Fake it Till You Make It-Fall Recipes and Wines

This is the time of the year when I most miss my childhood home.  Glossed and changing leaves, tips curled, blanket the path and create a quilt of color.  The air, sweetened and chilled, hangs with a bit more weight. Bins of Macintosh line the path to the pumpkin patch and cider doughnuts punctuate most hikes.  The golden before the grey, the crisp before the bitter cold.  Autumn in the Adirondacks is hard to beat.


Here, the calendar says fall, the forecast argues, and we learn to fake it. Not with the pumpkin flavored syrups, but with real Maple syrup on pumpkin purée pancakes. The berry smoothies are replaced with Chai Pumpkin. And summer squash yields to Butternut. If you, like me, are wishing for the flavors of autumn and richer reds, I am with you.  Even if I have to turn the A/C a little lower to counter the oven being turned back on.

I recently added  a pick to Snooth’s list of transition wines.  We are leaning towards the whites with a winter coat, the reds get a little fuller. Several great suggestions made the list. Here are a couple more and some recipes to warm your insides…or at least to pretend it is not still 90 degrees.


2011 Cantina Zaccagnini il vino “dal trachetto” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($14)

2013 Maison Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages (100% Gamay)* ($14)

Both wines are lighter bodied reds with red fruit and balanced acidity and tannins. Both wines could be paired in a variety of ways and are great values.  The Montepulciano reminds me of the outgoing life of the party, vibrant and zesty. The Gamay is the more studious friend, dust and floral balanced with bright fruit . Both make excellent party guests; your mood will determine which on you want to hang out with.

Pumpkin Chai Smoothie

1/2 cup Pumpkin purée

1 cup almond/coconut milk (or rice, almond, dairy, etc)

6-8 ice cubes

1 Scoop Vega One Vanilla Chai Protein Powder (or any powder and add cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, vanilla OR just spices and Chia for protein)

Blend. ( I love, love, love my Vitamix. I saw them on Groupon if you’re looking)

Gluten-Free (or not) Pumpkin Pancakes

2 cups GF flour or regular (I used Namaste)

1 tsp. salt

2 tsps. Baking powder

1 tsp Baking soda

2 TBSPs Brown Sugar

1/4 tsp nutmeg, cloves, cardamom

1-2 tsps. cinnamon

1 cup pumpkin purée

2 eggs

2 cups milk (it thickens as it sits so you may need more)

TBSP Apple Cider Vinegar

Mix dry ingredients, add wet, cook and enjoy.  These were thick and fluffy and took longer to cook than usual pancakes but were totally worth it.

Apple Fennel Relish

1 onion sliced thin

1/2-1 bulb of fennel (about a cup)

1 cup diced apples

splash of oil

2 splashes apple cider vinegar

Salt to taste

dash of clove

Sauté onion and fennel until caramelized

Add apples and continue for 10-15 minutes over med-low heat.

Add 2 cups water and cook down (about an hour or so)

Add ACV, clove, and taste.

It should resemble a chutney or jam at this point.

I served it on top of a turkey meatloaf with asparagus and horseradish sweet potatoes. Delicious. It would have been great with the Beaujolais.


*{This wine was sent as a media sample. Thoughts and opinions are my own. I received no other compensation.}

Photograph by Carl Heilman II taken with permission from the Adirondack Fall Foliage Guide. For more fall foliage and gorgeous views of the Adirondacks, check out Carl’s book “Photographing the Adirondacks”.

Meanwhile in #TXwine-Texas Tuesday

While my opportunities to sneak away may diminish with summer, the world of Texas wine isn’t slowing.  In fact, it continues to expand in size and reputation.  My news feed has been full of announcements of accolades, invitations, and openings.  While I can’t attend or respond to all of them in the 18 minutes of free time,(on a good day) I am there in spirit, and in time, I’ll get to experience these wines and places myself.

One event I was able to attend was sponsored by Llano Estacado and featured wines from their new line for restaurants, Mont Sec.  The Sauvignon Blanc and Grenache Rose are made from grapes from Mont Sec Vineyards in the Chihuahuan Desert. Despite the rugged climate and challenging conditions, the area yields fruit that makes fantastic wine.  I really enjoyed both wines and would buy them by the case if I could.  Unfortunately, they are only available through restaurants.  If you see them, don’t hesitate.


