Wednesday, February 26, 2014

From Cask to Casket: A Wine-ing Approach to Celebrating the End of a Life

I have to say it’s not often that my two interests – wine and end-of-life issues – coincide, so this is an opportunity I could not resist reporting on.

Hodges Funeral Home - Naples
in Naples, Florida believes that grieving is as much about celebrating a life as it is about the end of it. That is why the business had a wine cellar installed in the basement last month.

Let’s face it, few people want to go to the funeral home, and most just want to move through as quickly as possible. But now those attending visitations, wakes, and services at Hodges, in southwest Florida, have the option to meet in the wine cellar to remember the departed in a less traditional setting.

The Wine Cellar
Most people, especially those under 30, would prefer gathering with family and friends in a comfortable atmosphere, maybe with a glass of wine in hand, and share their memories of the departed. It’s a different way to grieve, and that’s what the wine cellar offers.

While it is not traditional, nor does it meet old-school funeral ethics, it does provide a more relaxed and calmer way to mourn and remember. Amid comfortable chairs, high top tables, and racks of wine, this modern wine cellar provides a laid-back, tranquil vibe.

Of course, this is still about honoring the deceased, but this approach sure beats that line of chairs in front of the body, in my opinion. And no other funeral home is known to have a wine cellar, so this is definitely breaking new ground … (There is no mention of what wines are offered, but I’m assuming Bone Dry Red and Two Angels Petite Sirah are not in the line up: but maybe they should be …)

Hodges Funeral Home is not shy about blazing new trails. They also offer catered reception services as part of the Dignity Memorial Community. A reception can be held at the funeral home, or any place you select. Breakfast can also be ordered for the family the day of the funeral, and delivered at a home or church before services.

One of Hodges Traditional Rooms
For those who believe the traditional way is best, Hodges will continue to offer the standard funeral home experience. But for those looking for a new and innovative way to mourn – the wine cellar seems to provide a modern answer.

Hodges Wine Cellar
If this venue is successful at Hodges Funeral Home, expect to see other Dignity Memorial-owned funeral homes offering the “Cask to Casket” experience. Could this be the trend of the future?  We can only raise a glass, and hope.

~ Joy

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Spinning the Political Wine Bottle: Should Price Matter?

Hollande's Arrival
French President Hollande
Last week, President Obama was taken to task for serving French President Francois Hollande “cheap” wines at a state dinner.

A Toast
The American wines served were reasonably priced for a total of $125 for all three bottles. Considering that the entire evening came in around $500,000 – I would think that at least the American public (barring wine snobs) was glad the wine didn’t add too much to the already expensive, but typical price tag.

Dining Inside the White House
The Menu
In fact, most state dinners cost from $200,00 to $600,000, and Congress appropriates the money. Insiders say that the food and wine are not the most expensive components. That would be the venue, if held outside, decorating, and the entertainment. A guest list of 134 is standard for dinners held in the White House, but for dinner with the French president, held outside in a heated tent, 350 were invited.

Hu Jinato
Columbia Valley Cab
The White House has been reluctant to release the names and vintages of the wines served at such dinners for over two years. In 2011, the wine served for a dinner with then Chinese President Hu Jinato, a 2005 Ouilceda Creek Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, came in at $115 upon release and was fetching upward of $400 in the retail market by the time the dinner was held.  (The Cabernet had just received a 100-point rating from Robert Parker – hence the skyrocketing price point.)

But last week’s offerings were much more palatable, price-wise, with the most expensive vino coming in around $45 - $60 a bottle. And all of the wines served had exceptional wine scores, so quality doesn’t appear to have been compromised, as some have suggested.

La Proportion Doree
Luc Morlet
The wines served to President Hollande included a 2011 Morlet Family Vineyards
 “La Proportion Doree” from Napa Valley. This Bordeaux-style blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle was crafted by Luc Morlet, who grew up in Avenay-Val d’Or, France as a fourth generation winemaker. Morlet worked for vineyards and wineries in the south of France before moving to the U.S. in 1996. The Bordeaux blend retails between $45 and $60 a bottle and has a 95-point wine rating from Robert Parker. It was served with a winter garden salad of petite radishes and baby carrots on a bed of lettuce with a red wine vinaigrette.

