Archives for 

Wine Information and Education

An article that includes information or education about wine

What is Cabernet Franc?

Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Franc Harvest

Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Franc Harvest

Have you been curious about the taste of Cabernet Franc when someone orders a glass with their meal? You may very well have had a wine made with Cabernet Franc from France, or even California, and not known. All too often we stay in the safe zone with our wine choices, rarely venturing outside of our “wine box”. After reading this, you’ll not only know what to expect in that glass of Cabernet Franc, but you’l be able to pair it with foods, and talk about it, if you want.

The History of Cabernet Franc

A black berry, because grapes are indeed berries, Cabernet Franc can be found in many parts of the world, though it’s most well suited in France, from the Loire Valley as well as Bordeaux.  However, you’ll find wines made from mostly Cabernet Franc in California, as well as New York, and Virginia, amongst other areas. It is one of the oldest varieties of grape in Bordeaux, with documented evidence of Cabernet Franc in Loire vineyards near Chinon dating back to 1534, though under the name Breton. Cabernet Franc was then mentioned in Pomerol in 1716. Cabernet Franc was crossed with Sauvignon Blanc to make the popular wine grape Cabernet Sauvignon.

What Do Cabernet Franc Wines Taste Like?

One of the main Bordeaux varieties, Cabernet Franc is primarily a blending grape. Cabernet Franc is paler, lighter, crisper, softer and more aromatic than Cabernet Sauvignon, which lends finesses and peppery aromas to the wine when blended with grapes like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Green pepper, tomato and vegetable greens are often scents and tastes found in Cabernet Franc in an underripe bottling. However, in more recent vintages, longer, warmer growing seasons and advanced vineyard practices have produced more fruit focused and floral tastes, eliminating some of the green and herbaceous notes from the flavor profile. You can find wines made mostly, or exclusively, from Cabernet Franc in Chinon, as well as parts of the US, such as California and New York as previously mentioned. I recently reviewed the Stepping Stone 2008 Cabernet Franc, which could have been made with the grapes being harvest in the photo above, which came from the Cornerstone Cellars Harvest Blog.

Food Pairing with Cabernet Franc Includes Prime Rib and other roast beef dishes

Food Pairing with Cabernet Franc Includes Prime Rib

Food Pairings with Cabernet Franc

Wines made from Cabernet Franc grapes like foods that have a fair fat content, and are roasted. Think of drinking cabernet franc wine when you are eating:

  • Beef, whether steak or roasts
  • Cheese, especially goat whether alone or in a dish
  • Roasted duck
  • Venison chops, steaks or burgers
  • Grilled or roast eggplant, or eggplant parmesan
  • Lamb, especially grilled and roasted
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Pasta with red sauce, especially a meat sauce / bolognese sauce

Are you a fan of Cabernet Franc? Let me know which one you’ve enjoyed in the past by leaving a comment below.

Glasses for Champagne

Which Glass is Best For Champagne?

Which Glass is Best For Champagne?

Whether you are serving Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, or a sparkling wine from California, you have probably asked “What is the best glass to serve Champagne in?” While there is no “Perfect Glass for Champagne”, I’ll break down three different stemware options, and give you the pros and cons of each. You can then pick the right glass for Champagne, one that suits you!

Are flute glasses best for Champagne?

Are flute glasses best for Champagne?

The flute glass is perhaps the most popular glass for serving Champagne or sparkling wine. Tall, thin, and elegant, it fits in with any Champagne toast, whether New Year’s or New Baby! The flute glass will preserve your Champagne bubbles the longest of any glass, so if the bubbles in your bubbly are extremely important, then this is definitely the glass for you! While there are  pros of this glass, it’s timeless style and it’s ability to preserve the bubbles longest, there are still some cons. The first is that they don’t really allow you to smell the sparkling wine, which is a big component of taste. Additionally, some folks find that pouring bubbly into a glass like this causes them to pour a bit too quickly, and the glass bubbles over. Other than that, it’s a great glass for Champagne. This glass is what I prefer my sparkling wines in. Robin, however, prefers the coupe glass for her Champagne.

Are coupe glasses best for Champagne?

Are coupe glasses best for Champagne?

