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The Holidays: Wine Pairing Suggestions

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Whitehall Lane Winery has several suggestions for keeping holiday meal planning and wine selection stress free!

whitehall-lane-winery-wine-bottle-medley.jpg(1) Don't Interfere
Select wines with low tannins that won't make the mouth pucker (like biting a banana peel) and overpower the meal. Avoid big, buttery chardonnays and young cabernet, syrah and petite sirah that can have a lot of bite. Light-to-medium reds, such as pinot noir, Beaujolais, Burgundy and tempranillo, rosés, and steel-casked whites mix well with abundant holiday meals.

Select a wine that complements the sauce.
The darker the sauce, the darker the wine. Giblet gravy is great with a savory white while a well-aged red brings out the flavor in red-wine and red meat sauces.

(2) Consider Audience
Is the table full of foodies who love to experiment or Aunt Opal who has an opinion on everything? Always consider whether or not your guests like to stick to the tried and true or if they're willing to experiment with something new.

(3) Don't Break the Bank
Both quality and quantity are important. Keep in mind that there are many high-quality, reasonably priced wines out there and the professionals at your local wine store or favorite winery online shop can help you stay on budget while also helping you find everything you need to impress your guests.

(4) Go Big!
Big bottles, such as magnums, three-liter and six-liter bottles, are ideal for holiday meals. Many people are intimidated by big bottles but they're great for budget-conscious consumers looking to save time and money while at the wine store or favorite winery. It will leave your guests feeling impressed and you feeling like you hit a home-run.

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Uncork The Thanksgiving Wines

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Press Release

thanksgivingDinnerSpread.jpgThanksgiving is almost upon us, which means now is the time to select wines for the big feast. Fortunately, choosing wines that pair deliciously with Thanksgiving dinner can be quick and easy; all you need do is let your dinner and your preferences be your guide.

The traditional Thanksgiving dinner encompasses a range of flavors: rich, herbal, sweet and creamy. Wines that handle such diversity best are those that complement or accentuate, but don't overpower. The key is moderation; less - in terms of power, alcohol, tannin and oak - is actually more in achieving scrumptious Thanksgiving wine matches. And because Thanksgiving is a truly American holiday, it deserves to be celebrated with American wines.

Those who love white wines have a few choices when it comes to making a stellar Thanksgiving wine match. One is a vibrant Chardonnay with just a hint of oak character that echoes the richness of Thanksgiving dishes, such as the 2012 Kenwood Vineyards Sonoma County Chardonnay. Another is a medium-bodied, unoaked Sauvignon Blanc with fruit and herb character to enhance the foods' flavors. The 2012 Kenwood Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc captures this style perfectly, as do other unoaked Sauvignon Blancs from Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake Counties. The last is a fresh, fruity off-dry Pinot Gris, Riesling or Gewurztraminer that lets the food shine and refreshes the palate. The hard-to-find 2012 Kenwood Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Gris is one option, but there are plenty more from cool vineyard regions across the United States. 

Chandon for New Year's Eve Toast!

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chandon_NewYearsEve.jpgIf you can't attend Domaine Chandon's Sparkling Gala this year for New Year's Eve, not to fret; check out their recommendations for hosting a Chandon-style soiree at home!

1. Start the night a Chandon Sidecar: Begin with this brandy-based, citrus-infused cocktail classic, made distinctive with some sparkling flourishes and sure to please your guests. Click here for recipe.


2. Every good party needs a soundtrack, so try creating a playlist of your favorite songs from the past year. It'll infuse the celebration with your unique personality and is a nostalgic, toe-tapping way to send off the year.


3. Make it a magnum: Always a popular option to keep the bubbles flowing on New Year's Eve, a magnum of Chandon Brut Classic is both economically and conversationally effective. One magnum equals two regular-sized (750ml) bottles of wine.

CLICK HERE for more creative pointers for hosting a successful New Year's Eve party!

Don't forget to relax and enjoy your guests, look forward to what the new year may hold and don't forget the midnight kiss!



Merlot Masters the Thanksgiving Wine Challenge

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thanksgivingDinnerSpread.jpgThanksgiving is almost here and with it the challenge of selecting a wine to go with the Thanksgiving feast. So what red wine will complement the turkey, the stuffing, the cranberry sauce and the other traditional Thanksgiving dishes? The surprising answer is Merlot.

Merlot's character and style pair deliciously with most Thanksgiving dishes. Generous fruit and modest structure enable Merlot to match the flavor of the turkey without overwhelming it, as powerful reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah do, or being overwhelmed by it, as often happens with delicate reds like Pinot Noir. The fresh, ripe raspberry and black cherry fruit of Merlot echoes cranberry sauce's bright fruit, and the smooth style of Merlot works well with both turkey stuffing and Thanksgiving side dishes.

