Friday, November 16, 2012

Thoughts on Serving Wine for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is next week! I’ve been so busy music directing a show (“1776” at Cheney Hall in Manchester, thanks for asking) that I’ve had very little time or mental energy to devote to blogging – but I’m finally getting back into thinking about wine because, well…because I have to! Thanksgiving is right around the corner!

In lieu of writing about wine in my brain-suppressed state, I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading about wines that go well with a turkey dinner (sorry, if you’re serving something else, this post may not work for you). The opinions are as varied as the wines themselves, so I will preface my following thoughts with this very important sentence: Drink what you like, and don’t let anybody else ruin your enjoyment of what you like!

#1 - Do you have enough wine? Don’t let this scare you, but you should plan on a ½ bottle per person. A 750 ml bottle of wine is good for 4 glasses, if that tells you anything. Don’t be afraid to splurge for this one special holiday meal. You may have extra wine at the end of the day, but it’ll still be good the next day with the leftovers, or you can keep it in the fridge for a while and use it for cooking. You can also freeze wine in ice cube trays to add to recipes later on, so don’t be concerned about buying too much – it will not get thrown out, I promise!

#2 – Serve a variety of wine. There is no one wine that goes with a Thanksgiving turkey, so offer your guests a few choices! Keep it light, though, this is no time to break out a heavy Cabernet Sauvignon or something that’s been aging in your cellar for years. Red wine fans might instead consider a Pinot Noir or a Zinfandel, or another varietal/blend that is fruit forward and food friendly. Chardonnay is a big favorite for a white offering, and also offering something off-dry like a Riesling may appeal more to the occasional wine drinkers. For appetizers, why not offer a nice Sauvignon Blanc or a bright Pinot Grigio – both go well paired with cheese & crackers, stuffed mushrooms, chips & dip, guacamole, and other light finger foods.

#3 – Break out the bubbles!  Sparkling Wine - it’s not just for New Year’s, folks, so why not start your festivities off with a toast! As a bonus, sparkling wines can be quite food friendly. It’s the bright acidity and the palate-cleansing bubbles that make them work so well with food. For most holiday meals, an off-dry bubbly works best, but for desserts – make sure it’s sweet!

#4 – Dessert Wine. A real treat! Just be sure that any wine you serve with dessert is sweeter than the dessert itself, or it will clash terribly. Some of my favorites are made right here in CT. Try Sharpe Hill Vineyard’s award winning Select Late Harvest.

#5 – Consider something other than grapes! In keeping with your variety, why not try a cranberry-apple wine blend? Bishops Orchards right here in CT makes a festive wine called Amazing Grace that is said to pair really well with a traditional New England turkey dinner. So throw caution to the wind and try something new!

So, these are my thoughts regarding Thanksgiving wine offerings – what are yours? Please share what you’re serving this year, and what has been successful (or maybe even a disaster, ha!) in years past. Life is too short to drink bad wine, but thankfully there is a lot of good stuff out there, and we all want to hear about it!

Friday, October 5, 2012

As local wineries go, Cassidy Hill in Coventry, CT delivers!

There is a winery almost in my backyard, and I didn’t know it existed until a friend told me about it. I’m going to have to lodge a complaint against the webmasters at, because they don’t list this vineyard as part of the CT Wine Trail, and yet Cassidy Hill is in my Passport!

I can’t think of a better afternoon spent with a friend than at one of CT’s own local wineries, and Cassidy Hill delivers. It delivers a spectacular view, a brand new tasting room with a rustic, yet open and almost modern feel, and some truly delicious wine offerings. It’s also handicapped accessible, and this was vitally important since my friend is wheelchair bound. We were not bound to the tasting counter – the server allowed us to enjoy our wine tasting at one of their cafĂ© tables, provided I retrieved our pours from the tasting bar. She explained that they were not allowed to pour wine for customers at the tables – only at the tasting bar, which was fine and perfectly understandable. But she was right there at our table talking about each wine and answering any questions we might have about them. We felt very welcome at this winery!
What can I say about the wines, except that I truly enjoyed all of them on one level or another.  Some I would be happy to sit and sip, others I would rather pair with an appropriate dinner.  For a mere $6.00 each, we tasted 6 wines and then each enjoyed a full glass of our favorite for just a few dollars more.

Three wines stood out for me, and I took some home -The Summer Breeze, the Coventry Tricentennial White and the Jet’s Red. I would buy the first two again!

Summer Breeze was like drinking summer in a glass. A sweeter white, it was made with strawberries hanging in the barrels for a time during fermentation – lending an ever so slightly pink color, an appealing strawberry nose, and flavors of citrus and strawberry – oh so pleasant!

Coventry Centennial White was made to commemorate Coventry’s 300th anniversary, it’s a blend of 4 grapes grown right in Coventry, and while my friend did not care for this one, I felt it needed another chance and a little love. I’m so glad I gave it another chance! I would classify this one as semi-sweet, the nose was orange zesty – and the flavor was exactly as described, grapefruit with a honeydew melon finish.

