#Vinopanion #Wine Bits & Pieces: Holiday 2017 Edition

The winter sun, it burns!

The end of 2017 is nigh…that means really good reasons to drink #wine and, in particular, bubbles! And while the Lady and I are lovers and club members of our very local Domaine Chandon sparkling wines, we do have quite a tasty spot for Spanish Cava.  #Cava is the most renown sparkling wine from Spain and an actual DO (or appellation) in the Spanish Denominación de Origen system. Freixenet is one of the most common producers and always a solid daily buy, but we’ve tasted through a ton of good Cava over the years.


Another sparkling wine region that has been smokin’ hot the last few years has been Prosecco from Italy.  It has both DOC and DOCG appellations for its finer wines and has been really making a splash in the US market for the last 3 years.  I’m a Featured User for Vivino, and they’ve even put together a list of the 20 most scanned Prosecco wines of 2017 on their app, from thousands of users:

  1. La Marca Prosecco – 3.8 Stars
  2. Casa Vinicola Zonin Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  3. Valdo Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore Marca Oro – 3.6 Stars
  4. Carpenè Malvolti Prosecco Superiore Conegliano Valdobbiadene Extra Dry – 3.7 Stars
  5. La Gioiosa et Amorosa Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – 3.6 Stars
  6. Ruffino Prosecco – – 3.7 Stars
  7. Mionetto Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore – 3.6 Stars
  8. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Prestige Collection Brut – 3.6 Stars
  9. Gancia Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  10. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Brut – 3.6 Stars
  11. Allini Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry – 3.5 Stars
  12. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Prestige Collection Extra Dry – 3.6 Stars
  13. Martini (Martini & Rossi) Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  14. Cavit Lunetta Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  15. Cantine Maschio Prosecco Treviso Extra Dry – 3.5 Stars
  16. Vini Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – 3.7 Stars
  17. La Gioiosa et Amorosa Prosecco Treviso – 3.5 Stars
  18. Nino Franco Spumanti Rustico – 3.8 Stars
  19. Plaza Centro Prosecco Treviso – 3.4 Stars
  20. Cantine Riondo Prosecco Spago Nero – 3.8 Stars

2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra Dry2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra DryThe Lady and I enjoyed a Prosecco on Christmas with her family and the 2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra Dry rather delighted the whole family with its mix of super tasty & zippy yellow apple and peach, alongside some nice yeasty and good floral notes. The wine is imported by Wine Trees USA and was a sample from Balzac Communications.

Hagafen CellarsAnother holiday favorite around the world are kosher wines, of course.  While Kosher wine has gotten a bad rap over the millennia, there are quite a few amazing wines produced in California, as well as around the world, that also happen to be kosher. As Jay Buchsbaum, Executive VP Marketing and Director of Wine Education at Royal Wine Corp states:

To be considered kosher, Sabbath observant Jews must supervise and sometimes handle the entire winemaking process, from the time the grapes are crushed until the wine is bottled. Any ingredients used, including yeasts and fining agents*, must be kosher.

Local favorite wineries in our valley of Napa include Hagafen Cellars, just down the road from Yountville on Silverado Trail. I’ve biked past it while training for my triathlons dozens of times…it’s a beautiful estate and producer of many great, tasty wines!

Short Pours:

  • Hello Penny Bar!
    Photo courtesy of Hello Penny Bar.

    Live in SoCal and need a bar for your party? The very cute, Hello Penny Bar will do just that, complete in a mobile and restored, 1946 vintage trailer.  Sweet!

  • Wines ‘Til Sold Out completed an incredible charity drive for #NapaFire and #SonomaFire victims, raising a total of $17,500 from WTSO members, equally matched by the wine flash sale retailer.  Bravo!
  • USGS geophysicists have recently completed a LIDAR study of Napa Valley vineyards that “suggests that earthquake-related deformation just below the Earth’s surface can be quite different from how it is expressed at the surface,” following the 2014 Napa Valley earthquake.
  • PG&E‘s Wine Industry Efficiency Solutions (WIES) program, in conjunction with its partner wineries, has “saved its customers more than 3.3 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 150,000 therms of natural gas – enough energy to power 246 average homes for one year. The average annual energy cost savings totaled $559,000 per year.”
  • The 33rd annual Winesong 2017 charity event on the Mendocino coast on September 8th & 9th in Fort Bragg was again a huge success, raising more than $700,000 for the Mendocino Coast District Hospital.

