Monthly Archives: December 2007

Sparkling Wines and Champagnes – Not Just For the Holidays!

Traditionally if you are like most consumers, you only enjoy sparkling wines and Champagnes during the holidays or special occasions. This shouldn’t be the case though; sparklers are fabulous beverages that can be paired excellently with a variety of foods so you can enjoy them year round. According to, although the traditional end of the year holiday time still shows the greatest sales volumes, sales throughout the year are on the rise. (see chart below)

With no oak aging (most of the time), lower alcohol levels and refreshing acidity these bubbly delights show great versatility. From the book Perfect Pairings by Evan Goldstein here are some great tips on pairing Champagne or Sparkling wine with food

What to pair it with:

  • To counterbalance salt, moderate heat, creamy and rich dishes, and deep fried foods
  • Raw fish, sushi, oysters and ceviche
  • Latin and Asian dishes (such as empanadas, tempura, coconut curries, Indian Samosas)
  • Hard and rich cheeses (such as Parmesan and triple cream St. Andre)
  • Crunchy texture foods (phyllo pastry, Southern fried chicken and other fried foods)
  • Rustic foods (polenta, hummus and pesto)

What to avoid it with:

  • Stay away from the extremes, dishes to rich or flavorful can overpower the subtlety of the sparkler
  • Rich red meats
  • Bitter vegetables (these can make the bubbly taste slightly metallic)

Tonight Megan and I will be opening a bottle of Pierre Peters that I am really psyched about. I am planning on pairing a nice plate of fresh Parmigiana Reggiano, olive tapanade and hummus with Pita toasts.

I hope everyone has a great and SAFE time tonight. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

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Categories: champagne, wine industry issues | 2 Comments

Tonights Tasting At The Wine Cellar

Tonight Jeff is showcasing some party wines for NEW YEARS EVE and NEW YEARS day recovery, you know, like brunch.






5. MONDORO ASTI  $11.75

Hope to see you all there, 5:00 to 8:00 and FREE as always.

Categories: wine tasting | 1 Comment

A Slight Disappointment

Christmas day was spent at my parent’s house, and was a fun day of present opening and over eating. Even though my parents bought plenty of wine, and told me not to bring any, you know I couldn’t show up empty handed. So we took over some Pedroncelli Chardonnay and a bottle of the 2001 Grgich Hills Cab that has been in the cellar since our first trip to Napa 3 years ago that we had really been wanting to drink. We stuck to reds all day so the Chardonnay didn’t get opened, but we did open the Grgich for dinner.

Grgich was the first winery that we visited our first day in Napa, and we were thrilled with the experience and psyched about the wines that we tasted and thus bought a few while we were there. My prior enjoyment with the Grgich winery and all of their wines, my appreciation for all that Mike Grigich has done and a price tag of $55 could have helped in my disappointment (although it small) in this wine.

I didn’t take any notes for the wine, so this isn’t going to be as formal a review as I have done in the past. The Grgich cab was unfortunately pretty one dimensional, with a lot of dark fruit aromas and flavors on the nose and palette. It did have a really nice weight in the mouth, and was really silky smooth but too smooth. The tannins were non existent and thus the wine didn’t have much of a back bone.

I think the frame of reference of a 55 dollar price tag contributed the most to my disappointment, as if this was a $15 Cab I don’t think I would have critiqued it so hard. But also, I really have had a lot of good wines from Grgich in the past so this won’t deter me from buying more $55 wines from them in the future.

If you are in Napa or planning a visit, I recommend you take a trip to the Grigich tasting room and sample what they have to offer, I don’t think you will be disappointed. Make sure to keep a look out for Mike Grgich himself, sporting his black beret, he would be happy to chat with you as he was with Megan and I.

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Categories: cabernet, grgich, wine review | 3 Comments

6 Course Holiday Dinner with the Family

Megan and I had our families over for pre holiday fun on Saturday to spread some holiday cheer, drink some good wine and have some great food. Unfortunately, although I had told myself several times to remember to take pictures of the dishes as we served them, I did not remember until half way through the evening. BooHoo! So no pictures of the actual meal were taken, the only one I have is of the remaining wine bottles.

Below is the menu that we served – we decided to kick it up a notch this year with smaller tapas/mezze style dishes and had 6 courses including dessert and started the meal off with a fun Amuse Bouche. It was quite exciting to decide what wine pairings would go with each dish and you can see below what we chose.

