Expensive Wines


Expensive Wines

Super Expensive Wines

On a Friday night, a $100 bottle of vino is a luxurious treat for most of us. We might even dare to call these “expensive wines.” But across the globe, wines have gone for six-figures, often only in part due to vintages. These extravagant bottles of wine are artifacts as much as artisanal wines, and their histories and exclusivity make them highly covetable by collectors.


T.J.’s Faves

To date, one of the most expensive bottles of wine ever sold had little to do with the wine itself. Rather, the 1787 Lafite Bordeaux—which sold for more than $156,000—was owned by America’s Founding Father-cum-wine connoisseur, Thomas Jefferson. In fact, a number of Jefferson-owned wines have fetched five figures over the last century at auction.

“Hamilton” fans will recall that Jefferson was something of a Francophile, and by all accounts, his love of France extended gratuitously to French wines. Those bottles that made it stateside are prized items to wine collectors, who have shelled out more than $50,000 for bottles from Jefferson’s cellar. And while his French vacation during the height of the American Revolution wasn’t the finest point of Jefferson’s narrative, our national wine industry owes something to his rendezvous with French Bordeaux.


Wines at Auction

As mentioned, when historical circumstances transform a bottle of wine from a tasty accompaniment to a collectible treasure, values increase exponentially. Most wine connoisseurs would concede that no mash of grapes is, on its own, worth the hefty sums that creep well into six-figures.

Auctions breed competition that drives up prices. Collectors are able to gauge the relative value of a bottle of wine amongst other educated oenophiles. The more others want it, the more expensive the wine becomes. Some of the highest values fetched at auction for wine include:

  • Chateau Lafite 1869 for $230,000

  • 1947 Cheval Blanc for $304,375

  • Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 1992 for $500,000

When it comes to record setting, you can thank charity auctions and private collectors for those insanely high dollar amounts.


“Mainstream” Champagnes

Nothing says luxury in wine quite like an egregiously priced bottle of champagne. Long heralded as the beverage of choice for celebrating in opulent style, champagne has existed in a league of it’s own.

For those interested in the high-priced champagne market (or wine in general), beware novelty bottles that are double or triple the size of a standard serving.

Some of the most expensive standard serving champagnes come from Krug Cellars. A 1992 Clos du Mesnil from these guys will run you nearly $1,000—about 75-cents per milliliter. If there’s anyone that can rival an established French cellar, however, it’s Jay-Z, whose Armand de Brignac (Ace of Spades) label makes a $500 sparkling rosé in a flashy, metallic pink bottle.

And, of course, Pérignon, Cristal and Roederer all have standard bottles in excess of $200, with novelty bottles reaching into the thousands of dollars.

A great wine or champagne need not be outrageously priced in order to please the palate. Indeed, some of the world’s best wines—including those hailing from California—are extremely budget friendly and extremely high quality. Nonetheless, it’s fascinating to understand the spectrum of costs you can encounter in a high-end market.




The Wines of the Irish


The Wines of the Irish

The Wines of the Irish

If your weekend isn’t filled with green beer, green clothes, and an absolute conviction that you’re Irish despite everything 23 and Me just told you, you may not be doing St. Patrick’s Day right. Even if you don’t technically hail from Éire, you can still get your shamrock on and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day like you know how to spell “Guinness.”

Beer flows aplenty during the celebration, but that doesn’t mean wine doesn’t have a unique and growing place in Irish culture. Ireland has the stamp of approval from the European Commission as an official wine producing country—a label that gives great legitimacy to a budding industry in a rather unexpected locale given that the climate and rocky soil tend to be anything but friendly to grapes.


Irish Wine, Then and Now

Historically speaking, there are mentions of wine in monastic writings dating back to the 400s.

Right now, you can count all of the major wine producing vineyards on two hands, and you can probably visit most of them over the course of a week. Californians, particularly those who deal with the 405, may enjoy that it takes just under 8 hours to get from the northern tip of Ireland to the southern tip. While comparable to a trip down the PCH (a 10-hour drive with no stops), it would take months to venture to all of California’s 3,600 or more wineries.

Nevertheless, we expect that winemaking will continue to grow in Ireland. The latter half of the 20th century brought a resurgence of vineyards in Ireland, and the industry seems to be finding it’s footing in a country that has traditionally kept it hoppy. Most of the operations are still too small to warrant large scale regulation, so vinophiles may find Ireland a particularly interesting case study if they’re interested in the development of a market for wines.


Where Do I Go?

Most of the wineries in Ireland are concentrated in the southwest, which situates them—relatively speaking—in the more temperate climates. If you’ve ever seen the scenic photos of foggy Ireland coasts, you’ll know that moisture is not hard to come by in humid Emerald Isles. However, harsh winters in some areas of the country makes grape growing a tricky task. There is limited sunshine, cliffs aplenty, and lots and lots of cold.

While there are vineyards outside the warmer southwest climes, the concentration of vineyards in this area will likely increase unless varietals are cultivate that can survive colder, darker climes.


What Type of Wine Can I Get?

Interestingly, the Irish still stick to the famed European grape, vinis vinifera, even though most of these vineyards fall well outside the ideal growing region for a grape that thrives in moderate and Mediterranean climates (think summering areas, like the South of France).

Sturdier red grapes, like cabernet and merlot, seem to be the most well-suited to survive a growing season and allow for a yield of wine. Like Irish beer, Irish wine is also likely to be bold and full, given the reliance on these varietals.

