Last Minute Christmas Gifts for Wine Lovers

Looking for a last-minute gift to give the wine lovers in your life?  Finding something for the wine geek who has everything can be a bit stressful so we compiled a list of a few items that you should be able to get in time for Christmas!

For The Intellectual

The Essence of Wine by Alder Yarrow

The Essence of Wine by Alder Yarrow

Most wine lovers enjoy reading a great book about wine.  A couple of months ago, well-known wine blogger Alder Yarrow released a book called “The Essence of Wine“, which has received great reviews from the likes of Food & Wine Magazine and The New York Times.  The book can be hard to get your hands on (it is on backorder on Alder’s site), but you can be sure that the wine lover in your life will appreciate it (and probably doesn’t already have it).  It is an excellent coffee table book!

For The Connoisseur

Kermit Lynch

Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant

Grabbing a bottle or two of wine a wine geek will truly appreciate can be intimidating.  One place you can go to grab unique wines that almost any wine enthusiast will dig is Kermit Lynch.  Kermit imports some of the most authentic and beautiful wines from France and Italy.  This month, he is even featuring holiday sampler packages where the wine has already been picked out for you (too easy, right?). You can be sure the wine will be both distinct and delicious.

For The Foodie

Il Fiorello is a great spot for domestic olive oil

Il Fiorello is a great spot for artisan olive oil

As a foodie and wine lover myself, there is one thing I can’t get enough of…artisan olive oil.  I love having it on hand to pair with great bread or to cook with and it’s excellent to serve when friends are over.  One great spot to order a gift from is Il Fiorello.  Il Fiorello is a family-owned, small production olive oil company based in Napa County.  I just enjoyed olive oil samples from the company and was super impressed.  They have single bottles in addition to gift sets.  This is also a great host or hostess gift to bring to a New Year’s Eve party!

Holiday Food Pairing: Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay and Baked Eggs Florentine

The holidays are upon us and many of us are tasked with putting together menus that will impress our family and friends.  Brunch with friends is a must in our household during the Christmas season so I was really excited to see that Wente Vineyards partnered with America’s Test Kitchen to put together a fantastic brunch pairing; matching their 2013 Morning Fog Chardonnay with a delicious Baked Eggs Florentine recipe.

2013 Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay opens with aromas of green apples and citrus.  The palate is lively with fresh tastes of lemons, green apples, and hints of oak.  Balanced and perfect for brunch.  Pairing this with Baked Eggs Florentine is sure to make a great holiday brunch!

Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay

Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay

For more great holiday wine pairings, visit Wente Vineyards.

Eggs Florentine Recipe from Wente and America’s Test Kitchen:

In order for the eggs to cook properly, it is critical to add them to the hot filling–lined ramekins quickly. Use 6-ounce ramekins with 3¼-inch diameters, measured from the inner lip. It is imperative to remove the eggs from the oven just after the whites have turned opaque but are still jiggly—carryover cooking will finish the job. We developed this recipe using a glass baking dish; if using a metal baking pan, reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees. This recipe can be doubled. If doubling, bake the ramekins in two 13 by 9-inch dishes and increase the baking times in steps 3 and 4 by 1 minute.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¾ cup half-and-half
10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and
squeezed dry
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)
Salt and pepper
⅛ teaspoon dry mustard
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
Vegetable oil spray
6 large eggs

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to
500 degrees.
2. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add
shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3
minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
Gradually whisk in half-and-half; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly.
Simmer, whisking frequently, until thickened, 2 to
3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in spinach, Parmesan,
¾ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, mustard, nutmeg,
and cayenne.
3. Lightly spray six 6-ounce ramekins with oil spray. Evenly
divide spinach filling among ramekins. Using back of spoon,
push filling 1 inch up sides of ramekins to create 1/8-inch-thick
layer. Shape remaining filling in bottom of ramekin into 1½-inch
diameter mound, making shallow indentation in center of mound
large enough to hold yolk. Place filled ramekins in 13 by 9-inch
glass baking dish. Bake until filling just starts to brown, about 7
minutes, rotating dish halfway through baking.
4. While filling is heating, crack eggs (taking care not to break
yolks) into individual cups or bowls. Remove dish with ramekins
from oven and place on wire rack. Gently pour eggs from cups
into hot ramekins, centering yolk in filling. Lightly spray surface
of each egg with oil spray and sprinkle each evenly with pinch salt.
Return dish to oven and bake until whites are just opaque but still
tremble (carryover heat will cook whites through), 6 to 8 minutes,
rotating dish halfway through baking.
5. Remove dish from oven and, using tongs, transfer ramekins to wire rack. Let stand until whites are firm and set (yolks should still be runny), about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Follow recipe through step 3, skipping baking of lined ramekins.
Wrap ramekins with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
To serve, remove plastic and heat lined ramekins, directly from
refrigerator, for additional 3 to 4 minutes (10 to 11 minutes total)
before proceeding with recipe.

*Media Sample

Cabernet Values for the Holidays!