I paired the Mont Sec Sauvignon Blanc with Greek style meatballs, Tzatziki. and cucumber salad.  I shared the bottle with my family, all of whom were impressed. The Rose was a fun fresh compliment to a casual Friday dinner of Berbere meatballs, Rosemary white bean dip, asparagus. My only complaint was that there was a hole in my glass.


The other stand-out of the evening was, of course, the flagship Viviano ($35).  The nod to a Super Tuscan (70% Cab, 30% Sangiovese) is a perennial favorite.  Jubilant fruit, spice, elegance.  I paired a bottle with lamb chops, roasted fingerlings, and kale avocado salad.  It worked, but I think I could have done better.  I’ll have to try again.

Hawk’s Shadow Winery had their opening this past weekend in Dripping Springs.  I wish I could tell you something about the wine, but this is one I missed.  Since Saturdays from 12-6 are currently booked, it may have to wait until fall.  For more information, see their website.

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, Flat Creek will be holding Vinopalooza on premise.  Music and wine in a beautiful setting sounds like a great way to celebrate.  For tickets and more detailed information, follow this link.

One of my favorite Texas wineries received five awards at the recent San Francisco International Wine competition.  Congratulations Kim and company.  You continue to impress me with the quality of wines that you are able to make while keeping them accessibly priced.  I’ll miss our stop this summer. McPherson Cellars wines stood out with the following wines:

Les Copains Rosé – GOLD
Les Copains White – Silver
Albariño – Silver
Viognier – Bronze
La Herencia – Bronze

In the same competition, Brennan Vineyards became the first Texas winery to bring home TWO Double Golds. The 2014 Mourvedre Dry Rose and the 2013 Tempranillo were both given the highest accolades.  I can’t wait to try them!

Wedding Oak Winery was awarded “Best Albariño” and given Double Gold for the same wine. They also received two bronze medals for Terre Rouge and Sangiovese.

These are the awards I have found via social media but when the full list is released today I am sure we will be adding to the list.

Finally, another wine on the list to try is one bottle by Vinovium Partners that I spied at Whole Foods Arbor Trails. I have the utmost respect for the guys behind this, Daniel Kelada and Craig Mayer.  They are driving the Texas Wine Journal and putting their efforts, energies, and enthusiasm into Texas wine like few others.


In summer, my children’s freedom expands, mine shrinks.  And attempts to shrink waistlines for summer means an expanding list of wines I need to try.  My apologies for not much in the way of personal experience, but just because I’m having less fun in the wine world doesn’t mean you can’t have it for me.  I’d love to hear about your adventures and new discoveries in #TXwine. I’ll put them on the list for the freedom of fall. Cheers!

P.S.  The complete list is available now on TX Wine Lover.  So much to be excited about!

A Surprise in Any Package-Monday Wines with Banfi

One of the joys of writing about wine is, indeed, the packages that arrive requiring a signature.  Some are expected, others are not.  Each time, it is a little like Christmas.  You may have a good idea of what is inside, but there is always a little flutter of expectation with the slicing of the tape.  Sometimes the surprise comes, not with viewing the bottle, but what happens when you open it.

I recently received three wines from Banfi: a Rosso di Montalcino (always a bit of comfort), a Prosecco (always a bit of fun), and something unexpected. I read the description of 2013 Fontana Candida Terre dei Grifi Frascati DOC and thought, hmmm.  Composed of  50% Malvasia Bianca di Candia, I thought it may be a little a little sweet for me.  I read on.. 30% Trebbiano Toscano, 10% Greco, 10% Malvasia del Lazio.  I love Trebbiano, great acidity and citrus usually.  I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was recommended with Thai or Asian (read sweet) but described as dry.  Now I was really confused.

And that, my friends, is why I always try to taste with an open mind.


I brought it to my parent’s as an appertif (as recommended) for my father’s birthday. That way, if it were indeed too sweet, I had just the people there to enjoy it. It turns out, that was everyone.

Light and tropical, fruit forward without too much residual sugar.  It was bright but not biting, refreshing and easy to drink. And at around $13 it is great for summer parties with a little something for everyone. Surprise!

