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.

Chardonnay

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.

Designated driver, Uber or cab

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What Is Your House Wine?

Hi folks! Today let’s talk about choosing your very own house wine.

How to choose your house wineA house wine is your “go to” bottle of choice: the wine that you know you enjoy drinking, is at a price point you are comfortable with and one you don’t mind sharing with others.

It’s the reliable wine you always have on hand and can pull out and serve without a second thought.

Consider these factors:

Price point

Determining a price range is a good place to start.

Some people choose “4 Buck Chuck” as their house wine.  They are delighted with the cost and happily stock up on cases of Charles Shaw wines at Trader Joe’s.

On the other end of the spectrum super oenophiles, lovers of all things fine in the wine department, would rather pass (literally, as in they’d rather die) than drink “cheap” wine.

Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

In deciding what you are comfortable with, think about a price you would be willing to spend on a bottle of wine for a random Tuesday night dinner.

Your house wine should be your everyday wine, not necessarily your “special occasion/using the fancy china” wine.

Pick A Type

Pinot Noir is a great choice for a red house wine. It pairs really well with most foods from meat to fish. There are lots of Pinot Noirs out there at virtually every price point.

Many wineries make a red blend. They take several different types of grapes (Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel, Malbec, Syrah, etc.) and combine them in one way or another to create something new.

Red blends go by all sorts of names. You might see Proprietary Red, some clever signature name chosen by the winery or simply Red Blend.

Choosing a red blend as your house wine might be the perfect way to please all and to expand your wine repertoire.

If you are going with white wine, you might choose a Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay. Both quite popular; they are wines that people know and understand.

Pinot Grigio is light and easy to drink. Many people think of it as a summer wine to be consumed ice cold on a hot day. That’s an excellent plan but Pinot Grigio can also be a great year-round option for those looking for an alternative to the ubiquitous Chardonnay.

I used to think I didn’t like Chardonnay. But I started forcing myself (it’s a tough job, right?) to try selections from different wineries and different countries and found I have a preference for certain styles and flavor profiles.

I prefer French Chardonnay

How about other white wine options?

What about a Viognier as your house wine? Viognier is like the white wine version of Pinot Noir in that it pairs very well with a variety of foods and drinks well on its own.

Many wineries also make a white blend. The same rules apply – an infinite variety of combinations make for an infinite variety in flavors. If you like the idea of a Chardonnay and a Viognier, look for a blend that combines the two.

Of course you could have both a house white and a house red. Something to think about…

Choose A Crowd Pleaser

Your house wine should definitely be something that you love but should also be kind of mainstream.  You may LOVE a big, juicy cabernet but it may be way too much for the every day palate.

Remember, the idea of a house wine is to have something that is easy for everyone to drink.

Storing Your House Wine

Once you choose a house wine, you will want to stock up. But don’t go crazy.

Plan ahead. Make sure you don’t buy more wine than you have storage space.

A wine refrigerator is ideal but, in a pinch, your wine can be stored, on its side, in a cool, dark place (closet, basement, kitchen cupboard away from the oven).

Wine can be stored for short periods of time in a kitchen refrigerator. But Dr. Vinny at Wine Spectator explains why it’s not a good idea for the long term health of your wine.

The short story is that your food refrigerator is too cold and too dry for wine. Read Dr. Vinny’s complete analysis here.

Making The Selection

Once you have decided on your budget and narrowed down some idea of your preferences, it is time for research.

Of course the best way to research wine is to taste it.

Make a trip to your grocery store, wine & liquor shop or warehouse store and start experimenting!

Wine at the Grocery Store

Seek advice from the staff. Even grocery stores and places like Costco have wine department managers who are quite knowledgeable about the wines they stock.

Tell the wine department expert that you are looking for a house wine. Describe your general wine preferences, mention a few of your favorite wines and let them know your budget.

Be adventurous and try new things!

The research process will lead you to find your “house wine” and might introduce you to some new, special, favorites.

One last thing to consider when deciding on a house wine is its availability.

