I can say with confidence that before this week, I would have never ordered a glass of Blaufränkisch from a menu. My reasoning: (1) I couldn’t have told you whether that was a red or a white wine and (2) the spelling of that wine suggests an Eastern European origin and if it’s anything like Gewurztraminer, I’m out! These are the sorts of natural biases we have towards unknown wines and why we typically find ourselves ordering and purchasing wines within our comfort zone.
I used to be very easy-going with regards to white wines. I was once known to buy the 1.5 Liter bottle of Mondavi, any “flavor” was fine, and that would be my porch drinking wine in the afternoons. I always liked Sauv Blanc but Chardonnay was fine and same with Pinot Grigio. Well, one “negative” thing about the 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program is that it has made me much more particular about white wines.
This was a first. I actually had to go back and re-taste a wine. No…it’s not because I drank the whole bottle and forgot what it tasted like! This wine really baffled me. I couldn’t figure out what made it stand out and how to describe it.
We’re all busy and we compare ourselves to others. And there’s this natural assumption in that comparison that there’s no way that her life is harder or busier than mine. If you too are a mom, you’ve observed what tasks other moms are taking on, how put together their outfits are, how nice their hair looks, how nice their kids’ hair looks, their Instagram profile, and the list goes on. And you’ve likely thought, “how does she do it all?”
If you’ve been following along for more than a minute, I don’t need to tell you that I do not have an affinity for sweet wines. So any word starting with “musca…” immediately results in my reaction of “no thank you!”. However, when I was recently reassured that Muscadet was different, I decided to incorporate this wine into our 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program.
Carignan has been adding subtle requests to my life to be included in the 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program schedule. I’ve recently been on a French Rosé kick and I keep seeing Carignan as a varietal in the wines. Also, a few months back, I focused my efforts on researching canned wine which connected me with Sans Wine Company and their Carbonic Carignan. When I realized that Carignan was secretly inserting its presence into my wine consumption and education, I knew it needed to be incorporated in the training program.
Nerd Alert! I’m sharing my recent research on wine production and the effects of natural disaster and extreme weather conditions over the past twenty years. My goals were to identify the natural pattern and see how it was disturbed by California drought and fires. The data that I used was from the Wine Institute and the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau which looks at consumption and production at the national level. Bottom Line Up Front: at the national level, change in production and consumption is not evident with statistical significance. With access to California data, I feel confident that effects in production and consumption would be evident. If I haven’t lost you yet or you’re a math geek like me…here’s an overview of my report:
When I am tasting a wine and considering the varietal for my own consumption and palate (versus serving for party or a wine tasting event), I am looking for something unique. If a new wine or varietal is not distinctly different in taste from a common varietal (think Pinot Grigio, Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, you get the idea) and the price difference is significantly higher, I lose interest pretty quickly and categorize that varietal in the “meh” bin. “Meh” doesn’t mean it’s not a good wine, it just means, it’s not that special to me. I’m not unwilling to try anything from the “meh” category again, but I’m less likely to see it on a menu and think “ooo! I think I’ll order an overpriced glass of that and enjoy it!” So, unfortunately, Pinot Blanc got tossed in the “meh” bin.
Having minored in French at West Point, when it came to “Old World” wines (wines originating from historically traditional wine production regions, ie France, Italy, Spain, mostly European countries), I used to lean towards French wines. I felt like I had slightly more familiarity regarding French wine production regions than any other foreign country simply due to college requirements to know about the country. This didn’t mean I liked French wines – my husband and I traveled to Bordeaux for an anniversary only to learn that we didn’t like Bordeaux’s – but I knew how to pronounce the regions and knew their general locations, so that somehow made French wines more approachable. Of the other Old World regions, Italy and Spain seemed intimidating as the labels were harder to interpret and the grape varietals weren’t recognizable compared to traditional California grapes.
