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Discover the Dry Rose Wines of Provence this Summer

May 23rd, 2014 No comments

Discover the Dry Rose Wines of Provence this Summer

The dry, floral, refreshing roses that hail from Provence have about as much in common with those California wines as a Cabernet has with a glass of icewine.

About the roses of Provence

The Romans brought wine-making to Provence before the birth of Christ, and the region has been carrying on this tradition for more than 2,500 years. Today, Provence crafts more than 1,000 different wines, with rose wines accounting for more than half of the region’s production. In fact, Provence is the world’s leading producer of dry, rose wines.

Leading government-controlled wine place names (AOC) in Provence include Cotes de Provences, Coteauxd’Aix-en-Provence and Bandol. Traditionally, rose wines from these regions have been made by blending Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Carignan grapes, although more modern winemakers have begun to use Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes in the mix. Roses from Provence are virtually made from blending the juice of several grapes and are easily recognized by their bowling pin-shaped bottles.

Unlike rose wines from other parts of the world, Provencal roses are very dry, with slight hints of strawberries, red currants, lavender and thyme. Provencal roses may be vintage or non-vintage wines.

Pairing Provence roses with food

Rose wines from Provence are a perfect accompaniment to many summer favorites. These wines go well with shrimp and other seafood, cold pasta salads, and garlic-based dishes, such as the “aioli” that’s a hallmark of Provencal cuisine. The acidity in Provencal roses also make such wines a good choice for drinking with notoriously difficult to pair ethnic foods, such as Thai, Indian, Lebanese and Chinese.

When you go to the wine store

Many roses of Provence are exported to North America, most commonly the wines from the Bandol region. Depending on the tax situation in your state, expect to pay between $15 and $25 for a bottle of good Provencal rose. Look for the following highly-rated labels:

  •  Miraval Rose — Rated a 91/100 by “Decanter” magazine, Miraval rose is produced by Provence’s Miraval Winery, a joint venture between the French Perrin wine family and Hollywood A-listers including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
  • Chateau d’Esclans Rose Whispering Angel — This Cotes de Provence rose earned a 90/100 rating from “Wine Spectator” magazine.

For more information on the wines of Provence, visit vins de provence.com, the official website (in English) of the the Provencal wine producing regions.

How to Navigate a Wine List

January 15th, 2014 No comments

Even the most confident of wine lovers can get bogged down by a wine list that reads like a novel. Here’s how to safely navigate a restaurant wine-list and pick a bottle that’s sure to please everyone at the table.

Step 1: Choose a Color

Start by choosing between white or red by considering what you’ll be eating. You’re out to dinner, after all: the most important thing is that your wine complements your food. But feel free to throw that old “red wine with red meat, white wine with chicken and fish” adage out the window. A better method is to base your wine decision on your dish’s most prominent flavor. A chicken breast simply poached in white wine, for example, calls for a white wine that won’t overpower the flavor. The same chicken breast topped with a Marsala sauce, with its reduced wine and hearty mushrooms, is bold enough to stand up to a red.

Step 2: Balancing Act

Next, consider the heartiness of the dish you’re eating: the dish and the wine should match each other in body or richness. One of the best ways to do this is to consider your sauce. The simple buttery, garlic-y wine sauce in a bowl of linguini with clams plays well with a white wine with some heft, like a California Chardonnay. A pasta primavera with a simpler olive oil-based sauce, however, needs the lighter touch of something like a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Step 3: Match like Flavors

Here’s where you can get really creative. You can match the flavors and aromas in a wine to ingredients in your dish. A dish spiked with verdant cilantro, for example, can go well with a white wine with herbal, grassy notes. A steak topped with a sauce studded with currants would pair perfectly with a Cabernet rich with berry flavors.

Step 4: Think about Structure

The perfect pairing will result in a food and wine match that’s perfectly in balance. Certain components of the food you’re eating can  increase or lessen the acidity, sweetness, and bitterness of  the wine you choose.

