Monday, April 7, 2014

Wineducation: Wine in a Book

I love wine, but like many things that I proclaim to love I don't know all that much about it.  Being a busy Mama I tend to find something I like, in this case a Merlot or Petite Sirah, and keep moving without taking the time to figure out exactly what it is I like about it.  The web is a great place to research and gather information like little eggs in a wire basket, but I do enjoy a tangible item that I can hold, mark my place, and add notes if I feel so inspired, so to fulfill those needs I turn to a good old fashion book.

I decided to create my own "I want to read Wine Biblio-List," and here are the must-haves I found:

The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil:
What else needs to be said, nothing screams, "I am full of knowledge," quite like creating a book and calling it a "bible." Glancing at the available for view pages on Amazon it was easy to see how comprehensive the Wine Bible is, I think it would make a great wine reference book.
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Wine for Dummies by Ed McCarthy & Mary Ewing-Mulligan:
It is okay to admit when you don't know something (this is what I tell my six year-old on a pretty regular basis), and once you can admit you know nothing, well, then you can start to learn and Wine for Dummies is a pretty good place to start. I wouldn't necessary classify myself as a wine "dummy," but....I am in definite need of some wine wisdom.

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The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert by Richard Betts:
Learning does not have to be serious and stuffy, if there is a fun way to glean some new information, I say go for it.  This Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide may just be the right path that will lead you to wine expertise (or at least teach you what varieties of wine you prefer and why).

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Wineducation: Upcycle That Wine Bottle

There is one thing about drinking my beloved wine that causes me to pause, this particular nuance of sipping the garnet elixir can be slightly embarrassing when the neighbors are around to witness it, that is the huge crash of broken bottles when you take out the trash from a weekend (or a work week, I don't judge) of delightful wine drinking. That sound, the glass on glass shattering, that in your face reminder of just how much you have been partaking in, gave me the inspiration to start upcycling my empty wine bottles.

Now, I could just line up the empty bottles along the top of a cabinet as in a murderers row of deliciousness, but I decided that in the current state of DIY in our world I would dig around the web for more inspiring ways to upcycle, and here is what I have to offer you (warning, get ready to fall in love with these ideas):

Wine Bottle Garden Edger: by Commercial Appeal 
I love this idea, no cutting, no crazy tools that I would not be able to master in a weekend, just plain old fashion digging a hole, sticking in the bottle, and letting it age.  I am going to start collecting my empty wine bottles tonight and do this in our back yard asap. Please visit Commercial Appeal for the details.
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Wine Bottle Center Piece: by Curbly
This center piece screams romance, or when the kiddies are home, whimsy, but either way I adore this.  You can't go wrong with white twinkly lights, but add a wine bottle to the scenario and you've bumped it up a notch.  Check out Six Heavenly Wine Bottle Center Pieces on Curbly for five more fantastic center pieces as well.
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DIY Wine Bottle Soap Dispensers: by The Red Chair Blog
These soap dispensers are a great way to add interest and spruce up that soapy sticky corner of your kitchen sink, not to mention what an upgrade these upcycled bottles are from the Palmolive bottle or the little travel sized bottle full of soap from the dollar bin.  I found this charming upcycled wine bottle idea on The Red Chair Blog, please visit the blog for more details.

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Although, I was inspired to look into upcycling my finished wine bottles in an attempt to escape the stigma that comes with the heavy crashing of wine bottles sounding from my recycling bin on trash day, I have to say that I am thoroughly inspired by these projects and will be putting those empties to use right away.  Please visit the sites above for more details and ideas of how you too can disguise your empty bottles by upcycling them.

Until next time...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Wine 20: Anakena Chile Carmenere

It’s been awhile since I’ve had the chance to try any new wines, I have been searching my normal haunts (Trader Joe’s, Costco, and the Wal-Mart) and have been striking out in finding anything interesting that fits into my Middle-Class wine parameters (under ten bucks a bottle). Then, while on his own perfect brew mission, the Hubs returned from the Total Wine with something different, a Chilean Carmenere, and viola a new bottle to taste and share my thoughts on was found.

The Anakena Carmenere, as I mentioned, was purchased by the Hubs at the Total Wine for the close to the Middle-Class Mama cut-off price of $7.99.  Considering the general price range of the wines I drink are closer to $5 (or less), I considered this Anakena Carmenere on the fancier side of the wine rack. When I have a bottle of wine that I think is a little too highfalutin for a Wine Wednesday, I feel the need to hold onto it until a special occasion rolls around, or at least a weekend evening.

