Friday, November 16, 2012

Holiday Kick Off Wine That's Oh So Fine!

Ready...set...go! Beaujolais Nouveau release 2012 is upon us (the Thursday before Thanksgiving) and to me it signifies kick off for the holidays! Most consumers can recall seeing Beaujolais Nouveau on the shelves every year around this time but might not understand the beauty of this wine for the holiday season. And yes, there is some brilliant Cru Beaujolais (to be explored further in a future post) that has age ability but Beaujolais Nouveau is released young and meant to be enjoyed upon release and celebrated!

And now as I begin to write my shopping list for Thanksgiving I thought I would share my plans, suggestions and briefly wax poetic on Beaujolais Nouveau and a few other favorites for the Thanksgiving table.

1. 2012 George Duboeuf', Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais, France $12 ;Pomegranate! It is singing of this glorious fruit as well as cranberries, red currant,peach and a punch of black pepper. Perfect for parties and a crowd pleaser for the season!
(Note: They release a special one for Whole Foods only and is pictured above)

2. NV Lucien Albrecht, Cremant D'Alsace Brut Rose, Alsace, France $19; In my mind no holiday table (or really any table!) is complete without a bottle of bubbly and this is my chic little value go to. It's dry and offers notes of toast, strawberries, raspberries, citrus and a hint of herbal, get a full glass, it goes quick!

3. 2011 VML,  Gewurztraminer, Sonoma, CA $25; I discovered this beauty on a recent trip, it's dry and crisp with notes of rose petals, lychee, citrus, green apple and dressed in an absolutely gorgeous label.

4. 2011 Bodegas Martin Codax, Burgans, Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain $15; This is one of my new favorites and whether you offer it as an aperitif and with cheese (fantastic with Asiago) or serve it with turkey and stuffing the notes of peach, lime, pineapple and mango with a hint of chalky minerality will brings smiles to all your guests.

5. 2010 Four Graces, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR $32; It's an elegant woman in a black dress, classic and sophisticated with notes of cranberries, strawberries, cherries and even hints of violet and black tea.

May I also suggest as a twist if you'd like to try something new this year,  give Cornish game hens a whirl! They are small, and make an equally beautiful presentation...roast them in a pomegranate molasses and red wine sauce and garnish with pomegranate seeds for holiday flair!

Happy Thanksgiving and Slainte!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Celebrate International Champagne Day!

October has always been one of my favorite months of the year; the changing of the leaves, the chill in the air and of course.... pumpkin season! However this year I am more enamored with this month than ever as I learned that Friday, October 26 has been decreed the third annual International Champagne Day!

What exactly is this one may ask? It is a social media event and day designated to enjoying the beauty of Champagne and is celebrated all over the world. How can you participate? There are many ways whether you want to throw a party at your home, pop open that bottle you have been saving or go and partake at one of the events locally. Be sure to post what you're tasting on Facebook, Twitter , Instagram or whatever your favorite social media medium may be. To find out where events are being held in your area and to participate check out the events page on Eventbrite.

I will be starting my celebration with a Rose from my favorite Champagne, the first established Champagne House in 1729...Ruinart. For my tasting notes and food pairings throughout the day follow me on Facebook , twitter @PoisedPalate and on Instagram @PoisedPalate.

Keep in mind, while lovely, sparkling wines are are not Champagne. It is only Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region in France itself.

A votre sante!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Old World Meets New at Vina Los Vascos

As early as 1815 Chateau Lafite Rothschild has had a reputation for producing some of the finest and most elegant wines in the world. In 1855 Lafite was awarded the honor of First Growth status within the 1855 Classification.

Fast forward to 1988 when Los Vascos, one of Chile's oldest wine estates is managed by Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) who starts a modernization and investment program. Los Vascos is a 560 hectare vineyard located in Caneten Valley of Colchagua province in Chile. The goal here under the direct technical supervision of Domaine Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) is to produce the finest and most balanced wines with elegance and harmony. 

I recently tried one of the Los Vascos wines myself and was impressed with 2010 Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc. It beholds lovely aromatics of grapefruit, white peach, tropical fruits and a hint of basil. There is a zippy lime acidity that awakens your palate and continues to offer more tropical notes. As well as the fruit I really enjoy the notes of fresh herbs, as if they were just plucked from your garden; chives, basil, parsley and tarragon.

Suggested food pairing you ask?