KenwoodVineyardsMerlot.jpgSonoma County produces outstanding Merlots and Kenwood Vineyards Merlots combine Sonoma County quality, fine value and ready availability. The Kenwood Vineyards Sonoma County Merlot's forward fruit and polished texture make it ideal for Thanksgiving. For those who prefer a Merlot with a bit more concentration and structure, the Kenwood Vineyards Jack London Vineyard Merlot - from the famed author's Beauty Ranch overlooking Sonoma Valley - would be a tasty Thanksgiving choice.

As one would expect of a winery with wines worthy of Thanksgiving, Kenwood Vineyards also knows about Thanksgiving foods. Kenwood Vineyards Chef Robin Lehnhoff-McCray suggests this flavorful Thanksgiving side dish to accompany the turkey.



Summer Wine and the Living is Easy

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We're already a full week into summer and what better way to enjoy the weather then with a glass of "light, crisp, and refreshing" wine. Winemaker Cameron Parry from Chateau Montelena Winery makes some recommendations on his favorites and possible wine and food pairings.

chMontelena_Blog_SummerWine.jpgExcerpt from Blog Post:
So what is a "summer wine?"  Well, the snarky (but accurate) answer is that a "summer wine" is whatever happens to be in your glass from June 20th to September 21st.  However, most of the time we're talking about anything that is light, crisp, and refreshing - a wine that can benefit from a bit of time in the refrigerator (or even - *gasp* - the occasional ice-cube in the glass). For me, most often that means Sauvignon Blanc nice and frosty right out of the 'fridge . . . Close runners-up for summer time R&R are Riesling and Rosie . . .

Try the Riesling with some Memphis style ribs - you'll be pleasantly surprised; the Sauv Blanc, on the other hand, is a great match for barbequed oysters.   As far as the Rosie goes, it is a small production Rosé of Zinfandel that is great with grilled pork chops. 

Now, don't worry, I'm not leaving out the Chardonnay, and no it is not 4th place on my summer (or any other) list, but it is far too versatile to be pigeon-holed as a "summer wine."

CLICK HERE to read entire post.

New Season, New Wines

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chMontelenaLabel.jpgSubmitted by Chateau Montelena

Now that we've officially kicked off the beginning of a new season here at Chateau Montelena, it's time for spring renewal and getting a fresh start in the New Year. For some, that may mean starting a new garden, taking up a new hobby or working on some spring cleaning. For us, spring means enjoying longer days, ample amounts of sunshine and the start of a new growing season in our vineyard.  

We're also looking forward to sharing our three new releases wines: our 2008 Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and 2009 Montelena Estate Zinfandel are now available for your sipping pleasure. Aside from being great pairings with spring and summer dining experiences - either along with a park picnic or out on the patio under the stars on a warm evening - they're also three fantastic reasons to make more room in your wine cellar. At the end of a long day, there's nothing better than grabbing a great bottle of wine to hang out on your home patio with your favorite people and savor a glass of wine as you unwind on a warm and clear night. The season of "patio wine" is upon us.

chateauMontelena_CabRelease.jpgWith three new Montelena wines to choose from, we're certain that there's an option for every palate and every occasion - from a special, celebratory dinner with our 2008 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon to a family barbeque with our 2009 Estate Zinfandel and even a mid-week repose to savor a special meal alongside our 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet just-because-its-Wednesday-and-you-need-a-break.  

So whatever your wine preference may be, we hope that you take some time to enjoy the new season, relax on the patio outside and delight in a glass (or two!) of your favorite Montelena wine. And next time you're in Calistoga, stop by the Chateau to taste them all, pick your favorite and stock up - we have a long and glorious spring and summer ahead of us.

CLICK HERE to see more posts in the Chateau Montelena Blog.

Christmas Dinner with Kenwood Vineyards

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thanksgivingwine.jpgA Wine Guide

Christmas will soon be here and - as always - Christmas dinner will be a highlight of the day. Whether your tradition is a casual buffet or a sit-down feast, selecting and serving wines to complement Christmas dinner need not be daunting. A bit of guidance and your own good taste will lead you to wines sure to make the meal memorable.

First, relax. Picking wines to accompany a meal - even Christmas dinner - is a straightforward process. Take comfort in knowing that terrific wines to go with your Christmas dinner are available in every price range and the most satisfying matches often can be found among popular, well priced labels like Kenwood Vineyards.




World Series Wines Part II: Player/Pairing Mashup!