Acidic ingredients like citrus juice pair well with acidic wines, making them taste softer and better-balanced. However, if a wine is already balanced, acidic foods can make it fall flat. Likewise, the tannins in a wine interact with the fatty flavors in a dish. Rich foods like steak diminish the appearance of tannins in wine and make it taste smoother. Salty and spicy foods, on the other hand, interact poorly with tannins, and can make a wine taste harsh.

With these four steps, you’ll be able to successfully choose a wine to pair with any dish on the table. But as with all things wine, we encourage you not to feel limited. If you don’t like red wine, don’t let that stop you from ordering that porterhouse. After all, what matters most is that you enjoy yourself. Choose a wine you’d drink by itself, and you’ll always be happy.

See our recommendations for local San Diego shops that carry the wines we love!

Wine Pronunciation Guide

September 25th, 2012 No comments

Image credit: Dave Morrison Photography

Raise your hand if you’ve ever avoided ordering a bottle of wine at a restaurant because you couldn’t pronounce the name. Bookmark our wine pronunciation guide and never fear embarrassing yourself again!

Alvarinho: ahl-vah-ree-nyoh

Albariño: al-bah-ree-nyoh

Barbaresco: bar-bah-RES-coe

Barbera: bar-BEH-rah

Barolo: bar-ROW-lo

Beaujolais: boh-zhuh-LAY

Bordeaux: bohr-DOH

Brut: BROOT

Cabernet Franc: KA-behr-nay-FRAHNGH

Cabernet Sauvignon: ka-behr-NAY so vihn-YOHN

Cava: KAH-vah

Chablis: sha-BLEE

Chardonnay: shar-doh-NAY

Châteauneauf-du-Pape: shah-toh-nuhf-doo-PAHP

Chenin Blanc: SHUH-ihn BLAHNGK

Chianti: key-AWN-tee

Colombard: KAHL-hm-bahrd

Cote Rotie: coat-row-TEE

Côtes du Rhone: koht deu ROHN

Cuvée: koo-VAY

Fumé Blanc: FOO-may BLAHNK

Gamay: GAM-may

Gewürztraminer: guh-vurts-TRAH-MEE-NER

Grenache: gruh-NAHSH

Kir: KEER

Languedoc: lawn-geh-dock

Madeira: muh-DEER-uh

Malbec: mahl-behk

Merlot: mehr-LOH

Montepulciano: mawn-teh-pull-CHA-no

Montrachet: mawn-rah-SHAY

Mourvedre: moor-VAY-druh

Muscat: MUHS-kat

Nebbiolo: neh-be-OH-low

Nouveau: NEW-voe

Petite Sirah: peh-TEET sih-RAH

Petit Verdot: puh-TEET-vare-DOE

Pinot Blanc: PEE-noh BLAHN

Pinot Gris: PEE-noh GREE

Pinot Noir: PEE-noh NWAHR

Pouilly-Fuissé: poo-yee fwee-SAY

Pouilly Fume Poo: yee-foo-MAY

Prosecco: praw-SEHK-koh

Riesling: REES-ling

Rioja: ree-oh-hah

Rosé: roh-ZAY

Sancerre: sahn-SEHR

Sangiovese: san-joh-VAY-zeh

Sauternes: soh-TEHRN

Sauvignon Blanc: SOH-vee-nyawn BLAHNGK

Semillon: say-mee-YOHN

Shiraz: she-RAHZ

Spumante: spu-MON-tay

Syrah: see-RAH

Tempranillo: temp-ra-NEEL-yo

Trebbiano: treb-e-AH-no

Verdelho: vehr-DEH-lyoh

Verdicchio: vehr-KEEK-kyoh

Viognier: vee-oh-NYAY

Zinfandel: Zin-fan-DELL

Dare to Drink Wine by Yourself?

July 17th, 2012 No comments
Enjoying wine alone lets you give it your full attention.