The Rosso and the Prosecco were as expected. The Maschio Brut Treviso is festive, citrus and stone. 100% Glera it is classic Prosecco in style and composition and another great Monday wine ($13). The Rosso is fruit, and spice, and everything nice.  Just enough tannins to give it structure while remaining versatile. I never say no to either.

Let’s face it, I don’t say no to wine very often.  I always like to try something new.  Sometimes it is hard to check my expectations at the door. But, now I know, even more definitively, that surprises come in all sorts of packages and packaging.

Summer Salmon,Two Ways

School’s…out…for summer!

Somehow I tried to believe that I, too, was now “off.”  I have to admit: I’ve been a little casual about cleaning and a little last-minute lazy in the kitchen.  But aren’t I allowed?  I always try to keep it simple, even more so now.  Throw something on the grill (or let my husband).  Turn the oven on minimally. Enjoy the fresh produce in simple salads. Eat what is in season.

One such food now in season is Copper River King Salmon. Known for its abundance of Omega 3s and anti-inflammatory properties, Wild Salmon is considered one if the world’s “Superfoods.” Although I have to admit, it isn’t my favorite thing to eat, I do so a few times a month for health reasons.  I have found a few ways to prepare it that, I think, tempers, without masking, the flavor. And a crisp glass of white only enhances the meal.

At the local HEB, they were sampling a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Drylands, that I liked quite a bit.  Based on that, she suggested I try Sea Pearl, on sale at $9.  Sold.  Subtle grassy notes, tropical fruit and lime zest.  Very easy to drink with fun acidity.


For this dish, I mixed chili powder, smoked paprika, salt, cumin, thyme, and s little garlic powder and dusted the fish.  My favorite grillmaster got it super hot and seared it for a minute, then turned it down to 400 for about ten minutes (depends on size of filet). This gave the fish a really nice crust. While it was cooking, I made a lime-cilantro butter which I drizzled over the fish when it was done.  Add some grilled zucchini, Israeli couscous (for those eating carbs), an avocado and you’re done.  It paired really nicely and was a fun change from my norm. 

What’s my norm you ask? Generally, I throw on some fresh herbs (oregano, thyme), salt and pepper, lemon zest.  When finished I top with parsley, chopped olives, lemon juice.  During Greek Week at Central Market, I picked up a couple Greek wines and, I must say, for pairing with fish, I’m hooked. (Ba-dump-bump.)


But seriously, Domaine Sigalas in making wine from some of the oldest vines of Santorini. The vines are not trellised, but grown in these beautiful cylindrical baskets of vine. The Assyrtiko was packed with minerality and vibrant acidity.  Balanced, playful, citrus and stone fruit; I enjoyed every drop.

An image formerly on the winery’s website.

Salmon can be tough sometimes.  The intensity of flavor doesn’t always “play well.” I’ve done Soy glaze, tropical salsa, dill yogurt, and a few others. These, so far, are my favorites.  Easy, quick, tasty, and I usually have the ingredients in-house.  And since we have another month of Salmon season, I’m sure I’ll be finding more.

I’d love to hear from you (if you aren’t out frolicking). What are your favorite preparations and pairings?  And what are your go-to, not-much-time-in-the-kitchen meals? I’ll be sharing more here and also meals that can be made at the campsite. Happy summer!



Balance, Bubbles, and Bertolucci

Nearly two decades ago, a film set in the Tuscan countryside provided my first wine-related epiphany.  Not through her teenage prattle or any life-changing plot, but through one scene in particular.  The rich golden rays on a rustic table, wildflowers and clinking glasses, laughter and debate beneath the branches. I remember so clearly thinking: THAT.  That is what I want in my life.

Perhaps the memory is idealized, it has been half a lifetime ago, but the sentiment remains strong. It is a moment I’ve chased, and caught several times.  Outside of Rome, on the hills of Sonoma, the Hill Country of Texas, and even whispers of it in downtown Austin.

Whether it was the breadth of the table, the diversity of the group, the lively conversation or the Old World wines, something about a recent wine lunch reminded me of that movie. Gregory White PR held a lunch at Second Bar and Kitchen with representatives, writers, and winemakers from some of their brands: Codorniu, Scala Dei, and Artesa.