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By Courtney Cochran

We simply couldn't help ourselves in pulling together wine pairings around our fav Giants players.  And why shouldn't we?  We know that you're almost as into watching our local team in the World Series as you are into quaffing the good stuff.  So with no further ado: The original San Francisco Giants Player/Wine Pairing Mashup!  

(Shout out: Thanks to my friends on Facebook whose tips helped make this piece possible!)

Tim Lincecum: Oregon Pinot Noir
Unless you're a hard-core ball fan, you don't often hear the phrase "perfect pitch" outside of a musical reference.  But thanks to Lincecum's near-perfect form on the mound, we're beginning to hear a lot more buzz about the phenomenon.  Still, the guy's known almost as well for being undersized as he is accomplished, which is why we've selected Oregon Pinot as his pairing.  Fiercely talented but often overlooked and underappreciated, Oregon Pinot is making news these days as pros (critics) and fans (consumers) alike catch on to its talents.  To wit, look for silky tannins that recall - if we may - the waves in Tim's famously long locks.

Buster Posey: Beaujolais Nouveau
As one of the youngest Giants, catcher Posey charms audiences with his youthful (dare we say "baby faced"??) visage, which means we're looking to seriously young wines to pair with this player.  With the annual release of France's Beaujolais Nouveau less than a month away, it seems only natural to pair the 2010 vintage of this popular wine with the youthful athlete.  Released every year on the third Thursday in November just weeks after it's been harvested and fermented, Beaujolais Nouveau is the definition of a "young" wine.    

World Series Wines

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What to Quaff With What to Eat While Tuning In
By Courtney Cochran

drinkingWine.jpgAT&T Park - home to SF's National-League-topping Giants - is renowned for its fancy game fare (Gilroy garlic fries, anyone?), though beer usually trumps wine as game-viewing-beverage-of-choice at the LEED-certified park.  Still, we know that vinous-inclined ball fans watching from home will no doubt reach for the corkscrew come this evening's World Series kickoff game.  Accordingly, we've put together a few suggested food and wine pairings for those of you who prefer the likes of Zin while taking in our team's next win.

Peanuts
Where would a true ball fan be without this classic game viewing staple?  When tucking into 'nuts, there's nothing more fitting with which to pair them than a crisp sparkling wine.  Why? Its acidity will deftly offset all the salt in this treat, while its bubbly profile and creamy mousse recall beer (though we know bubbly is better!).

*Make 'em gourmet: Upgrade your traditional basic nut to fancy Virginia versions.

Hot Dogs
We can't imagine a ball game without 'dogs.  Accordingly, uncork a fruity, medium-bodied red like Pinot Noir or Cru Beaujolais (for the latter, we like versions from Morgon and Brouilly) when tucking into this meaty treat.  These wines' mellow tannins will stand up to dogs' chewy texture, while their fruity flavor profiles make great foils to the savory taste of this choice game fare.

*Make 'em gourmet: Opt for Polish sausage franks for a richer, beefier taste.

Top 10 DIY Wine Tasting Themes

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Wine glasses

Image by slack12 via Flickr

By Courtney Cochran

As a wine writer and some time hip wine party planner, I'm asked time and again about how to throw a great wine tasting at home. Naturally, I've no shortage of ideas. And given that the recession has inspired ever more tasters to turn to their own homes and devices to explore the vinous world in all its grape glory, I here submit my top recommendations for easy-to-implement wine tastings in your home. As for wrangling the troops, that's entirely up to you.  

The Wine Next Door
With wine now made in all 50 of our great states, it's never been easier to host a tasting highlighting wines raised in your own 'hood. Whether your area specializes in Rhône reds (AZ), crisp Rieslings (NY), Bordeaux reds (CO) or Seyval Blanc (GA), there's bound to be something interesting to get to know.  For a cool twist on this theme (or for those whose local wines may be far from new news), try a tasting that features wines from little-known locales around the US. 

Special Bottle Sunday
Inspired by the national phenomenon that grew out of longtime, Wall Street Journal wine columnists Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher's Open That Special Bottle Night, Special Bottle Sunday is just what it sounds like: an evening to invite over your friends to share special wines you've all been saving for...you can't remember any more.  The theme makes for a wonderfully congenial tasting that focuses on great friends and great wine - and reminds you all that you don't have to have a reason to enjoy the better things in life.
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Decanting 101

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By Courtney Cochran
Twitter: @HipTastesMaven

From a purely practical standpoint, we decant wine for two reasons: to remove sediment from older bottles, and to aerate younger wines to enhance their aromas and flavors. But there's a third reason for decanting that's equally important, though rarely acknowledged: Decanting wine is one of the most visually captivating things you can do surrounding wine service, and the act adds an undeniable sense of heightened ceremony to any special occasion.