Speedy Holiday Wine Recommendations

The holidays get busy.  You barely have time to shop, decorate, make food, attend parties, try not to get drunk and, OH YEAH, still work!  All of this stress adds up, manifesting itself in strange ways and differently within each person, as evidenced by the varying types of “holiday spirit” seen in the photo on the right.

You don’t have time for this!  Your time is too precious to waste upon wondering which kind of wine to bring to coworker Aaron’s holiday party and wait, is it Aaron or Erin…CRAP, you’re so stressed you can’t even remember!  It is with these conundrums in mind that I have constructed my Vinopanion holiday wine recommendations and pairings, listed below.  Short, sweet (or dry!) and to the point.  Let’s drink.

[Note: Reeeally in a hurry?  Skip to the bottom for the list of wines recommended and no jibber-fabber.]


Pair with just about everything, including the high pressure, yet celebratory mood of the season.  Blammo!  You just paired everything at once, how fast is that!?

 Freixenet Cava Cordon Negro Brut NV – $9

This under-$10 Spanish sparkler is our hands-down, go-to daily bubbly.  Yes…we drink bubbly that often.

[winebadge id=”6093″]

Color: Meyer lemon yellow, with green highlights and a medium fine, robust bead.

Nose: Clean and bright lemon with just a tinge of cream, and some kiwi to round things off, along with some light florals.

Palate: Crisp and zesty, with that same, but now juicy lemon from the nose, those same white florals enter in the mid-palate and ride out to the juicy, multiple layered lemon finish. Good as always, and always a great value play: QPRWK.

Freixenet Cava Elyssia Pinot Noir Brut NV – $18

Another Spanish bubbly win that while not made from a traditional Spanish varietal, this a great example of a well-made rosé sparkler.

Color: Beautiful darker watermelon red, with a fine and very robust, fine bead.

Nose: Great red fruited nose of juicier strawberry and bright Bing cherry, complemented by some zestier red grapefruit.

Palate: Medium-bodied, with that same fine and zesty bead on the palate, with great red grapefruit acidity and an underlay of cream and toast. Finishes with smooth, sweeter Bing cherry.

 Schramsberg Vineyards North Coast Brut Rosé 2004 – $40

Here’s your heavier hitter, featuring some creaminess and added complexity to the fine examples already listed above.  This is our favorite producer of domestic bubbly.

Color: Pale salmon, fine bead, robust mousse.

Nose: Cherry with strawberry cream.

Palate: Starts with citrus, bright cherry and then some cream and lemon at end. Full body. Very good: NewWorldWK.


Why dry rosé, you ask?  Well, it just so happens to match most everything on the table, as well, with its tasty acidity and lack of tannin.  It’s also perfect for those guests that say bubbles give them a headache, or the other one that only eats fish…and drinks bold red wines.

 Georis Carmel Valley Estate Les Abeilles Rosé 2008 – $22

This is the high-end rosé from my favorite winery and the one that introduced me to good, dry rosé.  Just a phenomenal mix of vibrant acidity, complex and juicy fruit, all mingling with some extra floral notes.  Outstanding fun.

[winebadge id=”51487″]

Color: Light salmon pink

Nose: Quite good and a bit crisper than last vintage with bright strawberry, celery root and light florals.

Palate: Also very good and right up there, perhaps even surpassing the superb ’07.  Good complexity again here of bright, crisp red fruit, light fresh garden herbs and even lighter floral notes, finishing with a crisp strawberry, juicy cherry mix! AwesomeWK.

Albret Navarra Rosado Garnacha 2010 – $15

Another Spanish wine here showing very good quality (hmm, could there be a pattern!?).  This has all that I like in my dry pinks: zesty acidity and juicy red fruit, cut with robust citrus.

Color: Light ruby, with almost clear edges.

Nose: Very juicy and bright red fruit on the nose and some red apple as well. Very inviting.

