Archive for September, 2011

Wine Review: Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux de Provence 2007

September 30th, 2011 No comments
Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux de Provence 2007

Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux de Provence 2007

A “Red Rhone Blend” (a wine made from two or more traditional Southern Rhone grape varieties), this rustic French wine is a well-balanced, fantastic find!  Consisting of 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Carignan, 20% Grenache, and 9% Syrah, its slight barnyard nose, common to many “old world” wines, also includes blackberries, raspberries, and candied scents.  On the tongue, wild berries, raspberries, wood, herb, smoke, and a candied grape taste give this wine quite a unique-yet-well-integrated personality.  With good texture and a medium body, this complex wine will pair successfully with virtually any meal.  Its finish is excellent, being long, satisfying, and persistent; the intensities of the dissipating flavors are close to equal, which helps one better appreciate the counterpoint of flavors.  Riedel Tyrol wine decanterBecause of its age and complexity, this wine is best served decanted.  A decanter like the Riedel Tyrol wine decanter does justice to this “old world” wine quite nicely.  (Plus, you and your guests will be able to better see and appreciate this special wine’s beautiful, dark blue-red hue.)  Though the prominent aromas and flavors are  even better if decanted an hour before consumption, any length of time this wine spends mingling with the air helps to maximize enjoyment.  Cheers!

Winery Quest Pro: an Awesome Wine Travel App

September 27th, 2011 No comments

Winery Quest Pro

It’s travel time!  Remember Jake Austad’s trek through California’s wine country?  Here’s a handy, travel app specifically made so that you can enjoy such an adventure: Winery Quest Pro.  Designed for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, this informative winery reference tool gives you everything you need to plan your California wine trip.  With 20 regional maps, filters for your favorite wine interests, detailed winery profiles, and a GPS navigated trip log, you’ve got everything necessary to embark on your own journey through California’s wine country. With Winery Quest Pro, planning your trip is easy!  And with the freshest wine and winery data updated daily, you’ll be kept in the loop with current information. Winery Quest Pro requires an iOS of 3.0 or later.  Available from iTunes with rave reviews, its current price is $7.99. 

Have a favorite wine app? Tell us about it in the comments and maybe we will review it!

Wine Review: Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

September 22nd, 2011 No comments
Gnarly Head 2009 California Cabernet Sauvignon

Gnarly Head 2009 California Cab

I’ve been a big fan of Gnarly Head’s Cabs for many years, and the Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is no exception.  This regal, concentrated wine is rich with dark fruit flavor (currants, black cherries, and tart cranberries), and has a velvety “cab” texture that briefly exposes its well-integrated tannins just before a subtle taste of cloves and violets.  Its consistent, black peppercorn “spice” Riedel Sommeliers Magnum Wine Decantermakes it a perfect companion for meals with meats.  Traditional “steak and potatoes” will always be a good combo, but the wine seems to pair even better with lamb dishes; lamb chops, roast leg of lamb and rack of lamb are perfect companions for the Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon 2009.  The wine works cooperatively with Italian dishes, too, especially pastas with tomato or cheese sauces, or meatballs.  A glass to accompany a robust cheese ravioli or tortellini plate is quite nice!  And decanting a bottle makes it even more immediately amazing.  Try using a stately Riedel Sommeliers Magnum wine decanter to help you quickly open this impressive wine. Cheers!

Death to Breath Mints

September 20th, 2011 No comments

While good food and wine pairing is always to be encouraged, even the best wine can be reduced to ruin on one’s tongue under certain conditions.  Here are six things to avoid before sipping on what would be a delicious glass of vino:

common restaurant breath mints

Courtesy of

1. Breath mints.  We all want to have fresh breath, especially on dates, but sucking on or chewing a handful of strong peppermints will unfavorably color any wine you taste for about 10-20 minutes afterward.  The same goes for brushing your teeth before a meal.

2. Hot chili peppers.  These are found in many salads, but even a mild chili pepper makes all the wine you drink afterward taste dull and even a bit diluted.

3. Drinks from the bar.  Cocktails work quickly to dull your perception of a wine’s subtleties.  3-star chef Fernand Point even warned that, “After one cocktail, or worse yet, two, the palate can no more distinguish a bottle of Mouton Rothschild from a bottle of ink!”

4. Vinegar. Again, it’s a popular salad topping (think “oil and vinegar”) but its high acidity blocks the tongue’s ability to taste the subtle flavors hidden in many high-quality wines.

5. Asparagus.  Sometimes this great veggie can turn a sip of wine into a V8 commercial.

Asparagus tied together

Courtesy of

6. Eggs.  Yes, hard-boiled, they often appear in salads.  (Sounds as if I’m dissuading you from having a healthy dinner!)  But egg yolks can leave a thin coating on your tongue that also insulates you from experiencing a wine’s more delicate flavors.

The above “wine blockers” are often why, at a dinner where everyone’s dish differs, some people–all with the same taste in wine–really enjoy the table’s bottle of wine while others don’t.  Food, mints, and cocktails have more say in wine perception than most people think!  So the next time you order a bottle at your favorite restaurant, try skipping the pre-dinner mints, drinks, salad additives, and asparagus.  The wine you try next might just be one of the best you’ve had with a meal!