I was familiar with the Cava of Codorniu, a staple for everyday value and one I’ve recommended before, so it was a pleasure to meet Bruno Colomer Marti.  Marti has been the head winemaker there since 2008 and his dedication to quality is evident.  Before the lunch, I had only sampled the entry-level wines ($8-12) and was blown away by Reserva and Vintage Pinot Noir sparklers.  Delicate, fresh, complex.  The Gran Codorniu Pinot Noir was a favorite with the fresh berry notes and long, lively finish and at an excellent value at $20. (It is in my refrigerator now, in fact.) Effervescent, approachable, and complex: a reflection of the winemaker.

All dinner parties should have a few surprises.  Ricard Rofes of Scala Dei took on that role. Perhaps it was the language barriers, perhaps the size of the group, but he seemed to be more of a quiet observer at first. Friendly and warm, but reserved.  However, when it was time to discuss his beloved Priorat and his wines, his passion was evident. He explained the history, the unfamiliar grapes, the process and soils. And when we tasted, we understood.  We tasted a Garnatxa and two blends, Prior and Cartoxia. Each wine was intense, but balanced.  Deeply saturated color which is typical of the region. The Cartoxia was strength and spice, incredibly elegant. Powerful, but subtle. Sound familiar?

Representing the domestic line was Artesa from Napa.  The Chardonnay was fresh citrus and baked apple.  The Pinot Noir had great clarity with red berries and spice. Very tasty wines. If asked about what wines from Carneros taste like, this would be a top contender for examples.  Well made, well-balanced, and a classic representation of the region.

The name “Scala Dei” translates to “Ladder of God.” This rings true to me on many levels.  The region’s beauty is dramatic and awe-inspiring.  The fruit it produces tastes like a gift from above. Most importantly, the collective enjoyment of the resulting products brings people together in a unique way.  Sharing a glass leads to sharing a story. Sharing stories brings connectivity. Connectivity provides the rungs of the ladder; it is what this life is about.

Many thanks to Patricia Clough at Gregory White PR and Aveniu Brands for inviting me and the opportunity to meet such wonderful people. Thank you Bruno and Ricard for taking the time away from your families and your work to share your wines. Thank you to each person that brought a piece of yourselves and shared with us all.  I will always drink to that. Cheers!

BTW-I made a last minute jump into the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge with this piece.  If you liked it, please vote. I haven’t entered in over a year!

{I was invited as media to this lunch.  I received no additional compensation.  Thoughts and opinions are my own.}

Picnic with Portugal-Memorial Day Wines

You’ve been invited to a BBQ or a picnic this weekend with 20 of your closest acquaintances.  You know them, but not well enough to know their taste in wine.  Do they drink wine? Are they REALLY into wine?  You want something nice, but not too nice.  Interesting, but approachable.  Something that goes with a wide variety of foods and one that can be sipped solo.  It can be intimidating, but not impossible.

Look no further than the wines of Portugal.  You will find new varieties that may serve as conversation starters.  You’ll find value.  You’ll find versatility.

Sweltering? Pick up a low-alcohol, refreshing Vinho Verde.  You can sip all day without embarrassing yourself. BBQ chicken? Try an Alvarinho. Grilling ribs? Perequita pairs wonderfully. Burgers? The Esteva Douro* would fit the bill.

Not sure what is on the menu? You can grab a white and a red for around $20.


I recently grilled some ribs with a rub and a quick Root Beer BBQ sauce. I reduced said brew down to a syrup and added Stubbs.  (I said it was quick.) The Periquita*, a blend of Castelao, Trincadeira, and Aragones (Tempranillo) complemented the smoky spice, the acid cut the sweet and kept it fresh. This wine can be found a Whole Foods for around $10.

Whether you plan on celebrating this Memorial weekend with a few close friends or joining a large group, check out the Wines of Portugal.  There is something for everyone at a price everyone can afford. Cheers to that!

I would be remiss in mentioning Memorial Day without expressing gratitude for my freedom to do so. Thank you to all of the men and women that serve our country and have sacrificed their time, lives, and families so that we can be free. There are walks going all throughout the country with the organization, Carry the Load. There will be a walk in Austin area. Follow the link for more information on the organization. My deepest gratitude to those that have served and those that continue to do so.