For me personally I would make a pesto with basil, chives and parsley, a squeeze of lemon or lime, toasted pine nuts, salt, pepper and olive oil. I would toss the pesto with angel hair pasta and then garnish the dish with a healthy does of fresh chevre (or goat cheese) allowing it to melt into the warm pesto pasta and becoming a gooey and delicious creamy sauce. 


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Serenly Sokol Blosser

Step back a few years to the London International Wine Fair. As a California resident, wine is at my fingertips at an instant so my main objective was to taste anything and everything beyond the United States. My one exception, where I was truly curious to taste more of
(as I am a fan of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris) were the wines of Oregon. Enter Alison Sokol Blosser and the Sokol Blosser booth.

Alison was warm and friendly and began telling me the story of her parent's Bill Blosser and Susan Sokol Blosser's journey to become pioneers in Oregon's wine industry. It all began in 1970 with their discovery of an abandoned prune orchard, some basic wine making knowledge and a passion for Pinot Noir. By 1979 Sokol Blosser was now winning international recognition at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London. In 1996 Sokol Blosser is the first winery to be "Salmon Safe". In 2002 they were the first US winery to receive LEED Certification and began their organic transition in 2004.

Now back to present day I am reconnecting with Alison at the winery after a fantastic weekend in Portland for the Wine Bloggers Conference. Among their achievements and certifications the thing that Alison and her family feels is of the utmost importance is to keep as little as possible between the vine, the grape and us the consumers. She leads my friend and filmmaker Chrissa and I through the serenely picturesque 100 acres (80 of them planted) vine-scape that is Sokol Blosser with Twix the resident Wine Poodle (official title) in tow.

While we walk she shares tastes of their crisp and mineral rich 2010 Pinot Gris (ideal for the current heatwave!), their dry and elegant 2011 Rose of Pinot Noir ( a perfect ballerina pink color ) and then we move into the explore the barrel room and the Pinot Noirs.

We begin with their 2009 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir grown in the amazing red Jory soils of Yamhill County's Dundee Hills. As a winery's "entry level" Pinot Noir it's stunning and one I could easily drink on a daily basis. Besides their Dundee Hills Sokol Blosser also makes 4 other "block" designated Pinot Noirs. To get a better vision of where the blocks are located on the property they have a great map on their site; Sokol Blosser. These four are Peach Tree (delicate, roses and violets...pair with seared salmon), Big Tree (Asian spices, coffee and cocoa...pair with a coffee and cocoa rubbed lamb chop), Orchard Block (savory, plum and purple flowers...pair with duck breast with a plum sauce) and my absolute favorite the Goosepen Block (earthy, sour cherries and black truffles...pair with black truffle risotto or even a roast turkey!). 

Alison herself favors the Goosepen Block but said she has fond memories of the Big Tree that once stood on the Big Tree Block. Whatever Pinot Noir you may decide upon the theme I savor in all their wines is that seductive, feminine, but strong character that they possess (and at a fantastic value!).

As a fan and a friend to the Sokol Blosser Winery I highly recommend a visit to them. Their wines are also available online and would make a great addition to the table for the upcoming holiday season.

Thank you again Alison for a fantastic tasting and visit!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sparkle in the Hamptons

One of my greatest pleasures in life is exploring the wine regions of the world. Champagnes and Sparkling wines are my passion and I was absolutely enchanted by my recent visit to Wolffer Estate in Sagaponack, Long Island, NY. Sandy loam soil in combination with an Atlantic breeze (2.6 miles away) create ideal conditions allowing them to achieve their signature Wolffer style; European elegance married to the terrior of Long Island.

I attended a Sunset Friday event that the Winery offers from May - October from 5pm-sunset at The Wine Stand. (The Wine Stand is just around the corner from the Winery.) It's the perfect way to relax among the vines, soaking in the setting sun with a music and a glass of their sparkling wine.

What did I taste?

 I began with the 2007 Wolffer Estate Blanc de Blanc made with 100% Chardonnay from their oldest vineyard block planted in 1988 and is made Methode Champenoise. On the nose it's fresh with notes of lemon zest, pear and also a hint of toasted sweet brioche. On the palate it's rich and creamy and welcomes the green apple and apricot to the party! As a New England girl (besides sipping solely) this would just be beautiful paired with Lobster freshly kissed with a squeeze of lemon.