So this past Sunday evening, I looked at that bottle of Anakena Carmenere and thought, “tonight’s the night.” I pulled it out of it’s snug cubby of the wine rack, and twisted the aluminum cap off.  Grabbing a shatter proof wine glass (that we have managed to shatter two from the set), I poured the Carmenere, and the first thing I noticed is the very rich red color. Intense ruby coloring is a typical characteristic of this wine variety, "Carmenere" is a derivative of the French word carmin which translates to crimson, and so after a quick swirl of the vermilion wine in my glass, I was ready for tasting. 

The Anakena Carmenere has a bold spicy fruit aroma that is indicative of it’s robust flavor.  This Carmenere is no joke, it has a big well-rounded flavor, but it’s not just the grapes that are doing all the work in this wine, there is some serious spicy-earthy aspect that is putting in some flavor time as well.  This Carmenere is not for lightweight wine drinkers, it is delicious and was worth the $7.99 price tag, but the boldness of the flavors may not be for everyone.

I recommend the Anakena Carmenere for anyone who, like myself, has that adventurous epicurean side, because the many layers of flavor and vivid color of this wine will keep you happy sip after sip.  Although, the wine lovers who enjoy a smooth, even keel wine experience, the Arakena Carmenere may not be for you and you would most likely be more satisfied with a tasty Merlot, such as the Green FinMerlot from Trader Joes.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Wineducation: The Miracle Machine

Over the weekend I read an interesting article in the Los Angeles Times about the future of wine and it's being called: The Miracle Machine. The proposed Miracle Machine is the blessed counter top product that would give the everyday wine lover the ability to turn water (and a few prepackaged ingredients) into wine.  

Two big time wine guys (with lots of fancy wine related titles after their names), have been burning the midnight oil alongside the computer geniuses in Silicon Valley, to make the water into wine Miracle Machine a reality.  The plan is this: a modular counter top fermentation machine will sync with an app downloaded onto a smart phone, that is then partnered with prepackaged ingredients (sold by the company) and water to create your very own wine.  This machine’s purpose is not to produce the kind of homemade-wine of our grandparents generation, but actual Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and more beloved wine varieties.  
The Miracle Machine (photo credit:

Of course, the ability to create your own Cabernet that won’t cause blindness (a la moonshine), comes at the hefty price tag of $499 (the prepacked ingredients pricing was not listed). I am not against dropping some hard earned bucks on a great tech item, but I would need to try some of this Miracle Machine vino before I could make this commitment.  Also, I was wondering, at my current Middle-Class Mama lifestyle, would I be willing give up on my other go-to wines and stick strictly with my grape-concentrate tap water wine made on my counter only?

Part of my love affair with wine includes the trip to the store, browsing the different varieties, enjoying the label art, and the thrill of finding a new inexpensive great wine.  I don't know how long the rush of cultivating the miracle of water into to wine would last before I would stray, looking for a new wine to shake things up a bit.

As a wine lover, are you willing to spend the big bucks on the Miracle Machine in favor of creating your own wine, or would you rather stick to purchasing the wines you know and love from your local market?

Check out the Miracle Machine at their website here to see their proposed wonder of turning water into to wine.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Wineducation: Girl Scout Cookies and Wine

If you are the one bringing home the literal bread in your household then you have seen them, the bright eyed, loom band wearing, merit badge earning Girl Scouts and Brownies outside your supermarket doors selling those cookies.  Those cookies, the ones that can’t help but bring back my memories of selling those rectangular boxes while wearing knee high socks and a brown smock, offering my best seven year old sales pitch to unsuspecting supermarket customers, and as you know those cookies are hard to pass up. 
Thin Mints: a favorite.

Although, now that I have ditched the knee high socks for Ugg boots, I prefer to pair those cookies with a glass of wine rather than a glass of milk, and luckily for me someone has already tackled the challenge of pairing different Girl Scout cookies with the perfect wine.

An article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, by Gretchen McKay and Nicole Martin, titled Pairing Girl Scout Cookies with Adult Beverages, answers the fun question of which Girl Scout cookie pair’s best with which variety of wine.

