their oaky Chards, and that these flavors overpower the more delicate flavors of a good Chardonnay.  So try an unoaked Chardonnay and taste this great varietal the way it was originally meant to be enjoyed.  You might be surprised by what you find.

Be aware: the vanilla, butter, and creaminess that you might love so much about Chardonnay won’t be present in the unoaked version: they are all flavors that come from the wood.  So what does an unoaked Chardonnay taste like?

A good unoaked Chardonnay should have strong fruit flavors and a bright, refreshing acidity.  Common flavors are pear, apple, and other stone fruits.  The wine might have a mineral taste or even citrusy notes.  Sound like a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio? It’s not.  The fruitiness of the Chardonnay grapes keeps the wine bigger and more flavorful.

It’s this tastiness factor, combined with the acidity, that makes unoaked Chardonnay a great choice for fall.  The full fruit flavors make it a big enough wine to be satisfying, but the acidity makes it the perfect candidate to pair with the rich, buttery dishes that are so often served as the temperature drops: the acid cuts through the fattiness, leaving your palate refreshed for each comforting bite.  Try it with a chicken roasted simply with fall vegetables and served with crusty bread: it’s sweater-weather perfection.

3 More Wine Apps for Android

October 15th, 2010 4 comments

Since our post on 3 Android Apps for Wine Lovers is so popular, and more apps are coming out for Android all the time, we figured we’d showcase a few more!

Wine Dictionary: Even expert collectors occasionally run across a wine descriptor they’ve never seen before.  This wine glossary app isn’t fancy, but it does the job: whether you’re in the store or at home, in mere seconds you can find out what a “Tarrango” is.  (In case you can’t wait for the app to download, it’s a acidic wine low in tannins made by crossing Touriga Nacional and Sultana vines). Bonus tip: Check out our wine storage glossary!

Corkbin: Initially available for iPhone only, this is a clean and simple app for taking notes on wines you like and sharing them with your friends.  Corkbin has a space for your tasting notes and lets you couple the notes with a picture, so you can recognize the label next time you’re at the wine store.  It also allows you to upload your findings to Facebook or Twitter: perfect for winos who love to share the fun.

Hello Vino: Like Corkbin, this app has recently expanded to the Android market.  It’s simply one of the best wine pairing apps out there.  One great thing about Hello Vino’s pairing service is that it lets you search both ways: whether you have a meal in mind that needs a wine, or a wine ready to go that needs the perfect meal, this app can give you great suggestions.  It can also help you out when you’re at the wine store, by searching for ratings and reviews to help you make your decision, or suggest great wines for occasions, gifts, and holidays.

Do you use any of these apps, or another we forgot to mention?  Let us know what wine apps you love for Android!

More wine apps for iPhone will be coming soon, too!

VintageView Wine Racks Named Best of the Year

October 8th, 2010 No comments

Apartment Therapy, the trendy website for design, technology, cooking, and other fun stuff, has just released its list of the best wine racks of the year. One favorite? VintageView wine racks. Good choice, Apartment Therapy–they’re one of our favorites too!

VintageView wine racks

VintageView wine racks use a unique design that allows you to store bottles label-forward rather than cork-forward, so that you can find out what’s in the bottle without disturbing the contents. Ingenious!

VintageView racks are meant to be customized.  You can purchase a single rack perfect for the corner of your studio apartment, or you can choose to outfit your entire wine cellar with floor-to-ceiling racks.  Racks come in single, double, or even triple-deep sizes, and magnum-sized racks are available too.  Whew!  With so many choices, it’s not wonder that VintageView racks are a designer’s dream.

Do you have VintageView wine racks in your home or business?

New San Diego Wine Law Swirls up Controversy

October 7th, 2010 No comments

Video courtesy CBS 8 News

In a move that has stirred up some controversy, a new law has passed that will allow boutique wineries producing 12,000 gallons or less to operate tasting rooms. They’ll also be able to sell directly to buyers and hold events such as weddings. Winemakers and wine lovers in San Diego see this as a good thing: it will help boost the local economy by supporting small businesses. And rolling hills covered with grape vines aren’t too bad to look at, either.

Some people aren’t welcoming the new rules with open arms (and empty glasses), though. A group of property owners, mostly in the Ramona area, has filed a lawsuit demanding that the ordinance be annulled and re-examined. They claim that proper environmental studies haven’t been done, citing a specific worry about the amount of water that will be needed to water the crops.

Supporters of the law like Supervisor Dianne Jacob see the objections as unnecessarily standing in the way of a good thing.

“Vintners worked very hard with the county to develop an ordinance that worked for all parties,” Jacob said. “In the end, we found a way to spur the economy by taking measures to enhance an agricultural use, in agricultural zoned areas, while doing our best to preserve the community character of these rural areas.”

She added, “This is an unfortunate attempt to create an obstacle that would hurt many others and sputter an emerging industry seeking to further promote the county as a successful wine-producing region.”

Please share your thoughts on this new law in the comments!

Wine Review: 2004 Marques de Riscal Reserva Rioja

October 1st, 2010 No comments

I never can resist a good Rioja. My favorite red wines are dry and smooth but bold, with lots of complex flavors. Riojas nearly always hit the mark for me. Red Rioja is a classic, bold red wine, made mostly from Tempranillo grapes, which lend flavors of plum, dark berries, leather, dry herbs, and a very noticeable (but pleasant) dusty earth taste. I recently broke open a bottle of 2004 Marques de Riscal Reserva Rioja that I had around, and I really enjoyed it. My first thought: to share with you!

The Herederos del Marques de Riscal has been around since 1858, when it became the first winery in Rioja to produce Bordeaux-style wines. The Tempranillo vines that produce grapes for this wine are over 15 years old. The Reserva wines of this vineyard spend two years in American oak barrels, giving them complexity and tannins.

This particular wine has a complex spice aroma, tannins that are noticeable but not overpowering (it could benefit from a good decanting or some time to breathe), and a soft finish. Like all good Riojas it’s a smooth, easy-drinking wine that pairs well with food, but even better with good conversation. The ideal wine for a casual get-together, it pleases many palates. And for about $15, it won’t put a dent in your budget.

Categories: Wine Reviews Tags: , ,