Monthly Archives: May 2011

Wine With Me Tackles Wine Riot

Wine Riot- Chicago  2011

This past weekend, Lissette and I went to a wine tasting event called Wine Riot. There were over 250 wines to taste. This may seem like an outrageous number of wines and it is true that it would be very difficult to taste them all, but events like this are a great opportunity to try a lot of wine and really figure out what you like in a wine and what you don’t. You’ll probably leave with a pretty good list of wines you now know you like. Plus these events are really fun!

If you go in prepared to just have a small taste of a lot of different wines, you can work your way through a good portion of the wines. Lissette and I tried approximately 50 wines at Wine Riot and no, we were not drunk by the end! The way to get the most out of an event like this is to just have a sip of each wine you try and dump the rest. The goal is to taste the wine, see if the nuances and flavors are what you are looking for and then move on to the next wine. If there is one you really love, by all means drink it up. Just remember the more pours you finish, the less wines you will be able to taste. (For tips on tasting wine read our post How to Taste Wine)

Wine Riot had something for everyone; sweet, dry, red, white, rose, dessert, sparkling- you name it. With an event that has so much going on, it is important to have a game plan. Lissette and I decided we would start off tasting whites and then move on to reds. We had no illusions that we would make it through every wine at the event, so we decided to pick out regions in which we were interested and hit up those tables. We spent time at the Italian, French, German, Spanish, South African, Michigan, and Illinois booths.  We also tried a few California, South American and Australian wines. We even tried a Croatian wine and a Bosnian Wine.  Second Glass, the sponsors of Wine Riot, had a handy iPhone app that made checking off the wine you liked and taking notes on them very fast and easy. Nice work Second Glass! Read the rest of this entry


How to Taste Wines

I’ve been noticing that more and more wine shops and even big box stores are having wine tastings. Most of these places have an agenda to push. Wine Shops carry wines that you can’t find in stores like like  Binny’s, BevMo, Safeway, or Whole Foods. These smaller shops want you to buy what you can’t find anywhere else.  And bigger stores like Binny’s bring in a distributor who only wants you to buy from the selection they carry and are putting out for you to taste. I’m not against agenda pushing but remember you have to buy wine that you like and just because the wine rep says its the best thing you’ll taste doesn’t mean it is. But how will you know if something is good if you don’t know how to properly taste a wine. Here are a few steps to help you.

First things first. Hold you glass by the stem. Your hand can warm the liquid. It happens all the time with beer but with wine you have a choice.

Sight: Look at the wine. Slightly tilt your glass (by the stem) toward the light if possible and if possible against something white or pale. Is the wine clear or cloudy?

White wine: The older the wine the more golden in color it’ll be. The  younger the wine the pale yellow almost green.

Red Wine: These vary in color but a younger wine is usually a bright red color. You may even notice a reddish-brown around the edges. If its an older wine you’ll notice more brown color. Think of the color of a brick (has red in it).

Swirl: Its not just to make you look snotty. There is a purpose to this. I promise. Take your glass by its stem and gently swirl for a few seconds.

Doing this will allow oxygen into the wine. Swirling will release the aroma.

Notice how quickly the movement of the wine. If the wine is easy to swirl it means you have less alcohol and if it moves slowly it means it has more alcohol.

Notice the streaks also called legs of the wine has left on the glass. This will help you determine the body of the wine and alcohol as well. More legs left behind more alcohol.

This happens with red wine. If you notice that you have a red coating that means more alcohol is present as well.

Smell: The isn’t an exact science to this so my best advice is to tip your glass by the stem and inhale. What do you smell? Fruit, floral, woody, spicy?

Taste: My favorite part is the taste of course! Now some people make the mistake of sipping right away. What you should do let the wine sit in your mouth. I usually roll my tongue to ensure it coats my tongue to get range of flavor.

The tip of your tongue will pick up the sweetness, the inner side will pick up the acidity, the outer sides will pick up saltiness, and the back will pick up the bitterness and alcohol.

Some people will spit the wine out especially if you have several wines or wineries to go to. Some drink it but do yourself a favor after don’t drink all of it or you’ll get drunk too quickly and then wines will just blend together.