*{These wines were received as media samples from Palm Bay International. I received no other compensation.  Thoughts and opinions are my own.}





Radicc-ulous Salad-Monday Wines

I don’t mean to brag, but I have been given the title of the “Salad Queen.”  I know, you’re jealous.  I am sure it is not exclusive, so no need to panic.  You, too, can be given that accolade by your significant other. In all seriousness, I love to make salads.  I don’t plan in advance too often; it is a matter of seeing what I have in the house.

I try to play off moods, season, and pairing.  Usually it begins with a green, then some sort of texture(veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds), sometimes an accent (cheese, bacon,) and then a dressing that compliments.  Dressing is some sort of oil or fat and an acid (lemon, vinegar), salt and pepper, often an emulsifier (Dijon usually) and sometimes a specific flavor (herb, jam, juice, etc.)

Last night I made, what I would consider, one of the best.  I’ve mentioned before that I kind of enjoy the challenge of a somewhat empty fridge.  Less waste, more effort.  I was marinating chicken with the Cornell recipe.  I had always referred to it as “Grandma’s chicken” because it was what my grandmother had made all the time.  A friend pointed out the similarity to the Cornell chicken and I found myself corrected.  Regardless, it is an easy, tasty, versatile recipe that is always a hit.

Digging through my empty fridge, I found dandelion greens, radicchio, carrots.  I decided to roast the carrots and do a play on the salad at St. Philip.


Radicc-ulous Salad

Dandelion Greens (or any you have)

Chopped Radicchio (or another bitter green)

Roasted and cooled carrots (oil and salt at 350 for about 30 minutes)

Pistachios (or pumpkin seeds or similar)

Feta (or goat or similar)

Olive oil drizzle, salt, pepper, and a generous squeeze of Meyer (or regular) lemon.

Oh my.  I enjoyed every single bite.

We paired it with a Rosé from the Languedoc region: 2014 Côté Mas 2012 Rosé Aurore*.  The blend is 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 20% Syrah. A beautiful salmon pink, the nose was tart red fruit and floral.  A nice amount of acid making it lovely by itself and a great compliment to the food.  When I initially tasted it, I found it to lean towards the floral, specifically lavender.  With the food, it became silky and the fruit notes awakened.  A great value at around $12, this is one I would drink all summer long.

I mentioned before that I rarely planned salads.  This is one I will plan to repeat, for sure, and, although you could go in many directions with the wine, I see no reason to stray from this pairing. Happy Monday!


*{This wine was received as a media sample from Gregory White PR.  Thoughts and opinions are my own and I received no further compensation.}


Spring Forward


One thing that is consistent about Texas weather is its inconsistency. Fifty degree swings in 24 hours are not unheard of.  In fact the week before Spring Break we had freezing temperatures, the weekend it began we hit the seventies, the second weekend was chilly and raining.

Another consistent for Spring break is daily drinking with friends. There were plenty of opportunities to do some sampling, and those bottles were as varied as the temperatures.

The week before, I participated in a Snooth Twitter Tasting with Ruffino‘s line of Chianti*.  They ranged from the 2013 Chianti DOCG ($9) with bright red fruit and plenty of acid to the 2010 Riserva Ducale Oro ($28), a rich, layered, brooding example of what Sangiovese can be.  One thing remained true throughout.  These are well made, balanced wines that are priced to benefit the customer. It was a pleasure to hear from the winemaker, Gabriele Tacconi, about both the history and winemaking process and the participants always entertain.  If you haven’t joined before, we will banter again on Monday April 27th,


Malbec is a grape I enjoy more in cooler weather so I made it a point to open a sample from Rutini** ($18) before the temps changed.  This 100% Malbec from Argentina is held in 50% French, 50% American barrels.  The fruit was deep, rich, intense and has a smooth and spicy finish.  I paired it with a ratatouille with turkey sausage, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, onion, tomatoes, and herbs.  I finished the sauce with some of the Malbec and let it simmer for a couple of hours.  It turned out really well and paired nicely.


Later that week we opened the Rutini** Chardonnay($18).  Chardonnay is generally not my go-to white, but when the oak is subtle and the fruit has a starring role, I am in.  This wine had tropical fruit notes and honey balanced with abundant acid.  50% goes though Malolactic fermentation and it sits in New French Oak for 10 months. I rarely make recipes anymore but as I was thumbing through my mom’s Country Living magazine, I found this for Pancetta and Brussels Sprouts linguine.  Since I had the ingredients (sub bacon for pancetta and pasta) I gave it a try.  Lovely together.


