Monthly Archives: October 2012

What to drink in a hurricane

While I don’t have much experience with hurricanes, I’ve been through my share of storms. In rural New Hampshire huge snow or ice storms and losing power for weeks on end are not uncommon occurrences. The key to getting through it is preparation and that is certainly as true for a hurricane as an ice storm. For those of you who might lose power tonight or tomorrow and have just have settled down to weather the storm, go stock up on non-perishables, candles and, of course, a bottle or two of wine. (Disclaimer: I hate to say this, but if you are in a dangerous area or an evacuation zone, perhaps you should leave the wine for another night. Safety first!) Then, dust off those board games, huddle around your 4G tablet and watch “Bottle Shock” or hark back to the days of drinking games, but this time be classy with a lovely glass of Pinot Noir.

Wine Storm

Here are my recommendations:

For the Bulk Buyer:
Good thing you stocked up on those box-o-wines (Close your ears, wine snobs, there are actually some decent boxed wines out there.) Bulk Buyer, ’cause you’re all prepared. Go find your carafe, light those candles and cook up everything in your fridge before it goes bad. Oprah recommends you try Black Box Wines  Sauvignon Blanc, but I’d go for their Cabernet Sauvignon or their Merlot because they don’t need to be cooled and they both go well with grilled meats. So salvage those quickly-thawing steaks from your freezer, light up that grill (because your electric stove isn’t working) and do this power-outage in style.

For The Wine-Hoarder:
You know that $85.00 bottle of Altamura 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that’s been gathering dust on your wine rack since 2008? You’re right in the middle of its drinking window, so you should probably grab that corkscrew and get sippin’.  There’s no time better than a storm to cuddle up to that special someone and enjoy the amazing feeling of opening up a really nice bottle of wine. Plus, you’re making room in your wine rack  for another beautiful bottle.

For the Beer Drinker:
No power means no refrigeration. Beer isn’t so nice when it’s warm, is it? Try a Vinho Verde, it has a low alcohol content and a lovely hint of sparkle, kind of like that beer you love so much. It may be better cold, but at least it’s a more economical use for the last of the ice.

For the Person with a Nearby Wine Store Open:
If a hurricane isn’t a time to indulge, I don’t know what is. How about a Cabernet Franc? Try Walla Walla Vintners 2009, Columbia Valley for $28. This might also be a good time for a little game. Grab a friend and each buy a bottle. Cover the labels and test your wine-knowledge. Can you tell a Malbec from a Merlot?

For The Budget Sipper:
I’ve seen you, leaving the store with a shopping cart of Franzia. No need to be embarrassed, we’re all friends here. Better a cheap bottle than no bottle at all, and lots of good bottles can be found under $15.00. One of my favorites? Rex Goliath Shiraz. When we were kids we’d call it “chicken wine”.

Stay safe everyone! 


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Filed under How to Choose a Bottle, Random, Varieties

Rainy Saturday Wine Movie Review

One of my favorite relatives (hi Arlyn!) emailed me the other day with a wine-related movie suggestion: Bottle Shock. We decided to take her recommendation, the perfect  pastime for a rainy-Saturday. Fortunately, Netflix on demand had the movie. We actually have a lovely movie rental place across the street, but once you’re used to Netflix prices (free when you’re still “borrowing” Netflix from your parents…) paying $7.00 for a movie is a little painful. You could buy almost 1/7th of a bottle of a Chateau Montelena 2010 Chardonnay.

Bottle ShockThe movie was, in a word, fantastic. Usually Alex and I can’t agree on movies. Heck, we can’t even agree on movie GENRES. When I told him the movie was a drama based on a real life story of the California Wine Industry he was skeptical, but played along like a trooper and loved it from the first scene of Sonoma vines.