There are stories that the coupe was modeled after Marie Antionette’s breast. Since the glass was fashioned in 1663 for the English aristocrats, that is probably not true. However, the coupe is an elegant and classic way to enjoy sparkling wine. The glass has a low profile, and a wide bowl. While it does allow your nose to inhale the bouquet of the wine as you sip, there is a major downside to this glass. The coupe is notorious for allowing those precious bubbles to escape quickly. So, while it may show up in timeless movie classics as the glass to toast New Year’s Eve with, it may not allow your bubbles to stay at the party as long as you do. Something to keep in mind while you sip your Champagne.

Can a regular wine glass work for serving Champagne?

Can a regular wine glass work for serving Champagne?

A regular wine glass works! Champagne is a mixture of chardonnay,  pinot noir, and pinot Munier, so it’s perfect for a regular wine glass. While it won’t be the epitome of class and sophistication the coupe and flute are, it works nicely to sip Cava, Prosecco, Champagne, or any California Sparkling wine from! So-pop a cork, grab the glass that fits your style, and toast to an amazing New Year!

Harry and David Launches Wine Collection

Gift giant Harry and David Launches Wine Brand

Some of Harry and David’s wine collection

The air was thick with the scent of fermenting grapes. The heady aroma of yeast working it’s magic entranced me from the second I stepped off the bus. The building’s cold, dimly lit exterior could not shroud the fantastic things happening inside it’s walls. Inside Pallet, Linda Donovan’s new custom crush facility in Medford, Oregon wine was being made, and I had to have some. A new partnership, Linda was making wines that will be exclusively available from premier gift company Harry and David.

Long known for their high quality gifts of fruit and food, gift giant Harry and David is poised to enter the wine business. Their brick and mortar retail stores actually carry an impressive selection of wines. A recent media trip to Medford, Oregon had me browsing in-store bottles ranging from Oregon locals J Christopher and Ken Wright, to various producers from Chateauneuf-du-Pape. While you are already able to order gifts of wine from Harry and David, this is the first time the company is putting their name on a bottle of wine.

Tracy Kaiser, Harry and David Sr Director of Merchandising, talking about the wine collection

Harry & David’s Tracy Kaiser talking about the wine collection

The Harry and David wine collection currently consists of 9 wines. All of the wine comes from Southern Oregon, with a focus on the Rogue Valley. Future vintages will focus on even more narrow appellations in the southern Oregon wine region, including a single vineyard offering from Illinois Valley. The Harry and David wine collection consists of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, viognier, and gewürztraminer as white wine options. The red wines in the collection are pinot noir, merlot, syrah, tempranillo and  a blend called Royal Crest Red. The Harry and David Royal Crest Red wine is a blend of 60% Merlot, 30% cabernet sauvignon and 10% carmenere.

During a sponsored press trip I had the opportunity to taste most of the Harry and David wine collection at a fantastic media dinner held in Linda Donovan’s new custom crush facility, Pallet. Located in Medford, OR, Linda purchased an old commercial building that was in a state of disrepair. Putting a lot of work in to the building, including pouring new concrete ramps and patching up holes in the floor, Pallet boasts over eight fermentation tanks, and a fantastic new press that was pressing the 2012 vintage of riesling during my visit. Linda consults with a number of wineries and has a beautiful barrel room for aging the wines of both Harry and David and her other clients.

Winemaker Linda Donovan on Harry & David wine collection

Winemaker Linda Donovan on Harry & David wine collection

The Harry and David wine collection will be priced from $15 to $30, and should be available online in early 2013. Winemaker Linda Donovan captures the terroir of Southern Oregon and the Rogue valley by focusing on grape varieties that do well there. The wines should be nice to sip on alone, or pair with foods. For the launch dinner, Harry & David’s Chef Tim Keller used many of the company’s soon to be released Easy Entertaining ready to serve dishes to pair with the wines. Some highlights included the Easy Entertaining Chardonnay Turkey with crisp apples and toasted hazelnuts, and a Bellini topped with Steelhead salmon and pickled creme fraiche. Tim was preparing these dishes for 13 food and wine writers, and did a great job impressing us with his creativity using the ready to eat Easy Entertaining meals Harry and David will soon offer.