I also had to try the 2008 Wolffer Estate, Noblesse Oblige, Sparkling Rose. The Noblesse Oblige is comprised of 65% Pinot Noir, 34% Chardonnay and 1% Merlot. On the nose peaches and strawberries invite you in for a taste. As the Rose's sparkle tickles your tongue you taste strawberries, orange, white peach and rose petals. It's refreshing and sophisticated and would be oh so pretty with fresh lump crab meat tossed lightly in pasta and olive oil and finished with orange zest or for a more casual dish on occasion I can't resist a rich juicy beef burger and a glass of sparkling rose!

I cannot wait until my next chance to revisit Wolffer and
savor a glass of their beautiful sparkling wine under a pink sunset.


Friday, July 20, 2012

For the Love of Figs!

Cookbooks! There are so many on the market these days that it really has to be something special to spark my interest. "Plats du Jour; The Girl and the Fig's Journey Through Seasons in Wine Country"  by Sandra Bernstein has not only sparked my interest but captured my heart. In this book Restaurateur Sandra Bernstein and her Executive Chef John Toulze share their love of seasonal French-country cooking mouthwatering recipes, pictures and wine pairings. It also highlights the bountiful ingredients available seasonally in Sonoma Wine Country (where the restaurant The Girl and the Fig is located).  

I recreated two recipes from the book. The first is a simple, and elegant appetizer;  

Goat Cheese and Lavender Honey Toasts (pg 39). It's simply honey simmered with lavender and then whipped together with goat cheese and a little heavy cream and dolloped onto a crustini! For extra flair I added some additional lavender to the plate as well.
 If I were starting a party with this, my pic for a dynamic wine pairing would be a Rose from Sancerre. My favorite is Domaine Vacheron's Rose! It's crisp and light with notes of strawberry, lemon, thyme, and a hint of lavender.

The second recipe from the book is a twist on a French classic dessert; the Clafoutis. Traditionally it is made with cherries and is a cross between a pudding and a cake. As my French friend Ivanne has said, it's so rustic a dessert that growing up she and her Grandmother never even pitted the cherries!  The twist in this recipe is it's a Fig Clafoutis (pg 158) and as figs are in season now I used beautiful fresh ones (although the recipe gives you the dried fig alternative as well.)
One tip that I took from this recipe that is really a good one is to
strain your batter so that it is creamy and smooth going into your dish. This will give your finished product a glorious custard like texture!

I liked the wine pairings offered for this dessert a lot. They suggested either a domestic JC Cellars Late Harvest, Marsanne, Ripken Vineyards from Lodi California or M. Chapoutier Rasteau, Cotes du Rhone from France. Now I must find both to try with the recipe!
I must go now as I have a beautiful dessert to dig into and as I don't have either of the suggested pairings on hand I'll opt for a little glass of Orange Columbo (it's meant to be an aperitif, but rules are meant to be broken!) instead that I fell in love with on my last trip to Provence. It offers notes of orange blossom, orange peel and a little herbal bitter taste on the finish which I love!

If you are someone who loves to cook with what is seasonal and fresh and love the flavors of Sonoma Wine Country and French country style cooking I can not recommend this cookbook enough...and did I mention....there are cocktail recipes too!?


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wine Bloggers Conference 2012; Destination Oregon!

It's official.....72 days out and the Wine Bloggers Conference is already sold out! I sigh in relief as I am already registered.  I attended last year's conference in Charlottesville, Virginia and was thrilled with the experience so I knew I had to be part of this year's in Portland, Oregon.

I am already a huge fan of Portland and the wines of Oregon but what makes the Wine Bloggers Conferences so great are the excursions into the wine country, the connections you make and the speakers they bring in. The host state really seems to embrace the Conference as well. Speaking of excursions, along with winery visits to Willamette Valley planned within the Conference they also offer pre-conference excursions at an obscenely reasonable rate. I will be partaking in one this year with highlights including visits to SakeOne (Craft Sake Producer), Montinore Winery (a fantastic Certified Biodynamic Winery)  and Hawks View Cellars (boutique winery specializing in terrior-driven Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris).

I am currently the Wine Director/Sommelier for Sol Markets & Bistro in San Diego. My mission there is to find the absolute best of local wines (within 100 miles) and Sustainable, Organic or Biodynamic wines worldwide. Because of this I am really looking forward to the Breakout Sessions during the Conference as one will be focusing specifically on the very topic of Biodynamic, Organic, Natural, and Sustainable Wine.