Image from Wine Online Club: wineonlineclub.com

Although there’s a stigma surrounding drinking by yourself, sometimes it can’t be helped!  What if circumstances make it so that you must dine alone?  What if your dinner companions call last-minute, sending regrets, after you’re already seated at your restaurant of choice?  Dining and drinking alone does not have to be a sad affair.  In fact, there are benefits.  You can devote your full attention to your great glass of wine, and since most restaurants now offer “wine by the glass” (as well as half bottles), with the right questions you can turn your no-show meal into a fun “wine tasting for one!”  Here’s how…

Ask for samples.  If you’re going to order a glass of wine, ask your waiter for a few samples of the wines you’re interested in.  In most cases, the response will be positive, and you’ll be able to sample some of the wines you’re considering (at no extra charge!)

Ask about “additional” wines not found on the “by-the-glass” menu.  Quite often, especially as the night progresses, there’s an open bottle of something good sitting in the kitchen.  Why?  Perhaps a decent bottle of wine was opened, but then sent back by another patron?  Perhaps someone ordered just a half bottle of wine, earlier, the other half just sitting around?  You’ll often be allowed to purchase such leftover (and usually more expensive) wine by the glass if you ask!

Order a couple full bottles and share them with other patrons!  You’ll make some happy friends very quickly, and they’ll often offer to return the favor come dessert time!  (Here we come, dessert wines!)

There’s nothing to be ashamed about enjoying wine alone.  And in a restaurant setting, you’re hardly alone; you’re surrounded by the restaurant’s wait staff and other guests!  If you must drink wine alone, relish the moment!  Try for a mini-tasting, ask about “special” wines, or share a bottle.  Some restaurants with walk-in wine rooms, similar to the Vintage Series Wine Room 2600, will even allow single diners to take a peek inside.  It never hurts to ask, and you might spot something really good!  Cheers!

So, You’re at a Benefit Dinner… and the Wine is Terrible!

July 10th, 2012 No comments
What to do if the free wine is terrible

Image from Service Culture International: www.choosingservice.com

Perhaps you’re at a dinner to benefit a worthy cause, but the wine served with your prepared-in-bulk meal is mediocre at best, or in the worst situation downright undrinkable: what do you do?  Is there a graceful way to handle the situation?  If wine is being served with your meal, chances are you’re not out at the Eagle’s hall for a spaghetti supper benefit.  Therefore, if your benefit is in an established restaurant, you’re in luck!  Restaurants have wine lists, and that’s exactly what you need to ask to see.  Ask your server for the wine list, pay an additional sum separately for a bottle of something good, and share it with the rest of your table.  (They’ll thank you for it, and you’ll make some new friends on the spot!) If the restaurant has a walk-in wine room like the Vintage Series Wine Room 1300, perhaps it’s possible for you to take a peak inside?  It never hurts to ask.  Cheers to finding good wine!

What to Look for in Ruby Port

March 22nd, 2012 No comments

Of all the varieties of port, ruby port is arguably the smoothest.  Many wine drinkers unfamiliar with the world of port can easily enjoy glasses of this sweet, deep red wine.  Sampling ruby port is a fantastic way for wine drinkers to become familiar with port wine, and though often less complex than their tawny cousins, good ruby wines can also be appreciated by port connoisseurs.drink ruby port shortly after it is bottled

Ruby port (made from the grapes Toriga Francesca, Toriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Barrocca, and Tinto Cao) is a bright, deep red-colored wine.  Rather than being made from a blend of grapes harvested during one given season, ruby port utilizes grapes that come from many vintages.  The blend is then aged in wooden casks for around three years prior to bottling.  A sweet wine, you should expect your glass to be brimming with red cherry and fresh plum flavors.  Its finish should be long, smooth, and very warm; port is the perfect nightcap to a date on a cool, spring night!

