Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wine Review: Sterling Vineyards

By Joy Neighbors

Sterling Vineyards
Rising 300 feet above the town of Calistoga, California, Sterling Vineyards offers guests panoramic views of Napa Valley. Peter Newton, a British international paper broker, founded the company in 1964 after purchasing a 50-acre vineyard. Newton decided to increase the vineyard’s production from Cabernet grapes to also include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and the area’s first significant planting of Merlot.

Four years later Sterling Vineyards released the first California vintage-dated Merlot. By 1972, a new winery had been opened and featured a salon-style tasting room with an aerial tram to take visitors from the parking lot to the tasting room at the top of a hill.

Then, as today, when guests arrive they are given a glass of wine and allowed to stroll through art galleries and elevated walkways, winding their way through visual displays that tell the story of the Sterling winemaking process from grape to glass.

Sterling Vineyards released their first Vintner’s Collection Chardonnay and Merlot in 2000. Today, nine varietals make up the Vintner’s Collection, which sells a million cases annually. A few years ago, Sterling began crafting “Reserved" wines and has established a dedicated winery for that production.

2014 Chardonnay, Vintner’s Reserve
The Chardonnay is barrel-fermented for 12 months resulting in its oaky aromas and crisp mouthfeel. The pallet is composed of melon, pineapple and citrus with a rich hint of spiciness on the finish. This full-bodied wine is wonderful with grilled chicken and seafood. Retails at $14 a bottle.

2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
The Cabernet grapes are hand-sorted before undergoing barrel fermentation of 12 to 24 months in the wine caves. Cerise and pepper on the nose lingers with hints of cedar before the flavors of plum, berry and cherry deliver a full pallet surprise. And a touch of chocolate tantalizes at the finish. With its rich texture and supple body, this is one Cab that delivers all it promises. Excellent with roast pork; also serve with grilled meats and hearty autumn dishes. Retails at $32.00 a bottle.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Experience an Olive Oil Tasting

By Joy Neighbors

Wine drinkers love tastings! They are the perfect opportunity to sample a few different wines, experience the flavors, and decide what you like. But have you ever experienced an olive oil tasting?

Olive oil has been used for thousands of years in cooking. Today olive oil has garnered a lot of press due to its health benefits. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil increases good cholesterol (HDL), aids internal digestion, slows cerebral aging, and prevents heart disease.

And just like with wine, there are several factors to consider when selecting an olive oil: the type, the color, and the tasting profile, which will help you discover some new favorites.

Types of Olive Oil

Virgin – This oil is extracted directly from the fruit and has not been refined.

Extra-Virgin – The oil is extracted using only cold pressure, known as cold pressing. With less than 1% acid, it's derived from the first pressing for the freshest, fruitiest flavor of any olive oil.

Fino – A blend of virgin and extra-virgin olive oils.

Light – This term refers to the color not calories, and has been filtered to remove any sediment.

Pure – A blend of refined virgin and extra-virgin oils.

Any oil bearing the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) logo is certified to be the grade promised.

Flavor Profile
Olive oil falls into two different tasting profiles – grassy and floral.

Grassy – Look for the vegetal flavors of artichoke, cucumber, tomato, fresh grass, or green apples. (Think Granny Smith.)

Floral – This type of oil provides a sweet smooth light flavor similar to almond milk. Fruity flavors include pear, pineapple, citrus, almond, and hazelnut.

Red or White
When compared with wine, a grassy olive oil is more like a young red wine with bright flavors - a bit immature but still charming.

A floral olive oil compares to a mature white wine (think Riesling),
with a light flowery flavor.

How To Taste Olive Oil
There are the five tasting steps, just like with wine.
(And it is suggested to taste a true extra virgin olive oil (EVOO.)

1) Pour a tablespoon of oil into a wine glass.

2) Swirl the oil like you would wine, but place your palm over the glass to contain the aromas.

3) Sniff those aromas! Just like wine, olive oil has a “nose.” These are the most prevalent notes that help you detect the oil's flavor characteristics. (Yes diehards, there is also an olive oil tasting wheel!)

4) Sip the same way you taste wine by taking in a small amount of air and mixing with the oil.

5) Swallow; the oil should have a smooth finish and a tingling sensation in the back of your throat, thanks to the polyphenols (antioxidants) in the oil.

Now head to your local olive oil shop (if you’re so lucky to have one), visit a specialty/gourmet food store, or go online and select a variety of olive oils to begin your exploration.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Drinking With Democrats

It’s Week 2 of the political conventions, which makes this the perfect time to take a look at the Democrats and their imbibing commanders-in-chief.

“Drinking with Democrats” author Mark Will-Weber has concocted a read that’s funny and refreshing, giving you insight into those Democratic Party Animals and their choice of liberal libations.

While not all presidents fit easily into the Democratic ranks, thanks to parties that are now defunct, Will-Weber does an excellent job aligning those who were known as Democratic Republicans (Not a typo.) into the party base while providing liberal pours of politically incorrect history on the  Dems, behind-the-scenes at the White House.

You’ll discover interesting Democratic POTUS drinking facts like:

Thomas Jefferson
Which Democratic presidents utilized liquor to buy votes?

What president could always be counted on to retell his squirrel whiskey tale?

Who was the founding father of wine?

What POTUS enjoyed beers in Ireland and impressed the natives with his ability to drink Irish beer?

Who had a fondness for Bourbon? (Lots of Bourbon.)

And what Commander-in-Chief preferred beer to any other beverage?