If you like the wine sip it again and then dump the rest in the bucket. You can buy a bottle if you love it. If you don’t’ like it just dump it. In both cases move on the other wines and repeat the process. Side note you don’t need a new glass for every wine. As long as you move from light to dark the one glass that is given to you is what should be used.

Remember: Don’t buy the wine unless you love it. It’ll be a waste of your time and money if you buy it to appease the rep or the wine shop.

Check our your local wine shop sites or big box stores for wine tastings.


Online Wine Deals. Are They Really a Deal?

Lately you may have noticed a lot of deals on sites like Groupon and Living Social for online wine shops. These deals seem too good to be true. $30 for $60 worth of fine wine? Yes please!  But as great as these deals sound, are they really good deals?

After looking a little closer at some of these “deals” I’ve noticed a few things to pay attention to.

1.)   What is the wine selection like?

I’ve noticed that a lot of times, these sites have a very limited selection of wine and often, I have not heard of one wine on the site. Always check out the website before you purchase a deal for an online wine retailer. If it’s all wine you could buy at the local grocery store, then it’s probably not a good deal. If you’ve never heard of any of the wines, you might want to do a little more research on the wines to make sure they are wines you would want to purchase.

 2.)    Is Shipping included? How much does shipping cost?

Often the value of your coupon can NOT be used towards shipping. Shipping can be extremely expensive on these sites so make sure you know what additional money you’ll have to shell out to use your coupon. Read the rest of this entry

How to Store Wine

Some wines have stood the test of time. While vintage wines are a rare thing to today’s wine drinker its still important to store you wine properly.  Most people store their wines on top of the refrigerator. But just so you know its the worst place you can store your wine. However we’re here to help so here are some tips on storing your wine. If you do these things you’ll ensure your wine doesn’t turn into vinegar.

  1. Keep Your Wine Cool.

55 degrees is the best temperature for your wine. Try and keep this temperature consistent too many changes and your wine won’t taste as delicious as you remember it.

2. Darkness

Avoid sunlight is a good thing. You’re wine doesn’t need Vitamin D. In fact keeping it dark will mean you wine keeps for a long time even if it wasn’t meant to be store a long time. If you want salad dressing keep it in the sun. White wines are the most fragile when it comes to sunlight.

3. Be Silent Be Still

Ok don’t be silent but keeping your wine still is important believe it or not. Too many vibrations can keep the sediment from settling in a red wine. This means that whether you realize it or not your fridge does vibrate a little. Yet another reason not to keep it up there.

4. Sideways isn’t just a movie

Keeping the wine on its side will ensure that your wine touches the cork. Doing this will avoid your cork from shrinking and it’ll keep it moist.

The last step is optional

5. Wine Cooler-Not the drink (gross)

If you can afford it and have room for it purchase a wine cooler to make the above step easier. We call don’t have Villas with wine cellars but we don’t want our wine to go to waste. That would be awful.


North by Northwest

On Saturday Dana and I attended a Pacific Northwest Wine tasting at Bodega Ramos. While I have tasted wines from Columbia Valley this particular wine tasting included Oregon. I must give some Kudos to Bodega Ramos for setting up this wonderful tasting. It was informative and was small enough that tasters could ask questions and really understand how the wine has been made. If you get a chance I suggest you go and visit Bodega Ramos and ask questions they’ll be happy to help.

Claar Cellars Sauvignon Blanc-$15.99
This white wine was crisp and had some wonderful acidity. Hint of sweet fruit it almost had a honeydew taste with some kiwi.

McKinley Springs Viognier-$19.99
I normally like Viognier but remember that while the grapes maybe the same the enviorment can determine the taste along with how the wine making process was done. This wasn’t my favorite it had a nutty flavor that I didn’t appreciate but Dana enjoyed it. If you’re a full bodied red wine drinker this maybe a white wine you enjoy.

Two Mountain Hidden Horse Red-$17.99
This is a great light red wine. If you don’t like tannins this maybe the wine for you. I personally love a light bodied red wine which maybe why Pinot Noir is my favorite. I bought this wine and I must say that this wine is a blended wine. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Lemberger and Malbec. This had dark fruits and some vanilla. Sound good right?

Gilbert Cellars Left Bank-$26.99
This is a blended wine Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec. The majority of this wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon. I personally found this to be a little too rich and robust for me and the pepper wasn’t something I personally enjoyed but Dana loved this wine. This is a full bodied wine so if you love a tannins this maybe the wine for you.

