Posts tagged #sparkling wine

Thanksgiving Wines for Sharing

sharing a bottle of Wattle Creek Sparkling Shiraz, Thanksgiving 2013

sharing a bottle of Wattle Creek Sparkling Shiraz, Thanksgiving 2013

Thanksgiving is a perfect time to share a few bottles with friends and family.  With such a variety of food during the sometimes day-long feast, it can be a challenge picking something that pairs well across the board... so why not share a few!  

Selecting a variety of wines will aid in pairing with the several components of a traditional turkey dinner, as well as cater to a variety of guests’ palates.  Hosting dinner or joining a party?  Here are a few tips for selecting wines for your Thanksgiving Day festivities, as well as a list of affordable favorites to look for as you shop!  All are available at BevMo, Total Wine, and Specs, and many are available at national grocery stores as well. 

White Wine ~ pick one that is refreshing and slightly fruity, nothing with too much butter, or too much citrus.  Well balanced, and fairly neutral is best.  You want one that will compliment from turkey to pie. 

Affordable Favorites:

  • Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc & Viognier ($12)
  • Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc ($11-$15)
  • St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc ($15-$20)
  • Cuvaison Chardonnay ($20-$25)

Sparkling ~ One of the most forgotten wines for serving on Thanksgiving.  Choose brut. Dry sparkling wines pair nicely with turkey and all that comes with it. Adventurous?  Try a Sparkling Shiraz!  

Affordable Favorites:

Red Wine ~ The trick with reds is to select one that is not too tart or high in tannin.  Fruit forward, medium bodied ~ solid, neutral food wines are best when going with reds.  

Affordable Favorites:

Check out some of our other Thanksgiving favorites:

Thanksgiving Wines Under $20

More Perfect Thanksgiving Wines Under $20

2014 Oscar Party Wine Winners

Oscar Night is a fun night in our house.  It’s a perfect evening to celebrate what we love… movies and wine!  We’ve hosted this event a number of years (2013 Results, 2012 Results).  Whether it is who takes home the Best Picture award, or which wine is the favorite of the evening, each night brings different surprises.  All wines selected are under $20, and ones we’ve shared or discovered with friends. 

While the food pairings give a good hint to what’s inside the bag, it is always fun watching friends guess the varietals.  This year had a little twist, as they were all blends.  I must say, the surprise for me was how many of our friends came pretty darn close to nailing every single wine!  After tasting all the selections, and before the reveal, votes are cast for the favorite.  This year’s winner…

4th Place: Gruet Blanc de Noir

We first discovered this wine as part of our “Coast to Coast, Champagne Toast” New Year’s Eve parties.  At these events, we shared sparkling wine from each time zone, welcoming the New Year on each hour (including Hawaii!). It was a tough challenge to find a decent selection from each US time zone, but this one was a winner for the Mountain region.  It has rich and toasty flavors, smooth and refreshing finish, and a great deal. Retails $17.

Food pairing: Ginger-Soy chicken wraps, vegetable spring rolls, parmesan cheese

3rd Place: 17th Edition Sokol Blosser Evolution

We discovered this wine while visiting their tasting room.  It is one of my favorite “summer” wines.  Intense tropical fruit notes up front, with a nice crisp, clean finish.  Blended from 9 grapes, this smooth, layered white is an excellent food wine, and is enjoyable all on its own.  Retails $14

Food pairing: Bacon crostini, butternut squash tartlets, baked camembert with roasted garlic onion jam

2nd Place: 2009 E. Guigal Cotes Du Rhone

We first shared a bottle of this wine with our friend Darren, in Dublin.  It is a versatile, light-bodied red wine blend of 52% Grenache, 45% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre.  It tastes well on its own, even better with food.  It’s a crowd pleaser in flavor and price. Retails $12

Food pairing: Italian sausage pigs in a blanket, port salut cheese

1st Place: 2010 Wattle Creek Kristine’s Cuvee

This is another one we discovered at the tasting room.  It is a Bordeaux blend of 60% cabernet sauvignon, 14% Petit Verdot, 13% Merlot, 13% Malbec.  Friends enjoyed the aromas and flavors of plum, cherry, and caramel, and lower alcohol and light tannin profile. Retail $20

Food pairing: Balsamic beef sandwiches, aged cheddar cheese

Posted on March 5, 2014 and filed under Under $20.

Under $20 Sparkling Wine Picks for Oscar Night

The 86th annual Academy Awards are this Sunday, March 2. For wine lovers, that can only mean one thing - sparkling wine!

Last year, we compiled a list of some of our favorite sparkling wines that sell for under $20.

Life would be boring if we always drank the same wine, so we’ve compiled a new list of tasty under $20 sparklers for 2014.


Roederer Estate Brut

There’s frequently a bottle or two of this sparkler in our house. It’s light and crisp with a subtle pear taste. It was also the favorite wine at our 2012 Oscar Party.   


Chandon Brut Classic

Jeff got to taste Chandon at a tasting event at 3rd Corner in OB. A nice alternative to the Roederer Estate, look for green apple and pear flavors and a crisp finish.


