BOO-ze! Have a Scary Good Halloween with these Wine Picks

Once again, it’s time to peruse and sample the scary good wine options out there to celebrate all things Halloween. This year shows a few of the usual amazingly delicious suspects as well as some new choices for those to like to keep their trick-or-drinking light and portable.

Dark and Devilishly Good Reds


2017 All Hallow’s Eve Cabernet Franc – $60

As always, the ever impressive Nat Komes has created a unique Halloween label for the historic Ghost Winery. A menacing rat however should do little to dissuade you from tasting this smooth mouth-filling Cabernet Franc, from a small block on the Rutherford side of the Komes Ranch. Ripe fruit flavors of blackberry and warm notes of toasted marshmallow make this a spectacular choice for a crisp Halloween night.

2017 Ghost Winery Malbec $60

As one of the few remaining ghost wineries in Napa Valley, once again their Malbec is bottled in small amounts to pay homage to it’s historical roots. Aged in the Ghost Winery cellar for 21 months, the wine offer the dark flavors of plum and black cherry, while hinting at coffee beans, dark chocolate and a hint of black licorice. A dark and enticing wine to sip on a spooky All Hallow’s Eve, when phantoms and spirits roam the night.



2015 Mount Peak Winery, Rattlesnake Zinfandel $46 

Named for the serpents that coil ’round the vines for warmth at night, Rattlesnake Zinfandel is a rich and inky Zin that entices with a dark and alluring juiciness. Layers of dark fruit, combined with cocoa, black pepper and licorice make this a dark force to enjoy.


2017 Tessier Gamay Noir, Barsotti Vineyard $36

Aged in neutral French Oak, this exceptional Gamay Noir is costumed like a naughty librarian, alluring yet cheeky with bright tart rhubarb and spicy white pepper. This wine is crushed by foot (specifically lady feet) and is enjoyed fresh like a Beaujolais. Enjoy with your favorite naughty costume for Halloween.



Tarantas Tempranillo $11

Considered the “people’s grape” Tempranillo is a perfect addition to your Halloween festivities. Bright with the flavors of cranberries and finishing with crisp dry citrus and tannins, it pairs delightfully with a variety of foods, at a frighteningly affordable price point.

Apothic Brew $14 

A surprising cult favorite, Apothic Brew is a red blend that has been infused with cold brew coffee. A full bodied red swirls with intrigue while the coffee infusion lends mocha and chocolate to this devilish hot chocolate-like creation.


Trick or Drinking

When portability or single servings are the name of your Halloween game, these cans provide a delicious outlet perfect for transporting to your favorite neighborhood haunted house… No wine opener necessary.



Obsession Wines – Symphony White Wine $6.99

Like magic, this peachy, fruity white blend opens with a hint of effervescence and transforms even the darkest, spookiest Halloween jaunt through the headstones. Travels well as you traverse the neighborhood in search of devilish tricks and sweet treats.

Cascadian Outfitters – Chardonnay $30 for 6

A fresh, light chardonnay is the best thing to bring with you on a dark and stormy night. With the portability of a can, this wine brightens even the darkest Halloween nights.



Wine by Joe – Joe to Go – Pinot Noir $7 

When wine is this good, you need to be able to bring it everywhere! 350 mls of juicy acidity and bright red fruit will make this your favorite treat of the night. Pairs well with spooky adventure!

Alloy Wine Works – Everyday Red $30 for 4

This easy drinking red blend will be the life of your Halloween party. Versatile and no glass required. Enjoy as you watch the witches, dinosaurs and Fortnite characters infiltrate your neighborhood.


Dark Horse Rosé $4

Last but certainly not least, the dark horse of the night is actually a beautifully done rosé… by Dark Horse. This Provence-style rosé feels like sunshine in a can, with a dry, fruit-forward wine that is anything but dark.

JAM Cellars, California Candy $16 for 4

If Halloween candy isn’t your thing, maybe JAM’s California Candy is more to your liking. This delicious dry rosé of Grenache and Syrah proves that while a bowl full of fun size candy bars might be good, a can of Candy is much, much better.

McEvoy Ranch Ultimate Picnic Experience

Want to decompress in a calm, quiet and refreshing place? With yummy bites and delicious wines to sip? Who wouldn’t!!?? Look no farther than McEvoy Ranch.