Unlike most other wines, ruby port needs to be enjoyed shortly after it is has been bottled.  (Remember, it already spent nearly three years maturing in a wooden cask.)  Because of this, when looking for bottles of ruby port in your local wine shop, be wary of older bottles; they will almost always be disappointing.  If you’re unsure about which bottle of ruby port to take home, attend a tasting and try a few glasses of different rubies before making your selection.  If your area wine shop doesn’t offer many opportunities to taste port, consider ordering a glass of ruby with your dessert the next time you go out for dinner.  Bring a pad of paper, and take a few notes.  If you’re out with others, convince everyone in your party to order a different ruby port so you can sample and compare them.  (Now, that’s fun!)  Though less expensive than other port wines, ruby port serves as an excellent introduction to the world of port.  When you do find a bottle that suits your fancy, remember to enjoy it with appropriate glassware such as Riedel Sommeliers Vintage Port Glasses. Cheers!

Stay tuned for our next post–we’ll tell you what to look for in Tawny Port as well!

STACKED Wines: a New Packaging Concept

January 26th, 2012 1 comment

STACKED Wines

We’re the first to admit we love an interesting innovation in the wine world. Wine is full of tradition and history, and that’s great! We love old-world styled wine cabinets and stone-trimmed cellars, but there’s also a place for fun, modern things like sideways wine racks and this interesting new concept for packaging.

Currently a California phenomenon, this curious, creative method of wine packaging will be making its way to the other states in due time.  Created by former UC Irvine students Doug Allan, Jodi Wynn, and Matt Zimmer, STACKED Wines have made a splash in Newport Beach!  What are they?  Four single servings of wine stacked on top of one another, reaching regular bottle height.  The “four-stacks” contain as much wine as a regular bottle.  Basically, each container is a stemless “glass” containing pre-poured wine.  The containers pop apart easily, making it fun and simple to enjoy wine in numerous on-the-go scenarios.  No longer do you need to fuss with corkscrews, fragile bottles, or be forced to drink from cheap, plastic cups when hiking, biking, having a picnic at the park, or traveling.  STACKED Wines are convenient for other outdoor functions like barbecues, concerts, and boating, too.  Currently, STACKED Wines offer a Merlot and Chardonnay, but more wines will be added as the company expands.  Their first major retail launch is planned for this March, so keep your eyes peeled residents of Orange County!  (To the rest of the country: this packaging innovation will soon make its way to you, too.)

What do you think? Intriguing idea, or gimmicky nonsense? Have you tried the wine?

Good Wine for Auld Lang Syne

December 29th, 2011 No comments
Champagne glasses on New Year's

Photo by Mike Gifford

Sung to celebrate the stroke of midnight which begins each New Year, Robert Burns’ poem is a New Year’s staple, and so is the tradition of toasting to the hour with Champagne, or other sparkling wines.  Are you hosting a New Year’s Eve party?  If so, what do you plan to toast with?  Here’s some basic info to help you out!

Champagne and sparkling wines are categorized (and, thus, labeled) according to their sugar levels.  “Brut” is probably the most popular seller.  It’s dry, crisp, and pairs well with lots of finger foods.  “Extra Brut” is especially dry.  If your wine is labeled “Extra Dry” it’s actually (oddly enough) a bit sweeter than the common “Brut” which makes it a terrific aperitif.  This might be a wine to consider toasting with, especially if it’s being served on its own.  “Demi-sec” wine is very sweet, and often benefits from being served with fruit like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and desserts.

The Vinotheque Alegria 240 NS

The wine you choose will probably also be labeled as “vintage” or “non-vintage” (often abbreviated as “NV” on the label.)  Sparkling vintage wines come from a single year, while non-vintage ones are blends from many different years.  While vintage Champagne is usually pricier, the majority of sparkling wines are NV.

Always remember that sparkling wines are meant to be served chilled (i.e. usually between 42°F to 50°F), so don’t let your bottles sit out at room temperature before you pop their corks!  To achieve just the right serving temperature, a wine storage cabinet like the Le Cache Mission 1400 wine cabinet, or the Vinotheque Alegria 240 NS cabinet, is far more precise than putting bottles of Champagne in your fridge. Cheers to your successful party!

 

And  very happy new year to all our blog readers, customers and fans!

