Thursday, August 29, 2013

some Wine with my cheese, please!

People are always asking me, “What’s your favorite wine?”, and although I really have none, I gave up trying to explain that years ago, and nowadays I simply say “sparkling wine or champagne” and leave it at that.  Or I just say, "The next one..." lol.

Work hard, play hard- that's my motto..... why not!

Personally, my advice about wine is don't try to find people who "know more than you" about it to tell you what to drink or what to "like".

Of course, people who are wine collectors, sommeliers or knowledgeable in wine can help make recommendations, but my advice is to rely on your own palate. Remember, your palate is a very, very, very personal and unique thing that only you truly understand. And your palate will change- especially if you "practice". 
Nobody can tell you what you taste. There can be some basic generalizations for sure, but at the end of the day, you like what you like.  This is all (of course) in addition to the health benefits of "a glass of red a day"..... I am extremely healthy and ahead of myself on this one - I assure you...

The more wine you taste, the more your palate will change and develop.

After college, I started  drinking wine and preferred sweeter lighter wines and eventually moved on towards reds and bolder, drier varietals as the opportunities to try new things came upon me over the years.  This is the amazing thing about wine. Palates change, preferences come and go, explorations of taste and texture are there to be had. If you’re lucky, you have someone by your side – a family member, a wine club, a group of friends – to experience it with you and share in the excitement of discovering a new varietal or region or bottle.
You can do pairings at dinners and that is a good way to see how wines and foods pair and you can buy books about the same like this one that comes highly recommended online. -check it out on amazon - the reviews are great and I plan to read it, someday......

At the end of the day it all boils down to tasting and tasting....and tasting.  Also, please remember... tasting and drinking wine is supposed to be FUN. LOTS OF FUN. Don't make it work.
White on the Left, Red on the Right, RIGHT!

A "wine" ring pop for adults - genius!
Drink wine you like and enjoy it. The more you drink, the more your palate will evolve. It just happens. Let it.     If you really want to analyze wine, then take notes.
Think about what you taste in each wine. At the beginning you may not taste every subtle nuance. That will change. You will be able to tell differences in wines. Focus on that and your palate will sharpen.
"Maybe I misjudged Stromberg. Any man who drinks Dom Perignon ´52 can´t be all bad."
-James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).
 If someone around you is being a "wine snob" or suggests something that you don't agree with- let it go and walk away - life is too short to drink bad wine or to be around wine snobs. 
Me with a "small" bottle at Stirling Vineyards in Napa
Robert "experiencing" Round Pond Estate in Napa
Let your experiences, especially personal experiences, guide you. 

Enjoy the process! 
There is lots of fun to be had with wines in addition to just drinking it.....
Make champagne ice cubes for your orange juice.... or even better, make OJ cubes for your sparkling wine or Champagne!
Serve up a mimosa bar at your next party
Freeze fruits on small skewers and set them out for your guests to add to their sparkling wine!

Take glorious pictures seen through the eyes of your wine goggles!
I wrote an earlier blog piece about dinner parties that has some great wine notes, so if you have not yet read, check it out here:
I love to incorporate wine or sparking wine into every celebratory occasion.
If you have never been on a hot air balloon ride, then DO IT!  It is so peaceful and amazing, and the best part (after the always-crash-landing-that they never tell you about- which apparently is the only way to land a balloon!!)  They always traditionally do a champagne toast at the end!  My favorite way to celebrate anything! 
Robert and I toasting our successful hot air balloon ride over the Sonoran Desert in Arizona