Bellini using Harry & David Steelhead Salmon

Bellini using Harry & David Steelhead Salmon

The wines were practically barrel samples, bottled a scant few weeks ago before our dinner. The company will be sending me samples to taste and discuss in the near future, but there were two Harry and David wine collection standouts for me. For only $15, the sauvignon blanc had a nice melon and orange citrus nose, with a great orange citrus palate, balanced with a little green herbaceous note that offered some depth without being very prominent. The second standout is the $20 Pinot Noir. A very nice expression of what the Southern Oregon wine country has to offer, this wine had a palate of nice red berries, but not over ripe jammy fruit. It was balanced nicely with spice and smoke from the oak aging.

At $15 This Harry and David Sauvignon Blanc is a buy!

At $15 This Harry and David Sauvignon Blanc is a buy!

As a long time customer of Harry and David, it’s nice to see them offer wines that will showcase the terrior of Southern Oregon. They already offer gifts of fruit, cheese and food from the Pacific Northwest, and it’s only logical that they offer wines from their home. Look for tasting notes and pairing ideas in future articles, including my using the Harry and David Mushroom soup mix to pair with… Well, just come back soon!

Do you let your kids sip beer or wine

Is it bad if kids drink booze

Is it bad if kids drink booze

Two weeks ago, my 13 year old son came home from school and told me about a special assembly he sat in on. It was about drug and alcohol use, and he said that it was geared towards scaring them away from both. He rolled his eyes and said “Like we don’t know that by now.” I reminded him that people will try to get him to do drugs all the time, and we talked a bit about peer pressure and abstaining. He told me “They said that if we have even one sip of alcohol before we’re 21, we’re 40% more likely to be alcoholics.” Now, that one really bothered me. I can name a number of kids that had their first beer around 11 years old, and none of them are alcoholics today. They are all quite successful people in business and home life. I filed this chat under “things to think about.”

The thinking came when I received an industry newsletter, and it highlighted a report on NBC News by Cory Binns on September 18, 2012. The title was “Experts Warn Parents: Offering Kids Sips of Alcohol May Backfire.” The gist was parents think introducing kids to wine will help fight off peer pressure in the future. Instead, they said “it could backfire and lead to more drinking later on.” They were basing this on research done at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which was published in a September 2012 issue of he Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine. While I’m not the only person to ever tackle the topic of kids having sips of wine, it’s relevant to me because of my being a wine writer and sommelier. I drink wine at home, my son exposed, and I want to be sure he’s not learning bad habits. I also want him to learn an appreciation for wine, both the positive aspects of what it brings to a meal, and the negative aspects of what it can do to you and your body when not consumed in moderation, responsibly. However, in this day and age where a mom can get arrested for her kids playing outside, the last thing I want is Child Protective Services showing up at my door because my son knows that merlot can taste like blueberries and sticks.

Suburban Wino Talks About Visiting Wine Country With Kids

Suburban Wino Talks About Visiting Wine Country With Kids

Just this week I saw this article about Bordeaux schools teaching wine education to children ages 6 to 10, and it made me feel a little more comfortable about the situation. It’s not news that European families are “known” for allowing children have a sip of wine with a meal. I believe in Ireland the rule is “If you can see over the bar to order, you can drink.” Maybe that’s just rumor. Anyway, I can understand the the reservation of introducing kids to booze too early. Aside from the whole concept of if they like it, they’ll be more likely to drink to excess, there’s the fact that the brain isn’t fully developed until your mid 20s, and there’s potential for harm. However, I believe that forbidding someone from doing something only entices them to want it more. Think preacher’s daughter in Footloose. I also believe that a sip of cabernet sauvignon to taste the dark cherry and Christmas spice harmonize during a steak dinner won’t send my kid into a life of despair.

While my son has never taken more than 1 sip of wine on any night, I am comfortable with it. He’s perhaps had 10 sips in his entire life, all within the last year. I believe that as with anything in a child’s upbringing, a parental influence is important. I shall not only teach my son right from wrong, but also about math, science, food and wine. The last will be a much slower, more measured education, but it will be part of his education. I’m sure I’ll get a phone call from my ex wife after this article is live. Since I’m sure to hear from her, I’d like to hear from you. I’d love your thoughts on kids drinking wine or beer, both your personal convictions as well as any facts you’d like to share!