Mark Will-Weber
Mark Will-Weber, a seasoned journalist and magazine editor, offers an amusing, tongue-in-cheek look at past Democratic presidents and their drinking habits including favorite beverages, drink recipes and bar tips poured out with a twist of humorous antidotes. 

So pour your favorite libation, turn on the tube and tipple along with the Democrats as you peruse this book. You might find you’re mighty impressed with that drink!

~ Joy

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Drinking With Republicans

Ah, the political conventions are upon us. In view of this election year (and whichever party you’re supporting), a drink (or three) may be necessary to get through these next couple of weeks.

The GOP is currently holding the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, so this could be the perfect time to take a break from all the “He said, She said” and just settle down with a libation and an amazingly fun read that deals with past presidents, their intake, and their outtakes, on alcohol. 

Mark Will Weber
Drinking With Republicans, by Mark Will-Weber, provides great historical insights into the Grand Old Party's presidents and their libations of choice. Will-Weber, a seasoned journalist and magazine editor, offers an amusing, tongue-in-cheek look at past Republican presidents and their drinking habits including favorite beverages, drink recipes and bar tips poured out with a twist of humorous antidotes.You'll discover entertaining Republican POTUS drinking facts like:

What president was the father of modern Bourbon Whiskey?

What president violated Prohibition?

Which POTUS enjoyed drinking with his staff?

Which presidents lubricated foreign affair proceedings with a few drinks?

And what Commander-in-Chiefs switched out the expensive liquor for run-of-the-mill once the party got started? (Yes, there's more than one.)

And what about those presidents who don't fit easily into the Republican or Democratic ranks, thanks to parties that are now defunct? (George Washington, John Adams, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Milford Filmore, to be precise.) Will-Weber does an excellent job aligning those Whigs, Independents and Federalists into the Republican party base, all the while providing politically incorrect history on these conservatives and their behind-the-scenes incidents at the White House.

The national political conventions happen only once every four years, so go ahead, mix up your favorite drink, grab the television remote (you political diehards), and settle down to reading Drinking With Republicans while watching the GOP Convention. You may decide to have another drink and just leave the sound down … This book is entertaining enough!

(Fair play: Next week, it’s the Democrats turn at the bar.)

~ Joy

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Feline Wines

Just when I think things can’t get any weirder – they do. This week, Apollo Peak Wine made news with its cat wines. Under the caption “Why Drink Alone?” this “feline snack wine is designed to entice even the most picky cats.”

Denver-based Apollo Peak reports that the wine is non-alcoholic, (Animal-lover hope so!) and made from a blend of water, beets (for coloring), and catnip - all grown on the Colorado farm where the wine is created. The company began making cat wine in November 2015 to create a niche for wine-loving cats, and their owners.

Pinot Meow
Apollo Peaks currently offers two types of cat wines – Pinot Meow and MosCATo. And yes dog lovers, do not despair. There is also a dog wine in the works.

Walter CronKat
I don’t know about you, but even though I love wine, my cat has never expressed an interest it in. Zilch. Nada. None. So, do we really need a wine for cats? Or dogs?  I’m thinking – no. Cute idea for a gag gift, or for that special cat-lady in our lives, but my Walter CronKat will just have to make due with water and an occasional splash of milk. Some things are best left alone – and wine is one.

~ Joy

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Four Sensational Summer Sippers

Summer is almost here! Time to break out those light wines that go so well in hot weather. Here are four suggestions to keep it light this summer.

Muscat Grapes
The “Moscato moment “is here to stay! This perky wine is crafted from Muscat Blanc grapes of the Muscat family, and has been used in winemaking for centuries. Despite the fact that over 200 varieties of Muscat grapes exist, only a few are used in wine production.

Moscato has a sweet, honeyed aroma similar to Gewurztraminer, and is usually crafted in a sweeter, light-bodied style making it one of the perfect wines for summer.

Serve a chilled Moscato with spicy Asian food to complement its flavor profile of citrus and white stone fruits.

Pinot Grigio Grapes
Pinot Grigio
This “grey” grape has a huge following, especially during the summer months. Pinot Grigio can be crafted in three different styles: dry with a focus on mineral flavors, dry with a nod to fruitiness, and as a late harvest sweet dessert wine.

Dry – Minerally
This type of Pinto Gris is aged in stainless steel tanks, which lets those more chalky, stone flavors shine through. Fresh and crisp, it goes wonderfully well with mussels and sushi.

Dry – Fruity
This style capitalizes on the flavors of melon, white stone fruits and apples, creating a very fruit-forward wine. Serve chilled with a light buttery or white-sauced pasta dish and seafood.

Sweet – Fruity
This style is prevalent in France and is crafted as a sweet dessert wine with a flavor profile of citrus and honey; an enjoyable late harvest wine for the approaching autumn.

This wine has never garnered much respect, thanks to those gallon jugs that were popular back in the 1960s and ‘70s. But today things seem to be changing.

Rosé wines are not made from a specific grape(s). Instead, most are a blend of several grapes with the winemaker deciding what style to craft.  Rosé is usually made in a dry style, and as a semi-sweet. The color of the wine will also vary depending on the types of grapes blended and how long the wine was aged on the skins.

Definitely a wine to enjoy soon after purchasing. Rosé is very approachable and fun for picnics and casual dining during the warmer months ahead.

Gamay Noir
Gamay Noir
If you’re a die-hard red wine lover, those summer whites are just not going to cut it. But a Gamay wine will keep you “in the red” with a flavor profile of fresh berries and tart cherries with a floral nose. Gamay is best known as the grape used to craft Beaujolais. Take a bottle to the next BBQ and watch the reactions.

Summer's almost here - what are you drinking during the hot weather months?

~ Joy