Founded by Nan Tucker McEvoy of the San Francisco Chronicle family, the 550-acre ranch is located just minutes outside the city of Petaluma. Nan, with her passion for Tuscan olive oil, was an early bird to planting olive groves in the area. Almost 20 years later, McEvoy Ranch is a hidden gem with local olive oil products that range from cooking to candles and wines that are top notch.

We arrived after a morning of antique shopping in Petaluma and were presented with a beautifully prepared basket of goodies to enjoy with a delightful selection of wines. Sitting on the veranda of the visitors center with the lavender hillside to one side and oaks overhanging a placid pond on the other, we noshed on:

Locally produced Marin French Cheese Triple Crème Brie & McEvoy Ranch Lemon Marmalade paired with 2018 Rosebud Rosé of Syrah and Grenache from Mendocino County

Cowgirl Creamery Wagon Wheel Cheddar and McEvoy Ranch Spicy Green Olive Tapenade paired with 2017 Bonfiglio White Blend from Mendocino County

McEvoy Ranch Cherry Pepper Bruschetta paired with 2015 Evening Standard Pinot Noir from the newly designated Petaluma Gap AVA

Medjool Date stuffed with McEvoy Ranch Savory Fig Jam and wrapped with prosciutto paired with 2016 Il Poggio Montepulciano grown on the ranch in the Petaluma Gap AVA. 

The whole  beautiful and peaceful place to unwind and enjoy a bite to eat with exceptional wines.


The Ultimate Picnic Experience is McEvoy’s exciting new curated picnic experience that captures the sense of place that McEvoy Ranch embodies, highlighting their wide range of wine, olive oil, and culinary offerings. Enjoy a flight of 4 wines thoughtfully paired with local cheeses and seasonal small bites and bask in the beautiful rolling hills surrounding the property. Each experience is priced at $60 a person and reservations can be made by emailing [email protected] or calling directly at 707.769.4138. Reservations may also be made online. 




Thank you Kym Hough, Head of Specialty, McEvoy Ranch for a spectacular experience!

What is Leslie Drinking? Season 14 Check Please, Bay Area Episodes 1 and 2

Over the course of the 14 seasons of Check, Please, I’ve had the privilege of sharing a number of incredible wines and spirits with my viewers and readers. This season, I’ve compiled a list of my favorites for easier reading for YOU!


Season 14 – Episodes 1 and 2


NV Palmer & Co Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, France $60Champagne is one of the world’s finest pleasures. I find I’m a much happier person with bubbles in hand. This Chardonnay-based sparkling is elegant and full of finesse. Citrus-scented with underlying aromas of freshly-baked bread, the stylish Champagne is supported by a ping of palate-pleasing minerality. It’s a wine to drink now or will benefit from a few years of aging.

If you haven’t heard of this Champagne producer, it’s one to seek out when splurging on sparkling. Palmer & Co has more than 415 hectares of sustainably-grown vineyards with nearly half of those classified as Grands and Premiers Cru from the Montagne de Reims area of Champagne, France. A true classic.


2012 Domaine Carneros ‘Jardin D’Hiver’ Ultra Brut Cuvée, Carneros, California $60
When Domaine Carneros (the California outpost of France’s Champagne house Taittinger) added its stunning glass conservatory dubbed the Jardin d’Hiver, one of wine country’s most beautiful properties became even more beautiful. In this Gustave Eiffel-inspired sunroom guests can take in sweeping vineyard views and enjoy a signature ‘Asian bites with bubbles’ pairing. This limited-edition bubbly is an ode to the winery’s prized addition. Made in a bracingly-dry style (called Ultra Brut), it’s crisp, crave-worthy, and classy.


2017 Kim Crawford ‘Signature Reserve’ Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand $25
Popular with Sauv-Savvie Americans, Kim Crawford is a recognized and much-loved brand. (It was actually started by a winemaker named Kim and his wife Erica Crawford, though no longer owned by them.) This bottling, however, is more powerful than its familiar Kim Crawford brethren. It takes Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc to the next level. Intensely fruit-driven with layers of tangy lemon/lime freshness, it also sports full-bodied flair and a mouthwatering finish.

