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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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Bring the Tasting Room to Your Living Room

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tastingRoom1.jpgWant to have that winery tasting room experience without the hassle of traveling to the wine country? Now you can. TastingRoom.com has introduced a one-of-a-kind product that actually brings the wine country to the comfort of your home.
 
How is that possible? Simple. They work with top wineries to create collections of award-winning wines contained in 50ml taste-sized bottles -- roughly twice the amount you receive in a typical tasting room pour. The wines are assembled in beautiful packages of six mini bottles - called wine samplers -- and shipped right to your doorstep.

Once your wine sampler is delivered, you can have a wine tasting experience right in your home. Just pour the wine into six glasses and swirl, sniff, and sip to your heart's delight. Heck, you don't even have to take off your fuzzy slippers.

And here's the best part: you can taste six fantastic wines from six top wineries. Do you like Cabernet? You can taste California Cabs from six of the finest producers side-by-side. A Chardonnay fan? Compare Chards made using different winemaking styles. They've got well known wineries like Grgich Hills and DeLoach and up-and-comers like La Follette and Carol Shelton. And they've got hundreds of wines to choose from. All this for as little as $19.99.

Wine Sampling's Small (Read: Big) Idea

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home_hero_2.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

It seems obvious to eco-conscious winos that wine packaging should be shrinking, but until lately that idea has been little more than just a soupçon of wishful thinking.  But Nor Cal's TastingRoom.com is turning that hunch into reality, thanks to the company's innovative new line of 50mL bottles (compare to a standard wine bottle's 750mL) that allows consumers to taste tiny amounts of wines from a growing roster of winery partners.

Sequoia Grove

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Sequoia-Grove-front-1_0.jpgWho Said Napans Are Snobby?
By Deirdre Bourdet

Whoever said Napa wineries aren't as friendly or down to earth as those in other places has clearly not been to the right places in Napa.  Even before I moved here, I always found Napan tasting rooms welcoming and friendly to everyone with a genuine interest in the wines and the region.  

Sequoia Grove is a perfect example, and one of my latest sleeper discoveries even though it's been around since 1978, and housed in a barn on Highway 29 that's 150 years old and surrounded by giant sequoia trees.  How I never managed to find my way there before is a complete mystery to me, but I'm very glad I finally made it. 

New Year In Wine: 10 Predictions for 2010

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newyear2.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

With 2009 behind us, let's all breathe a collective sigh of relief and turn our sights - not to mention our vinous radar - on the New Year.  If you're like us, a fresh start means you're looking forward to good things like pay raises, thinner waistlines and general prosperity like we haven't seen in some time.  And while that's all good and well, we'd like to remind you that there's more - much more, in turns out - in store for you in the world of wine in the New Year.  

Read on for our predictions on what'll be hot - as well as what'll be...not...in 2010.

Deals on Champagne & Sparklers

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champagne2.jpgAccording to Paul Gregutt in a recent article for the Seattle Times, prices for Champagne and sparkling wine have decreased. In fact, worldwide demand has fallen by at least 10% which can only mean one thing for you and me - it's time to buy and stock up! And for those gearing up for the holidays, it couldn't be more perfect timing.

The articles suggests a few tips in what to buy:

(1) Be adventurous. Try something new instead of sticking to the brand you always buy.

(2) Buy a vintage Champagne rather than a brut

(3) Look on the bottle to see if the grapes are grand cru. Apparently grand cru vineyards are considered to be the best and well worth if it, even if a few more extra dollars..

(4) Splurge without breaking the bank. Purchase a half bottle

Paul also recommends asking the wine seller what is on sale. One deal out there right now is from Duval-Leroy where they have half bottles of brut at $18 and a full bottle of Cuvee Paris at $35.

