Monday, December 21, 2009

December Holiday Wines

Remember the big Cabs and lush whites we asked you to skip at Thanksgiving? Well, it's late December and it's official: Loosen your wrists and pop those corks.

This month's holiday celebrations typically center about heartier winter fare such as rib roasts, duck and lamb. Pasta-centric Italian families dish out meat lasagne, ragù with rabbit sauce and elaborate veal dishes. Even fish dishes are sauced with a heavier hand this time of year, from beurre blanc to rémoulade. Having chest pain yet?

All these foods scream out for bigger wines. As with Thanksgiving, we suggest at least two wine choices for your holiday guests. Lead off with a lighter-bodied or higher-acid wine to tickle taste buds instead of hammering your guests' palates with the powerhouse red you've been aching to open all year long.

Check out these wines we've spotted around town to help get you through holiday meals with grace and good taste. Starred wines are value-priced at less than $15-20 a bottle at Dan's Wine Shop, LA Wine Company, Cost Plus World Market, Costco or grocers Vons, Albertsons and Ralph's.

Lighter whites: Dry Riesling (Pacific Rim°, Chateau Ste. Michelle°)

Medium-bodied whites: White Burgundy (Mâcon Villages, 2006°), McManis Viognier°

Powerhouse whites: Chardonnay (Trinitas°, California; Luca°, Argentina)

Ligher reds: Dolcetto D'Alba, Pinot Noir (Cambria, Julia's Vineyard 2006°; Becker Estate 2007°, Germany)

Medium-bodied reds: Monte Antico° (Sangiovese-based blend, 2006. Italy), Volver° (Tempranillo, 2007, Spain), Robert Hall Syrah° and Rhône de Robles° 2006, Perrin & Fils Côtes du Rhône Villages 2007°

Powerhouse reds: Orin Swift's The Prisoner (Zinfandel-based blend, California), Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, Cannonball 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon°)

Do you have a special bottle you've saved for your holiday celebration? Stay tuned for a few of our fallen soldiers in the weeks ahead.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Place Your Bids: Menu for Hope Fundraiser

For only $10, you can support a great cause and take a chance at winning gifts sure to make your New Year bright. How about a weeklong Brunello experience for you and three friends in the heart of Tuscany at a private villa and winery? Closer to home, perhaps a two-night stay at the 4,000-square foot four-bedroom Koehler Estate Vineyard House that includes a private tasting with the winemaker and six bottles of Koehler Estate wines? Just want wine? A gift box of eight awesome Andrew Rich wines would hit the spot.

You can bid on these and other fabulous wine-themed gifts to benefit Menu for Hope VI, a charity begun in 2004 by food and wine bloggers to aid tsunami-relief efforts. All of last year's $60,000 raise went to the people served by the United Nations World Food Programme, the world's largest food assistance agency. This year, we're asking you to help us do even better.

It's easy and secure to start submitting your bids. First, check out wine-themed raffle items hosted at or the full roster including foodie items, trips and international destination prizes at Chez Pim. Note each bid item's assigned codes - you'll need them to do your online bidding.

Every $10 you donate gets you a virtual ticket to use towards the raffle item(s) you select. You can even choose to have your company match your donation by filling in that section of your bid.

Donate $100 and you'll have ten chances to win one or more raffle items; $1,000 gets you a hundred and so on. You can holiday shop for friends who don't need one more "thing" and help this tremendous cause at the same time.

Start spreading the news and then check back here and at Chez Pim on Monday, January 18th for results.

Here's all you need to do:

1. Review the raffle items and note the bid codes of the ones you want. They're posted on Vinography and at Chez Pim. (Example: WB17 is the bid code for the WinewomenPSP package.)

2. Go to the donation site at Firstgiving and make your credit card donation.

3. When you enter your donation amount, be sure to specify which item(s) you're bidding on in the 'Your Comment' (personal message) section of the donation form. You must write-in how many tickets per bid item using the item code.

Each $10 you donate gets you one raffle ticket toward a bid item of your choice. Please use the format "number of tickets" x "item code." For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 plus 3 tickets for EU02 so you'd enter: 2xEU01, 3xEU02.

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so Firstgiving can claim the corporate match.

5. Please enter your e-mail address so you may be contacted if you win. Your e-mail address will not be shared with anyone. (We suggest you do not check the 'hide' box.)

Now get busy and good luck! Drop us a comment if you have any questions.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Holiday Wine Book: A Keeper by Kevin Zraly

Go beyond the sensory pleasures of the vine with a literary treat for your wine pals this holiday season. Gift books are sure to bring barrels of pleasure to the wine lovers on your list. Besides those already listed on this blog, Kevin Zraly's latest book, Windows on the World Complete Wine Course 25th Anniversary Edition (Sterling, 2009) is one that belongs on every wine lover's shelf. Like a favorite bottle of wine, readers will want to keep going back for more.

Zraly was cellar master at Windows on the World, the iconic restaurant on the 107th floor of Tower One at New York's World Trade Center. Today, the master wine educator continues the wine school he founded at Windows in Times Square at the Marriott Marquis Hotel.

The 338-page hardcover anniversary edition gives structure to the world of wine. Novices and wine sophisticates alike will enjoy its lively pace and juicy sidebars packed with entertaining and betcha-didn't-know nuggets of wine information.

Region-focused chapters spirit readers off on a condensed tour of regional history, terroir, major grapes, producers and specific wines that are Zraly favorites or benchmarks. For a DIY experience, the author suggests wines readers can choose to taste along the way to train their palates and understand defining characteristics. Chapters end with questions that simulate a wine course but no angst necessary – Zraly gives reference pages for the answers. Color illustrations include regional maps, wine labels, tables and those fun sidebars that make review a challenge and the book a pleasure to read.

Tips, FAQs and wine-buying strategies round out the last few chapters. The book ends with the author's personal history of the landmark Windows, tragically gone but never forgotten.

We've added this book to our favorites and hope you will too. For only $27.95, this book will bring a world of wine pleasure to wine lovers on your holiday list. Watch this blog for more gift-giving ideas coming soon.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Saturday Sips Around Town

Just because we're partial to WinewomenPSP events doesn't mean there aren't other wine haps in town worth a sip. If you're looking to get wet before our December 10th event at The Art Place, you can enjoy two valley tastings this Saturday, December 5th.

Jensen's in La Quinta hosts a tasting of Byron wines from 2-5 PM. For only $5, you'll taste Byron's 2007 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Santa Maria Valley vineyards. Compare that Pinot to the 2006 Bien Nacido or find out how lovely Pinot Blanc can be. You might find a new favorite from this Santa Barbara County winery. Aubrey and his staff will roll out cheese and olive snacks, too. Reservations are not needed so just show up to their store at the corner of Washington Street and Highway 111 with your five-spot. Information: 760.777.8181.

Dan's Wine Shop in Palm Desert is also having a $5 wine tasting Saturday from noon to 5 PM. RSVP by e-mail to or by phone at 760.674.0305.

At Dan's you'll belly up to three totally different whites: Alexander Valley Vineyards Dry Gewürztraminer, Napa Cellars Chardonnay, and King Estate Pinot Gris. Like red wines too? Taste three more styles in Bearboat Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Folie à Deux Amador Zinfandel and Earthquake Cabernet Sauvignon.

Find Dan's at 73360 Highway 111 on the north side of 111 opposite the Palm Desert Jensen's. Be sure to call or e-mail ahead to reserve.

Remember, Monday December 7th is reservations deadline for our WinewomenPSP holiday spirit event at The Art Place on Thursday, December 10th in support of Mourning Star Center. Wear your comfy shoes and come party!