Visiting Harry and David calls for a Facelift

Visiting the Vineyards and Orchards of Oregon

Visiting the Vineyards and Orchards of Oregon

It has been over 18 months since I last made the pilgrimage from Florida to Oregon. It’s a trip that is comprised of several airports and many hours to leave the land of sweltering sun to arrive at the land of lush hills and fantastic fruit. That fantastic fruit goes into many things, from gift baskets to wine, and I’m always excited to enjoy them all. When the team at Harry & David asked I join 12 food writers to tour their Oregon facilities, I was flattered and overjoyed. After a six month writing hiatus due to family illness, I knew that if I were to accept this trip, not only would I have to get to writing again, my site would need a facelift.

There is no doubt that food writers are skilled at taking photos and showcasing their craft. This blog was launched with the help of several people, one of them being Jaden Hair, the amazing recipe developer and food columnist at Steamy Kitchen. I was so impressed by her site and work, we connected on Twitter. She was gracious enough to chat with me about my site, and gave me a gentle nudge in the right direction to do my best to showcase food and wine. Unfortunately, over time, I got a little sloppy and a little lazy, a function of being pressed for time, and the quality slipped.

Barrel Room at Cameron Winery in Oregon

Barrel Room at Cameron Winery in Oregon

A visit to a vineyard or winery is always spectacular. It’s something that everyone should experience, at least twice. And while I can do my best to explain the smell of the the barrel room, the texture of the grape leaves, the heat of the sun on my face as it ripens the grapes, it’s much more tactile and real if you can see the images that created those words. It is similar for wine reviews. I can describe the smell of the ripe red fruit and what foods the wine would pair with, but visual cues help bring those ideas home.  The same is true for recipes. When I looked at the sites of my fellow writers, all listed below, I was blown away at the careful detail that went into their photos. It showcased their craft in all of it’s delicious glory. I realized that i needed to do the same with my reviews. So, it’s time for a facelift.

Harry and David showcasing Delicious Oregon Pears

Harry and David showcasing Delicious Oregon Pears

Our facelift won’t be finished before my visit to the above pear orchards of Harry and David. It did start already, thanks to fellow H&D guest Heather Scholten of Farmgirl Gourmet. While chatting about the visit, I told Heather how much I enjoyed her site, and asked if she had any constructive criticism for my work. She was quite gracious and said it was fine, and agreed that focusing on better photos would help. I mentioned how I needed to really work on the design to spruce it up, and minutes later my email had our first improvement in it. Heather went and whipped up a quick banner, faster than she can whip up a batch of Soft Molasses Cookies. Our conversation has inspired me to modify many things that I’ve been letting go, and they’re already underway. Your input is always appreciated, so feel free to leave a comment below if you think there’s something I can add, change or delete to make this site a better resource for all of your wine and food pairing needs!

Having a Good time with Wine in Oregon

Having a Good time with Wine in Oregon

It’s much easier to relate having a good time with wine when you see people doing it, than when you read about people doing it. I had a great time visiting Appassionata vineyards, a joint venture with Dr Loosen  in Northern Oregon with Jay Somers of J Christopher Wines, while with friends April Simpson and Terry Simpson of Eat Pack Go. I now look forward to having a good time with wine with these amazing food writers at Harry and David in southern Oregon! Be sure to visit their sites for all of your belly filling needs!.

