Wine Tasting At Binny’s – You’ll Want To Try These Wines

Mo Wine Please

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a good old wine tasting roundup. So let’s do this!

Last night, Peter and I met up with my folks and sister-in-law, Kate, for an evening of wine tasting at the brand new Binny’s Beverage Depot in Lincolnwood.

Binny's Beverage Depot Lincolnwood

The theme for the night was “California Wines” so this was right up my alley.

Binny’s set up 7 tasting stations throughout the store with six to eight different wines being poured at each station. There were lots of fellow tasters present but it didn’t feel crowded because of the fabulous setup.

Now the wines.


My step-dad who, by the way, turned 98 on the 4th of July, was in search of a new Chardonnay to add to his list of favorite wines.

Wine tasting at 98

The favorites among the Chardonnays were:

2013 DuMol Chardonnay

The 2013 DuMol Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($55) is a wonderfully complex wine with layers of flavor. It has great body and a pleasing finish. The winemaker says that the 2013 vintage is very strong in this coastal region of Sonoma County. He feels that this wine could age for five to seven years.

2014 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Another favorite was the 2014 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($45). This wine, made from grapes sourced from several of the Flowers vineyards literally right on the Pacific Coast, has a bit more minerality while still providing plenty of the honey and citrus notes that Chardonnay lovers love.

2014 Stags Leap Chardonnay If you are looking for something at a more modest price point, try the 2014 Stags Leap Napa Valley Chardonnay ($20). A bit less complex that the two wines above, the Stags Leap still provides lots of flavor and quality for the price. It is crisp and clean and quite good.

2014 Chalk Hill Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

The 2014 Chalk Hill Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($18) has a bit more of a creamy flavor but still with enough acidity to provide good balance. This could be a nice choice for a house Chardonnay.

Other White Wines

2015 Cade Sauvignon Blanc

The 2015 Cade Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($33) was a big hit. Cade is a member of the wonderful PlumpJack family of wines. I love a Sauvignon Blanc that is crisp and refreshing without being too citrusy. The Cade Sauvignon Blanc delivered this profile beautifully.

2014 Jaffurs Viognier

I was drawn to taste the 2014 Jaffurs Bien Nacido Vineyard Viognier ($27) based on two things: I love Viognier and I love any wine that comes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Barbara.

Remember what I’ve said, if you ever see a wine with “Bien Nacido Vineyard” on the label, you can be pretty certain it will be awesome.

Red Wines

Because we are experiencing a heat wave here and temperatures are hovering around a zillion degrees, we were all inclined to try more white wines than red wines.

Still, I am a red wine gal so I soldiered on.

2012 The Pairing Red Blend

The Pairing is what you might call the younger sibling of Jonata and The Hilt, two ridiculously outstanding wine producers. The same winemaker is responsible for all three members of the family and the quality shows.

While the 2012 The Pairing Red Blend ($25) contains some Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, the highest percentage of the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine tastes like a classic Napa Cabernet but at a fraction of the price.

2013 Emmolo Merlot

Merlot, unfairly criticized in the movie, Sideways, can be the perfect wine for folks who want a bold red but prefer slightly softer tanins than what is usually found in Cabernet Sauvignon.

The 2013 Emmolo Merlot ($56) comes from the Oak Knoll region of Napa Valley which has both the best soil and best climate for growing Merlot grapes. This lovely wine is smooth and has all the great flavors of luscious fruit balanced by a touch of earthiness.

By the way, Emmolo is part of the Wagner Family Wines which include Caymus and Conundrum.

2014 Cane and Fable Cabernet 373

We first discovered this wine on a trip to Solvang and Los Olivos in Santa Barbara County. Then the winery was called Cane & Fable but they have rebranded as The Fableist. Either way, the wine is quite recognizable because of the grasshopper on the label.

The 2014 The Fableist (Cane & Fable) Cabernet Sauvignon 373 ($23) is produced in Paso Robles and drinks like a Napa Cabernet at more than twice the price. This gem of a wine is a real bargain and could absolutely be a great choice for a red house wine.

I love the description by the winemaker:

“Every little sip leaves you comfortable, content and just feelin’ lucky.”

We did, indeed, feel lucky to have had the opportunity to try so many great wines at Binny’s. And, hopefully, our research will give you a few suggestions for new wines to try.

Do you have any new favorites to share with me?

Please note:

  • I received no compensation from Binny’s or the wineries. The wine tasting was complimentary for anyone with a Binny’s loyalty card.
  • The prices listed are Binny’s. You should be able to find these wines at your local stores but the price may vary.

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Sauvignon Blanc For Summer

Mo Wine Please

As summer zooms by, have you taken the time to sit back and relax with a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc?

Sauvignon Blanc is a great “white wine alternative” for those of us who just can’t embrace Chardonnay. I love the bright, crispness of Sauvignon Blanc, especially in the summer.

Traditionally considered to be a cool climate wine, warmer spots like California and Washington State are finding great success producing somewhat fuller bodied Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc is often blended with a bit of Sémillon to help give it structure.

