Category: Wine

Scratch ‘N Sniff Your Way to Becoming a Wine Expert!

“Most of what you taste is actually the smell.”

Remember the scratch ‘n sniff stickers from your childhood, the ones we would scratch and were supposed to smell like popcorn, cotton candy, and licorice?  It took him four years, but Master Sommelier Richard Betts has answered the prayers of former 1980’s sticker collectors everywhere with his new board book, The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert: Take a Whiff of That.

The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert

Curious? Skeptical? Me too. I haven’t tried it yet, but if you ever spy me halfway through a bottle of wine and sniffing a board book it typically just means I’ve had too much wine after reading the kids their bedtime stories, so this gives me a great excuse to scratch ‘n sniff like the mature adult my mother thinks I am.

I enjoy attending wine tastings. My preferences usually gravitate toward heavy-bodied reds while turning my nose up at the sweet white wines. But what if your palate is inconsistent and unpredictable, or you wouldn’t know a granache from a syrah? Would you be interested in learning how to refine what it is you like? Many times your wine tasting attendant doesn’t have the time or training to tell you why your preferences are what they are, so maybe a whimsical board book would be a fun addition to your next wine tasting party!

“Break down the smells, isolate them, show people what they smell like, reassemble them to help people say “Okay, I like x y and z” and then it points you directly at what wine you’ll like.”

Betts (and his collaborators) have broken down the different categories of aromas we smell in our wine glasses, and with scents such as popcorn, vanilla, strawberry, pepper, tarragon, gardenia, butter, and even bacon, his promise is that he’ll help us follow our noses to the wine varietals we will love. (Bacon wine–and it’s Canadian counterpart, Back Bacon wine–should be on tap at Burger King, amiright?) This hardcopy book is available from Amazon and B&N, and you can learn more about the author here. I can’t wait to compare nose smudges above the sniffy parts with my fellow party guests!

“Wine is a grocery, not a luxury.”

Richard is determined to remove the barriers to our enjoyment of wine and being knowledgeable about what we like. I enjoyed listening to his interview on The Wine Crush from February 2016 and am convinced he is committed to taking the snobbery out of wine and educating even those of us who think we know a thing or two about grapes. Check it out!

 

 

 

Noshing at Nosh Eatery & Wine Bar

Nosh Eatery & Wine BarWe had the pleasure of visiting Nosh Eatery & Wine Bar last week, which is the brand new iteration of the space formerly known as Betty’s Nosh, at 6685 N Beardsley Road, off the Loop 101 in Glendale, AZ. Nosh lacks the signature mushroom bar feature I loved when it was Betty’s, which is good news for the mushroom haters but bad news for us fungi enthusiasts. The good news for us all is the new owners still offer a great happy hour, and on Thursdays they still feature their complimentary wine tasting.

Last week Nosh’s wine tasting featured a Napa pinot gris from Three Pears, and while I don’t identify as a pinot gris fan, I found it to be delicious! The first sip might have been just okay, but the manager that night, Marty, already knew how biased I am against white wines and he coached me to pay attention to my second and third sips. It was so worth the investment in my patience!

The second choice that night, the red wine, was a Paso Robles cabernet sauvignon from Foxglove. It lacked the boldness of the big Napa cabs I’m used to, but it was well-rounded and certainly enjoyable.

When we taste new wines at a tasting, we get precious few sips and not much time to aerate them. Because of this I have a little broader range of what tastes acceptable enough to me to want to try again.  My litmus test is to ask myself after each sampling, “would I drink this again on purpose?” The answer for both of these wines is an absolute YES! Especially given such reasonable price points (~$20/bottle).

Nosh Eatery & Wine BarAs for the “nosh”, on this occasion I chose from the starter menu and enjoyed the shrimp eggrolls. With shrimp, cream cheese and jalapeño, it’s a little calorie splurge for me but they were so tasty and satisfying! My only disappointment of the evening was when I saw their famous mushroom bar is no longer. Angry Shrimp stuffed mushrooms, chicken Alfredo stuffed mushrooms, green chile chicken stuffed mushrooms, Byriani stuffed mushrooms… Sigh, I miss all those! Though Nosh no longer offers their virtual cornucopia of stuffed mushrooms, they do still have some mushrooms on the menu in the form of starters.

With atmosphere of a wine bar and patio seating, Nosh Eatery & Wine Bar is definitely worth checking out! Give them a try for your next business lunch, date night or girl’s night out. Keep calm and nosh on!

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SF’s Own Bluxome Street Winery – A Gem in SoMa!

SF’s Own Bluxome Street Winery – A Gem in SoMa!

Bluxome Street Winery: A Review
San Francisco isn’t far from Napa or Sonoma, which might be why wineries generally don’t bother to keep tasting room locations in the city. Sure, the wineries aren’t FAR, but they’re sure not convenient when you’re in the city and want a quick taste of something local—especially if you’re dependent upon mass transit! Bluxome Street Winery is rare in that they bring their fruit from Sonoma to SF where they make, age and serve their wine right there in the city.