*Aggie’s Kitchen – @aggieskitchen on Twitter
Foodie, but not a food snob. The healthier the better. Come hungry! Central Florida ·

*Brenda Score – @FarmgirlsDabble on Twitter
Midwestern girl, raised on a farm, now living in the ‘burbs. Sharing my recipe box & a little everyday life! Minnesota ·

*Heather Scholten @FarmGirlGourmet on Twitter
Food Blogger * Recipe Developer * Gardener * Old Home Renovator * Crazy Mom * Loving Wife * Pit Bull Advocate* Cheney, WA ·

*Maggy Keet – @ThreeManyCooks on Twitter
Food blog by cookbook author, Pam Anderson and her daughters, Maggy & Sharon. ·

*Brian Samuels – @MyFoodThoughts on Twitter
Boston-based lifestyle, event + food photographer and blogger – Boston ·

*MarthaStewartLiving – @MS_Living on Twitter
Endless inspiration from the editors of Martha Stewart Living. -New York, NY ·

*Sommer Collier – @SpicyPerspectiv on Twitter
Professional Recipe Developer and Freelance Food Writer cooking up Easy-Gourmet Recipes and SPICY Conversation ·

*Dara Michalski @cookincanuck on Twitter
Food blogger, recipe developer and freelance writer. I am a Canadian living in the U.S. Cultures happily colliding. Utah ·

*Gaby Dalkin – @What’sGabyCookin on Twitter
Private Chef. Author. Professional Recipe Developer. Freelance Food and Travel Writer. Avocado Lover. Los Angeles ·

*Carrie Cook Minns – @CarrieMinns on Twitter
I write. I cook. I photograph. I eat. I laugh. Portland, Oregon ·

*Julie  – @PBFingers on Twitter
Blogger. Freelance writer. FitFluential ambassador. Dog lover. Believes eating peanut butter out of the jar with your finger is perfectly acceptable.
Ocala, FL ·

*Sandy Coughlin – @SandyCoughlinRE on Twitter
Author of The Reluctant Entertainer; love cooking & hosting dinner parties. – Medford, Oregon ·

When I started to browse the sites of the 12 other writers going to Harry and David next week, I was reminded that people not only like recipes, they LOVE them chock full of  photos. The image helps them connect with the content and form a desire for the product. If you can’t see how it looks, it’s hard to imagine enjoying it by words alone sometime.

See you in Oregon! And let me know where I can use a nip and tuck by commenting below!

What do Kiss and Keyshawn have in common?

Kiss Wine

Kiss Wine

What do Keyshawn Johnson and rock legend Kiss have in common? Well, considering Gene Simmons won’t be running a 4.4 40 any time soon, I’m going to have to answer “Wine”. It’s not new for celebrities to “come out with” wines, cashing in on their goodwill. However, what’s behind the wine, and is it worth pouring?

I’ll start out by saying I have not gotten samples of either celeb bottle of wine, nor have I tried either. I don’t propose this to be a review of either, but rather a question about transparency and marketing.  There’s no doubt that Gene Simmons is a marketing genius. His show Family Jewels often portrayed him as a media mogul who was able to parlay a decent sounding band with a cool concept in the 70s to a top grossing band. A band that is still making money from those dolls and cards and everything else that he could stick a long tongue on. However, does that make for a good glass of wine?

In most, if not all cases, celebrities aren’t actually buying wineries and managing grapevines and alcohol levels.  They’re selling their names, earning royalties on each bottle sold, and being the face of the wine.  I actually remember the show where Gene Simmons went to a winery interested in him representing the wine. It made for an awkward moment because Gene doesn’t drink alcohol. For him, it was all about the numbers. If it would be profitable enough, he’d do it. He’s a business man. Keyshawn Johnson is the same.



For Keyshawn, there’s no doubt he hooked up with a half decent winery to put his name behind, or in front of. Master Sommelier, and Palm Beach county resident Virgina Philips gave the wine a pretty favorable review. While she didn’t rate it, her comment of ” The wine tastes well on its own; pairing suggestions include” leads the reader to believe that someone who knows more than a bit about wine is recommending it. And at $125 a pop, you’d want it to taste at least ok.  Johnson paired with R.C. Mills, a Los Angeles wine business expert who’s been in the wine biz since 1996, and was a chef and caterer. However, neither KJ1 or Kiss wine tell you who is behind the wine. It was impossible for me to find out who’s grapes and who the vintner was for either wine.

What I want to know from you is how prone are you to buying wine based on the label, or marketing? Are you more inclined to buy Mommy’s Time Out for it’s kitchy cute name, or KJ because Keyshawn is hawking it on NFL Countdown each week? Or are you more prone to finding good quality wines, where you know who the winery is behind the label?  Does it matter that Gene says “If you like wine, this is the one for you?” Or is that a hard sell from a guy who doesn’t drink wine? Sound off below!