The Irish are also know for mead and Lusca wine, with the latter being a uniquely Irish creation.  Lusca wine hails from Lusk in North Dublin County, and it is produced at Llewellyn’s Orchard alongside famous Irish ciders. It’s a deep red wine that represents some of the most successful practices in Irish winemaking to date.

If America is any indication, a tricky history marked with plenty of failures in wine producing doesn’t mean we should stop paying attention to Ireland. Irish grape growers are learning much about what works and what doesn’t on their beloved island, and through trial and error, there’s no doubt the industrious and agriculturally skilled Irish will produce world-class wines in no time.





Primavera Pairings


Primavera Pairings

Primavera Pairings

Primavera  \ ˌprē-mə-ˈver-ə \ adj. served with a mixture of fresh vegetables (such as zucchini, snow peas, and broccoli) —usually used postpositively.

Italians classically used primavera to refer to the first of spring (the word literally means “first green”), evoking images of fresh life returning to earth after the cold, fallow winter. In contemporary parlance, primavera has become a popular food preparation celebrating the natural flavors of farm-to-table goodness.

As spring warms our sun-loving souls, welcome a season of growth with these vegetable-driven food and wine pairing ideas for a healthy brunch or a light and flavorful dinner.


Strawberry Pecan Salad and Pinot Noir

Spicy arugula, candied pecans, sweet strawberries, and a sprinkle of crumbled goat cheese makes for a bright and light salad. This flavorful salad offers sweet, peppery, and tangy notes, as well as crunchy and creamy textures for a classic warm-weather dish. Add some shaved radishes for a little extra crunch, and dress lightly with a berry vinaigrette.

The richness of pecans, strawberry and goat cheese beckons a sweet red, like a wet pinot noir or petit syrah. A juicy currant and cherry finish will play delightfully with the tanginess of the goat cheese and tart bite of strawberry.


Primavera a la Griglia and Chardonnay

The first of spring deserves a colorful tribute. Slice some zucchini, portabella mushrooms, and yellow squash. Dress lightly in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Light up the grill and throw on the veggies until tender and slightly charred. The earthy goodness of these filling and nutritious veggies makes for the perfect accompaniment for grilled seitan, salmon or steak. In true primavera fashion, you’ll enjoy these veggies unadulterated by sauces and heavy seasoning with simple, fresh flavors.

Pair with a wine that is neutral, but balanced. Tart flavors or heavy wines will drown your palate, making it difficult to appreciate the nuanced flavors of fresh vegetables. A buttery wine will keep the meal balanced and fresh, while woody undertones will enhance the earthiness of this simple side dish.


Pizza Primavera and….?

Elevate your pizza party with a fresh and fabulous flatbread full of spring vegetables. Slow roast eggplant, thin-sliced shallots, broccolini, and oyster mushrooms. Then, top a thin layer of pizza dough with ricotta, mozzarella, olive oil and these delicious veggies. Bake until the dough is crisp and the cheese is melty.

The lovely thing about pizza—and perhaps this is why it’s an enduring and beloved part of Italian cuisine—is that it can pair well with virtually any wine. The bready base, variety of toppings, tangy tomato sauce and richness of the cheese combine for enviable umami. Take your pick of wines as you craft your custom pizza primavera.

These ideas are just the beginning of your perfect vegetable pairings for the spring season. Don’t be afraid to brighten up your world with colorful medleys of fresh-from-the-earth creations in the form of pastas, stir fry, and even vegetable paninis. Along the way, experiment with fresh and fruity accompaniments from the vine.





Book Review: Judgment of Paris

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Book Review: Judgment of Paris

Book Review: Judgment of Paris

Every legend has something that propelled it into glory. For Fitzgerald, it was This Side of Paradise. For The Beatles, it was Love Me Do. Even California wines can trace their preeminence back to a single event: The Paris Wine Tasting of 1976.

Judgment of Paris gives wine lovers a little bit of everything they love—history, nuance, and even some exclusivity. The book’s author, journalist George Taber, was the only reporter present at the sip heard ‘round the world, and this book dives even deeper into the cultural forces and human stories that brought California wines to the forefront.


What You’ll Love

The ingredients aren’t, at first glance, what one might expect in a gripping read. Simply put, the story revolves around a taste test of wines—something most of us can do on any given night at a local cellar. What elevates this historical retelling is the unexpectedness of the consequences of a blind taste test and the triumphant “underdog” story that emerged.

Taber brings the tale to life with real world characters—the mark of an effective journalist who has transitioned well to book pages from periodicals. The Time alum brings to life something that sounds like a dinner table tall tale: a local wine shop in Cite Berryer arranges a blind testing of American and French reds and whites. As reputation went, French wine was going to be the clear winner, especially given the picky and informed French judges.

In the foreground, readers get to enjoy the tale of the test taste and the surprising and resounding American win with California wines. In the subplots, readers will learn all about the wineries that put California wines on the map and turned centuries of vinicultural superiority on its head. And in the background is Taber’s own tale, which is dressed in the whimsy and happenstance that would belie a historical and momentous change in American wine.

The first person account and passion-fueled historical development makes for an engaging journey through the events that have shaped the contemporary global wine industry. The writing evokes the European opulence and elegance that shrouded French wine in an untouchable mystique, eventually casting the bright light of the California sun on new wine superstars. With a polished, but accessible style, Taber will keep you entertained.