I’m finding that a lot of our unusual or “un-heard-of” varietals are Italian! Cortese (pronounced core-tay-zay) is an Italian white wine grape grown primarily in the Piedmont region. It’s typically used as a blending grape as its sensitive growing nature makes refinement for a single-varietal wine challenging for winemakers.
If you’ve felt confused about Syrah, Shiraz and Petite Sirah, I’ll clear it up for you here: Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape, Petite Sirah is a whole different, unrelated varietal. Despite its name, Petite Sirah is no small grape, it’s actually quite powerful and big!
We just wrapped up GSM month and, in case you didn’t join us for the adventure, the S stands for Syrah. Syrah is a surprisingly light to medium bodied red wine with many earthier tones. Since we only tasted Syrah a few weeks ago, I chose to introduce Petite Sirah for the purpose of contrast. Petite Sirahs are often on the “boldest” and “fullest bodied” end of the wine spectrum, are typically strongly fruit-forward and rarely possesses prominent earthy traits. “Jammy” is a typical descriptor word that you hear with Petite Sirah.
We recently vacationed to the Monterey Bay area for Spring Break. We have received official notification from the Army that Monterey will become our new home later this summer and we couldn’t be more excited! The climate, waterfront, and culture are all appealing attributes of the area, but most appealing for me is wine country! Our recent visit was short but I knew that no visit would be too short to fit in a winery tour.
Winery tours are always a treat but not quite as enjoyable with kids. Typically, bringing kids to a winery results in disapproving looks, scoffs and delayed service. So, I knew that since not bringing our kids was not an option, I needed to find a family-friendly winery in the area. Quick Google searches of family-friendly wineries in the Monterey County all point to Folktale Winery in Carmel, California.
We’re rounding out GSM month (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre), and though we’ve tasted each of the varietals individually, this week I chose a different representation of the varietals: a rosé. Rosés only recently became part of my favorite wines when I realized that not all rosés are sweet. I felt a little silly when I discovered this fact though since I’ve been recommending rosés to other consumers, I’ve seen how prominent this belief is!
I’m sorry if this is the 5,000th time you’ve heard me say this, but the March wines for the 52 Weeks of Wine are GSM-themed, which stands for Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. GSM is known for its fruit-forward traits with soft tannins and balanced acidity. So far, we’ve tasted Grenache, Syrah and a sparkling Shiraz. To be honest, I expected each to have some similar traits to the GSM blend, however, it was shocking to me how different the Grenache and Syrah were to the final output of the blend. So, I’ve been holding out to see what the Mourvèdre would bring to the table and tasting this Mourvèdre revealed where the “oomph” of the GSM originates from.
I knew when I decided to have March serve as a focus on GSM (Grenache Syrah Mourvedre), we’d need to (1) break up the red wines with some other options and (2) experience a couple representations of these incredibly diverse grapes. So, this week, we’re tasting a Sparkling Shiraz!
Syrah, Shiraz, same grape, different region. Sort of.
So, traditionally, the grape from France is Syrah, the grape from Australia is Shiraz. And from other regions, it just depends. Technically, California, Washington, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa (where this wine was produced), can label the wine with either Syrah or Shiraz. This is typically consistent with the story that the winemaker wants the wine to tell.
In the past, whenever I’ve thought of Grenache, the word “ganache” comes to mind, mostly because the predominately Grenache red wine blends that I have tasted are rich and luxurious like a chocolate ganache. So, this week’s tasting was a bit of a surprise when I poured the Garnacha (a Spanish Grenache) into my glass and saw the lightness in color and body.
If you were following along with the 52 Weeks of Wine at the start of the New Year, you may recall a feature of a wine called “Beaujolais”. Beaujolais refers the product region in France from which these wines originate. Many Old World wine production regions categorize their wines by the region that the wine originated (i.e. Bordeaux, St. Emilion, Penedes) which differs from American wines which we categorize by grape varietal. Beaujolais and specifically, Beaujolais Nouveau (the new vintage of Beaujolais released annually around the third Thursday in November), is typically the Gamay varietal, though often minimally blended with other varietals. This week, we are tasting the Gamay varietal, which by coincidence, is also a Beaujolais Nouveau.
