Category Archives: How to Choose a Bottle

How to choose a bottle of wine

The God of Wine

When I was in high school I was obsessed with Third Eye Blind. My guy friends were more obsessed, and it was the kind of thing that stuck. The summer after high school my friends Rich and Andrew and I drove down to Virginia Beach from New Hampshire with Rich’s family. We listened to Third Eye Blind the entire way, I’m pretty sure.

Anyway, when I wrote the title of this post I remembered that one of their songs was called “God of Wine”. The song has nothing to do with this post. In fact, the lyrics are kind of depressing:


Rich, Andrew and me circa 2003

[The God of Wine comes crashing through the headlights of a car that

Took you farther than you thought you’d ever want to go.
We can’t get back again.
You can’t get back again.
She takes a drink and then she waits,
The alcohol it permeates.
And soon the cells give way, and cancels out the day.]

Sometimes I get off track. There was absolutely no reason for me to bring any of that up… except that my uncle (my uncle’s husband, actually, but he’s still my uncle, right? That always confuses me.) is back in Washington from their California abode and graced us with his presence for dinner last night. Unfortunately he has been gone since I started this blog because he is a wine god. Like, seriously, he knows about wine. He even had me tell him my menu before he came over so he could pair correctly. And also, I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad glass of wine with him. In my head there is, “Wine Elena can afford” and “Wine served by Steve, at fancy restaurants and in France”.  Stupid poor-graduate-school-student thing. Although I would guess our alcohol spending is way outside what is appropriate for our income bracket. We have our priorities straight, people.

For dinner last night I made a lemon chicken marsala with balsamic roasted winter squash wild rice and a mixed green salad with pear vinaigrette. The rice dish was amazing. I made it up from a mesh of like six different recipes, but basically just roasted a winter squash in balsamic, made some wild rice, sautéed garlic, onion and sausage without the casing and then mushed it all together. There were probably some spices in there too. Anyway, it was delicious.

Steve brought a lovely Rosé to start. Rosés hold a special place in my heart because they remind me of lunchtime in summer in Corsica. Very. Specifically.

The Rosé was dark, Steve said as dark as a recent Pinot Noir he’d tried was light. In fact, now that I’m looking at the bottle, it is actually called a dark rosé. The bottle was a 2011 Capture Dark Rosé. It had that nice freshness of a dry rosé. In my opinion, any meal can start with a bottle like this. We had some crackers and chevre out, which I thought was a nice combination.

Next we had our main course and a 2010 Mendel Argentinian Malbec. I had led Steve to believe that we were having a red sauce with the chicken,  but I can’t keep a menu the same for more than 30 seconds so it wasn’t what I ended up making. But anyway, the Malbec was deliciousssss. It is a fairly young Malbec, and yet, it was full and dark and fruity. Apparently this vintage is a good one, or so says the tasting notes that Steve included with the bottle. Told you he was a wine god.

tasting notes

tasting notes

For our third wine of the night, paired with Ukrainian chocolate, we had a 2010 Domaine des Terres de Chatenay Vire-Clessé. I had no idea what that was. According to Wikipedia… “Viré-Clessé is an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) for white wine in the Mâconnais subregion Burgundy in central France, located in the communes of Clessé, Laizé, Montbellet and Viré. Viré-Clessé has Chardonnay as the only allowed grape variety.” And, for those of you not up on French agriculture (how plebeian are you?), “The appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) (French pronunciation: ​[a.pɛ.la.sjɔ̃ dɔ.ʁi.ʒin kɔ̃.tʁo.le]), which translates as “controlled designation of origin”, is the French certification granted to certain French geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products, all under the auspices of the government bureau Institut national des appellations d’origine, now called Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité (INAO).”

Anyway, it was also delicious. It is a chardonnay grape, my favorite, rich and crisp at the same time.


Anyway, these weren’t official tastings or anything, but all wines I certainly recommend.

I also recommending going out and getting yourself a wine god  uncle.


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

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

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