Amuse Bouche

Roasted Red Pepper Mousse with Green Olive Sliver

Wine Pairing – Tocco Prosecco N.V.

1st Course

Acorn Squash Rounds with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and Honey Drizzle

Wine Pairing – 2004 Trimbach Riesling

2nd Course

Pumpkin Bisque with Mixed Green Salad topped with Spiced Pistachios

Wine Pairing – 2001 Caymus Sauvignon Blanc

3rd Course

Spinach and Gruyere Soufflé

Wine Pairing – 2004 Cote de Brouilly Beaujolais


4th Course

Grilled Portabella Cap stuffed with Tofu, Roasted Red Pepper, Pine Nuts and Fresh Basil

Wine Pairing – 2001 Fratelli Revello Barolo

5th Course

Point Reyes Blue Cheese, Walnut and Dried Fig

Wine Pairing – 2003 Quinta de la Rosa Vintage Port


Chai Spiced Caramel Fondue

Wine Pairing – 2004 Inniskillin Vidal Ice Wine

We had a fabulous time with our family and I think the feeling was definitely mutual. After dinner we enjoyed a fun game of “dirty Santa”, as we sat around the fire place and sipped on some French press coffee and espresso.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays Everyone!!

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Categories: food, friends, wine tasting | 3 Comments

Funny Picture

Well at least I think it is funny. I was browsing through the Wine Enthusiast gift catalog that came with some Christmas purchases I made, when I noticed this picture.

Why is this funny you may ask…. Well Arneis, the grape that is on the label is a white variety, and the wine in the bottle is clearly red. Arneis is the fruity, crisp, dry white wine from Piemonte that Megan and I discovered and fell in love with this summer while we were in Italy. Before it gained the popularity of being a great wine all on its own, it was used in the blending process with Barolo in order to soften it up a bit. If you have not yet tried the varietal, it is usually a great value and a great alternative to unoaked Chardonnays, although Arneis can sometimes see some time in oak.

Now back to the picture! Do you think they did it on purpose thinking most people won’t notice, but if a wine geek does it will be funny? Or do you think somebody made a mistake? Either way, Megan and I got a kick out of it.


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Categories: arneis, wine | 1 Comment

Friday and Saturday Night Tastings at The Wine Cellar

This week the Wine Cellar is having two tastings, both with some pretty rocking wines.

The first list is the normal Friday 5:00 – 8:00pm tasting.






This second list is a special tasting that Jeff will be doing on Saturday from 1:00 – 4:00pm.






Both tastings are FREE as usual!! 

Categories: wine cellar, wine tasting | Leave a comment

Education Series – What exactly is an AVA?

If you read wine publications, blogs, and newspaper columns or have ever looked closely at some bottle labels you may have come across the acronym, AVA. AVA stands for American Viticulture Area and is a designation given to certain wine growing regions by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).  AVAs can be big, like the biggest that crosses 4 states and covers 26,000 square miles (Ohio River Valley AVA) and small, the smallest of which covering less than a quarter square mile. (Cole Ranch AVA).  An AVA is a system for defining geographical grape growing areas in the United States. The regulations state that you may use an AVA designation (such as Sonoma Valley, Stags Leap District or Columbia Valley) on your wine label only if 85% of the grapes for that wine are grown in the AVA that is printed on the label.  The system was put in place to create governmental wine controls similar to that of Old World wine making countries like the AOC in France and the DOC in Italy.  The AVA system is much more easy going that the AOC and DOC, the only major stipulation being the 85% rule mentioned above, where as the AOC and DOC can define which grapes are grown in which regions, barrel maturation times, and alcohol levels and so on.

Here in Virginia we have six official AVAs

The Wine Institute has a great WIKI page that goes into much more detail than I have about American Viticulture Areas with facts, figures, and controversy. Currently there is much debate about proposed regulatory changes to the AVA definitions by the TTB, one of which being the grandfathering of brand names that carry AVA designations, but don’t necessarily make 85% of their wine from that AVA.

For more information on AVAs, email me or check out the following sites.

Wine Institute on WIKI

Appellation America

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Snakes and Pizza

Tasting the Langmeil 2006 Hangin’ Snakes Shiraz – Viognier

Megan and I purchased this wine after tasting it a little while ago at the Wine Cellar. We took it over to my parent’s house for my dad’s birthday, as we were having pizza from his favorite local spot Angelo’s, and thought it would be a good match. (which it was!)