A late edit – it seems that in August, JK1′s name was changed to XIX. No, it wasn’t an Ocho Cinco moment. Here’s what the facebook page for KJ1 says:

After having a long conversation with the Kendall Jackson Winery & Enterprises, we have decided to honor their request and change the name of our wine from KJ1 by Keyshawn Johonson to XIX (nineteen) by Keyshawn Johnson.

A smart move, respecting Kendall Jackson and founder Jess Jackson’s memory.

Another late edit – It seems that the wine for XIX comes from Echo West. Sadly, Google doesn’t seem to recognize “source of grapes for Keyshawn Johnson’s wine”, or about 30 variants. So, even though we know that

harvested in October 2007 of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, all produced on Echo West’s 25 acres of Cabernet stock overlooking Oregon’s Umatilla River.

I still want to know your thoughts on Celebs marketing wine! Sound off!


What is Viognier

Viognier Grapes

Viognier Grapes

Have you ever wondered “What is that?” when a lunch date ordered a glass of viognier with their meal? Have you scanned a wine list, seeing a number of French wines, or California wines, made with viognier and wonder what it taste like? All too often we stay in the safe zone with our wine choices, rarely venturing outside our box. After reading this, you’ll not only know what to expect in that glass of wine, but you’l be able to pair it with foods, and talk about it, if you want.

Viognier is a French grape,  not very widely planted there any longer, with less than 300 acres planted in it’s Northern Rhone home. Pronounced VEE-ohn-yay, it’s the main white grape of the French appellations of Condrieu and Chateau-Grillet, and often blended with Syrah to add an exotic bouquet to the red wine. Viognier wines exploded in popularity in the United States in the 1990s, and there are more than a thousand acres of the white grape there today. You can find viognier wines from Virginia and France’s Languedoc-Roussilon regions in addition to California and the Rhone. Don’t be surprised if you see it from South America as well.

Typical markers, or notes, of viognier include white floral such as honey-suckle or jasmine, as well as orange blossom. Along with a honey or honey-suckle notes, you’ll also find stone fruit flavors, peach, apricot, nectarine, as well as a nice spice component that can be described as baking spices.  On the palate, you will find it to be typically fuller bodied, often with an oily or “lanolin” feel in your mouth.

Food and wine pairings with viognier include chicken and fish dishes, from grilled to broiled, to poached. Those meats, or others such as veal, with butter or cream sauces will also work well with viognier . The white wine will enhance fruit flavors, making it s great pairing with fruit dishes as appetizers, or as a topping with those chicken or fish dishes. Viognier will pair nicely with lobster, crab, shrimp or other seafoods.  This is clearly food friendly, but also very nice white wine to sip on it’s own.  I’ve reviewed a Sobon Estate Viognier before, as well as a Lange Twins Viognier. Additional viognier reviews are coming, including a new one from Trattore Wines in Dry Creek Valley, CA.

Enjoy some viogner today, and let me know what you think!


This Week at Total Wine – Sauvignon Blanc

Matthew Horbund talks Sauvignon Blanc at Total Wine

Matthew Horbund talks Sauvignon Blanc at Total Wine

A wine store like Total Wine and More can be intimidating for the uninitiated. With thousands of bottles staring you in the face, picking out the perfect wine for your meal or party may seem daunting. Though it’s really not that difficult, I kick off a new collaboration with Total Wine to help you navigate the aisles easily with a video about sauvignon blanc, a perfect summer wine.

The short video will go through where you’ll find sauvignon blanc, the different flavors this grape offers, and even a few food and wine pairing tips with sauvginon blanc. A delicious, dry, crisp white wine,  you’ll enjoy exploring the different areas producing sauvignon blanc.


Matthew Horbund Talks Sauvignon Blanc at Total Wine

In coming weeks, we’ll talk about other delicious wines for your summer get together. In the mean time, I’d love to hear which sauvignon blanc is your favorite, and if you like sauvignon blanc alone, or with food!