These are the characteristics the article suggested you want in your wine to best compliment your choice of Girl Scout cookie, I also added my budget friendly wine choices to help get this cookie and wine party started:

Thin Mints: The article suggests a spicier red wine to compliment the dark chocolate and strong mint flavors.           

Tagalongs: The article suggests a wine heavy on the grape flavor that will give a traditional peanut butter and jelly combo.
            My wine suggestions: Kirkland Cabernet Sauvignon or Double Dog Dare Cabernet Sauvignon

Samoas: The article suggests a complex wine with notes of orange, spice, and a coffee flavor finish.
            My wine suggestion: Recas Cabernet Sauvignon

Trefoils: The article suggests a champagne or white wine with buttery flavors to compliment the shortbread style cookie.
            My wine suggestion: Crow Canyon Vineyards Chardonnay

I LOVE these cookies!
So, when you are out picking up those Girl Scout cookies, don’t forget to grab a bottle of wine that is not only easy on your wallet, but is going to enhance the already deliciousness of those old school favorite cookies.

For even more Girl Scout cookie and wine pairings (beer, too), read the article, Pairing Girl Scout Cookies with Adult Beverages here.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Wine 19: Blue Fin California Petite Sirah

Blue Fin's friendly label.
After two weeks of suffering through the bug that refused to leave my system, causing a lack of those all important senses of taste and smell, I am finally back to sipping and sharing my wine loving opinion.

This weeks bottle of budget friendly wine, Blue Fin California Petite Sirah, was purchased at the Trader Joe’s a month ago. No, I wasn’t attempting to age this golden glass encased wine, it just so happens that I had picked up this wine on a regular Joe’s stop before the dreaded illness sunk in, and it remained in the wine rack, lonely, and hoping to be poured into a stemmed glass for a month.

Once the Amoxicllin kicked in I was ready to taste, so I grabbed the bottle of Blue Fin Petite Sirah, purchased at the nice price of $3.99, popped the cork and gave it a pour. If you are unfamiliar with the Petite Sirah variety of wine, you should know right off the bat that it’s not necessarily user friendly, and by that I mean it has specific flavors that are a little harsher and not common to most reds. 

No description of the wine.
The Blue Fin Petite Sirah gives you it’s Petite Sirah’ness right out of the bottle, the scent is strong, with an edge that is not necessarily unpleasant, but dark and earthy.  The color is not unlike a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, but once you taste your first sip the difference in the body of the wine is evident.  The Blue Fin Petite Sirah is aggressive, it is peppery, smokey, and mildly tart.  The fruit flavors are reminiscent of blackberries and deep rich cherries, but that sweetness is quickly over come by the darker edginess of the wine.

Personally, I liked the Blue Fin Petite Sirah because I am the type of person who enjoys shaking things up a bit (especially when it comes at a easy to afford price tag), and I can appreciate the tartness and darker flavors of the wine.  If you are more of a cautious wine drinker, get more wine joy out knowing what to expect when you pour that glass, steer clear of the Blue Fin Petite Sirah and head toward something a bit more friendly like The California Rabbit Pinot Noir.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Wineducation: Don't Just Drink Your Wine

This past week’s wine drinking was interrupted by a very vile virus that attacked our home and took my boy and I out for most of the week. The inability to taste or smell anything for days on end kept me from uncorking and giving a new budget friendly bottle of wine a try in order to offer you a review. While wine-less and laid up under a pile of blankets and pillows, I was able to spend plenty of time perusing the web and reading blogs, which is where I stumbled upon the ingenuity of wine drinkers who have whipped up new and novel ways to ingest my beloved wine.

1. From the blog The Busy Bee: Winesicles. I can't even imagine this deliciousness....I must make them.

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 2.  From the blog Thrive-Style: Wine Fruit Snacks. "There's always room for Jell-O," well, I couldn't argue with that statement when it comes to these.

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3. From the blog Sprinkle Bakes: Red Wine Lollipops. It's a lollipop, it's wine, it's a LOLLIPOP made of WINE (enough said).
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I would have happily devoured any of these wine creations last week while laying in my deathbed, if only I could have got the hubs to hit that kitchen and get to wine creating, what a different week it would have been.

Please visit these brilliant blogs by clicking on their titles and give one or all of their recipes a try!

This shamrock mold would be perfect for wine fruit snacks! (photo credit: