A Resolution Worth Keeping: Drink More!

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I have never been one for resolutions ( they clash with my anti-conformity sentiments. Says the woman who was in the military…) But this year is different. For 2014, I have uncovered a resolution that anarchists and dignitaries alike can embrace: Drink more wine! 

How to Make This Year’s Resolution A Wine-Filled Wonder:

1.  Don’t settle, drink the good stuff. Life really is too short to drink bad wine and you might even live longer if you avoid the cheap stuff! Low quality wines are sincerely bad for you. All of the additives that you are avoiding in processed foods in an effort to eat “clean” also apply in the wine world. Mass-produced, bottom shelf, grocery store wines have additives like tannin powder, sugar and pesticides (no wonder you get a headache!) The better the wine, the better you feel!

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Sauvignon Blanc for Meatless Monday!

2.  Don’t just plan your meals ahead, plan your wine pairings.  We are all trying to eat healthier after the gluttony that was November and December. I myself am making an effort to prep food and prevent overeating. And although limiting your alcohol intake will certainly help cut back the calories, just like with food, eliminating your cravings completely can lead to overdoing it down the road. Worse: you could uncork a bottle in a moment of weakness that pairs poorly with your kale and spinach salad! Plan ahead, have a little at each meal and feel satisfied. Plus, you will avoid that awful metallic taste of Chianti with Cod!

3. Travel. …In a bottle! Experiencing new cultures, histories and lands can sometimes be done in your own home. Plus, it’s often cheaper than a plane ticket! So open your mind to exploring new vineyards, embrace its terroir and appreciate the rich history of wine making. Screenshot_2014-01-10-09-00-27

4. Join a gym wine club. Take it from someone who works from home a lot of the time: being social is key to being healthy. So don’t just join the local health club, join (or found) your own club that includes your hobbies. Even if you just want to start a book club, you can always incorporate vino!

PS: Traditional wine clubs run by wineries can be fun, too. Exclusive events and discounts on wines that you love mean VIP treatment!

5. Get outside. Maybe wine combined with training for a half-marathon isn’t viewed as ideal (challenge accepted!) but you can certainly take a bottle of wine with your picnic lunch to enjoy at the end of a hike. Or explore Wine Country by bicycle or horseback. Wine evokes so many great memories; why should physical activity be excluded?

I highly recommend this movie. So educational!

I highly recommend this movie. So educational!

6. Never stop learning. Maybe this year you want to read more? Take a class? Learn a new skill? All of these ambitions can be accomplished with wine and I completely encourage it! The more I learn about wine – be it the vinification techniques, grape growing or discovering a new varietal – the more I love and appreciate it.

7. Open your mind to new experiences. Deciding that you know every wine that you like is a declaration that, quite frankly, limits you. Turning up your nose to wines that you have never experienced is like deciding that you will only travel within the United States. There are so many regions, varieties, and wineries out there that WILL surprise you and please you. So get messy and kiss a few frogs. Discovering the hidden gems makes it all worth it.

Shhh...

Shhh…

8. Break the rules. A good friend taught me about the joys of sneaking a bottle of wine into a movie theater. Maybe this isn’t your style, but I encourage rebellion in small forms from time-to-time. After all, part of the excitement is getting caught (meow!) So be it in a theater, public park or at the drive-in – we are still talking about wine, right? Add some excitement to your wine life.

9. Bring back date night.  Keep the sparks flying and show your luhva that you put some thought into making them happy. Make a night on the town extra special with a nice bottle of wine. BONUS: Don’t forget about yourself! Just because you aren’t on a date doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a little TLC. So be sure to treat yourself once and a while!

My pal, Jennifer (Right) and my Amazonian self (Left) at this past year's Holiday Party.

My pal, Jennifer (Right) and my Amazonian self (Left) at this past year’s Holiday Party.

10. Make new (wine) friends. My favorite way to enhance a good bottle is by drinking it with friends that share my enthusiasm. Being able to talk about the nuances or simply express my enjoyment with others that echo my passion is why wine was originally meant to be shared.

11. Come from a place of yes. Going to bed early on a work night or staying within your comfort zone has its place, but occasionally, don’t let your responsible side overwhelm your sense of adventure. So if you find yourself invited to a Wednesday night, six course meal, complete with five star wine pairings, Carpe diem!

12. Invest in years to come. Having a good bottle of wine on hand can sometimes take self IMG_20140110_090406314control (I know, I hate it, too.) Some wines require years in the bottle before they are truly magical, so patience and planning are essential. This New Year, spend a little time and money on laying down some good wines  to enjoy on future special occasions. Be sure to catalog them correctly to ensure you drink them before they expire and during their peak.

Happy 2014!

Andee

Put Down the Pumpkin Spice Latte and Bring Me A Bottle Of Burgundy: 11 Ways To Enhance This Fall (and life in general) With French Wine.

IMG_20131119_095447791_HDRI fully embrace coffee in copious amounts every morning and I enjoy the occasional splurge on a coffeehouse creation, but when did Starbucks take over the Fall season? Yes, Pumpkin Spice lattes are adorable, frothy, six dollar treats that you can drink while driving, but is this really the beverage that embodies Fall?