The 2006 Hangin’ Snakes Shiraz – Viognier ($21) is a blend of 95% Shiraz and 5% Viognier all from the Barossa Valley. The Barossa Valley is located in South Central Australia which is characterized by a Mediterranean climate with cool, wet winters and dry summers between 86 and 95 degrees on average.  Langmeil (which means long mile) dry farms almost all of their vines as do most farmers in Barossa. Doing so forces the vines to set their roots deeper in the soil to find water, which in theory leads to better grape quality and flavor than ones grown on irrigated vines.  The wine saw time in both new and old French Oak before making it’s way into the bottle. 

My Tasting Notes – 

Nose – Earth, Blackberry, Barnyard

Taste – Raspberry, green olive, coffee, fudge

Mouthfeel –Not Hot (14.9% alcohol), really solid mouthfeel, very soft especially for a Shiraz

Finish – Medium to long with the chocolate and coffee flavors lingering on the palate 

This was a very nice wine, that started off really fruity, but after being open for only around a half hour to 45 minutes, it started to show off some old world character.  The fruitiness was still present throughout but notes of earth and funky barnyard started to come through that provided a very nice flavor combination.  I had already tasted this wine before I bought it so I knew I liked it, but actually progressing through the whole bottle gave a different experience with each glass we poured.  I didn’t get many aromatic notes from the Viognier, but I really think it contributed to the softer and heavier than normal mouthfeel of the wine. 

If you see it at your local wine shop, I recommend picking up a bottle and giving it a try.

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Friday Night Wine Tastings Around Town

The Wine Cellar didn’t send out their weekly list of what will be tasted tonight, so I am just posting to remind everyone of their’s and other tastings around the Richmond area.

The Wine Cellar – Friday 5:00 – 8:00

River City Cellars – Friday – 5:00-7:00

Corks and Kegs – Friday – 5:30 – 7:30

Private Stock Cigar and Wine – Every Friday and Saturday

Bella Vino (Midlothian) – Friday – 6:00-8:00

And also make sure to check out Can Can Mondays from 6-7

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Wine Blogging Wednesday #40 – Petite Sirah

This installment of Wine Blogging Wednesday is sponsored by Sonadora at Wannabe Wino, and she has picked the topic of Petite Sirah.

It just so happened that a few days after the Petite Sirah WBW #40 was announced, there was one on the tasting sheet at the Wine Cellar. After enjoying it quite a bit that night, we brought a home a bottle of the 2005 Peltier Station Petite Sirah ($16.95) to drink and write about for WBW.

A bit of Background on the wine –

The wine is from a single vineyard grown in Elk Grove which is at the Northern tip of the Lodi AVA. The vineyard is comprised of clay soil and receives a consistent breeze from the Sacramento River Delta that allows the grapes to achieve longer than normal hang times. After reaching a brix of 25.8 the grapes were whole cluster fermented for 2 weeks before heading into French oak barrels for aging.

Interestingly the name of the winery comes from its location on a 1900’s railroad spur that was used to carry fruit from packing sheds along or near Peltier Road.

My Tasting Notes –

Nose – Molasses, prune, suede, black currant, bacon

Taste – Blackberry, blueberry, little hint of cranberry

Mouthfeel – Extremely smooth, heavy rich texture in the mouth

Finish – Long, nice leathery feel on the tongue for quite a while after I swallowed

With its rich dark color the Peltier Station Petite Sirah lets you know it means business right off the bat. Even though it was a fairly fruit forward wine, the aromas and flavors continuted to develop over the hour that we drank it showing its complex nature. This is only the 3rd Petite Sirah I have had, other than ones I have tasted at wineries and wine shops and I have to say I am really enjoying the varietal.

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Categories: petite sirah, Wine Blogging Wednesday, wine tasting | 4 Comments

Menu For Hope

So how about a great cause for the holidays and one that can also win you fabulous prizes. Enter the Menu For Hope that is currently in its fourth year, after it was started to raise money for the tragedy surrounding the Tsunamis in 2004. The Menu For Hope was created by Pim of Chez Pim, a food blogger who wanted a way to help the victims of the tragic tsunamis that devastated Southeast Asia 5 years ago. So in an amazing effort she partnered with the UN World Food Programme to help feed the hungry. The campaign invites food and wine bloggers from around the blogosphere to contribute prizes that are given away as raffles to individuals who donate money. Then the word is spread, and YOU can go to the Menu For Hope website to make your donation and put your name in the hat for a specific prize that has been contributed.