Jet’s Red, a blend of Merlot, Syrah and Malbec, was interesting and different. In the same way the Summer Breeze was made with the strawberries, Jet’s Red included some blueberries hanging in there for a while. The wine boasts a taste of cherry and blueberry. The flavor for me was very cherry, no doubt. I could not taste the blueberry – but my friend could taste a lot of blueberry and only a little cherry. Aren’t different tastes interesting? This is just a quick lesson that you should never let anyone tell you what you should taste in a glass of wine! I did take home a bottle of this one to give it another chance, thinking that the right food pairing might work for me, but alas, it didn’t thrill me. My friend, however, really enjoyed it! So don’t let my taste in wine stop you!

Cassidy Hill offers several other wines, they were all very pleasant – if you’re in Coventry on a weekend, you MUST stop by and check them out. In the summer, there is live music on the lawn and folks are invited to bring their lawn chairs, picnics, and purchase wine to drink while listening to some great local music. I will be visiting Cassidy Hill again!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Guilty Pleasures

When it comes to wine, what would you say are your guilty pleasures?

Now, I’m not talking about a $600 or even a $100 bottle that you wouldn’t dream of sharing with anyone else. Oh no, I’m talking about that bottle, or even that (gasp!) box of wine you have hidden away for your personal consumption. You know, the one you can afford to drink on a regular basis. By the bottle, it would easily cost less than $7.00

Oh, sure, you have no trouble drinking it in the privacy of your own home – but when company drops in, would you serve it to them? Confidently?

Personally, I’ve found several wines in that bargain basement price range that I personally enjoy, and might even serve to a guest. Whether I would show them the source is another matter, so let’s not go there (ha!) – but hear me out! If you enjoy drinking a particular brand of inexpensive wine – why not share it with a friend? Is it perhaps that we’re embarrassed, because we think that good wine needs to be expensive? Are we too wrapped up in trying to impress others that we forget the simple premise that wine is meant to be enjoyed, regardless of the price tag?

 I’m calling these inexpensive wine options “guilty pleasures” – because we know we personally like them, but might feel a little guilty if our friends knew!

Recently, I’ve personally enjoyed Bota Box Old Vine Zinfandel, Franzia Chianti and Barefoot Cellars Muscato. I’m sipping a glass of the Bota Box right now! If you came to visit me, however, I might be slightly hesitant to pour you a glass, because I’d be unsure if you’d like it, or I’d be afraid you’d think I was cheap! The more I think about my hesitancy, though, the bolder I may become. If I like it, there’s probably a good chance you might, too.

So, c’mon, I showed you mine – now show me yours! What are your guilty wine pleasures?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pairing Wine with Weather

Whining about bad weather? Wine about it instead!

My favorite room in my house is my sunroom. On rainy days, the sound relaxes me, and I can feel like I’m still outside, without actually being outside and getting wet. If it’s chilly, a nice blanket and small space heater is all I need.

At the moment, there’s a pretty good storm blowing in, and we’re finishing up battening down the deck furniture. In a little bit, I’ll be able to enjoy a nice glass of my favorite year-round red (Tanglerose BackyardRed, Sonoma County, CA) while curling up with a crossword puzzle.

I’ve found that, for me, the Tanglerose Backyard Red pairs perfectly with a rainy day!

What are some of your favorite weather and wine pairings?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Pairing Wine & Chocolate

It's Friday! In preparation for the weekend, let's all think about our favorite wine and chocolate pairings! I remember when I first tried wine and chocolate. It was at a friend's wedding. There were a bunch of those little Dove Chocolate hearts strewn around on the table, I had a glass of OK anonymous house Merlot in front of me, and I quite unintentionally took a bite of the chocolate and then a sip of wine.

BOOM cherry flavor was everywhere! Bite after bite, sip after sip was like indulging in an endless cherry cordial. Suddenly the wine became the most delicious wine I'd ever had!

In the months since, however, I've noticed that not ALL red wine pairs well with chocolate, and milk chocolate, semi-sweet and dark chocolate all react differently.

What are some of your most successful wine and chocolate pairings that have made your taste buds stand up and take notice?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wine makes a thoughtful gift!

Wine is a thoughtful gift, and wine clubs make it easy! The Traveling Vineyard's monthly Wine Club is only $38.90 + tax. Shipping is already included! Click on the picture above for more information.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Pinot Grigio - Think Summer!

Someone asked me on Twitter yesterday to recommend a good Pinot Grigio. Other than my favorite (Bright-Eyed Bird) I've only ever tried a handful, because it's not my go-to white. I think it's probably because in the past, all the pinot grigios I've ordered at restaurants have been so, well...underwhelming. But I presume pinot grigio is getting much better, because I'm finding out now that there are many to choose from. If you normally drink sweet wine, pinot grigio (fruity, but not sweet) is a good "entry wine" into developing a more mature palate, and learning how to taste wine correctly so that you can enjoy it with food - which is what wine was designed to do in the first place. Without the proper food pairings, it is difficult for most people to learn to appreciate and drink wine.