A lot of people struggle to find a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to bring to a holiday gathering that is well-priced and actually tastes good!  Here are two different styles of Cabernet, 2012 Rickshaw Wines Cabernet Sauvignon and 2012 Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, that are both great values!

2012 Rickshaw Wines Cabernet Sauvignon

Rickshaw Wines Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec, and 4% Cabernet Franc from California.  Smooth tastes of raspberries and cassis mingle with notes of plum and coffee.  Minimal intervention in the winemaking process allow the pure tastes of the grapes to shine through.  An excellent Cabernet for the price! (13.8% alcohol, $15)

2012 Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Parducci’s Mendocino County True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, and 5% Syrah that opens with aromas of dark berries, dark cherries, tobacco.  The palate is medium-bodied with tastes of cassis, dark chocolate, and smokey tobacco along with hints of vanilla.  Balanced in alcohol and not over-oaked, this Cabernet is very food friendly! (13.5% alcohol, $30)

*Media Sample

Three Great Thanksgiving Wines For Under $20

Thanksgiving is next week and it can be tough to find enjoyable wines that won’t drain your bank account.  Good news – we did the work for you and found delicious, affordable wines that will pair really well with your Thanksgiving meal!  Here are three wine picks that we feel deliver a lot of bang for your holiday buck!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

NV Domaine Brazilier Méthode Trad Brut

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without a great bottle of sparkling wine.  One excellent choice for under $20 is NV Domaine Brazilier Méthode Trad Brut.  This blend of Chenin Blanc and Pineau d’Aunis from the Loire will draw you in with aromas of fresh baked bread and baked apples.  The palate is equally delicious with tastes of apples and nutmeg along with vibrant acidity.  Easy to sip throughout the meal! ($15)

2013 The Pinot Project Pinot Noir

Need a solid Pinot Noir to pair with your turkey for under $15?  Look no further than The Pinot Project.  It’s not complex but the medium-bodied wine offers enjoyable tastes of cherries with hints of earth and spice.  A definite crowd pleaser! ($12)

Marcel Lapierre 2013 Raisins Gaulois

Marcel Lapierre 2013 Raisins Gaulois is 100% Gamay and a perfect Thanksigiving wine. Your palate is met with a medley of raspberries, cherries, and cranberries along with hints of pepper and lively acidity.  Light-bodied and pairs wonderfully with turkey and stuffing! ($13)

West of West Wine Festival – Orange County

Last weekend, Brandon and I attended the inaugural West of West Wine Festival in Orange County.  The event, held at the Honda Center in Anaheim, was put on by the West Sonoma Coast Vintners in partnership with Orange Coast Magazine, Celebrity Cruises, and Hartford Family Wines.  West of West exclusively featured wineries from the West Sonoma Coast, a region known for producing cool climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah.

West of West Wine Festival

West of West Wine Festival

West of West afforded attendees the chance to not only taste delicious, well-made wines, but to also have one-on-one conversations with winemakers from many of the wineries pouring at the festival.  Here are a few of my favorite wines along with tasting notes from the event:

Pinot Noir standouts at the West of West Wine Fesitval

Pinot Noir standouts at the West of West Wine Festival

2012 Small Vines “MK” Vineyard Pinot Noir

Elegant flavors of dark berries and black cherries are coupled with floral undertones and hints of spice. A beautiful wine that will age with grace! (13.5% alcohol, $70)

2012 Red Car Hagan Vineyard Pinot Noir

Layers of cranberries, pomegranate, black tea, and spice.  Complex and balanced flavors that are enjoyable now but will benefit from more time in the bottle.  One of the best wines I have tasted from Red Car! (13.7% alcohol, $68)

2012 LaRue Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Bright tastes of cranberries, raspberries, and cherries are met with notes of black tea and rose petals.  Structured and well-balanced.  Such an impressive effort from this young winery! (13% alcohol, $60)

2012 Gros Ventre Campbell Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir

Harmonious layers of flavors that include black cherries, dark berries, licorice and earth.  Vibrant acidity and a complexity that unravels with each sip.  So glad I had the chance to try the Pinot Noir from Gros Ventre…some of the best at West of West! (13.8% alcohol, Continue reading

Thanksgiving Wine Pairings with Turkey

Tired of pairing your Thanksgiving turkey with Pinot Noir year after year?  This Thanksgiving, try some wine pairings that are a little less traditional.  Here are a few of my favorites that are just as delicious as Pinot, yet not on everyone’s radar.  Plus, the wines generally make great conversation pieces since many people around the table will not have tried them before.


