Monday, April 14, 2014

Wines for Easter Dinner that Won't Break the Bank

One of the best parts of preparing for a holiday meal is getting your wine list together. Sometimes it's a matter of choosing the perfect pairing, course by course. Others, it's selecting bottles based on the personal preferences of your family and friends. Here are four wines that won't break the bank (all under $25 or less) and are sure to be springtime crowd pleasers.
Biltmore Pas de Deux Moscato Sparkling Wine
I always like to start off a holiday meal with a little sparkling wine. This Moscato has bright fruit flavors (strawberry and lemon) and a yellow/green color that shouts springtime.  Biltmore produces festive wines for holidays like this Christmas wine and while this isn't branded as an Easter wine, I think it fits the holiday perfectly.
Chateau Ste Michelle Chardonnay ($11-$15)
One of my favorite Chardonnays to serve at dinner parties. A "food-friendly" wine, meaning  it pairs well with a variety of foods, it's crisp and has flavors of apple, citrus, spice and oak. it's a great wine to share around the holiday table.

Cambria Estates Julia's Vineyard Pinot Noir ($25)
This is a nice lighter-bodied red to pair with Easter dishes like lamb. Our family has a tradition of making a really flavorful dish of  lamb and roasted artichokes, and I think this Cambria wine would be a nice compliment to this entree. It has red fruit flavors and dark berry aromas.
Zonin Prosecco ($14)
This is a dry prosecco has an affordable price point (usually under $15 and it can be found in almost any wine or grocery store) so it is perfect for bringing to parties as a hostess gift. There's just something about prosecco that makes it feel like a celebration, so it's a great bottle of Zonin to have for an after dinner toast along with dessert. I've been checking out these Easter dessert recipes from Cooking Light and I think Zonin would pair well with quite a few of them!

Cheers to holiday dinners! What are some of your favorite wines to serve for special family get-togethers? Leave a comment below!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Stinson Vineyards Wines: Good Things Come in Small Batches

When I discover a new bottle of wine that can teach me something about the wine-making process itself, I feel like I'm not just drinking wine, I'm "learning." So it makes wine, as a "hobby," more justifiable. Stinson Vineyards is an environmentally sustainable, family-run vineyard located at the foothills of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains (a place I love to visit!) 

After trying their wine, I learned that the winemakers are a father/daughter team, Scott and Rachel Stinson, who take their inspiration from “garagiste” wineries of France
What is garagiste wine? Well, here's where I learned something new: "Garagistes" refers to a group of winemakers in France's Bordeaux region, producing "Vins de garage", or "Garage wine". They specialize in producing small batches, with an Old World influence.The Stinson winery itself not only makes wine using these techniques, but the winery itself is actually built into an old three-car garage.  And I like this vineyard's blog because it has some great recipe pairings.
 Their 2012 Cabernet Franc is a lighter-bodied red with flavors of black cherry, pepper and tobacco. Blend of Cab Franc, 10% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot. It pairs well with steak, grilled burgers and other red meat dishes.
Their Sugar Hollow White, at $15.99 a bottle has lemon and grapefruit flavors with a hint of sweetness. I really enjoyed this white and found it interesting to discover the meaning of "garage wine." Cheers to learning something new!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wine Wednesday: La Crema Pinot Noir

Springtime is great for pinot noir as you steer away from heavy, full-bodied red wines. They're nice to enjoy chilled and good for outdoor sipping. Le Crema Pinot Noir is a favorite of mine, with flavors of strawberry, spice and coffee.
Like any wine, the terroir and the climate in the region where the grapes are grown will influence how the wine tastes. One thing I love about La Crema's web site is that they do a great job of explaining viniculture and the way that winds, sun, rain work together to create the taste of a wine, to the "layperson" like myself. Here are some (abbreviated) notes from the winemaker about this pinot noir: Ocean winds are funneled down a 90-mile-long valley that runs north to south between the Santa Lucia and Gabilan Mountains. With one of the longest cool-climate seasons in the United States, abundant sun and scarce rainfall combine with strong winds, providing extended hang time on the vine, which creates the combination of vivid natural acidity and full maturity.
I paired the wine with a Green Vegetable Stir-fry. Here's the quick and easy recipe.
  • 3 cups broccoli
  • 2 cups green beans (with the ends chopped off)
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper
  • 2 cups brown rice (I used Uncle Ben's 90-second brown rice. Shhh! It's my go-to for quick dinners)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp sriracha
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
The spicy/sweet flavor of the stir-fry complements the wine nicely. This takes about 10-12 minutes to make, tops and is an easy springtime meal. Cheers!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bonterra's Eco-Friendly Wines for Earth Day