Given all of these perks, don't you think it's time you mastered the art of decanting?

Holiday Sparklers

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Tis' the season to be sparkly! Our present to you? A perfect sparkling and festive accessory- for your glass that is! After all, what could be more beautiful and festive than the red, white and sparkling wine swirling in your hand? To receive this gift, simply click to our friends below and get ready to choose that perfect holiday accessory to sparkle your glass!

Champagne & Sparkling Wine

Cooking With Wine

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When You Actually Put It In the Food

By Deirdre Bourdet

Some may consider the deliberate pouring of wine into anything other than a drinking vessel or eager mouth a shameful, wasteful act.  While I see their point, wine-based cooking also happens to be one of the most delicious, easy, and traditional techniques for creating wine-friendly food.  A splash of red to deglaze your meat searing pan, a dash of white to loosen up those all-too-quickly browning onions, and you've suddenly added worlds of flavor, depth, and sophistication to your creation.
 
Then there are the truly wine-based recipes (coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, moules marinière, etc.) where the wine takes center stage.  Typically there is a great deal of reduction involved--simmering the wine with other ingredients to concentrate flavor and reduce the volume of liquid to a thicker, more sauce-like consistency.  These recipes make you confront the question of which bottle to use head-on, because the quality of the wine reduction really sets the tone of the dish.

What Wines to Serve for Thanksgiving

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Are you at a loss when deciding on which wine to serve for Thanksgiving? Rest assured, you're not alone! Surprisingly (or not), trying to pair the perfect wine to accompany the wide variety of food we encounter with this wonderful meal is a common dilemma.  The good news is, we can help! Watch the videos below and get expert tips from those who know best. Now, what to do with eccentric family members?  We'll leave that to you!





Swirl, Sniff, Sip, Repeat

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By Deirdre Bourdet

tastingParty.jpgWine tasting parties always seem like such a fun, good idea, particularly this time of year as the evenings get chillier, and harvest-themed wine events get pricier.  If only someone else would throw one... but actually, hosting a wine-tasting is a snap when you keep it simple.

Step 1: Pick a tasting theme--like oak vs. no oak Chardonnay, Napa vs. Sonoma, Old World vs. New World, or some other contest fraught with passion and potential conflict.  If you need thematic inspiration, or suggestions for generally-available wines at all price points that are good examples of regional or stylistic wines, check out Great Wine Made Simple by Andrea Immer (now known as Andrea Immer Robinson). 

Summer Entertaining: Easy, Convenient, and Fun?

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Submitted by My Wines Direct
By Amy Sherman


Warm weather means days at the beach or the lake, dining al fresco and backyard barbecues. To help make the most of your next get-together here are some tips, simple and delicious recipes and wine pairing ideas. Whether you're a guest or planning the whole shindig we've got you covered. Find a few standbys and you're set for the season!

Wedding Wines

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wedding.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

As every bride-to-be knows, a wedding is about much more than just the ceremony - it's also about the many special occasions (Dress shopping! Shower! Bachelorette!) leading up to "the big event." 

What's more, every oeno-inclined bride-to-be also knows that each and every one of these occasions is destined to be still more memorable when paired with the perfect glass of wine. 

In this spirit, read on for our complete list of wine suggestions for weddings - as well for all of the associated fêtes that come before happily ever after.

Burn, Baby, Burn: Best Wines for BBQ

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A Sommelier Sheds Light on the Best Wines for BBQ
by Courtney Cochran

Firing, roasting, and grilling are decidedly du rigueur during the summer months, but finding wines that work well with this tricky fare can be a challenge. Just as shining a spotlight on an actor onstage brings her features into focus for an audience, these cooking methods serve to concentrate the flavors of whatever's being cooked, necessitating a wine with both strength and personality to stand up to the food.

Read on for the low-down on some of the more common characteristics of flame-cooked fare and how to track down the perfect wines to pair with these traits.

Don't Forget the Wine for the Holidays!

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christmaswine.jpgBy Angela Lytle

Good company, good food, and of course, good wine. What better way to celebrate the holidays than with a bottle of one of the magnificent wines available today. Enjoy the distinctive tastes of merlot and cabernet, sip the cold and flavorful white wines, like Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, and for dessert, try a nice sweet wine served ice cold.

There are literally hundreds and hundreds of varieties of wine, as remarkably different as the artful bottles that hold the wine. It is said, however, that there are eight major varieties of wine, including: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, for the reds, and Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc for the whites.

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