What You’ll Learn

The book title itself references something mythological: a Trojan War tale about Paris of Troy who judged the most beautiful among three goddesses. His decision didn’t exactly earn him any favors with Hera (a contender, and goddess supreme), and hijinks ensued.

With this allusion, the book touches on broader themes. Yes, it’s a competition with unexpected outcomes, but moreover, those outcomes have unexpectedly world-changing consequences. You’ll learn how Taber’s piece made waves when it was published in Time by subverting international expectations in what seemed to be a low-stakes wager at a small cellar in Paris.

And, of course, you’ll see how this spark of recognition of the excellence of West Coast wine catapulted California’s wine growing industry into an even more thriving, successful, and (deservedly) globally respected market. Any moments of lagging in the story are made up for by the colorful anecdotes and juicy details that could only be told by the man who was “in the room where it happened.”

Wine lovers will gulp down this important story with ease and delight, and they definitely won’t be bore-deaux.




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President's Day Wine


President's Day Wine

A Very Brief History of Wine

It’s probably a little bit unsettling to entertain the idea of libations anywhere near the quills that were endorsing the Declaration of Independence (which Sam Adams signed), or even a flagon of wine in Constitutional Convention.

As we come up on another President’s Day, let us hearken back to the days when we threw tea into Boston Harbor, stayed far away from town wells during cholera season, and took baths a couple of times a year. Let us return to an America without a Napa, Sonoma or—we can barely speak of it!—Malibu.

Wine has been a staple beverage since the earliest days of American colonialism, even in the early 1600s. Eight ounces of alcohol was not abnormal for a New Englander, and wines—from Madeira to port to sherry—were commonplace on dinner tables throughout the colonies. The stronger the better—these stiff , fortified wines could make the long Atlantic voyage from the continent without spoiling. Unfortunately, native grapes didn’t prove to make the best wine, and it took a bit before folks around these parts figured out how to work the terroir.

New York state’s Brotherhood Winery holds the honor of being the oldest continuously operating vineyard in the nation, but Founding Fathers dabbled in viticulture themselves. Thomas Jefferson was a known lover of wine who attempted to start a vineyard of his own at his famous Monticello estate in Virginia. In fact, Virginia might have been a wine colony if tobacco hadn’t proven more lucrative and a tad easier to grow. Not to mention, dependably fresh water was a bit hard to come by in those days.  Virginia remains a vibrant wine-growing region in the eastern United States, largely due to Jefferson’s influence and investment in wine culture. Jefferson was sommelier to the early presidents, and one of his lasting contributions to the White House was a decked out cellar.

As more and more Europeans flocked to the New World, they brought with them knowledge of winemaking and vine-tending that had created their beloved European wines from vinifera grapes. None of this knowledge was much good for overcoming the temperamental east coast weather and phylloxera aphids that made growing palatable European grapes a nightmarish endeavor.

Despite these difficulties, the average colonial American drank about a gallon of wine per year, and about 40 gallons of spirited drinks total. Wine in particular was viewed as an investment in one’s health—a colonial wives’ tale that has actually gained some credibility as scientists have learned more about grape goodness. By the mid-1800s, Americans were learning how to work their native grapes and create something pretty delicious. And, today, of course, the Great American West is home to some of the most enviable wine in the world—stuff that would make Mr. Jefferson pretty proud.

Celebrate this President’s Day with a toast to America wine history, and explore the many great wine-making regions across the country. Three cheers for the red, white and blue!




Classic Wine & Chocolate Pairings


Classic Wine & Chocolate Pairings

Classic Wine and Chocolate Pairings

Regardless of your feelings about Valentine’s Day, it’s at least a solid excuse to drink some wine and eat some chocolate (preferably together). Despite this ultra popular pairing, the nuances of pairing a rich confection with robust wine can make even the experience vinophile a little uneasy.

If you’re showering your sweetheart, or perhaps celebrating singleness, these wine and chocolate pairings are sure to fill your heart with happiness.


Milk Chocolate and Pinot Noir

Milk chocolate, according to FDA (yes, they get to regulate chocolate), must at least 10% chocolate liquor and about 15% milk product. We’re not trying to figure out what makes up the other 75%, but suffice it to say milk chocolate is the smooth-sweet-silky balance that has made chocolate the devil’s food.

A sweet, yet balanced chocolate needs an equally balanced wine. Look for a more rounded sweetness—the kind that comes from currants, raisins, and cherry. These richer sugars will please picky palettes. Find a juicy pinot noir that’s had a minute to breathe; you’ll avoid having too much heaviness in your mouth, and the chocolate will playfully dance with the berry and vanilla notes that make the quintessential pinot noir.


Dark Chocolate and Cabernet Sauvignon

Interestingly, the FDA doesn’t dictate what qualifies as dark chocolate. However, dark chocolate is almost universally less sweet than milk chocolates, with much more bitter finish. Less sweetness means a more subtle flavor—one that highlights the subtle nuttiness hidden in cacao that can only be appreciated as dark chocolate melts away on your tongue.

This chocolate can almost certainly withstand a more robust wine. The bittersweet chocolate pairs well with spicy, woody cabernet for a depth-of-flavor explosion. Alternate a sip of cabernet with a small bite of dark chocolate that you let slowly dissolve in your mouth. The melting of the chocolate is similar tasting experience to a slow sip of wine, where different layers of flavor will open up on your palate over time.