The Bright Eyed Bird 2010 is 100% Pinot Grigio from California, and at only $15.99 is my benchmark for other affordable pinot grigios I decide to try. Well balanced, light, crisp and fruity (peach, pear, tart green apple, lemon zest & honey), it's the perfect summertime sipping wine. Bright Eyed Bird pairs well with a variety of light appetizers such as antipasto, or with a light chicken or fish entree. If you enjoy pinot grigio, or white wine in general and want to explore pinot grigio territory, you can't go wrong with the Bright Eyed Bird. I always have a bottle or two in my cellar, but when I'm out of stock (it's not available in stores, only through The Traveling Vineyard) I need to know what is good (and affordable!) at my local package store when my menu calls for it.

I found recently that Seven Daughters makes a nice pinot grigio for $13.99 that will get the job done. The nose is green apples, and I found the taste to be less complex than the Bright Eyed Bird and a bit more assertive, definite peach and honey. This is one I would buy again.

Then there was a pinot grigio that I remember trying in a box! It was Pepperwood Grove's Big Green Box, and I was surprised that it was actually drinkable! They do sell the pinot grigio by the bottle, and for $9.00 you get a decent pinot grigio that I remember tasting like citrus and melon.

The thing about wine tasting, though, that I want to point out is that you will most likely taste something different, and what I enjoy may not be what you enjoy! The reason I love the Traveling Vineyard is because it makes it easy for people to order wine they know they like to keep on hand for when they would like to enjoy a glass, or when company comes, or they need a nice gift to bring to a friend or to a dinner party.

So venture out and try some real wine! Don't forget the food pairings - they are crucial to your enjoyment of the wine you select. And remember - life is too short to drink bad wine. Together, let's find the good stuff!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Host a Wine Tasting or Become an Independent Wine Consultant

Sound interesting? Visit for more information about hosting an in-home wine tasting or becoming an independent wine consultant with The Traveling Vineyard!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bota Box 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel

I'm fairly certain this is the company that started the "Moms Who Need Wine" dealie, so they automatically get props from me!

So, I've been adventuring into boxed wine lately. I mean, you've got to love the whole environmentally conscious aspect of it. Not just because of the packaging either - I make less trips to the package store, and it's generally less expensive because of the packaging. Now, granted, the quality is not always up to par - I mean, life is way too short to drink bad wine - but if you can find a couple of gems in the sea of boxes, it is worth the effort.

This is one of those that I've found to be worth the effort. Is it complex? No. Nice long finish? No. Tasty? Yes! This Zin does the job nicely! I would serve this at a barbecue on the deck in a heartbeat.

My very first sip was full of nice, jammy berry fruit, and there's that nice little hint of pepper and spice. Not a very full nose by any stretch of the imagination, but pleasant. And as I mentioned before, there's not a lot of depth or much of a finish, but this zin is very drinkable and enjoyable to boot. The $16.99 price tag ain't bad, either!

Give it a try - and please comment! Tell me what you think!

Friday, March 9, 2012

When not to drink wine

Great - I've just started this brand new blog that I'm excited about, and now I'm sick. It's not good drink wine when you're sick, because it makes you feel worse. So, until this clears up, I'm unable to blog about my wining adventures.

Did anyone pick up a bottle of that Moscato I wrote about it my first post?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Easy, breezy and Barefoot Cellars

I'm generally not a sweet wine drinker. Too much sweet gives me a headache, and after a while dries my mouth out. I figure, if you're going to drink something sweet - save your money and buy a soda. Yes, a soda, that's what we call them here in Connecticut, but I digress.

As an independent wine consultant, however, I run into at least one person at every wine tasting I conduct who is a self-labeled sweet wine drinker. At first, when I was new and stupid, I would dismiss these poor souls as not being "real" wine drinkers. I figured they were totally unable to appreciate anything more than a glass filled with some cheap, domestic pink swill that probably came out of a $4.99 box.

OK, so in some cases that assessment was fairly accurate, but in most it wasn't. I truly had to get over myself!

So why not make my first Serious Wining post about a sweet wine? Not just a sweet wine, though, a cheap sweet wine. How does $5.99 sound, because that's what I just paid for this bottle of Moscato from Barefoot Cellars in Modesto, CA.

I'm on my 2nd glass right now. Seriously. I can't believe how much I like this moscato! It's as the label says - deliciously sweet. Not syrupy or overly sweet - just, well, sweet! I can see myself enjoying this at a cocktail party, or outside on my deck in warm weather with friends. Very nice and drinkable, in my own humble opinion.

What do you think? Have you tried this wine?