This is a great cause that unfortunately I have just heard about for the first time that last year raised over $60,000. Check out Alder at Vinography who is “hosting” the event this year for a list of prizes and information on how to make your donation December 10th through the 21st.

Thanks for reading.

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The Coolest Winery Website!

winemaker randall graham

Winemaker Randall Graham – Photograph by Alex Krauss

Last week when I was researching the wines that were on the tasting sheet for Friday night at the Wine Cellar I came across the Bonny Doon website. I thought I would throw up a post about it today because it is definitely the coolest winery website I have seen yet. The website with its swirling twirling graphics comes complete with audio pronunciations of some of the wines. (Just click on the phonetics under the wine name)

Give it a look, and let me know what you think.

Question of the day: What is the coolest winery or wine related website you have seen?

Categories: wine websites | 2 Comments

Friday Night Tasting at The Wine Cellar – 12.7.2007

Here is what Jeff from the Wine Cellar will be offering tonight for his shop’s tasting as Bryon from Country Vintner pours the following:






FREE as always from 5:00 – 8:00! See you there. 

Other tastings going on around town:

River City Cellars – Friday – 5:00-7:00

Corks and Kegs – Friday – 5:30 – 7:30

Private Stock Cigar and Wine – Every Friday and Saturday

Bella Vino (Midlothian) – Friday – 6:00-8:00

And also make sure to check out Can Can Mondays from 6-7

Also, if you are looking for one great place to pick up some handmade crafts for the holiday season or just for yourself, check out the Handmade Holiday Sale. My friend Dawn and Richmond Craft Mafia friends will be putting on their annual craft sale this evening from 6:00 to 9:30 at 4025 Yoga over on MacArthur Ave.

Categories: friends, wine cellar, wine tasting | 1 Comment

Does Anybody Else Find this Strange?


I recently got the new Wine Spectator in the mail with the list of the glorious top 100 of 2007. I have an online subscription to the magazine as well so I could have very well looked at who was on the list this year, but I didn’t. I wanted to have the excitement of reading each bio of the top 100 wines all at once.

So I started in, reading about each of the wines, trying to commit as much of it to memory as possible. I was excited about the wine that won this year, not only did it sound like a fabulous wine, but again #1 wasn’t a really crazy priced wine at $80. Now don’t get me wrong, that is still expensive, but it isn’t over $100 and for some reason that is where I start to question whether or not the bottle is worth it. I have been meaning to do a little research and look back to see how many of the #1’s have been $100 and over. IF anybody knows that stat let me know.

So let me cut to the chase and to the title of today’s post. Did anyone else find it weird that #13 was rated a perfect 100 points but was not the #1 wine of the year which was rated 98 points? I know other factors are involved, the most obvious difference in this case being the fact that #13 is more than double in price than #1, besides that they are different wines. I just wanted to throw it out there, and add some more evidence that ratings, although they are a good guide sometimes to wine quality, do not always tell the whole story.

Let me know what you think. Also, if anyone out there has had one or both of these wines, let me know what you thought of them.

Categories: wine industry issues | Leave a comment

Wine Bottle Sizes – Who knew there were so many?


I just thought I would shoot a little fun wine fact out at everyone today. Below I have listed all of the actual allowable bottle sizes for wine. Can you believe there are so many? I think I knew up to Methuselah, but that was as high as I thought the list went, and as you can see I was wrong. The list technically refers to the allowable bottle sizes for wine in France and more specifically Champagne and Burgundy but is accepted worldwide. The names themselves, once you get past Magnum, are from the names of Biblical Kings. Magnums and Double Magnum’s make great gifts for wine enthusiasts are always impressive when you show up to a party with one.

Split = Quarter Bottle

Half = Half Bottle

Bottle = well umm, a Bottle

Magnum = Two Bottles

Jeroboam or Double Magnum = Four Bottles

Methuselah = Eight Bottles

Salmanazar = Twelve Bottles

Balthtazar = Sixteen Bottles

Nabuchadnezzar = Twenty Bottles

Soverign = Thirty-Four Bottles, I mean come on


Categories: bottle sizes, wine education | 4 Comments