Gruet Blanc de Noirs

Fun fact - this sparkler is made in New Mexico. It’s plenty good - good enough to share with Jeff’s Mom last Mother’s Day. It’s slightly salmon colored from leaving the red Pinot Noir grapes in contact with the skins just a little longer. It has berry and pear notes on the nose with a slightly creamy finish.

What will be in our glass come Oscar night? It’s still a closely guarded secret, but we’ll reveal all next week.

Posted on February 24, 2014 .

Mother's Day Brunch with Gruet Blanc de Noirs

Mother’s Day is a time to treat Mom to a few of her favorite things. For my Mom, these include sun, roses, and sparkling wine. Our backyard provided the first two while the third was from New Mexico.

That's right - bubbly from New Mexico!

The winery is called Gruet and they make some outstanding sparkling wine. We recently enjoyed some Gruet Demi-sec with my parents and also mentioned Gruet in a recent post about some of the many great reasons to open a bottle of bubbly.

Today’s sparkling wine was Gruet’s Blanc de Noirs. It’s made entirely from red grapes and is distinguished by a reddish tint. It is a creamier sparkling wine with wonderful berry flavors that paired perfectly with our meal. Our Sunday brunch consisted of a hash brown casserole, scones, and berries.

Jeff's Mom & Dad enjoying Mom's Day brunch

You can find Gruet Blanc de Noirs at Bevmo, Specs, and Total Wine.

Posted on May 12, 2013 and filed under Under $20.

Sparkling Wines ~ great with more than celebrations

Weddings, holiday parties, birthday celebrations.  These are all events in which it is common to serve a little bubbly.  Yes, these are great wines to enjoy with big festivities, but sparkling wines are versatile and can be enjoyed with a variety of foods, in various settings.  We’ve been known to pop open a bottle with brunch (and not spoil it with OJ), but why not enjoy alongside appetizers before dinner with friends, or while sitting on the patio enjoying the afternoon sun? 

Here are a few different styles of bubbly we’ve shared with friends:

Blanc de Noirs 

Blanc de Noirs are made from dark grapes.  Grab a seat on the patio and enjoy with an assorted cheese platter.  Select rich, buttery triple – crèmes and brie type cheese, like camembert and herbed cream cheese

Recommend: Gruet ($15): We first discovered this sparkling wine for our New Year’s Eve, “Coast-to-Coast Champagne Toast” party.  A surprising find from New Mexico! 


Crémant is French for “creamy” and traditionally refers to a sparkling wine with softer effervescence.  This is a great one to pair with appetizers, or as a palate cleanser before a great meal.  Try it with salty, sharp cheese, fruit plates, and even Thai food.

Recommend: Scharffenberger Cellars ($25): We discovered this on our latest California wine adventure.  Unfortunately, it is only available direct through the winery, but a great find…go ahead, order it!


Brut style sparlings taste quite dry on the palate.  A great brunch bubbly, and it’s perfectly ok to drink straight up, don’t mix with OJ or other juice!  This pairs well with great brunch staples like eggs, potatoes, bacon and sausage, and pastries. 

Recommend: Roederer Estate ($20): This is a regular find in our fridge, and can be found in most wine shops like BevMo and Total Wines.  Well balanced, crisp with lemon and apple flavors. 


Prosecco is generally sweeter than Champagne-style sparkling wines.  Bring this one along on your picnic and pair it with creamy pastas, spicy foods, seafood, and even fried chicken.  I’d skip enjoying with anything too fruity, as it clashes with the higher acidity of this wine.

Recommend: LaMarca ($15):We were introduced to this bubbly when our friend Terri shared a bottle with us.  It has crisp peach and apple flavors, and goes surprisingly well with popcorn.  That could be why Terri loves it so much!

Posted on April 30, 2013 and filed under Wine Discoveries.

Chef’s Table Dinner at La Villa (in San Diego!)

Sally and I enjoyed an unforgettable chef’s table dinner in late 2011 that may have been one of our best meals ever. So it was no wonder that we were excited when we heard about a chef’s table at La Villa San Diego.

La Villa is an Italian farm to table restaurant in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood. It’s part of the Buon Appetito Restaurant Group, whose Buon Appetito restaurant is no stranger to this blog. Don’t bother searching for the chef’s table on their website. Just know that it’s there and call to make your reservation.

Our five course dinner was paired with wine and was simply outstanding. 

First Course
Beef carpaccio with parmesan, capers, and chianti mustard served over a bed of lettuce. Paired with NV Gruet Demi-sec (sparkling wine).

Sally and Jeff's Mom, Kathy

Second Course
Burrata with oven roasted tomatoes, artichoke, frisée, wild arugula, balsamic, olive oil, and pesto. Paired with a 2010 Stolpman L’Avion Roussanne.

Jeff and Jeff's Dad, Bob (Jeff is on the right)

Third Course
Ravioli with poached egg and mushroom. Paired with a 2010 Windy Oaks Estate Pinot Noir.

We're all enjoying course #3

Fourth Course
Prime rib-eye paired with potatoes, carrots, and sweet peas. Paired with a 2010 Storybook Mountain Zinfandel.