Gilles Nicault
The second wine poured that evening was a 2009 Long Shadows Chester-Kidder Red Blend from Washington State. Winemaker Gilles Nicault was raised in southern France and worked at several French wineries before moving to Washington State in 1994. Nicault’s blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah has been awarded 92 points from Wine Advocate, and retails around $50 a bottle. It was served with dry-aged beef from Colorado, and blue cheese, charred shallots, oyster mushrooms and braised chard.

Claude Thibaut
Manuel Jannison
And the third bottle of wine was a non-vintage Thibaut-Jannison “Blanc de Chardonnay”, a sparkling wine from Charlottesville, Virginia that averages 89.2 points. Claude Thibaut and Manuel Jannison, both Frenchmen from Champagne-Ardenne, created the wine. It was served with the American Osetra caviar farmed in Illinois, quail eggs from Pennsylvania, and a dozen varieties of potatoes from Idaho, New York and California.

Blanc de Chardonnay
The Blanc de Chardonnay is considered one of the best sparkles in the country and has been served at the Obama White House since 2009. And, as an additional tie-in, Obama and Hollande had toured Monticello, the Charlottesville home of President Jefferson, a U.S. envoy to France, on Monday.
French Flag

White House staff said that all of the wines selected had a connection to France and were selected because of that symbolic gesture, not as a desire to be “cheap.” 

Preparing a White House Meal

All in all, it is good to see that the White House actually took the initiative to reduce the prices of the wines poured, and found a French connection with each of the vinos, too. While more expensive wines may make some feel that we are treating our foreign guests “royally”, a modest price should not influence the inclusion or exclusion of a wine. Quality should be what matters, and if a quality wine is available for a more reasonable price, then why not serve it?

State Dinner
After all, the purpose of these state dinners are to renew connections with our allies, and build diplomatic ties, not as food and wine judging competitions between countries. 

If a wine can score 90 points or above amid our myriad of wine rating agencies and critics, then why is it not appropriate to serve to heads of state?

Put another way: if this is a quality wine the average American can afford and would buy for a special meal– then why not serve it to the guests of our country, just as we would serve it to the guests in our homes? Then they can experience a true taste of what America drinks!

White House at Night
Now, if only the White House will work to reduce the price tag by keeping the guest list smaller so the dinners can be held inside…

~ Joy

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

5 Ways to Celebrate "National Drink Wine Day" on February 18

We have hundreds of special celebration days throughout the year, so why not a national day set aside to drink wine? Well, we have! Next Tuesday, February 18 is National Drink Wine Day in the U.S!

Ancient Greeks & Wine
Wine & Religion
This is a day dedicated to promote the health benefits of wine and acknowledge that wine has been an important element in our history, our life celebrations, and our religious events for centuries.

Wine has been produced since 6000 BC. Around 4500 BC, wine became popular with the Greeks and Romans. In fact, both religions had a god that represented wine. For the Greeks, the wine god was known as Dionysus. In Rome, their wine god was Bacchus.

Jimmy Carter
Acres of Grapes
Today over 20 million acres throughout the world are used for growing wine grapes. Several U.S. presidents have had vineyards and wine crafted from their harvests; one 20th century president made the wine himself, for years. President Jimmy Carter managed 15 acres of vines on his Georgia farm and regularly crafted over 100 bottles of wine from the harvest.

Wine has been in the news for years because of the major health benefits it provides. Especially red wine, which contains antioxidants that keep your heart healthy, help with weight loss, prevent bone loss, and boost immunity.

Although no formal proclamation, such as a congressional record or a presidential proclamation has been issued for National Drink Wine Day – don't let that stop you from celebrating.

Need some ideas on how this holiday can be commemorated?  Here are six tips for observing National Drink Wine Day!

1) Check with local wineries, wine shops, and liquor stores to see if events are being held. If not, visit Local Wine Events for special celebrations you may not know about in your area.

2) Send your friends and fellow vino lovers a "Drink Wine Day" e-card.  Punchbowl offers e-cards, along with

3) Throw a virtual party and celebrate with your wine-loving friends around the country.

4) Head out to your favorite restaurant or pub, request your favorite wine and offer a toast in honor of National Drink Wine Day. Let the bartender or server know what you're celebrating. You might be surprised how many patrons want to join in the festivities.

5) Gather with your friends at home this evening for an impromptu wine party. Break out the vino and any wine game you might have like Wine-opoly, Winerd, ZinZig or Viticulture, and "party on!"

It really doesn’t matter how you celebrate, just be sure to pour a glass in honor of the day, because unfortunately, national wine days don't come along every month ...