White Chocolate and Chardonnay

You won’t find chocolate liquor in white chocolate. Instead, you’ll find rich cocoa butter blended with milk, sugar and other flavors. The vanilla flavor in white chocolate comes through much more without the potent cocoa notes.

White chocolate calls for something equally buttery and balanced. Find a wet, honeyed chardonnay with a smooth, buttered finish.


Chocolate Covered Strawberries and Sparkling Wine

Yes—it’s a bit of a cheat. But we’d be remiss to leave out this romantic favorite. Fresh, tart strawberries dipped in a thin layer of chocolate are a fun burst of flavor with a wonderfully sweet finish—much like a delightful sparkling Riesling, full of effervescent sweetness.  

No matter which pairing you choose, we wish you happy matchmaking…with wine and chocolate, anyway.





Tips for Pairing Wine and Fish


Tips for Pairing Wine and Fish

The Mediterranean Diet made headlines again in 2018 as the world’s healthiest diet. And I’m not mad about it. Olive oil, red wine, cous cous, salmon, yogurt, nuts. Did I mention wine?

Many of the more traditional Mediterranean diet plans barely even make mention of meat—especially beef or poultry. This should come as no surprise, because the rocky Mediterranean coastline doesn’t afford much open grazing ground for cows and the like, but it offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy Neptune’s bounty.

If healthier eating is on your list this year, and giving up wine isn’t, allow us to proffer some suggestions for excellent tips fish and wine pairings that will let you have your cake and eat it, too…so to speak.

Consult Your Herbs and Spices

How you’re preparing your fish may be the most influential factor in selecting an accompanying wine. Are you going for a classic dill and lemon butter? Or perhaps a salty olive sauce? Skin on and seared? Fish has so much versatility, and this is perhaps its best and most intimidating quality. The blank canvas of such a lean and healthy protein means virtually no wine is actually off limits, despite some purist opinions.

If you’re going for a heartier grilled menu, red wine will stand up just fine with most fish since there will be plenty of woody, smoky flavor, especially if you grill your fish on a plank. Pinots and Syrahs are excellent places to start. The same holds true for a sesame crusted tuna steak, where extra texture and earthy flavors will bear a more savory wine. If, however, citrus and aromatic herbs, like thyme are on your menu, you might want to consider a Riesling or rosé.

Let your flavors guide you, and dare to be creative in the kitchen.

Texture Troubles

Fish varies wildly in texture and consistency unlike any turf-eating eating animal. Poultry, like chicken and turkey, present similar textural profiles across the board. But because there are so many species of edible fish, home chefs are blessed and cursed with choice overload and nuanced differences in texture that can cause a wine-clash.

Fish are most easily categorized as lean or fatty, much like cuts of steak. Lean fish include white, flaky favorites like grouper, tilapia, and mahi mahi. Tuna is also a lean fish. Fatty fish include salmon, herring, Chilean sea bass and even sardines and anchovies. These fish often—but not always—have a firmer texture and slightly richer natural flavor.

Harmony is key to avoid a faux pas. Heavier wines with bolder profiles are better suited for heartier fish. You’ll find that a nice Chilean sea bass, pan-fried with skin, will feel like a natural fit with a pinot noir, because—while flaky—it has a firmer texture that can contend with sturdier wines. Very tender fish with a smaller flake will generally be lighter on the palate, needing a lighter bodied accompaniment.

Surf and Turf

If you’re afraid of diving into the deep blue sea on your first attempt and pairing wine and fish on your own, choose another meat to bolster the menu—one you know well. Pick a wine you know and love, and a traditional chicken, pork or steak pairing that you can rely on. Then, do your best to prepare a fish dish minding the flavor and texture guidelines above that will go along swimmingly (too much?).

Confidence is key in the kitchen, and experimenting often leads to rewarding discoveries. If it doesn’t work out, you can certainly try again. Worst case scenario, even if the fish presents a challenge, you’ll have wine by your side.




Valentine's Day is for (Wine) Lovers


Valentine's Day is for (Wine) Lovers

The most romantic of all holidays, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love and affection. The typical gifts exchanged on this day include candy, flowers and cards.  Not that there’s anything wrong with gifts like these, but if  you’re looking for something a little different that is sure to delight your favorite wine lover, consider one or two of these options.


Gifts for the practical oenophile

Wine charms are always a perfect gift for anyone who loves wine and likes to host parties. These conversation heart wine charms add a unique accent to any soiree. Pair them with a full-bodied red, and you’re sure to score some points.

Celebrate the two of you with the You & Me Photo Frame Wine Topper. Slide in a 4x6 (or smaller) picture of you and your loved one into the frame to let them know how much they mean to you.

Consider commemorating the day with your favorite vintage bearing a custom label or custom engraving. You can share the wine and keep the bottle to remind you of that special day.


A taste of the romantic

Aphrodisiac pairings are a perfect way to make the most of your Valentine’s Day celebration. Consider starting off your evening with the most famous aphrodisiac, raw oysters and classic mignonette paired with a bright Cava. 

Valentine’s Day and chocolate are almost a given. While chocolate is considered an aphrodisiac, the typical waxy offerings found in drugstore Valentine’s hearts are as sexy as a cardboard box. Brix chocolate offers quality candy specially formulated to pair with wine. Their website will guide you toward the perfect chocolate and wine pairing.


Experience the love

There is nothing more romantic than surprising your special someone with an adventure. It doesn’t need to be extravagant, but it should  include a good bottle of wine. Surprise your love by blindfolding them (get their approval) and leading them to a romantic lunch set up in the backyard. Make sure to have a good bottle of Prosecco DOC chilling. It’s a simple and delicious accompaniment to a light midday meal.

A picnic hike to a secluded spot with an incredible view is a great way to surprise your special someone (or perhaps a visit to the idyllic Saddlerock Ranch!). Consider packing no-fuss charcuterie and bread as they can be enjoyed without the hassle of utensils and plates. A light bodied Beaujolais or Italian Lambrusco will pair well with the spicy salami, fatty prosciutto and rich cheeses.

If your goal is to impress your lover right out of their pants, treat them to a romantic lunch or dinner ride on the historic Napa Valley wine train. You and your special someone can experience the luxurious comfort of antique pullman cars while enjoying a sumptuous meal as the the lush Napa landscape rolls by.


According to the Wine Train website, highlights include: 


●      Welcome glass of sparkling wine

●      Multiple course Napa-style gourmet meal

●      Journey on the Wine Train

●      Strolling violinist on dinner tour

●      Private tour and tasting (winery tours only)

No matter who your special someone is, let them know on Valentine’s Day and every day that they are special to you.




Conversation heart charms

You and Me photo wine topper

Custom label or engraved bottle

Raw oysters and mignonette

Brix chocolate

Adventure wine tote


Wine and Chill


Wine and Chill

Enjoying a refreshing, perfectly chilled glass of wine is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Postponing your enjoyment for one or two hours while it chills in the refrigerator is not -- especially after a long day.

Of course, wine stores have coolers where they keep a few bottles, and you could easily purchase one of those. But, what if they haven’t stocked your favorite Sauvignon Blanc? What do you do?


Kick it old school in a pinch.

There are plenty of ways to get your wine quickly and perfectly chilled at home without adding ice to your glass. (Imagine diluting your drink and changing the flavor. The horror!) You can speed up the time it takes for a bottle to chill with items you may already have on hand.

The paper towel method--Soak two to three paper towels in cold water. They should be wet, but not dripping. Wrap them around the bottle and place in the freezer. Expect to enjoy your chilled bottle in 20 to 30 minutes

The salt and ice water method--Caterers and restaurants have used this method for years. Fill a bowl or wine bucket with ice and add enough water to cover. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of salt over the ice and give it a good stir. Next, immerse your bottle in the bath. Within 30 minutes, you should have a chilled bottle of wine. Added tip: this is a great method for quickly icing down multiple warm drinks for a party. Just remember to increase the amount of salt.

Frozen grapes--Here’s a tip. When you buy grapes at the grocery store, place a handful in a zipper bag and throw them in the freezer. You’ll have them on hand for the next time you’re in this predicament and you can enjoy a glass while the remainder of the bottle cools down in the fridge or freezer.

Innovative alternatives? Yes, please!

If 30 minutes is still too long to wait, you may want to invest in a countertop rapid chiller. These easy-to-use small appliances work along the same premise as the ice and water method, but don’t require salt and take a lot less time.

The Epicurianist Quick Chill Wine Bucket looks like a space-age ice bucket with color-changing LED lights. The bucket comes with two sized bottle holders that can accomodate the 750 ML bottle and the larger 1.5 L. Place the bottle in the bucket (make sure you use the correct holder) add water and ice, set the timer, and in 15 minutes, you’re ready to enjoy.

Still too long? Cooper Cooler offers a range of quick chillers that can get your bottle perfect in six minutes. Simply place the bottle in the holder, add water and ice, close the lid and press the “bottle” button. The chiller gets your wine at a tasty temperature in no time. It cools down other drinks as well, with canned beverages chilling in a speedy one minute! One considerable drawback is that larger bottles of wine and some sparkling wines may not fit in the unit.

Whether you use the DIY wine chilling method or invest in a time-saving appliance, waiting hours for a perfectly chilled bottle is a thing of the past. You’re welcome!


Epicurianist Quick Chill Wine Bucket

Cooper Cooler


Wedding Wine Considerations


Wedding Wine Considerations

With so many decisions when planning a wedding -- guest lists, wedding dress, flowers, ceremony, oh my! -- a bride-to-be can feel overwhelmed. Choosing wine that you and your fianc(e)é (and guests) will love doesn’t have to add to the stress. We can help you ease into making your reception an amazing celebration of your nuptials.


Keep it simple.


Traditional wisdom suggests people drink more red wine during the fall, winter and spring, and white during summer and on hot days. But, with the rising popularity of white wines consumed throughout the year, you may want to consider varietals that pair well with your menu rather than selecting based on the season.


Wines that work well with a variety of food include light, refreshing whites such as a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc and  crisp fruity reds such as a Pinot Noir or Gamay (also known as a Beaujolais). Rosés are also quite popular and very drinkable, so you may want to include it as a third offering. Also, if you’re planning a toast, a mild champagne or prosecco would be your best option. You can learn more about sparkling wines in this post. [link to previous sparkling wines blog post]


Even so, it’s a good idea to make your wine selections at the same time as your menu. Ask your caterer if they offer pairings when you schedule your tasting. If not, they should be able to offer suggestions. Remember, you do not have to trust their selections blindly, choose varietals you love. Your caterer should be able to help you track down specific wines, so definitely ask.


