Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What’s New Pussy Cat? Dog-Gone Wines for Your Four-Footed Friends!

It is estimated that over $58 billion dollars will be spent on pets in the U.S. this year. There are doggy sweaters, kitty tees, tuxes, gowns, booties; even pet PJ’s to purchase! And, yes, we pet lovers have probably bought something eccentric for our fury friends at one time or another. But would you buy a bottle of wine for your cat: a tasty vino for your dog?

With pet ownership increasing each year, companies around the world are catering to the “pet parent” and offering more humanized products for our four-footed friends than you can shake a stick at.

Nyan Nyan Nouveau
Late last year, a pet supply company in Japan, B & H Lifes, released a wine called Nyan Nyan Nouveau (Meow Meow Nouveau). (According to the company, “nyan nyan” is similar to the sound of a cat meowing.)

The wine is non-alcoholic but it’s made from the juice of Cabernet Franc grapes mixed with Vitamin C and catnip. The company reported that customers were requesting a drink that their feline could enjoy when celebrating birthdays and holidays. Hmmm…

Wan Wan Beer
The cat wine comes on the heels of B & H Life’s successful beer for dogs – Wan Wan Beer (Woof Woof Beer).

But don’t look for Nyan Nyan Nouveau to hit U.S. shelves. The company produced only 1,000 bottles with a price tag of $4 for an 180ml bottle, making it a purr-fect gift for your feline friend.

OK – that’s a bit eccentric, right? Well, maybe not - In the U.S, more of us are “dog people,” with over 43 million households owning at least one dog. That’s compared to 36 million households with at least one cat. (American Veterinary Medical Association) So it should come as no surprise that we Americans would have a beverage crafted for boozehounds instead. 

One stop at Yappy Hour Vineyards based in Port Hueneme, California will help you and your best dog buddy “wine” down after a long day of play. This “vineyard” offers some unique gift ideas for pets and pet owners.  How about a bottle of Char-dog-nay, Grrrr-lot, Pinot Tail-io or Bark-deaux? And cats need not feel ignored. There’s also a Mos-cat-o available.

Yappy Hour's Line-up
All of the “wines” are non-alcoholic and made of 100% human grade ingredients in an FDA approved facility. The company suggests pouring the gravy-type liquid over dry dog or cat food to “create a dish that will rival” wet pet foods. All “wines” come in the standard wine bottle sizes of 750 ml or in a split size of 375 ml. The larger bottles are priced at $16 each.
I Spy a Whine  (Dearborn MI Animal Shelter)

Oh, and be sure to check out their “Whine” Club. Maybe you want to "give that dog a Rhone" ...

~ Joy

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

8 Trendy Ways Wine Influences Our Lives

Wine influences our lives in more ways than you may realize. Besides the usual decision of what vino to have with dinner, wine-centric themes pop up in our lives all the time. Here are eight ways a touch of the grape permeates our existence every day.

1) Colors
Majestic Grape
Wine colors are popular, especially in decorating. While wine colors have always been inviting; those rich purples and plums, deep burgundies, subtle greens and mellow yellows are now covering our walls giving the impression of a ripening vineyard inside.

And with paint color names like Majestic Grape and Fine Wine, along with the tried and true Burgundy, Merlot, Blush and Wine; those walls will make you want to sit down and visually “drink them in.” The wide spectrum of wine-themed colors available are rich yet subdued so as not to overwhelm you with too much grapy goodness.

2) Decor
Wine Tiles
Where once country, cottage and nautical themes held sway, today all things grape are the rage. Whether it’s a vineyard rug, hanging grape lamps, wine cellar canister sets, wine tiles, a grape clock, or wine box storage crates, it seems that everyone has jumped on the wine-themed wagon in an attempt to soak up the good life. If you want to follow this trend, tread lightly. Too many wine-themed accessories and your home will start to look grape kitschy when what you really wanted was a sophisticated vineyard vibe.

Wine Bag
3) Clothing
You can express your inner wine enthusiast with an amazing array of wine-themed clothing.  Slogans and puns run the “Gamay” on tees, tanks, jackets, aprons, hats and visors, even purses and bags. And if you can’t find one that expresses your love of the vine, you can always craft your own on sites like Custom Ink

4) Jewelry
Grape Ring
Jewelry lovers can wear their love of the vine with themed trinkets. There are a multitude of items to choose from: earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, and watches. Wine jewelry can make a big, bold statement or be a subtle reflection of your interest in wine.