When you’re done with the NFL Experience, Super Bowl City, Fan Energy Zone and everything NFL, don’t you want to sit back, relax and enjoy something authentically San Franciscan? Allow us to strongly suggest you visit Bluxome Street Winery.

Their grapes these days are grown in the Russian River Valley, and when we visited the two SF tasting rooms their flights were heavy on Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Their Ghirardelli location sells a Cab by the bottle, but we were so pleasantly surprised with the Pinot, we couldn’t resist spending some quality time with a bottle of that instead. We will be back to enjoy that bottle of Cab!

Bluxome Street Winery: A Review
Their Original Tasting Room on Bluxome Street in Soma

The winery has two tasting rooms in SF: the original location in Soma on Bluxome Street where the wine is made (closed Mondays, but a short 5-10 minute walk from Moscone Center, AT&T Park and Caltrain) and a larger tasting room further north at Ghiradelli Square (open daily). We loved both locations, so choose either one depending on where your day takes you.

Bluxome Street Winery: A Review
Bluxome Street Winery’s Tasting Room at Ghiradelli Square

Something to note about the Soma room on Bluxome Street is their original, pre-1906 earthquake location! Many wineries were based in the area before the Prohibition movement in 1920. The quake destroyed virtually every structure and Prohibition killed the wine industry and business in the 7×7. Bluxome Street Winery was one of the only—if not the only—winery to successfully rebuild after the quake, wait out Prohibition and then resume business.

We loved both tasting rooms. The original location at 53 Bluxome had so much character, but what sealed the deal for me was a screen with a running loop of footage from a random film crew dispatched to Market Street in April 1906, mere weeks before the devastating earthquake. It’s fascinating and makes a great conversation piece. On the other hand, their Ghirardelli location is more spacious, offers an outdoor deck to enjoy the sunshine (or the fog, depending on the day) and has a view of the Golden Gate bridge and the San Francisco Bay. You can’t beat it!

Overall this is an interesting winery offering a better than average wine tasting experience and we can’t wait to go back. What else do you need to know? Just get there!

Counoise? Don’t Mind if We Do!

Counoise? Don’t Mind if We Do!

Counoise? Don't Mind if We Do!

We here at CS&B are members of the Page Springs Cellars wine club, and we were intrigued when we saw our wine club selection for 4th quarter. We had never heard of Counoise before and were excited to try it—and it’s a Members Only selection right now, so you’ll have to join their wine club if you want to a taste! Page Springs Cellars Inner Circle club members are lucky enough to receive it as part of their Q1 wine shipment this year, too.

Counoise? Don't Mind if We Do!

Counoise (pronounced “coon-wahz”) is sometimes spelled “connoise”, and is rarely bottled on its own but usually as part of a blend. It is bold, smells earthy with plum notes, tastes of plum and pepper and has high acidity—overall, a great choice for those of us who prefer robust Napa Valley cabs. It is beautifully garnet in color and pairs well with a big steak, or the fireplace and a wedge of Manchego cheese! Page Springs Cellars has bottled it without blending for years—no other winery in Arizona bottles it alone, which is too bad! In fact, few wineries worldwide bottle it without it being part of a blend. Counoise vines have a low yield, which explains the tendency to blend it with other varietals. Counoise is also used to make rosé.

This bottle sells for $34 at Page Springs Cellars (wine club members only), which is a pretty easy price point to feel as if we’re indulging!

Oreo Nutella Wine Cupcake Recipe!

No. Really. We have a recipe for Oreo Nutella Wine Cupcakes! This little gem came to us from Illumination PR and their client Nuvino. We tried to secure a sample of Nuvino, but one wasn’t available. We still think the recipe is pretty cool and would make for some good content… so here it is! This isn’t a paid endorsement or brand recommendation… so feel free to substitute with your favorite *red wine*!

Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup of your favorite Red Blend Wine
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup Nutella
  • 10 Oreos
For the filling:
  • ½ cup Nutella
  • 5 Oreos
For the frosting:
  • 1 cup red wine, any kind you like
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste

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Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 10 muffin cups with cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. The cupcakes: In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until fluffy. Add the egg and beat to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract. Stir in Nutella and Nuvino’s Red Blend until evenly combined. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Place an Oreo cookie on the bottom of each cupcake liner. Pour batter over each Oreo cookie and fill each cupcake liner about ¾ of the way full. Bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  3. The filling: In a ziplock bag, place the Oreos and use a mallet to crush the cookies into small pieces. In a small bowl, combine Nutella with crushed Oreos. Set aside.
  4. The frosting: In a small saucepan, combine Nuvino’s Red Blend and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves and wine comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes (until the liquid is reduced to about ¼ cup or a light syrup texture). Let to cool.
  5. Beat the butter until until smooth and creamy. Slowly add in powdered sugar (1/2 cup at a time), vanilla, and ¼ cup of prepared wine syrup. Beat until no lumps remain. Taste the frosting and add salt to cut the sweetness, if you prefer.
  6. Assembling the cupcakes: Cut out the center of each cupcake with a sharp knife. Fill the cupcakes with Nutella & Oreo filling. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip. Pipe frosting into a swirl on each cupcake. Enjoy!