And finally, someone's writing I absolutely admire will be in attendance and a Keynote Speaker, Rex Pickett. Rex is most well known for his novel "Sideways" and now also has written a sequel to it titled "Vertical" taking Miles and Jack to the Willamette Valley.

Although this year's action packed Conference is sold out, don't lose hope yet! They are inviting interested bloggers to add their names to the Waiting List.  Or are you already registered and looking for a hotel room? Check out The Wine'd Up and see 's Free Double Tree Portland Hotel Room Contest for the Conference. Good luck and see you there!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tea Time with French Macarons!

I am indeed a girl who adores her sweets and French ones at that! My absolute favorite treats are French Macarons. They are little meringue pillows made from egg whites and almost always almond flour and filled with anything from butter cream to curds to jams!

Although not the easiest things to create the finished product is always worth the work! My most recent creation is a Chai Tea Macaron with a Cardamon Cream filling and below is my recipe and the method I have found works best for my oven. Keep in mind Macarons are delicate little creatures and timing may vary depending on your own oven.


For the Chai Tea Shells:
1 Cup Confectionery  Sugar
1/2 Cup Almond Flour (my favorite brand is from Bob's Red Mill)
2 Egg Whites
1 pinch of cream of tartar
5 tbsp Granulate White Sugar
1 tbsp Ground Black Tea
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Allspice
1/8 tsp Ground Clove Powder
Powdered Gold Dust (available at Michaels)

For the Cardamon Cream Filling:
8 tbsp Softened Salted Butter
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 tsp Ground Cardamon (more depending on your taste preference)
3 cups Confectionary Sugar
2-3 tbsp Vanilla Almond Milk

Preheat the oven to 375.  Prepare two baking sheets both lined with parchment paper. Sift almond flour, confectioners' sugar, salt, tea and spices all together in one bowl and set aside. In your mixing bowl add 1 pinch of cream of tartar to egg whites and whisk until soft peaks form.  Reduce speed and gradually add cane sugar.  Increase speed and beat just until stiff peaks form and egg whites cling to the whisk.

Sift flour mixture over whites. Fold mixture together with a rubber spatula -using short strokes at first -until just combined. Use bigger folds as batter loosens. You will know the batter is ready when it cascades from the spatula like a thick ribbon. Transfer mixture to a piping bag  ( I often just use sandwich bags ).  Pipe 1 or 1 1/2" rounds on the parchment lined baking sheets. Let piped Macarons stand uncovered for 15 minutes to form a crust. Decrease temperature to 325 just before placing the baking sheet in the oven.  Bake pans one at a time for 10 minutes, turning halfway through at 5 minutes.Remove sheet immediately from the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes on the sheet and then carefully move the shells to a cooling rack. Oven temp should be increased to 375 then decreased to 325 just before the 2nd baking sheet goes in. 

To make the cardamon butter cream filling cream softened butter and confectionery sugar in your mixer with the paddle attachment and beat on med-high until light and fluffy. Now add in vanilla extract, ground cardamon and slowly add in almond milk 1 tbsp at a time until desired frosting consistency is met. (You may not use all the almond milk). Now pipe the filling into a piping bag and pipe onto halves of the shells. Be careful not to over fill the shells or squeeze too hard when sandwiching them together as they are ever so delicate.

In a small dish mix edible gold dust and a drop of water, mix and carefully brush across the top of each Macaron and enjoy! 

*The perfect pairing for these little treats is a cup of Earl Grey tea with a touch of milk and honey....or perhaps a glass of Brut Champagne *