I’m typically a couple weeks ahead in the 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program so that I have adequate time to taste the wine, take photos and write the blog post. This week was quite different. I have been dreading the Riesling tasting. Even though I chose a “dry” Riesling, I was confident that “dry Riesling” was an oxymoron. Of all the Rieslings I have ever suffered through tasting, they were so intolerably sweet that I could not tell you a single attribute regarding the flavor. I fully intended to conduct a true and open-minded tasting of this wine, but procrastinated the process until the very last minute.
Just the mention of the words “canned wine” evokes polarized emotions from many wine consumers and producers: cheap versus quality, tasteless versus revolutionary, low value versus high end. Ultimately, the difference between canned and bottled wine is simple – the containment method. From this difference generates many other questions regarding canned wine based on the assumptions of what we know about bottled wine. For example, “Why would a producer can wines?” “Is there a special type of treatment that must occur with the aluminum of the cans to prevent a metallic taste in the wine?” “How well does a wine age in a can?” “Does canned wine need to breathe?” “Do you drink canned wine from the can?” Based on the information gleaned from an interview with Jake Stover, owner of Sans Wine Company, a wine producer who exclusively cans their wines, I aim to answer these questions in this article to better inform wine consumers about canned wines.
Oh Zinfandel. One of my true loves. I was first introduced to Zinfandel when I was about 24 and never looked back. Just as champagne evokes emotions of excitement and celebration for many, Zinfandel reminds me of a romantic Friday evening, fireside in the mountains after skiing all day.
Another reason I love Zinfandel is because I have had the privilege of introducing so many people to this beautiful wine! Because of the reputation White Zinfandel had many years ago, many people assume Zinfandel is a sweet, pink, cheap wine. So, when I meet a Cabernet Sauvignon lover, I’m always excited to hear their response regarding Zinfandel!
I try to be as honest and truthful with my reviews of the 52 Weeks of Wine varietals and though I’d love to glam up how Albariño was such a special and unique wine, I’d be lying if I didn’t just come out and say it: it tasted like a Pinot Grigio to me. That’s not a bad thing! I like Pinot Grigio! However, it just didn’t really stand out as anything special.
I have to admit, I was quite excited to taste this Chenin Blanc! Before the holidays, I tried a white wine blend that was Viognier and Chenin Blanc and I absolutely loved it! So, I was curious to deconstruct the wine and taste the varietals independently to learn the characteristics of each. I’ve employed this same concept for the 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program for the month of March: we’re deconstructing GSM’s (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre) and tasting the respective varietals independently to learn more about what builds such a smooth and luxurious wine!
Nebbiolo. You’ve probably heard of it, seen it on a wine menu, but if you’re anything like me, you didn’t know what to expect. So, one night when we were making homemade smoked pizza on the Traeger, I thought it might be a good night to give this Nebbiolo a try.
Maybe it’s a sixth sense or just a coincidence, but lately, I’ve been quite effective on my random dinner and wine pairings. I mentioned last week that I prefer not to research the varietals before a tasting out of concern that knowing too much will bias my tasting experience. So, this week, I took a gamble in hopes that the acidity of our homemade pizza sauce would compliment this unknown wine. And boy, did it!
I have always wanted to host a wine tasting party in my home for friends, but I have been so afraid of the sticker shock! Just to have 10 people join you for a tasting, can you imagine the price? You would have to have at least 8-10 bottles for the pre-tasting, tasting, and after party. Then consider the cost of food pairings and hors d’oeuvres. I always imagined the price tag would be in excess of $250.