Maysara Pinot Noir Roseena Rose-$19.99
As Dana pointed out in the pervious blog post Rose’s a great summer wine for there light flavors. This wine was soft and fresh. This wine is perfect for shellfish or a nice talipia.

Andrew Rich Tabula Rasa-$19.99
I was a big fan of this red wine. I kept thinking it was like a Broadway Show. Soft to start and then had a nice big finish. It starts off fruity and ends in what I kept thinking tasted like chocolate, there wasn’t any in it but that’s the taste I was left with and I loved it. I enjoyed a few more tastings of this that night. Dana loved the finish because of the bold taste.

Owen Roe Ex-Humbris Syrah-$31.99
Full and Rich is the best way to describe this wine. Dana loved it and I of course wasn’t a big fan. The tannins were too much and the tast was too strong for me. The spices were too much but this is all a matter of taste and opinion. I can’t say it enough. If you love bolder wine this is good for you.

Corvidae The Keeper Cab Franc-$20.99
This red wine was also a full bodied wine but I have to admit I actually liked this wine. It had a creamy velvety taste. The spices had a good balance and I kept thinking a nice grilled strip steak would taste amazing with this wine. This wine was earthy which I normally enjoy.

Lemelson Vineyards Dry Riesling-$25.99
I love Riesling and so I knew I would like it. This didn’t have a very sweet taste but you could really smell the peachy fruit. The taste was slightly sweet but not overwhelming.

Lemelson Vineyards Tikka’s Run Pinot Gris-$24.99
I didn’t know if I’d like this wine and it turns out. I loved it. This is why you go to wine tastings to find out what you like and discover a new favorite. What I loved about this wine is that over ripe fruit. When I had this wine I wanted cheese.

Brick House Gamay-$28.99
This wine was made in limited quanties. I enjoyed this wine because it was bright and had a rich flavor. It was a intense without leaving an overwhelming taste. It had an earthy taste I enjoyed. Very old world wine.

Hamacher Cellars Pinot Noir-$27.99
This wine put a smile on my face. It was light with hints sweet berries, vanilla, and the finish was smooth. This is a wine that I think anyone would love and enjoy both in the winter and summer (and anywhere in between).


Rose: A great Summer Wine

Whispering Angel Rose


For most people when they see a pink wine they immediately assume its White Zinfandel and let’s be honest a lot of people are not fans of White Zin, myself included, but White Zinfandel is not the only pink wine out there and good dry Rose can actually be quite delicious.

If you’re thinking come on pink wine? Really? I was right there with you. When my parents came back from Provence, France last spring, raving about the rose, I was skeptical, but I was willing to give it a chance because I trust my parent’s judgment in wine… for the most part.

The first Rose I tried I was not enamored with. It was ok but nothing I would ever buy again. The second rose I had however was light and crisp and in my opinion, had more oomph to it then most white wines. After trying a few more Roses I discovered that a rose can be just what the doctor ordered on a hot summer day. As much as I love red wine sometimes it is just too much when it very hot out or when you’re eating something delicate like sea food. Being that I don’t love a lot of white wines, it was nice to find a good alternative for a summer wine. Read the rest of this entry

10 Under $20

Let’s be honest most of us can’t afford to spend a lot of money on wine. Here are 10 wines Lissette and I like that won’t break the bank. We’ve got a good variety here so there should be something for everyone

Dana’s picks

Santa Barbra Crossing  Chardonnay $9.99

This crisp white wine with hints of citrus and green apple is one of my favorite whites. Believe it or not it pairs well with sushi.

Villa Des Anges Old Vine Rose $9.99-

I’m a huge fan of rose is the spring this one has a light, crisp flavor. It is a dry rose and great on its own, but would pair well with salads, seafood and other light dishes. Read the rest of this entry

America’s Wine Country: California

Ok now sing it with me-California here we come! If you haven’t made it to Northern California then you really need to book that flight and head to the Bay Area. Why? Because outside of being amazingly beautiful it has some of the greatest wineries. Most people think of Napa when you think of wine but there is a place called Sonoma. It’s actually right next to Napa but is home to small wineries, some that you have never even heard of and usually aren’t available in your hometown wine shop. Since many of these guys are small businesses their distribution isn’t as big as say Kendall Jackson (don’t act like you’ve never heard of them).