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


JORDAN VINEYARD; WINERY AWARDS $8,000 IN CASH PRIZES TO L.A. ARTISTS Sonoma winery’s 40th anniversary art competition attracts nearly 200 guests and 50 artists WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA (April 16, 2012) – In honor of its 40th anniversary, Jordan Vineyard & Winery awarded $8,000 in cash prizes to Southern California artists as part of the iconic winery's 4 on 4 Top 40 Art Competition exhibition event on April 11, which was organized by Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) and drew nearly 200 local wine lovers, artists, and epicures to trendy Hadid Gallery for an elegant evening of blending wine, food and art. Part of a coast-to-coast, four-city initiative to marry the distinct flavors of metropolitan cities with the essence of Jordan wines and Sonoma wine country, the 4 on 4 Los Angeles Art Competition culminated in a one-night-only public exhibition and Jordan wine tasting presenting more than 40 entries, featuring works some of LA’s most exciting artists, including James Mathers, Justine Harari, Mattia Biagi, Kristi Lippire, Lindsey Nobel, Suzanne Adelman, Mark Dean Veca, Matt Wardell and many more. A panel of expert judges—Carol Stakenas, director of LACE; noted critic and LA Canvas art editor Shana Nys Dambrot; Kat Odell, editor of LA Eater; David Gadd, managing editor of The Tasting Panel; renowned restaurateur Piero Selvaggio of Valentino Restaurant Group; Chef Joseph Miller of Joe’s Restaurant and Bar Pintxo; and Timothy Williams, artist and gallerist at Black Cat Gallery—selected the top three works of art that met the competition criteria. Guests mingled through the exhibition while sipping Jordan 2009 Chardonnay and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon complemented by hors d’oeuvres from Bar Pintxo. Carol Stakenas, the director of LACE, noted, “We were so excited to organize this competition with the LA art community, giving artists a fantastic opportunity that brought together the Los Angeles art scene and fine wine communities.” The grand award winner of 4 on 4 Los Angeles was I Left My Heart In Jordan by Agne Jomantaite, a student at Occidental College, where Jordan Winery CEO John Jordan, ironically, did his undergraduate work. She is a noted artist on campus, has had work published and received several citations for her art. Jomantaite will receive a check for $5,000, and her work of art will be transformed into a limited-edition lithograph for Jordan’s loyal Southern California fan base. First runner-up honors went to Mark Dean Veca’s The Elegant Fantasy of Jordan Chateau. Veca has exhibited throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan at institutions such as the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, PS 1 Contemporary Art Center, the Brooklyn Museum, the Bronx Museum of the Arts and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. His work has been reviewed in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Artforum, Art in America, Art Review, Juxtapoz and Flash Art. Veca will be presented a check in the amount of $2,000. Kristie Lippire’s Unique Treasures of LA and Wine Country took home the second-runner up prize of $1,000. The Honolulu native has shown at ACE Gallery, the Riverside Art Museum, Pasadena’s Armory Center for the Arts, the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, the Orange County Museum of Art and elsewhere. Patrons got to vote as well, each selecting a single favorite work of art in the 4 on 4 Los Angeles exhibit. The People’s Choice went to My Love by Ivanova Kremena. Kremena describes her winning piece as “integrating the image of the movie industry, which is an emblem in LA. I used the film roll showing Jordan's history, combined with the 40 year celebration, represented by the explosion from the end of the bottle.” The three winning works from 4 on 4 Los Angeles will be on display at a private Jordan Winery 40th anniversary celebration for restaurateurs, retailers and media to be held in West Hollywood on April 23.

Photos from the 4 on 4 Art Competition event at the Hadid Gallery are available for download from Flickr: An online gallery of all 4 on 4 Los Angeles Art Competition entries is viewable at For more information about the 4 on 4 Los Angeles Art Competition, please visit For more information about the 4 on 4 Art Competition, please visit ABOUT JORDAN VINEYARD & WINERY Inspired by the masterful wine, food and hospitality of France, Tom and Sally Jordan followed their hearts from Colorado to California’s Bourgeoning wine country in 1972. That spring, they signed the deed on their first piece of land in Alexander Valley on the very same day their son, John, was born. They quickly planted their first vineyard with a vision for creating a singular Cabernet Sauvignon that could rival the finest wines of Bordeaux. When the first vintage of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon debuted, it was an immediate success due to its elegance and early approachability, as well as its affinity for food. The Jordan family has spent the last four decades quietly building a reputation for relentless quality, graceful ageability and remarkable consistency vintage after vintage. For more information, visit @jordanwinery

ABOUT LOS ANGELES CONTEMPORARY EXHIBITIONS LACE both champions and challenges the art of our time by fostering artists who innovate, explore, and risk. We move within and beyond our four walls to provide opportunities for diverse publics to engage deeply with contemporary art. In doing so, we further dialogue and participation between and among artists and those audiences. For more information, please visit @welcometoLACE

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fabulous and Forty; Jordan Celebrates

This year May will hold an extra special significance to one of my favorite wineries; Jordan Winery and it's family. Forty years ago on May 25th Tom and Sally Jordan signed the deed on their first piece of land in Alexander Valley which was to be Jordan Winery. That same day their son, John, was born.