A gigantic seasonal latte is an illusion of relaxation. True, it’s warm and spicy for those few moments, but those sips provide imitation nostalgia. Those memories are likely of previous Falls of which you spent wired on caffeine to make it through a work day or Black Friday. It’s a way to trick you into feeling temporary comfort while simultaneously slipping you a dose of stimulants (say that ten times fast) to keep you going in the traffic and crowded shopping centers.

Forgive me for sounding like a conspiracy theorist, but let’s be honest: we all drink coffee to get us through our week.  But we also know that the opposite is true for wine; wine equals relaxation.  And the French take particular pride in enjoying a slower-paced, pleasure-filled lifestyle. So when Fall comes, the time that marks the beginning of family time, food and festivities, let’s sidestep the java, take a page from the original wine country and vive la France!

The following are 11 ways to incorporate French Wines Into Your Fall Favorites:

My current White Burg obsession.

My current White Burg obsession.

1.  Trade in your buttery Napa Chards for White Burgundy. The cooler season demands a crisper style of Chardonnay and Burgundy brilliantly showcases the varietal as well as terroir.  Chablis is so crisp that no oak whatsoever is used, so Sauvignon Blanc drinkers will love it, too!

2.  Speaking of Sauv Blanc, drink White Bordeaux with vegetable dishes. Forget about New Zealand this season. White Bordeaux offers Sauvignon Blanc blended with Semillon, giving a rounder texture. Therefore, it stands up to a heartier vegetable dishes like green bean casserole. Don’t be afraid to add some of it to your vegetable stuffing, too!

3.  Swap jammy reds for Cote du Rhones. For those of you who love fruit-forward reds, Cote du Rhone will give you fruit plus so much complexity. I often find notes of rhubarb pie or tangy chutney that really gets me in gear for holiday foods. Plus, it’s lower alcohol than your typical Californa zin and far less oaky, which allows it to be paired with so much more!

Rose Cremant de Bourgogne at work.

Rose Cremant de Bourgogne at work.

4.  Pair rose with poultry. Be it Thanksgiving Turkey or Roasted Chicken, there is a rose out there for every bird of every feather. France offers multiple wine regions with many styles of Rose. Want more strawberry notes? Think of Provence’s warmer softer wines. Want a a bit more acidity and stone fruit to cut through that extra butter in Grandma’s recipe? Choose a rose Burgundy. Either way, you can’t go wrong; exploring French rose is so much fun!

5.  Alsatian Gewurtztraminer is the new apple cider. Gewurz is slightly sweet with a subtle spiciness. This is a wonderful aperitif to sip while cooking, socializing and is also a fabulous pairing with honey baked ham!

6.  Add red Burgundy to your crockpot. Maybe you aren’t going to make Coq au Vin and go full on Frenchy, but there are a multitude of rich dishes that channel Julia Childs. Get creative with savory mushrooms, rich sauces and definitely add wine to the recipe as well as drink it with the meal.  You will come up with a “pin-worthy ” recipe, guaraIMG_20131114_171823354nteed.

7.  Splurge on Left Bank Bordeaux with Pot Roast.  Throw a rich roast into the mix and decant a favorite Cab-based Bordeaux. The wines of the left bank can be quite the collector’s item in many cases. So drink French wine into Winter time; make this for Christmas Eve when family and friends are around to celebrate the special occasion.

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2009: such a fantastic vintage!

8.  Drink Right Bank Bordeaux in place of plain Merlot. While the Right Bank is Merlot-based, the additions of varietals like Cab Sauv and/or Cab Franc adds a structure and perfume. Combine that with Bordeaux’ legendary soil and it will make you think of wet leaves and rainy days. So put some blankets in the dryer, pour a big glass of St. Emillion and cozy up for a day indoors with Rom-Coms and board games.

9.  Add Northern Rhone Syrah to Venisson stew. The savory, peppery flavors of a cooler climate Syrah goes amazingly with gamey meats. Plus, pairing savory wine with a savory meal brings out the fruit in the wine. It’s basically a great way to combine rustic with luxury; the shabby chic of food and wine pairings!

10.  Celebrate with Champagne! Not only are tiny bubbles so much fun to drink, but Champagne is the most labor-intensive style of sparkling wine, with the sceond fermentation taking place in the bottle. Plus, ChamIMG_20131119_092003848pagne, France only permits certain varietals, making it the strictest Sparkler possible. But rules aside, you pay top dollar for a great Champagne because of its unique complexity. So toast to your guests for gathering together, pair it with anything (I truly believe that sparkling wine goes with everything) and celebrate in style!

11. Peach Cobbler with Sauternes. Little known fact: most wines don’t truly compliment a dessert (except sparkling!) Disagree? Pair a dessert properly and you will see the light. You need a lusciously sweet wine to go with a super sweet dessert. Peach Cobbler and Sauternes is my absolute favorite, but I’m betting Pecan and Apple Pies would be fantastic, too!

Have any other French Fall favorites? Please share!