Palate: Very bright, great mix of citrus, tart cherry and cranberry, with some strawberry underneath. Very zesty acidity, some hint of tannins, but still lighter bodied. Good.

 County Line Anderson Valley Elke Home Ranch Rosé 2010 – $18

This is just a heavenly wine, with such crazy complexity for a rosé that you almost forget to just sit back, enjoy and have fun with it…almost.

Color: Beautiful light salmon pink and copper colored.

Nose: Earthier but still ripe and bright, strawberry and cherry.

Palate: Good bright and juicy acidity with the lightest of tannins complement this light-bodied strawberry, raspberry and dusty cherry rosé. Finishes with zesty plum skin. I’ve been a fan of this wine for a number of years, great stuff from Eric Sussman, yet again: NewWorldWK.

Lighter Reds:

OK, you’ve been plowing through the bubbly and dry rosé with your friends whilst avoiding your family and now you’re looking for something a little heavier and YOU’RE RIGHT!  You only want to reach for reds that are on the lighter side; all that tannin, toasty oak, and big alcohol is going to squash your food.  So shoot for things like Pinot and Cabernet Franc, for instance.

Wild Horse Central Coast Pinot Noir 2008 – $20

This is one of my favorite wineries to mention when someone asks me about affordable pinot noir.  Yes, $20 isn’t cheap, but for the finicky grape, it’s quite low, yet this has quality that is quite high: yesss.

Color: Ruby core, light ruby edges

Nose: Distinct fresh cherry pie, complete with toasty pie crust, very bright.

Palate: Cherry pie here as well, fuller body and smooth and chalky mouthfeel, toast out to the cola finish: QPRWK.

[winebadge id=”60608″]

Masút Vineyard and Winery Mendocino Estate Pinot Noir 2009 – $40

This one brings the bigger guns to the table, but only in comparison to other pinot.  This has phenomenal savory aromas and flavors to balance the silky soft tannins and earthy red fruit.  This Estate vineyard is also organically farmed, by the family that brought organic farming to the vino mainstream, the Fetzers.

Color: Medium to lighter ruby, clear edges

Nose: Very reductive at first, but with 30 minutes of air, it totally reverses, showing earthy red fruit, slight baking spice, light toast and slight loam.

Palate: Light bodied, good brightness, earthy red fruit, with nice touches of more savory flavors hinted at, then the light tannins and good acidity kick in for a long spicy, rhubarb and cola finish: OldWorldWK.

 Titus Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Franc 2009 – $36

This one almost breaks my lighter rule with its alcohol, but it’s so sexy smooth and filled with great food pairing components like soft tannins, juicier acidity, and nice savory notes that it fits right in with this crew.

Color: Deeper ruby with some highlights of violet, medium ruby edges.

Nose: Very good, with some integrating toast, followed by cherry tobacco, deep red fruit with darker hints of cassis and some rose petal just showing through, loam.

Palate: Very smooth and while bigger in alcohol, the balance is definitely here, with that same deep red/black fruit from the nose, soft and almost silky tannins and very food-friendly acidity, all with a finish that show some savory earthiness, sweeter tobacco and toast: NewWorldWK.

And there ya go!  You can find all of these wines tagged with “2011Holidays” to put in your own WineLog and they are also conveniently listed below.  Cheers!

[winelist query=”2011Holidays” num=”100″]

TasteLive! – Grillin' Some Chard(onnay)

TasteLive!Backyards and BBQ’s are known as tha bomb during the summer.  Indeed, there should some sort of official right of passage, whereby one has enjoyed a tasty, home-hosted BBQ by the time one comes of age.  And it becomes that much better when paired with wine. Trust me.  I mean, microbrews and certain import beers are cool and all, but BBQ beef with a great Rhone or Syrah and BBQ chicken (beer battered!) with a tasty Chardonnay pretty much makes my day…or my week, even.