The classic food pairing with this varietal is something from the seafood aisle. However, it also lends itself very well to dishes featuring items from the vegetable aisle. Think pasta or risotto with fresh vegetables and, of course, a mixed veggie salad.

Sauvignon Blanc is at its best served chilled. Sometimes keeping that chill can be a challenge in the summer. Be sure to keep your bottle in an ice bucket at the table or use one of the other products on the market to keep wine from warming up too much.

Alright, now let’s talk specifics. I have some recommendations.

2013 Groth Sauvignon Blanc

2013 Groth Sauvignon Blanc

Groth is a family owned winery that started in 1981 with the purchase of just over 100 acres right in the heart of Napa Valley.

The Groth Sauvignon Blanc is blended from grapes grown throughout Napa Valley. The winemaker uses some grapes from the warmer locations to bring the right amount of fruit – the classic Sauvignon Flavors of citrus and melon – and some grapes from the cooler locations to bring about just the right level of acidity.

The tasting notes suggest pairing this wine with raw oysters but, since I don’t play that game, we enjoyed it with a nice summer salad topped with grilled shrimp. Perfect!

At around $20 per bottle the Groth Sauvignon Blanc is terrific!

2013 Hall Sauvignon Blanc

Hall Sauvignon Blanc

Via Hall Wines

The folks at Hall pretty much knock it out of the park every time. That’s why Hall is one of our favorite places to visit in Napa.

The 2013 Hall Sauvignon Blanc was rated a 92 by Wine Enthusiast – and for good reason. Here is what Wine Enthusiast had to say about this delicious $24 bottle of wine:

“Voluptuous and well-developed, this is tingling in acidity with a luscious mouthfeel and flavors of ripe peach, grape­fruit and vanilla bean. Complex, the citrus is seasoned with a vibrancy of herb and pepper spice. A delicious wine for fresh oysters or crab cakes.”

Oysters, again? I’ll enjoy mine with the crab cakes, thank you.

2009 Rudd Sauvignon Blanc

Rudd Sauvignon Blanc

This is a wine that you won’t likely find at your local wine store. Rudd only produces about 530 cases of this wine each year so it is hard to get.

We purchased this bottle through Bounty Hunter (talk to our wine scout, Alan – tell him that Mo sent you!) and it has been resting in our cellar for a few years.

At $50 per bottle this would not be your everyday Sauvignon Blanc but for a special treat? Yes, indeed!

As the story goes, Leslie Rudd gave up a bit of his prime Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard block on the side of Mt. Veeder and planted Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grapes so that he could make his wife’s favorite wine. What a guy, eh?

I can best describe the Rudd as showing all my favorite characteristics of a Sauvignon Blanc but kicked way up. This wine boasts pleasing fruit flavors balanced by great minerality and perfect acidity.

The wine was awarded 93 points by Robert Parker who called it, “A beautifully textured, rich, fresh Sauvignon Blanc”.

I agree!

Have you discovered a new favorite Sauvignon Blanc this summer?

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No one paid me to say this.

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Ridiculously Easy Shrimp Tacos

I know that many of you love to cook and are very good at it. I enjoy cooking for company but the day-to-day, coming up with something to make for dinner every night (other than reservations) gets to be a drag.

One of my go-to recipes for those nights when I just throw something together is my ridiculously easy shrimp tacos. Actually, to say that there is a recipe for this is really an insult to all the self-respecting, fully thought out and meticulously complete recipes out there.

This dish is made up of the following:

shrimp – I get the cooked shrimp, fresh from the seafood counter, and give them a quick stir fry just to warm them up and get a little brown on them.

corn tortillas – I prefer soft corn tortillas but you can use whatever you like.

some sort of greens/slaw/veggies – sometimes I use broccoli slaw, sometimes I grill veggies, sometimes I just throw on lettuce and chopped tomatoes.

THE SECRET SAUCE – this is the ridiculously easy part. My secret sauce is Chipotle mayonnaise. In a bottle. From the grocery store. It melts a little on the warm shrimp and has the perfectly seasoned creaminess that makes the dish complete.

That’s it.

I usually serve this with a side of fruit (like watermelon) and chips and guacamole.

I do love to make my own guacamole but will, in a pinch, buy store made. Either way, I will always include the key to really super delicious guacamole – some fresh squeezed juice from an orange.

An orange you say?!?!

Yes – try it! The orange juice gives guac a really bright and zingy flavor. This is a trick we stole borrowed from our favorite local Mexican restaurant’s table side guacamole presentation.

This meal could be accompanied by a nice bottle of Corona but in this house we lean toward bottles of wine.

We chose the 2013 Brander Sauvignon Blanc from the Santa Ynez Valley (under $15/bottle).

2013 Brander Sauvignon Blanc

As described by the fine folks at Brander this wine is:

Rich and brimming with a tropical exuberance, the aromatic profile leads with a nose of lychee nut, honeydew melon, and wet stone, while flavors of orange zest, white nectarine, and guava round out the deliciously ripe palate. 

The wine has good body. It paired beautifully with the shrimp and, since the Chipotle mayo isn’t too spicy or bold, didn’t fight with the special sauce.  Brander has been producing Sauvignon Blanc from this vineyard for 37 years and they clearly know what they are doing!