Are You There, Chelsea? It’s Me, Wine-O.

chelseaI love Chelsea Handler and I don’t care who knows it. What does this have to do with wine and spirits? Chill out, I’m getting there…

One night, I was watching one of my favorite shows, “Chelsea Lately” and Chelsea was belvedere-vodka_0(once again) promoting her beloved Belvedere vodka. I also enjoy Belvedere and so I respect its promotion. I continue nodding along to her skit with enthusiasm, grinning at each snarky remark and sarcastic facial expression that she makes. Until she utters the words, “I hate wine.” I was momentarily distraught. How could my future BFF and drinking buddy hate my favorite beverage?

I was ready to tweet her a melancholy goodbye and #hashtag the entire internet and my 16 followers about our imaginary breakup when I took what I refer to as the magical sip;  that drink of wine (for me this comes at about mid-bottle) that makes a person more philosophical, intelligent and offers a sort of “moment of clarity.” At that instant, while clutching my wine glass and watching the ironically less-than cerebral E! Network, I had an epiphany: A top-shelf vodka drinker and a fine wine drinker can still be friends and for the following reasons…

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A photo of a Polish vodka still taken from my WSET Advanced text book.

1.  A friendship is based on mutual respect. For one thing, I respect that Chelsea drinks in general; Prohibition revivalists need to get with the program. And like I said, I can respect Belvedere. This Polish vodka is “distilled four times”, so it’s low in “congeners or bad stuff and it incorporates the fancy grain known as Rye, which gives vodka rounder texture and softer nuances. Mmm!

2.  Fine Wine is of high standards as well. Nothing is mass-produced or has disgusting additives like tannin powder, food coloring or sugars. Everything is in small production, the berries are picked by hand, double, even triple sorted and are carefully vinified and aged. Therefore, it’s delicious!

3.  No one likes a hangover. Maybe Chelsea Handler doesn’t give two shits about how Belvedere is made or why it is so good, but there is no question that she (and everyone) can appreciate drinking it without the risk of a headache. And I will be honest: I wouldn’t drink cheap wine even if it was palatable because I fear its wrath. No congeners and no additives equals no headaches.

4.  Who doesn’t want to be a hot blonde? I don’t. But that’s because giving up vices and pleasures in life to be svelte is a choice. I prefer to remain slightly chubby in order to maintain a lifestyle that includes a broad range of beverages – and bread. Plus, my doppelganger is Brooke Shields, so becoming blonde isn’t an option with these eyebrows…

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Me. Note the eyebrows. Blonde is not my destiny.

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Chelsea.

Chelsea, however, rocks a hot bombshell by sticking to unadulterated vodka. Vodka has the least carbohydrates and calories, so this allows her to take in the joys that come with insobriety while maintaining her great shape. I totally applaud this and I plan to, one day, actually diet and stick to vodka. Or at least get my carbs solely from wine…

5.  One common bond: Alcohol. Whether pairing your wine with a steak or pairing your vodka with a squeeze of lemon, none of us would be at all obsessed with our liquid love affairs if they didn’t contain alcohol. If you are offended by this statement because you think alcohol is bad, stop reading my blog, you prude. This isn’t “I Drink Tea For A Living.”

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One of my favorite wines from Bodegas Carmelo Rodero.

6.  Opposites attract. Just like with my other girlfriends and the biggest girlfriend of them all – my husband – the people in my life that I hold dearest are my complete opposites; that is, with the exception of our values, ambitions and mutual respect for one another. If we value drinking well, living life to its fullest, being yourself and above all – not settling, then a top-shelf vodka drinker and a fine wine drinker aren’t so different when it comes right down to it.

7.  In closing: are you there, Chelsea? Call me.

I Drank My Way Through Disney World and You Should, Too

a people trap set by a mouseI dedicate this post to every exhausted parent or spouse married to an adult child…

I am not typically a theme park person; there are way too many people that aren’t of legal drinking age in one place – and I don’t trust people who don’t drink. However, I am not dead inside; I do have a childhood nostalgia for Disney. So I was more than willing when my husband said that we were going to Disney World for the weekend.

Now I enjoy being a kid from time-to-time and I totally believe that you should never completely lose your childhood enthusiasm – but you sure as shit should lose some. My husband has retained ALL of his. It used to be adorable, now it’s yet another reason for me to drink.

That weekend, he insisted we visit every park, ride every ride, stay for every show and watch every fireworks display. We were at the park until 11pm for two days. Kellan (husband) was cheery the whole time. His eyes were in constant twinkle at every paper mache landscape while I was so exhausted that I literally considered trading him in for an actual child; children at least take naps…

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Kellan riding on the tea cups. Weeeeee!

The only reason I survived the 48 hours in the “people trap set by a mouse”  was because I made pit-stops at nearly every alcohol-bearing attraction. Thankfully, the folks at Disney understand what makes it the happiest place on Earth after the age of 21. There are many liver-friendly liquids and when you look beyond the prominent eight dollar plastic cups of Bud Light that are at the ready for any desperate soul, there are really quite a few gems. The following are my favorite places within Disney World to unwind, refresh and re-tox…

Favorite Resort Dining:

Capetown Lounge and Wine Bar.