Serve with shellfish and salads, of course, but don’t forget it has enough stuffing to take on roast chicken with mustard sauce or even grilled pork chops with

mango salsa. Highly recommended with a serious “wow” factor.

2017 Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Blanc, Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon $22

When talking about iconic American wine families, the Ponzi family is on my short list. As pioneers of the Oregon wine industry, they have established themselves as leaders in quality and innovation. Though their roster ranges from Chardonnay to Pinot Noir, this wine is a personal favorite of mine. The white grape variety, Pinot Blanc, is known in the Alsace region of France where it gains a nutty richness. But, the Ponzi Pinot Blanc is dripping with succulent fruit notes layered with a ping of alluring minerality. A wine to stock up on for spring and summer sipping.

2017 Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand $20
When Kim and Erica Crawford sold their eponymous brand more than a decade ago, they followed their values to create a new wine brand highlighting the best of New Zealand. That’s when the Loveblock Farm captured their hearts. Sure, they still craft Sauvignon Blanc – the variety that made Kim famous – but the Loveblock expression is full-bodied and full of flavor. Forget the green, grassy Savvie of well-known producers, this elegant white is fermented with natural yeasts and a portion aged in neutral oak barrels to add complexity and texture. It’s a wine I love.


2016 Early Mountain Foothills, Virginia $27I have been impressed by the quality of the wines coming from Virginia for the past few years. After visiting the region to explore its history and plethora of

stunning properties, I believe Virginia ranks among the best places in the country to taste wine. And it’s not just me. The Early Mountain winery—located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains—was even voted the best winery tasting room nationwide in 2016, according to a USA Today Reader’s Choice poll.

This supple blend of mostly Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and a smattering of other grapes, is succulently juicy with dark berry notes. It’s easy to indulge in with all that forward fruit, but the red blend is supported by bright acidity and a lush mouthfeel. A wine to unscrew and enjoy while unwinding after a long day’s work.

2014 Cecchi ‘Riserva di Famiglia’ Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, Italy $75 magnum ($38 standard bottle size)
The Cecchi family’s winemaking history dates to 1893. Located in the bucolic area of Chianti in Tuscany, they are known for producing reds of intensity and structure. Their Chianti Classico Riserva di Famiglia is a special bottling produced only in years where quality is high. This is a beauty. A medium-full bodied red from Sangiovese that teases with dark berry fruit aromas peppered with earthy notes, it’s supple on the palate, finishing with brightness and balanced tannins. Though it drinks well now with grilled steaks and toothy pasta dishes, it’s an age-worthy red to impress.


Roku Japanese Craft Gin, Japan $40I’m going out on a limb here, but this is my favorite gin. Period. I buy multiple bottles of it at a time because I drink it so quickly…it’s just that delicious. Hailing from Japan (watch out Japanese whiskey!), it is the most subtle yet flavorful smooth gin I’ve ever sipped. With botanicals of sencha green tea, Yuzu peel, Sakura flower and more, the aromas and flavors are delicate and unique.

Pour a taste by itself to get a sense of the gin’s dry finish and silky texture. Splash Roku with top-notch tonic and a peel of yuzu or tangerine for the perfect G & T. See if it doesn’t land on your favorite list, too.

Dingle Single Malt Irish Whiskey Batch NO.3, Ireland $85
Whiskey lovers unite behind Dingle. A classic brown spirit, it packs a power punch wrapped in sultry smoothness. The Batch No. 3 is a blend of individually-aged casks, which have previously held both Bourbon and Port. This unique combination kicks up the dark spice and citrus aromas and then follows them with sweet, brown-sugary richness. Each sip is like decadent dessert in a glass. Only a limited number of bottles where produced, so if you can’t find this one, try one of the other Dingle bottlings and prepare for pleasure.

Stay tuned for more!

Raising a Glass for Kathie Lee :: The Today Show

For years I have enjoyed working with the inimitable Kathie Lee Gifford. We have had so much fun tasting and pairing wines through the years and she will be sorely missed. In honor of her time at the Today Show, Ray Isle and I toasted her with 6 wines fit for a legend.


One: Wonder Women of Wine 

Since Kathie Lee is a female vintner herself, we chose two wines not only made by women, but also honor women in their name and labels.