While I was in San Francisco, my friends and I went up north to do a little wine tasting. YUMMY! I was in the bay area to celebrate my best friend’s birthday (Happy Birthday again Alison!).  Four Chicagoans went up to do a little drinking with our favorite SF couple.  We hit up three wineries, one that you will know (surprise!). Read the rest of this entry

Corks vs. Screw Caps

Wine CorkI’m not going to lie, I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to wine corks. When I see a screw top I’m immediately a little put off. In the past screw tops were synonymous with cheep wine. This is no longer the case, there are many very nice bottles of wine that have moved to screw caps, but it’s still a let down when you order a nice bottle of wine at a restaurant and it comes with a screw top.  Call me old-fashioned, pretentious… what ever, but twisting the lid off a bottle of wine just doesn’t have the same ambiance as removing a cork.

Though I am not alone in my partiality to corks there are advantages to the screw caps:

  1. Screw caps cost the winery less than cork
  2. You are much less likely to get a bottle of corked or oxidized wine with a screw cap.
  3.  If you’re single like me you can’t always finish a bottle of wine the day you open it and a screw cap keeps the wine for a little bit longer than a cork. (Though you can get bottle topers that prolong the life of your open bottle, like the Rabbit wine preserver.) 

This being said I still prefer corks. A screw top won’t stop me from buying a wine, in fact one of my favorite wines, Layer Cake Shiraz, is a screw cap, but I still like my corks!

How do you feel about screw caps? Are you all for them or do you prefer the traditional cork?

On a Budget: Wine with Your Dinner Party?

Well its safe to say that few of us are made out of money. Does that mean that we should cut ourselves off from having dinner parties? Of course not! This past Sunday I had a dinner party to celebrate my nephew’s christening. This was NOT a kids party. We had three kids and sixteen adults. Its traditional to have a dinner or some sort of party after a child is baptized but its never a party were there are clowns or balloons. I co-hosted the dinner party at a local Cuban restaurant. The price per person was great. This restaurant is a BYOB (Bring Your Own Beer). Which doesn’t have to be beer but its sounds nicer then saying Bring Your Own Booze! Anyway…we had  great pre-ordered selection. It was fun when it came down to picking good wines to pair with the food. However I don’t have Donald Trump’s bank account so I had to do this on a budget.

I picked one of my favorite white wines to start off the dinner. As you may know I do love Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Riesling. I was lucky to find it on sale at Target for $5.99. I,of course bought several bottles. At those prices who wouldn’t! This fruity wine went with the salty fried plantains and the Cuban dumplings filled with tender chicken and guava fruit, and ground beef. The fruit/tart intensity of the wine with the dumpling dipping sauce brought the appetizer portion together .  I wanted to avoid a fulled bodied wine that would take away from the light starters. And the Riesling went well with the salad for any guest who wanted to stick to non fried food or their diet.

No worries I did not forget my red wine drinkers in all of this Cuban food madness. I saved the red wine for our main course. As Dana has explained in her Go to Wine  post she loves Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel. I needed a good red, it was 9.99, to bring the taste and feel of the meal. The food I pre-ordered for the dinner party were traditional Cuban dishes. One is called Ropa Vieja (literal meaning is Old Clothes), but its really a tender shredded beef stew dish with potatoes and its tomato based. With a hint of salt and just a slight heat. With the light fruity and long finish of the Gnarly Head its was a great combination and the flavors complimented each other. The other dish we had was a chicken dish. The cut  up chicken is cooked in a tomato chicken stock broth with potatoes. Again the flavors of the light chicken dish played off to the French and American Oak with the hint of spice. Depending on what dish you consumed it changed the flavor of the wine to compliment your meal.

My entire wine purchase was $65.00 and I have to admit I did have one bottle of each wine left over. (4 bottles each). You don’t have to go to a restaurant with BYOB of course but you can make a great meal at home and invite your friends.

If you don’t like a Riesling and its too sweet for your taste try a Viognier and if you aren’t big on Zinfandel and like something a little lighter for a red try a nice Pinot Noir.

At the end of the day its really about you enjoying a great meal with friends and family but it doesn’t mean you have to spend your life savings to create an amazing atmosphere.

Drink up!

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