In celebration of this 40th anniversary and John's 40th birthday Jordan Winery has a spectacular year of events and competitions in the works.
Some highlights include:

4 on 4 Top 40 Art Competition that challenges local artists in Miami, Los Angeles, New York and Dallas to create a work of art work that marries the elegance of Jordan with their city's style and flavor.

Trivia and Contests Follow Jordan's Facebook and Twitter pages and participate in fun trivia quizzes and contests with fantastic prizes!

Videos Join the Jordan Family and Winemaker Rob Davis as they share special memories and moments monthly

Jordan Seeking Jordan Share your special Jordan moment with the family and John will select his favorite to feature each month.

Or celebrate by visiting the winery for a tasting and tour (advance reservations are required) of their gorgeous property. No plans to travel? Order a bottle (or more!) from their online Jordan Shop of their elegant and lively 2009 Chardonnay (perfection with roast chicken) or their age worthy and sophisticated 2007 Cabernet Sauvingon (a juicy lamb burger plays well with this wine!) and toast to Jordan for being fabulous and forty!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Last Minute Valentine Libations

It's Valentine's eve and I thought I would post some last minute wine and beer suggestions to help you delight and indulge tomorrow or just anytime you want to treat your Sweetie!

First and foremost, when I think of romance, and celebration I think of Champagne and for me Ruinart is simply the best...

NV Ruinart, Rose, Champagne, France (55% Pinot Noir, 45% Chardonnay); starting with the luminous rose gold color to it's intoxicating bubbles and notes of wild strawberries, raspberries, roses and roasted herbs it makes my heart skip a beat! Heavenly with duck breast, seared ahi or even a rich lamb burger (SRP $60)

2011 Chateau Bonnet, Rose, Bordeaux, France (50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvingon); Rose is perfect for every season and this dry rose is sophisticated, fun and juicy and would be delightful with salmon or pork at a fantastic everyday price (SRP $13)

2010 George Dubouef, Fleurie, Beaujolais, France (100% Gammay); Fleurie (translates to "flowery") is known as the Queen of Beaujolais and this wine is elegant, velvety and floral with notes of violets, spice, raspberries and plums...pair with roast chicken or a rich chocolate cake with a raspberry coulis (SRP $16)

Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence, New York, US
; Rich dark Belgian chocolate, dark malt with Perle hops that impart flavors of mint and spice..feeling frisky...why not pair this with some chocolate crepes (SRP $14)

Guinness, Stout, Dublin, Ireland; Smooth and creamy with hints of coffee and cocoa I have loved Guinness with everything from Oysters to a coffee rubbed filet (SRP $8)

Southern Tier, Choklat Imperial Stout, New York, US; This is probably the richest, most decadent beer I have ever tasted with the marriage of bittersweet dark Belgian chocolate, chocolate malt and Chinook and Willamette hops. Love chocolate covered strawberries? Have a glass of this in one hand and strawberries to feed your love in another... (SRP $10)

Monday, February 6, 2012

These are a few of my favorite things....

Whether you are a fan of Valentine's Day or not I always look at it as a day to take the time to tell those closest to you how much you love and care for them; significant others, family and friends. And of course a day to look forward to wines, chocolates and good food!

With that in mind I thought I would pick a few of my favorite things that I think are unique and delightful treats for your sweet.

As far as I am concerned chocolate must be had and my absolute favorite chocolatier is Woodhouse Chocolates located in St. Helena in Napa Valley. As we eat with our eyes first, before you have entered their store you know you are in for a feast for your eyes as well as your taste buds. It appears as if you are stepping into a glorious jewel box with glass cases full of decadent truffles and chocolates. My favorite must haves from their jewel case are the Pistachio, and the Thai Ginger chocolates. Other musts I collect every time I visit (and are also available to order online) are the Dark Chocolate Caramels with Fleur de Sel and their Milk Chocolate with Golden Grahams Bar!

Now that your chocolates have been collected... onto the wine! Imagine you are in the Napa Valley as you sip on Swanson Vineyards' Instant Napa Cabernet Sauvingon that celebrates Swanson's 25th Anniversary. This wine is comprised of carefully selected fruit from small blocks of premium Cabernet Sauvingon, Merlot and Petite Verdot from all across the Valley. Silk cascades across your tongue as you experience cassis, black cherries and espresso finishing with a delightful tug of tannin. Prefer a white wine? I adore their Viognier with it's crisp acidity and no need for a bouquet of flowers if you have this wine (although it never hurts)! It's floral notes of honeysuckle and orange blossom are simply intoxicating! (food pairing hint...Viognier pairs heavenly with black truffle risotto!)