Then, I got to thinking about it. Every time I go to a friends house, I bring a bottle of wine to share. I don’t bring wine because it feels like an obligation, I bring it because I want to contribute to the festivities and I want to share a bottle and varietal that I enjoy in hopes that everyone else will enjoy it too. You probably do the same – even if it’s not always wine – it’s fairly customary to bring something with you when you are going to someone’s home. So here’s my guess: I bet that if people were interested in joining me for a wine tasting party, they would be happy to contribute a bottle for the tasting. Continue reading “Host a Wine Tasting Party for Under $100”→
I have to admit I get a little nervous before I taste some of these white wines that I am unfamiliar with. I got a burned on Gewürztraminer a month back and so I have set my expectations low on the unusual white varietals. To lay it out there, I have a hard time enjoying sweet wines and highly floral wines. I could combat this anxiety by researching the varietals before I taste but I truly enjoy going into a tasting completely blind. So this is the sacrifice I make…hah…first world problems!
As an avid ski family, this year has been an exceptional season for two reasons: (1) the weather has been amazing and the Colorado resorts have had so much snow very early in the season and (2) the Epic ski pass was made available to military and military families this year for $99 with no blackout dates and includes all Vail resorts and partners! To put this in perspective, the Epic ski pass in the past has been AT THE LOWEST around $600 per person! So, we have made great use of our proximity to world class skiing at every opportunity possible.
“In double blind tests that eliminate any chance that the subject would know the shape of the glass, there is absolutely zero detectable difference between glasses.” I recently read this quote in Seth Godin’s book, All Marketers are Liars, and I was shocked. I didn’t know the science behind why we used different glasses for different wines, but I did it because that was the expectation: smaller bowl for white wine, bigger bowl for red wine and flutes for sparkling. Godin proceeds to state that “a $1 glass and a $20 glass deliver precisely the same impact on the wine: none.”
Here we are on New Years Eve Eve and you probably have some bubbly or an intent to run to the store tomorrow in preparation of whatever level of festivities. Well, if you want to mix it up with some “Champagne” cocktails, I have a few VERY easy recipes that you and your guests will enjoy while cheering in the New Year!
It’s the last week of the year! That feels so frightening and exciting to say, but don’t you worry, it’s not the last week of the 52 Weeks of Wine! And the New Year brings even more excitement for the 52 Weeks of Wine: the ability to subscribe to a monthly wine box delivered to your door with free shipping!
Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, Sparkling Wine…what difference does it make? Which one do you like best and why? I’ll break down the different attributes for you to help you decide which bubbly to serve and drink for your New Years festivities!
At a recent wine tasting event in my home where guests brought a bottle to share, I tasted a white wine that my friend Megen brought – a Chenin Blanc and Viognier blend. The majority of the wines for the tasting were sweet whites and red wines so this white wine blend went mostly unnoticed. I was shocked! I couldn’t get over how much depth that this white whine had while still being incredibly smooth. Despite my encouragement for others to try the wine, the party ended and the wine was still 3/4 full (oh darn, I guess I’ll just have to help polish that one off tomorrow)!
Even before starting Grape Juice Mom, I’ve been fascinated by blind tastings. I like it because (1) it requires a lot of focus to identify why you may or may not like a wine and (2) all those snooty wine drinkers can’t see the label and brag about how “phenomenal” a wine is. Since I wouldn’t be doing this blind tasting with any snooty wine drinkers (because I try not to drink wine with people like that anyway), it would be fun to have a completely unbiased tasting and learn a little more about my preferences.
A lot of people ask me about my “burner” wines but I have been hesitant to put information out there at risk of insulting a wine producer or blender. Here’s the deal: there are wines that are phenomenal, sometimes more expensive, that you drink first before you get a buzz because you really want to enjoy and take in every aspect of the wine. Then, there are burner wines. These wines are those that you drink after the really good wines because they just don’t offer as many attributes as the starter wine and your taste buds won’t notice much of a difference. I’m not suggesting that burner wines are bad, they’re just not usually the one you want to start off with if you’re having friends over! My burner wines are usually exceptionally affordable (ideally under $10). Burner wines are typically more of my go-to mid-week wine if I want a glass but I don’t want to open a nicer bottle.