You google “Disney World Wine Bar” and this place pops up. This is inside the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where the theme is African-inspired, so it makes sense that the wine bar carries only South African wines. I appreciated this because, here in the United States, the only South African wines you typically see are the low-end, mass-produced, South-Africans-won’t-drink-this-stuff-so-we’ll-export-it-to-the-Americans type of grocery store wines. Capetown Lounge and Wine Bar offers fine wines that are an educational adventure into South Africa’s wine regions.

The wine list collage jikohere has some fun selections. If you enjoy Coastal California Chards and Pinots, try out South Africa’s Walker Bay wine region; the climates are similar. I loved the wines offered from Hamilton Russell Vineyards, who produce a balanced yet buttery Chardonnay and rich style of Pinot Noir. FYI: both went perfectly with my duck dinner (yum!)

If you are looking for a nice way to start your meal at the attached restaurant, Jiko, try some Cap Classique, South Africa’s traditional method sparkler, as an aperitif.

To cleanse your palate at the end of your meal, order the botrytisized sweet wine Vin de Constance by Klein Constantia. If we didn’t already feel like we were living the life of luxury, that did the trick.

Drinking in Epcot:

La Cava del Tequila. This was possibly my favorite spot in the whole park. I have a deep appreciation for the stuff to begin with, so just the word “tequila” gets me thirsty. But even if the same word gives you flash backs to your early 20’s on a night with Jose Cuervo and a toilet bowl, go here; this is a game changer.collage cava del tequilaExperiencing good tequila will change your world and the knowledgeable staff here will ensure your world is rocked. Simply set a price point, explain your tastes and the bartender will set you up with a wonderful experience. We found a new favorite; even my man-child, who typically won’t take tequila outside of a margarita, loved it. it was the Razul Premium Anejo and it literally smelled like vanilla extract and sipped like an aged Irish whiskey with a honeysuckle infusion.

Side note: this place also looked fun for a crowd. Maybe you are still in your early 20’s, don’t live in yoga pants and still appreciate the party scene? Great news! You can do shots and flights and wash it down with chips and salsa.

Rose and Crown Pub and Dining Room. We sought refuge here from IMG_20130824_155508_674the sudden Floridian downpour and I was so thankful. It was just the way I like my pubs: a lively crowd filled with great beer, whiskey and pub fare. The menu even included all the fun beer combos beyond the trendy “Black and Tan” as well as some fun whiskey flights. We didn’t eat here but I plan to the next time; those ordering fish and chips around me made me regret stuffing myself just an hour earlier. It was a truly fun and great pit-stop!

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. Without a reservation, this place isphoto best for a party of two. Serving a standard of fast-food well above the drive-in norm, this place is just adorable. You are seated in a 1950’s car-style booth with other patrons, all faced toward a giant black and white screen playing old re-runs of commercials, news and cartoons. PLUS: unlike the traditional drive-in from back-in-the-day, there’s a full bar! It was a fun little date night for us that was (relatively) inexpensive for Disney World.

Drinking in The Animal Kingdom

Dawa Bar. This is an exotic watering hole that also embraces African culture. Treat it as your favorite speakeasy and cozy up to the bar. Have a cocktail or live in the moment and embrace African wine and beer. Plus, the bar is right across from where “street dancing” takes place. A perfect people watching location!collage dawa bar

Dining in the Magic Kingdom

Be Our Guest. MAKE RESERVATIONS WELL IN ADVANCE!!! This is currently the ONLY place that serves alcohol within the Enchanted Kingdom, (AKA: “Buzzkill Kingdom”) We spent the most time here and by 5pm, I was ready to trade my husband in for a bootlegging chiropractor. I was not alone in this sentiment. Like many adults, we were unaware of the situation, failed to make reservations and there was a line to get on the waiting list to be on the waiting list. Parents were risking second degree sunburns, heat stroke and child abandonment to have a drink with their meal.

Sadly, we never made the list. Word on the streets is that they specialize in French wines and have a beautiful setting with different rooms, each with a different theme from the movie Beauty and the Beast. If you have had the pleasure of dining here, please comment and elaborate. For me, this place is still just a fantasy (pardon the pun.)

Downtown Disney

Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant. I loved this place so much that I could write an entire blog post dedicated to it. So I must put my thoughts in bulletized format to summarize without overwhelming:collage raglan road

  • Furniture and decor made in Ireland and in some cases, actually taken from other bars and churches in Ireland.
  • Irish people! With an Irish band and step-dancing performances at both dinner and Sunday Brunch.
  • SUNDAY BRUNCH!
  • Delicious and authentic Irish breakfast.
  • Authentic Irish ownership. (Don’t try the bread pudding; it is the owner’s mother’s recipe; it’s sinfully delicious, decadent and you will eat it all.)
  • Fun whiskey flights, beer flights and cocktails, to include a Bloody Mary complete with a float of Guinness!

I don’t care what time of day you come, this place has all of the charm, cuisine and heritage you could want. PLUS, you can skip the crowds at the Rainforest Cafe and eat and drink twice as well!

Margarita Stand. You can’t miss this place if you are strolling through Downtown Disney. Most certainly the most reasonably priced cocktails as well as the strongest with quality liquors. AND you can walk around while drinking – making it far less painful and far more convenient to spend $100 on a Mickey Mouse Christmas Tree ornament…

In closing, the trip to Disney World was a non-sober success. Not only did Kellan get to embrace his inner child but I was able to retain my favorite parts about being an adult. Maybe it is the happiest place on Earth, after all…

The End

Drinking Well, Despite Your Locale.