#WineWednesday Splurge: Napa Valley’s Tournesol

I’ve had $50 bottles of wine that taste like $20 bottles of wine.  (Don’t you hate that?)

I’ve had $10 bottles of wine that taste like $40 bottles of wine. (Don’t you love that?)

So to finally drink a $100 bottle of wine which tastes like a $150 bottle of wine tasted amazingly indulgent!  Moving from the peninsula to San Francisco was the special occasion and Tournesol found itself in the celebration–it could not have been smoother, fruitier, more compact or more satisfying.

Tournesol is a small, organic winery near Napa which farms sustainably. I bought this one from Vintner’s Collective near downtown Napa a few months ago. If you too are a fan of Napa Cabs, you can still buy this 2010 selection here, but I tasted all their varietals and found them all to be remarkable and delicious.

As a side note, not only was the Vintner’s Collective building formerly the site of a brothel it was also one of several Napa Valley structures affected by the 2014 quake in American Canyon–they just reopened at the end of 2014, and still with significant ongoing repairs happening. This place is absolutely worth stopping in for a flight if you find yourself in Napa anyway, but especially now while they continue their rebuilding efforts!

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Wine Blending at Dogpatch WineWorks!

Wine Blending at Dogpatch WineWorks!

Recently we paid a visit to Dogpatch WineWorks near Portero Hill in San Francisco as part of a group wine blending event.

WineWorks was super easy to get to–a five minute walk from the 22nd Street CalTrain station–and in a pretty neighborhood. The interior is a rustic warehouse space with an almost overwhelming number of racks and racks of wine barrels. The strings of lights lent atmosphere and ambience to the evening.

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Our large group started off at the tasting area/wine bar, and then we grouped ourselves into teams and settled down for a proper wine tasting of all the varietals from petite verdot to cabernet franc.

Then we learned the tenets of wine blending and understand the “rules” for the night–this was a competition to see which team could concoct the best tasting blend of wine! The big rule is that our blend had to contain no more and no less than 50% of a single varietal, and then we used pipettes to measure the rest in milliliters. Our entries even included a wine label and name, which was an interesting exercise in brainstorming with mates after tasting so many varietals all evening, heh heh. But it was so much fun that even participants who don’t consider themselves wine drinkers enjoyed the process. As it turned out my team did not win but it was quite a tasty process of losing, if you catch my drift.

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WineWorks would be a great place to reserve for your private party or wedding, and they also hold wine-themed dinners, corporate team building events and even “crush camps”! They also open their tasting room to the public on Thursday-Sunday afternoons–check their website for hours.

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Thanks for a wonderful evening and wine experience, WineWorks! Everyone in our party had a blast. I can’t recommend you more highly to anyone looking for a unique venue and wine experience in the San Francisco Bay area!

Napa’s Tank Garage Winery: Never Dream Alone

You won’t find Tank Garage wines anywhere except their tasting room (and online, naturally), but put this one on your list to check out when you visit Napa. “Never dream alone” is their mantra, and could make a great tattoo if you’re so inclined.

Located in Calistoga (~20 minutes drive north from downtown Napa up highway 29), the fine folks at the Tank Garage repurposed a vacant gas station into a simultaneously nostalgic and hipster-ish (in a good way) wine tasting experience.

In addition to some great wine with some of the most awesome wine labels we’ve ever seen, the tasting room also sells oil can guitars, harmonicas, and t-shirts so soft they must be made of cornsilk and angel hair, strategically distressed with the tears of cherubs. The decor has a retro “filling station” feel, with a vintage “Lubrication” mechanic’s sign at front and center.

It’s one of the most unique experiences in Napa County.  Go visit them. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  You won’t be sorry.

 

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Wine Wednesday: Tannat

Wine Wednesday: Tannat

Tannat is a grape I was just introduced to and I am it’s newest fan!  Tannat is a red wine grape from Uruguay, but before it was planted in South America it was grown in southwest France and blended with cabernet or merlot.  It is deep red in color and has high tannin levels.

In addition to thriving in France and South America, the tannat is being planted in the U.S., specifically in Arizona, Maryland and Virginia.  The one I tasted was from Page Springs Cellars’ Dancing Apache Vineyard, located not far from the Page Springs Cellars’ tasting room in Cornville, AZ, ten miles south of Sedona.

If you enjoy a rich cab, definitely give the smooth tannat a try!  I highly recommend!

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