You wouldn’t want to have your heart set on a particular brand and not have a ready supply of that specific wine. With the help of the wine department staff, choose something that is likely to always be on the shelf when you need to replenish your supply.

Variety is the spice of life.  But it’s also wonderful to have a wine you know you can always count on.

Your very own “House Wine”.

Do you have a house wine? How did you choose the wine? Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas!

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Wines For A Girlfriends’ Getaway

As the saying goes, the one thing better than owning a yacht is having a friend who owns a yacht.

The same can be said for vacation homes.

And a friend’s vacation home is the perfect venue for a girlfriends’ getaway.

We arrived to see our chairs all set up by the pool. One for me, one for Belle, one for PJ and one for our hostess, Woody.

pool

We were reminded that the routine here is: pajamas to swim suit to pajamas.

It doesn’t get more relaxing than that!

And what is the perfect beverage for an afternoon by the pool?

How about a Rosé of Pinot Noir?

Cyprus Rose of Pinot Noir

Our hostess introduced us to the 2014 Cyprus Rosé of Pinot Noir. From the Anderson Valley in Sonoma County, this crisp and delicious Rosé was the perfect late summer afternoon treat.

We also opened a bottle of The Valley Project 2013 Viognier.

The Valley Project Viognier

Also known as AVA Santa Barbara, this winery is a “must visit” part of the Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara. AVA Santa Barbara explores the different wines coming from the many microclimates throughout Santa Barbara County.

Viognier is a great food wine and a great white wine alternative for those who eschew Chardonnay. It offers a great balance of full body and low acidity.

Perfect with a yummy cheese platter!

cheese platter

One night we were treated to beef and chicken kabobs on the grill.

The wine we chose to pair with dinner was the 2007 Darioush Merlot.

2007 Darioush Merlot

(I’m glad that I’m no longer in a fight with Darioush because we have lots of their wine in our cellar and I want to enjoy them without a side of bitterness.)

Expressing dark fruits and a bit of smokiness, this Merlot was perfect with our savory kabobs.

Each night we played board games, including my favorite game of all time, Personal Preference.

Personal Preference

This fabulous game from the 80s challenges players to guess their opponents preferences in the categories food & drink, people, activities and potpourri. It’s no longer in print, but you can still find Personal Preference on eBay or Amazon.

For those of you who haven’t read the funny story about me trying to buy this game back in the day, here goes.

I was introduced to Personal Preference on a visit to my pal, Catherine. As soon as I returned home I was on a mission to find a copy of the game for myself.

Remember, this was 1980-something – WAY before Amazon, in fact even before the internet.

I had to make calls (on a telephone attached to the kitchen wall if you can imagine!) to track down my prize.

My first call was to a local store called Kroch & Brentano’s.  I tried them first because they were sort of a niche bookstore that carried some fancy pants, non-mainstream games.  No Milton Bradley, no Parker Brothers, but games like Broderbund, etc.  Anyway, this is how my phone conversation with the nice clerk went:

Me: Hello, I am calling to see if you carry the board game, Personal Preference.

Clerk:  I’m not familiar with that game. Can you tell me a little bit about it?

Me: It’s an adult specialty game.  (Yes, I actually said that.)

Clerk: (after a long and awkward silence) I’m sorry ma’am.  We don’t carry that type of game here.

CLICK.

Oh boy…

Sooooo, back to the wine.

Our hostess, Woody, loves Pinot Noir. Let me present the 2012 Penner-Ash Zena Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir.

2012 Penner Ash Pinot Noir

This single vineyard Pinot Noir from Oregon is very rich, fruity and spicy. Throw in a bit of chocolate and velvety floral notes and you have a definite winner.

There really is nothing like time spent with great girlfriends. Delicious food, great wine and the adult specialty game, Personal Preference, added to the success of our trip.

Indeed, if Clare, Zsa Zsa and Nora had been able to join us the visit would have been perfect!

wine glass half empty

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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.

Quantity

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.

Temperature

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:

WHITE WINES

spyglass

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.

RED WINES

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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