SuperPhoto_21I’m in the Fine Wine business and I’m Irish, so obviously I drink. Now that I’m officially married to someone in the Army, I can’t just run away whenever he moves to someplace rural (though I try). I’m contractually obligated to live in the middle of nowhere; ’til death do us part. And so I don’t kill anyone, I spend a lot of time searching for ways to maintain my lavish, lush lifestyle.

Providing wines to clients in 43 different states has always been something I’ve enjoyed doing, but honestly, I never really understood what kind of service I was providing until recently. Now at Ft. Rucker, AL, I see why I have so many clients in the small towns of Midwestern and Southern states: they need me. When you live somewhere that is nostalgic for the days of the cotton gin, civil war or prohibition, you have to think outside the boxed wine. The following are tips on how to drink well, despite your locale…

My work desk, literally.1.  Get a Wine Consultant (cough).

2.  Start your own Bootlegging Business. For tips on how to smuggle, watch Boardwalk Empire on HBO. For tips on brewing your own, watch Moonshiners.

3.  Leave.

4.  If the local libations don’t meet your standards, then lower them.

5.  Stop drinking.

6.  If none of numbers 2 through 5 appeal to you, reconsider number 1.

But seriously, Folks, when your choices are limited, you have to make the best of it without stooping to Wal-Mart’s level. When in a more rural environment, you really have to invest in your own personal space and knowledge:

1.  IMG_20131004_092030_682_edit0Be your own bartender. Buy a craft cocktail book, follow CocktailTube or make it up as you go. You are more likely to drink well at home for the same price that you would drink from the “well” at the local bar ….or even the high-end stuff if you live where I live…

IMG_20131004_091545_456_edit02.  Make your home the hottest place in town. Even if your wine cellar is in the closet  and you have to give up the dining area to accommodate a bar (this is literally my home right now,) make sure to be stocked with the ingredients for a good time.

3.  If you are also in a Military town, on base may be your best option. Case in point, the only place you can buy beer on tap or alcohol on Sundays here is on base. It’s not ideal but you know what they say: desperate times…

4.  Entertain. In areas like Enterprise, AL, a night on the town is more disappointing than the wine list at McDonald’s. Find a small group of friends, make a nice meal from scratch, add some great wine and cocktails and let it run its course. You don’t have to stay out until 2 am with a bunch of honkies, hipsters or high-and-tights.

5.  IMG_20131004_091109_360_edit0Find others like you. Advertise, use Meetup.com to create a group or club. …So far I am the only member of my group, but in my defense, I’ve been traveling on business. But this weekend, these flyers are going up! Stay tuned for my progress…

6.  Outsmart Blue Laws by stocking your bar at the beginning of the week and ordering your wines on Fridays to be there the following week. This way you can have Sunday Fun-day with brunch, football and friends no matter what sort of Puritan Institution governs your town.

Have your own way of coping with blue laws, dry counties or cow towns? I’d love to hear from you!

How To Pair Fine Wine With Cheap-Ass Food. Or: How to “Church Up” Your Guilty Pleasures

Let’s face it, sometimes you have a great  bottle of wine at home that you want to enjoy but you don’t have the time, energy or interest in preparing a fancy-shmancy meal to go with it. For days like this, remember the principals of wine and food pairing and you can improvise with pairings like these.

Alternatively, if you love high-end wine but can’t shake your addiction to fast food-level “cuisine” Here are some great ways to dress up your favorites in their Sunday best and “Church it up”!

Champagne with Potato Chips. The acidity of the Champagne plus the saltiness of the golden--potato-chips--bowl--potato_3295146chips is perfection.

Wanna “church it up?” Top the chips with creme fraiche and caviar and you’ve got an hors d’oeuvre worthy of pairing with Cristal.

Bordeaux and a Burger. Red meat’s chewy proteins are melted away by the chewy tannins of a sturdy, terroir-driven Red blend.

Wanna “church it up?” Use grass-fed beef, top it with Brie de Meaux or Camembert, add sauteed mushrooms and serve on a brioche roll. Bon appetit!

Coindrieu and Fried Chicken. This is actually a favorite of a good friend and mentor of download (1)mine. With this pairing, it’s all about matching the weight of the wine with the weight of the food. A beautifully heavy Viognier from the best region possible aside the guilty pleasure of the crispy, rich chicken is sinful and heavenly all at once.

Wanna “church it up?”  Skip the drive-thru and make the chicken yourself. Consider adding crushed toasted nuts to the breading for a bit of complexity.

Chianti Classico and Frozen Pizza. There really is no good excuse for freezer food but let’s be honest – it happens. I can’t tell you how many times my co-workers and I have resorted to it after a long work day. Besides, a red sauce and hearty cheese, no matter the resource, will go well with any Sangiovese-based wine.

