Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Three Tips for Finding Value in the Wine Aisle

#1 Be flexible about how much you spend on a bottle of wine. I had a friend tell me recently that she does not spend over $17 on a bottle of wine. I explained to her that some varietals work well at a lower price point, some do not.  You will probably use your wine budget more efficiently (and drink better wine) if you don’t have a rigid idea of how much per bottle you will spend, but instead take a longer view and say you will spend X on wine over a period of time. This way, you can allow for lower and higher priced bottles into the mix. A great example is pinot noir. It’s a tricky grape and most good ones are not cheap.  If I had $40 and I wanted to get two bottles of wine, I’d spend $30 on the pinot noir and $10 on a bottle of sauvignon blanc. This takes some practice and “research” (darn!) so experiment a bit.

#2 Be open to different varietals
Another way to get value out of wine is to look for off-beat varietals. Two to look for – Torrentes and Barbera. Torrentes is a white wine from Argentina that is cool, crisp and refreshing.  Zolo makes one that is typically less than $10 per bottle. Barbera is a red wine from Italy - check out my post on why Barbera is a great pizza wine. Ask for some recommendations the next time you are in a wine store and be open to varietals that are new to you.

#3 Take good care of your wine investment by doing these two things:
Store your wine correctly – Make sure your wine is at its best by storing it in a place that’s not too hot and not cold. Check out my post with more info on creative (and cheap!) wine storage ideas.

Serve wine at the right temperature – You can dramatically improve even a cheap bottle of wine by serving it at the correct temperature. It makes a difference and it’s worth the effort. Check out my post with more info on how to get your wine to the right temperature. Hint – all you need is a fridge and your kitchen counter.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wine and Food Pairing: A Visit to the Bubble Room at J Winery

Wine and food pairings are a great way to expand your wine (and food!) knowledge. One of my favorite places to do this is in the Bubble Room at J Vineyard and Winery in Healdsburg. J makes a variety of wines – sparkling, pinot gris, chardonnay, pinot noir and viognier. The Bubble Room is a separate room at the winery where they have seated wine and food tastings. The setting is beautiful and the staff is very informative and attentive.  I went with five friends and we spent a wonderful two hours (you can do the tasting more quickly, but this is not something that can be done in an hour) leisurely tasting our way through the wonderful J wines and food. Here is a recap  of what we had: 

On left: Chilled zucchini & sorrel soup with almond, creme fraiche and bee pollen. On right: Heirloom tomatoes, popped quinoa, a goat milk cheese/foam concoction and black garlic. Wine pairing was the 2012 J Vineyards, Cooper Vineyard Pinot Gris, Russian River Valley for the soup and 2011 J Vineyards STRATA, Chardonnay Russian River Valley with the tomatoes.

Spaetzle with prosciutto, swiss chard and mustard sauce. Wine pairing was the 2010 J Vineyards Nicole's Pinot Noir, Russian River
Pan roasted duck with Dry Creek peaches, chanterelle mushrooms and lavender biscotti. Wine pairing was 2010 J Vineyards Freestone, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley.

On left: Savory Point Reyes Blue cheesecake with thyme and walnut crumb and cherries. On right: Plum upside down cake with cardamom cream. Wine pairing were two sparking wines - J Cuvee 20 Magnum, NV, Russian River Valley with the cheesecake and J Brut, 2006, Russian River Valley with the cake

If you go, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Make a reservation.
Plan on being there for about an hour and a half, at least.
Consider appointing a designated driver or hiring a limo as the tasting offers quite a bit of wine and it’s all wonderful.

This is not a cheap experience but I think you get a lot of value for your money. Cheers!