Chocolates and wine it's time to snuggle up with a good book. As it is Valentine's Day one of my new favorite finds is La Figa Visions of Food and Form . This book (available on Amazon) is a collection of 20 recipes and sensual photography by Matt Freeman where the models are wearing nothing but edible creations from the James Beard Award Winning Chef Tiberio Simone. Browse the beautiful pages of the vibrantly captured living art, divine recipes (Drunken Figs is my favorite!) and see where the night takes you!

"For me the sensuality of food closely resembles the pleasures of sex. From the first bite of a meal, the body is catapulted into rapture through the last climactic bite. A delicious morsel is as sweet as the first kiss" - Chef Tiberio Simone

Friday, January 27, 2012

Taittinger Takes Over Hollywood

What am I passionate about in life? Well besides Champagne and traveling to wine countries, my first love was performance so I am a girl who adores Awards Season...and it is upon us and they add a delicious night of viewing beautiful dresses, tresses, awards and a chance to relax with a glass of Champagne!

For the 13th year Champagne Taittinger is the official Champagne of the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The 18th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards are Sunday, January 29th and will feature Taittinger Brut la Francaise during the awards show, backstage in the green room and at the after parties.

Whether you have a coveted invite to a glitzy Hollywood affair or you’re inviting friends over for a fun Hollywood inspired viewing party, popping some popcorn tossed with black truffle salt and a bottle of Taittinger is the perfect way to start the night!

The Screen Actors Guild Awards red carpet will be opened by an official toast, the Taittinger Moment, hosted by Vitalie Taittinger heiress to the Champagne house, who is coming from France to attend the event. The awards air live January 29th on TNT and TBS at 8 p.m. (ET), 5 p.m. (PT).

“Elegance, beauty, and passion define Champagne Taittinger and make the SAG Awards such a dazzling night. We are thrilled to toast to actors-as their gifted performances have the power to move and inspire, like Champagne,” says Vitalie Taittinger.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Adventures in Champagne & Paris with Ruinart Part 2

And now we journey onto Paris...

"Bright and early we all arose and I took one last wander through L'Assiette's beautiful gardens with hopes of someday returning. After a quick train ride (less than an hour) we indeed arrived in Paris and we were giddily off to Laduree for a quick cafe and macaroons (various flavors....rose, violet, chocolate...of which I savored every morsel of!) and were also able to try Canneles, a pastry treat famous in Bordeaux before we were to visit Guerlain practically across the street on the Champs Elysee. Guerlain, which opened in 1914, is a historical fragrance house and we were led through the components that made up their flagship scents such as Shalimar and then elegantly guided through the completed fragrances, some with a seductive swish of black feather fans.

Next off to the George V Hotel to have lunch at Le Cinq. This was especially exciting for me as even before I could ever have dreamed to dine in such a location I have been a fan of world renowned floral artist Jeff Leatham's work and artistry it is indeed. From the moment one enters the hotel brilliant arrays of colorful bouquets are like candy to your eyes. Upon entering the restaurant, Le Cinq, we are warmly greeted and ushered to our table, what was to be our home for the next three hours full of divine wine and food pairings..all which was served to us blindly. Of course we began with Ruinart...1996 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs and throughout the lunch we were also treated to 2007 Château Grillet and a magnum of 1977 Grahams Port among others. We were all in absolute awe and admiration for the finesse, precision and execution that was Le Cinq.

For dinner that evening we went more for a Parisian Bistro style at Bistrot de Paris, passing around dishes and sharing. Although Morgan will say his Pied de Couchon (Pig's foot) was the winner I think Nicole's selection of Steak Tartare was the fresh and with a delicious bite of mustard. From there Friday evening we continued our exploration of Paris hopping to various wine bars. Saturday was a free day allowing more time to venture through the city and I was able to delve into a fantastic farmers market, the Louvre, and finally get to L'Atelier. None of which could have been possible without the generosity and hospitality that was displayed by our hosts.