So, how much should we have?


Nobody wants to run out of wine at their wedding! To prevent this, figure a 750 ML bottle has enough wine for five glasses, so one bottle per person should be plenty. You’ll also want red to make up half of the supply and white the other half. If you’re also serving a rosé, consider splitting the total three ways or have rosé make up 20% of the total, with white and red coming in at 40% each.


If you also plan to serve beer or liquor, the calculation becomes somewhat close to playing the stock market (at least for the mathematically challenged among us). This online calculator [link:https://www.evite.com/pages/party/drink-calculator] will help you figure out exactly how much you need.


Now, about that toast… Go ahead and figure this separately. Take into account one bottle for five people with a full glass. However, if your going with a toast pour, figure one bottle for seven to nine people. 


Let’s talk budget.


You’ll want to estimate the wine to be about 15% of your reception budget. Additionally, there are a few things to consider: If you buy your wine through your caterer (they may include it in their price), expect the cost per bottle to be the same as you’d find in a restaurant. The additional amount will cover the service and help to defray the cost of food.


Deciding to buy the wine yourself is an option. Wine retailers typically give a discount of 10% on each case, so you can get some good deals. However, if your caterer has a corking fee, you may not be saving much on a $7 bottle. It’s a good idea to look at all your options before deciding. This calculator will help. [llink: http://www.thealcoholcalculator.com/?config=LargeWedding] In addition to giving quantities, it shows the approximate cost.


No matter what you serve at your reception, your wedding day is a celebration of you and your fiancé. So, raise your glass and cherish every moment.




Coolest Corkscrews


Coolest Corkscrews

Coolest Corkscrews for the Money

We’ve all experienced the exquisite agony of a situation like this. Good friends are due to arrive for dinner any minute. It’s time to pull out that robust Cabernet Sauvignon you’ve been saving for the occasion. As you start open the bottle to let it ‘breathe,’ the corkscrew breaks. Good thing you have a back up… right?

Wine openers are an essential, and sometimes overlooked, part of enjoying wine. No matter how amazing the varietal promises to be, there is no way to enjoy it without first opening the bottle. So, if you’re looking to buy a new opener for yourself or as a gift, we’ve scoured the internet to find the coolest corkscrews your money can buy.


Classic or traditional corkscrew

Consisting of a spiral (often called the worm) attached to a handle, this is the oldest and most straightforward design, with the first known patent dating back to 1795.

It’s simple to use. Just screw the worm into the cork, then pull on the handle until it pops out. While this style requires a good bit of arm strength, the design options for the handle can make it a worthwhile and stylish addition to your wine cabinet.

Featuring an intricately gnarled grape vine root, this vintage corkscrew from France is a showpiece you’ll want to display.



Waiter’s corkscrew

Also called a wine key, this design adds leverage to make pulling out the cork easier. It’s compact and portable, which means it’s easy for wait staff or sommelier to carry around. These openers come in single and double-hinged versions, but you’ll want the added ease of the double hinge. It  also requires a bit of practice as it’s easy to insert the worm off center, which could result in a broken cork.

If you’re looking for design-forward options, RBT launched a sleek barware collection in the fall of 2016. With clean lines and superior quality, they have managed to reimagine and elevate the humble waiter’s corkscrew.



Winged Corkscrew

This classic is easily the most widely recognized opener. Certainly every wine mom in America had one at one time. It’s a great option for synthetic cork removal as it tends to leave behind cork crumbs when used on brittle corks of vintage wines. However, because the guide fits over the bottle, there is less of a learning curve as there is with the waiter’s corkscrew.

Again, RBT comes through with another option from their exquisite 2016 barware collection. There is no recognizable elements of the original winged version, but the quality and minimalist design are worth the investment.



Lever Corkscrew

Hands-down , the lever corkscrew is the easiest manual handheld corkscrew. In one fluid push- up- pull-down motion, you can extract any cork.

Rabbit is by far the leader in lever corkscrew manufacturing. Their impressive, VIP model js made of die-cast metal and comes with a leather presentation case and a 10-year warranty.

If you have a bar in your home, you may want to consider the Estate table mounted wine opener. With a antique bronze finish and table (or wooden stand) mounting options, it creates the feeling of a winery tasting room.



Electric Corkscrew

It doesn’t get any easier with an electric corkscrew; if you can press a button, you can open a bottle of wine.

The rechargeable, cordless opener by Oster is rated best in this category. Featuring an ergonomic design, and sturdy construction it can open 30 bottles on one charge.


Wine corkscrews and openers can range in style and price. What’s most important is finding the right one for you. Good luck and happy hunting.




Sparkling Wines 101


Sparkling Wines 101

Brut? Cava? Prosecco?

Searching the sparkling wine section of the wine aisle can feel like learning a new language (or maybe three new languages). Luckily, sparkling wines are about as distinct in their flavor profiles as white wines at large, offering a range of sweetness and dryness for any pairing, palate or occasion.


Isn’t it all just Champagne?

As our French cousins would say, “Non.” Champagne is a designation given to wines grown specifically in the champagne region of France. There are a litany of requirements wine must meet in order to earn the champagne label. This designation has serious international respect, so pay close attention to usage.  However, there are a few main types of champagne, which are generally categorized by sugar content.