Basically this is what happens (I won’t give away the ending, even though it’s not the biggest surprise in the world):

There’s this British wine-lover who has a wine shop in France that is filled mostly with French wines because French wines are the best. Obviously. But then he decides to do this big blind tasting between American and French wines to see which country’s wines are better (obviously the French ones will be). He travels to Sonoma to taste and choose some wines to be included in the tasting. In Sonoma the focus is on the drama surrounding the Chateau Montelena winery, their debt (will they survive another year?) and the relationships there. You see early on that the California winery owners are seen, and to an extent see themselves, as unsophisticated. But is there wine good enough to rival the French? Whose wine will be chosen to participate in the wine tasting? Watch and see!

The Tasting

The Tasting (screen shot)

In conclusion, I want to try a Chateau Montelena Chardonay and something by Gustavo Thrace. Also, watch Bottle Shock. Now.



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Sake Tasting on a Rainy Night

I’ve loved sake since before I could drink. When I was a kid, we always went out for sushi on special occasions. At the time we were living in Wisconsin, where it didn’t seem like many 8-year olds liked raw fish. I remember once a teacher asked what everyone’s favorite foods were. The answers ranged from pizza to chicken nuggets. My answer? Sushi, caviar and lobster. Apparently I was a food-snob before fourth grade.

Sake Tasting


Anyway, there was this beautiful restaurant we’d go to where you got your own little booth and took off your shoes and sat on the floor. I loved the ritual of it. We’d wash our hands with warm cloths and pour over the menu. I loved saying the names of different items. “Negi hamachi maki” I’d proudly order. Anyway… (I’m getting caught up in the memory here) my parents would usually get a little carafe of steaming hot sake. It seemed so adult to me, and way cooler than beer or wine.

Years later, in college, I was friends with a guy who had his very own sake set, which I thought was pretty cool. One day, and I don’t even think it was a special occasion, he gave me one of my own. I still have it, tucked away on an upper shelf with the beautiful sushi dinner set my mom let me steal from her.

Yesterday, before a night out on the town, Tanya and Marek came over for some sake.

Tasting sake is actually quite similar to tasting wine.  Or tasting anything. But there are some different things you want to look for. Serious Eats has a pretty good basic sake tasting guide.

Gekkeikan Sake: Tasted Warm

It was a cold, rainy night yesterday, which seemed the perfect time to drink warm sake. To warm it, you just have to boil water and then place the sake carafe (I bet there’s a real name for that…) into the water for a few minutes.

Sake warming

Sake warming


Sake should be clear, or close. If it isn’t, it may be a bad sign. According to UrbanSake’s FAQ, sake is meant to be consumed “young and fresh”. This one looked good!


The smell part was tough for me. It smelled like… sake. It was slightly astringent smelling, and maybe a little earthy. This would have been easier without a stuffy allergy nose.


There is nothing else on earth like a warm tiny cup of sake. It warms the soul. And the body. This one was smooth and balanced. I almost felt like it would taste as astringent as it smelled, but it went down easily. I don’t have much to compare this bottle to, as I don’t drink sake very often, but everyone’s first impression was very good.

Pouring Sake

This picture was staged. We weren’t drinking the sake straight out of the bottle.


I love sake and this one met my expectations. I’d like to learn more about sake and taste another bottle in the near future. Any experts out there willing to teach me?



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Wine Tasting: Election Edition

Politics are big in my family and I’m always a little sad to not be in New Hampshire around election time. My mom was a State Representative for 6 long years and I was by her side for most of it. In fact, I was the one who, as an idealistic little college girl, convinced her to run, and subsequently ran, her first campaign. She won by three votes in a recount her first term and it was a huge deal. At least for me.

Claudia Chase

There we are with our bright pink signs and carnations. It was probably the girliest campaign ever.

Anyway, my mom and I decided to do an online, pre-debate wine tasting, to really oil up our sassy Twitter commentaries. Her (our) friend Vicki was over and participated, too!