Ray: 2018 Mas de la Dame “La Gourmande” Rosé Provence, France $19 

A charming medieval village in Provence is home to the Mas de la Dame Estate, which translates to “the farm of the lady,” a nod to owners Anne Poniatowski and Caroline Missoffe, the dynamic female duo behind this winery. The crisp, berry-scented La Gourmand Rosé is a blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre and 10% Cinsault, all grown organically.


Leslie: 2017 Bodegas Septima “Obra” Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina $20

Winemaker, Paula Andrea Borgo, helms the stunning property in Argentina set in the backdrop of the Andes Mountains. Meaning the “seventh” winery of a Spanish wine company, Bodegas Septima focuses on vibrant, intense wines. This Malbec is smooth yet refreshing. The label showcases an angel who — after toiling to create the beautiful wine — is peacefully at rest.


Two: SB for Kathie Lee?

Leslie and Ray aim to convince Kathie Lee that she really DOES love Sauvignon Blanc with these two affordable bottles. One is Old World and the other, a New World surprise.

Leslie: 2017  La Petite Perriere Sauvignon Blanc, France $10 

When it comes to value, this white tops my list for zesty yet layered Sauvignon Blanc. It is a wine to buy by the case. Created by the Saget family who is lauded in Sancerre for their classic La Perriere bottling, this is a juicy, crowd-pleasing sipper to pair with fish, salads and grilled vegetables.

Ray: 2017 Beyond Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa $10  

An extraordinary steal at $10, this citrusy, elegant white will convince even a Sauvignon-skeptic of its deliciousness. South African Sauvignons tend to walk a line between the fruitiness of California versions and the grassy, peppery notes of New Zealand, and this one is no exception.


Three: Legends in a glass 

These two wines rank at the top of world-class Chardonnays. Wines made from the classic white grape are among Kathie Lee’s favorites.


Leslie: 2016 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California $58 

When it comes to wine legends, Chateau Montelena hits the pinnacle of fame. The historic Calistoga property helped put California wine on the world wine map when it bested French Chardonnay in the famed 1976 Paris Tasting. A complex and elegant white built to enjoy now or age for up to a decade.


Ray: 2016 Gaja Gaia & Rey Chardonnay, Langhe, Italy $175

One of the great Chardonnays of the world, Gaia & Rey is the handiwork of legendary Piedmontese vintner Angelo Gaja, and named after his daughter Gaia Gaja. Admittedly, it’s extremely expensive, but its layers of citrus, melon, toast and minerals speak to its excellence—plus we hear it’s Kathie Lee’s favorite wine in the world, and who can argue with that?








Watch the Video from the Today Show!

Wine Lovers River Cruise with AMA Waterways

Exciting news everyone!

Set sail with me in ultimate luxury aboard AmaWaterways’ newest state-of-the-art ship, AmaMagna, a magnificent river cruise ship offering large staterooms equivalent in size to many ocean-going vessels and almost twice the width of traditional European river ships.


Journey along the Danube and see firsthand why this storied river has inspired generations of artists, poets and musicians. Indulge your passion for timeless architecture and art in four magnificent capitals: Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna and Prague. Let the hills come alive with the sounds of music in Salzburg and the Austrian Lake District. Cruise through the enchanting Strudengau Valley and let the melodies of the Danube carry you from one gem to another on a regal journey through time.

This special itinerary offers guests a perfect blend of wine-related experiences and excursions in grand capitals and charming towns. You’ll taste local cuisine, discover how wine is made and, of course, partake in tastings — all at no additional cost.
Whether you have a seasoned appreciation for fine wine, or simply indulge in a sip here and there, this is a wonderful way to uncork the traditions of the local culture and learn about the region you’re visiting.

Special features that are ONLY included on wine cruises:

Special tours and tasting at local wineries and private cellars

Learn about winemaking in renowned vineyards

Onboard wine pairings with award-winning cuisine

Tastings and classes led by ME!


Get your reservations now!

Early purchase for this Voyage is currently discounted at $750 per person off the regular price for anyone booking this trip by March 31st!

For more information and to receive the discount, book directly through my AmaWaterways page 

Or you can call (800) 380-3865 or email me at [email protected]

I can’t wait to travel with you!