By mid-break I was in the mood for Sauvignon Blanc and so I invited a neighbor over to sample with me.  These two SBs from Chile were vastly different. Outer Limits by Montes($30)*** is a series that explores grapes from new regions.  This bottle yields from the Zapallar vineyards in Chile, 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean.  This came as no surprise to me as the first sip tasted like the ocean.  A great deal of salinity, tropical fruit, and citrus with a touch of oily green.  The color reminded me of an unripened banana, yellow with hues of green.  Although not my preferred style of SB, it was a food-friendly, complex, and interesting wine.


The second Montes wine was Montes Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc ($15)***. Grass, white peach, and floral notes on the nose and in the mouth.  Crisp, fresh, floral and delicious.   Grown in the Leyda Valley, this was exactly what I am looking for when I open a Sauvignon Blanc.


They say if you don’t like the weather, wait.  By Friday, it was chilly and rainy.  I had previously caramelized onions for French Onion Soup and then frozen them.  I knew it might be our last chill of the season so I decided to finish the process.  With one more sample that was predominantly Malbec looming, I knew what I had to do: call in the hubs for red meat reserves. When the wine suggests decanting for at least an hour, you know you’re dealing with a big one and the soup just wouldn’t cut it.

The 2011 Achaval Ferrar Quimera**($38) is a Bordeaux style blend but the predominant grape is Malbec. 60% was aged 12 months in 1-year old French oak barrels, 40% 12 months in new French oak barrels. The color was a deep cherry plum, the nose conveyed spicy dust and sun-warmed fruit.  A surprising amount of acid at first, it faded as it opened.  Black fruit and alpine herbs with sturdy structure and a long finish.

There are some wines that I receive as samples that, in my mind, need to be held for a bit.  It pains me to open them, but it hangs over my head if I don’t. This was one of those wines. In retrospect, I would have paired it a little differently (stinky cheese?), decanted more, and held it a little longer.  It was clearly well-made and has potential, but I think I missed the mark with this one. Now I know.

Sometimes price point is not an indicator of how much you will enjoy the wine.  Yet another reason to taste before you judge and  review with an open mind.  In each of these samplings, for whatever reason, I found myself enjoying the wines that were less costly. Now if only that were true with shoes…clothes…hotels…

Wishing my friends up north a jump towards spring and for my friends in Texas, a lengthy one.  Cheers!

*These wines were provided as media samples for Snooth Virtual Tasting and I received no other compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

**These wines were provided as media samples by Gregory White PR and I received no other compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

***These wines were provided as media samples by Feast PR and I received no other compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own.




Conversation Wines: What Message are You Sending?

I met my husband at the end of 2001.  We casually dated over the holidays; neither of us were looking for a relationship. So when February 14th was approaching, I decided to diffuse it rather than cause either of us unnecessary stress.

” I am not one to buy into the mass marketing commercialism of holidays.  Especially ones that try to force people to spend quadruple the price on flowers, etc.  However, I do think Valentine’s Day is a good excuse to spend time with someone you are kinda in to sooo… what do you think of making dinner together tomorrow night?   Just an excuse to drink a nice bottle of wine and hang out.”

Simple, non-committal, casual.  I made filets, potatoes, salad.  Easy, tasty, a little special but not crazy.  But I made a critical error in my “low-key” approach.  We opened this bottle of wine.


I had brought it back from my trip to Italy in 2000.  A small producer, Francesco Mollaioli,  I found on the streets of Assisi.  Even though I didn’t know too much about wine at the time, this wine had a story. I’d saved it for the right occasion, I couldn’t easily replace the bottle. Cover blown.

Your approach to this holiday sends a message.  The wine you choose punctuates that message.  If the relationship is new, the wine should convey that.  If you are getting super serious about this person, you need to step it up. In a long-term relationship? Well, that’s up to both of you. There is the freedom to keep it low-key or the excuse to show your significant other what a treasure he or she is, and drink some dang good wine. I always opt for the dang good wine, even if we drink it in comfies on the couch.