I wanted to taste a Rodney Strong because that’s my favorite winery ever for two reasons. 1) A glass of Rodney Strong Chardonnay was my first legal drink ever and 2) They make a really nice wine. Mom chose a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon but when I sent Alex to the store to get me a bottle, he said it was $37.00 and wasn’t about to pay that. My guess is he found a reserve bottle, since this wine should be under $20.00.

Turning 21

I even have a picture of me pouring myself a glass on my 21st birthday.

2009 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon

Skype Tasting with Claudia and Vicki

Claudia and Vicki

Claudia and Vicki Skype-Tasting


“Very deep, deep, deep claret. Crimson.” -Vicki

“Very pretty. It has no legs” -Claudia

“I’ve had about one glass of wine in 6 years” -Vicki


“Acidic, fruity, a little peppery” -Claudia

“Fruity but a little acidic” -Rick (who joined in later)

Rick tasting

Rick looks skeptical


“Full-bodied. Vanilla. It’s delicious. It melts away, very smooth. Not a deep complexity, fruity.” -Vicki

“It had an acidic smell and not an acidic taste. Nice aftertaste, very pleasant wine, rather inexpensive. I’d definitely buy it again. It is an affordable wine that masquerades as amore expensive wine.  It doesn’t have any of that weird acidic taste that it smelled like it would.” -Claudia

It smells fruity and acidic and tastes deep. Comes right to the back of your throat. It’s very cool. It reminds me of cherries.”-Rick


“For a fruity wine… 9.2” -Rick

“9” -Claudia

“8.5” -Vicki

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Wine Tasting: Merlot or “50 Shades of Red”

I think everyone should host (or participate in) a home wine tastings at least once a month. They can be whatever you want them to be… intimate and classy or a bit rowdier with pizza, hot wings and Mario Cart.  This time we opted for the second choice and made it work with two beautiful bottles of merlot. Before I embarked on this wine adventure, I didn’t realize how fun it is to discuss wine. Everyone has a slightly different take on each wine and it’s exhilarating (in a totally geeky way) when someone is like, “It’s almost a spicy taste.” and you’re like “EXACTLY!”

Merlot Tasting

The tasters (minus Alex and me)

This time I was a little more prepared than my last few tastings. I got an amazing wine bible from the library, The Ultimate Wine Companion edited by Kevin Zraly (buy it here). If you’re at all interested in wine, and I assume you are since you’re reading this, go read this book. I’m definitely putting it on my holiday wish list. I did some research about the wines I wanted and even printed out papers for everyone to write their notes about the two wines. I even made a little cheat card about merlot.

Merlot is my favorite red wine, but I didn’t really know much about it until yesterday. According to The Ultimate Wine Companion, Chile makes the best Merlots followed by California and Washington State. I decided to go for a Chilian Merlot and a domestic one for the tasting.



The Wines:
Sagelands Vinyards 2007 Columbia Valley Merlot

Casillero del Diablo 2010 Chilian Merlot

The Tasting:

Merlot Tasting

Merlot Tasting

We started with the Sagelands Merlot:


Dark, heavy legs, high viscosity, deep color.

wine tasting: look

“Strong legs. If this was an athlete, it would be a long distance runner.”-Sunil


“Deep, heavy, woody… It’s starting to feel like I’m writing a sex novel.” -Marek  “50 Shades of Red” -Sunil

“Doesn’t smell like it would taste good.” -Tanya

“Woody smell” -Mar


“Usually merlots are drier. This was less. I prefer it.” -Sunil

“No sweetness, a nice steady heavy yet subtle flavor. Aftertaste as good as first sip.” -Marek

“Acidity with end point of bitterness. The taste is experienced all over the tongue. No complex.” -Tanya

Notes & Ratings

Mar: 7  of 10

Sunil: 7 of 10 “I like this wine, I would buy it.”

Tanya: “Smooth and nice for a Merlot! Not my fav.” 6 or 7 of 10

Marek: “Heavy duty porch pounder in the Merlot category.”