"Remember, gentlemen, it's not just France we are fighting for, it's Champagne!"
-Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain, (1874 - 1965).
 They have quite a few wineries here in Florida surprisingly.  The soil and climate are not ideal for many grape types except for the muscadine and our favorite wineries in Florida are sister-wineries who use the same vineyards.  You can pick up their wines at your local Publix supermarket if you don't make it out to St. Augustine or Clermont (northwest Orlando) to do a free tour and tasting.
We finally joined a wine club locally here in Tampa.  There is a great place called Coopers Hawk Winery and Restaurant and they have a great deal on some very nice wines. 
You should definitely check them out online and find on possibly in your area - they have extremely reasonable tasting flights which will help you decide what you want to purchase or just something to try with dinner and friends!
  A few years ago my husband and I got to go to Italy on vacation and that was his first "falling in love" experience with wine - Chianti to be specific.  With little to no nitrates and preservatives in the wine over there, you could drink heartily with your enormous and fulfilling meals and feel fantastic the next day ready for more walking, eating and Drinking!
Neat little side story here, this picture was taken at a very old little restaurant in Rome called
Scoglio Di Frisio
 where my father had visited eons ago when he was there in the army.  He loved it so much that he saved the menu.  He asked me to bring it with me and try to find the place- according to google it was still there!  Sure enough, we enjoyed a yummy dinner and a beautiful wine the owner picked out for us and shared with them the menu from 50 years ago!.  My oldest brother Joe also went there a couple years ago when he and his wife Robbin visited Italy too.  So fun to have this neat family tradition.  (p.s. I wrote about family traditions, especially food traditions in a previous blog post- you can check that one out here.)
We were also so fortunate to go to Napa and Sonoma Valleys in California for a business meeting and simply had to tack on a few extra days to see (oh who am I kidding)... to taste wine country!   Here are some of the wineries and amazing experiences we had.....
This is the kind of indulgent trip that everyone should have on their bucket list.... even if you do not drink vino - it is gorgeous, yummy and so serene!  SO much to see and do......
Our favorite meal was at Auberge Du Soleil in Napa. Not only an amazing hotel (which I would love to stay in one day) but the food was OUTSTANDING!  And the view.... was breathtaking!
The view from lunch at Auberge was unreal!
The wine and food was as great as the stars it has earned!
The hotel cabanas look so relaxing!

and the wine with that view..... oh the wine!

What an amazing lunch we had! 
corn chowder


A scrumptious cream puff dessert

We stayed at a wonderful inn in Sonoma called the Olea Hotel.  Not only do they include a mimosa breakfast, but there was a glass of wine handed to us when we arrived and a wine tasting before we went to have dinner.... endless pours at their tiny little bar included in the room price  - and getting to know other guests and what wineries they visited that day made it so special. 
 The inn was just remodeled and had opened only a week before so we got an amazing deal and the rooms were like small cottages- beautifully appointed.  The outdoor deck area was perfect to relax in and they have a tiny spa too!  Here is a view of our room's porch.
I wanted to mention that Sonoma is very different from Napa even though it is only a short drive away.  It is less commercialized, quaint and the wineries are a little smaller and more family run than the larger Napa estates.  Both places are amazing and you really need to try to go to both - every winery and set of vineyards is completely different than the next with their own set of tastings, rules (e.g. by appointment only), and certainly the winemakers and their marketing teams not to mention landscapers compete with grace.
Without a doubt, our most favorite wine that we tasted, bought and now seek out here in Tampa is from Rutherford Hill Winery
They had a 2007 Merlot that knocked our socks off! 
You can get it here in Tampa and our favorite place to get it is at Ocean Prime on Sundays (when it is half price bottles so it sells at cost, around $22).  Try it - it is fantastical!

Another favorite winery was Round Pond!  OMG..... My friend Cindi from high school used to live in California and was a wine club member at Round Pond.  When she heard we were going there she generously offered us her tasting pass for not only the winery but also for their olive oil tasting.  I use the word "tasting" extremely lightly here, because we didn't need to eat the rest of the day! 
We toured the winery and had a delightful accompaniments to the wines from their gorgeous outdoor deck overlooking the vineyards.

This was the intimate olive oil tasting we got to do.... of course it also included wines.... and lots of passed plates and we learned so much!  Their oils and vinegars are mouth watering!
Honig was a delightful find as well.....

Frog's leap had a beautiful farm and some top rated wines that we loved!
Stirling Winery was very unique... .a huge tour with many rooms to taste in - and the neat part was the cable car ride you had to take to get to the winery over the vineyards. 


Not to forget that there were great restaurants at the wineries too! 
Fresh farm to fork meals and vine to bottle vinos!

All in all, you could definitely say I LOVE wine... especially sparkling wines.... we affectionately call it my "happy juice".  And why not.... life is short.....
What's your favorite?  Simply the next one too......?