[winebadge id=”59334″]

TasteLive! (Twitter, WineLog), the premiere social network for online, Twitter-based virtual wine tastings, is back at it again this week, with a great online tasting tomorrow night (07/12/11) at 6pm – 7pm PST.  Here we’ll try three Chardonnay from California that have the complexity, weight and fruit that can stand up to the awesome BBQ spread that you should have at your table some weekend this summer.  Two of these wineries had wines in the last great tasting in which I was able to participate, courtesy of my samples from the website.  If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from tasting the Pinot and Chardonnay from these four wineries, I’ve been most impressed by the still wines produced by Gloria Ferrer Winery (Twitter, WineLog).  Their wines not only show a high level of value and QPRWK, but they also plain put out the good stuff in wine: they’re sensual and balanced, with restrained power.

You can find all of the wines that we’re tasting tomorrow night for listing in your own WineLog, tagged with “TasteLive2011ChardGrill“.  All of the wines that I’ve tasted during TasteLive events over the years can be found tagged with “TasteLive“.  Even if you don’t have the wines handy, log on to Twitter and catch the #tl_wine stream and participate!


QPRWK - WKBadges Gloria Ferrer Carneros Estate Chardonnay 2008

Color: Deeper yellow with green highlights and clear edges.

Nose: Very bright, happy pear juicy yellow apple with more subdued Meyer lemon and some interesting basil leaf and lightest cream.

Palate: Medium full, with great acidity that is brought out by the Meyer lemon here as well and a roundness that adds some smooth, slightly creamy complexity. Juicy bright pear and yellow apple here as well, finishing with riper pear and the lightest toast. Good.

Krutz Family Cellars Santa Lucia Highlands Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Chardonnay 2008

Color: Deeper yellow gold, light gold edges.

Nose: A bit more toast here, with some tasty nectarine and pear skin followed by some cream strolling in and light pear.

Palate: Fuller and very round and super-smooth, with light green and yellow apple, medium cream but bright acidity with pineapple to balance out the cream and the medium toast out to the finish. Good.

Rodney Strong Vineyards Chalk Hill Estate Chardonnay 2009

Color: Deeper canary yellow with golden undertones, viscous.

Nose:  Butter and toast, with ripe, preserved pears underneath and lemon meringue.

Palate: Full and very buttery and toasty here as well, with tons of those pears from the nose along with yellow apple pie out to the buttery and toasty finish. A viscous, coating mouth with juiciness, but an imbalance is here, with the acidity unable to hold up to the toast and butter.

The Mutineer Magazine Holiday Comedy Festival

The Mutineer Magazine Holiday Comedy FestivalThose loco wit’ the cake kids at Mutineer Magazine (Twitter) have rounded up some holiday misfits and done it again: set the stage for yet another massive blowout of fine beverage festivities!  Ever resourceful in the comedy department (witness Editor & Loco Alan Kropf’s (Twitter) brilliant 2010 American Wine Blog Awards presentation (sort of) alongside compat Ben Morrison (Twitter)) The Mutinous crew has assembled an A-List of comedians to entertain your mind as your palates and gullets are treated to a regular bevy of fine beverages.

The tasty drinks provided in quantities surely above any 2 drink minimum, will be  courtesy of Don Roberto Tequila and Jacuzzi Family Vineyards (Twitter, WineLog), the awesome location for this event.  I had the pleasure of visiting Jacuzzi and tasting their well-made Italian varietals back in 2008 on the Pops & Son 4th Wine Trip.  Good stuff and a beautiful Carneros AVA estate.  The lineup of guests include Jonathan GoldsmithNatasha Leggero, Bryan Callen, Ben Morrison (of course), Daryl Wright, Greg Wilson and Ben Gleib.

A Child's RightYou can also feel pleased at the end of your laughing, libidinous night, as proceeds from this event benefit A Child’s Right (Twitter), a leading global water relief organization.  Mutineer Magazine has been a great supporter of this organization, publishing a regular column by Executive Director Eric Stowe, covering his travels and work to provide potable water to urban children around the world.

I will be in attendance as an Official Blogger courtesy of the magazine (says so in the right column of my blog, ev-en, check out my Mutineer article, too). So be there, wear blue and laugh until you’re, well, blue.  Cheers and full deets below!