Wanna “church it up?”  Chianti Classico with artisinal, wood-fired, authentically Italian pizza with hearty salamis, bright tomato sauce and rich cheese. Duh…

Old Vine Zinfandel with Baby-back Ribs. The juicy, jammy fruit and typically American bbq2-620x406Oak takes on the spicy sweetness and mouth-watering gristle so well it’s as if Bacchus himself planned their union.

Wanna “church it up?”  Why? Is there really going up from ribs?

And furthermore: Spanish Wine (Priorat, Rioja, Tempranillos) go amazing with slow cooked BBQ. A favorite of mine is pulled pork. “Pinterest” yourself a crock pot recipe if you’re a twenty-something wineabe. Smoke yourself a Brisket if you have hair on your chest.

Wanna “church it up?” Lamb riblets with mint and raspberry preserve. Mmmm.

Cooked_BaconTokaji and Bacon. …Or bacon with any dessert wine, really. The acidity and sweetness of the wine with the fattiness and saltiness of the bacon is basically an amazing “last meal.” It’s the perfect pairing of flavors before a Diabetic and/or Cholesterol-induced death.

Wanna “church it up?”  Take extra large red or white grapes, remove the seeds, stuff with a strong cheese like Gorgonzola, wrap the bacon around it while it is still malleable and secure with a toothpick!

Red Burgandy and Stuffed Mushrooms. The savory quality of the mushrooms brings out the fruit and the Garlic highlights brown-sugary notes in this French Pinot Noir. Plus, it’s a great way to enjoy a football tailgate party in style.

Wanna “church it up?” Saute the garlic in butter and olive oil and de-glaze the pan with the wine itself. pour the reduction over the mushrooms before serving.

Auslese Riesling with Chinese Takeout. the sweetness of this later-harvest German white cuts the mild heat of General Tso’s Chicken and the acidity leaves your palate refreshed. Going really spicy? Be super extravagant and trashy all at once by choosing the Beernauslese; the German nearly-dessert wine instead.

Wanna “church it up?” Trick question, you can’t church up take out. But you can take a bottle with you to an Asian Fusion restaurant. Try a mild coconut curry with a Kabinett, too; I love this combo.

Barbaresco and a Meatball Sub. Honestly, A big, masculine, tannic, acidic and full-force downloadRed deserves a big, masculine, hearty and Italian-inspired something. Think about it: decadent meatballs, acidic and ripe marinara sauce topped with Provolone, carbohydrates and Italian spices! It’s perfect. I think even the Italians would agree.

Wanna “church it up?” Swap out the bread and sauce for wild mushroom risotto with shaved Romano cheese

imagesNew Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Arugula. In the world of leafy vegetables, Arugula makes a high-end salad. But in the wine pairing world, no one really talks about pairing wine with a vegetable; it’s difficult to do. However, Sauvignon Blanc, like a Sancerre or from New Zealand,  can be a refreshing pairing with a spicy arugula salad. This is is a very convenient truth for those of us who kid ourselves and pretend to diet by pairing wine with salad…

Wanna “church it up?” Toss in a tangy cheese like Chevre and heirloom tomatoes and you’ll feel spoiled.

Wine with Life. I’m not from an Old World region so I don’t always follow the rule of wineIMG_20130926_123325_701 with food. Sometimes, i just kick back and make a bottle of wine my bitch.

Wanna “church it up?” Wine with friends. Nothing enhances wine more than sharing it with loved ones that are equally enthusiastic about a good bottle and good conversation. 

Cheers!

12 Things You Never Cared to Learn About Wine, But I’m Making You.

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  1. If you take the seeds from a wine grape and re-plant them, those seeds grow into a completely new varietal. All varieties are reproduced by taking “cuttings” from specific “clone” grape vines and grafting them on to the shoots of other vines.Butter
  2. The butteriness experienced in many domestic Chardonnays is created from Malolactic Fermentation: a strain of bacteria is used to convert the Malic acid in the wine into Lactic acid, the same acid found in milk and therefore, butter.
  3. Wine corks make great packing peanuts. Trust me.cork peanuts
  4. Champagne is “Traditional Method” Sparkling wine that is only made within the district of Champagne, France. If it is made outside of Champagne but still in France, it is called Crémant.
  5. In traditional Champagne houses, the person in charge of slightly The_Riddler_3rotating each of the bottles until the yeast reaches the neck of the bottle is known as The Riddler.
  6. Zinfandel is only found in California. …Unless you count Primitivo, which has been discovered to be the Italian varietal equivalent.
  7. Pinotage, the trendy varietal of South America, is a crossing pinotagebetween Pinot Noir and Cinsault.
  8. A large Slovenian oak cask, used to make many Italian wines, holds 22,000 bottles worth of wine and is large enough to host a four-person dinner party; maybe more if they’re French (kidding… sort of.)
  9. When planning to drink an entire bottle of nice wine by yourself, use wine_large2a gigantic candle holder/vase/decoration that has a stem and can hold an entire bottle. It will double as a decanter and your wine glass, plus it will cut back on dishes. You’re welcome.
  10. As red wine ages, it gets lighter. Tannins combine with the pigments and precipitate to the bottom of the bottle as sediment.
  11. As white wine ages, it gets darker. This is from a combination of general age progression, oxidation and oak influence.
  12. No matter how much nerdy, knowledgeable, hoyty-toyty wine junk you know, at the end of the day, it’s just fermented grape juice and all that matters is if it’s delicious when you drink it.

