ARCHIVE FOR February, 2014



Wine doesn’t bite, kick, spit or talk back.

So what does it mean to say a wine is approachable?

Approachable is shorthand meaning a wine is ready to drink right now; big tannins won’t rough you up if you uncork it.


4 February Wine Projects

wine organization

During cold and rainy February, the vines are dormant. Few of us want to visit wine country at this time of year (though, you can get some great bargains) —

What’s a wine lover to do?

Here are some timely tasks to sit ‘n sip with:

1. Reorganize your wine collection in a way that makes you happy – i.e., all the wines from your favorite winery in one spot, rather than spread out per varietal.

2.  Start a list of wines you would like to try this year… be daring!

3.  Plan a wine tasting party.  Our favorite is a Varietal Appetizer party. Choose a couple of wine types, say Chardonnay and Zinfandel.  Then ask everyone to bring an appetizer that goes with one or the other.

4.  Choose a wine book to read this year.  It’s fun to go on the web and start exploring wine books past and present.


“Temperature Differential” – Why is it Important to Wine?


Winemakers often boast that day to nighttime temperature shifts in their region are huge, sometimes 50 degrees.

This is important to wine quality, but how?

Here, August “Joe” Briggs, Founder of August Briggs Wines in Napa, gives us his take:

The temperature differential allows the grape to rest.  At high temperature, the vine is respiring and taking up water and nutrients at a fast clip.  In areas where the temperature drops sharply at night, the vines slow way down, and the fruit has the chance to retain acid.   That temperature spike up in the day and drop off at night helps keep the fruit in balance.

Night shift, anyone?



Working nights at a winery?

Harvesting at night has taken hold in California wine country, especially when days are very hot.

We expect to see more of it this year.

How do they do it?


By setting up huge lights in the vineyard and starting in the wee hours, say 4am, it’s cool, and the bees and wasps aren’t awake yet. The conditions are much easier for the harvesters.

Plus, the grapes will definitely come to the winery in excellent condition, since they were picked during chill temperatures.

Now, that’s cool.

Winery Name Game



Most wineries are named after the founders, but there are exceptions. Can you come up with the meaning of each of these names?

1. EOS

2. Pietra Santa

3. Castoro

4. ZD

Here are the answers:

1. EOS = the goddess of the dawn

2. Blessed stone

3. It means “beaver” in Italian – for its “eager beaver” founder, Niels Udsen.

4. Zero Defects, an engineering term (the founders were engineers)


Chocolate + Wine = Valentine’s Day

Deep Chocolate Pudding

Deep Chocolate Pudding

Okay, let’s get real. Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be right without something chocolate.

Here’s a little something that will knock the socks off your special someone.

Watch out – it can be addictive!

Vince & Eddie’s Deep Chocolate Pudding

(from the late Vince & Eddies restaurant in NYC)

  • 1 quart milk
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • ½ cup sugar
  • dash salt
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1-2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate, melted (the better the quality of this chocolate, the better the pudding)
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • Whipped Cream (Recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped hazelnuts

Combine milk, cocoa, sugar, salt and cornstarch in medium saucepan. Bring to simmer, stirring constantly until thickened. Combine chocolate, butter and vanilla in bowl. Pour milk mixture over chocolate mixture. Mix well. Pour through fine strainer. Distribute chocolate pudding among 6 glass bowls. Chill in refrigerator. When chilled, top with whipped cream and nuts.

403 calories per serving

Whipped Cream

  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar

In bowl, whip cream with vanilla and sugar until stiff.

wine heart

Wine with Dessert

What wine will you serve your sweetheart with your Deep Chocolate Pudding?

We’d recommend a Merlot or a chocolately Cab, maybe even a Syrah!



Give Yourself a Valentine – Every Day

wine sunset

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. How about pledging to give yourself a Valentine every day, with a glass of wine?

What if you sat down to sip for a few minutes, set aside to savor the aromas, flavors and textures – and the moment.

wine fire book

“Embrace what is,” as the saying goes. Why not embrace something pleasurable, maybe memorable, definitely beautiful as it glows ruby or gold in your glass?

Breathe in summer raspberries with a Pinot Noir or ripe cherries with a Cabernet. Visit Tahiti with the tropical flavors of a smooth Chardonnay.

wine book heart

Give your heart a break and get off the merry-go-round of busy-busy-busy with a glass of wine. In moderation, it’s a health trip all by itself.

We dare you!

love wine


Go ahead. Uncork and unplug, and be your own Valentine.


A Salute to Small Wineries

artisan wineries

Wine Spectator columnist Matt Kramer often touts the joys of small, artisan wineries. We love this quote:

“The truth is that some of wine’s most thrilling acts –the ones you want to shout about from the rooftops—are small scale. They’re barely even commercial.”

from “You Can’t Get It, But That’s OK,” Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator (Aug. 31, 2006)


How Do You Tell the Difference Between a Good Wine and a So-So Wine?

David Ramey, Ramey Wine Cellars

A while back, we asked acclaimed artisan winemaker David Ramey, Founder/Winemaker Ramey Wine Cellars (Healdsburg, Sonoma County), if he ever gets hung up on all the different elements of a wine when he takes a sip.

His answer gives some insights about how to distinguish a good wine from a so-so wine…

“I can (get hung up) if it is a less successful wine, because it’s only with less successful wines that elements stick out and you can pick them out. As I start to drink a wine with dinner, if it is more of a manufactured wine than an artisanal wine, I’ll say after a while, ‘oh yeah, there’s the oak (usually the oak announces itself rapidly), there’s the sugar, there’s the acid.’


When a wine is made in an integrated way, made from the inside out rather than the outside in, you can’t see its elements that way. Wines like this are made by nature rather than being engineered by a winemaker, with additives and so on. A successful wine has a seamless quality which lends itself more to that sensual appreciation. Good wines don’t lend themselves to being deconstructed.”

How would you describe the nature of a good wine?

We’d love to hear you take on it.

A Cheat Sheet for Finding Great Reds

red wine

It’s only been about 60 years since California winemaking began to take off. During that time, slowly but surely, wineries have identified where to plant certain varietals for the best possible wine.

This understanding of terroir – the soils, sun exposure, and weather conditions – has led to pockets of the Golden State gaining recognition for certain wines.

And our knowledge of this has led to our Red Wine Cheat Sheet. If you’re
at a restaurant or elsewhere looking for a great wine, certain appellations listed on the bottle, for specific varietals are a hint the wine might live up to expectations:

Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Napa
  • Sonoma
  • Paso Robles


  • Napa
  • Sonoma
  • Paso Robles


  • Sierra Foothills
  • El Dorado County
  • Amador County
  • Dry Creek Valley
  • Lodi

Pinot Noir

  • Sonoma Coast
  • Russian River Valley
  • Carneros
  • Sta. Rita Hills (Santa Barbara)
  • Santa Lucia Highlands

Rhône Reds

  • Sierra Foothills
  • Temecula
  • Santa Barbara

Happy hunting!