Sagelands Merlot Rating

Heavy duty porch pounder!

Alex: 3.4 of 5 stars (he decided on a different rating system)

Elena: 8 of 10

Sunil reading

Sunil reading

Next we tried the Casillero del Diablo:


“Lower viscosity. ‘Faster’ legs = sprinter.” -Tanya

Dark burgundy, deep color


“Woody, balanced, smooth and light.” -Tanya

Spicy, light,


“Fruity, light and “delightful”, no real aftertaste.” -Tanya

“Taste hits the back of my tongue.” -Sunil

Notes & Ratings

Mar: 6/10 “Wine residue at bottle of the glass.”

Sunil: 6/10 “I prefer #1 because this is more bitter and light bodied. Still a good wine!” 

Tanya: 8/10 “Delicious and smooth.”

Marek: “Good, light merlot experience but not for huge bold flavors.”

Alex: 2.2 out of 5 stars

Elena: 7/10


The Sagelands Merlot got better overall ratings, but both were decent wines. The Sagelands was deeper, darker and generally more bold than the Casillero del Diablo and I think that made the latter taste a little watery in comparison. We tried another wine, a Spanish mix of Cabernet Savignon, Carménère, Caberet Franc and Syrah. When compared to the other two wines, it just didn’t hold up, making me wonder about the order of wines in a tasting. Would we have liked that one better if we had tasted it without tasting two, arguably better, wines first?

I think I will try more Chilean Merlots in the future, but certainly won’t discount the domestic ones.

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Your Wine Tasting Cheat Sheet

Doing some wine tasting tonight? Print this easy  cheat sheet to take along with you!

Wine Tasting Cheat Sheet

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Wine App Review: Vivino

Although I probably spend more time with my iPhone than with my husband, I’m really not a huge app user. Sure, I have like a gazzilion of them, but besides Facebook and The Stranger’s “Cocktail Compass” Happy Hour finder (download that right now if you’re in Seattle) I tend to veer more towards Google when I need something an app could provide. But my app-free life might be about to change because… dun dun dun… There are WINE APPS out there. Quite a few, actually (ask Mashable). I’ll give you a moment to let your pulse slow after that incredibly exciting piece of news.

I decided to download one to try it out and chose Vivino because Forbes  said it was cool. And it’s free. And is SCANS wine bottles which is awesome.

After downloading the app, signing up with Vivino, creating a profile and connecting to Twitter I was ready to use my new app. The first thing I wanted to try was scanning a bottle. I had that we’ve been saving for ages, a wedding gift from my friends John and Joe. I grabbed it and followed the  instructions to “scan” a bottle, which basically just had me take a picture of the label. Seconds later it KNEW MY WINE. And blew my mind. It identified the bottle as an Elderton Barossa Command Shiraz. 4 stars with a consistantly HIGH rating in a variety of categories.

Vivino App

Vivino App

The page told me a little about the wine, pairings and serving tips and allowed me to rate it myself and add some notes about it. Then it takes the scanned wine and puts it in my “my wines” category for me to go back to if I want to.

Pretty amazing because I am constantly buying wines, loving then and then promptly forgetting what the heck I bought. The app seems to be trying to build a kind of social network where you can see what your friends’ wines are and people can follow you and you can get “badges”. I already have three, somehow.  This is all well and good, but only useful if your friends are on the app too. Mine aren’t. Yet. Get on it, people. You can download it here.

(Note: This App is available for iPhone and Android phones. You can also download an “older” version for Windows phones and even if you have a BlackBerry.)

This app seems very useful for two reasons. 

1) Remembering wines I like

and 2) Checking out wines in a store and instantly being able to see their ratings and reviews with the click of the camera button

Also, it’s really fun to take pictures of a label and have the app identify it. REALLY fun.

I’m going to go scan all the wines in my wine rack, see you later wine lovers.

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Filed under Beginner's Guide, Buying, How to Choose a Bottle