Blog No. 3: Burgers and Booze

IMG_20130808_201122_585_edit0There are two things I love (besides my husband): 1. Booze. And 2. Food that I don’t have to cook myself, which is ultimately why I got married (he does laundry, too; it’s awesome!)

One positive thing about Fayetteville, NC is that it carries a beer with which I am currently obsessed. I first discovered it in a Thomas Kinkaid-looking town called “Southern Pines” just an hour away. We were having lunch at this surprisingly wonderful gastropub called “The Sly Fox.” Owned and designed by a legit Brit and Chef, Mark Elliot. The food is delicious, (even rivaling some of my favorite gastropubs in San Diego) and the beer list is immense. There are nice wines and liquors, too but let’s face it; beer is and should be the highlight of any place with the word “pub” in its title.

The beer I discovered here is called “Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout” by New Holland. It’s an American Double/Imperial Stout with 10% ABV. Admittedly, I was originally drawn to this beer by the high alcohol level. I hate to be a giant girl (although I am a giant girl; see photo with Grandma below…) but beer makes me full really fast, so I tend to go for beers that are more efficient and will get the job down without having to drink too many. For the same reason, I was also happy to find that Dragon’s Milk is more syrupy than carbonated. It has a small, tan, foamy head and is opaquely black. To me, it tastes like chocolate syrup with notes of coffee and cedar as it warms up. But with the first chill, there are more hopsy and slightly sour notes (in a pleasant way.) I’ve read reviews and some pros may find it to be overdone but I find it to be luxurious. Plus, it paired beautifully with the grass-fed beef burger I had at the Sly Fox and I wanted my husband to replicate the experience for me last night.

I was overruled on the grass-fed beef, however; when you are moving in seven IMG_20130808_200753_909_edit0days, you have to clean out the fridge. So I had to settle for the Wal-Mart ground beef nearing freezer burn. But Kellan (Husband) did a great job seasoning the patties and I sauteed up some mushrooms and onions. He topped the patties with aged cheddar, bacon, the mushrooms and onions and served it up with a side of sweet potato fries (courtesy of Ore-Ida). He plated it beautifully and I was inspired. What else would pair well with this Instagram-worthy burger? So out came the wine and the bourbon, too.

I had already purchased the Dragon’s Milk at the local shop “Grapes and Hops,” a store with a great beer selection and a not-so-great, overpriced wine selection. The Dragon’s Milk is expensive at $16.99 for a four pack, but after just two of them, you’re done for the day anyway.

The wine we chose we call our “wedding wine” but its true name is “Harp Tree.” It is a 103 case production of a 2010 North Coast Cabernet that a great winemaker, Monty Pulsen, made specially for our company and that the owners, Brendan and Chrissy (love them!) had a few cases privately labeled for us as a wedding gift. The wine was perfect with the burgers. It has just enough tannin to cut through the chewy proteins of the beef but is approachable enough to sip on its own. We’ve loved this Cab for Summertime Red wine drinking for this reason. The mouthfeel is almost silky with just the right amount of red currants and a hint of spice from the 10% Syrah that Monty used.

Me with my bourbon-drinkin' Grandma, Loretta. No, my head is not actually hitting the door frame. And no, I will not be as hot as her when I get older.

Me with my bourbon-drinkin’ Grandma, Loretta. No, my head is not actually hitting the door frame. And no, I will not be as hot as her when I get older.

The bourbon I chose is a bourbon to which my Kentucky Bell grandmother, Loretta, introduced me and is one of the few bourbons I will purchase for myself. I hate to be a snob, but I am. To me, a low-end bourbon is more painful than cheap tequila.  With all the new American Oak and/or Maple wood filtering typically used in bourbons and Tennessee whiskey, the style can be almost sweet with coconut and abrasive tannins. Not my style. But this bourbon, “Maker’s Mark 46,” spends 46 days on French Oak staves (wood chips). I love it. The French Oak mitigates the tannic bite and adds some lovely Carmel notes to the finish. And the burgers highlighted the smokiness of the bourbon. Delightful.

The meal was delicious and it was a great Thursday night. We basically stuffed our faces, caught a buzz and fell asleep watching “Shark Week.” If you are pitying us right now, stop it. I have a full bar at home, a man that can cook, a 60 inch TV and my best friend. With all that and no one having to play Designated Driver, why go out? Duh.

Blog No.2: Belated Post due to Working Hard and Playing Hard

boat partyWell my plan was to half-ass my second blog post and just make a picture diary of my 10 days back in San Diego, but my technological “learning disability” hindered this and I self-sabotaged. I know! I will take tons of photos and download that Instagram thingy to make them pretty for my blog! I am so smart, S-M-R-T…

So Instagram turned out to be an entirely new social network; who knew? Everyone. I first found out because my mother “hearted” every single one of my photos and I couldn’t figure out how she saw them. You know you’re behind the times when your mother is “with it” and you aren’t.