Other articles on picking out sparklers for the holiday season:
Bubble, Bubble Everywhere



Wine Forward: iPhone Wine Applications

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iphone_app.jpegBy Courtney Cochran

Made from scores of regions, hundreds of varieties, thousands of producers and newly released each vintage year, wine is one of the most data-challenged consumer goods we enjoy. But now, thanks to a host of fancy new iPhone and iPod Touch-compatible applications, sorting through the dizzying array of wine selections in stores, restaurants and even in your own cellar is getting a whole lot easier. Read on for our picks for top applications to fuel your Wine Country lifestyle; they make researching, scoring, sharing and even buying wine a snap - and they let you do it all from the palm of your hand.

Summer Wines $15 and Under

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summerwines.jpgYou may think summer has taken a hiatus and slipped back into spring. However, if you happen to catch some heat waves and are looking for something refreshing to drink, San Francisco Chronicle recommends six excellent summer white wines all $15 and under.

  • 2008 Oyster Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($10)
  • 2007 Branger Le Fils des Gras Moutons Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie
  • 2007 Kuentz-Bas Alsace Pinot Blanc ($15)
  • 2008 Ebner Ebenauer Wienviertel Gruner Veltliner ($13, 1 liter)
  • 2008 Blacksmith Cellars Alta Mesa California Torrontes ($15)
  • 2008 Tintero Sori Gramella Moscato d'Asti ($10)

Read More . . .

By the Glass Bargains - An Upside to the Recession

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By Courtney Cochran

When it comes to restaurant wine sales, the news is largely not good - for the restaurateurs, at least.  To that end, the Wine Market Council - in conjunction with The Nielsen Beverage Alcohol Team - reported this winter that on-premise sales of wine have slipped dramatically from 2007 and early 2008 levels, with some restaurants even forced to shut their doors as a result of sluggish sales.  Happily, there's a silver lining to this latest tale of recession-induced woe: by-the-glass sales at on-premise locations are still strong, and restaurants are responding by injecting new life - and appeal - into their BTG programs

Wine Clubs

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wine_club.jpgThe Gift That Keeps on Giving - in a good way

by Robert P. Farmer

'Tis the season to shout at your steering wheel while parked in the lot of the local mall - furious in frustration over what the heck to buy that special someone. Yes, the holidays are here and in the spirit of giving I offer some solace to the confused shopper, yes, I count myself among you.

Whether you've got a wine enthusiast on your list or you just hope to create one, a gift membership to a wine club is a gift they won't soon forget. After all, how could they; the wine will keep arriving periodically at their door for at least the ensuing year. Wine clubs are an excellent way to demonstrate your thoughtfulness while also showing in no uncertain terms your good taste. It's sure to be appreciated with each pull of the cork.

There are countless wine clubs available in Wine Country and dozens more to found throughout the nation and reachable via the Internet. The trick is to locate the right club to join - whether for you or on behalf of your gift recipient. Most respectable wine clubs are designed to keep members abreast of their favorite wines while offering them first-look insight into new wines or wines they might not otherwise find on their own. Most wineries operate wine clubs through which members are offered first dibs on reserve vintage orders, exclusive discounts, and invitations to private tastings, classes, and parties.

Winter Wines

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Enjoy robust Italian Nebbiolo Barolo and luscious Canadian ice wine paired with your hearty winter meals.

by Courtney Cochran

There are all sorts of things that are wonderful about winter time. Snow, comfort food and roaring fires are just a few of them. But one of the best things about brisk weather and the winter months is the opportunity they afford to switch up your wine routine.

Colder temperatures and heartier fare are important reasons to look to new wines at this time of year. But another, in all likelihood less obvious reason, is quite simple: state of mind. The arrival of winter signals a change in our routines and activities.

A Guide to Giving Wine as a Gift

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wine_gift.jpgSubmitted by My Wines Direct

Whether given as a show of hospitality for a dinner party, or just as a sign of affection during the holidays, wine is a unique and thoughtful token of appreciation.