Thank you many, many times to The Guild, Charlotte Duntze, Dorothy Bakker Lee, Frederic Panaiotis and Julie Murez for such an educational and pleasurable experience!

Adventures in Champagne & Paris with Ruinart Part 1

It seems like just yesterday I was packing and getting ready to embark on a trip of a lifetime, but alas, it has passed but I have my memories, great friends and pictures to remind me...and of course Ruinart Champagne will always be a love of mine! I wrote this essay after I came back from my trip ( I was awarded as the 2011 Chicago Ruinart Champagne Challenge winner) this summer for the Guild of Sommelier's but thought I should share on my blog (In 2 parts...Champagne and Paris) as well..especially so close to Valentine's Day....thought it might offer inspiration!

"There is not many moments in my life where I have been left breathless...this time spent in France however touring and tasting with Ruinart's Chef de Cave, Frederic Panaiotis in Champagne and exploring the artistry and beauty of Paris was one of those moments.
Our journey began upon arrival to Paris' Charles de Gaul Airport as we were greeted by a jolly Frenchman named Jacque who escorted Nicole Burke from San Francisco and Morgan Harris from New York and myself to our hotel in Champagne. Upon arrival to L'Assiette Champenoise, the place where we would lay our heads for the next few nights, which I was absolutely enamoured with (so much that is was truly hard to leave it!) we checked into our rooms, met Dorothy Bakker Lee (Ambassador for Ruinart) and off we went to lunch at Cafe du Palais where we were to meet Fred (Frederic preferred to be called), and the other two Sommeliers Eric Hastings from Houston and Jeff Bencus from Las Vegas.

After lunch, which contained our first delightful taste of Ruinart's NV Brut (not available in the United States...yet!) we continued on our day and ventured to the illustrious Cathedral de Reims, home of over 20 coronations of French Kings. Up, and up we climbed towards the top of the Cathedral giving us a beautiful view of the town of Reims and beyond.

From the Cathedral we ventured to where we were all eagerly awaiting, to the Ruinart Estate and to explore the cellars. Ruinart is the first established Champagne House in 1729. In 1768 Ruinart acquired former Gallo-Roman chalk quarries for the purpose of storing their bottles and is classified as a historical monument. These crayères offer the triple benefit of constantly stable temperatures, absence of vibration and the perfect humidity level. This was indeed our lucky day because Fred also had Master of Wine Essi Avellan, the first Master of Wine from Finland visiting so there were quite a few special vintage wines in addition for us to sample and magnums at that. As the afternoon progressed into evening we were fortunate enough to try an array of Dom Ruinart magnums of both their Blanc de Blancs and Rose.The standouts for me were the 1969 and 1998 Blanc de Blancs and the 1985 Rose which floored me with its complexity and depth.

From there we relaxed outside on the veranda before dinner partaking in one of my favorite, simple, but classic pairings.... NV Ruinart Blanc de Blancs and Gougères. Ruinart has a new event dining room and were were one of the first groups to dine there. Along with the divine meal we were able to chose from the Magnums we tasted earlier for each course. I absolutely agree with Nicole; " The Cheese Cart is a wondrous part of dining, but a Magnum Cart reached unparalleled heights!" After dinner it was time to catch up on sleep and prepare for a day filled with blind tasting and a visit to the CIVC.

Thursday we found ourselves back at Ruinart about to embark on a 6 round flight adventure exploring Blanc de Blancs from all across Champagne. The flights contained an extreme range of styles and vintages (including the oxidative styling of Jacques Selosse) and happily I discovered that even blind, Ruinart's NV Blanc de Blancs was one of my favorites. After a quick, but delightful lunch of NV Blanc de Blancs, Sushi and Macaroons we were off to the CIVC (Comite Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne) where we were given a better understanding of their research, environmental efforts and the region in depth through a presentation in the conference building and then wandering through the glorious colors of the vineyards.... the vibrant shades of green....the crisp white from the chalky soils and the brilliant red of the poppies.

After a magical dinner at Le Jardin Brasserie in Reims the group decided we would grab one more drink at the bar back at L'Assiette Champenoise and what a good decision it was! The old saying "right time, right place" could never have been more true as Olivier Krug and the new President of Krug, Maggie Henriquez were just finishing a dinner for the press and we were fortunate enough to have a glass from a Jerobaum of Grand Cuvee disgorged in1995 courtesy of them. Then we were back to our rooms to pack and prepare for the next day's adventure into Paris..."