Fifth Course
Dessert two ways (a polenta cake and ice cream). Paired with a Canadian ice wine (apple) and a South African late harvest Chenin Blanc.

Dessert two ways paired with dessert wine two ways

2013 Oscar Wine Party Results

Sally and I are always up for having some friends over to the house, opening up some good wine, and doing a blind tasting. We're also big movie fans, so the Academy Awards make a great excuse to throw an Oscar party with wine and wagering.


We keep things simple - everyone chips in $5 and picks the winner for each award. This year's pool was a three-way tie between me, Sally, and our friend Paul. We each correctly picked 18 out of 24 awards. Not to shabby!


Just like last year's party, we served four wines blind at pairing stations and had our guests vote on their favorites. They all sold for less than $20 at San Diego Wine Co and were either current favorites or had been recommended by friends.

4th Place: 2010 Klinker Brick Zinfandel
This was a good wine, but it wasn't nearly as amazing as it was the first time we tried it when we thought it was almost too good to be true. It was paired with beef meatballs in a cranberry chili sauce.

3rd Place: NV Roederer Estate Brut
Surprise! Last year's winner came back to defend it's crown and wound up in third place. It was still tasty, but our friends weren't as much in a bubbly mood. We paired it with Mediterranean pinwheels that contained prosciutto, feta, and basil.

2nd Place: 2011 Conundrum
Yum. This is one of our house table wines, and it was a hit with our friends too. It was paired with puff pastries stuffed with chicken salad (chicken, apples, raisins, mayo, and curry). 

1st Place: 2010 Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon
Recommended by our friend Robin, we went into this one blind. It was on sale at San Diego Wine Company for $12.95, which was quite a steal considering how smooth and drinkable this wine was. We paired it with mini sandwiches made with marinated London broil, arugula, and mustard.


Posted on February 25, 2013 and filed under Under $20.

Sparkling Wine for the Red Carpet without the Celebrity Prices

I love everything about the Oscars ~ judging what people say and where as they walk the red carpet, being entertained by the host (can’t wait for Seth MacFarlane!), anticipation of who will win, acceptance speeches…and of course, the glass of sparkling wine in my hand!

While tonight is an evening of glitz and glamor, not everything has to be at the cost of Oscar fashion.  Whether you are joining friends to watch the show, or cozying up on your couch, grab a bottle of one of these great sparkling wines ~ all for under $20!

Piper Sonoma Brut Select Cuvee ($11.99-$12.99)

Crisp and creamy, with floral and citrus aromas, flavors of green apple and anise with a zesty finish

La Marca Prosecco ($11.50-$14.99)

Delicate, well balanced prosecco, with a good blend of baked apple, sour lemon and grapefruit, light creamy mineral texture – discovered this one from our friend Terri, at A Girl In The South (thank you!)

Domaine Ste Michelle Extra Dry ($10.99-$11.50)

This is one of our house sparklings – slightly sweet bubbly, frothy and smooth, and pleases many in a crowd, easy drinker.

Gloria Ferrera Blanc de Noirs ($15.99-$17.25)

Rose sparkler aged 18 months, 100% Pinot Noir – good red cherry berry fruit with notes of citrus, and earth undertones.  Heavy enough to pair very well with food – even some with a little spice.  


Posted on February 24, 2013 and filed under Under $20.

Wine with Chocolate Cake? You bet!

Many of my friends will be happy to hear that January 27 is Chocolate Cake Day.  I’m not much of a baker and chocolate cake is typically not my top dessert choice. But, pair it with a yummy wine, and I’m in!  There are actually a number of wines that would pair well with a gooey chocolate cake, and some may surprise you.  Here are a few recommendations.  If you don’t bake…find a friend that does and bribe them with wine, or just grab a bottle and share it over a slice from your favorite bakery!


Ports pair well with a big slice of dark chocolate cake.  Not long ago, I challenged my dear friend who shares some pretty tasty recipes over at A Girl In The South to put together a gooey chocolate dessert to pair with one of my favorite ports, Heitz Ink Grade.  Man, did she hit the nail on the head with this one (check it out).  

Port-Style Dessert Wine

Try a port-style dessert wine with a slice of black forest or red velvet cake. One of my personal favorites with the Cuvaison Espiritu.  This is a port-style wine made with Petite Syrah grapes and fortified with brandy.  YUM.  

Sparkling Wine

A dry or rose sparkling wine would pair well with any slice of cake.  To get a nice dry sparkling, pick out a brut.  One of my favorites is Roederer Estate, which can be found at larger beverage stores and usually under $20!  

Cabernet Sauvignon

That’s right.  A the right cab will pair well with chocolate cake.  Did you stock up on ding dongs with the crash of Hostess??  Open up a fruity cab and dive in!  I’d recommend a bottle of Niner.  It is a softer cabernet with subtle flavors.  It would balance the chocolate rather than compete with it.  

What wine would you pair with a slice of chocolate cake?

Posted on January 25, 2013 and filed under Wine Discoveries.