Mulled Wine: a Late Summer, Early Fall Treat

September 13th, 2011 No comments

Traditionally known as a “winter” drink, mulled wine can also be enjoyed in the late summer/early fall season.  It actually makes a great segue into fall, and its familiar aroma often brings back happy childhood memories. (And since there is abundant evidence that connects our sense of smell with episodic memory, a warm cup may just surprise you with an image you’ve long forgotten!)  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 bottle dry red wine (a Merlot is especially good)
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cloves (whole)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 pinch of allspice
  • 2 strips of orange peels
  • 2 strips of lemon peels

Mix your entire bottle of wine with the water, sugar, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, orange and lemon peels in a saucepan.  Simmer over low heat for 25 minutes.  If desired, add more sugar for a sweeter drink.  A bit of honey can also be added, or even substituted for sugar, for an alternate variation.

And while enjoying your own mulled wine, ponder this profound passage from Marcel Proust’s The Remembrance of Things Past: “When from a long distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”

Red Sauce, White Sauce

September 9th, 2011 No comments

While looking for more sauces with wine as a primary ingredient, I came across two delightful ones on  I’m re-posting the recipes here, and you can check out the source of these at

Red Wine Sauce

This makes a thick, intensely flavored red wine sauce that’s great on red meat.


•1/4 cup shallots, chopped fine

•1 tsp. honey

•1 tsp. paprika

•1 bottle red wine

•1 Tbsp. butter

•1 Tbsp. crushed bay leaves

•1 Tsp. fresh thyme


1. Sauté the shallots in the butter.

2. Stir in the paprika, bay leaves and thyme and continue to sauté for one or two more minutes.

3. Add the wine, then reduce until only one cup of liquid is left.

4. Add the honey and continue to reduce until thickened, about two or three minutes.

5. Add salt and pepper to taste, then strain to remove the crushed bay leaves.

White Wine Sauce

This white wine sauce is good on pasta or as an accompaniment to most seafood.


•1/4 cup dry white wine

•1 Tbsp olive oil

•2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

•4 cloves crushed garlic

•4 lemons, juiced

•4 Tbsp. butter

•Pinch of nutmeg


1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan over low heat.

2. Add the olive oil and garlic and sauté until the garlic becomes yellow and aromatic.

3. Add the lemon juice and wine.

4. Raise the heat to medium and reduce the liquid, stirring to prevent the liquid from boiling.

5. Add nutmeg and parsley to the sauce.

6. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Both of these recipes are easy to make, and utilize ingredients most people readily have in their kitchens.  The next time you’re in a rush to make a decent wine-based sauce, give one of these a try.  They may just save the day!

Image courtesty of

Creamy White Wine Sauce

September 7th, 2011 1 comment

I came across a delicious, easy-to-make white wine sauce I felt compelled to share.  The only ingredient you may have to run out and get is heavy whipping cream!

In a small to medium-sized saucepan, add 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 2 tablespoons of flour, and 3/4 to a cup of your favorite white wine.  Stir well while heating over medium heat until boiling, then add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of dried parsley.  (Freshly-dried parsley tastes the best, but dried parsley from your spice rack will work fine in a pinch!)  Stir well.  If desired, you can even add a dash–or two–of cayenne pepper for pizzazz.  Reduce heat and let the mixture cool to a warm serving temperature, stirring occasionally.  Pour over your feast, and enjoy!

White Wine Sauce Image Courtesy of

Regardless of the white wine you choose to use, this sauce goes very well with chicken, including Cornish game hens, and potato dishes.  This sauce also makes a terrific pasta topper!  Try it with traditional pasta dishes, including tortellini and ravioli.  And, to tie your meal into a balanced little bow, don’t forget to serve your guests the wine you used in your sauce!  Enjoy!

Vivino: a Free Wine App

September 5th, 2011 No comments

Happy Labor Day! Hope you’re all enjoying your day off. We’ll be sipping some wine and enjoying the remaining summer sun. Right now, though, we’re reviewing an app that will let you keep a few notes on the bottle you’re enjoying without taking up a lot of time.

Vivino v1.1

If you want a quick, simple way to remember a good wine on the go, Vivino, a free app, is for you!  Simply use your smartphone to take a picture of your wine, and give it a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” for future reference. You can go into greater detail, too, and rate and review your wine, if desired.  You can even share your wine experiences on Facebook and Twitter.  With a growing database of 400,000 wines, the application utilizes the latest image mapping technology to auto-match the picture of your wine bottle, instantly providing you with the wine’s facts, ratings, pairings, and more!  These at-a-glance “stats” will even help you make better informed decisions at your favorite wine store.  While not a massive, all-in-one app, this easy-to-use wine tool is extremely convenient.  (When viewing a wine’s statistics, the app is almost like a digital “baseball card” of the wine.)  Plus, it’s free.  Vivino is compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.  (It requires iOS 3.2 or later.)  It’s also available for Android, BlackBerry, and Windows 7.  Check it out!

Wine Review: Casa Julia Sauvignon Blanc 2009

September 2nd, 2011 No comments

Casa Julia Sauvignon Blanc 2009

The affordable Casa Julia Sauvignon Blanc 2009 is a delicious white that hails from Chile’s Aconcagua region.  Similar to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but with tamer acidity, this wine is full of vitality and great, well-blended flavors.  Following a full, satisfying nose, the wine delights the tongue with lush fruit, tropical fruit flavors, and tasteful citrus notes.  With good body and texture, this chipper young Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with chicken, shrimp, oysters, clams, lobster, salad, fusion cuisine, and lighter cheese appetizers.  If chilling several Franciscan Three Door Vinotheque 3 door wine storage credenzabottles for a summer celebration, why not use an impressive Franciscan wine credenza?  (Can you tell we looooove wine credenzas?)