Most champagne you and I enjoy is of the “brut” variety. In this context, brut roughly translates to “dry,” which is the most characteristic quality of this nutty, woody sparkling white wine. It’s a clean, effervescent sip with a crisp bite at the end. From Next comes extra dry, which is basically, a slightly juicier brut. From there, we get into the sec and demi-sec varieties, which are appreciably sweeter without the “cotton swab” finish. The French round out their champagne varietals with doux, which has the highest sugar content among bubblies.


So what about Riesling?

For Riesling, we’ll go a little east on the continent to our German friends. Riesling grapes are grown in the Rhine region of central Europe, and they produce a sweet, fruity wine loved around the world. While Rieslings present complexity and profiles with as much variety as Pinot Grigios or Chardonnays, they often lack any sort of woody note and tend to stay sweet and aromatic. Rieslings are known to be light wines, and when carbonated, they can be counted on for a sweet sip after dinner.


Then what is sparkling wine, stateside?

If you weren’t already making it and calling it champagne prior to 2006, your carbonated white wine legally can’t be called champagne. So, more likely than not, the sparkling wine label is there for a white wine made mostly with chardonnay grapes that is fermented a second time in the bottle for the bubbles.


Talk to me about prosecco and cava, then.

Yes, good topics. Prosecco is a staple sparkling wine that is getting more popular all the time. Hailing from Italy, prosecco is sweet and light, often used to create refreshing drinks like bellinis. This fizzy Italian wine is fermented the second time in tanks, rather than in the bottle, giving it a more subtle carbonation.

Cava, on the other hand, can be difficult to distinguish from a brut or extra dry champagne. Made with white grapes in Spain, cava has become a fierce competitor in the sparkling wine industry, typically offering drinkers an analogous flavor profile for a lower price.

If you can get these basic categories down and create some visual map in your mind, the “champagne section” might be a little less scary next time you venture down to grab a celebratory bottle.  American sparkling whites, French champagne, and Spanish cava offer similar flavor profiles—a dry white wine with a crisp effervescence. Prosecco and Riesling, however, are there for a much juicier, sweeter experience with the bubbly effect that symbolizes celebration.



Wine in Cultural Traditions


Wine in Cultural Traditions

Wine has united cultures and marked celebratory occasions since its creation millennia ago. While the process for making wine largely transcends cultures, its purpose in specific celebrations and its symbolism vary widely. As we move into the height of the holiday season, folks around the world will be enjoying wine in the special traditions that mark the end of a year or the beginning of a time of remembrance. Here’s a glimpse at how wine plays a role in a few prominent cultural traditions.


Wine in Judaism


Yes, Manischewitz is the icon of popular kosher wine, but it is by no means the only one out there. In the Jewish faith, “kosher” simply denotes adherence to certain processes for cultivating the ingredients and, in the case of wine, for producing it as well. Kosher wine thus serves a ceremonial importance in many Jewish holidays, including the Passover and Purim. By being kosher, the wine represents a sort of purity and tradition. It is often blessed before it is drank, and typically accompanies a symbolic feast where dishes reflect the oral traditions and recorded history of the Jewish people surrounding a particular holiday. While kosher wine may well be a part of meals during Hanukkah, the 8-day holiday is actually not considered one of the most prevalent in the faith.


Wine for Kwanzaa


Kwanzaa is akin to the American thanksgiving tradition in that it has its origins in celebrating the first harvest, but the 7-day pan-African celebration is focused on the values of unity, self-determination, responsibility, cooperation, purpose, creativity and faith. Various customs and practices are carried on throughout the holiday, each one paying homage to these values in their symbolic importance. Kikomba cha umoja, or “the unity cup,” is a cup used on the sixth day of Kwanzaa in a special feast. Very often, this cup is filled with wine and passed around to foster unity and remembrance.


Wine for Carnival


For some Catholic adherents, carnival may have lost some of its err…verve in modern times, but in many cultures, it is still one of the most celebratory festivals of the year. While its origins are largely uncertain, we do know that carnival (or carnaval or carnivale, depending on where you find yourself) precedes the season of fasting for Lent. Historically, carnival was a period of excess, fun, and lots and lots of wine. Today, these traditions carry on with parades and libations at festivals like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Carnival represented something of an inversion, where people from all classes and walks of life celebrated together—a power wine still seems to have, well past the medieval origins of carnival.


Wine in Chinese Holidays


Traditional Chinese culture is particularly wedded to ideals of family, loyalty, and togetherness. Many holidays and festivals focus on remembering ancestors, which can be a bittersweet experience. Thus, wine often figures as way to depart from cultural norms of emotional guardedness and experience the feelings that come with recalling those who have come before you in your family.  


From celebrating to commemorating, wine remains an integral part of diverse traditions. May it continue to bring us all to a table where we feel welcomed and loved. 


Holiday Wine Cocktails


Holiday Wine Cocktails

Holiday Wine Cocktails

It’s quite likely that after a time-warping night around the globe, hopping in and out of chimneys, Santa and the missus like to unwind with a nice holiday cocktail—something sweet and fun to celebrate another successful year of joy-spreading and whatnot. As the holidays approach, and you feel like you’ve stopped at every gift shop from Malibu to Laguna, a little Christmas cheer in a glass might be in order for you, too.