Earth Day is April 22 and while this day is a great reminder that we should all be doing our part to reduce, reuse, recycle -- really, what better way is there to celebrate the organic way of life and crop sustainability than enjoying some delicious biodynamic wines?  Growing wine the biodynamic way has much in common with other organic approaches. It emphasizes the use of composting and prohibits the use of artificial chemicals on soil and plants.
Bonterra is one of the wines I always like to keep around the house because I've never tried a wine of their that I didn't like -- and the price point is budget-friendly. Bonterra has been making organically farmed, sustainable and biodynamic wines since the 90's. This Sauvignon Blanc has aromas of grapefruit, lime and lemon and a flavor that's bright and crisp.
Their Zinfandel blend features sirah, sangiovese and grenache, and has flavors of berries, vanilla, black pepper, and oak.  Bonterra has a range of varietal wines from Mendocino and Lake Counties, all at around $14-$16. 
Spring is just a great time to spend outdoors and take in nature. And these organic and sustainable wines are a great choice to sip on Earth Day, and really at this price -- every day.
You can find these wines in Florida at Publix and Total Wine. Cheers!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Recipe: Wildflower Honey Chicken

It's no secret that I love Savannah Bee honey products. Recently I sampled their flute of Wildflower Honey. Aside from the rich, sweet flavor, I love the fact that this honey comes corked and looks almost like a little wine bottle.
With this as a main ingredient, here's a recipe I like to call Wildflower Honey Chicken. It's an easy weeknight dish you can make in your slow cooker. 
Other than the honey, this dish features Asian ingredients, sweet, tangy, spicy delight.

  • 3 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Savannah Bee Wildflower Honey 
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1tsbp onion powder
  • 1 tsp sriracha
  • 1/4 cup water 
  •  black pepper
  • Place the chicken in the slow cooker and season with pepper. 
  • In a  bowl, combine soy sauce, honey,  vinegar, garlic, 1 tbsp water, onion powder and sriracha. Pour over the chicken and cook on LOW for 4 hours. 
  • Turn down the heat to warm and split up the chicken into small bits using two forks.
  • Serve  chicken and sauce over rice. Suggested sides would be steamed broccoli or a chilled cucumber salad.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Clearwater Beach Uncorked

Clearwater Beach Uncorked, touted as the hippest beachfront gastronomic event on Florida’s west coast, was held Feb. 8 and 9 and allowed guests to enjoy fabulous food and wine, all with the incredible view from the beach at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa.
I just love this palatial pink hotel. It's the perfect backdrop for this annual event. I attended on Sunday and we had sunny, crisp weather.

Clearwater Beach Uncorked was a weekend of world-class food, wine, spirits and microbrews held under a tent on the white sand beach that Clearwater is world-famous for.

The event drew a huge crowd as usual, so arriving early is always key. Wine sampling stations go on as far as the eye can see.
 Restaurant presenters included SHOR American Grill, which is inside the Hyatt, Caretta on the Gulf, Rumba, The Lobster Pot, Marlin Darlin, Oystercatchers (located at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay) and more.
DJ's provided entertainment while gguests mingled under the tent and outside in these cozy cabanas.
 The paella from SHOR was one of my favorite dishes I sampled.

This year, the desserts were a real highlight of the event. In addition to a dessert area and an extensive spirits tent, chefs from Publix Apron's, Buitoni, Duncan Heinz and pictured here, Lindt Master Chocolatier Ann Czaja gave cooking demos, providing an educational aspect for the aspiring at-home chefs. Overall it was a great event and I look forward to attending again next year.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

50 Shades of Grey Wine for Valentine's Day

Looking for an alternative to the same old flowers and chocolate gifts on Valentine's Day? How about giving your wine-loving sweetheart "50 Shades of Grey" wine? 
Inspired by the best-selling books and the relationship between characters Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, this is the perfect wine to jump-start Valentine’s Day romance. 
About the wines: A wine enthusiast, author EL James collaborated with winemakers in California’s North Coast region to craft two Fifty Shades of Grey blends.  Red Satin combines Petite Sirah and Syrah in a wine that’s full of flavors of black cherry, cocoa and spice and a full-bodied palate.  White Silk blends Gewurztraminer with Sauvignon Blanc, creating a wine with floral aromatics, mineral notes and flavors of grapefruit and pear that combine for a crisp, zesty finish. 

Food pairings: These wines pair well with several foods that appear on Valentine's Day menus. The winemakers' pairing suggestions include: oysters, filet mignon, cream mushroom risotto, and dark chocolate mousse, for starters.

Where to get 50 Shades of Grey Wines: Affordably priced at just $16.99 per bottle at Total Wine, they are also available at some grocery stores or online

Cheers and Happy Valentine's Day!