But after I, A: sobered up from my over-indulgences and B: figured out how to hook up to the WiFi at the local bar (okay, so not so sober) I made an effort to fix the situation. You can now access the photos from my weekend in San Diego via the Instagram widget on my blog. This may or may not be a great idea. There are a few photos of me being a bit unprofessional. I have a tendency to treat my escapes to San Diego like a trip to Las Vegas. I can’t help it, there is just so much to do and so little time to cram it all in! But my clothes are on in all of them and there are some great pictures of my job and our office Summer party on the Catamaran in San Diego Bay, so I am willing to risk sharing them with you. Plus, at this point, my only followers are my husband (I forced him) and perhaps my mother, from whom the apple does not fall far.

Being back in San Diego was wonderful. It was so nice to be around the tasting table again for new wine releases and being with people who nerd out over wine as much as I do. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband, but the man falls short as a Wine Consultant. Sometimes I just want to get geeky with my bad self and coo over a new sample bottle and will say something to him like, “Do you get a hint of herbs on the nose??”

Husband: *Crickets chirping*

So it was nice to be around fellow enthusiasts who are also some of my best friends -but not the best of the best- don’t worry Dora and Britany, you’re still my besties! What I love about the Summer party most though, is the re-discovery of wines that my company no longer carries and that the owners have kindly pulled out of their personal cellar. At the beginning of the cruise, when it was still warm and sunny, I re-visited two White Burgundies, a Spanish Albarino,a domestic Sauvignon Blanc and  a tiny bit of our company’s last bottle of DOCG Prosecco. As it cooled down and the sun set, I switched to red, only drinking my favorite Spanish producer, Bodegas Carmelo Rodero’s, Tempranillo Crianza. There were other reds present, too: an awesome Super Tuscan, a fancy Rosso de Montalcino and maybe others- I’m not sure, that’s a lot of wine. The other great thing about the party is that, unlike at the office, the pourings fill a glass, not just a sample size. The not-so-great thing is, I never make it to the rest of the reds.That night I got drunk on some phenomenal wines (that’s the classiest way one can get drunk in my opinion) then caught a ride home and went to sleep!

Aside from work, I really take soaking up San Diego seriously, just ask my liver; I did a lot of research outside my wines. During my stay, I also explored other libations and cuisine that San Diego has to offer.

Wine is actually overshadowed in much of San Diego. The county hosts many craft breweries and tons of bars that specialize in craft cocktails. These drinks are basically the answer to a chef’s culinary masterpiece but in liquid form. My timing to visit was perfect because the Craft Beer and Cocktail Showcase was taking place. The event featured some of the top tier craft cocktail bars and breweries in San Diego County. Here are my favorites:

Favorite Bar:

The Lion’s Share. Our first sales office was originally around the corner from this bar/restaurant, so us wine consultants basically made this our Cheers, where everybody knows your name. The bartenders and cooks are really more like Surrealist painters. I say this for many reasons: the walls are covered with paintings of Narnia-esque animals that take the place of faces in well-known artwork;  the menu consists of obscure – yet enticing and innovative – culinary delights, such as Kangaroo Tartare (delicious) or Wild Boar Meatloaf (friggin’ delicious); and the bartenders have an edginess and artistic vision that would make Salvador Dali proud. Don’t be afraid to order a cocktail that isn’t on the menu or ask the bartender to surprise you, you’ll be glad you did!

Favorite Brewery:

Lost Abbey. Perhaps it’s because I’m in the wine biz, but I love the idea of a beer that can “lay down.” Lost Abbey makes some great beers that evolve over time with complexity, richness and depth. Truly trappist in style with California flare, I could make tasting notes of the subtle nuances without any professional beer background; their beers are impossible not to appreciate. My favorite is the Judgment Day ale: dark, creamy and intoxicating (literally).

PS: San Diego’s beers are known for some crafty IPAs and sour beers. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend the San Diego Brewery Tours to get your fill and get home safely!

I am very religious, by the way; I take Sunday Brunch very seriously. Thou shalt not brunch somewhere without the following on the menu:

  • Omelets
  • Benedicts
  • Potatoes
  • Alcohol

This religion may stem from my Irish heritage…

There are many MANY great places to brunch in San Diego. Want bottomless mimosas that are mostly sparkling wine with a side of live band karaoke? Check out Analog. Want huge portions with flavor and culinary skill? Experience Hash House A Go Go. But as of this past week, my new favorite is Parkhouse Eatery. I’m sorry to offend any breakfast purists, but an Eggs Benedict atop toasted Focaccia with bacon and avocado hollandaise sauce beside mashed red potatoes and garnished with flash-fried spaghetti??? The way to this Irish-American California girl’s heart is through her stomach. A-May-Zing!

So now, I’m back in Fayetteville. I’m fat and retaining water from too much food and too much fun. Lucky San Diegans; getting to enjoy these wonderful places at their leisure. Meanwhile, I  have to justify my gluttony with that new rap song saying, “YOLO.” …That is from a rap song, isn’t it? I’m so old and white…

Anywho, I only had water with lemon yesterday with dinner, went to bed early and am back on my workout routine- for now. We move to Alabama in the next nine days. Stay tuned for the packing shenanigans. I’m betting Blog No. 3 will be titled, “Drinking and Packing” or, if no drinking takes place, I will probably title it, “FML.”