Part of the reason we selected this wine was because the Brander Vineyard is located just east of Los Olivos in the greater Santa Barbara wine country. Peter and I are heading to Santa Barbara soon and are looking forward to tasting more of the wines the Brander has to offer.

Stay tuned for a full report on wine tasting in Santa Barbara. And subscribe to my Instagram page for instant photos (one might call them “insta-grams”) of the wines as we try them.

What is your go-to meal on those nights your menu planning is less than inspired? What is your secret sauce?

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Thanksgiving Dinner Wine – Tips and Types

So you’ve drawn the lucky straw and all you have been asked to bring is the Thanksgiving dinner wine. Or you are hosting and have already made your last trip to the store for potatoes and butter but now need to focus on the beverages you will serve.

Mo Wine Please

~ Thanksgiving Dinner Wine ~

There are several factors you will want to consider before heading out to your local wine shop.


Are you the only person supplying the wine? Can you get a rough idea of how many at the table will be wine drinkers?

A bottle of wine will generally yield four glasses of wine.

If you are providing wine for 10 moderate drinkers and you assume they will each drink two glasses, you will go through about 5 bottles of wine.

Ten people times two glasses each, equals twenty glasses. Divide that by four glasses per bottle: five bottles.  (Aren’t math word problems fun?!)

You might want to buy a little extra because I don’t know about you, but I’d ALWAYS prefer to have too much than too little.

Price Point

The price point you choose for each bottle of wine will likely depend on how many bottles you will be bringing. If you are contributing ten bottles you might not splurge on $50 per bottle wine.

Unless you want to. In that case, send me your address so I can come over.

You might also want to take a mental survey of who will be drinking the wine. If most people in the group tell you that they can’t tell the difference between a good wine and a less good wine, you might want to get a few moderately priced bottles for them and then splurge a teensy bit on a bottle or two to share with those you know will appreciate it.

Does that sound horrible and snobby?

I hope not. I like to think of it as being sensible in your purchases.

The bottom line: determine how many bottles you will need and how much, in total, you are willing to spend.  Then you can decide what combination of low, moderate and higher priced bottles fits your budgeted amount.  Another math word problem! Woohoo!

Red or White

I’m more of a red wine drinker, myself, but many folks prefer white. In fact I would probably skew my Thanksgiving purchases to be 2/3 white wine and 1/3 red wine. This may be a gross generalization but I think most red wine drinkers will drink white but many white wine drinkers will not drink red.

Remember, some folks prefer that only white wine be served in their home because of the potential for red wine stains on their carpet or upholstery. Everyone is entitled to make the rules in their own house, right?

Before bringing wine to someone’s house you should determine if they are this type of control freak concerned homeowner.


Be a pal. Put both your red and white wine in the refrigerator for a while before heading over to grandma’s. If you are hosting, try to save some refrigerator space for the wine or if it is chilly outside, store it on your back porch.

Now no one is going to test you by sticking a thermometer in your wine glass, but just as a general guide here is what Wine Spectator suggests for the serving temperature of wines:

  • Light white wine, Rosé, sparkling wine – 40 to 50 degrees
  • Heartier white wine, light red wine – 50 to 60 degrees
  • Full-bodied red wine – 60-65 degrees

Just use common sense. The lighter the wine, the cooler it should be served.

Pull your reds out of the cooler earlier so they warm up a titch. Pull out your white wines maybe 15 minutes before serving.

It is always better to pour a wine a little on the cool side because the glass will warm it up a bit. Pour warm wine into a glass and you will end up with warmer wine.

And that’s just a crime.

Particular Varietals

Experts are all across the board on this one. There is no right answer to the question “what wine pairs best with Thanksgiving dinner”.

Here are a few suggestions:



Sauvignon Blanc – A nice, light, palette friendly wine. Its citrusy flavor provides a nice balance with turkey and gravy.

Riesling – This wine is usually noted for its honey or apple notes. For this reason, it’s a great match with the sweet/savory combination of dishes.

Viognier – As I’ve said before, this wine is like the Pinot Noir of white wines. It has enough body to stand up to hearty food but it will not overpower more delicate selection.


Pinot Noir – You knew I was going to pick this one, right? Pinot Noir is just the perfect food wine. More and more people are jumping on the bandwagon. Folks who formerly swore off of red wine are finding they really love this wine. If you are not sure of the preferences of your guests, Pinot Noir is a safe pick.

Cabernet Franc – I hadn’t really thought about this one until I read this article from the LA Times food section. It makes sense, though. Especially for the guests who enjoy a heartier red wine, the cherry notes that are generally associated with a Cabernet Franc would pair well with stuffing and cranberries.

Zinfandel – Many folks think of this as the spiciest of red wines. It often has notes of pepper and red berries. This is a great wine for people for folks who enjoy a big wine that will stand up to spicier, heartier dishes.

Hendry zin

Byff – this one’s for you:

Please, please, please remember to be responsible on Thanksgiving Day and every day. Be safe. Don’t drink and drive.

I want you to come back and visit me here so you can tell me what wines you served with Thanksgiving dinner!

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