Wine for Christmas

December 22nd, 2011 No comments
wine in a gift basket

With Christmas and other holidays fast approaching, stores are packed with last-minute shoppers.  If you are among them, consider giving a loved one something very special this season: a basket of assorted wines.  Unlike socks, ties, and bolder clothing items that can be gambles (and unlike gift cards which, according to recent statistics, are rarely used in full), wine is a gift that virtually everyone of legal age can enjoy.  What is more, if some wines in your assortment do not suit your recipient’s fancy, she or he will often gladly open them for company.  (This means that none of your present goes to waste!)

A Polish Fruitcake

Polish Fruitcake, photo by Alina Zienowicz

Since some wines given at Christmas are opened the same day, it’s good to include a couple bottles that can pair with various holiday dishes like roast duck, turkey, beef, mashed potatoes, stuffing, various pies, chocolates, peppermints, fruitcake, prune cookies…  In other words, be sure to include a couple wines like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc that will not clash wildly with the barrage of disparate food items they may be stuck accompanying!  Because some odd dishes do appear during the holiday season, perhaps it’s not too off the mark to include a bottle or two of a novelty wine?  For example, consider cranberry wine.  This sweet, curious wine will certainly generate conversation.  Like comparing apples to pears, it can’t be adequately described with the same terms used for grapes.  This wine goes well with poultry, fried chicken, and chocolate among other foods, and can also be sipped by itself.

On the more potent side, you may want to consider a plum wine.  This wine ranges from tart to sweet, and can nicely complement a variety of pies.  If you’re unsure about what wines to include in your gift basket, you may want to include a few reds and a few whites.  One example of a nice variety of wines is as follows: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer.  You could also substitute a bottle of port for one of the reds, or gift a bottle of port with two whites.  No matter what you eventually select, rest assured that someone will enjoy your gift! To encourage them to enjoy your gift right away, consider including in your gift basket a Rogar Estate Bronze Wine Bottle Opener. Cheers, and Happy Holidays!

Rogar Estate Wine Bottle Opener

Wine: The Perfect Last-Minute Gift

December 20th, 2011 No comments
Last-minute shoppers looking for gift ideas

Shoppers on Dundas, photo by Ian Muttoo

Shopping for gifts at the last minute, again?  Does what to get for a certain loved one have you stumped?  If you continue to suffer from the daunting task of gift selection, here’s a gift that is always appreciated: wine!  What is more, shopping for wine is much easier than sifting through racks of ties, perusing packages of festive socks, or combing the entire hardware section of Sears.  And unlike jewelry that may not see the light of day once fashions change, or knickknacks that may have just a two-week shelf life, wine will always be popular and appreciated.  You need not break the bank when purchasing wine (there are good bottles in every price range), and its affordability allows you to easily put together decent gift baskets for less than $50.  Single bottles can even be given as gifts; special “artistic” bottles created by vineyard artists make excellent showpieces after they have been enjoyed, and most retailers offer gift bags, boxes, and wrapping services so your present will look extraordinarily presentable!  Because gifted wines often get opened around a broad array of holiday foods, at least one wine to include in a gift basket is a Pinot Noir since it pairs adequately with most foods.  Equally good is a sparkling wine, which is always associated with festive times.  For variety’s sake, you may want to gift one of each– white, red, and sparkling wine –so that your recipient has options to choose from.  Also, you may want to consider including a rosé; though this wine is often associated with summertime, it adds a breath of fresh air to winter dinners.

Red and white wine served at dinner

Photo by Adrien Facélina

When serving wine at your holiday dinner, make sure you use proper wine glasses, and keep your wine bottles at the proper serving temperature.  It is especially important to make sure your sparkling wines are adequately chilled.  (No one likes warm Champagne!)  Whites should be chilled properly, too, but most reds can be served at cellar temperature.  To be sure your wine reaches its ideal serving temperature, consider using a Le Cache European Country 1400 wine cabinet, or a Vintage Series 2 door single-deep credenza in your dining room.  No matter the occasion, the gift of wine is one that will always be welcomed.  Happy Holidays!