When I hear Grüner Veltliner, I’m a little bit intimidated. That sounds like a beast of a wine! Am I about to get by butt kicked? Should I be wearing Lederhosen while I drink this? Is a wine glass appropriate or do I need a boot? Okay…I’ll cut myself off there.
If you have one million things on your to-do list for the Holidays, then now might be a great time to do some corky crafts! Apparently that was my train of thought when I decided to take this on the week before final exams, while my husband was out of town, and with help from my three-year-old. If you choose to overload your plate as well, make sure you have a hefty glass of wine poured before I lead you through these very simple instructions for some fun cork ornaments! Cheers!
I’ve never been one to consider myself a “dessert wine” drinker. I have a hard time enjoying sweeter wines because I have difficulty getting past that initial sweetness shock. As soon as sweet wines hit my palate, I feel like I can’t even taste the attributes because I am overwhelmed by the sugars.
However, this 52 Weeks of Wine palate training has been incredible! I knew my palate would grow by tasting new varietals, but I didn’t expect growth this early. I’m telling you – the aromas, flavors and subtleties that I can identify in wines is blowing my mind, and we’re only six weeks in! Now, I’m finding that I have quite a new perspective on wines that I had historically avoided – even sweet wines.
Gewürztraminer. I usually just mumble that word through my teeth very quickly in hopes that no one will question what I’m saying. Our neighbors have advised me to think of “girls are meaner” with the pronunciation, but apparently the ACTUAL pronunciation is “Gertz-Tra-Meener”. You can say it however you like.
When it was confirmed that we would be accompanying two other couples to Washington D.C. in mid-October, I knew this was an opportunity for an in-flight wine tasting. The guys were already in D.C. for work the week prior, so the wives would be on the same outbound flight together. So, we booked our tickets and seats so that we could sit together, or as close together as possible, and I announced to my friends, Abby and Jesse, that we would be doing a wine tasting on board.
Okay, so I may have pulled a fast one this week. I just might be quite familiar with Cabernet Franc. It might also be my current favorite varietal.
I have mentioned Cabernet Franc to several friends lately and few have been familiar with the varietal. What?! You are missing out! So, I thought I would secretly embed Cab Franc into the 52 Weeks of Wine series with the motive of exposing others to one of my favorite, less prominent varietals.
Every holiday season my number one googled phrase is “Gifts for ___ [insert ‘Dad’, ‘Husband’, ‘Mom’, ‘Dog’, ‘Kid Who Has Everything’, you get the idea].” As a mom, I occasionally find a few minutes here or there to get on Amazon and order a few gifts, but to have inspiration is a huge time saver!
So, I am here for you this holiday season if you have wine lovers on your gift list! This year I am proactive because I want you to get the best deals on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, or whenever they present themselves. I can personally attest to the quality of every item I have listed below because I own every one of the products and have used them extensively. If you have any questions about the products, feel free to e-mail or direct message me for more information!
I wish I had some great story about how the first time I tasted Penedès was when I went on some luxurious vacation to the coast of Spain. Well, I have never even heard of Penedès. If I wasn’t in the wine shop standing in the white wine section, I couldn’t have even told you whether it was a white or red varietal. So, when the woman helping me with my selection said, “How about a Penedès?” I awkwardly said, “Oh yea! Of course! A Penedès!” Considering my selection criteria consisted of (1) a white wine and (2) a varietal that I’ve never tasted, I was 2-0 and on track for this week’s 52 Weeks of Wine selection!
I am sure that you can relate that as a mom, military spouse, active service member, [insert any other title here], you can find your plate awfully full at times. To think that Thanksgiving is just two weeks away, my anxiety is escalating as I type since I have done NOTHING to prepare!
If you are a Colorado Springs local and find yourself in the same boat, I have taken one task off of your list: wine. I have collaborated with The Wine Gallery and Gourmet of Colorado Springs to develop a classic and traditional 3-bottle wine box for your Holiday festivities.
