As wine and food lovers, we enjoy being invited over for some great wine, food and company. But, like everybody else, we’re busy. It’s tough to entertain much. How can we get together with our wine loving friends more often to enjoy a great Cab or fantastic seafood?
Here is our idea of the best wine party:
Take a core group of your friends, and suggest monthly, or bi-monthly Wine ‘n Appetizer parties. Everyone brings an appetizer and a bottle of wine, paired together for great flavors. The burden of food, wine and venue is shared, and everybody wins.
Depending on the group, you might decide one month to make the wines all Zin or all Chard. Or you could make it all Rhones with all pasta appetizers. Or whatever.
It’s an easy, fun and inexpensive way to broaden your wine and food horizons and enjoy your friends. Just in time for summer!
As American wine lovers become more discerning about wine and more aware of its many nuances, California wineries are upping their game.
For example, Le Vigne Winery in Paso Robles recently started planted 14 acres of vines in San Miguel, in the northern part of Paso. “We like the terrain,” said Mike Baretta, winemaker. “It’s rolling hills, unlike our estate, plus there is a lot of calcium and shale in the soil.”
Those nuances of soil and aspect will yield different flavor profiles than Le Vigne now boasts and add complexity to the wine. We are all lucky to be enjoying an era of Golden State winemaking that is promising skill and care in the bottle from many small family wineries at very affordable prices.
Mike Baretta, right, with Bruce at Le Vigne Winery in Paso Robles. A new vineyard means new nuance for Le Vigne wines.
Let’s face it. Staying in wine country can be pricey. To keep the lid on accommodation expenses, here are some tips:
• Off-season and mid-week specials. During the winter, there are significant savings to be had throughout California wine country.
• Stay on the outskirts: Instead of a hotel in Napa Valley or Sonoma, try American Canyon, Santa Rosa or Petaluma. In Temecula, choose a hotel in town.
• B&Bs: Some are costly. Many are not. The owners are usually your hosts as well, therefore, B&Bs can offer a rich source of firsthand savvy about the local wineries and attractions. And the breakfasts are typically fantastic.
Got a tip on balancing a budget in wine country? We’re all ears!
It’s summer, time to hit the wine trail and explore California wineries up close. Here are some tips for a great adventure:
• If you’re crazy about Zin or nuts about Chard, then tailor your trip to visit the best regional producers. Research, research.
• Bring a map. GPS doesn’t always work on a mountaintop.
• Research historical points of interest that can enrich your travel.
• Drop by co-op tasting rooms to sample many wineries in one sitting. A great way to discover new (or new to you) producers.
• Skip the driving by joining a tour.
• Have the winery ship any wine you buy. It’s better than having it “cook” in the car, or dragging it around your entire trip.
Here’s a question…why doesn’t anyone ever have an “I heart Merlot or Pinot Noir” tattoo? Or a little wine glass tat on their ankle?
Is it because mostly young people get tats these days, and they’re not into wine?
What’s your theory? And, have you ever seen a wine tattoo?
If you have and you send us a photo, we’ll send you a great bottle from The California Wine Club. Now, that’s a challenge!
Okay, wine lovers, what luck! Did you know that a chilled, fizzy glass of sparkling wine is the perfect pairing with hot buttered popcorn? And the best companion for all that is a great wine movie. Here are some of our favorites.
Sideways (2004): It’s rude and sometimes crude, but always entertaining, even 10 years later. Beautiful Santa Barbara wine country is invaded by two wacky guy friends living it up before one heads down the wedding aisle. Protagonist Miles is an unhappy, complicated wine snob whose comments about Merlot and love of Pinot Noir sent the first into a tailspin and the second into boom times that only just now are leveling off in Santa Barbara County.
French Kiss (1995): Meg Ryan, an American in Paris, meets a shady Frenchman (Kevin Kline, really!) who is rooted in wine. A fun romp.
Bottle Shock (2009): Napa Valley’s Chateau Montelena is the star here, as its two generations disagree about whether to participate in the Paris Tasting of 1976. The younger generation slipped a couple of bottles to the tasting’s organizer Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman) and, well, the rest is history.
The Muppet Movie (1979): Okay, the movie has just a snippet about wine, but it’s awesome. Miss Piggy and Froggy are fine dining with Steve Martin as their sommelier. You get the picture. Muppet mayhem.
Any movies you’d recommend?
In the spirit of July 4th, we’d like to share our own proclamation of independence for wine lovers…
From this day forward, all those who enjoy wine shall be free of:
• bad wine, whether corked or just bad
• overpriced wine (reserve isn’t always what it should be)
• restrictions on the types of wine any individual can enjoy. Liberate that Chenin Blanc. Put an ice cube in that Chardonnay.
• the tyranny of “one wine households”. We’re glad your spouse only loves Cab, but you don’t have to!
• prejudice against certain wine appellations. Your wine connoisseur friends may turn up their noses at someplace like Lodi or Temecula–but great wine lovers are open to great wine wherever they find it. Onward!