5) Tattoos
Arm Candy
And let’s not forget tattoos. Although wine inspired tats are not mainstream, there are still plenty of vino-relate designs to choose from. There are even temporary tattoos for the faint of heart like those Riesling tattoos used to celebrate the “Summer of Riesling” each year. Now, how much wine was involved in actually getting that tattoo is another story ...

Wino Forever
OK, grab a glass; I have to share my favorite wine tattoo story about Johnny Depp’s vino tat.  True, he owns a vineyard in Provence, but that’s not what inspired this tattoo. It actually began as  “Winona Forever” for former girlfriend Winona Ryder, but when the relationship corked, he just had a couple of letters dropped and voila! Wino Forever.

6) Celebrations
Vineyard Wedding

Wine goes with any celebration, so holding a special party or wedding in the vineyard just makes sense for a wine lover. Now you can select from wine-themed invitations and wine-centric cakes, to a full-blown wedding and reception in the vineyard. Check with local wineries and vineyards about holding your special day at their facilities. Most will have options available to help you plan. And be sure to book early; vineyard weddings are extremely popular.

7) Names
In our everyday vocabulary, wine works its way into the conversation. Think corked, legs, and lees. Now, with wines named Mommy’s Time Out and Mommy Juice, it’s no surprise that there are wine-inspired baby names, too. Those topping the vino baby list include Merlot or Merlow, Barbera, Grenache, Syrah, Chardonnay, Franc, and Madeira. Can't decide? How about Pinot Grigio; you’ll have covered all bases with a first and middle name that’s wine-related.

8) Travel
Two Story Wine Tower
If you love going to wineries when you’re on vacation, consider a wine-themed cruise. It’s the best of both worlds - wine and travel. Just sit back and enjoy a luxury cruise to some of the top wine-producing regions in the world.

And you can learn on the way! Celebrity Cruises offers a variety of wine-related trips, plus classes by sommeliers on board along with over 500 wine choices available to sip from their two story wine tower.

So, how do you express your inner wine diva or wine dude? Imbibing minds want to know ...

~ Joy

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ten Weird & Wild Places to Sip Wine

Let’s say you’re bored with your wine tasting adventures. You’ve been to wineries and tasting rooms, sipping a new vintage while the winemaker tells you about the grapes, the history, the terroir - whatever it is that makes the wine so spectacular.

You’ve stood in line at the wine shop/liquor store/grocery mart to try the featured wines of the weekend in little paper cups with a smooth (or at times, not so smooth) sales patter trying to entice you to buy.

You’ve even gone to the wine festivals, private tastings and special charity events, but nothing seems to quench that desire for something new – a nouveau wine experience.

Well, get ready: here are 10 wine sipping destinations that will make your knees week, your heart race, and your vino friends envious …

1) High in the Sky
Lounge in the Sky
Imagine sitting at a table for four, sipping a glass of Chardonnay while you and your friends watch the sun set over the city; all while you are suspended a quarter of a mile up in the air!

Dining Out
Lounge in the Sky, a part of Dinner in the Sky offers just such an experience and this adventure is available in 14 countries, including the U.S, Italy, UK, France, Ireland, and Spain.

2) Underwater
SubSix Bar
Ever feel like you’re in too deep? Then you’ll feel right at home at SubSix, the world’s first underwater nightclub located almost 20 feet below the surface of the Indian Ocean.

Underwater Dinner and Drinks
Relax in club chairs while you peruse the 300+ bottle wine list, or select a glass of wine from over a dozen available on the beverage menu. Then sit back, unwind and watch marine life glide past the floor-to-ceiling windows of this classy, submerged bar in the Maldives.

3) On Ice
Wine on Ice
Almost 125 miles above the Arctic Circle, the Snow Village takes shape each November. Crafted from over 1,000 truckloads of snow, the Village opens each December and remains open until the first weekend of April, complete with a hotel, two restaurants, and the Ice Bar

Inside the Ice Bar
The bar, and everything in it, is made from ice and snow including the tables, chairs, and drinking glasses. This is the perfect spot for an unforgettable glass of icy Champagne. But bundle up - temperatures inside hover around 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 Celsius.)

4) Under Ground
Entrance to Jarvis Wines
Originally built to store wine, today's wine caves do so much more. Not only is this underground chamber the perfect temperature in which to age wine, it’s also one of the coolest places to hold a wine tasting.

The Wine Cave
But no one has surpassed Jarvis Estate in Napa, California, for excellent utilization of a wine cave. The entire winery, complete with winemaking facility, is built underground in a 45,000 square foot cave tunneled into the Vaca Mountains. After touring the winery, guests enjoy six samples of wine in a Tasting Chamber that is sure to impress.