Two Shepherds 2012 Grenache Noir

Two Shepherds 2012 Grenache Noir

Grenache is one of my favorite Thanksgiving wines.  It not only pairs well with turkey but also with side dishes like stuffing.  Look for a bottle with low alcohol, healthy acidity, and ripe berries.  One of my favorite picks is Two Shepherds 2012 Grenache Noir.  Refined tastes of cherries, cranberries, and strawberries are met with hints of spice.  Elegant with vibrant acidity, this is sure to be the highlight of your meal! (13.3% alcohol, $38)


Several weeks ago, I participated in a Cinsault tasting and all I could think about was how well the wines would pairing with turkey.  Turley 2014 Lodi Cinsault is an excellent option and is also a great value.  The wine offers layers of red fruit with bright acidity and excellent texture.  There are also savory and earthy notes to go along with the tart fruit.  A perfect match for turkey! (13% alcohol, $17)


A well-made Gamay is pure, fresh, and delightful with turkey.  Martian Ranch & Vineyard “Absolute Magnitude” 2013 Gamay Noir is a great choice.  This Santa Barbara County Gamay is light-bodied with bright tastes of raspberries and strawberries along with hints of violets and spice.  A great addition to your Thanksgiving meal! (13% alcohol, $24)

Exploring Lodi Tempranillo

Last night, I had the privilege to taste through 5 different Lodi Tempranillos along with fellow wine lovers in pre-celebration of Tempranillo Day, which will be held on Thursday, November 13th.  We were virtually joined by Stuart Spencer (Program Manager at the Lodi Winegrape Commission, owner and winemaker of St. Amant Winery, and President of the Board of Directors for TAPAS) and Rick Taylor (owner and winemaker of Riaza Wines and Director on the Board of Directors for TAPAS).

The lineup!

The lineup!

Over the past 10 years or so, Lodi has been exploring and realizing the potential of Spanish varieties.  Tempranillo has done particularly well, with over 900 tons produced in the region in 2013 (Source: CDFA 2013 Grape Crush Report).  Our hosts led us through a lineup of 5 very different Tempranillos from the Lodi region.  The wines showcased the diversity of Tempranillo along with differences in winemaking styles.  Here are a couple of my favorites from the evening:

2012 Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo (SRP $23, 13.5% alcohol)

Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo is a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano from two different vineyards in Lodi.  Savory notes of licorice and tobacco are followed by juicy flavors of cranberries and blackberries.  Light yet full of flavor.  A really nice wine!

2012 McCay Cellars “Lot 13 Vineyard” Tempranillo (SRP $28, 14.3% alcohol)

McCay Cellars Tempranillo is 100% Tempranillo that underwent native yeast fermentation (the only wine undergoing native fermentation in our lineup).  The palate features tastes of plums and red berries with underlying spicy notes.  Well-integrated tannins, smooth, and balanced.  This was the favorite of the night for me!

*Media Samples

Cedro do Noval 2009 – Rich and Complex

Quinto do Noval is a historic Port House in the Douro Valley of Portugal with roots dating back to 1715.  Quinto do Noval recently added two dry table wines to their portfolio, one of which is Cedro do Noval.  Cedro do Noval 2009 is a blend of traditional Douro grapes (50% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca, and 10% Tinta Roriz) along with 10% Syrah.  The wine does an excellent job showcasing the great potential of a region predominantly known for Port.

Cedro do Noval 2009

Cedro do Noval 2009

Uncork Cedro do Noval and you will immediately notice intense, earthy aromatics.  The palate is rich with tastes of dark fruit, earth, and cedar.  There are also smokey and savory notes followed with a spicy, elongated finish.  A little big when first opened but we really enjoyed how the complex flavors integrated with time and air.  Pair with roasted or grilled meats! ($22, 14% alcohol)

*Media Sample

Wine Event in OC: Inaugural West of West Wine Festival

Hey Southern California readers…on Saturday, November 8th, the West Sonoma Coast Vintners, in partnership with Orange Coast Magazine and Celebrity Cruises, will host the Inaugural West of West Wine Festival.  This event will take place at the Grand Terrace in the Honda Center in Anaheim.  The West of West Wine Festival will feature tastings from Sonoma wineries including Red Car, Littorai, Small Vines, and Flowers.  The West Sonoma Coast is known for producing delicious cool climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah.

The West of West Wine Festival will also include fun events like the “Sommelier Challenge”,  free swag from Celebrity Cruises, and delicious food from several OC restaurants.

Wine of the West Festival

Wine of the West Festival

Tickets for the Grand Tasting are normally $175 but, for a limited time, you can access a special $99 ticket offer on General Grand Tasting tickets by using code: WOWOC at  This is going to be a great event and OC could definitely use more events like this so please consider attending!

Visit for more details!


2013 Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Blanc

Fall ushers in some of the best seafood California has to offer so I like to make sure we have plenty of wine on hand to pair with oysters, crab, and other seasonal delicacies  One well-priced bottle we always have chilled is Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Blanc.  This blend of 40% Grenache Blanc, 30% Sauvignon Blanc, and 30% Clairette comes from 25 to 50-year-old vines that are organically farmed on the Mediterranean shores of the northern Languedoc.  With 12.5% alcohol, it is fairly easy to find at a retail price of around $10.

2013 Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Blanc

2013 Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Blanc

Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Blanc offers pretty aromas of citrus, melon, and pear with floral nuances.  The palate is crisp and lively.  There are ample tastes of citrus followed with a refreshing finish.  Super enjoyable and very easy to sip…this wine definitely over delivers on value!