What: The Mutineer Magazine Holiday Comedy Festival

When: Saturday Dec 11th, 2010

Where: Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

How: $35 per person


JJ Buckley's Tuesday Night Bordeaux at La Folie

I attended a most enlightening Bordeaux tasting a couple weeks back, courtesy of JJ Buckley Fine Wines, an outstanding online purveyor of wine based out of the SF Bay Area.  The event was held at the well known French restaurant La Folie, which also provided the nibbles that were served alongside the wines that night.  Tuesday Night Bordeaux aimed to prove to its lucky attendees that good to outstanding quality wine can be had in Bordeaux at affordable prices.  All of the wines were $35 and under, with most falling into the $25 and under range.

Le Wine Buff - EnjoyBordeaux.comThis event aligned perfectly with my work as Le Wine Buff for EnjoyBordeaux.com, as such we helped promote the event and I arrived under the auspices of that project.  I also was able to be a part of the event thanks to Paige Granback (Twitter) of JJ Buckley.  I was immediately enveloped in a warm hug after arriving by Paige and my usual vinopanion in crime, Thea (Twitter, Twitter2, Twittter3) of Luscious Lushes.  They quickly got me up to speed on the proceedings and I dived into the wines.

JJ Buckley Tuesday Night Bordeaux @ La FolieSkipping the whites since I was late (later to be regretted), I started off with the 08 Château Le Gay Bordeaux Festival Rosé, which was a wonderfully crisp, light red fruited quaffer and extremely affordable at under $10. JJ Buckley had a really neat pouring station setup that night, separated by the traditional split of Bordeaux wines.   Station I featured Left Bank wines, historically are Cabernet Sauvignon based blends that also feature the other four (rarely five, with Carménère) Bordeaux varietals of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.  Stations II & III had Right Bank wines, blends  that usually feature Merlot or Cabernet Franc as the dominant varietal.  Station IV had a couple tasty sweet wines, typically served with or as desserts.

JJ Buckley Tuesday Night Bordeaux @ La FolieA few highlight wines for me were the Château des Fougères La Folie de Montesquieu Graves 2006, Château Roque le Mayne Côtes-de-Castillon 2005, and the Château La Tentation de Richelieu Fronsac 2005. All featured what I’ve come to expect from French Bordeaux at virtually every price point; namely great balance between the fruit, tannin and acidity of the wine, complemented by savory and earthy notes, finishing long with wonderfully smooth mouthfeel.  These four showed all of these characteristics, and then some!  Additionally, finishing with the C2006 Château La Fleur Des Pins Bodeaux Blanc, poured by JJB Private Client wine buyer Alex Shaw (WL), was a very fine choice. Pineapple, dried citrus blossom and diesel notes in the nose combined with the citrus, sweetness and crisp acidity in the mouth to make for a very tasty nightcap.

I also chose many of these wines as some of my affordable holiday wines picks for this season, which I gave for this article on Yahoo! Shine.  While I was not credited in the article, all of the holiday wine choices, links and subsequent tasting notes are mine.  A very big thank you to Paige and everyone else at JJ Buckley as well as all of the staff at La Folie for a very enjoyable wine tasting and food pairing session!

Please feel free to unearth the full reviews of all of the high quality, yet affordable Bordeaux wines that I tried (which were only SOME of the wines being poured) that school night, from JJ Buckley’s (WL) fine wine buyers.  If you would like to list them in your own WineLog, they are all tagged with “JJBuckley2009TuesBDX“.  If you were there as well, tell me your favorites in the Comments below.  Enjoy!

Station I- Left Bank:

Château Le Gay Bordeaux Festival Rosé 2008

Château La Bernadotte Haut-Médoc 2006

Château Potensac Médoc 2006

Château Lalande Borie Saint-Julien 2006

Château Meyney St. Estèphe 2006

Château des Fougères La Folie de Montesquieu Graves 2006

Station II – Right Bank:

Château de La Cour d’Argent Bordeaux 2006

Château Roque le Mayne Côtes-de-Castillon 2005

Château La Tentation de Richelieu Fronsac 2005

Château Bolaire Bordeaux Supérieur 2004

Station III – Right Bank Part Deux:

Château Vray-Croix-de-Gay Pomerol 2006

Château de Fonbel St. Emilion Grand Cru 2006

Station IV – Sweet Wines:

Château La Fleur Des Pins Bodeaux Blanc 2006

Château Climens Barsac Les Cypres de Climens 2006

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