Get creative in the cocktail kitchen with some of these cheery classics with a holiday twist.  You can wow your friends, or simply wow yourself with a gift that goes down easy. Each one features a wine-based ingredient that will add some magic to your mixing this season.


Winter Wonderland Cosmo

1 ½  parts vodka

¼  part orange liqueur

1 part white cranberry juice

¼ part Riesling

Cranberries for garnish

Shake with ice and double strain into a martini glass. Top with Riesling.

This cosmo concoction is a festive, slightly less sweet take on a staple bar drink. It’s so delicious, you might feel like you’re on the nice list. White cranberry juice adds milder flavor, and the cloudy while color makes this drink look like it’s frosted with a snowy glow.


Vieux Carre Christmas

3/4 part rye whiskey.

3/4 part Cognac or port wine (fortified red wine)

1/2 part sweet vermouth (fortified red wine)

¼ part Fernet Branca (or Mente, if you love peppermint)

1 tsp Bénédictine liqueur

1 dash Peychaud's Bitters

1 dash angostura bitters.

Peppermint Stick for garnish

The Vieux Carre is a challenging and rewarding drink, and we’re pushing it a little further with a festive splash of complex Fernet.

Dubious? Whiskey holds up to minty flavors surprisingly well.  This stiff whiskey drink will warm you up, and with the intensity of flavors packed into the bitters, vermouth and Fernet, notes of herb and spice mellowed by your favorite rye will help you have a merry little Christmas. Fernet definitely packs a punch, so experiment with how much you enjoy the flavor profile, and you can reduce the vermouth accordingly if you’d like to add more. Stir this one over ice and serve on the rocks.


Joyeux Noel ‘75

1 part gin

½ part lemon juice

2 parts champagne (or sparkling white wine)

3 dashes of rosemary infused-simple syrup

It’s like a French 75, but better. Make your fresh rosemary syrup by brining 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, and at least ¼ cup of rosemary leaves to a slow boil.  Simmer for a minute, then remove from heat to rest for about a half hour. Strain the leaves out.

Then, mix the gin, lemon, and syrup in a shaker of ice. Shake, shake, shake. Pour into a champagne flute and top with your favorite bubbly. Swap out the lemon garnish for a spring of rosemary. It’s aromatic and positively festive.
Experiment with your syrup to add some other interesting flavors, like sage or star anise, which are sure to dance like sugarplum fairies with the gin.


Cheers you and yours this holiday season!



How Do You Drink Your Wine: Glass, Mug or Bottle?


How Do You Drink Your Wine: Glass, Mug or Bottle?

Once upon a time, people drank wine out of flagons, horns, and even animal skin. Nowadays, we’ve almost all transitioned over to the wine glass. But let’s face it: not everyone is about the delicate stem and breakable glass, despite how much these qualities can aid in maximum enjoyment. At home, we’ve all got something we’ll drink wine out of when nobody is looking.

So, what does your preferred wine container say about you?


Sweet, Spooky and Tasty Halloween Cocktail Recipes


Sweet, Spooky and Tasty Halloween Cocktail Recipes

Halloween Inspired Cocktails

On the night when the spirits come out to play, it’s also important to have some devilishly good spirits to help you sip the night away. Halloween is the best time to play make-believe, but you should never be faking it when you’re signing up to be the bartender at your next spooky shindig. Instead, wow your ghoulish guests with these kitschy, yet delicious themed cocktails.


Mulled Wine

Witch’s Word

Lighted Jack-O-Lantern


Be The Wine To Your Friends


Be The Wine To Your Friends

The nature of drinking and eating lend to speaking from the heart, making new friends and enjoying the company of old friends. We let our guards down and we're open to all kinds of thoughts. The whole experience makes for a very heartfelt experience.

After the toughest of months America has had to face, let's give cheers to the people we turn to drink with in order to let loose, bond and reflect.


It's Crush Season (Harvest Season)


It's Crush Season (Harvest Season)

While harvest season mostly evokes images of a horn-of-plenty filled with squashes and autumn vegetables, it’s also a poignant time in the year of a winemaker when all the careful cultivation comes to an end.

After the warm, humid summer brings ripening to the vineyard (a time your wine enthusiast friends might call “veraison”), harvest season marks the transition from growing to mashing, fermenting and aging. Starting in September, wine growers north of the equator begin the process of de-graping the vines and getting ready for the fermentation and aging process that turns a sweet fleshy fruit into one of the worlds most beloved beverages: wine.


Fall Into Style Guide


Fall Into Style Guide

As always, we’re here for you as you prep your wardrobe for the cozy climes of autumn. This season, we’re taking a page from a high fashion eye in cinema with a style guide inspired by the wardrobe from Tom Ford’s adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man. This timeless, yet relevant fall look will give you all the sophistication you need with all the simplicity you desire. 


5 Leading Ladies Who Love Wine (Almost) More Than You


5 Leading Ladies Who Love Wine (Almost) More Than You

The “wino” has a long been invoked as an archetype to provide comic relief and often much needed wisdom that rises above the chaos of life like cork in a glass of wine. Nowadays, however, it's not just comedic characters who carry wine like a handbag. In addition to ladies who make us laugh, T.V. has brought some strong and even frightening femme fatales to the small screen.

Let’s highlight some all-time favorite wine-loving ladies.