The Tasty Holiday Trio includes 3 wonderful wines and a beautiful wooden wine box for a pre-tax cost of $45 and can be picked up at your convenience at The Wine Gallery and Gourmet (5903 Delmonico Dr, Colorado Springs, CO 80919, (719) 439-9463). Below, I have listed the wines that you will find in the Tasty Holiday Trio as well as a brief description and my thought behind including them in the box.
We have two weeks to prepare for Thanksgiving, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll take all the help you can get to make that day and the days following magical, memorable, and tolerable. Hah! I’m only (partly) kidding about the tolerable part.
When I considered how helpful it would be to pickup a pre-assembled, well-thought-out wine box to entertain my guests for Thanksgiving, I decided that this needed to be done! So, I got together with Amy, the Sommelier from The Wine Gallery and Gourmet, and designed the perfect 6-bottle wine box for the wine lover who enjoys experiencing new and luxurious wine varietals. We call it “The Holiday Sanity Saver.” Below, I highlight the details of each bottle that you will receive in your Holiday Sanity Saver which includes a beautiful wooden wine box.
To tell the truth, I am a little intimidated by Spanish wines. It goes back to that tendency that I have of staying in my comfort zone – which I my main motivation to get out and try new wines! But when I think of Spanish wines, the first thing that comes to mind is Sangria. I know that is ridiculous, but if you’ve had as many bad Sangria’s as I have, you can relate! So, when a Tempranillo was recommended to me by my favorite wine store, I just told them to add it to the box and did not think much of it….until I got home.
As a military family, we have been incredibly fortunate. Our first duty assignment was Fort Bragg, North Carolina and we have only moved once as a family, to where we currently live, Colorado Springs. We had an incredible first assignment in North Carolina and landed ourselves in the most supportive neighborhood and community that I could have dreamed of. This neighborhood, Carolina Lakes, is where I met a group of women who will undoubtedly be lifetime friends. Since most of the women were military spouses, the majority have since moved from North Carolina, though a couple are still in the area.
I was recently listening to an audio book by Gary Vee (Gary Vaynerchuk, once known as “The Wine Guy”) and he recommended trying a different varietal of wine every week for one year to expand your taste palate. Well, twist my arm! So, I will be featuring a new varietal each week with my experience and recommendations. My strategy is to start with wines I have am not familiar with and see where that takes me! If you would like to use this as your guide and find the varietal at your local wine shop, I would love to hear your feedback! Please let me know if you decide to join me on the “52 Weeks of Wine” journey!
Week 1: Languedoc
I deliberately chose to start this learning experience with a French wine for a funny reason, which I will share with you. In 2013 my husband was deployed to Kosovo and was authorized one four-day weekend for R&R with two travel days on your own dime. Many people did not take the opportunity because the cost of traveling home to the US for such little time or for families to travel to meet in Europe was so high. We were pre-kids and both active duty, so a flight to Europe for me was within our budget. We chose to meet in Paris and fly together to Bordeaux for our second wedding anniversary. Continue reading “52 Weeks of Wine – Week 1: Languedoc (October 26th-November 2nd 2018)”→
Clearly, I’ve gone crazy. I am an active duty officer in grad school for Statistics. I have two children, the youngest only eight months old. My husband just returned home from Afghanistan before our daughter’s birth. But there’s something missing.
My husband and I dream of owning a wine bar. Every time we go on a date or have a few quiet minutes to ourselves when the girls are in bed, we dream of every tiny detail of our wine bar. The location, the interior design, the business model, everything. We know we won’t be able to open our wine bar until we are in retirement and have the capital needed to take on such a venture. But I started to ask myself: why wait? Sure, we can’t open the wine bar now, but why can’t I start on the journey and explore my love of wine? I have brainstormed day in and day out on how I could do that and I have come to this conclusion: Grape Juice Mom.