 5) Spirits Move Me
Belvoir Winery is located in what used to be the I.O.O.F – Independent Order of Odd Fellows home complex constructed in the 1880s in Liberty, Missouri. The I.O.O.F. was one of the largest fraternal  and benevolent organizations in the U.S. during the 20th century.  

I.O.O.F. Home
Today, the winery is located in the old administration building, one of only three original buildings that remain on the grounds, and the oldest structure on the property.  It is here that employees report footsteps, screams, unidentified laugher and shadow people; the perfect place to sample their six locally produced wines and get into the spirit of things ...

6) In the Dark
Too much information in your life? Then dinner and a drink at Opaque might be just what you need. This restaurant takes “dining in the dark” to a new level: a real sensory experience. Without your sight to rely on, forget checking the clarity of that wine.

Dining at Opaque
This is where your other senses kick in and that glass of vino takes on a totally different dimension; an true experience of taste. But relax, black tie is not required ... Opaque restaurants are located in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, New York and Dallas.

7) In the Belly of the Beast
If you’re an aviation buff, don’t miss the chance to dine in the belly of a 1953 Boeing KC-97 tanker, better known as the Stratotanker. Although it was named Solo’s Restaurant, it has become known as the Airplane Restaurant, seating up to 42 people for lunch and dinner.

Dining on Board
Featuring booths, burgers and a full bar, this is one trip you’ll rather have friends on board with, rather than going solo. Located at the Colorado Springs Airport in Colorado.

8) Up, Up and Away
Balloons Above Napa
Ah, to slip the surly bonds of earth, wine glass in hand and vineyards unrolling beneath you. If this is your idea of heaven, then get ready for liftoff in a hot air balloon. Wine Country Balloons is one of the oldest in California, offering early morning flights over the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma.

Flying Over Vineyards
When your flight is over, enjoy a made-to-order champagne brunch with your pilot and fellow ballooning buddies as you enjoy a post-flight celebration.

9) Visiting the Ladies
May Baily's Place
What was once one of the premier bordellos in the red-light district of New Orleans (known as Storyville), is now a pretty hip place to grab a glass of vino (over 15 on the menu), or something stronger. May Baily’s Place served clientele in the French Quarter during the 19th century.
Just One of the Girls

Today, portraits of the madams’ hang on the bar walls among the Victoria décor. The comfort and ambience of May’s continues to attract customers ordering spirits, and spirits of the “ladies of the evening” who still linger at the bar, waiting for “last call.”  In homage to its history, a red light continues to burn in the courtyard …

10) In the Jail House
The Clink
Let’s give this one an A for attitude and adaptability! The Liberty Hotel in Boston has taken a former jail where the city locked up notorious prisoners like Malcolm X and the Boston Strangler, and transformed it into a cool hotel, complete with a bar called the Clink.

Dining in the Cell Block
Dine and drink while looking through the original cell door bars. The menu changes daily and the wine list is extensive – but pace yourself; you don’t want to end up in the drunk tank.

Now, find something fun to do this weekend, and if it tops this list – Let Me Know!

~ Joy

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Salt with Wine? It Could Be Fine ...

Red Wine

I know, it just seems wrong - but according to a former chief technology officer with Microsoft, adding a dash of salt to your red wine can actually balance the flavors and enhance the aromas.

Adding Salt

Just a Pinch
Nathan Myhrvold discovered this little trick (predictably), after a few glasses of vino.  In an interview with Richard Vines of Bloomberg last month, Myhrvold claimed that just a pinch of salt can make most wines taste smoother. The concept is similar to why a cook adds salt to food: to enhance the flavors.

Margarita with Salt
And it’s the same reason why we add salt to margaritas – to squelch some of the bitterness and make the flavors “pop out” a bit more. Salt creates the perception of a sweeter flavor while covering up any bitterness, thus producing (to our taste buds) a more powerful taste.

And there is science to back this up, at least in the salt department. Simply put, sodium suppresses bitter flavors on the tongue while enhancing others. So say “bye-bye” to bitter tannins and “hello” to pleasant, savory wine flavors, and nice, approachable aromas. Just remember, the suggestion is to add salt in moderation and to taste. (So this could mean a different amount for each glass, and each drinker.)

Don’t expect winemakers to start adding sodium to their wines. And be forewarned: if you try this in front of any wine critics, fanatics or snobs, they will not be amused.

It’s just something to remember next time you have a red wine you’re not thrilled with; try a pinch of salt before chucking the glass. You might be pleasantly surprised.  As they say, may you be blessed with "salt that life may always have flavor" ... even in your wine!

~ Joy