I recently participated in the Boston Wine Expo Twitter Tasting featuring Hope Family Wines*.  Three wine samples were featured. The names of the wines naturally lend themselves to my Valentine’s wine choice theory. Allow me to demonstrate.


Liberty School Merlot ($16)

You’ve spent some time together, but are focused on your freedom. You don’t want to send a message that conveys anything but so stay under $20.  Even if the evening is a total bust, you aren’t out too much. Black fruit, spice, a good Merlot for the price point.  this would be great with a pork dish.  I recently made a Chinese Five Spice Pork with horseradish sweet potatoes that would’ve paired really well. Or chocolate. Love Merlot with Chocolate. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of good wine.

Troublemaker ($20)

Ok, maybe you weren’t looking, but this person is taking up way too much of your brain space.  You find yourself thinking about them. Involuntary smiles at the sound of their voice. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Zinfandel, I described this wine on twitter as Boysenberry cobbler with a smoked crème anglaise. A little sweet, a little sassy. Your favorite kind of trouble.

Treana Red ($45)

Hope Family calls this their benchmark blend: the wine by which all others are measured. If you have one of these in your life, you do what you can to hold on.  It’s beautiful on the outside, multi-faceted on the inside. A blend of Cab and Syrah, this wine meets its match with something equally complex. Filets with bleu cheese, braised short ribs, think big and rich. A memorable wine for a memorable evening.


We would both say that, even though we don’t donate to Hallmark, Valentine’s will always be special for us. Over the years we’ve had swoons and laughter, tears and silence. We’ve had dinners in which I put on a new dress and one when held a four-day-old bundle in sweats. But one constant is recounting our first special bottle together while enjoying another.

So, maybe the wine choice blew my cover. But, maybe the risk was just what we needed because we were rarely apart after. Whether you are opening something special to treat yourself, a new interest, or your benchmark in life, think about the message your wine could be sending. Cheers!

 *{I received these wines to participate in a #BWETaste Twitter conversation. I received no other compensation. thoughts and opinions are my own.}


The Magic of Bubbles


What is it about bubbles?  Is it the anticipation? The way they reflect the light with swirling colors?  Perhaps it is the challenge of blowing the biggest bubble or the chase as they float out of reach. Children of all ages can easily become absorbed in the magic on a sunny afternoon.  That doesn’t change in adulthood.



Any afternoon becomes an occasion when you accept the invitation to play. Here are a few bottles of Monday wines for any occasion.

Codorniu Clasico is cava made from  Macabeo, Xarel.lo and Parellada.  I bought it for mimosas but it was fun by itself.  Stone and tropical fruit, dry, bright, tasty.  A great bottle for the price point of around $8. An even better bottle when shared with friends.


Anna de Codorniu Brut NV* is from the same family but this bottle is composed of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Parellada. The bubbles, delicate, the color, straw yellow.  Tropical and citrus notes combine to create a balanced bottle of bubbles that is impressive, especially at $15. It was just the right bottle to celebrate my friend’s end of a grueling semester.


Ruffino Prosecco** was sent to me to create a holiday cocktail they suggested.  I had every intention of doing just that, but when I got home on NYE to discover I was missing the cranberry juice, I improvised.  (The cider was for the littles). The original cocktail was:

Sweet and Spiced Holiday Sparkler

3 oz. Ruffino Prosecco DOC

3/4 oz. apple cider

3/4 oz. cranberry juice

1 tsp. maple syrup

squeeze of 1 lemon wedge

Instead I made:

Five Spice Sparkler

4 oz. Ruffino Prosecco

1/2 tsp of Five spice Syrup***

Squeeze of Meyer Lemon

While the first cocktail looked yummy, I generally prefer less juice, more booze and bubbles.  The one I came up with was delicious if I do say so myself.  On its own, I find the Ruffino a little bitter in the finish but the syrup and lemon worked well with it.  I’ll be making that again.  Holidays or not.


*This wine was provided by Gregory White PR as a media sample.  Thoughts and opinions are my own.

**This wine was provided by Nike Communications as a media sample.  Thoughts and opinions are my own.

***Five Spice Syrup (approximate recipe)

1/4 c sugar

TBSP Five Spice Powder

1/8 c water

Combine and heat, stirring until syrup consistency.