If you are bringing a wine gift to a gathering where you know the wine will be opened during dinner, you should try to find out what is being served and match the wine appropriately. Contacting the host or hostess mentioning that you'd like to bring a wine to match the meal is a great way way to ensure you don't bring a big red to a light meal where a light white would be a better choice. If you choose to bring white wine, you may want to bring it already chilled so it can be immediately served if needed. And don't take offense if you bring a bottle of wine to a party and it does not get opened -- the wine choice is up to the host or hostess. So unless you were particularly asked to bring a bottle of wine to go with dinner, you might not get to drink your wine at the meal (this is a subject that has surely been debated many times before).

Crazy Over Corkage

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winerestaurant.jpgBy Robert Farmer

Recently my wife and I ventured out for an increasingly rare night on the town for dinner without our new baby. To us, such an occasion is special, so we set out for one of our favorite special occasion restaurants in San Francisco.

Though the place isn't one of the high-voltage restaurants that most people in SF correlate with a special occasion, it is a local favorite, which consistently earns high marks with critics and area foodies alike. Also, they have an exceptional wine list to match their gorgeous menu.

Wine List Anxiety

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winelist.jpgBy Robert Farmer

With only one or two exceptions among my decent-sized group of regular dining-out companions, I am always first to grab the wine list. And once I get it, I rarely let it go. Not to say others don't take a look, but instead I tend to keep hold of the list throughout the meal - occasionally prying it open to peruse depending on which stage of the meal we happen to be in.

I love looking at wine lists--the imagination of the sommelier or wine-steward is in full view in these lists, which can range in size and scope from a single-sided sheet of paper, to a handsome, leather-bound book that looks more like an Encyclopedia Britannica. This I know is not the norm. Many people shy away from a wine list like the waiter was waving a plate of liver and onions beneath their nose.

Pink Out, Indeed

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roseWine1.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

AC Nielsen news keeps on confounding, now with reports that sales of rosé wine in the US rose an astounding 53.2% during the 52-week period recently surveyed.  These gains - which apply to bottles of rosé priced $8 and up - represent more than 17 times the increase in table wine sales observed during the same period.


Think Inside the Wine Box

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By Robert Farmer

wineinbox.jpg

Years ago, before I began actually appreciating wine, I attended parties that featured wine that poured from a box. Granted, I was college-age or just a bit older, and the demographic of these parties was such that box wine was to be expected--indeed it was typically appreciated by the very few in attendance not drinking beer. But it also had the stigma of being, well, cheap. And in my more recent years, which have brought a personal wine-drinking evolution, little has changed my perception of that stigma.  


Non Sequitur Sensations

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By Courtney Cochran

toastedhead1.jpg

In news that may come as surprising to some - and perhaps not so much to others - market research firm ACNielsen recently revealed that almost one in five of the table wine brands to hit the market in the last three years features an animal on its label.  This leap in popularity of so-called critter wines is remarkable not just because the wines represent a break from traditional wine labeling, but also because the animals featured on the labels often have little or nothing to do with what's inside the bottle.

Dubbed non sequitur labels due to this disconnect between the label and what's inside the bottle, critter wines benefit from customers' association of the animals with themselves (e.g. pet owners often have an affinity for canine-themed labels).  This flies in the face of traditional branding rationale, which argues that images should be strongly associated with the product  - whether it be wine or anything else for that matter - being sold.  But rather than perplexing, I find that this news confirms a suspicion I've long had that wine - made from a puzzlingly large number of grapes grown in regions all over the world and frequently marketed with labels in obscure languages - can sometimes seem about as relatable to American consumers as quantum physics. If at times it takes a critter label to break through all this clutter and strike a chord with the consumer, so be it. 

American Wine Bars that Offer Selection with Style

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WINE STORAGE
Dedicated wine bars and wine-oriented eateries know that storing and protecting the stock is top priority, but what about restaurants where wine is secondary? Here's what to look out for when wining at non-wine establishments:

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